The New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, writes provocatively on fiscal and economic issues and is well-known as a liberal icon. Usually I ignore his diatribes. But his column yesterday, “The Long-Run Cop-Out” goes way overboard.
I will refute several of the statements from this column.
- “Think about it: Faced with mass unemployment and the enormous waste it entails, for years the beltway elite devoted all most all its energy not to promoting recovery, but to Bowles-Simpsonism – to devising “grand bargains” that would address the supposedly urgent problem of how we’ll pay for Social Security and Medicare a couple of decades from now.” Worrying about our enormous and rapidly increasing national debt, does not mean ignoring our sluggish economy and the high unemployment it causes. The way to increase economic growth is to enact broad based tax reform by lowering tax rates, offset by closing loopholes and limiting deductions. This will further boost the economy in the same way that lower gasoline prices is already doing.
- “Many projections suggest that our major social insurance programs will face financial difficulties in the future (although the dramatic slowing of increases in health costs makes even that proposition uncertain).” Healthcare costs dropped to 4.1% in 2014 but this is still more than double the inflation rate of 1.7%. This isn’t nearly good enough.
- “Why, exactly, is it crucial that we deal with the threat of future benefit cuts by locking in plans to cut future benefits?” The point is to protect benefits, not curtail them. If we act now, to increase revenue and/or slow down the growth of entitlement spending, then we won’t have to cut future benefits.
- “So why the urge to change the subject (from austerity) to structural reform? The answer, I’d suggest, is intellectual laziness and lack of moral courage.” $6 trillion added to our debt in the last six years is profligacy, not austerity. It is immoral to burden future generations with such massive new debt.
- “In today’s economic and political environment, long-termism is a cop-out.” Preparing for the future is just plain common sense. Should we ignore festering problems like global warming, illegal immigration and increasing poverty until they get much worse? Of course not. We should address these problems now and get our debt under control at the same time.