hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, June 14, 2002

two Krugman quotes from a 1999 Slate breakfast table
between Krugman and Kathleen Sullivan:

"As I read your remarks about how Kosovo reverses the
usual left/right roles on intervention, I found myself
wondering what Noam Chomsky--who epitomized the
left-wing view that all bad things are the result of
Western intervention--is saying now. Well, I couldn't
find anything about the current crisis, but thanks to
the miracle of search engine technology I did find
some remarks about Bosnia, which are pathetic but
revealing: First he tries to blame it all on the
Western Right, then suddenly gets all judicious and
practical. Here's the article"

"I have to say that this was not the week I would have
wanted to do the "Breakfast Table"--whatever thoughts
you and I might have had about other issues are
crowded out by the events in Kosovo. And I do not
think of myself as an all-purpose pundit. I remember
once (during the air phase of the Gulf War) seeing
John Kenneth Galbraith making pronouncements on TV
about the military situation, and telling friends that
if I ever start pontificating in public about a
technical subject I don't understand, they should gag
me. "

Both you and Krugman deserve sharp rebukes for
over-zealous, and therefore inaccurate,
rabble-rousing. Krugman emphatically did *not* say
that the war on terrorism was *planned* to obscure bad
budget news. He said the war was (dishonestly) *used*
to explain away bad budget news. You're too smart not
to see the huge difference between those two
assertions. Your animus towards Krugman blinded you.

As for Krugman, the first half of his column is
excellent. In the second half he gets sidetracked, and
suffers an embarassing lapse in logic, perhaps partly
because he was constrained by space. Obviously the
purpose of heavy duty conventional weapons is to be
used against states that harbor terrorists and develop
WMD, not individual terrorists with boxcutters.
Here's a better way to make Krugman's point:

Bush claims that the $5.6 trillion dollar surplus for
the next ten years his White House projected in
*April* 2001 (just ten months ago!) has shrunk to a
$1 trillion projected surplus because of the war,
recession and homeland defence. Suppose Defence
spending is increased an extra $50 billion dollars
for ten years, and add $25 billion for homeland
defence. For the recession, assume the economy stinks
up the budget for all of 2001 and 2002, chopping off
another $250 billion each year.

But wait a second. That adds up to 1.25 trillion. Add
the Administrations tax cut, which they claim is 1.35
trillion, under these very generous stipulations, it
still adds up to at most 3 trillion. Where did the
extra 1.6 trillion go? The answer is, in the
administration's dishonest math.

It is in this sense that Krugman is accusing the White
House of dishonestly using the President's war-time
credibility to cover up their lies, and he is dead
right. The situation is even worse than that, because
the Administration's $1 trillion projected surplus is
a lie. The surplus is all gone.