Paul Krugman And The Misreading Of History

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 1, 2009

In shocking news, Paul Krugman decided to write a column blaming modern-day economic ills on the Reagan Administration. This is only shocking because usually, when things go south economically, Krugman expands his critique to attack Republicans in general.

Good to see that he isn’t getting away with it. Peter Wallison, and John Steele Gordon both correct Krugman’s likely-deliberate misreading of history. As Gordon notes, it is time for the Gray Lady’s ombudsman to shake his head sadly once again at Krugman’s butchering of the facts.

Of course, butchering the facts is not a one-time occurrence for Krugman. Quite the contrary; it happens on a regular basis in his writings. Brink Lindsey has an excellent article discussing Krugman’s pining for the supposed golden days when the New Deal and its policies were in their prime. As anyone who reads Krugman knows, he thinks that America reached the zenith of her economic capacity thanks to the New Deal and its policy progeny. Lindsey brilliantly shows, however, that there is no way Paul Krugman would want to live in the America Paul Krugman dreams about living in.

Read the whole thing, by all means. But on a side matter, it is worth noting that whatever Krugman’s fulminations, not all of the deregulatory/small-government/pro-globalization policies that he decries were implemented by conservative Republicans:

Contrary to Krugman’s narrative, liberals joined conservatives in pushing for dramatic changes in economic policy. In addition to his role in liberalizing immigration, Kennedy was a leader in pushing through both the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which deregulated the trucking industry—and he was warmly supported in both efforts by the left-wing activist Ralph Nader. President Jimmy Carter signed these two pieces of legislation, as well as the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978, which began the elimination of price controls on natural gas, and the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated the railroad industry.

The three most recent rounds of multilateral trade talks were all concluded by Democratic presidents: the Kennedy Round in 1967 by Lyndon Johnson, the Tokyo Round in 1979 by Jimmy Carter, and the Uruguay Round in 1994 by Bill Clinton. And though it was Ronald Reagan who slashed the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent in 1981, it was two Democrats, Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who sponsored the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which pushed the top rate all the way down to 28 percent.

I look forward to Krugman’s upcoming article, in which he attacks Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, and Dick Gephardt for deviating from the New Deal norm. Of course, if he does so, Krugman would have to admit that his historical analysis thus far has been utterly mendacious, no?

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