Joyner Unfair to Krugman
A decade ago. a certain New York Times columnist was more right than your humble host.
I frequently go through the deep archives to look at posts I wrote years ago to see how they stand up. Looking through the posts from February 2003, the first full month of OTB, I’m struck mostly with how different the nature of my writing here was. The vast majority of posts were InstaPundit style short posts; a true weblog (a recording of interesting things I’d seen on the web, with little or no analysis) rather than the mostly longer posts of recent years.
Otherwise, I’m mostly pleased with the sampling. While I got some things wrong—this was, after all, the run-up to the Iraq War, which I supported—I was generally fair to those with whom I disagreed and frequently called out those on my own side for taking cheap shots.
I was mildy amused by a post titled GETTING KERRY’D AWAY (post titles were in all caps then, partly a function of writing on the old blogspot forum; I didn’t move to the current URL until April) which commends a superb Paul Waldman analysis of the 2004 Democratic primary process and concludes,
That said, I disagree that Kerry is the likely winner. Indeed, if I had to pick the winner right now, I’d say either Lieberman or Edwards, probably Edwards. Because of the truncated primary process that promises to get even more truncated as states vie to push their primaries earlier and earlier, what matters is fundraising and having a base. I’m not sure Kerry will do either particularly well at either. Who does he appeal to outside of the northeast corridor? Who is going to contribute the millions upon millions he’ll need? I can’t imagine he’ll do at all well in the South or the Midwest. Lieberman, meanwhile, has a national base as the party’s veep nominee last go-round plus he’s the favorite son of the party’s Jewish block (Kerry’s recent discovery that he’s actually Jewish, too, notwithstanding). Edwards is telegenic and energetic and will likely do quite well in the southern states, including the early South Carolina primary.
Not only did Democrats hate Lieberman by the time voting started but Edwards imploded and, of course, Kerry got the nomination. Despite getting every prediction wrong, though, I suspect many Democrats agree in hindsight with my analysis of their nominee.
In a less proud moment, I declared in another post that “Paul Krugman is going insane.” In addition to a cheap shot at his less-than-stellar byline photo, I called out without comment this paragraph:
Meanwhile, outraged Iraqi exiles report that there won’t be any equivalent of postwar de-Nazification, in which accomplices of the defeated regime were purged from public life. Instead the Bush administration intends to preserve most of the current regime: Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced with Americans, but the rest will stay. You don’t have to be an Iraq expert to realize that many very nasty people will therefore remain in power — more moral clarity! — and that the U.S. will in effect take responsibility for maintaining the rule of the Sunni minority over the Shiite majority.
Now, Krugman couldn’t have been more wrong there. Not only did the Bush administration do just the opposite of that but they’d had been better off if they’d instead done exactly what Krugman charged they would! The actual de-Baathification was an unmitigated disaster and Shiite majority rule has strengthened Iran’s hand in the region and, as a bonus, given the Assad regime another ally.
Krugman was also wrong in predicting that Bush would turn Iraqi Kurdistan over to Turkey (although, in fairness, the precondition of Turkey supporting the war with basing rights was never met).
That said, however, the main thrust of Krugman’s column turned out to be spot on.
But it’s clear that the generosity will end as soon as Baghdad falls.
After all, look at our behavior in Afghanistan. In the beginning, money was no object; victory over the Taliban was as much a matter of bribes to warlords as it was of Special Forces and smart bombs. But President Bush promised that our interest wouldn’t end once the war was won; this time we wouldn’t forget about Afghanistan, we would stay to help rebuild the country and secure the peace. So how much money for Afghan reconstruction did the administration put in its 2004 budget?
None. The Bush team forgot about it. Embarrassed Congressional staff members had to write in $300 million to cover the lapse. You can see why the Turks, in addition to demanding even more money, want guarantees in writing. Administration officials are insulted when the Turks say that a personal assurance from Mr. Bush isn’t enough. But the Turks know what happened in Afghanistan, and they also know that fine words about support for New York City, the firefighters and so on didn’t translate into actual money once the cameras stopped rolling.
And Iraq will receive the same treatment. On Tuesday Ari Fleischer declared that Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction — even though experts warn that it may be years before the country’s oil fields are producing at potential. Off the record, some officials have even described Iraqi oil as the ”spoils of war.”
So there you have it. This administration does martial plans, not Marshall Plans: billions for offense, not one cent for reconstruction.
While the administration eventually wasted billions on reconstruction, Krugman’s main point stands: regime change was the main focus with the so-called Phase IV planning a distinct afterthought. In hindsight, I’m of the mind that reconstruction, at least in the Marshall Plan sense, was a fool’s errand in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But we wound up with the worst of both worlds: little attention to the project while staying in both cases for a decade or more getting American troops killed and wasting huge sums of taxpayer money with little to show for it.
This column, then, was pretty typical Krugman: a really solid analysis of the facts combined with a tendency for frustrated hyperbole at those about to do something he sees as obviously stupid.
You’ve done it now James. The vitriol that is about to be flung at you from various corners of the right… It will make what they throw at Obama look like “affirmative action critical commentary.”
Ozark, the progression left is not unexpected.
Well, we will never have to worry about a really solid analysis of the facts leading you to a conclusion somewhere to the left Jim Demint, will we?
The two biggest political mistakes I’ve made in my life were both a consequence of overestimating the intelligence of a politician.
First, I voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 in part because there was no way he could be dumb enough to be involved in Watergate. Nixon? Do something stupid? No way. Venal, petty and spiteful, sure, but stupid?
Second, I never believed that experienced old hands like Cheney and Rumsfeld would let their idiot protegé go charging into Iraq without a plan for occupation. Surely there was a master plan? Or a plan? Or at least some scribbling on a yellow pad?
Never underestimate the potential stupidity of smart people. And in those two cases, I mean me.
Unless I’m misreading this, Krugman was completely wrong. We did spend billions rebuilding Iraq. We didn’t puth the costs off on them. The Bush administration kept it off-budget, which was a weaselly thing to do, but they kept their promises. So Krugman was wrong on three out of three things you cited.
FTFY. And Krugman is now becoming hugely frustrated, over people who want the Fed to raise interest rates. However, he’s not being hyperbolic. They really are as bad as he says, if not worse.
@Pinky: You’re misreading this. As James said, and props to James for revisiting all this, the Kurdistan prediction was predicated on Turkish cooperation which in the event was not forthcoming; and the billions in reconstruction came after the Bushies original plan, or lack of plan, had failed.
About $60 billion of our $1 trillion spent on the Iraq War has been spent on reconstruction, broadly defined. About 1/3 of that has been spent on training and arming the Iraqis. What is hard to sort out is how much of that was spent on US contractors and ended up just being corporate handouts.
So what you’re saying is basically that we spent billions on Iraq’s recovery under Bush, when Krugman predicted we wouldn’t.
Krugman was basing his prediction on Bush’s original plan, which was “This war will pay for it self”. When it didn’t, the Bush Administration did move to Plan B -spend the billions for reconstruction that Krugman correctly predicted would be needed. Krugman was wrong in predicting that Bush wouldn’t do that-a prediction that was consistent with Bush’s Afghan policy. So Krugman believed wrongly that the Bush Administration policy would be consistent. I don’t think that should count against him.
Most certainly there were two phases to the incredible Repub fiasco that was the Afghanistan/Iraq reconstruction. Once they realized just how badly they had cocked it up, Phase 2 kicked in: lower taxes, call their opposition traitors, borrow, borrow, borrow, and shovel truckloads of money to well connected defense contractors. But it always has surprised me how little attention has been paid to Phase 1, given how much it revealed about the Bush/Cheney mindset. They pushed out the experienced hands in the State Department because, well, everyone else are just idiots, and gave reconstruction over to Libertarian true believers. Get government out of the way and then Free Enterprise! and Iraq would magically become the Libertarian ideal. Of course, they couldn’t find anyone with experience who believed such tripe but, if my memory is correct, they overcame that problem by staffing fairly high level positions with people fresh out of grad school and internships at The Heritage Foundation and Reason magazine.
More like there was a vast giveaway of taxpayer $$ to Cheney’s buddies under the guise of “recovery”
Maybe we should pay some attention to Florack here. If there is one thing he does know about, it’s making predictions that don’t turn out well.
in 2003, people from the far left to the far right was thinking that the so called war would be a massacre. Even people in foreign media and in foreign far left circles thought that everything would be easy.
That´s why many people, specially people that were aiming the Democratic nomination supported the war.
Paul Krugman is definitely not a smooth operator, and like many in the commentariat, he can be annoyoing. That said, with respect to the catastrophic economic crash of 2008, Krugman has generally been proved right in his analysis of what policies should be implemented in order to avoid a deep recession, and positively, set us on a path of economic growth.
Predictions can never be more than best guesses, and I think Americans are particularly fond of hindsight bias anyway.
While I agree that Mr Krugman can be a prickly pear, part of this attitude stems from someone who is very data driven operating in an arena where claims (such as “Iraq will pay for itself”) are given credence solely on the courtier reputation of the claimant.
He was not meant to be a political columnist, you know. However, early on in the first W. administration, he was amazed to witness claims regarding the economy that were preposterous go completely unchallenged, because Bush was a likeable guy.
@al-Ameda: Krugman catches more criticism for being mostly right, but blunt, than most pundits get for being completely wrong. There is something wrong in the way we do this. Maybe Dr. K should try doing his analysis, presenting his critique and predictions, then throw in some gratuitous hippie punching.
Here’s some information for folks who are not familiar with Florack’s remarkable record in this regard. Recall what he said on 10/21/12:
And also what he told us a couple of days before Obama was elected (the first time): that he would lose and there would be “rioting in Grant park.”
I’m looking forward to his future predictions, so I’ll know that I should bet the other way.
“While I got some things wrong—this was, after all, the run-up to the Iraq War, which I supported”
You missed out the word ‘hysterically’ at the end of that sentence. You spent a lot of time in early 2003 shrieking abuse at france and germany accusing them (without a shred of evidence) of opposing the iraq war on no other grounds than being “anti-american”.
As it turned out of course, they were 100% right and you and your friends like cheney, rumsfeld & krauthammer were pathetically wrong.
“some things wrong” ? you were 100% wrong.
Still at least brown people got killed and tortured which is all you were after.
This simply isn’t true. I am and was a nationalist, fully supporting the right of individual nation-states to make decisions in their own national interest. My view at the time was that Germany was the better US ally and that France had both financial incentives for supporting Saddam and an interest, going back to the days of Charles de Gaulle, of knocking American power down a peg or two. But I strongly resisted the silly “freedom fries” nonsense and other notions that France was somehow an enemy or, indeed, that domestic opponents of the war were, as a popular meme had it, “objectively on the other side.”
It’s like having our very own OTB Dick Morris.
which is why you posted things like
picked at random out of your posts in march 2003.
france had no financial incentives in being against the war in 2003, The only people who claimed that were americans who supported the bush war and sneering at the french was easier than examining the US’s claims about how iraq had wmd.
France said they’d had none. You and rumsfeld et al did. So where are they?
Really, that’s what you came up with? Those were your examples of shrieking, hysterical anti-Europe posts?
You’re the one looking hysterical. I invite others to follow the links and judge for themselves. Joyner doesn’t need me to defend him, but BK, you got nothin’ there.
Okay, that’s weird. KB pulled down the comment I was referencing.
@Eric Florack: For all the downvotes, you’re quite correct. You can see via looking at James’s writing over the years that he generally attempts to examine the world in an objective manner, taking in new information critically, and adjusting his worldview (sometimes slowly) based on new data.
However, where you’re wrong is in regarding that as an incrimination.The ability to set aside confirmation and related biases is a positive not a negative.
ah yes, posts linking to stories about how france etc were going to surrender.
and all because france refused to get involved in the war in iraq. and wouldn’t vote for it in the security council
the last one is particularly standard of the war supporters in 2003. Not based on any actual facts.but just on francophobia. All of it ignoring the fact that france was prepared to take part in the war. Until they saw the intelligence…….
Predictions about the future are very difficult. Kudos on publishing an honorable retraction. These rarely sighted gems signal authors worthy of your attention, like Joyner.
Nope. I didn’t.
Uh huh. Well, it was quite definitely gone. Must have been a gremlin. And your additional three links are as off-the-mark as the first round.
hmm i now see 2 versions of the post.
each to their own.
i disagree with you, and you disagree with me and i suspect neither of us will convince the other…….
Krugman is a partisan hack who will say yea or nay based on which party is in power. Say “Paul Krugman” to an actual economist only if you’ve got a spare half-hour and you don’t mind having high-level math screamed at you. (True story. Seen it.)
@kb: I was making French “surrender” jokes before George W. Bush’s father was elected president; they’re not a reaction to their failure to support our war effort in 2003. My reaction to France selling Saddam weapons in the run-up to the US-led invasion and to French financial interests in Saddam’s regime strike me as far short of hysterical.
See also this February 21, 2003 posting:
@Pinky: There are shots to be taken at Krugman the columnist. But the man has been recognized with the two highest prizes available to an academic economist: the John Bates Clark Medal and the Nobel. You just come across as an idiot in saying he’s not respected by his fellow economists.
What french weapon sales to iraq?
Certainly before the 2003 war there were allegations from sources in the USA that france had sold weapons to Iraq in the run up to the war.
As it turned out the evidence for this wasn’t even as strong as the evidence for the WMDs that the war was supposedly about.
So what evidence do you have that france sold weapons to Iraq after 1991?
@kb: From the posting you dug up, which states in full
The Gertz link no longer works. But, certainly, selling Saddam parts for war planes as fellow NATO allies are about to go to war in Iraq is a dastardly move. That’s far different from criticizing opposition to a war—it’s active engagement for the other team.
really ? the washington times? thats your ‘evidence’?
A right wing moonie paper?
gertz also claimed that Iraq moved their wmds to syria…..
again not a shred of actual evidence. Just claims based on unnamed sources.
as for the claims……
@kb: I was responding to a February 2003 report by Gertz, then a widely respected intelligence reporter known for having excellent sources inside the community. You cite sources from months later noting that France denies the allegations.
so you don’t and didn’t have any evidence except a hack working for the moonies whose ‘evidence’ was an anonymous source produced after the french decided not to support the war and in the midst of the pathetic “axis of weasels” nonsense ?
It fitted with what you wanted to believe. And that’s all you needed.
Which pretty much sums up the rigorous analysis you performed on the evidence for the Iraq war.
“selling Saddam parts for war planes as fellow NATO allies are about to go to war in Iraq is a dastardly move”
so any real evidence for that allegation? Apart from Washington times fantasies?
There was a reason countries like France weren’t on board for the war. They did expect some real actual evidence to be produced.
Running up a huge debt and growing the size of the public sector is not a way to avoid a huge recession. Such policies actually make the next recession even worse due to the ratchet effect and structural problems.
The biggest problem is that Professor Krugman continues to mix his desire for helping the Democratic Party and growing the size and scope of the government versus helping the economy overall. Everyone and especially progressives should be very skeptical when Krugman says that we can grow ourselves out of the deficit and the national debt. The Republicans claimed the same thing and they were wrong. Cuting spending and raising taxes are the only two solutions.
You take the occasion of Joyner confessing to some previous unfairness and try to gain moral high ground by making claims that Joyner was “shrieking abuse” and use the word, “hysterically,” to characterize the level of his support for the war. Those are very strong claims which you have simply, flat-out failed to substantiate.
How often have you put yourself out there as a writer? How much of your public writing do we have to parse and compare? Have you been 100% consistent over the course of the last decade? You haven’t managed to make a case in support of a comment you wrote just a few hours ago. People who live in glass houses, etc…
I have to tell you, as a writer myself, guys like you just piss me off. You sit on the sidelines, risking nothing, being deliberately dishonest in equating throw-away snark with serious commentary, taking cheap shots with overheated rhetoric to puff yourself up with your own righteousness, the implication being that of course you had it right all along, and you know better, and you could do a better job, and when confronted on your b.s. you double down rather than dealing honestly.
Why don’t you show us your last ten years of writing, because your last three hours worth aren’t real impressive.
(1) We are still able to manage our debt and make regular payments on the debt. We are nowhere near the danger of default on our debt obligations.
(2) You do realize that government sector employment has been anemic since 2008, and is the reason that employment growth has been slow? You can look it up.
@James Joyner: Like I said, true story, seen it.
@michael reynolds: Probably doesn’t mean much, but I had the same opinion about Clinton in the first days of zippergate. He couldn’t have been that stupid when the Paula Jones attorneys were watching him like a hawk… well, it turns out that yes, yes he could be just that stupid.
That delusion lasted for about a day and a half when I saw his denial in the press conference, and I realized that if it really had no substance, it would have dissipated by that point.
@Mike in DC:
I actually did think Clinton was that dumb. There’s the Clinton brain: super smart. And “Little Bill”: not so smart.
Although, keeping my own “glass houses” remark in mind. . . I will mute my criticism on that score.
I was way younger at the time, but I confess that I imediatelly thought: “He can´t be talking serious, that makes no sense” when Bush began to talk about Iraq. And no one that I knew believed in that “arms of mass destruction thing”.
But you had no problem when George W. Bush did it.
Do I really have to get the public sector growth numbers and how many jobs they accounted for when it came to reducing the unemployment rate when he was President?
To be fair, Krugman is kinda nuts.
The guy just keeps spouting “stimulus, stimulus–we need more stimulus!”, talks positively of national disasters “helping” GDP, and then dismisses anyone who shows the flaws in his “analysis.” Does he ever consider what will happen when stimulus must–as all things–end? Not to my knowledge. He also doesn’t really seem to have a good handle on what “austerity” actually is, and he doesn’t seem to be all that knowledgeable about his primary ideological opponents, the Austrian School (not the “Austerian School” as he notably misspells them.)
Good grief. Someone else want to take Jeremy? I’m tired.
I´m something of a deficit hawk that disagrees with Keynesians in several economic issues. To me, the model of the perfect country is something that´s to the right of Germany and Sweden, but to the left of Singapore and Switzerland.
Having said that, Krugman is an excellent economist and an excellent academic. His debates with George Will on ABC This Week are incredibly knowledgeable and gracious, and his academic papers are widely respected. It´s true that there are several issues with his columns and blog posts, but as an Academic he is impeccable.
And I don´t read his columns, and I´m not generally a fan of Keynesian Economists.
I did have a massive problem when Bush did it. But even now, everyone should realize that deficit spending always helps the Democrats. As more people get a government check, government contract, government set asides, they drift to becoming auotmatic Democratic Party voters.
Bush II was a fool to pursue his compassionate conservative programs and it was one of the reason that he left office with such poor approval ratings.
Also, Professor Krugman knows that running structural deficits reduces the effectiveness of any form of stimulus deficit spending. The theories were shown to be correct in that the stimulus spending in 2009 did little to help the economy but was generally just used to help liberal states to make payroll and keep loyal Democratic Party voters on the worker rolls.
#1 – he did not misspell them (neither Austrian School, not Austerity School)
#2 – with “Austerian School” he was referring to those economists who prefer policies of austerity
#3 – please see #2
#4 – you’re welcome.
You can argue about the “hysterical” aspect of it, but looking back there was an overall pattern of impugning the motives of anyone against the Iraq war and giving credence to lies and liars for the war. Look at the story about France supposedly selling parts to the Iraq air force- it wasn’t true. No evidence. At all. the Washington Times lied to you, you passed the lie along, and now kb is pointing out that this was a lie with no evidence, you’re stating that Gertz was well-respected. If you go back and look at his works now it’s obvious he was a right-wing hack all along (go to Amazon and read the blurbs for Betrayal, the book he released in September 2001; I haven’t seen someone so wrong since Dow, 30,000 by 2008). I’m not as militant about it as kb, but the Washington Times is not a respectable newspaper and stating that you believed something because it was printed in the Times is a cop-out if you’re not going to admit that they were consistently and repeatedly wrong about most everything dealing with the Iraq war.
LOL. He left office with terrible ratings from liberals and moderates and a spiffy rating from self-described conservatives. “Conservatives” still LOVED them some Bush the Lesser, right to the end.
He left with his ratings in the crapper because of the Iraq war and the economic crash (the latter, of course, had almost nothing to do with him). His “compassionate conservatism” (wherein we give tax breaks to all, but especially to the top, mixed with medicare expansion) was way, way down the list.
The stimulus partially plugged a gaping hole, and likely prevented a much worse crash (I love the dismissive bit about states making payroll, as if that doesn’t matter). While we cannot expect to go back to pre-crash prosperity (as it was partially hallucinated), we also cannot sit around and shrug at ~7.5% headline unemployment (which understates the problem, as we all know). I mean, we can, but this has unfortunate effects. Like, for instance, the much whined about # of folks on food stamps or disability.
But whatever. Current policy (mild austerity) seems likely to continue. We’ll muddle through.
There is a reason people who drift into Godwin country are ridiculed…
@James Joyner: “And their government did indeed surrender to the Germans rather than fight them,….”
You might want to read some actual WWII history. The German Army went through them like a hot knife through butter, but they went through *everybody* like that, including parts of the US Army – after losing vast numbers of men on the Eastern Front.