2.12.2010

Yet Again, Paul Krugman Needs Help

The man certainly does have a penchant for distortion - and parroting the Democratic talking points de jour.

In his latest column, Krugman tries to tar and feather Representative Paul Ryan while slamming the GOP generally - all in hopes of getting the health care bill passed.

Krugman tries to home in on what he sees as obvious hypocrisy:

No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program.

But who are the "they" being thrown about as strawmen?  He cites Newt Gingrich as a voice now supporting Medicare against the ravages of the health care bill...and Paul Ryan as a voice pushing a plan that would ravage Medicare.  So naturally, the entire Republican Party, in Krugman's view, is hopelessly caught up in contradiction.

No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program. And the process of dismantling would begin with spending cuts of about $650 billion over the next decade. Math is hard, but I do believe that’s more than the roughly $400 billion (not $500 billion) in Medicare savings projected for the Democratic health bills.

It's convenient.  Because Krugman's conflation of the figures and issues in play means he doesn't actually have to address the substance of Paul Ryan's serious proposal.  He recognizes Ryan is a true threat - a likeable conservative who has intellectual heft and has proposed a plan that is surprisingly moderate and pragmatic in addressing a real problem, a plan that creates room for discussion and maneuvering that could lead to consensus.

Krugman just keeps pointing to the perceived paradoxes in the GOP...but he never talks about the far more pressing actual fact that we, as a nation, are facing several serious, crippling entitlement explosions. 

In particular, Mr. Ryan offers a plan for Social Security privatization that is basically identical to the Bush proposals of five years ago.

Did the Bush plan refrain from affecting seniors at present?  Because that's what the Ryan Roadmap does, from my understanding.  If it's the same as Bush's plan, good.  At least somebody wants to save us from our own insanity, a mindset since the Great Society that seems to think government can provide everything to everyone without addressing the underlying realities of scarcity and changing demographic trends.

Regardless of how or why Ryan proposed the Roadmap, regardless of what other members of the GOP think, Krugman should look at the reality of the Roadmap - which does not "dismantle the whole program" - but that would be ceding ground to the Republicans.

Instead, Krugman, in decrying confusion, presents a little demagogic confusion of his own:

If this sounds like deliberately confusing gobbledygook, that’s because it is. Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office, which has done an evaluation of the roadmap, offers a translation: “Some higher-income enrollees would pay higher premiums, and some program payments would be reduced.” In short, there would be Medicare cuts.

So now he portrays the Medicare cuts as reprehensible?  After attacking Gingrich for doing so?  Despite pushing the health care bill aggressively himself, which contains Medicare cuts?  Somehow, Krugman has his cake, eats it too, and then throws it back in the faces of the Republicans.

Paul Ryan's proposal, in the end, is the most realistic step forward that I've seen to date.  In the face of daunting fiscal challenges, his plan takes a very long term approach toward solvency (rendering Ramesh Ponnuru's incrementalist conservative critique rather moot), but it's a plan that, like any grand compromise, makes everyone a little unhappy - I think it cedes far too much to the continued existence of the welfare state.  The bizarre Democratic storyline - that Obama brought up Ryan's Roadmap in order to have it pulverized by the political left crying out about an end to Medicare - is just as hypocritical as anything Krugman is lambasting.