Can Paul Krugman Save the World?

The alternative but clever Boston Phoenix is convinced that the New York Times editorializing,  Princeton teaching, Nobel Prize-winning celebrity economist Paul Krugman is the man to desend, deus-ex-machina-like, into the Obama adminsitration and tell everyone what, exactly, we should do about the fact that the world is ending.

"It’s one month into Barack Obama’s presidency and it’s already clear that the economic team isn’t making the grade," writes the Phoenix's Steven Stark. "Larry Summers helps craft a stimulus plan that almost no other economist thinks will work — at least as well as it should. Timothy Geithner announces his bank-rescue plan and the market immediately drops 300 points."


The solution? Appoint Paul Krugman economic czar.

In addition to the fact that Krugman is buddy-buddy with Ben Bernanke, here is the reasoning from the Boston Phoenix:

1) HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO Admittedly, this is a subjective category — you have to buy into Krugman’s notions (which I do) that the stimulus package was vastly under-funded and untargeted; that we’re suffering from a solvency problem, not a liquidity problem with the banks; that some banks need to be nationalized, etc., etc.

But whether you agree with Krugman or not, at least his prescriptions are coherent and dramatic. The good news about Obama’s economic policies so far is that they’ve managed to fulfill his campaign promise of uniting both sides. The bad news is that they’ve done so largely by fusing left and right in opposition to what he’s done. Krugman’s appointment would eliminate half the opposition, and the Republicans are never going to support Obama anyway.

2) HE’S UNTAINTED In legal ethics, the standard is not whether an individual has done anything wrong, but whether he or she gives “the appearance of impropriety.” Applying that standard, Summers and Geithner don’t cut it because they’re too identified with the policies of the past, and with Bob Rubin.

During his tenure under Bill Clinton, Summers curtailed Commodity Future Trading Commissioner Brooksley Born’s attempts to regulate derivatives. His protégé Geithner, as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from mid-2003 on, was in a position to try to address this crisis years ago. But he didn’t see it coming, either.

Every time these men take an action that seems to help an old friend at a bank — and they seem to be doing it often — they raise questions about their impartiality. That’s unacceptable — and it’s a problem Krugman doesn’t have.

Besides, Summers’s and Geithner’s experience may be limiting them. This is a new kind of crisis that requires a new kind of thinking. To this point, to use the old cliché, Obama’s mainstream-to-a-fault economic team hasn’t been able to think outside the box.

3) HE’S A TERRIFIC COMMUNICATOR This may, in fact, be Krugman’s most important attribute. Whatever one thinks of Geithner, public speaking is not one of his strengths: one wag described his recent bank-bailout-plan announcement as akin to “an elf giving a book report.”

As for Summers, his communication problems have been well publicized. Suffice it to say that he’s been in office only a month and he’s already managed to alienate Obama appointee and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker.

In contrast, Krugman is articulate. One of the president’s principal failures so far is that he’s tellingly failed to give the nation a narrative that explains the economic crisis and how he plans to solve it. Without that, the public will never give him the time he needs to address what are deep-rooted problems that can’t be cured overnight. Besides, without such an explanation, everything he does looks seat-of-the-pants and reactive.

Despite his oratorical prowess, Obama has not given a good speech in months. In truth, Obama was terrific when he was talking about himself — whether it was on the primary stump or in his book. That’s not a criticism: when one runs for president, promoting yourself is the major requirement.

But now that Obama has to talk about our struggles — not his own — he’s having trouble. Krugman could give him the ideas and the eloquence he needs.

Paul Krugman for economic czar. Now that’s change we can believe in.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

This prophetic 1997 Jeff Bezos interview explains the genius behind Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He saw the innovative potential of the online marketplace.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
Surprising Science
  • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
  • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
  • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
Keep reading Show less