The Buzz

The Polemical Economist

Paul Krugman’s polemical bulldozer rolls along, smashing buildings, automobiles and anything else that evinces even a hint of conservatism. On Friday, the New York Times columnist turned his bulldozer toward GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The issue was Romney’s unfortunate word choice in talking about where he would place his economic focus. The now-famous quote: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”

What Romney was trying to say was that his primary economic goal as president would be to get the economy growing in order to extricate the middle class from its current squeeze. As he said, “I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” And ultimately he says the goal is to “get this economy going for them.” Eureka! He actually got to economic growth. But, as the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the wait was “excruciating.”

So Romney asked for it with his artless articulation, and he certainly got it. Liberals went after him like foxhounds on the scent. As for Krugman, most of his column offers a solid liberal critique that focuses on past Romney expressions regarding that safety net, a defense of federal transfer payments and an attack on the distribution of largess in Romney’s tax plan. So far, fine.

But then he broadens his assault based on his vast discovery in Romney’s words that he and fellow Republicans no longer even pretend to care about the poor. And so soon we will see conservatives “who admit what has been obvious all along: that they don’t care about the middle class either, that they aren’t concerned about the lives of ordinary Americans, and never were.”

Wow. So this isn’t a debate about what’s best for America but rather a debate between pristine, caring people such as Krugman and disguised misanthropes who really don’t care about America or Americans at all. It seems that Krugman is trying to match in print what Rachel Maddow does on the tube. In the process he once again becomes a self-parody—and rates a howler.