Paul Krugman: Thomas Friedman 'Wrong' About Budget Deficit

The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman usually doesn't call out his colleagues by name. But in a long blog post Thursday, Krugman wrote that he "respectfully" disagrees with Thomas Friedman's comparison of the budget deficit to climate change.

Friedman wrote in a column last week that by failing to deal with the long-term problems of government debt and climate change, "we are actually taunting the two most powerful and merciless forces on the planet, the market and Mother Nature, at the same time."

In response, Krugman wrote that when it comes to the debt, "the case for urgency right now is quite weak, and nothing at all like the case that we need to stop pouring all that CO2 into the atmosphere as soon as possible."

"Each year we fail to act has more or less irreversible physical consequences," Krugman wrote, referring to climate change. He wrote that the debt is nothing like that, and deficit scolds argue that "in order to guard against cuts in future benefits we must ... cut future benefits. Huh?"

Some economic writers have noted that the deficit is high now because of the economic downturn, and that it is shrinking. There are not many signs of an investor revolt, despite Friedman's warnings. Currently, interest rates on U.S. government debt are at historically low levels, and typically when investors get scared, they buy U.S. government bonds, rather than sell them.

Friedman last week: "Those who would point to low interest rates today as some kind of 'all-clear' for more debt 'should remember that market interest rates can change like the weather.'"

Krugman appears to have criticized Friedman in the past, but not by name. He wrote in late 2011 that "'centrist' pundits ... won't admit that President Obama has already given them what they want." The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins suggested that this was a swipe at Friedman and David Brooks.



Paul Krugman's Greatest Takedowns