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An immodest proposal




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  • Nathan Williams

    Think he’s changed his mind in the last three and a half years?

    And for those of you wondering about yours truly — I’m temperamentally unsuited, have never had any desire for the job, and probably have more influence as an outside gadfly than I ever could in DC.


    • Leeds man

      Exactly. Who will be Krugman when Krugman is gone?

    • Precisely. I think a better immodest proposal – Krugman gets to vet the next Treasury Secretary.

      However, you’d still have the Bernanke problem.

      • sven

        This seems a much better idea. Setting aside the political issues (confirmation, etc.) does Krugman know how to actually run anything? There have to be experienced professionals of whom K-Thug would approve.

        • StevenAttewell

          I’m sure Krugman could find someone he approved of.

          The issue is whether we can always tell whether past beliefs and thinking about the economy will hold once once someone is introduced into the department culture. Hence, Bernanke.

    • Heron

      A cabinet official needs to be good interpersonal politics and bureaucratic maneuvering to be effective. Geithner didn’t win his policy battles at the start of Obama’s admit by being the smartest person in the room; he won them by being the most stubborn, by being expert at playing the infantile “I’m not wrong; why are you attacking me?” game, and by spending hours outside of cabinet meetings courting Obama so that he’d have his support in those meetings. The example of Geithner raises another point about cabinet members; their jobs are much easier when the president already shares their temperament and world view.

  • I would hate to lose his voice as a critic, but, and this perfectly apes rightwing thinking; it would be great fun watching heads explode when he was nominated.

  • McNulty will become police commissioner before Krugman makes it through a confirmation hearing

    • But boy would that hearing be fun:

      Obama: I gotta admit you got some stones on you. Did you actually call Ranking Member of the Finance Committee an empty suit?

      • Timb

        He’d end on that Marine patrol boat as quickly as McNulty did

  • Right off the bat you implicitly assume Krugman is a Liberal.

    This is not so, no matter the title of his blog.

    Krugman is what a conservative would be in a world that made some sort of sense.

    Really – go back and read his free-market, etc. stuff from the 90’s. Other than that he was pretty apolitical, for an economist.

    He only looks like a liberal now because the political environment around him has gone so god-damned far to the right.

    He was [apparently] radicalized by the Cheney administration – just like me.


    • NonyNony

      This is the US. Our liberals are generally speaking what the rest of the world considers conservative. Our conservatives are what the rest of the world considers fruitcakes.

      We miss out on not having separate Labor or Social Democrats in this country. We have Labor and Social Democrat voters, it’s just that they’re all considered “liberals” in the US. Because every political ideology in the US MUST fit into one of two boxes – no more than two and no less.

      • R Johnston

        The way I like to put it is that our major Parties, Republicans and Democrats, correspond to the BNP/National Front and the Tories/UMP respectively.

      • Heron

        I’ve never really felt our political parties were ideological in the European sense until, I’d say, the Civil Rights Era. Before that they were primarily regional -with both parties incorporating “liberals”, “conservatives”, and much in between- agglomerations of State, county, and city political machines, banding together to pursue shared interests.

        That isn’t to say the Big Two didn’t concern themselves with ideology; social movements would occasionally pop up -like the temperance movement- and come to dominate certain regions, thereby coming to influence the relevant party. Nor is it to say that the parties were entirely restricted in their concerns and policy to their regions; the Republican party after the Civil War changed the face of this continent and the concept of Union citizenship with their pro-industry, pro-commerce policies. My point is rather that these were not cases of the Parties standing up for their stated ideals, but rather responses to shifting beliefs among their constituents in the first instance, and pragmatic corruption in the second; a point that likely requires further explanation.

        During the CW, industry and the Rs had grown close due to the typical jockeying for procurement contracts that accompany any war, and the expansion of rail and telegraph unique to that one. After the war the Rs were the only Party standing, and as such were the sole focus of all the bribery, nepotistic hiring offers, and insider information trading that businesses and the wealthy always use to win government access. This is where the bond between wealth, industry, and the Republican party arose; not from some ideological dedication to Free-trade and the suppression of workers’ rights(the Republican Party had, afterall, originally been friendly to worker protest movements and social reform generally), but from Republican politicians being in office during a time of rapid industrial growth, and as such, being the focus of graft and “lobbying”.

        In that way the Republican party became the party of the oligarchs, and in a mirror-fashion the Democratic party became the party of “the little guy”, though that transformation would not be complete until LBJ decisively repudiated the Jim Crow regime by siding with the Civil Rights movement.

    • Right off the bat you implicitly assume Krugman is a Liberal.

      Name the three most liberal Treasury Secretaries ever.

    • StevenAttewell

      Krugman’s economic thinking has shifted considerably in recent years, however. It’s not just that everyone else went right; Krugman reacted to the Great Recession as Keynes would have done – adjusted his thinking.

      • sparks

        So has DeLong’s, it appears. Once I corresponded with him about eight or so years ago, and it took a single reply from him along the lines of “Creative destruction is wonderful! Shipping jobs overseas is great!” for me to stop. I pointed out his ass would always be safe and he’d never have to worry about being outsourced, and never bothered with him again.

        • mpowell

          To be fair, I think there is a strong argument that the issue is one of balance. Free trade can result in improvement in efficiency by shipping lower value, labor intensive work to places with cheap labor and replacing it with high productivity labor domestically. This isn’t a mirage, it really does happen. But at the same time in certain economic environments it doesn’t work that way (largely because the Chinese have been giving us stuff for free for the past 20 years instead of actually requesting an equivalent value of stuff in return) and eventual the lack of good domestic jobs results in depressed demand when consumer credit dries up and you get a nasty recession.

          So it makes since for Delong and Krugman to change their minds about priorities in the economy when that recession hits.

    • Steve

      Well, I mean, krugman is of course a liberal. It’s just, is liberal good enough?

    • Heron

      Supporting Free Trade doesn’t make you a conservative, and I’m not just carting out the old saw about how the original Liberals were free-traders. Politically and economically, Krugman is a classic New Deal and Great Society Lefty; he’s certainly no communist, but he recognizes the important role played by government, and that certain services -like infrastructure and health care- are “public goods” much better suited to being provided by government than the private market. Beyond that I’ve never seen any reason to doubt his professed support for gender liberation and full social equality.

      All of these things make him, unquestionably, a leftist, even by international standards. As late as the Thacher administration the right in the UK was still openly racist, nativist, and gender-traditional, beyond being quite hostile to unions as well. In the present day we still see conservatives in Europe that openly declare dismantling public health systems as their goal(the Cameron Admin), still see conservatives that blame social unrest on “character” even while they create social pain by dismantling support programs or forcing austerity(Cameron, Berlusconi, the current Spanish admin, Angela Merkel, Greece), still see conservatives that genuinely believe in the social value of unregulated, corrupt markets, and paying private firms a premium to do what the government already does quite well(Cameron again, on education). Even without the Bush admin Krugman would oppose these things on principle, though perhaps without it we wouldn’t know, as he’d have never felt it necessary to start writing publicly.

    • Halloween Jack

      And today, in “if my aunt had balls” commentary…

  • The Bobs

    Brad DeLong would do as well. Or Peter Diamond?

    • Bill Murray

      If you want more technocratic neo-classical economists in charge. well i guess I am not sure about Diamond, who is 72 and I don’t much care for the Diamond-Orszag plan to “save social security”.

      I guess New Keynsians are better than Monetarists, Supply Siders and Austrians and given the political realities about the best that can be hoped for depending on where Joseph Stiglitz is these days economically. Jamey Galbraith would be a good choice to me, but would have trouble getting confirmed, as he is in the Keynsian/MMT economist style not a New Keynsian

    • StevenAttewell

      Stiglitz, Diamond, Galbraith, Bernstein, would all be good.

      After reading the Escape Artists, the key thing seems to me – which of these economists is the best at playing internal potitics? Which isn’t the same thing as their managerial ability, although that’s needed. It’s about being good at working the president, working the process, seeing key positions of power and making use of them, building allies, etc.

    • Pseudonym

      How about Jared Diamond instead? Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed seems pretty relevant to the present moment.

  • Icarus Wright

    As much of the media swoon over Paul Ryan’s riches to greater riches story, it wouldn’t hurt for Obama to do something to assure people that he understands debates over economic policy ought to include voices from outside a spectrum of conventional Washington wisdom that currently includes everyone from the right to the extreme right.

    This seems like more like an argument against Paul R than nominating Paul K just because he pisses off Wall Street conservatives.

    If that’s the case, how about Nouriel Roubini? An Iranian Jew should result in a lot of exploding heads.

  • Warren Terra

    Paul Krugman is, as pointed out above, on record as saying that he is constitutionally unsuited to the role, would not be effective, and would be muzzled and lose a role he enjoys and is good at.

    I would love for him to choose the Treasury Secretary, though.

    • ploeg


      • Murc


        • Hell, as long as we’re fantasizing, Nomi Prins.

          • swearyanthony

            George Soros for the Fed. Glenn Beck would have a rage-stroke.

            • mpowell

              No, Beck would see a fantastic opportunity to make more money appearing to have a rage-stroke and motivating his base to buy more of his products.

  • The most important skills for a Treasury Secretary are political and administrative talent, not brilliance as an economist. It’s not even that much of a policy wonk position.

    Whereas Krugman’s biggest strengths are his brilliance as an economist and his sound grasp of policy. When he strays from policy into pure politics, he’s pretty much just a guy. He doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of public management experience, either.

    Hilda Solis is a liberal in an important position in the Obama administration.

    • Murc

      The most important skills for a Treasury Secretary are political and administrative talent, not brilliance as an economist.

      … you don’t think its important for the guy whose full-time job is managing our economy to be highly skilled as an economist?

      It is, or ought to be, the job of people with political or administrative talent to support people with genuine policy chops who make the actual decisions, not the other way around. Ultimate authority ought to rest with people who know what the fuck they’re doing.

      • Njorl

        Understanding and implementing policy requires less brilliance than creating it. You need a high level of competence in economics and finance to be treasury secretary, but beyond that point, it’s all gravy. You can hire as much brilliance as you need. You can’t hire more resposibility.

        • Murc

          You can hire as much brilliance as you need.

          The people who are brilliant should be the ones in charge. THEY can hire people to deal with the paperwork.

  • Quincy

    Regardless of whether Krugman’s suited to the role, I’m glad you guys have been harping on this Bowles speculation. The lack of attention it’s received elsewhere has been depressing. Assuming Ezra’s piece was intended as a trial balloon, it’s imperative we push back as much as possible. The right does that much better. If Romney ever floated a non-insane cabinet nominee, the wingnutosphere would erupt until the name was withdrawn.

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