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An imagined confession
Scripps Howard News Service


August 10, 2005

Paul Krugman said he was resigning as a professor of economics at Princeton University because he was absolutely, 100 percent wrong about consequences of the Bush administration's tax cuts, and he could no longer pretend to professional competence.

"It was, I guess, ideological madness that drove me to all those errant conclusions," he confessed as he simultaneously announced he would no longer be a ranting, spittle-spouting columnist for The New York Times.

"The president had it right on his Saturday radio show when he said 'the America economy is growing faster than any other major industrialized nation,' and that the tax cuts are the reason," he said.

Krugman told the press he planned an apologetic call to the president, congratulating him on bringing down the deficit by billions, creating millions of jobs and getting the unemployment rate to a heartening 5 percent despite the economic downturn he inherited from the Clinton years, the dot-com debacle, the 9/11 attacks, high oil prices and more.

Reporters stared at the floor as Krugman said between sobs that he was ashamed of making it sound as if the cuts were simply a gift for the rich when, in fact, they were extended to all income groups and necessarily had to apply to those who paid the most if they were to have the desired economic impact.

He also said - but wait a minute. I have to stop. Old Man Truth is tapping me on the shoulder. He is telling me to quit it - to admit that Krugman had no such press conference, to explain that he is still a professor, still a columnist and still pouring out nonsense at a volume that competes verbally with the volume of water splashing down daily at Niagara Falls.

So I must say first of all that I am sorry if I misled anyone, but will quickly add that I am not sorry for contradicting Krugman and other partisan princes of blather who told us over and over that a cut in tax rates would be a kick in the shins of everyday folks. Everyday folks have seldom had it so good, and they would have it a whole lot less good if they lived in those European countries that have enacted Krugman-espoused, Democrat-beloved policies. Adopt the European style of semi-socialism and people will be far less likely to have a job or a rising income.

What the president's spokesmen and conservative economists said was that a cut in rates is not equivalent to a cut in taxes. Revenues do not go down lastingly when rates go down because there is then incentive to produce more, especially when an administration is also energizing business activity through the removal of unneeded regulatory encumbrances. Revenues head up as production heads up and jobs multiply. Oh, yes, there are chuckles about that line of reasoning if your first name is Paul and your last name is Krugman, but actuality sometimes has a way of stuffing such chuckles down the throats of the chuckling.

Krugman is not about to give up, though, because Krugman has a theory. You see, President Bush wants to do away with all the social programs enacted during FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society. According to Krugman, if you cut taxes enough and spend enough on war, there will be nothing left for domestic spending. There's a problem with this conspiratorial thesis, however. It's goofy. Bush has been spending more than any other president since LBJ, and it's next to impossible to find any politician in Washington who views a lack of revenue as cause to cut back on vote-producing projects.

If Krugman were interested in the evidence, he might do a probe of old news stories, there discovering, for instance, that Bush gave us a completely unaffordable Medicare drug plan. Bush's political sin is not that he wants to reduce domestic spending to microscopic proportions, but that he has been virtually as given to spending as the most profligate of Democrats.

It's actually typical of Krugman, this explanation of the tax cuts as a dishonest device to achieve an ulterior end. He never concedes that those who see things differently from him might actually be sincere in their analyses. They always have bad motives, he tells us. For my part, I will grant Krugman is sincere. He is sincerely, consistently, demonstrably mistaken, though the only place he has ever admitted as much is in my imagination.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)


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