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This Krugman column has been up for a few days – Keynes Was Right – so those who follow him have probably already read it. Most Democratic leaning Americans, rank and file Democrats and progressives, not necessarily the Beltway, simply had their opinions confirmed. Both the U.S. and Europe ( most though not all) have bought into the austerity monster. This approach along with some structural issues here in the U.S. is simply going to prolong the nation’s economic pain.
“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy — which had been steadily recovering up to that point — into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.
…In declaring Keynesian economics vindicated I am, of course, at odds with conventional wisdom. In Washington, in particular, the failure of the Obama stimulus package to produce an employment boom is generally seen as having proved that government spending can’t create jobs. But those of us who did the math realized, right from the beginning, that the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (more than a third of which, by the way, took the relatively ineffective form of tax cuts) was much too small given the depth of the slump. And we also predicted the resulting political backlash.
So the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels.
It is as clear as the English language can be that in this column and multiple others, Krugman is talking about classic Keynesian economics, not Keynes and his views on other subjects. Of course Krugman is right: A Gallup poll found that a clear plurality of Americans favor more government efforts to create jobs, including rising taxes on the wealthy. So conservatives have lost the argument based on facts, though they have won the argument in terms of actual public policy. Democrats in Congress cannot even get Republicans to agree to an extension of long term jobless benefits which have a fairly good multiplier effect in saving jobs. Better than tax or spending cuts. With victory in hand, conservatives, as is usually the case, still highly resent anyone challenging their cardboard dogma. What’s a wing-nut conservative to do? Use something Keynes wrote in is youth to claim that when Krugman says Keynes is correct, Krugman is approving of Keynes antisemitism. Steven Hayward writing at the always reliably proto-fascist Powerline, Keynes Was Right–About the Jews?
So Paul Krugman phoned in his periodic “Keynes Was Right” column today, arguing that the Obama Porkulus failed only because, like “true” Communism, it wasn’t tried vigorously or faithfully enough.
I wonder if Krugman also credits Keynes’s views on Jews, which British blogger Damian Thompson of The Telegraph brings to our attention. From Keynes’s diary:
[Jews] have in them deep-rooted instincts that are antagonistic and therefore repulsive to the European, and their presence among us is a living example of the insurmountable difficulties that exist in merging race characteristics, in making cats love dogs …
It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains.
If Keynes was an intellectual hero of the Right, rather than the Left, do you think those quotes would be so little known?
Anti-Semitism used to be a property of the Right, yet it’s worth pointing out that today many of the intellectual heroes of the right are Jews, such as Milton Friedman, Leo Strauss, Irving Kristol, etc., or that anti-Semitism has become almost wholly the province of the Left today.
The whole basis of his argument against Krugman is not that he is wrong and here are some economic facts to support that point of view. While that quote is obviously wrong, stupid and offensive it has both nothing to do with Keynesian economics and Keynes wrote that comment about European Jews when he was 17. Later in life when he was, you know, an adult he supported Jewish refugees and even Zionism.
..arguing that the Obama Porkulus failed only because, like “true” Communism, it wasn’t tried vigorously or faithfully enough. It is though be painted his ass with the words another utterly stupid conservative and stuck it out the bus window. Conservatives are never ashamed of their lack of knowledge, hypocrisy or blatant revisionism of history. Conservative economic polices caused the Great Depression. Keynesian economics got us out. The economic stimulus of 2009 was not a great success but it did keep the economy from rotting in the ditch where conservative economic policies left it to die.( Even Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing rag admitted that according to some conservative legislators the stimulus or Recovery Act worked to some degree. A more apt comparison to the failure of communism would be conservative economic policies which have been responsible for every U.S. recession including Reagan’s S&L fiasco. Yet with every economic calamity the Right always doubles down claiming we were not conservative enough. The mindset of a Stalinist)
Recovery Act’s Impact on Large States ( What conservatives call “Porkulus”)
The following estimates are for the five states where we project the recovery act is protecting the largest numbers of individuals from poverty — more than 300,000 residents in each state in 2009:
California has 844,000 residents protected from poverty by the stimulus, including 335,000 children.
Texas has 640,000 residents protected from poverty by the stimulus, including 271,000 children.
Florida has 425,000 residents protected from poverty, including 154,000 children.
New York has 419,000 residents protected from poverty, including 176,000 children.
Illinois has 305,000 residents protected from poverty, including 109,000 children.
Limited sample sizes in smaller states make it difficult to make reliable projections for all 50 states.
* A flaw is a flaw. In a famous essay on the subject by Chandavarkar called Was Keynes Anti-Semitic? he notes that antisemitism was common in British public schools of the time. That does not make it right, but it doesn’t that Keynes was some monster who stood out from the crowd. Right-wing conservatives tend to worship their heroes, pretending they were flawless. Figures such as Winston Churchill for example who prior to WW II wrote about European Jews, “They have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer.” Yet Churchill found the Nazi death camps morally repugnant and as everyone knows helped free Jews from those camps. History is frequently in shades of gray. A reality that consistently spoils the rabid Right’s quest for simplistic arguments that deal in absolute shades of black and white.
It is ironic that one of the modern conservatives who have declared war on science, rationalism and enlightened humanitarianism would cite Irving Kristol as one of their own – Up from the Alcove with Irving Kristol.
As early as 1970, Irving was in complete agreement with Daniel Bell, his co-founder and co-editor at The Public Interest, on “the cultural contradictions of capitalism,” on how capitalism inevitably undermines itself. Irving wrote that capitalism had pledged three things: affluence, individual liberty, and “the promise that … the individual could satisfy his instinct for self-perfection–for leading a virtuous life that satisfied his spirit (or, as one used to say, his soul)–and that the free exercise of such individual virtue would aggregate into a just society. . . . It was only when [this] third promise … was subverted by the dynamics of capitalism itself, as it strove to fulfill the other two–affluence and liberty–that the bourgeois order came, in the minds of the young especially, to possess a questionable legitimacy.”
No one has put it better. Irving later noted that “bourgeois society was living off the accumulated moral capital of traditional religion and traditional moral philosophy, and that once this capital was depleted, bourgeois society would find its legitimacy ever more questionable.”
Sounds like Kristol was echoing some of the same sentiments of some of the OWS movement and how America has come to worship greed and materialism at the expense of one’s basic humanity. Kristol uses the word bourgeois where most progressives would use the similar plutocracy. Funny how a liberal knows more about conservatism and its history than a conservative. Or maybe its just another day dealing with yet another sycophantic echo of the mindless right-wing talking points.
Glenn Greenwald wrote a similar article to this one Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies – back in 2008. There are some good points and some not so great. In far fewer words in the post I wrote just the other day, I pointed out that Paul does bring up and keeps some focus on some crucial privacy, national security and Constitutional issues . Putting aside Paul’s sorted history on other issues it is fascinating to see Paul advocate some progressive policies and have at least some on the far Right agree. They agree with Paul when they would automatically reject the very same arguments from a progressive Democrat. I cannot find the link, but Paul, with his anti-war isolationist message goes over well with a lot of enlisted military – who also contribute a lot to his campaign. Truly remarkable. Why will these people accept that message, with only the slightest differences in detail, from Paul and not John Kerry.
Where does Glenn get a little wacky. The old there is no discernible difference between Democrats and Republicans. For one, just look at the public’s reaction to just a few of the radical changes that a wave of right-wing governors brought into focus in the 2010 mid-terms. A lot of Democrats and independents who were pissed off or feeling down about Obama not being the reincarnation of FDR suddenly realized that those “small” differences mean a lot. Democrats and Obama can be frustrating, while many are sick of hearing the lesser evil argument, let me say two things – Citizens United and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. As a frustrated progressive do you want more Antonin Scalias on the SCOTUS or one or two more Sotomeyers. The House of Representatives is neck deep in Scott Walker clones, go ahead stay at home believing there is no difference between parties and usher in even more Hosni Mubarak Walker Republicans into the House. L,G and M also makes some good points – What’s Challenging About Paul?
UPDATE BY ROB:
I want to add a bit to this, focusing mainly on Tom Hilton’s post about the same subject:
Similarly, Paul’s positions on civil liberties issues aren’t actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they’re about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it’s only a problem if the Feds do it.
The assumption underlying this is that people are freer when states (as opposed to the Federal government) have more power. Now, it may seem obvious to some of us that the distinction between one arbitrary administrative unit and another isn’t exactly a human rights issue, but let’s just consider for a moment: does state or local control actually translate to more liberty?
It’s wrong to think of Ron Paul’s racism and his libertarianism as two distinct parts of his political persona, when in fact they are deeply tied together. White supremacists understand what Glenn, apparently, does not; the absence of Federal authority makes it easier for private actors and local governments to repress the civil and political rights of minorities.
To be clear I read the Obama bashing articles at The Nation, Alternet, Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh and various blogs. Where Obama has almost continued some awful policies I still hate those policies. Obama is wrong. Even though he seems to be taking the track of doing the smart thing politically, morally and Constitutionally he is off track. Time for an absurd analogy, but the general gist is what matters: Suppose it was inevitable that you were going have to make a choice between having one leg cut off or both legs, I think most people would go for the best of the possible outcomes, keeping one leg. That’s frequently how progress works. Paul and Romney are steps backwards, at least with Obama we’re not losing ground – OK not much anyway. He actually did extremely well his first eighteen months in office. Things changed – like having a very far Right House and a conservative minority in the Senate that has literally threatened to filibuster every bill and every presidential appointment. There is not some hard to fellow narrative with Obama’s basic political being, he tries to work with what he has. If he has a Democratic majority in the House and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate we’ll see the return of the moderate to progressive Obama, instead of the Republican-lite none of are happy with.