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Painter in his studio, Picture by Gerard Dou

We do not err because truth is difficult to see.  It is visible at a glance.  We err because this is more comfortable.  
                              ~Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    Given the events of the past week, I think it highly desireable and maybe inevitable that 'My favorite authors' take a turn for the political.

    I have never tried to make this series timely or topical; I instead always wanted to say exactly what was I liked in a favorite author, and how my fellow Kossacks could profit from it. As well I just want to contribute to the general state of enlightenment on the web.There are certainly enough excellent diarists on the site who stay consistently on point and on topic; this is after all primarily a progressive political site.

    But I do live in the real world, and I will say in the spirit of full disclosure that a have a highly partisan view of the upcoming election, as well as a highly charged personal view of both candidates for the office of President. And since the election will almost assuredly hinge on the state of the economy, it is high time that I explain another of my favorite authors, a Nobel-Prize winning economist who should be known to all close readers of the site, but who tells truths that bear retelling - that need retelling - over and over and over again, because it seems that no one listens the first ten or fifteen or one hundred times. But one of the virtues of the truth is that it is true; eventually it catches on and then it seems so self evident. It is not nearly the amount of work it takes to propagandize. Just ask the Republicans

   And so, I present our resident truth-teller, the Cassandra of economics (a pretty dismal science in it's own right) Paul Krugman. The country is lucky to have him

Students of mythology and ancient Greek literature will easily recall the tragic character of Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy. For her temerity of angering the God Apollo by refusing to sleep with him, she is granted the ability of prophecy coupled with the curse of having no one believe her. She thus warns of the coming disaster for Troy, is not believed, and has to watch the burning of the city and the slaying of her family.

So although I hope the myth isn't completely prophetic in that Dr Krugman won't actually live to see the burning of the republic - because we won't actually let it burn - and that he will really be believed before it is too late. At any rate, this is why he needs to be read by every individual who calls himself or herself progressive. I saw a recent diary idea about "Books all progressives should read". Well, I hereby submit that The Great Unraveling, The Conscience of a Liberal, and End This Depression Now are high on the list

For those who are unfamiliar with Dr Krugman, he is a professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University as well as holding a professorship at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, where he writes an impressively insightful blog. Does he truly (as opposed to the average media 'pundit') know what he is talking about? Well, he not only won the Nobel Prize in economics four years ago (for a very enlightening body of work on international trade; his lecture is on the Nobel Prize website and well worth the time if you are interested in economics at all), but also the John Bates Clark Medal which is only a slightly less prestigious award, given to those who do major work prior to the age of forty. It is like a Fields medal in mathematics. What I'm getting at is that this is one smart, clearthinking, knowledgeable dude; disagree with him at your peril.

    So, for reasons that seem strange now, but made sense within the madness of the dot com era (when people could talk about the 'new economy' with a straight face), Howell Raines at the New York Times approached Krugman for commentary about this 'new economy' stuff. Krugman has already starting writing articles and books for the educated lay audience. And he started writing the column. The phrase 'way more than you bargained for' may have some applicability here. In fact, I can't resist quoting from Nicholas Confesore's 2002 article in the Washington Monthly about this

It was largely on the strength of Krugman's writing for the Times Magazine and Slate--plus, of course, his burgeoning academic reputation--that Howell Raines, then the Times editorial-page editor, approached Krugman about writing a regular column. This was in 1999, at the height of the boom, and Raines felt that the Times needed someone who could, as Krugman puts it, "write about the vagaries of business and economics in an age of prosperity." Krugman's early Times column was notably less droll than his earlier writing and covered the kinds of topics he and Raines had discussed: the AOL Time-Warner merger, Bill Gates, and, when it finally happened, the stock market plunge. But Krugman still had a taste for the blood of the "hired gun"--"usually a mediocre economist," he wrote in an April 2000 column, who "has found a receptive audience for work that does have an ideological edge."
Then of course, George W. Bush burst onto the scene, and Professor Krugman seems to have found his true calling: dismantling the lies and half truths and wishful thinking and unwarrented and very damaging economic assumptions of what is truly the most economically illiterate administration the country has ever been burdened with (And yes, the sum total of economic stupidity of the Bush administration goes light years beyond the errors of the Hoover administration, who at least recognized that there wa a depression and actually tried to fight it, although they clearly lacked the knowledge for such a task).
 From the same article:  (link here, by the way)
   
To read through his columns about Bush is to watch disdain pass through frustration into rage. The first few, written during the 2000 campaign, are dismissive; how could anyone take what this guy is saying about his budget seriously? But a few weeks before Election Day, Krugman was getting impatient. "I really, truly wasn't planning to write any more columns about George W. Bush's arithmetic," he wrote in an October dispatch. "But his performance on 'Moneyline' last Wednesday was just mind-blowing." In the space of a few minutes, he noted, Bush had made three major misstatements--about how much he had promised to spend on prescription drugs for seniors, about how much of the surplus his tax cut would eat up, and about whether Social Security got a better "return" than bonds. "What is really striking here is the silence of the media--those 'liberal media' conservatives complain about," Krugman lamented. "As I said, I don't want to keep writing about this. But reporters seem to be too busy chasing rats and dogs to look at what the candidates say about their actual policy proposals." The same went for Bush's Social Security proposal. "It just was not acceptable to report Bush's plan straight," Krugman told me recently, "to assert that it requires a large influx of money from someplace to make it work."

Even after Bush became president, it's clear that Krugman saw Bush's deceptions as more joke than threat. In particular, Krugman, like many people outside and inside Washington, didn't believe that the Bush administration would persevere with the tax cut in the face of a deepening slump. But as Bush and his lieutenants did just that--and more infuriatingly, began to offer an endlessly changing, and often contradictory, set of explanations and numbers to defend their plan--Krugman's writing changed. He no longer wrote about policy hustlers of the left and the right; instead, he began to devote the majority of his columns to the Bush administration. His tone was more angry, less wry. During the campaign, Raines had forbidden him to use the word "lie" when describing Bush's proposals, even the demonstrably mendacious Social Security plan. Now Krugman used it with gusto. "Mr. Bush was lying [during the tax cut debate]," he wrote in August 2001. "It was obvious from the start that the administration's numbers didn't add up. And in case you were wondering, the administration is still lying."

  You know, I can't help wondering if maybe more people in the media had had the courage to use the word 'lying; when it applies to people who are doing just that, the election of 2000 might have turned out a little differently. A relevant thought twelve years later, you might think.

   Anyway, most of those early columns about the perfidy of the Bush lies and wishful thinkings and blind allegiance to a now-discredited ideology were turned into his book "The Great Unraveling" Now there are an awful lot of 'very serious people' who write very serious sounding books and they all say different things, so how is one to know who is really worth listening to and giving your reading time too, and who gets to have their books thrown into the same circular file wherein resides dickwits like Dinesh D'Souza ?. Well, here's the test: Are they proved correct? That is, do they say things before they become fashionable or obvious that turn out to be true. Well, The thing is Krugman has been right, often and consistently.

Take the Bush tax cuts, which were sold as a way to boost the economy - the resurgence of trickle down - and would not explode the deficit, but would merely be the best use of the budget surplus, and besides, the government ought not to be holding financial assets, but give them back to the taxpayers. Well, Dr Krugman not only pointed out that this was total bullshit - that in fact these tax cuts would spawn deficits as far as the eye could see - but also exploded this idea that somehow the federal government shouldn't hold assets to pay for the coming obligations of social security and medicare. Now the thing is, he wrote this in Oct 2000, before 'W' was even elected, in a column titled 'Fuzzier and fuzzier'

   

"Mr Bush's plans - and to a lesser extent Mr Gore's plans - are based on projections that assume there will be no increase in federal discretionary spending over the next 10 years. But over the last few months, while you weren't looking, Congress went on a bipartisan spending spree - with a cost estimated by both Democratic and Republican analysts at more than 800 billion$ over the next decade"
   And that was before 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and the medicare drug benefit.

    As there was a modest recession in early 2002, Krugman made what would become a familiar economic argument: That this kind of recession would be best treated by stimulatory spending and by canceling the planned 2003 tax cuts and instead giving a payroll tax cut, which truly would help the middle class and the working poor. It wasn't the kind of recession that could be combatted by lowering interest rates. Well, in a sense he wasn't correct, because these low interest rates fueled a housing bubble which did get us temporarily out of a recession and allowed those large deficits, but there would be a mighty bill to pay five years later, in which you may notice that cutting interest rates essentially to zero hasn't helped us any more than it helped Japan in the early nineties (and btw another 5 years of Japan style economic stagnation is exactly what I see in this countries future. I hope I am wrong).

   Krugman also deals with Enron (remember them? Corporate malfeasance on a grand scale), including the economically stupid argument that deregulation of California utility rates and electricity transmission would results in lower prices. Krugman pointed out that no, it would likely lead to raised prices as companies figured out how to game the market. Well before some damning memos on Enron came to light, Krugman was openly accusing the energy companies of market manipulation. No no, came angry replies, it was the fault of meddling politicians and environmental regulations, surely nothing could corrupt our free-market religion by pointing out the connection between deregulation and rolling blackouts, surreal spikes in the cost of electricity, and schools and businesses shutting because they literally could not pay their bills. Well, then the world heard of 'Deathstar' 'Ricochet' 'Get Shorty' and 'Fat Boy', all clever schemes derived by Enron energy traders to game the market and make huge profits for the energy trading division. California likely lost billions during this failed experiment.

Other topics he deals with: electoral gaming, the abuses of power by the administration, the politicization of 9/11, the permanent polarization of our society as a necessary step to ensure the dominance of a conservative ideology that entrenches the privileged and distracts the lower class supporters with race baiting and bigotry, and even, in the course of a column on Robert Mundell another nobel-prizewining economist, cast doubts upon the Euro, which as I recall was universally lauded as the great financial advance of our time, maybe like the Credit default swap.

   The entire book is filled with these insights that are borne out by later events. Indeed one has to carefully check the dates because otherwise they sound like comments on the blazingly obvious. Oh well, like the headline in the Onion, the satirical weekly that Krugman quotes in the books original preface, "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over". That was written in January 2001. Truly we must be blessed; we  haven't dreamed that nightmare since.

Oh yes, one statistic bears showing, from the national council on economic education, which will lead to the next section. During the entire eight years of the Bush administration, the country never got back to the rate of employment it had in 2000 before he took office. In a sense, the recession has never ended

                                                   

So on to the topical work of the month, and I would argue the book all should read to make sense of the election: Krugman's 'End this Depression Now'

I had thought originally of making this diary into a long and erudite disquisition of the kinds of economics that Krugman explains in the book. You know, with graphs and simplified explanations and so forth. But I don't think i need to, because the underlying concepts are so simple, they can be described so well, I can really just blog on about them. I would note that there are no equations in the book, even though economic theory is often used to justify the remedies.

I mean, why clog the diary with charts when I can just reproduce Krugman's quote form the novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre : "Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn't know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world"

Well, this is the sort of thinking we are currently dealing with, to which 'End this Depression Now' offers such a welcoming antidote. And of course, in keeping with the Cassandra theme of the diary, it is unknown whether his policy prescriptions - you know, 'I'm not sure dragging this horse into Troy is really such a good idea' will take. Pity. Because he shows in the book we are in exactly the sort of 'liquidity trap' that he warned about in earlier books, using Japan as an example.

And what is this liquidity trap? Well, you have to start by considering one of the basic tenets of monetarism - that by controlling interests rates, essentially the supply of money in the economy, the government can achieve price stability through control of economic output. When more output is needed, then loosen the spigot and lower interest rates; when inflation then occurs, tighten the rates and decrease money supply  and inflation will moderate. Indeed Milton Friedman even said once this function could be done by a computer, rendering the Federal Reserve unnecessary. The problem though is that the economy can get into a situation where demand is so slack - because of mass unwillingness or inability to spend -that lowering interest rates isn't enough, because no financial authority can lower them past zero, because then hiding money in a mattress becomes the smart financial play. And when do economies fall into liquidity traps? Well, when they have such an overhang of private debt and a financial crisis generally sparked by the popping of a bubble. People will then just pay down debt, not spend, the economy stagnates and joblessness persists because there is no demand to justify hiring new workers. And mass unemployment is one of the most corrosive things a society can inflict on itself, as Germany found out in the 1930s. And never mind that Dave Ramsey character, the guy who preaches the gospel of avoidance of personal debt. That is smart if you are an individual - particularly the sort of lower net worth unsophisticated individual to whom he directs his message - but not in the aggregate, since we cannot all save collectively more or less than we spend. Indeed, it is macroeconomically very stupid people who bear a real share of responsibility as to why our problems are so persistent

So this is the situation we are in. And what must be done is actually pretty clear; Krugman lays this out simply and effectively. Since the private sector cannot or will not spend - and cannot be induced to do so by monetary policy - the government can pick up the slack by a combination of spending, accelerated social relief (food stamps, unmeployment, emergency aid to states) and debt relief. How do we know this worked? Well how do you think we got out of the depression? (actually Krugman must be aware but can't say it, but I can, that this is how Nazi Germany also got out of the Depression; Hitler wanted a big public works and rearmament program, and told everyone to get busy and didn't give a shit about 'deficits' and 'debt'. And unfortunately for millions of people, it worked quite well).

He also explodes this absurd notion of the 'crisis' of our debt, which he sees correctly as a manufactured issue to advance the conservative ideology of transforming the government into an instrument that merely serves the rich and powerful. Sure all this debt will 'bankrupt' us. In actuality, the U.S. debt was higher as a share of GDP after World War II than it is now; how did we pay it? We actually never did, we just ran balanced budgets after the war and the growing economy took care of it. In other words, the priorities of debt over growth are exactly backward: With growth, the debt truly matters less and less; without growth, you never actually get rid of your debt, and it more or less grows over time. Again, look at Japan. It is much more indebted than we are, but because it hasn't had any real growth for 20 years, it's borrowing costs haven't changed appreciably at all; there is no significant private excess demand for the goods and services the economy produces, and so it gets stashed in government bonds. Incidentally, he explains very well why the S&P downgrade of our debt was a non-event; the same agency also downgraded Japans debt in 2002 with the same result. Pity, I thought I could make some money by buying the TBT - essentially a fund that shorts treasury bills - but nope; it is not something that I advise others to do.

He also takes on Europe, clearly looking at their economic troubles, and (again the Cassandra theme) predicting economic troubles that they will surely go through if they carry this austerity measure too far - a depressed economy is most assuredly not the place for austerity; do that when the economy is booming and expanding. His chapter is titled 'Eurodammerung' (clever), and to see how Krugman puts his money where his mouth is  and also, if you have the time, to get a more complete summary of the work, check out this Lecture to the London School of Economics

Because of these boldly stated predictions and prescriptions, Krugman has been taken to task by many conservative economists and reviewers, including a halfhearted review in Barron's. The Wall Street journal hates this kind of stuff. Besides the fact that these publications are clearly the water carriers for the 1%; people love to imbue economics with the attributes of a quasi-religious morality play ('seven lean years', 'moral hazard', tools like Rick Santelli ranting on TV about paying other people's mortgages, etc). That if nothing else should constitute a ringing endorsement

                                                 

Although he deals in deep economic matters, Krugman's prose is never dense or turgid. Rather it is limpid and wholly readable. In many ways he reminds me of another highly gifted Jewish writer, the late Dr Isaac Asimov who wrote with such clarity on such a variety of topics, and I was pleased to note in my researches that Dr Krugman credits 'The Foundation' novels that Asimov wrote with inspiring him to go into economics  There are many writers who one can read and say "What a really smart person". There are comparatively few who one can read and say 'Wow, now I feel like I'm a really smart person". It works really well if you can then talk about this with someone else, especially if they are ideologically not where you are. You may not convince them, but they will be more impressed with your grasp of the issue and maybe have to think a bit more.

I will conclude with a recent piece Krugman has done that I think was even diaried here at DK last month where he deconstructs this whole 'Paul Ryan', serious man bullshit: (again, the link for those who want it):

So if we add up Mr. Ryan’s specific proposals, we have $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, partially offset by around $1.7 trillion in spending cuts — with the tax cuts, surprise, disproportionately benefiting the top 1 percent, while the spending cuts would primarily come at the expense of low-income families. Over all, the effect would be to increase the deficit by around two and a half trillion dollars.

Yet Mr. Ryan claims to be a deficit hawk. What’s the basis for that claim?

Well, he says that he would offset his tax cuts by “base broadening,” eliminating enough tax deductions to make up the lost revenue. Which deductions would he eliminate? He refuses to say — and realistically, revenue gain on the scale he claims would be virtually impossible.

At the same time, he asserts that he would make huge further cuts in spending. What would he cut? He refuses to say.

What Mr. Ryan actually offers, then, are specific proposals that would sharply increase the deficit, plus an assertion that he has secret tax and spending plans that he refuses to share with us, but which will turn his overall plan into deficit reduction.

If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan’s “plan” has been treated with great respect in Washington. He even received an award for fiscal responsibility from three of the leading deficit-scold pressure groups.

   
I would only add that this 'joke' is not funny, because it is this thinking that has caused such persistent pain in the country and, because it is exactly this sort of cynical plan that enriches the one percent even more, as the plan would follow the exact same course with the Bush tax cuts: The cuts would be immediate, the savings would be illusory or nugatory, the social safety net would be further shredded, and the 'Conservative' overlord elite would be further entrenched in their quest to turn the U.S into the same sort of insolent aristocracy that existed in the pre-civil war South. Oh yeah, I seem to remember something about a 'chains remark from some V.P candidate somewhere.

Ha ha

Truth, like milk, arrives in the dark
But even so, wise dogs don't bark.
Only mongrels make it hard
For the milkman to come up the yard.

                       Christopher Morley  Dogs Don't Bark at the Milkman

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 08:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  He doesn't have to be right to be valuable. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet, Limelite

    I have had an interest in economics for awhile (I subscribe to Economist as well as several economics related podcasts and have purchased just about every Teaching Company course there is) but don't have a degree in it. Although, economists agree on quite a bit, I am struck by how much they seem  to disagree on particulars, such as whether bank creditors should have been forced to take at least a moderate haircut during the bailouts to minimize the moral hazard problem. While my sense is Dr. Krugman is widely respected among his peers, he does not seem to speak for the field in general simply because there is so much that there does not seem to be a consensus on. That said, I would much rather read an Op Ed about economics from a professional economist than from a columnist with a journalism degree. My personal favorite economist is the late Milton Friedman whose influence in the field has been far greater.

    •  Give Krugman time (8+ / 0-)

      There is much that economists do disagree on, but as I have said, I take the idea that whoever comes closest to describing reality - and making predictions about the same reality - should be listened to the most closely. Krugman for example predicted the stimulus would be too small and that while unemployment would fall, it would not fall enough. He agrees that the big financial institutions should have been bailed out, but I think would regard the question of whether they needed to take a bigger haircut of secondary importance; your comment, btw, all the more relevant as the news breaks that the government is selling its stake in AIG - one of the worst corporate offenders - for a profit.
         Instead I would argue that Krugman would advocate for a bailout of ordinary people in the concrete sense of extended unemployment benefits, emergency aid to states, and real home mortgage relief to avoid crashing the housing market. That such a bailout was given in only desultary form, as opposed to the vigorous financial bailout is the real burning and I think anger inducing issue.
          My guess is that as the years go on, Paul Krugman will have more and more of a profound influence on his field; I sort of think of him as the John Maynard Keynes of his day

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 06:49:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem with economics is (0+ / 0-)

        that it is impossible to test the counter factual. You can't turn back the clock, reset the initial conditions and test your hypothesis. As a result it is easy for economists to predict that stimulus is counter productive or that the economy won't recover no matter how much you stimulate it and that it will heal itself with time and they can all claim to have been right. Lots of economists make predictions and there are enough of them to cover every base. Krugman may have predicted the stimulus would be inadequate but Muriel Roubini predicted the housing market collapse we ended up trying to stimulate ourselves out of (he has also been called a 'Cassandra').

        We have had economic heros in the past, like Alan Geenspan, only to see history largely discredit them with time. The nature of being a Cassandra is that NOBODY knows you are telling the truth. If you know Krugman is right then by definition he isn't a true Cassandra.

        In the mean time I for one will not entirely hitch my wagon to any one of them but will continue to listen to all of them and see where the common ground is because it will be the safest ground.

    •  Friedman is way deader (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichiganChet, a2nite
    •  The Washington Consensus (6+ / 0-)

      is Friedmanite in character, and is entirely discredited. Rather than waste your time with my synopisis, I urge you to read Naomi Klein's 'Disaster Capitalism'.  

      The only question in my mind is whether the various economic levers that led to the Great Recession are the inevitable result of bad economic policy, or the intended result of applying principles of economics to achieve political goals.  

      •  The answer is both (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, mrkvica

        And I have read Naomi Klein. The seeds of the great recession were laid thirty years ago with the whole 'trickle down ' thing and the encouragement of private debt

        An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

        by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 08:38:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I should read a noneconomist's book (0+ / 0-)

        about economics because...her ideas resonate with you? Within economist circles across the spectrum her book seems to be almost universally panned. It would be like considering watching a Steven Segal movie based on a stranger's recommendation in spite of it getting dismal ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Sorry, life is too short.

    •  Lordy Uncle Milton? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SW, ozsea1, salmo

      Sad to say his influence at this point is greater. His apostles, under Ruban and co. are still running this failed extreme ideological free market deregulated bankster economy. This failed free market disaster capitalism has been adopted by the Democrat's and reeked havoc on democracies around the world. Look at SA.  He was the father of this neoliberal viscous new world order. You must be happy with the inevitable 'world as we find it' , as Axelrod calls this freaking nightmare.    

      •  You don't seem to all that familiar (0+ / 0-)

        with Friedman. He was always critical of the very props that shielded businesses from competition and that protected them from their mistakes. He saw these as impediments to a free market.

        •  Free markets? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tommymet, shaharazade

          Boiled down to the essence of their theories, Friedman and his acolytes think free markets can never fail, they can only be failed.  Leaving aside the idea that such a thing as a free market exists, the academic brilliance of all those freshwater school economic models simply obscures their real world consequences - an outcome the beneficiaries of those ideas among the economic elite find very much to their liking.  Friedmanite ideas have dramatically adversely affected the vast majority of Americans (and people in the rest of the world), but not so our Masters of the Universe.  Was that entirely predictable outcome a bug or a feature?  In a massively corrupt political system, Friedman's ideas fail upward.  That is not a good thing.

          •  Friedman believed nothing of the sort. (0+ / 0-)

            You are obviously confusing Friedman with someone like Mises. Everything I have ever read or heard about Friedman was that he acknowledged that the need for some intervention was inevitable; it was only a question of degree. That others have oversimplified, distorted and perverted his beliefs for their own agendas reflects on those doing the simplification, distorting and perverting (you included) not on Friedman himself.

            http://www.nytimes.com/...

  •  One Nobel Prize is not enough for Krugman (13+ / 0-)

    Perhaps a gift subscription to Krugman's NYT column and blog is the best way to convert any economically quasi-literate non-millionaire who is considering voting for Romney-Ryan.

    Krugman's 800 word columns are not only reality-based, they are usually pitch perfect. This quality of writing is much harder than is generally appreciated, especially when the underlying issues are complex and filled with insider jargon.

    Moreover, his books are also amazingly readable, clarifying and persuasive. A Krugman book that usefully puts the US experience into international context (and shows that, long before 2008, Krugman was years ahead of any other prominent economist in identifying key economic risks of our era) is: "The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008".

    In addition to Krugman's skill in accessibly communicating his deeply grounded economic analysis, he has been courageous -- which is a topic that bears repeating in other diaries.

    Chet, I will certainly check out your other favorite authors -- after the election!

  •  The Gulag Archipelago, Poetry of Robert Frost, and (8+ / 0-)

    Craig Claiborne's NYT Cook Book, were 3 books that I received for 25 cents and a book club membership when I was a 12 year old boy.  Those books seemed to play a part in the destiny of my life.  I enjoyed the Solzhenitsyn quote.  He was one of my early heroes.

    We do not err because truth is difficult to see.  It is visible at a glance.  We err because this is more comfortable.
    As for Krugman, I like the way he plays Rock em Sock em Robots with the Trickle Downists!  A bit of a showboat from my perspective, but I agree with most of what he says, and appreciate the role he has taken on for team P-Progressive.  I wish he were in the admin.  I was very disappointed when the Geithner-Summers crew was chosen.  

    As for economists in general, my only direct experience with them was long ago when I drove a taxi.  There was an economics institute on campus, and those future economists were by far the absolute worst tippers and stiffers that I ever encountered as a driver!

    Back to work for me.  Please comment on that painting, and thanks!

    I play for keeps. Kindness, Equality, Enlightenment, Peace, and Sustainability.

    by QDMacaw on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 06:24:01 AM PDT

    •  It is Gerard Dou (5+ / 0-)

      "Painter in his Studio"

      From the web gallery of art:

      Gerrit (also spelled Gerard) Dou, Dutch painter. In 1628 he became the first pupil of the young Rembrandt, basing his early work closely on his master's. After Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, Dou developed a style of his own, painting usually on a small scale, with a surface of almost enamelled smoothness. He was astonishingly fastidious about his tools and working conditions, with a particular horror of dust. Some of his pictures were painted with the aid of a magnifying glass.

      He painted numerous subjects, but is best known for domestic interiors. They usually contain only a few figures framed by a window or by the drapery of a curtain, and surrounded by books, musical instruments, or household paraphernalia, all minutely depicted. He is at his best in scenes lit by artificial light.

      With Jan Steen, Dou was among the founders of the Guild of St Luke at Leiden in 1648. Unlike Steen he was prosperous and respected throughout his life, and his pictures continued to fetch big prices (consistently higher than those paid for Rembrandt's work) until the advent of Impressionism influenced taste against the neatness and precision of his style.

      Dou had a workshop with many pupils who perpetuated his style and Leiden continued the fijnschilder (fine painter) tradition until the 19th century.

      To me, the image encapsulated everything I was trying to accomplish in my diaries - the synthesis of disparate elements into a coherent whole that the subject of the painting is doing in his book. Some are actual objects in his studio; some are elements of his imagination. It is like the visions he is seeing that he is trying to bring to his work, and I have to say, that is the spirit in which I write my diaries

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 08:47:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  MichiganChet, thank you for an amazing reply! (0+ / 0-)

        I'm glad you explained the meaning of the painting in relation to your writing.  The added information about the painting gives me a deeper understanding of your perspective.

        And you write beautifully by the way.

        I parachute in and out of DK, hence the untimely response.  I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

        Peace.

        PS-ever see the film The Mill and the Cross?  

        I play for keeps. Kindness, Equality, Enlightenment, Peace, and Sustainability.

        by QDMacaw on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 02:45:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, now you have it (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          QDMacaw

          Sure dig the complement on my writing. . . I don't do all that much all that well, but I do really try on the writing. I plan on doing a bunch more in the future unless people tell me to stop.

          Haven't seen 'The Mill and the Cross', but I will definitely check it out, I think Netflix now has it. I have always liked movies about painting, particularly ones that give insight into the process to the artistically challenged like myself.

          An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

          by MichiganChet on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 06:37:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A much darker movie that you may like is (0+ / 0-)

            What Dreams May Come with (gasp) Robin Williams.  
            Warning, it is a fairly depressing film but amazing in it's imagery.  

            I'm an artist, so the writing thing is the challenge for me.
            I haven't written my first diary yet.  Haven't found my voice and a topic that I'm driven to write about. Even writing comments is a struggle for me.  I'm kind of slow on the tech side, and the speed and depth of the rapid fire responses here overwhelms me at times.  While I'm a passionate lefty, I seem to be attracted to the periphery of DK.  The bird and nature lovers, artists, environmentalists, the kind hearts,people struggling with health issues and the monstrosity that our health industry.  I'm also a total old pootie guy.

            I noticed that you had depression on one of your tags.  I'm dealing with that. That may be how I found you.  Glad I did.  I joined DK as a kind of cheap therapy to challenge myself to engage more.  I'm improving.    

            Keep up the good work!  Cheers.

            I play for keeps. Kindness, Equality, Enlightenment, Peace, and Sustainability.

            by QDMacaw on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 12:58:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Krugman is a national treasure! (5+ / 0-)

    "Do you believe Romney? Me neither."

    by PlinytheWelder on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:31:17 AM PDT

  •  I read Krugman, and saved my retirement. (9+ / 0-)

    What more can I say ?  I read him and rethought everything I thought I knew about money. Saved my ass from the dot-com-bubble, and the Bush Era Melt Down.  

    (and BONDDAD helped, too)

  •  I was surprised by the question Dan Rather asked (6+ / 0-)

    Rachel Maddow on her show last night. It was at the end of the interview when Rather asked her about Paul Ryan, explaining that he [Rather] had pegged Ryan for a very serious person and that he was surprised that he was not doing a very good job campaigning and defending his positions. What did Rachel think of that? Rachel said something about Ryan's lack of experience in running for offices at anything above the congressional district level, blah blah. That's true of course, but my first thought was that Rather hadn't been reading Dr. Krugman's column like the rest of us do. If he had, Rather would never have entertained the thought that Ryan was a serious person.

    Off topic: when are Brokaw and Rather going to retire permanently so we can have a bit of relief from the "Geezertas"

    •  I had that playing in the background (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, Gorette, Limelite, mrkvica

      as I was finishing up this diary and I must say it informed my decision to end with that writing. We have to excuse Rather; he's old and out of the mainstream and never quite grasped the change in dishonest journalism that drove him out, and frankly, I don't think he is all that well read. So Rather is in my opinion semiretired already; more to the point, this is exactly what is wrong with mainstream journalism: the failure to critically examine their premises and assumptions, such as the one about Ryan being a serious person, and thus being surprised when brutal reality intrudes and shows that he is no such thing

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:59:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Splendid appraisal of Krugman's work (7+ / 0-)

    And I thought I was alone in thinking he's a Cassandra figure!  

    I suspect he feels that he'd be willing to be wrong more often if only he were listened to once in a while.  It must be powerfully frustrating to explain things in plain English and get answers in gibberish.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:38:55 AM PDT

  •  I don't think Obama is listening (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet, ozsea1, mrkvica

    He mentioned the Catfood commission in his DNC speech as something he wants to get done. Go figure.

    •  Bingo! one of the points of the piece (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, whenwego, Limelite

      That the economics dictate that any move to austerity - whether formalized by the catfood commission or not - is precisely the wrong move under the current circumstances. The fact that the President had to make some sort of genuflection in its direction -for whatever political reason - should not obscure this fact. Hence the critical importance of public voices like Krugman

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 08:34:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But Joe the Stock Fluffer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet, ozsea1, mrkvica

    Tells me he's a communist!

    •  Yeah, like most of the CNBC douchebags (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      I keep a copy of my Krugman at my side whenever I flip through that channel

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 08:36:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the Second Term's Secretary of the Treasury /nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1

    Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 09:10:24 AM PDT

    •  Sorry, the second term (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, ozsea1, mrkvica

      Secretary of Treasury is most likely going to be Austin Goolesby. A 'Chicago Boy' and co chair of the Cat Food Commission. A Rubanite of the worst order.  

      •  perhaps, but rolling over should not be preemptive (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1

        Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

        by annieli on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 09:50:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who's rolling over? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          atana, ozsea1, mrkvica

          not me. Not preemptive the administration is floating his name about. I realize it's a rumor but then again I hear or seem nothing that says this administration has changed it's neoliberal ideological attachment to 'the theory and implementation of oligarchical collectivism'.

          They already have announced that they are ready to deal and make the Grand Bargain, a victory for compromise that will maintain the vampire squid position on humanities face.

          'The world as we find it' says Axelrod. This world isn't inevitable it's a world they created by-partisanly. Austerity and sacrifice are coming even if the Dems. win. No vouchers however just 'reforms'. Reforms are now a word that means ordinary people are screwed. Look at what Rahm is doing to the Chicago teachers and schools and calling privatization 'reform'.    

  •  Krugman isn't a Wall Street insider (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, Limelite

    He's the sort of economist who wants to understand things, rather than to create ideologies that help insiders make a killing. So he's not acceptable to Wall Street, neither as Secretary of the Treasury, nor as a "serious" economic adviser to the President.

    Obama appointed insiders to Treasury and Defense at the beginning of his first term -- presumably because there was no other way to prevent a full scale revolt in those sectors. He has a bit more leverage with Defense now, because of Bin Laden, but it's doubtful Wall Street is ever going to accept anyone at Treasury they don't think is mainly representing their interests to Obama.

    •  I should think that after Wall Street (0+ / 0-)

      abandoned him in favor of Mittens in the campaign, he has no more reason to curry favor with them.  Indeed, quite the contrary and being a lame duck, not needing to worry about re-election this is an opportunity for some major league pay back.

  •  Both Krugman's & Hayes' latest books are excellent (6+ / 0-)

    And both come out more or less in the same place. Increase taxes to make them more progressive.
    If you follow Krugman in the NYT you already know what he points out:
    1. We must have large government spending programs to make up for the slack in consumer spending.
    2. Interest rates are at an all time low. This is the time for the government to borrow.
    3. If we can regain political power, ram the stimulus program through using reconciliation.

    We can only hope that Obama learned his lesson. The Republicans will never co-operate & the people are getting tired of excuses for an 8% unemployment rate.
    Obama is very fortunate to be running against such a pair of inept dicks. With this economy, he's lucky again with the opposition's choice of a candidate.

  •  Excellent diary. Really appreciated. Love PK (4+ / 0-)

    and read and keep all his nyt blogs and columns. The best, and understandable to one without econ background.

    I keep reading him because I can see he is usually right.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 02:00:18 PM PDT

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet, Limelite

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 02:39:37 PM PDT

  •  Do I Appreciate Your Diary or (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet

    some of your tags more?

    Thanks for an excellent post.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 04:56:56 PM PDT

    •  Glad you notice the tags (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Limelite

      I thought about re-emphasizing the shitwittedness of D'Souza in there as well, but took the more subtle approach.

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:40:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well done! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichiganChet

    Thanks for this post, MichiganChet.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:57:06 PM PDT

    •  You are welcome. We keep cranking them out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa

      Doing our bit to spread enlightenment and ensmarten our fellow Kossacks.

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:41:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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