Krugman Gets It Right Again

Two things stuck out in my mind when I finally read the inaugural speech written by Jon “the groper” Favreau. The first was didn’t some one get a fact checker for this kid or at the very least get him a calculator? (Turns out I wasn’t the only one that noticed this one, it hit immediately on the wire at MarketWatch.)

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Less than a minute into his presidency, Barack Obama committed his first gaffe. That’s wrong. Forty-three Americans, including Obama, have taken the oath of office.

The new president of the United States said in his inaugural address that “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.”

Then I thought, well that’s nothing new considering how much Obama re-invented all kinds of history and things in the primaries: like we have fifty seven states, a great lake in Oregon, the US army liberated Auschwitz and on and on. But the second one really disturbed me because plagiarizing and paraphrasing great thinkers in a major speech without crediting them is just plain something one should not do. I wasn’t the only one who caught it. Economist and columnist Krugman caught it also. The prez’s economic meme was a wrangled and mangled copy of something the great economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote.

Or consider this statement from Mr. Obama: “Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

The first part of this passage was almost surely intended as a paraphrase of words that John Maynard Keynes wrote as the world was plunging into the Great Depression — and it was a great relief, after decades of knee-jerk denunciations of government, to hear a new president giving a shout-out to Keynes. “The resources of nature and men’s devices,” Keynes wrote, “are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life. … But today we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.”

But something was lost in translation. Mr. Obama and Keynes both assert that we’re failing to make use of our economic capacity. But Keynes’s insight — that we’re in a “muddle” that needs to be fixed — somehow was replaced with standard we’re-all-at-fault, let’s-get-tough-on-ourselves boilerplate.

At least some body in the press didn’t overlook it this time. Krugman caught one more ripped off and just plain wrong idea that I missed. It appears our “new Era of Responsiblity” message came straight from what Dubya called for eight years ago. Oh, dear.

I agree very much with Dr. Krugman that it is not “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” . I’m sure not one single middle or working class American tried really hard to increase their work time and productivity fully expecting that the rewards from that would go directly to the pockets of the very rich. I’m almost certain that none of them expected that their incomes wouldn’t keep up with the cost of living. I personally was not expecting that my tax dollars would go to protecting American oil interests abroad in a costly war in lieu of fixing my roads, improving the education my children receive, and protecting my home and neighbors from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Nope, I just frittered away all the “extra income” I made not preparing for a new age.

Since Obama nabbed the Presidency, we’ve been told to aim lower and buckle our belts. I’m frankly getting a bit tired of made up history and other folks words being wordsmithed into “we may have to give him a second term to get what we want.” then being told to suck it up while the Wall Street Boys get yet another bailout. Where’s the change?

So far, we’ve seen one really easy executive order that even the bluest and yellowest of the dog democrats would’ve done. I think even Joe Lieberman or a President McCain would’ve acted to close Guantanamo. Besides, DiFi just suggested we just pack them up and re-open Alcatrez. I’m sure that’s what these guys need– a change of scenery. I’m still waiting for all the anti family planning measures and anti women’s reproductive health measures to be repealed. So far, we’ve only heard inkles that it’s in the works from unknown sources. The Clinton Administration dropped those immediately The Obama administration couldn’t even get the PA system working in the press room completely. (The Obama Team’s Debut: Not So Ready on Day One.) I don’t know, maybe the Bushies ate all the O’s on their keyboards.

Anyway, read all of Krugman’s op ed piece today. While he quietly jabs the multiplaguarism, he’s not as subtle about asking the question on basically what did we elect ? Did we elect some one to give us parental lectures on responsibility or some one to make tough decisions to solve problems during tough times? Exactly, how long do we have to wait for the details on the really big decisions and not just the low hanging fruit? What about doing what the TARP intended? GM is asking for the second installment, what are you asking from them? Where’s the details on the stimulus plan? It may be your second day in office, but it’s your second year running for president. Surely, you had all this worked on before hand.


7 Comments on “Krugman Gets It Right Again”

  1. Steven Mather says:


    Excellent observations. If people can be convinced that they are to blame, they are more likely to accept their sacrificial lot.

    I am starting to see Obama as a pastiche of whatever is perceived as that which will work to effect a functionable populism. This view explains why some of his perspectives can be contradictory, yet co-exist.

    I think he knows this, given his revealing Axelrodian comment about communicating a powerful message, which you earlier aptly juxtaposed, with his lack of connect with what is really required, which is action to address the situation. It is rarely the case that an address is enough to do so.

    Obama shares much in common with his speeches, as you note above. Each are crafted to take advantage of one of the two characteristics we can be certain that he bears. The first characteristic is the one he has written about himself: people project onto him what they want to see in him.

    The second characteristic he does not write about. It is his willingness to manipulate this projective quality so that people are more likely to see what they want, and his willingness to exploit this quality to achieve his advancement ends.

    I think we are right to be wary.

    Shouldn’t the cost of the organic apple be $5?


  2. Ken Richter says:

    Kudos to Krugman. He is indeed a rigorous fellow and will call anyone out no matter the party. However, by his standard of acknowledging such a distant paraphrase, nearly every statement we make will be acknowledging someone before.

    All this will put a loaf of bread on the table tommorrow. If only we spent as much time trying to get everyone out of this flunk.

  3. Angela says:

    I would beg to differ with one comment. Obama actually wrote this speech himself. So, Mr. cardboard groper actually didn’t write this speech. It was pretty public that Obama wrote it and I personally found it to be mainly forgetable and not soaring rhetoric crap that came out of his mouth from other speech writers. I think it showed his overall lack of ability to string words together in a memorable fashion when the moment actually called for it.

    Interestingly, NPR/OPR said today that Obama’s speech was “less than memorable” but that’s what made it great. Of course, he could have gotten up there and sang the alphabet and NPR would have peed on themselves in glee.

  4. dakinikat says:

    well, IF Obama wrote it, that explains the mistakes, paraphrasing others’ ideas (my guess is that some one has told him to read the Keynes tome) and the parental scolding. Obama took the same scolding tone with black people in his easter sunday speech basically saying they were all behaving irresponsibly towards their children which prompted the famous Jesse Jackson oops of Barrack’s been talking down to black men “off camera” moment on fox. I guess the ultimate grasshopper has to childe all the ants.

  5. ea says:


    I had the same response to the apple cartoon.

  6. Steven Mather says:


    On Friday, a fellow from work told me of a young engineer, who lost his job, is having trouble finding a new job, whose house payments require that both his wife and he are working at their favoured work, and the family plan of selling their home and moving into his parents’ basement, if he doesn’t find good paying work in two months.

    Many of my apprenticeship students are, for the first time, facing the reality that the jobs are gone Their house and car payments do not seem to be acting in the same way.

    At breakfast this morning, I was reading an article about the harsh job cuts that are hitting the oil patch, when an ad came on the radio, care of the local realtors’ association. Using an elderly realtor as the sage prognosticator of what was likely in 2009, they stated that things would turn around by year’s end. They did not say why we should believe this.
    They argued that it is irrational to wait for lower home prices, because choice is king, and, if people do not buy now, there will be fewer houses from which to choose.

    I suppose I need a course in realty logic because, in my universe, the law of non-contradiction holds, and not buying houses means houses remain unsold. That they can say such things and think themselves moral, is consistent with the logic they employ.


  7. dakinikat says:

    Steven: Logic never had anything to do with marketing in my experience–quite the opposite actually.