Paul Krugman is like a favorite pair of jeans.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist's commentary in The New York Times always seems to fit just right, but they're a bit worn.
In a segment on Friday's episode of "The Gist," podcast host Mike Pesca tore into Krugman for essentially regurgitating the same three talking points in many columns and blog posts.
I guess my problem with Krugman is not that he's not right. He's actually almost always right, and he's actually convincing. But he only says, like, three things. He says austerity is bad, inflation fears are overblown and Keynes was right. I get it! I agree!
Maybe I agree because I read the columns. Those are his only columns! Actually, sometimes he writes about politics -- he's not actually so good at that. But when he writes about economic matters, he gets those right.
Sure enough, a quick perusal through Krugman's recent op-eds backs up Pesca's claim of repetition -- except, given the current circus of presidential candidates, the economist has written a lot more about politics of late.
Austerity persists in Europe, even as it pushes the continent toward recession, as Krugman warned two years ago. Inflation hawks insist the U.S. Federal Reserve should raise interest rates to curb inflation, even though Krugman argues that deflation would be a much bigger risk at the moment.
The famed economist John Maynard Keynes, who advocated for increased government spending and low taxes during recessions, still has his critics. Though, as Krugman wrote, his theories are "slowly winning" -- just compare U.S. economic growth to that of Europe. Bond-buying programs by the Fed, known as quantitative easing, are to thank, Krugman says.
Pesca goes on to say, however, that Krugman's not entirely to blame for this unvaried choice of topics. Given the way economic and academic discourse seem to reward contrarian and partisan viewpoints -- even after they've been disproved -- voices of reason, like Krugman's, not only seem to beat the dead horse but mutilate its corpse.
Let's say it was the year 1491 and you were the editor of the Genoa Free Press and you hired one of the best experts on geography, and then you ask him to constantly weigh in on that big question of the day, Earth -- round or flat?
After 34 columns where the guy's arguing, "It's round, I'm tellin' you it's round. There are these people saying it's flat -- they're wrong. I told you, it's round." It might get a little old. I'm sure the flat Earthers would all say, "Oh, all you round Earthers, you're so arrogant in your beliefs. You don't respect our beliefs." It would just get exhausting.
Well said, Mike.
You should listen to the whole episode, but skip to 18:12 to hear about Krugman: