In the last year or so, President Obama failed to come up with a stimulus plan super-ultra-plus-sized enough to meet the wishes of Paul Krugman. Perhaps to compensate for his grief, the New York Times’ star economist appears to be have begun channeling some of the most influential films of the late 1960s. Last year, it was 1970’s Patton and Tora, Tora, Tora:
Here’s the situation: The U.S. economy has been crippled by a financial crisis. The president’s policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high. More action is clearly needed. Yet the public has soured on government activism, and seems poised to deal Democrats a severe defeat in the midterm elections.
The president in question is Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the year is 1938. Within a few years, of course, the Great Depression was over. But it’s both instructive and discouraging to look at the state of America circa 1938–instructive because the nature of the recovery that followed refutes the arguments dominating today’s public debate, discouraging because it’s hard to see anything like the miracle of the 1940s happening again.
What Krugman calls “the miracle of the 1940s” is more commonly known as World War II, a ruinous conflict that cost some 60 million lives, including more than 400,000 American ones, and that entailed the near-extermination of Europe’s Jewish population.
World War II is sometimes called a “good war,” meaning that few dispute American intervention was necessary or that we fought on the right side. But this easy moral clarity is possible only because the Axis actions that started the war were unambiguously evil.
In April 2009 we noted that David Leonhardt, a Krugman colleague at the Times, had praised the economic policies of Germany’s National Socialist Party. Now Krugman calls World War II itself a “miracle.” The Old Gray Lady is in the grips of utter madness.
Then in January, he began echoing David Hemmings in Michelangelo Antonioni’s stylish 1966 film Blowup, searching Sarah Palin’s clip-art, constantly enlarging and re-enlarging the images, spending hours in the dark room, searching within the grain of the ink, hyper-focused that somewhere, it had to contain within them the secret of a crazed nutter’s attack on Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, Federal Judge John M. Roll, and other victims.
At the start of this week, it was 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey:
KRUGMAN: It’s very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you had a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So, if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish, you know, a great deal.
If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren’t any aliens, we’d be better –
ROGOFF: And we need Orson Welles, is what you’re saying.
KRUGMAN: No, there was a “Twilight Zone” episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don’t need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.
Today, it’s 1969’s Easy Rider, with a post titled, “Hippie Punching” in which Krugman writes:
I would say this: on one side you have the GOP, which responds to completely crazed Tea Party demands by doing all it can to assure the hard right that it’s on its side. On the other, you have the Democratic establishment or at least part thereof, which responds to complaints from its own base that it’s going too easy on the crazies by lashing out at the base, with a bit of bearded-professor bashing on the side.
Way to strengthen your bargaining position, guys.
As Mickey Kaus responds on that last item at the Daily Caller:
Hippie Check: Paul Krugman decries “hippie punching.” This is now an accepted way to mock almost any contemporary criticism of unabashed liberals. I was a hippie–hippie adjacent anyway. I knew hippies. Hippies were friends of mine. They hated liberals.That goes double for the ’60s New Left. Liberals were the enemy, and many of the New Left’s critiques (e.g. of Big Labor/Big Government corporatism, interest-group politics and anti-participatory bureaucracies) were very similar to today’s Tea Party critiques. …
Of course Krugman is no hippie — he’s a closet Nixon supporter — or at least a supporter of Nixon’s top down, Great Society-era statist domestic policies, as Nick Gillespie of Reason spotted in September of 2009.
Or perhaps he’s what the hippies of the ’60s really hated, the square who only donned his tie-dyed T-shirt on the weekend, and went back to wearing his Florsheim wingtips and Brooks Brothers buttondowns come Monday. Similarly, lurking inside every 21st century Timesman is an aging, weekend psychedelic warrior ready to let his freak flag fly, the equivalent of a middle-aged man in the 1980s nostalgically breaking out the Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller records from around the time of
the miracle of the 1940s World War II.
It must be something Pinch looks for when he’s interviewing new recruits.
Related: Except for a single very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the four-million year old black monolith buried under Al Gore’s mansion has remained completely inert. Its origin and purpose, still a total mystery.