Volatility

January 16, 2010

Krugman: Hack Number One

 

In the fight of the people against corporate tyranny and a corrupt government it’s important to identify and condemn to worst liars on the side of the enemy. Since Paul Krugman is a highly influential commentator, and since he evidently now aspires to the role of “progressive” corporate Obama Hack Number One, it’s important that we train our fire on him.
 
We should range him alongside Rush Limbaugh as being one of the most obnoxious corporate shills with, unfortunately, the biggest audience. 
 
Glenn Greenwald wrote a chilling piece on totalitarianism within the Obama administration. Obama cadre Cass Sunstein continues to express his hatred for all forms of decentralization of power and information and to advocate ever more evil means in the struggle against freedom.
 
(Read Greenwald’s piece and look at the quotes. Sunstein wants to tear up the Constitution in order to silence all non-conformist voices.)
 
Well, Paul Krugman has no problem with Sunstein. But he does object to Greenwald calling him out on his own hypocrisy and corruption.
 

Today Glenn Greenwald accused me of being a hypocrite for defending Jonathan Gruber, the health care economist who has become a target of some progressive opponents of the health care plan. He writes:

Paul Krugman, for instance, in 2005 angrily lambasted right-wing pundits and policy analysts who received secret, undisclosed payments, and said they lack “intellectual integrity”; he specifically cited the Armstrong Williams case. Yet the very same Paul Krugman last week attacked Marcy Wheeler for helping to uncover the Gruber payments by accusing her of being “just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals.” What is one key difference? Unlike Williams and Gallagher, Jonathan Gruber is a Good, Well-Intentioned Person with Good Views — he favors health care — and so massive, undisclosed payments from the same administration he’s defending are dismissed as a “fake scandal.”

What’s wrong with this accusation? Everything. Armstrong Williams received a contract specifically to promote Bush administration policies; his duties under the contract were to “regularly comment” on these policies on his program, and to interview Bush administration officials. In short, he was being paid to serve as a propagandist.

 
Yes. That’s what Greenwald said. Gruber was paid to serve as a propagandist.
 

What was Gruber contracted to do? He emails:

I was contracted with HHS for technical modeling assistance. When designing a policy like this, policy makers want to consider a million different permutations: different AVs, tax credit amounts, employer assessments, etc. Basically, in a perfect world, we would all just rely on CBO for all these permutations. But CBO has limited resources and can’t work directly with the administration. So I provided the administration & congress (mostly senate finance) with the kind of modeling that CBO does to help them narrow options to a more manageable list that they could send to CBO.

 
So he was a hired shill for the Democratic Party Plan. Just like Greenwald said.
 
(I like the touch that Gruber e-mailed Krugman. So K knows him personally – that means he’s gotta be a great guy!)
 

That is, he was hired as an economist, paid to provide technical analysis — not as a pundit, paid to promote policies to the public. Maybe Glenn Greenwald can’t see any difference between the two — and the more of this I read, the more sense I have that the attackers are deliberately obfuscating the difference — but they really aren’t the same.

 
Now that’s cute. Suddenly Krugman wants us to believe again in the wisdom of “economists”! After all that’s happened! Is there any group of alleged experts in all of history whose claim to be credible has been more utterly trounced than that of “economists”? Has any passel of pseudo-scientific pretension ever been more completely unmasked as mercenary political flackery? Krugman would have a better shot at rehabilitating alchemists.
 
“Deliberately obfuscating the difference”. Yup – always claim your opponent is doing exactly what you’re trying to do. Oldest trick in the book.
 
In this case what Thugman’s deliberately obfuscating is the fact that there’s NO difference between Gruber and Armstrong Williams. He’s propagating the lie that they aren’t equally paid propagandists.
 
(We still don’t know what Krugman’s own secret financial interests are. But the fact that he’s so solicitous about this secret payoff is grounds for suspicion. He seems quite emotionally invested in the Gruber affair. And in retrospect could his anger at Williams maybe have had some element of professional jealousy? There’s sure a lot of health insurance racket money floating around. Lots for a hack shill for this bill.)
 
Krugman goes on to propagate Gruber’s “credentials”. K whines that Gruber is actually some magisterial, Olympian authority beyond any taint of political corruption; how dare you peasants question his heavenly integrity; he’s like a kind of god.
 
Again, it’s quaint how, after all that’s happened, Thugman still wants us peasants to repose faith in “expertise” among system hacks.
 
I don’t doubt Krugman is trying to figure out how to rehabilitate Geithner and Goldman Sachs as we speak. It’s the logical extension of the argument we’re seeing from him.
 

Given that Gruber was providing this kind of technical consulting, should he have recused himself entirely from the public debate? Should he have stopped writing op-eds and, more important, technical papers read by the likes of Ezra Klein and myself? If he had, the public debate would have been much poorer; again, there aren’t many people in a position to do the kind of quantitative assessments Gruber does.

And one more thing: what Gruber has had to say about health reform in the current debate is entirely consistent with his previous academic work. There’s not a hint that he has changed views, or altered his model, to accommodate the Obama administration.

 
We just got done hearing how Gruber is an objective “expert”. Now suddenly he’s the opposite – a spirited participant in the public debate. A minute ago it was wrong to call Gruber corrupt because he’s an “expert” technocrat, not a political cadre. Now suddenly it’s wrong to call him corrupt because of the opposite – he’s not a paid “expert”, but on the contrary a political fighter of such integrity and principle that no level of payment could ever corrupt him; he only took the Obama job because his principles matched up so felicitously with Obama’s.
 
Or, as Greenwald already said,
 

What is one key difference? Unlike Williams and Gallagher, Jonathan Gruber is a Good, Well-Intentioned Person with Good Views — he favors health care — and so massive, undisclosed payments from the same administration he’s defending are dismissed as a “fake scandal.”

 
Of course, Krugman himself is a “Good, Well-Intentioned Person With Good Views”. And if the views themselves happen to change suspiciously with the change of the party in power, pay no mind. The “Intention” is always “Good”.
 

Can we fix health care?
Health policy experts know a lot more about the economics of health care now than they did when Bill Clinton tried to remake the US health care system. And there’s overwhelming evidence that the United States could get better health care at lower cost if we were willing to put that knowledge into practice. But the political obstacles remain daunting.

A mere shift of power from Republicans to Democrats would not, in itself, be enough to give us sensible health care reform. While Democrats would have written a less perverse drug bill, it’s not clear that they are ready to embrace a single-payer system. Even liberal economists and scholars at progressive think tanks tend to shy away from proposing a straightforward system of national health insurance. Instead, they propose fairly complex compromise plans. Typically, such plans try to achieve universal coverage by requiring everyone to buy health insurance, the way everyone is forced to buy car insurance, and deal with those who can’t afford to purchase insurance through a system of subsidies. Proponents of such plans make a few arguments for their superiority to a single-payer system, mainly the (dubious) claim that single-payer would reduce medical innovation. But the main reason for not proposing single-payer is political fear: reformers believe that private insurers are too powerful to cut out of the loop, and that a single-payer plan would be too easily demonized by business and political propagandists as “big government.”

These are the same political calculations that led Bill Clinton to reject a single-payer system in 1993, even though his advisers believed that a single-payer system would be the least expensive way to provide universal coverage. Instead, he proposed a complex plan designed to preserve a role for private health insurers. But the plan backfired. The insurers opposed it anyway, most famously with their “Harry and Louise” ads. And the plan’s complexity left the public baffled.

We believe that the compromise plans being proposed by the cautious reformers would run into the same political problems, and that it would be politically smarter as well as economically superior to go for broke: to propose a straightforward single-payer system, and try to sell voters on the huge advantages such a system would bring. But this would mean taking on the drug and insurance companies rather than trying to co-opt them, and even progressive policy wonks, let alone Democratic politicians, still seem too timid to do that.

So what will really happen to American health care? Many people in this field believe that in the end America will end up with national health insurance, and perhaps with a lot of direct government provision of health care, simply because nothing else works. But things may have to get much worse before reality can break through the combination of powerful interest groups and free-market ideology.

 
Who wrote that? It sounds a lot like what happened this past year. But no, that couldn’t be the case, because that was none other than Paul Krugman expressing his Good Intentions back in 2006 when the Republicans were still in power. As he would lecture any peasant stupid enough not to understand, things are different today.
 
(I guess it’s an example of Sorel’s “social myths”. What you say you want to do when you’re out of power doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what you really want to do once you’re in power.)
 
Anyone who wants some nauseating reading should go back and read K’s blog entries for December. Look over how the aspiring Hack Number One contorted and squirmed and dodged to somehow justify the racket bill and even claim it as a world-historical “progressive” victory.
 
And now let’s return to the end of Hackman’s latest:
 

Yes, Gruber has been commenting on health care while doing technical consulting for the administration. But there is nothing wrong with that. More disclosure would have been a good idea — but there is no scandal whatsoever.

And here’s the thing: by claiming that there’s a huge scandal when nothing worse happened than insufficient care about disclosure, Greenwald and the people at FDL are actually reducing our ability to call foul on real corruption. After all, if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal. One of these days, perhaps soon, we’ll have a genuinely corrupt administration again — but when whistleblowers try to call attention to the misdeeds, you can be sure that there will be claims that “even liberals said that Obama did things just as bad or worse.” The crusade against Gruber is getting really destructive.

 
So there it is. Republican corruption is “real corruption”, while in Krugman’s deliberate obfuscation Democratic corruption isn’t corruption at all.
 
What was the maneuver here? It’s very clear that when Bush was doing stuff like this Krugman objected on principle and rightly refused to entertain any lying explanations and mitigations. But now that Obama’s doing the same thing he suddenly scoffs at principle and deliberately obfuscates via every lie and excuse he can come up with, and with no greater credibility than the Bush hacks ever had.
 
It’s ironic that Krugman started out as an Obama skeptic (that is, when he was a Hillary hack) but now wants to be Hack Number One for this administration.
 
That’s why every lie is meant to bolster the bottom line lie that the Democrats are somehow better than the Republicans. We now know for a fact that Krugman never objected to any Bush action on grounds of principle or policy. he objected, always and only, out of Democrat partisanship.
 
(Needless to say, I and others who actually care about America object to Obama precisely on account of how he has done nothing but continue and intensify Bush corporatism. We object always and only on grounds of principle and policy. And that’s why we condemn Obama for the same sleazy political practices as Bush engaged in. But since hacks like Krugman opposed Bush only as partisans, never as the principled, therefore they always lied when they objected to the practices, and they now don’t object to the same practices once it’s their guy doing it.)
 
We have to sweep the scene clean of Krugman. Even his complaints about the stimulus are now revealed to be a crock. It wasn’t big enough? But what good would, say, $2 trillion worth of reactionary ratholes like Cash for Clunkers or the homebuyer credit have been? And in spite of his whining Thugman always supported the Bailout. 
 
Either resources are going to be used for decentralization and relocalization, or they’re going to be wasted and stolen. Obama policies, identical to those of Bush, have been 100% stupid and larcenous.
 
But as we know, Sunstein and Krugman are die-hard enemies of decentralization of any sort.
 
Krugman claims he’s worried about an “if everything’s a scandal, nothing’s a scandal” effect? Then why isn’t he blaming the scandalous Obama administration for engaging in such scandalous behavior? Why is he incompetently trying to shoot the messenger? Why, if he ever had a shred of principle, isn’t he joining the fight to hold government accountable? Why is it not a problem to him that Obama and the Democrats came in promising “Change”, came in with a tremendous mandate for Change, came in with one of the rare opportunities in history to actually fight back and reverse the hideous trend of a monstrous crime, and instead chose to join the crime? Chose to take their place among the worst criminals in history?
 
In the end it’s going to be his fault. Krugman’s fault, among others, when things continue to get worse. They had their chance, and they threw it away with great malice.
 
In the end, Paul Krugman is just as wretched and snivelling a partisan hack as Armstrong Williams. And in the end, when we the people finally take back our country, all the hacks going to end up rotting on the same trash heap of history, where they belong. ALL of them. 
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8 Comments

  1. I completely agree.

    Comment by EON8 — January 16, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  2. Excellent! I’ve thrown a few grenades into the slime filled foxhole of uber Harvard hack-do The Crimson have a lot to answer for, or what- Paul Krugman though it’s been a while.

    Oh to be a lap dog to a bunch of whores. Now there’s a gig.

    Comment by Edwardo — January 16, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  3. Yes, quite a gig.

    He would’ve been better off sticking with dissent.

    Comment by Russ — January 17, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  4. […] tell another to cover it up, and so on, and soon your lies get tangled up with one another. Even Hack Number One himself is having this trouble.)   Thugman’s real goal is to coordinate the administration […]

    Pingback by Lying Hacks « Volatility — April 14, 2010 @ 5:25 am

  5. […] in general do not want. Where it comes to Obama hacks, we’ve seen plenty of examples (Krugman defending Obama on the Gruber flap; Sunstein advocating illegal subversion of Internet democracy) of how, as long as the Democrats […]

    Pingback by ACLU Civil Liberties Report « Volatility — August 4, 2010 @ 2:51 am

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