Throughout 2009 and 2010, Paul Krugman insisted that if we just spend like there’s no tomorrow, the economy would magically jumpstart itself; the culmination of his FDR-nostalgia was undoubtedly wishing for “the miracle of the 1940s” in early September of last year. As James Taranto noted, that’s a polite way of asking for a repeat of World War II.
In contrast, Tyler Cowen advises the readers of the Gray Lady, and tacitly, at least one of their in-house economists, “It’s Time to Face the Fiscal Illusion:”
Keynesian economics talks of the “fiscal illusion” created by government debt: the issuance of such debt can stimulate the economy in the short run by encouraging a false perception of wealth and thus bolstering consumer spending. But, eventually, the books must balance. There is then a fiscal crunch, a sudden retrenchment of plans and great rancor over budgets, as we have been seeing lately at both the federal and the state level.
The famous Keynesian rejoinder, “In the long run we are all dead,” is less comforting when that long run comes into sight. Short-run planning is a hard carousel to stop, especially when there are frequent election cycles, but the federal government must act soon. Limiting Medicare and Social Security spending involves re-indexing benefits, adjusting eligibility ages, shifting the growth rates of costs and making other changes that have their full fiscal impact only over the longer run.
Yet we are postponing even these actions. Experts’ recommendations might lead us toward a fiscal smooth landing, but at this point the fiscal illusion — and not the advice of experts — is in control.
Of course, many on the left are, like Krugman, still a half-century or so behind the times.
On his blog, Moe Lane links to another example of the New York Times still slowly attempting to catch up with economic reality via what he calls the “NYT’s cynical Union-busting post.” Moe makes a great observation mid-post, which I’ve bolded:
And it is cynical, in a fundamental way: the New York Times recognizes the need for getting public sector unions under control… in New York (where it will affect the New York Times). Wisconsin can apparently take a short walk off a long pier, for all that the Old Grey Lady cares. This is, by the way, a major reason why institutions of the Left are mistrusted by agents of the Right: the former goes out of the way to slander, libel, and dismiss the motivations and actions of the latter even when they agree with them.
And… that’s it, frankly. Personally, I don’t see why New York gets to have its governor smack back an out-of-control public sector union crisis while Wisconsin can’t, but then I’m not precisely the audience demographic that the New York Times is trying to reach. Which is a mistake on its part, but never mind that right now.
Of course, to paraphrase Claude Rains in Lawrence of Arabia, it’s been said that the New York Times has a funny sense of cynicism. Note this passage in a Drudge-linked interview with Times executive editor Bill Keller, regarding the demographic of the American public that, as Moe writes above, the Times has entirely abandoned:
“I think if you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you’re among the most cynical people on planet Earth,” Keller snarled. “I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than ‘Fair and Balanced’ “
Well, gosh. I’m old enough to remember when being cynical was thought to be a pretty cool thing on the left. Evidently, that’s changed at some point. Who knew that Times readers and journalists were such starry-eyed optimists?
And finally, one more example of Two Papers in One. In 2009, New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus wrote the obituary for the American right in mid-2009, publishing a book titled, The Death of Conservatism.
As the elections in November proved, so much for that bit of wishful thinking. Which is why Timesman Charles Blow has shifted the goal posts slightly, claiming, as Hot Air paraphrases, that “This tea-party machine is running out of fuel.”
But get a load of Blow’s lede:
The Tea Party is synonymous with anger. Anger defined it. Anger fueled it. Anger marred it. Anger became its face and its heart. But anger is too exhausting an emotion to sustain.
Umm, have you seen any of the videos of the Wisconsin union thugs protesting in spittle-flecked high-dudgeon mode, Charles?
But in any case, note Blow’s grasping at straws at the conclusion of his op-ed:
Staunch Tea Partiers seem to be guided by the worst kind of fundamentalist political extremism — immutable positions derived from a near-religious adherence to self-proclaimed inviolable principles. This could well be their undoing.
During the right’s season of anger, passion and convictions galvanized Tea Party supporters into an army of activism. But the vehicle is outliving its fuel. The movement is losing momentum. In fact, Tea Party-backed governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin could be providing the rallying cry on the left to pick up the mantle of anger and send the momentum back the other way.
If Tea Party leaders continue to operate as if anger is still a major part of their arsenal and Republican politicians continue to feel pressured into untenable positions, Democrats could enjoy their very own Charlie Sheen-ism come 2012: “Winning!”
That’s not what the more sober political forecasters are saying these days, but whatever gets you through the night, I guess.
Related: Don’t miss “‘Even the liberal New York Times writes…,'” Ronald Radosh’s “dissection of a mixed-up editorial.”