June 17, 2003
DONALD LUSKIN, VILLAGE IDIOT....I stopped reading Donald Luskin's dimwitted "Krugman Truth Squad" columns over at NRO a while back when it became clear that he wasn't to be taken any more seriously than Ann Coulter. But today Jesse Tayler had a short post about Luskin's latest column, and — foolishly — I clicked, and then clicked again, and soon enough I was hip deep in idiocy. Thanks a lot, Jesse.
Anyway, here is Krugman's column, which I suppose you ought to read first, and here is Luskin's reply. And here is E.J. Dionne's Washington Post column on the same subject, which Luskin quotes. Here's the story:
Luskin complains that Krugman doesn't identify either the
House subcommittee or the "ranking Democrat" that he's talking about.
Considering that Krugman is writing a 700-word opinion column — not a
news story — and spends only two paragraphs on this, it's hard to see
exactly what Luskin is upset about.
Luskin then names the ranking Democrat: Martin Olav
Sabo. But Sabo's website doesn't even mention the amendment he
Next, he quotes Dionne saying that it was actually
David Obey who introduced the amendment. But Obey isn't even on the
Idiot. David Obey is the ranking Democrat Krugman was talking about. He's the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and therefore entitled to sit on all subcommittees. Krugman and Dionne are in complete agreement.
And that was just the first paragraph. Luskin then goes on to
complain about some other things Krugman said, all of which appear to be
There was no reason to close the subcommittee meeting
since classified material wasn't discussed. This is apparently true,
since the Democrats unanimously voted to keep the meeting open. They
can't all be traitors, can they?
The bill didn't contain Obey's proposed extra funding. Yep.
The homeland security budget is lower than last year.
Also true, since Krugman is comparing the 2004 budget request to the
entire 2003 budget, including supplemental appropriations.
Not only is Luskin too stupid to get his facts right
about who sits on what subcommittee while simultaneously mocking
Krugman, who said nothing wrong, but he then chastises Krugman for a
further list of things that are essentially correct and certainly well
within the normal rhetorical bounds of an opinion columnist. This is a
fundamental problem with "Watch" columns, since the authors are
constantly overreaching in order to prove that every single column and
every single word their target writes is untrue. It's even worse, of
course, when the author is an idiot.
I'll say it again: NRO should be ashamed to provide space to
guys like this. I'm not on their side on much of anything, but even I
think they're better than this.
Posted by Kevin Drum at June 17, 2003 04:45 PM
very telling phrase from that article: "Paul Krugman, America's most dangerous liberal pundit..."
sounds like he's got 'em scared. why is he dangerous?
As long as we're regulatin' blogs, let's start puttin' the smack down on librul commie-ntators...
Kevin, I think you said it all yesterday when you posted "NRO... It's embarassing."
Okay, so maybe I'm editing the quote a bit... but NRO's existence really is embarassing.
Luskin responds! Well, sort of. He got a letter from a House staffer correcting him on the point about Obey:
2) Although David Obey is not listed as a member of the
subcommittee, both Chairman Bill Young and Mr. Obey are considered ex
officio members of each subcommittee and always have a seat at the table
during any subcommittee hearing or markup. Both are usually present for
subcommittee markups. That's your mistake, but it wouldn't be apparent
to anyone who didn't work on the Hill.
Well, I guess it was apparent.
(4) The staff director who now runs the Homeland Security
subcommittee tells me that the subcommittee had previously decided to
close their markups as a matter of standard practice. The decision was
not prompted by Obey's amendment. Committee rules give the subcommittee
the prerogative to to close a hearing to the public by majority vote.
Chairman Rogers wouldn't even need to justify the move based on
I have no idea how to verify this. However, the AP story quoting
Obey did not have him mentioning national security, although the
Now, you are sort of sliding past the fact that Obey's request for
more money was a PR stunt, as explained by Dionne. That was not all
obvious from the Krugman piece. Including a suggested tax increase is
not part of the subcommittee's work.
Krugman's a columnist. He just described what Obey did, made his
point, and moved on. And anyway, Dionne is the one who described it as
an "experiment," not Obey.
I really don't think the fact that Obey didn't seriously think his
amendment would pass is very relevant. Krugman wasn't trying to hide
anything here, and it wouldn't have affected his point even if he'd
described it the same way Dionne did.
Even if NRO were to suddenly develop a capacity for shame and fire
Luskin, I'm sure Slate would hire him to be Mickey Kaus's sidekick.
Also, perhaps Krugman gave his readers the benefit of the doubt and
assumed they would understand that a House subcommittee working on
homeland security appropriations might in fact be the appropriations committee, without his having to say so.
What are Luskin's bona fides?
Tom - one might ask what in Washington isn't a political
stunt. Bush's $2 trillion-plus in tax cuts certainly are, as is most of
his domestic policy, as is most of his foreign policy. And I'll
readily admit that most of what Democrats do are political stunts as
But, since Obey presented the act, it was obviously intended to pass
(I would presume that Obey had no plans to stop the act if picked up).
At best, it sounds like an interpretation disagreement rather than
anything substantial. This is the kind of stuff you find yourself
embroiled in when you deal with Luskin, Tom. Get out while you still
There are smart right-wing bloggers on economics. Tom McG, for
instance. Others are at least civil, even if they have no idea what
they're talking about. Luskin is neither. His ranting critique (sic)
of Krugman's liquidity trap article was several simians short of Bob
Newhart's proverbial "one million monkeys with one million typewriters."
Kevin, why do you bother? This post is like shooting fish in a
barrel. Post on whatever you want, but going point by point showing how
Luskin is an idiot is an exercise in stating the obvious. You would do
as well to post pictures of Earth from outer space to refute the
flat-Earthers. "OK OK. It's not round; it's an oblique spheroid. It
sure as hell ain't flat though."
How people can actually take Luskin's word over Krugman's is beyond
me. Hell, even Andrew Sullivan - who spent a month attacking Krugman
for having lost all credibility and becoming nothing but an attack dog
against Bush - eventually came around and grudgingly admitted Krugman
was basically right.
Jesse, I'm in too deep to turn back now. And yes, I suppose lots of
Washington events are stunts. But normally, we expect the press to at
least mention the possibility that the game we are watching is not the
game being played.
For instance, in the Luskin letter I linked to above, I did not excerpt point 3:
You're right that any amendment seeking to increase spending by
"offsetting" it with revenue increases would be a purely symbolic or
"experimental" affair. Number one, it violates jurisdictional
boundaries, since tax matters are handled by Ways and Means and the
provision could therefore be struck on the floor with a point of order.
Second, all subcommittees are bound by ceilings called "302(b)
allocations" that would not be affected by changing income tax rates.
Spending and taxation proceed on separate tracks in the Congressional
Now, I don't know that be accurate, but I do know that I have never
heard of individual subcommittee passing one billion dollar tax hikes.
There is a budgeting process, and normally these committees meet to
spend their allotment, not dream up new taxes.
And here is an article about a new assertiveness amongst House Democrats. Which is fine. I think the country could benefit from an active opposition party. And let me quote Mr. Obey himself:
...even those Democratic lawmakers uncomfortable with
obstructionist floor stunts argued that Democrats had an obligation to
stand up for themselves.
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) said, “I am an institutionalist. I intensely
dislike using some of those means, but we are left with no choice.”
Now, he was talking about something else (I think), but the philospohy is consistent with this story.
So, Bush lands on an aircraft carrier - fun to watch, but no one
pretends it is straight news. Why pretend that this was a serious
amendment? Why NOT identify the subcommittee, the bill, or the people
Either Prof. Krugman did not know, which calls into question his
competence as a political analyst; or he knew and concealed it (my
theory), which takes us down the credibility trail.
Now, if I were fully committed to this task, I would go on to explain
why Don Luskin is NOT shrill and partisan. Hmm. Fight fire with fire?
And look at the time! I am sure there is a ball game on somewhere.
As I scamper away, I should add that I remember the Bob Newhart bit, but I bet no one remembers this. Live, that is.
Tom, Luskin's is shrill beyond any doubt whatsoever (he can't stop
mentioning Jayson Blair), and is most definitely partisan, especially
when it comes to Krugman. So...you could fight fire with fire, but
you'd be fighting an inferno with a waterproof match.
Now, I don't know that [concerning points of order and 302(b) caps] be accurate...
It's accurate, or at least in the general vicinity of being accurate.
As to why Krugman didn't give the name and the subcommittee.. who
knows? It may have even been scrubbed out by his editor. He didn't name
the chairman either, perhaps he was trying to demonstrate this as being
an analogy to current politics as a whole. Or maybe he just didn't want
to go throwing names around since every time he does that he gets crap
Ultimately, I don't really see where it has any bearing on the
validity of the column. Either you agree with him or you don't; it was
an op-ed, and its facts were correct as presented.
Does anyone see that Luskin runs something called "TrendMacrolytics"? The URL:
Supposedly it helps "institutional investors" achieve long-term
growth. Now who in their right mind--especially a manager of a pension
fund or a foundation fortune--would get advice from that guy?
Tom, this is ridiculous. Krugman left out some un-important facts
from a column in which he has a very tight space limit. Does it
particularly matter that it was James Obey who proposed the amendment?
We're not talking about Tom Daschle here. Does it need to be said what
subcommitee it was or what bill it was?
This is the obvious explanation for Krugman's omissions and instead you decide that the only two possible explanations are:
1) This Princeton-employed, Clark Medal-winning economist is a drooling moron.
2) Krugman is trying to deceive his readers into believing...what
exactly? Since the omissions don't actually change the flavor of the
story or make it more plausible, you don't really seem to have come up
Maybe you should take a breather from the whole Krugman bashing thing. It seems to have skewed your view of reality.
Kevin, I for one enjoyed your comment here.
The conservatives go off so frequently, and with so much confidence,
that it's helpful to be reminded how frequently they do so without even
the slightest factual justification.
The sad part is that there are some intelligent conservatives out
there (for what it's worth, I like Maguire's posts, too; even when I
disagree, I find them thought-provoking) but it's clear that the
mouth-breathers have by far the largest megaphones.
Thanks for generalizing me as a useless crank, Mr. Drum.
I have always stated--right from Day 1--that if Mona charen was fair
or honest I would say so. It rarely happens, but it does and I do note it.
That work is a real pain in the ass some days. It's not free,
either. Furthermore, the media whore actually reads it. Give me 2
years and Ill be able to say more.
It's duty. I was asked to help. I don't get off being a critic twice a week.
I can't comment on Tom's credentials. What little I have read of him
left me thinking he was yet another of those
But Luskin? The issue is no,longer whether he is shrill.
He is simple ignorant of basic economics. As the whole 10 year
calculation showed. It's not just Max or D^2 who realized this, both
well qualified but clearly on Krugman's side on policy issues.
Even the Krugman Truth Squad economists (if that's what they are) realized Luskin is a crank.
I have noticed that all the criticisms of Krugman seem to fall in one of two categories.
Either they are outright wrong and show a lack of understanding of the issues (like the 10 year point).
Or they are some silly nitpicking, like the one Kevin exposes here.
Too bad Tom has decided to join the fool's brigade.
I love to read Luskin. It's like a window on another world.
The funniest thing is the respect he gets from right wing bloggers. "Look how Luskin takes down Krugman this week!"
When you think about it, what really is the difference between Luskin
and, say, Mickey Kaus? Kaus really isn't any more careful with his
facts, or any less fanatical in his repetetive "get Krugman!" schtick.
The only difference is that Kaus is at least smart enough to add a
sufficient number qualifiers in his screeds, so that he has some wiggle
room should someone try to hold him accountable to the facts.
I think Kaus knows enough (mostly) not to mess with Krugman on issues of economics.
Luskin does not and ends up looking like a fool.
Too bad Tom has decided to join the fool's brigade.
Oh, I deeply resent this. I was bashing Krugman long before anyone had heard of Luskin.
Now, other quick comments:
Nick (12:21 AM) syas that either (a) Krugman couldn't find space for
the Chairman's name; (b) Krugman is a drooling idiot (which I have never
suggested); or (c) Krugman is painting a false picture of the news,
which is my theory exactly.
I think,unless someone cares to rebut it, that I have presented prety
good evidence that the story Krugman opens his column with was a PR
stunt, not a serious attempt at legislation. It is quite likely that
the real "dialog" was as follows:
Obey - I would like to present an out-of-order bill designed to embarrass Bush.
Chairman - I will close the meeting.
Obey - I will scream cover-up.
Chairman - No one will notice.
NA deveryone continues with their script. The AP doesn;t even
mention the tax hikle angle to the meeting. Yet Krugman prsents this as
evidence that Bush is not spending enough and is too wedded to his tax
cuts. Well, that mya be true, but this story is not the proof of it.
I might just as well say that Bush demonstrated his committment to
our troops and our nation's defense by flying out to an aircraft
carrier. Photo op? Says who? Or, if that was a photo op, why do you
think this amendment Krugman describes was not? And if it was a photo
op amendment, why doesn't he say so?
Blah, blah, blah. The problem is, people who agree with his
conclusion close his eyes to the evidence he offers, and the way he
Luskin's claim to fame a few years ago is that he "managed" the
OpenFund, a mutual fund that posted its current holdings on its website,
rather than update it quarterly like most mutual funds.
Unfortunately, those holdings were almost entirely in tech and his
fund got wiped out pretty bad. The management company shut down the
fund in 2001. Apparently, he's reinvented himself as the anti-Krugman.
If you look in theStreet.com's archives, you can find a whole bunch
of crazy crap Luskin wrote when he had a column there. He's about as
good of an investor as he is an economist. I honestly wonder how much
business Trend Macroanalytics does, or if it's just subsidized by Scaife
or some other righty think tank so that Luskin can publish his screeds.
I certainly wouldn't go to the guy for investment or economic advice.