26 Aug 2009

Krugman’s Phony Congratulations to Bernanke

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I have an unhealthy obsession with Paul Krugman’s blog, and something I’ve noticed is that when he gives somebody a compliment, sometimes you can tell it’s completely phony and political. For example, here’s his tribute to Big Ben:

Generally, I’m pleased. Bernanke has done a good job in the crisis — he’s been far more aggressive and creative than almost anyone else would have been in his place, partly because he’s a scholar of the Great Depression, partly because he took Japan’s lost decade seriously and was therefore intellectually prepared for a liquidity-trap world.

I do have one qualm, though, which isn’t really about Bernanke, but rather about the broader symbolism of the reappointment…

…[Y]ou’re not considered serious about economic policy unless you dismissed warnings about a housing bubble and waved off worries about future crises.

That said, Ben Bernanke’s performance over the past year deserves praise, and there’s nobody I’d rather have in his position. Congratulations, Ben.

And in case it’s not obvious, that link is to a very embarrassing 2005 Washington Post story reporting that Bernanke didn’t think there was a housing bubble.

And as far Krugman’s closing lines, c’mon, he obviously doesn’t mean that. There’s nobody on the entire planet that Krugman would rather have as Fed chair than Bernanke? Give me a break, everybody knows Krugman is insincere.

I googled “Bernanke” appearances in Krugman’s blog to see how he’s been in the past. And you see the same pattern. E.g. in this post, Krugman opens up by thanking his lucky stars that Bernanke is at the helm, but by the end of the post you realize Krugman is saying Bernanke doesn’t realize his own impotence.

In this post, Krugman says deteriorating credit markets have undone everything Bernanke tried to do. True, he didn’t rip Bernanke per se, but it’s hardly a compliment to the guy.

In this post he refers to the wussy testimony of Bernanke, showing that he and Paulson don’t have the guts to nationalize the banks and thus spare us a repeat of Japan’s lost decade. The title of the post? “All the President’s Zombies.” Again, not exactly flattering.

In this post, “A $700 Billion Slap in the Face,” Krugman says that Paulson and Bernanke are grasping at straws trying to justify their approach to the financial crisis. Again, not a single word of praise in here for Bernanke, except that Krugman credits him with at least coming with a theory (that Krugman then tells us is stupid) for the TARP.

At long last–near the bottom of my hits for the advanced Google search–I think I found a blog post from January 2008 where Krugman might actually be praising Bernanke. But go ahead and read it. You have to infer the praise; I had to click on Krugman’s link to a news article to get the full context, in order to even offer my opinion that I think Krugman is actually complimenting Bernanke in this one (before going on to rip Bush and Paulson). Again, hardly flattering.

In this post, Krugman praises Bernanke for dropping his prepared remarks and letting the cat partially out of the bag concerning the “fundamentally disingenuous” line that he and Paulson had been pushing at the time. Again, to say someone slipped up a bit and admitted he had been trying to rob taxpayers, is not exactly congratulatory.

Well I reached the end of the first page of my Google search results. I’m sure we all see now why Krugman said that there is no one he would rather have at the Fed than Ben Bernanke. My gosh, it’s bad enough when Krugman plays loose with the facts when ripping his enemies–but he can’t even congratulate someone with sincerity?

If you want another example of a non-flattering “compliment,” check out his post on Larry Summers. If I were Summers, I would have gone through the roof when reading that. Krugman did the equivalent of saying, “Now I want to draw everyone’s attention to this claim I got emailed to me from a self-identified prostitute, saying that Larry Summers visits her weekly and has a microscopic wee wee. And folks, let me tell you, that is just crazy. We played racquetball once, and showered afterward, and I didn’t need a microscope. If you want to say it was tiny, I’m prepared to talk. But microscopic? No ma’am, you are mistaken.”

Does anybody trust Krugman?

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