Economics, the great conversion


Having read Jim Stanford’s tongue in cheek twelve step piece: Confessions of a Recovering Economist one might like to feel that there is hope in American economic journalism but it is difficult not to remain in denial. Publications such as The Financial Times demonstrate that balanced coverage of US Economics is possible but the FT is published out of London. Where is the balance in local US economic journalism? Pundits too frequently represent right wing think tanks such as The Heritage Foundation, Forbes Magazine proclaims itself a “Capitalist Tool”. Even Orwell would find it difficult to find the common ground.
Just last Month, and on the brink of cynicism, I drove to Marin for a book tour.
Paul Krugman, columnist on the Op-Ed Page of the New York Times was speaking to a midweek afternoon audience of the polite and well heeled. The average age of the audience was fifty plus including veterans of Viet Nam, Korea and WWII. We sat patiently on the neatly arranged folding chairs in the sunny strip mall bookstore in Corte Madera. Mr. Krugman was there to speak about his new book; The Great Unraveling. His publisher had chosen to fly him to the county that hovers near the top rankings in average income in the US. Surely this was a mistake I thought? I was proven entirely wrong. Krugman’s clear message resonated with the audience. Powerless, my cynicism melted.
I knew something of Mr. Krugman but did not consider myself a fan; I was soon converted. A recent entrant in mainstream journalism, Mr. Krugman had been given his break in the late nineties as economic editor of the New York Times. Krugman has a reputation as a capable and ferocious debater coupled with his impeccable academic credentials.
This reserved economic star was talking revolution. No Mr. Krugman was not advocating a bloody uprising in the sunny Marin suburbs. Rather his audience listened closely to his evidence for an ongoing coup. Krugman chronicled overwhelming evidence of an incredible challenge to Roosevelt’s New Deal posed by the current US regime, something he elaborates on further in his very readable book.
Mr. Krugman uses excerpts from Henry Kissinger’s doctoral thesis to describe the strange reaction to the right wing assault. Kissinger had written about how a people who trusts their government reacts to a violent change. At first incredulous (no this really can’t be happening, surely this will soon move back to the center) their response is largely ineffective until it is too late. I felt like rising from my chair and proclaiming: “I have seen the light” but instead decided to take the little blue hardback back for further study. It is an excellent read!