Will Marshall Proposes Another Prize for Krugman

Robert Waldmann

Mashall wrote

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman came out blasting yesterday, all but calling the president a postpartisan wimp.

Obama’s stimulus plan, he said, is too small to plug the hole in our economy created by faltering private demand. And he chided the president for allowing a bipartisan group of Senate moderates to strip various provisions out of the House bill. In language that could qualify for a Pulitzer Prize in hyperbole, Krugman claimed that the dastardly centrists would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and cut vital health care and food programs, while offering new a fat tax break to affluent homeowners.

I have some questions for Marshall

Dear Mr Marshall

You write “In language that could qualify for a Pulitzer Prize in hyperbole, Krugman claimed that the dastardly centrists would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs…” Evidently your estimate of the effect of the changes on the number of jobs is that they will reduce employment by less than 200,000 (less than hundreds of thousands). Please show your work.

Could you explain to us what quantitative model you used ? Has it been empirically successful in the past ? What is your point estimate of the number of jobs lost due to the changes ? Is it about 100,000 or about 0 or do you think the changes will lead to higher employment ?

I assume that you are a serious person and didn’t claim that Krugman’s estimate is absurdly large without making an estimate of your own.

If you make quantitative claims without quantitative analysis, then you might try to find an economist who defends the compromise. There are economists who think that Keynesian stimulus has not effect on employment. They consider the Collins Nelson plan terrible and thing that Collins and Nelson should have voted against cloture. There are economists who think that the House plan is better than the compromise voted by the Senate. Is there any economist, hell anyone who bases his or her arguments on the consequences of policy, who agrees with the Nelson-Collins plan ?

Is there anyone who has performed calculations with numbers (as opposed to awarding the Pulitzer for a number) who thinks that the stimulus plan will cause increased employment *and* who thinks that the Nelson-Collins changes won’t reduce employment by hundreds of thousands of jobs ?

I ask for information and expect an answer.

update: I went back to http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2009/02/post_16.php and found that Marshall didn’t respond to my request for his quantitative analysis in the comment thread or in another post at www.thedemocraticstrategist.com. Then I posted another comment. This one, I admit, is sophomoric. It is also after the jump.

Krugman is not calling for partisanship for partisanship’s sake. He is attempting to analyse the effects the house plan and the senate plan would have on the economy. He is an economist you know. He is not alone in his view that dollar for dollar spending provides more stimulus than tax cuts, note at his blog he links to CAP analysis of the implications of the CBO estimates of multipliers for the difference in employment between the two plans.

I have asked for the quantitative analysis which supports the claim that Krugman’s claim “that the dastardly centrists would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs” is worthy of a Pulitzer prize in hyperbole. The assertion is that the difference in employment under the two plans is far far less than 200,000. Such a claim should be based on a quantitative analysis. Where did Mr Marshall get his multipliers ? Did he estimate them himself ? Where did he get his Okun’s law coefficient ? What is his Okun’s law coefficient ?

I might add that I also object to three other assertions “Many economists believe that the plan’s details matter less than its scale, because they believe what’s essential now is to boost the confidence and “animal spirits” of U.S. consumers, businesses and lenders.” [citation needed] How many ? What are their names ? I can’t think of one. An assertion about economists should be supported by a link to a list of economists. There is no word limit on the web. There is no excuse for assertions of fact not supported by specific evidence.

Also “But some of the education provisions are more questionable and the housing credit, properly targeted on first-time homebuyers, could help to halt the slide in housing prices.” I note that Marshall absolutely disagrees with Obama on this one, but, much more to the point, economists such as Robert Shiller (worlds number one expert on housing prices I’d say) believe that the slide in housing prices can’t be stopped but only slowed. http://tinyurl.com/cvuwte Marshall seems to think he is more of an expert on housing prices than Shiller. What is the basis of his view that Shiller is wrong ?

Finally “What really seems to bug Krugman, though, is Obama’s postpartisan vision.” I mean come on. Is Marshall claiming he can read Krugman’s mind ? It should be simply off limits to comment on what someone guesses about someone else’s emotions. I might add that, for what it’s worth, it seems odd to me to guess that Krugman’s stated views on economics are based on his views on parties. I mean he is an economist. He was advocating spending not just tax cuts long before the House or the Senate (or the administration) took a position. However, the main point is that what it’s worth is nothing. I can’t read Krugman’s mind and I don’t try. I respond to his arguments not to my hypotheses about his psyche.

Bipartisanship is very nice, but if the price is hundreds of thousands of jobs, maybe a bit of partisanship is in order. Notably Obama has taken a strong public stand in favor of the house approach. Last I heard, the conference committee was dropping Senate proposals (house buying credit) and restoring House proposals (building and repairing schools).

Notably the defence of Obama seems a bit out of date, as Marshall is defending what Obama was doing a week ago and, therefore, criticizing what he is doing now.

By the way, have you noticed the amazing influence that the CAP has on the debate ? Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate, dropped his rough analysis (600,000 jobs difference) in favor of theirs and the head of CAP was joint leader of the transition and the Economist calls one of their bloggers scary smart.

Not to be nasty but, rather, to be sophomoric, how is the progressive policy institute doing in comparison ? You know Krugman only found out about Marshall’s last contribution to the debate on Krugman by following a link from angrybear.blogspot.com. Now I am sure that the PPI and www.thedemocraticstrategist.org is much much more influential than agrybear. I’m sure commenters here (or the TDS staff) can point me to the proof supporting my guess.