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Paul Krugman, Then and Now

In the Democrats’ effort to brand Mitt Romney a “liar,” former economist Paul Krugman has taken a leading role, as I noted here. Krugman, as a full-time shill for the Obama administration, has tried to put a positive face on Obama’s dismal economic record. See, for example, this post on his New York Times blog, where he talks about the payroll jobs numbers and offers this graph:

If you don’t look at it closely, the chart could give you the impression that the number of payroll jobs has returned to its pre-recession level, which it hasn’t. Clark Judge, for one, made that mistake. Actually, the y-axis of the chart represents the change in the number of nonfarm payroll employees compared to 12 months earlier. It is a counter-intuitive presentation that likely is intended to make the jobs numbers seem better than they are, but what it shows, as Krugman writes, is that approximately 1.8 million payroll jobs have been added in the last 12 months. Here is how Krugman spins Obama’s jobs record:

Again, you want to focus on somewhat longer-term trends, not monthly numbers. Over the past year the employer survey says that we’ve added 1.8 million jobs, or 150,000 a month. …

This is substantially more than the number of jobs we need to keep up with population growth, which is currently something like 90,000 a month. (The number used to be higher, but baby boomers are getting old — the same thing that affects the household survey.)

So the two survey are saying the same thing: job growth fast enough to make gradual progress on the employment front. Not fast enough; it will take years to restore full employment, and we should, um, end this depression now. But the progress is real.

So that is a pretty positive assessment, focusing specifically on jobs. I wondered: how did George W. Bush’s jobs record during the last year of his first term compare with Obama’s, and what did Krugman say about it then? So I did the math.

You can see the official monthly jobs numbers from 2002 through this month here. They show that from January through September of this year, including the current report which was hailed as great news by the Obama administration, a total of 1,314,000 payroll jobs have been added to the economy. In the first nine months of the fourth year of the Bush administration, January through September 2004, the economy added 1,512,000 payroll jobs. Advantage, Bush.

Of course, that is only the beginning of the story. In September 2004 the unemployment rate was 5.4%, while the Obama administration breathed a sigh of relief that the rate for September of this year came in at 7.8%. Moreover, that figure vastly understates how bad the current employment picture is, as millions have left the labor force and chronic unemployment has skyrocketed. Other economic indicators are worse as well. More Americans are living in poverty than at any time in our history. The price of gasoline in October 2004 was $2.02 per gallon, coincidentally the high point of Bush’s first term. And median household income has fallen dramatically under Obama.

Krugman gives Obama what I would interpret as a B for his economic policies, at least as they relate to employment. So he must have given George Bush an A+, right?

Just kidding. Krugman excoriated Bush non-stop for eight years, using his (Krugman’s) purported expertise to savage Bush’s economic policies. You could find hundreds of instances, but let’s consider this CNN interview in October 2004, titled “A discussion of the disastrous Bush economy and the 2004 Presidential Election.” Here is what Krugman had to say about an economy that was obviously, and by any measure, far better than the one he defends today:

CAFFERTY: So why so glum? The president points out record homeownership, low interest rates, the economy is growing again. We’re producing jobs. The tax cuts put more money in peoples’ pockets. What’s the problem?

KRUGMAN: First, net loss of jobs, payroll jobs for any president since Herbert Hoover. Duration of unemployment is close. The time it takes on average for unemployed people to find a new job close to its highest level in 20 years. Jobs have been created over the past year but only just about fast enough to keep up with population growth. This is a situation in which a lot of people are hurting. This is a much worse labor market than we had when he came into office and people feel that. The only thing he can point to is the unemployment rate which while it is lower than the average of the ’90′s, the average of the ’90s is kind of perked up by a couple of years under his father and is well below, is well above the unemployment rate when he came in. I think it is – in a way I think he’s almost making a mistake by making it seem as if things are really great because people can tell it isn’t.

Every data point that Krugman cites is now worse under Obama. I really enjoy what follows, as Krugman sternly explains that presidents shouldn’t make excuses:

ROMANS: Paul, the White House keeps saying is that he inherited this really unusual kind of merger of really terrible situations, the popping of the Internet bubble and then September 11, a global slowdown and that the White House says he actually managed through that very well.

KRUGMAN: You know, you can always find an excuse. The thing to say is that each year of his presidency, the Council of Economic Advisers come out with an economic report of the president which forecast great job growth starting right now. Those reports come out each February. Each year they forecast great job growth. It hasn’t materialized and then they go back and say well, that’s because of all these things, but those things didn’t seem to affect their own forecast when they were making them. So we’re about seven million jobs short of where the 2002 economic report of the president said we were going to be. We already knew about the Internet bubble. We already knew about 9/11 then. What has changed since then to explain why we’re seven million jobs short?

One could say the same thing, only more so, about the forecasts the Obama team has made, as reflected for example in this famous chart:

Here is how Krugman assessed the political situation on the eve of the 2004 election:

SERWER: Paul, there are some other feathers in the president’s hat though, including household income which is up and the other thing I want to point to is, isn’t it really most important about where the economy is locally in states? For instance, in Florida the economy is actually not so bad. That could help the president. Isn’t that the better way to look at it?

KRUGMAN: We can all try to figure out how the politics is going to play and the truth is we don’t know anything. I think obviously Ohio is very bad for Bush because it has been hit worse than the average. What is — the point is it is not a record to be proud of. It is a record you can spin. It’s not so terrible that you can’t go ahead and try and find some good numbers here and there, but overall let me just put it this way. If a Democrat had this record, oh boy, the Republican chorus about the incredibly terrible performance. It’s not a happy record on the economy.

If Bush’s record on the economy was “not happy,” Obama’s record is suicidal depression. Yet Krugman defends it. He says that those who criticize Obama’s performance are “liars.” So were those who criticized George W. Bush’s far better performance liars, too? Of course not! On the contrary, Krugman never missed an opportunity to brand Bush and pretty much every member of his administration as a “liar” or worse.

Krugman is, of course, one of the most shameless and dishonest political hacks on the planet. But while he is an extreme case, he is not alone. A similar, if less extreme, lack of honesty in assessing Obama’s economic record is endemic across the media formerly known as mainstream.

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