Krugman in Rolling Stone


I have to admit, I didn’t even bother reading the article praising Obama when that issue came in the mail — because Krugman, of all people, should know better. (Once Matt Taibbi left, I figured Jann Wenner would have to justify the magazine’s all-out push for Obama in the 2007 primaries.) Turns out I wasn’t the only person who said “WTF?”. Thomas Frank in Salon:

What are the numbers on public cynicism today? Well, thanks to a big assist from the shutdown-crazed lunatics in the House of Representatives, public trust in government islower today than it has been since they started keeping records. For the executive branchspecifically, the numbers are comparable to those of the final years of the Bush administration. And the inevitable consequence appears to be headed our way next month.

Why is this important? Aside from the obvious and direct reason—that Obama was supposed to restore public faith in government and achieved the opposite—we need to reconsider the role the mighty righties play in the liberal imagination. If we want to believe that Obama has been a consequential and a great president, then the only way to explain his many failings is as a function of his right-wing opposition. He didn’t get the king-sized stimulus we needed, liberals often say, because the right wouldn’t give it to him. He didn’t break up the banks or prosecute the banksters because the Tea Party wouldn’t let him. He didn’t get single payer or the public option because Republicans wouldn’t go along with that. Ditto for card check, antitrust enforcement, cramdown, renegotiating NAFTA, and the rest of the items on the long, doleful list of liberal priorities.

However, anyone who has followed the news for the last five years knows there is another factor to be taken into consideration here: Obama didn’t do these things because he or his advisors didn’t want to do them. Oh, there were ways to get many of them done, especially in 2009 and 2010, when the world was at Obama’s feet, begging for action. (The only possible obstacle in those days was the filibuster power of Senate Republicans, which should have been—and eventually partially was—taken away.) But the Democrats’ heart wasn’t in it. They didn’t even try.

In this connection, allow me to quote Paul Krugman himself, in his column for July 18, 2010, on the matter of the then-looming Tea Party triumph: “The best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis. Obviously, he didn’t do that. Maybe he couldn’t have passed an adequate-sized plan, but the fact is that he didn’t even try.”

And that, folks, leads us to the greatest disappointment of them all: This administration’s utter failure of imagination. I admit that this beef might be peculiar to me, since one of the reasons I was once so psyched to see Barack Obama in the White House is because I thought he was a man who respected learning, intelligence, new ideas. Maybe he still does, in his private life. But as president, he couldn’t seem to see what is obvious to everyone who is not a regular golfer at Congressional: That ignoring the conventional and facing down the Republicans and doing the right thing—on the stimulus, on the banks, on inequality—would also have made him enormously popular, not to mention consequential and successful. It might even have spared him the electoral comeuppance he received in 2010, and whose second installment he seems likely to take delivery on just a few weeks from now.

Also, read Bill Black’s retort.

7 thoughts on “Krugman in Rolling Stone

  1. Obama is a plutocrat, a guy hired by the 1% to do what he’s told to do. So was Bush “the Idiot,” Clinton “the Liar,” Bush “the Elder,” Carter “the Confused,” etc. Hillary will be as well. Bernie Sanders will NOT be. Everybody already knows those facts or should have known them. But, the shock this weekend was finding out that the Pope isn’t infallible. It turns out that he’s just another guy with an opinion. Apparently it takes two-thirds approval by the synod to get anything passed. The Pope wanted to change the rules of the Church regarding homosexual rights but was voted down by 118 for and 62 against on Saturday. So much for what the Pope wants. Doesn’t the Pope speak directly to God? The synod of bishops and cardinals will probably be smoted by God at any time now.

  2. The pope was not speaking *ex cathedra* from St Peter’s chair. That is a ‘papal bull’. And the congregation of bishops yield encyclicals.
    AFAIK if he does speak ex cathedra, he’s still infallible.

  3. So ex cathedra is like Obama issuing an executive order? Haven’t there been dozens if not hundreds of ex cathedra pronouncements by various popes over the past 2000 years that were never acted on? Or even believed? Didn’t a few of the married Pope’s like Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) nearly get excommunicated and even executed for a few of their ex cathedra rulings? Not all that infallible these popes.

  4. Papal infallibility is a relatively new thing. The Vatican has only been pushing that line since the 1800’s, I think. Granted, many believers and the church itself would have just assumed infallibility in prior eras. The fact that they had to pronounce themselves infallible speaks to the loss of credibility that Rome, as well as all religious doctrines, suffered after the enlightenment.

  5. As far a Krugman goes, he’s always been critical of Obama and his halfhearted policies, but never harshly, and he always tries to praise him as well. It has always annoyed me, though personally, I suspect he recognizes what a smug self satisfied middlebrow prick Obama is, but he seems to think that he can persuade the White House to listen to him and change its ways if he delivers his criticism nicely and with recognition of what they are up against. I think that is a lost cause.

    And I don’t agree with the statement that anyone would have been wildly popular if they had done what Obama should have done. The left might have been energized, but the rightwing backlash would have been huge (like the armed tea party-ers at those health care town halls). DC knows that the left will take their defeats with disappointment and resignation, but the right scares the shit out of them, and for good reasons. DC insiders are there to make their fortunes, and do good if they (at least the more liberal ones) can do it at no cost to themselves, but martyrdom for us losers on the left is not in the cards. That was the lesson of the Kennedys and MLK.

  6. Everything that the Left says causes a rightwing backlash. In truth the crowd in DC and their employers (1%) are scared to death of the Left. They couldn’t care less about the “right.” They already own the whole of the Right lock, stock, and barrel. Everything that the oligarchy and the plutocrats do is in response to the demands of the Left. Unfortunately because most folks can never find the pea under the walnut they think that they are powerless and stupid. What the Left lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in intellectual acumen. Fear the Left, baby. For your own sake.

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