The Electric Commentary

Friday, July 02, 2004

An insight into Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman used to be a well-respected economist. About 5 years ago he went completely insane. He has a column in the New York Times that I love to read because it is soooo over the top. This is made much funnier by the fact that he is not some liberal Rush Limbaugh, but a well-respected academic at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. He also has a way of writing that makes him sound at once vitriolic and as if he’s holding back. Here is what he is really thinking. His column is in normal type, his real feelings are italicized.

Moore's Public Service

Moore made this movie because of principal, and not because of the millions of dollars. Only conservatives do things for millions of dollars.

By PAUL KRUGMAN

I am a professor of economics at Princeton. I have published several books. I wrote my last book because of strong principles. The millions of dollars I received had nothing to do with it. Only conservatives do things for millions of dollars.

Published: July 2, 2004

Why so late after the opening of the movie? Telling a movie theatre ticket taker that you are a Princeton professor does not get you to the front of the line. It should.

Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.

Republicans are all either hicks who like Nascar, or in the military. The fact that some of them went to see this movie means that it has mass appeal across the political spectrum. Also, Nascar drivers have been hurt by Bush’s policies, and are working class. If you are a liberal running for office and distance yourself from Moore, you will lose the vote of Moore fans whom might vote for Bush.

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

I find minor factual errors to be acceptable. After all, I write for the New York Times. Even though I know that the administration never said anything about a link between Iraq and September 11th, Bush’s cunning and carefully chosen dialogue, and clever use of language strongly implied that that was the case. Why have standards at all for a self-proclaimed polemicist.

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service.

For this it should receive a federal subsidy. You know, To make the economy more efficient. And stuff.

It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.

The facts behind the conspiracy theories are true. Or, failing that, only minor errors. These people knew instinctively that they would get the truth from Michael Moore based on his outstanding muckraking in Bowling for Columbine. My employer is incompetent for not showing you these facts earlier. Also, I am just a columnist, not a reporter, so it is not my fault in any way.

For example, audiences are shocked by the now-famous seven minutes, when George Bush knew the nation was under attack but continued reading "My Pet Goat" with a group of children. Nobody had told them that the tales of Mr. Bush's decisiveness and bravery on that day were pure fiction.

I am amazed that the president can read. He should have jumped up and immediately summoned the Justice League. Because he sat reading for seven minutes, he must have acted cowardly for the remaining 23 hours and 53 minutes of the day.

Or consider the Bush family's ties to the Saudis. The film suggests that Mr. Bush and his good friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the ambassador known to the family as Bandar Bush, have tried to cover up the extent of Saudi involvement in terrorism. This may or may not be true. But what shocks people, I think, is the fact that nobody told them about this side of Mr. Bush's life.

I also did not know that republicans could have non-white friends. Of course, money must be involved. It was amazing how we used to hear about Saudi ties to terrorism all the time during the Clinton administration. If only the New York Times had done it’s job.

Mr. Bush's carefully constructed persona is that of an all-American regular guy — not like his suspiciously cosmopolitan opponent, with his patrician air. The news media have cheerfully gone along with the pretense. How many stories have you seen contrasting John Kerry's upper-crusty vacation on Nantucket with Mr. Bush's down-home time at the ranch?

He has carefully constructed his persona, although he is still an idiot. If I keep ripping the Times like this, I may be fired. Although both candidates are rich, Bush at least has the good sense not to show it.

But the reality, revealed by Mr. Moore, is that Mr. Bush has always lived in a bubble of privilege. And his family, far from consisting of regular folks with deep roots in the heartland, is deeply enmeshed, financially and personally, with foreign elites — with the Saudis in particular.

Mr. Kerry has the good sense to only be enmeshed with local elites. It is shocking that an oilman would ever deal with Saudi Arabia! Shocking!

Mr. Moore's greatest strength is a real empathy with working-class Americans that most journalists lack. Having stripped away Mr. Bush's common-man mask, he uses his film to make the case, in a way statistics never could, that Mr. Bush's policies favor a narrow elite at the expense of less fortunate Americans — sometimes, indeed, at the cost of their lives.

Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Moore is able to conceal his immense wealth behind his immense girth. It is this similarity that gave him the insight to expose Bush for what he is. Mr. Moore is too stupid to understand statistics. Also, his statistics are incorrect. I should know: I’m an economics professor at Princeton. I wonder if it is over-the-top to claim that the president’s economic policies have actually killed people. Nah.

In a nation where the affluent rarely serve in the military, Mr. Moore follows Marine recruiters as they trawl the malls of depressed communities, where enlistment is the only way for young men and women to escape poverty. He shows corporate executives at a lavish conference on Iraq, nibbling on canapés and exulting over the profit opportunities, then shows the terrible price paid by the soldiers creating those opportunities.

People join the military for money. As previously stated, military folk are republicans, ergo, they only act for money. Most people probably will not realize that by using the word “trawl” that I just compared our military personnel to fish. That’s not really very flattering, but no one will notice, so it’s ok. Did I mention that I teach at Princeton? Even though I am an economist I believe that no corporations should be involved in Iraq’s reconstruction. And certainly not if they are eating anything as snooty sounding as canapés at meetings.

The movie's moral core is a harrowing portrait of a grieving mother who encouraged her children to join the military because it was the only way they could pay for their education, and who lost her son in a war whose justification she no longer understands.

The movie’s moral core is that sometimes people are killed in war. This was a startling revelation to me. I no longer need to analyze the pros and cons of this war now that this fact has been brought to my attention.

Viewers may come away from Mr. Moore's movie believing some things that probably aren't true. For example, the film talks a lot about Unocal's plans for a pipeline across Afghanistan, which I doubt had much impact on the course of the Afghan war. Someday, when the crisis of American democracy is over, I'll probably find myself berating Mr. Moore, who supported Ralph Nader in 2000, for his simplistic antiglobalization views.

I realize that at this point in the column, I appear insane. To correct this, I should make it appear as if I object to at least part of the movie. This pipeline thing is obviously not true, so I’ll use that. Oh, I almost forgot that I’m an economist (who teaches at Princeton, by the way). I had better include something economical. Ah, my disagreement with Mr. Moore on globalization! His views on globalization are simplistic, but on everything else he an intellectual dynamo.

But not now. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.

They are not truths that are essential; they are “essentially true” so I'm not a liar. The movie is flawed, but I am willing to overlook faulty reasoning if I agree with the sentiment. Just read a few of my books.

5 Comments:

  • You call Krugman over the top? Did you write the "inside the mind" comments or did Sean Hannity? This is what Krugman is thinking:
    "But not now. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price."

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 9:58 PM  

  • To your credit, I found this is extremely funny: Why so late after the opening of the movie? Telling a movie theatre ticket taker that you are a Princeton professor does not get you to the front of the line. It should.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 9:59 PM  

  • Sean Hannity! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

    First of all, I hate Sean Hannity. He called his last bbok "Deliver us from evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism" or some such nonsense. What an idiot. As half a liberal, I am offended at having half of my ideology lumped in with terrorists and Alan Colmes.

    Secondly, Paul Krugman is not some random liberal pundit who annoyed me on just that one day. He has annoyed me for some time. I'll bet that I have read every Paul Krugman NYT column for the last 2.5 years. Furthermore, I have read not one, but 2 Krugman books (and thus committed about 50 bucks to the good professor). On book, from 1995, was written during his sane period. It is called Peddling Prosperity, and is a logical and well researched attack on suply side economics that can be summed up as follows:

    Hey there, guys, you ah might want to pay attention to that whole "Demand" thing. You know, supply and Demand. You might want to know where the money is actually going.

    It tracks the diminishing returns of tax cutting policy with regard to economic stimulus (it does not address the problems that excess government spending create, but since apparently cutting taxes no longer leads to cutting spending, and instead leads to huge deficits, I cut him some slack).

    His newer book, from the crazy period, is the tome "The Great Unraveling" which is basically a political screed. What econ he puts in consists largely of predictions that have proven to be wrong (prolonged recession and such). If Rush Limbaugh was a liberal, he could have written this book. I expect more from Ivy League profs.

    He also begins suffering from what I term the "Dr. Laura" problem in this book, that is, using your credentials in one field (for Dr. L, Physiology) to lend credibility to your work in another, unrelated field (Psych). Now for Paul, econ and Politics are certainly more connected than phys and psych, but he often delves into more complicated realms like foreign policy where he is as qualified as I am to speak, but is still regarded as the great Princeton Prof credibility wise.

    To conclude, I've studied Paul like Jane Goodall studied apes, and think I have a pretty good window into how he thinks. Everythin I wrote as a comment as been basically written by Paul in another column.

    Besides, it was tongue in cheek anyway.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:03 AM  

  • Sean Hannity! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

    First of all, I hate Sean Hannity. He called his last bbok "Deliver us from evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism" or some such nonsense. What an idiot. As half a liberal, I am offended at having half of my ideology lumped in with terrorists and Alan Colmes.

    Secondly, Paul Krugman is not some random liberal pundit who annoyed me on just that one day. He has annoyed me for some time. I'll bet that I have read every Paul Krugman NYT column for the last 2.5 years. Furthermore, I have read not one, but 2 Krugman books (and thus committed about 50 bucks to the good professor). On book, from 1995, was written during his sane period. It is called Peddling Prosperity, and is a logical and well researched attack on suply side economics that can be summed up as follows:

    Hey there, guys, you ah might want to pay attention to that whole "Demand" thing. You know, supply and Demand. You might want to know where the money is actually going.

    It tracks the diminishing returns of tax cutting policy with regard to economic stimulus (it does not address the problems that excess government spending create, but since apparently cutting taxes no longer leads to cutting spending, and instead leads to huge deficits, I cut him some slack).

    His newer book, from the crazy period, is the tome "The Great Unraveling" which is basically a political screed. What econ he puts in consists largely of predictions that have proven to be wrong (prolonged recession and such). If Rush Limbaugh was a liberal, he could have written this book. I expect more from Ivy League profs.

    He also begins suffering from what I term the "Dr. Laura" problem in this book, that is, using your credentials in one field (for Dr. L, Physiology) to lend credibility to your work in another, unrelated field (Psych). Now for Paul, econ and Politics are certainly more connected than phys and psych, but he often delves into more complicated realms like foreign policy where he is as qualified as I am to speak, but is still regarded as the great Princeton Prof credibility wise.

    To conclude, I've studied Paul like Jane Goodall studied apes, and think I have a pretty good window into how he thinks. Everythin I wrote as a comment as been basically written by Paul in another column.

    Besides, it was tongue in cheek anyway.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:05 AM  

  • Sorry about the double comment.
    Also, I believe that Sean will vote for Bush, whereas I am voting for Kerry, especially with Edwards on board.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:47 AM  

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