- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The other day, New York Times columnist (and Nobel laureate, though he has yet to be found guilty of plagiarism or fabrication) Paul Krugman indulged in one of my favorite pastimes. He engaged in vituperation. He affected a superior pose and lamented that so many of the other superior types had been taken in by mere hucksters. Alas.

Said he: “One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders [of his quality of mind] would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no….” His target was Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Mr. Ryan’s effort eventually to balance the budget in light of the huge challenges facing America from the cost of entitlements and the yearly budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Mr. Ryan calls his plan “A Roadmap for America’s Future.” Mr. Krugman is Mr. Ryan’s sworn enemy.

Though I have never seen Mr. Ryan described as “intellectually audacious,” Mr. Krugman insists that the term is a commonplace and goes on to josh, “But it’s the audacity of dopes.” He throws around the word “flimflam,” as in “[Mr. Ryan is] serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.” He uses flimflam elsewhere and concludes, “The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.” Well, the agelastic sap is trying his best to be a wit, and I say give him a pass. He is a professor at Princeton, and laughter in those parched precincts has been banned since around the 1920s, when the students and the junior faculty were suspected of reading H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan’s journal American Mercury and concluding that they were even funnier than Marx (Karl not Groucho). That offended the profs.

I, at least, found “audacity of dopes” mildly amusing, and I laughed aloud at flimflam used as a sauce, or perhaps it was the idea that the decade of the 1990s was an unalloyed economic failure. I really cannot remember which, but I laughed.

Yet Mr. Krugman’s main criticism of “A Roadmap for America’s Future” is in error, and possibly intentionally so. Those Washington insiders whom he is patronizing are not too smart. He claims the road map does not raise the revenues necessary to cover Mr. Ryan’s cuts - thus, it is flimflam.

In response to similar criticism, Mr. Ryan has written, “Our nation’s fiscal crisis is the result of Washington’s unsustainable spending trajectory, not from a lack of sufficient revenue.” And he continues, “The tax reforms proposed and the rates specified were designed to maintain approximately our historic levels of revenue as a share of [gross domestic product]. … If needed, adjustments can be easily made to the specified rates to hit the revenue targets and maximize economic growth. While minor tweaks can be made, it is clear that we simply cannot chase our unsustainable growth in spending with ever-higher levels of taxes. The purpose of the Roadmap is to get spending in line with revenue - not the other way around.”

It is always possible that Mr. Krugman has not actually followed the debate over the road map and argues from ignorance. This happens quite often with him. Yet all Americans should be following this debate over how to address looming entitlements and our budgetary shortfalls. Frankly, I think we have entered a new era. Americans are willing to take cuts in their entitlements for the good of the economy and the well-being of future generations. As for Mr. Krugman, give him a polite laugh. Ha ha, professor, “leftover from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.” That is a good one, and how are we going to get the economy growing again with tax hikes flambe?

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).

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