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Op-Ed Jeremiah: The New York Times’ Paul Krugman

     Paul Krugman gets it, brilliantly and bravely, about the crisis of the republic in Bush II.  He doesn’t get it about the Web remedy at all.  Professor Krugman and I had a long public gab last night before a roaring SRO echt-Cambridge crowd in Harvard Square.  Of course he was scathing, as in his New York Times column and his book, The Great Unraveling, about the revolutionary radicalism of the Bush imperial permanent-emergency state.  He was just as scathing about the dereliction of the institutional media, including the Times.  But he does not seem to have noticed the force of free minds and voices on the Web, powering a broad push-back recovery of understanding and, not least, the Dean campaign. 


     Krugman was a riot on Big Media’s docility.  “If Bush said the earth is flat, of course Fox News would say ‘yes, the earth is flat, and anyone who says different is unpatriotic.’  And mainstream media would have stories with the headline: ‘Shape of Earth: Views Differ.’…and would at most report that some Democrats say that it’s round.”  There’s “something deeply dysfunctional,” he observed, with established media facing “something we’ve not seen before, an epidemic of lying about policy.”  Three years of Times columnizing have been “a story of radicalization” for the liberal (but not too liberal) economist who was hired by Howell Raines in 1999 to explain trade policy, globalization and the Internet bubble.   He has become instead the irrepressible child watching the Bush parade, speaking truth to heedless power.  He’s a reminder that to see what’s going on inside the Beltway it often helps to stand at some distance.  In Princeton, New Jersey in Krugman’s case.  But he tends to dismiss the Web as “a chaos of blogs out there.” 


     I said: “There’s a lot of plain-spoken American wisdom to be had–free–on the Web every day, more than in the press.” 


     He persisted that the bloggers aren’t newspapers, don’t have the resources to do original reporting, are “just concerned individuals.”  The main value of the Internet, he argued, is the quick access to the international press–he mentioned the Independent and The Guardian from London, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. 


     I hung in:  “You can see on the Web the instinct to do what you admit the press doesn’t do anymore, which is to say: Mr. President, you’re bare-ass naked.  Your numbers don’t add up.  That’s an important service of journalism, too.”


     The soundtrack is here in three bites.  Part One is Krugman 101 and his whistle-blowing on court journalism.  Part Two includes our set-to about the Web and another argument that seemed to divide the crowd evenly as to whether Krugman in 2000 should have treated Ralph Nader, another Jeremiah, more attentively.  “His rottenness detectors were better than mine,” Krugman conceded.  Part Three is Q & A, in which Krugman was asked if we’ve experienced a “plutocratic coup d’etat?  It’s more nearly “a plutocratic, theocratic, militaristic coup d’etat,” he said.

{ 19 } Comments

  1. Anonymous | September 22, 2003 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I’d say Krugman’s got it right about blogs and journalsim. With few exceptions, blogs are more like op-ed pieces than news reporting. Opinion is one of the least valuable services of journalism; straight news reporting and analysis are more useful. I’d rather filter the news through my own value system than to receive it pre-filtered by others’. When I’m looking for news or analysis, does it make more sense for me to get it from a part-time blogger who’s relying on second- or third- or fourth-hand information and has had at most a couple of hours’ free time to do some research, or from a fulltime, paid and trained journalist who has direct access to the people and places that are making the news? And I don’t mean to naively imply that mainstream news reporting is “objective” or “impartial,” I know it’s not, but in a mainstream news organization there’s usually at least an attempt to make it so (except by Fox, CNN, and the other razzle-dazzlers out there).

    But anyway, I’m really glad you posted this interview, as Krugman is in fact the only op-ed columnist I ever bother reading; he’s mostly brilliant.

  2. Anonymous | October 2, 2003 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    LninYo’s post was fantastic. Even though Ken Layne’s quote “we can fact-check your ass” was a great piece of writing, it doesn’t make blogs journalism. I actually wished we see more great writing with blogs and less linking. If I want links to articles I can go to Google News.

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  7. Joe The Plumber | October 26, 2008 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    An Open Letter to Paul Krugman

    Dear Paul:

    Forgive my rudeness in calling you by your first name. I have been reading your writings in New York Times, Slate and other fine publications for years. I even read your book “The Conscience of a Liberal.” I have gotten to know you so well that, I feel, we could be on a first name basis. Besides, if we are to create a class-less, hierarchy-free society, calling you Professor Krugman would instantly create a deplorable hierarchy — perhaps falsely indicating that you might know more about economics than I do. We simply cannot encourage such elitist hubris.

    Now that we have established that in our class-less Utopian society everybody’s opinion is equally valid, I am compelled to offer you mine about what you should do about that Nobel Prize thingie. Hopefully, you will take my advise a bit more seriously than that damnable Bush-Cheney administration has taken yours.

    Paul, as a matter of principle, you should reject that Nobel Prize.

    That’s right. You should just flat-out tell those Swedes that you don’t want that prize. It just wouldn’t be the right thing to do, considering your progressive ideals.

    First of all, it’s just not fair that only you should get this prize this year when there are hundreds of thousands of other economists in this world. Honoring only one person in this way is a totally non-egalitarian thing to do. Either we should honor them all or none at all. We are fighting for equality and justice in this society; not giving Nobel Prize to everyone creates Haves and Have-nots, and we just can’t tolerate that.

    Second of all, a white man like you getting the prize — again! — is racist and sexist to the max. I just checked out the list of laureates in economics since 1969 and almost all of them are white men!! (There were two names — Amartya Sen and Arthur Lewis — who appeared to be non-white, but that just proves tokenism, you know! It has never been awarded to a woman.) Why do we see heterosexual, white men chosen so often? Why don’t we ever see any black lesbians getting this prize? Paul, I want you to make a statement against this institutional racism and sexism; and reject this symbol of discrimination and marginalization.

    Third of all, the amount of money — $1.4 million — that Riksbank is offering is obscene. Who deserves that kind of money anyway, when coal miners in third world countries — many of them barely 14 years old — don’t make even $30 per month — and they are the ones risking their lives every day! As you have pointed out in your writings, the gap between the rich and the poor is rapidly widening. You getting that $1.4 million will only make the situation worse. I know you are a man of principles. If you wanted to make millions you could have easily chosen a crass and tasteless career, something like a Wall Street CDO structurer. I mean, you certainly had the brains. And the right pigmentation. And the right pair of chromosomes. But, no. You instead chose the noble profession of teaching. You have worked long and hard to build your moral authority; don’t destroy it in a nano-second by succumbing to the temptation of money. Love of money is the root of all evil. If you accept this monstrously large sum of money, you will forever lose all moral authority to talk about the unfairness and inequality in the society. If you lose that moral authority, who will rail against all the greed and injustice in this increasingly oligarchic society? Who will stand up to corporate plutocrats? Those damnable conservatives tried to drag your name through mud when the news came out that your worked as a consultant for an advisory board for Enron. I am pretty sure that you handled the conflicts of interest in the Enron affair adequately, but why hand your critics further fuel now to blow-torch your reputation? Should your reputation get tarnished, who, pray tell, will be our champion? Who will battle evil media-types like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh?

    Fourth of all, the selection process employed by Riksbank was neither transparent nor democratic. I mean, I never got to vote on that decision! What right does Riksbank have to hand out this prize without getting the people involved? It might be Riksbank’s money, but we the people should have the final say in how it gets doled out. But no. Riksbank doesn’t want to do the morally correct thing. They want to exclude everybody but their pals from the decision-making process. This is just like Dick Cheney and his buddies cutting back-room deals to divvy-up Iraq spoils. It smells of favoritism; it smells of cronyism; it just stinks. Paul, would you ever go hunting with Cheney and his buddies? If the answer is no, then please don’t accept the prize that was bestowed by this elitist and exclusionary committee.

    Fifth of all, the prize sends a wrong message to the society. We agree that you worked hard all your life. You went to MIT, you got your Ph.D. You didn’t drop acid like some bozos in the 70s. (At least, a quick googling on your name didn’t turn up any such dirt.) You were studying your ass off while others were partying like crazy. Now you got the Nobel Prize and they don’t. That’s just not fair. Do you know what message it sends? That if you work hard in life, you can achieve things that others can’t! That’s a nasty and brutish message to send. Conservatives say things like that, not liberals like you! Radicals of the right believe in this “every man to himself” bullshit (and they don’t even apologize for the non-PC nature of the phrase), not enlightened progressives like you!! Defenders of inequality believe in this myth about individualistic bootstrapping, not a seasoned class warrior like you!!!

    Sixth of all, the prize perpetuates the shameful legacy of colonization and imperialism. Almost all of the laureates have been from the first-world countries. Don’t you know that the vast majority of humanity lives in third-world countries. To systematically exclude people from poor countries from participating in the intellectual dialogue means further polarization. If people from third-world countries don’t win such prizes often enough, what kind of role models will kids there have growing up? Won’t they fall prey to false prophets? No wonder religious radicalization is rampant in countries from Somalia to Afghanistan. Paul, by the mere act of accepting this prize you will be promoting global terrorism. And many of these terrorists also subjugate women. So you will be participating in women’s subjugation too.

    Seventh of all, you accepting this prize will lead to global warming. You and your loved ones will be traveling to Stockholm in an airplane that will be consuming hydrocarbons — yes the same hydrocarbons that pollute the environment and prop up the dictatorial regimes. Now, you could ask Al Gore about how many carbon offsets that you will need to buy for your flight to Stockholm — and he should know for sure — but that still won’t make it morally acceptable in the current economic environment. Just when millions of people worldwide are losing their jobs due to the worsening credit crunch, Nobel prize-winners feasting on a sumptuous dinner makes for a sad spectacle. Why don’t we just take the money that will be spent on your travel and spend it on installing solar panels in Sub-Saharan Africa instead? That will allow the disadvantaged African children to power up their One-Laptop-Per-Child laptops and that should go a long way towards bridging the digital divide. Isn’t that what we liberals should want, after all?

    To summarize, by accepting this Nobel Prize you will promote racism, sexism and inequality; suppress democracy; encourage terrorism; subjugate women; and cause global warming. Paul, I want you to stand up for your liberal values and reject this prize. If you do that, you will be a bigger hero for your liberal fans who read your newspaper columns so lovingly. With one act of sacrifice, you will enhance the moral authority of the liberal philosophy that puts people first and money last. Liberals will rejoice and celebrate. Given your passion for reducing inequality, you will be a shoo-in for the newly created post of the Wealth Redistribution Czar under the Obama administration.

    Paul, after all my exhortations against doing so, it’s still your decision to make. If you decide to go ahead and accept the prize, I will understand. I mean, $1.4 million is a lot of dough to walk away from. Besides, aren’t moral principles all relative to begin with? And since when has hypocrisy become such a big crime?

    If you accept the prize, you will be richer by several hundred thousand dollars even after paying taxes at the top marginal rate. I know you have often said that the rich don’t pay enough in taxes. Paul, this will be your shining moment to do things differently. Unlike other rich people, I am sure, you will write an extra check to the US Treasury because you believe, in the heart of your hearts, that the marginal tax rate on the rich should be higher. You will show your critics that you are a man of principles who puts his money where is mouth is — even though you came up somewhat short of your ideals in accepting the prize in the first place. A couple of hundred thousand dollars that you would voluntarily contribute to the US Treasury, in addition to your obligatory taxes, would go a long way towards paying for the universal health-care program. We are the only rich country in the world that doesn’t have that health-care safety net. While we are on the topic of single payer universal health-care system, let me tell you how eagerly I am awaiting the arrival of such a system. It wouldn’t come a day sooner for me. Recently, my immoral and greedy insurance company refused to pay for my bariatric surgery — they want me to exercise instead. Imagine their gall in holding me responsible for my own health! I don’t like to exercise and, frankly, I shouldn’t have to. I would rather watch Oprah in my free time — which I have a lot of since I don’t like to work much either. Paul, don’t you agree that it’s my fundamental right to get a free bariatric surgery? And all those rich people should be taxed more to pay for it. Furthermore, the cost of my bariatric surgery is such an infinitesimally small fraction of the funds that go to the military-industrial complex. Rather than wasting money on propping up dictators and tyrants around the world, it’s time we started investing in America and my bariatric surgery is a fine place to start as any other.

    Now we come to the topic that is near and dear to your heart. You have talked passionately about a need to promote a broadly shared prosperity. You will be happy to know that there are others who agree with you whole-heartedly and would love to share in your new-found prosperity. Even after paying for all the taxes and whatnot, you will still be left with a lot of money. Please take a look around — there are others in the society who will have much less. They certainly deserve your help. The case in point – your’s truly. I bought a house in New Jersey — not that far from yours — at the height of the housing bubble. My real estate agent told me that housing prices always go up and I believed him. Then the evil bank people lent me the money when they knew I will never be able to make the mortgage payments once the teaser rate expires. That’s what I call predatory lending and the regulators did nothing to protect me from these greedy and evil bankers. I am truly a victim of this lending fraud. Unlike Senator Chris Dodd I was never invited to be part of “Friends of Angelo” VIP clientele program and therefore never got a sweetheart deal on my mortgage. Paul, I am asking you — no I am begging you — to help out your fellow being who is down on his luck. I will drive my hybrid car to your house to collect the cash. Even a little bit would help. I am upside down on my home for $100,000. If you could just take care of that little deficit, I can start building equity in my home. After all, I too deserve to live the American Dream.

    Love and peace!

    Sincerely,

    Joe “The New Jersey Plumber”
    joe-the-plumber [at] gmx.com

  8. RickVallen | March 13, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Nice post and blog
    Thanks for sharing

  9. meuble cuisine | November 18, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    i agree with Mr Krugman.

  10. Mike | February 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Paul Krugman may well be one of the best money minds we have today…but it seems like he just doesn’t get some things. For example, if I needed a 5000 loan, and needed it today – what would he have me do? He no doubt would be against a payday lender, but what would my other options be?

    At times it just doesn’t seem like he understands the ‘common mans’ plight when they are in need…

  11. The Penthouse | April 5, 2011 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    YES … First of all, it’s just not fair that only you should get this prize this year when there are hundreds of thousands of other economists in this world. Honoring only one person in this way is a totally non-egalitarian thing to do. Either we should honor them all or none at all. We are fighting for equality and justice in this society; not giving Nobel Prize to everyone creates Haves and Have-nots, and we just can’t tolerate that.

  12. dizi | May 15, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I hung in: “You can see on the Web the instinct to do what you admit the press doesn’t do anymore, which is to say: Mr. President, you’re bare-ass naked. Your numbers don’t add up. That’s an important service of journalism, too.”

  13. Jhon Ford | May 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    You must place download links to download these audio files. joe [at] fyifly.com

  14. bankruptcy | June 28, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Very informative interview. It’s good to get information from all sides.

  15. Grapevine Texas | August 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This interview does bring up an interesting point about the docility of modern media. It is shifting, but for the most part the media cannot say exactly what it is thinking.

  16. mobile satellite tv | October 20, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    some of paul krugmans opinions and methods are very interesting to say the least how ever its important to remember that everyones situation is different even if its only by a little

    some good tips though none the less

    many thanks, joan

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  2. […] from the Paul Krugman line from the bad old days: “If Bush said the earth is flat, of course Fox News would say ‘Yes, the earth is flat, […]