Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Krugman's Fault

My blogging has really dropped off this summer, partly because my frustration with politics has left me nearly speechless, but mostly because Paul Krugman keeps expressing my thoughts before I do...and better!

He's been on fire all summer. Lately, he made a great point about why CEO's do not have magical powers to address the broader economy , but my favorite was his comment about people who make economic arguments based on prejudices instead of models.

I’m basing what I say on a model; the model may not be right, but it does represent some hard thinking conditioned by evidence. If you have a different model, fine; but if all you have to counter my model is a set of prejudices, you don’t have an argument.

... if you just can’t believe I’m saying the things I say, at least consider the possibility that you’re the one who just doesn’t get it.

This has been a point of frustration for me for awhile. This is why Very Serious Persons like David Brooks, George Will, and Thomas Friedman drive me crazy...crazier than people like Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, or whoever is next in line. The impact of these Republican savior du jours is fleeting, as they are eventually dismissed as the crazy people they are, but the careers of these media VSP's span decades, as they are stealthy. They don't foam at the mouth while doing so, but they endorse the same economic policies as the crazy brigade, and those policies are never based on mathematical models. Instead, they just say things that sound true. Things that tell a good story. Things that just so happen to support the policies they've supported for decades.

People lacking in basic math skills, or even the slightest bit of cynicism, are easily mislead by these confidence-men wearing suits, bow ties, or ridiculous moustaches. This is how we end up with people who view historically low interest rates as a great time to take out a mortgage to buy a house, but a terrible time for the government to borrow money to invest in infrastructure. They love the low interest rate on their mortgage, hate the low interest rate on their savings account, but never consider that the two might be related. They complain about Chinese currency manipulation, but also complain about a falling dollar. They worry about the national debt, but can't fathom how higher inflation would help. They follow the daily ups and downs of the stock market, but couldn't tell you anything about the bond market. If they're aware that it even exists, they'd prefer it to go up, because up is always better.

I recently made these points to some Tea Party types. These are people that respect my intellect. People that acknowledge that I spend way more time studying these issues than they do. Even though they couldn't make a counter-argument, they still couldn't accept an argument that contradicted their prejudices. Maybe I needed a suit, bow tie, or a porn star moustache. Maybe all three. The situation depresses me to no end.