The Agony and the Idiocy

Some one needs to take the shovel away from Joe Scarborough.  He’s about ready to wind up in Siberia with that hole he’s digging himself.  I’ve joe_scarborough_cardnever seen such obsessive compulsive self-destructive behavior.  The man cannot admit he’s wrong and knows nothing about economics.  He also doesn’t appear to know the difference between an economist and a lawyer and a foreign policy expert.  I expect that one of these days he’ll have heart failure then go to his Politico blog to instruct another lawyer on how to do his surgery correctly.  Maybe, he’ll start giving lectures on the origins of the universe to Neil Degrasse Tyson next.

Who knew one man could become apoplectic convincing every one he wasn’t beaten up in a one-sided match of wits by Nobel Prize Winning Economist and ubernerd Paul Krugman over 2 weeks ago?  He’s written the second of two  “I know you are, but what am I?” blog threads at Politico in two days.   What Scarboroughs’s become is your run-of-the-mill internet troll who is now blog stalking Dr. Krugman.  Only “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” would continue to give this pathetic man a platform for what looks like a developing psychological disorder. We thought he’d over done it on Nate Silver and the presidential poll analysis.  But, nope, he’s back and convinced he knows enough about investment and econometrics to analyze the whims of investors.

021613krugman1-blog480Yesterday’s Scarborough rant was so bad and so wrong, I actually stepped into it.  Scarborough relentlessly insists that Krugman is wrong and that all the rest of us economists think he’s wrong too.  To prove his point and to try to get back for being shown up on his show, Mourning Joe used an article written by  Princeton economist and Paul Krugman colleague Alan Blinder.  The only problem is that Blinder is basically saying the same thing Krugman’s been saying all along.   Scarborough not only proved Krugman’s point, he totally missed the point–and the headline–of the Blinder article as well as ascribing the article to the wrong publication.  Mourning Joe must’ve read only a sentence and ignored the rest.  Does that first sentence not read “Today, there is no deficit crisis” or do I need to up my script for my reading glasses?

 Today, there is no deficit crisis. Tomorrow, there will be no deficit crisis. But in ten years, we will have a massive problem of exploding health care costs. Now that’s a crisis to worry about.

But, to Mourning Joe, this means:

But the same could not be said of a fabulously misleading Business Insider post that claimed to list 11 economists who shared Krugman’s debt-denying views. Never mind the fact that most of the links provided actually undercut Krugman’s reckless position and supported my view that the most pressing fiscal crisis is not next year’s deficit but next decade’s debt.

The Business Insider link to an Alan Blinder piece was particularly supportive of the “Morning Joe” panel’s view. Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and Princeton economics professor, warned of “truly horrific problems” caused by long-term debt, health care costs and interest on the debt. Paul Krugman’s Princeton colleague even shared my conclusion that the coming Medicare crisis will be so great that Democrats won’t be able to tax their way out of it.

Far from supporting Mr. Krugman’s extreme position, the link to Professor Blinder’s New Yorker article undercuts his Princeton colleague’s exaggerated “In-the-end-we’ll-all-be-dead” approach to U.S. long-term debt.

Then he added a short list of noneconomists--including Ed Rendell who is paid lobbyist for deficit hawk group Fix the Debt associated with Simpson &  EB who make about $40,000 a speech as travelling austerians–as proof that all economists think Krugman is as extreme on economics as Wayne LaPierre is on gun safety laws.  Considering Krugman’s name resides on a well-known trade model, he’s published in just about every prestigious peer-reviewed journal possible, and he’s got one of the best-selling set of text books in the country right now, I’d say Joe just won’t admit he’s way out of his league.  Krugman calls Scarborough desperate.  Frankly, he gone way beyond that to pathetic to me.

First up, the sad story of Joe Scarborough, whose response to my anti-austerian appearance on his show has been a bizarre campaign to convince the world that absolutely nobody of consequence shares my views. Why is this bizarre? Because while I could be wrong about macroeconomics (although I’m not), it’s just not true, provably not true, that I’m alone in arguing that the current and near-future deficit aren’t problems.

I actually wrote about all of this over two weeks ago (1/30/2013) when the incident first happened, so it seems all deja vu to be at this again.  But let me tie this to a bigger problem again.   Hillary Clinton left the Benghazi hearings uttering something profound.  These hearings were some of the more bizarre things I’d ever watched until the Hagel hearings started and the obsession with conspiracy theories went nuclear.  Clinton said some ‘‘just will not live in an evidence-based world’.  This includes Joe Scarborough who thinks his “analysis” in his latest little short blog blurb shows Krugman as being wrong, wrong wrong. This is what he thinks is a “TA DA”! moment.  I would expect better analysis from Macro 101 students.  I would also expect any student in basic statistics or econometrics to have a hey day with his methodology which doesn’t even broach the high school level.  But, he’s real proud of it and thinks it puts Krugman in his place.

Investors may be growing skittish about U.S. government debt levels and the disordered state of U.S. fiscal policymaking.

From the beginning of 2002, when U.S. government debt was at its most recent minimum as a share of GDP, to the end of 2012, the dollar lost 25 percent of its value, in price-adjusted terms, against a basket of the currencies of major trading partners. This may have been because investors fear that the only way out of the current debt problems will be future inflation.

More troubling for the future is that private domestic investment—the fuel for future economic growth—shows a strong negative correlation with government debt levels over several business cycles dating back to the late 1950s. Continuing high debt does not bode well in this regard.

I can tell you that the minute all the econ and finance professors who blog get a hold of this, there will be laughter so loud that it will leave the blogosphere and escape to a permanent home in the universal annals of Pathos.  Frankly, I can already see using this in a first level, midterm statistics class, corporate finance class or economics class.  How many wrong things can you point to in this analysis in just 45 minutes?  Go!

Joe probably eyeballed domestic investment numbers and debt levels then labelled it correlation so he can jump an infinite number of sharks to go AHA!!!!  GOTCHA PROFESSOR MORIARTY errr Krugman!!   He also appears to be blissfully unaware of Fed policy concerning the dollar which basically sets the supply of our currency and the fact that supply interacts with the demand for our currency to set exchange rates. Oh, and the dollar’s been up against the major currencies (especially the EURO) since Dubya left office, so one of his arguments is just factually wrong.  The USD has been up against the Yen for well over a year and then up then flat against the Pound Sterling for years so I’m not sure which currency he’s worried about in that basket.  It’s even been flat against the Cayman Islands Dollar which I’m sure is more of interest to him than anything else.  It’s way down against the Chinese Yuan but then, I wouldn’t consider that a problem at all.

I’m tempted to go there and there and all the places I  could go with this, but  I won’t because most of you probably don’t want a stats lecture and I don’t have all day.  Let me just say that there are a lot of factors that drive investment, which is the least logical component of the national income accounts; and to single out one possible factor without controlling for any of the other factors is a fool’s errand. It shows complete ignorance of investment, finance, and economics so we can add a few more things to the list called what Joe doesn’t know.  Actually, worse than that is that he appears to have gotten this blather from an anonymous “senior economist” from the Rand Corporation.  Is he misquoting another economist or did some one actually write this for him?  Worrying either way!!

Joe, however, is more importantly a symptom of the much bigger problem identified by our former Madam Secretary.  We have an entire political party that insists it’s right when clearly, the overwhelming amount of evidence says its wrong.  For this analysis, I’m closing with something by Kevin Drum who occasionally can find the nut. We deserve a better press.  We deserve better than Joe Scarborough littering up the air waves under the guise of “news” instead of misguided memes and propaganda.

It seems to me that something has happened over the past three months: the nonpartisan media has finally started to internalize the idea that the modern Republican Party has gone off the rails. Their leaders can’t control their backbenchers. They throw pointless temper tantrums about everything President Obama proposes. They have no serious ideas of their own aside from wanting to keep taxes low on the rich. They’re serially obsessed with a few hobby horses — Fast & Furious! Obamacare! Benghazi! — that no one else cares about. Their fundraising is controlled by scam artists. They’re rudderless and consumed with infighting. They’re demographically doomed.

Obviously these are all things that we partisan hacks in the blogosphere have been yapping about forever. But the mainstream press, despite endless conservative kvetching to the contrary, has mostly stuck with standard shape-of-the-world-differs reporting.

Recently, though, my sense is that this has shifted a bit. The framing of even straight new [sic] reports feels just a little bit jaded, as if veteran reporters just can’t bring themselves to pretend one more time that climate change is a hoax, Benghazi is a scandal, and federal spending is spiraling out of control. It’s getting harder and harder to pretend that the same old shrieking over the same old issues is really newsworthy.discuss!!!

This brings me back to Boston Boomer’s Valentine’s Day morning rant based on a phone discussion we had the night before.  Why-oh-Why am I writing about this again?   Why-oh-why can’t we put this kind of nonsense to bed like all sane people who know the earth is not flat, an apple will fall to the ground if dropped from a tree, and if you every one stops spending and only a few families have decent incomes, the economy will contract and say stay contracted? Don’t folks like Scarborough and the AEI know we buried Say’s Law  Failed Hypothesis a  long time ago?  (Kinda like we buried that zombie Laffer curve! But some folks just want to believe the universe revolves around the earth and the entire set up is only a few thousand years old. Hmmm, like Mark Rubio.)

I’m not sure that last question was rhetorical or not, but hey, it’s a thread and there’s a discussion, so discuss amongst yourselves …

Here’s the topic:

Joe Scarborough, pathetic or desperate?  or   Why oh Why can’t we Have a better press corps? Joe Scarborough edition

or  The Deficit Hawk Delusion: What the Krugman-Scarborough Slugfest Is Really About?


38 Comments on “The Agony and the Idiocy”

  1. RalphB says:

    Your post and Derek Thompson’s article are both great. Thanks for stepping up again.

  2. RalphB says:

    A better press corps is becoming a necessity as the one we have is worse than useless.

  3. dakinikat says:

    From the washington monthly:

    LOL it’s basically ON!!!

    Political Animal
    Joe Scarborough Is a total hack (but don’t take my word for it)

    By Samuel Knight

    In his latest salvo in his back-and-forth with Paul Krugman over the significance of the national debt, Joe Scarborough, writing in POLITICO today, displayed such a foul misunderstanding about economics, Krugman must have choked on his oatmeal laughing as he read it.

    …It also may have been because space aliens raided the Treasury in the dead of night because Nicholas Cage and Chuck Norris were off duty, having been contracted by the Navy to fight a flotilla of krakens in the Caribbean the week before. Scarborough may as well have argued that, because it would have displayed a better understanding of how foreign exchange markets actually work. The value of the dollar is determined by foreign countries’ demand for it and our supply of foreign exchange. And while foreign investors in 2002 may have begun to fear widening debt that was eventually caused by a recession in 2008 — despite the fact that the housing bubble was far from inflated in 2002 and that these investors eventually failed to foresee the crash itself — it’s more likely that the value of the dollar fell because our current account deficit essentially doubled between 2002 and 2006 (but don’t take my word for it).

    Scarborough continued to make arguments that could be debunked by a remedial high school economics teacher shortly after:

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s like he’s rolling steel balls in his fist while murming “it was the strawberries” … and he finally admitted to citing Neu without attribution …

      Joe Scarborough ‏@JoeNBC

      My Latest Politico Post: Paul Krugman’s Morning Joe Obsession — Saturday Edition
      View summary
      7 hrs Joe Scarborough Joe Scarborough ‏@JoeNBC

      Paul Krugman is wrong. We cannot wait until 2025 to tackle Medicare reform.
      7 hrs Joe Scarborough Joe Scarborough ‏@JoeNBC

      Here’s the embarrassing blog: …. Here’s the RAND senior economist’s article:
      7 hrs Joe Scarborough Joe Scarborough ‏@JoeNBC

      A hilarious blog says says my arguments could be debunked by a remedial teacher. But the words belong to a RAND senior economist. Whoops!
      7 hrs Joe Scarborough Joe Scarborough ‏@JoeNBC

      Here the RAND senior economist cited in my @Politico piece and his article.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Good grief! I knew Scarborough was an egomaniac, but this is beyond belief. Does he honestly believe he knows more about economics than Paul Krugman? How can NBC keep him on the payroll after this?

  5. bostonboomer says:


    America’s fiscal predicament is serious. The problem has become obvious in the last few years, but it has been building for decades, largely the result of promises of extensive social benefits without a corresponding willingness to pay for them.

    What about fighting wars without the willingness to pay for them? I couldn’t find anything about that in Scarborough’s screed. As for Social Security, it is paid for by payroll taxes, but I guess Scarborough doesn’t know that either.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Boy, that’s a really long excerpt that Scarborough plagiarized from C. Richard Neu. Then when he admits he copied several paragraphs, he doesn’t even provide the writer’s name or a link! MSNBC should fire him for that alone.

      • dakinikat says:

        Politico should be talking to its lawyers. I’ve Neu were so inclined, he could probably own them. He shouldn’t be able to just use stuff without proper attribution. Did he think folks couldn’t google it? That’s a form of plagiarism!

  6. bostonboomer says:


    The debt crisis is real and waiting another decade to fix it is not an option. Anyone who suggests it is operates well outside the mainstream of where serious economists reside.

    Where did Krugman say we should wait a decade to deal with the “debt crisis?” Krugman has been arguing for economic growth vs. austerity. Where’s the evidence that inflation is a problem? For Pete’s sake, Scarborough is even stupider than I thought he was yesterday–and that’s really saying something. What a moron.

  7. Fannie says:

    You know, the person I’ve learned from is Dak, she happens to know first hand about a “storm coming that surely make fools of everybody.” She’s a survivor and she counted the days and the nights of the horrific storm, and can tell you who the fool was (doing a fine job Brownie). Joe saying the coming crisis will so great, just reminds me the fool that got up in front of tee vee and talked about the “Great Mushroom Cloud” is coming, and followed up by another fool that lead us into the Iraq War, and declared Mission Accomplished. If I am going to listen to somebody predicting a big storm, it will be the weatherman. Not Joe Weatherman. If I going to listen to the about Benghazie, I’ll listen to Hillary Clinton who clearly outlines the evidence, and then reminds us that some fools will not live in an evidence based world. So when it comes to economic, I’d prefer to source Paul Krugman, who’s has spent a life time, and has written books and scholarly research, and articles than refer to the republican politician. Who in likeness of his party, will do anything to prevent our Pres. from accomplishing his goals, the people’s goals.

    Joe says he’s been polite and engaging and entertaining, oh yeah we’ve watched him stay the course when it comes to Mika and and his well mannered sexism. Maybe Joe’s looking to become the exclusive employee of MSNBC, and he’s shopping for a bonus, a raise, and surely you can see he is supposely the bright bulb, and sharpest knife in the box.

    I’m ready for a fresh new face at MSNBC, I’m growing thin in the patience department.

    I never tire of Dak, who has for years, been explaining to us that what gets this economy moving is people buying stuff, and the fact that not enough people are working, and those who are are not making enough to live on. We known from her that minimum wages will not kill jobs, and that we need to replace the jobs that have been lost, and am not refering to coal mining jobs, but other jobs that will replace it. Is there uncertainity, yes we understand the risk, but the big picture is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, and stop with the layers of bullcrap and work to get something done.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Very well said, Fannie. I simply can’t watch Morning Joe. Scarborough should be fired, and Mika should either do something less challenging or be let go too. She’s completely useless on the morning show.

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks Fannie !! I appreciate it. I hope MSNBC has thinks about all of this. Scarborough went ape shit on Nate Silver, then on Mika, now he’s totally over the top with this Krugman thing. Plus, he’s basically committed a form of plagiarism on Politico. At what point does he become a liability?

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Joe has been talkin-out-his-ass for a long while. His commentary has become a daily monologue of never ending “me, me, me, me, me”. He reminds me of a spoiled child who must have his way, must be “right” and must have everyone’s attention in the process. MSNBC needs to rid itself of it’s Morning Plague.

  8. mjames says:

    Reason and rationality have no meaning to Joe and his ilk, who include most Republicans as far as I can tell and most of the media. That’s why they never stop. Proving something to them logically means nothing. They don’t think in those terms. They are walking contradictions: yelling for freedom from government intrusion yet sticking a probe up a woman’s vagina; screaming about the deficit while not bothering to fund the Iraq war; fighting to lower taxes for the wealthy while their own paychecks (if they’re lucky enough to have them) cover less and less of essential costs. It’s useless to try to engage in communication. There is no communication. End the filibuster. Redistrict every district in the country ASAP. Ignore them. Make fun of them to their faces: climate change, the Iraq war, the Catholic church, homophobia, misogyny. It really is quite easy. They are wrong on everything. They won’t understand, but maybe some regular voters out there will.

    • dakinikat says:

      It just keeps getting worse. We seem to be reaching a critical mass of some kind because most voters realized it was a sham but we’re still at this place were some of the institutions are changing yet. I suppose it’s the role of all that money.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    The Alan Blinder article that Scarborough keeps referencing talks about rising health care costs as the engine driving the budget, but he never even mentions Medicare. I assume that’s because Medicare has such low overhead and it’s problems could be solved by slowing the growth of health care costs overall.

    In plain English, the costs of everything on which the federal government spends money except health care and interest — and that includes Social Security, defense, you name it — are projected to fall over time as a share of GDP. The message is clear: America doesn’t have a generalized spending problem that requires severe cuts across the board. We have, instead, a massive problem of exploding health care costs.

    Any serious long-run deficit-reduction plan must concentrate on health care cost containment. Simpson and Bowles knew this, of course. But they didn’t know how to “bend the cost curve” sufficiently. Neither does anyone else. So they just recommended a target–holding the growth rate of health care spending to GDP growth plus 1 percent. In short, Simpson and Bowles, brave as they were, punted on the most critical issue….

    If we can somehow solve the health care cost problem, we will also solve the long-run deficit problem. But if we can’t control health care costs, the long-run deficit problem is insoluble. Simple, right? Impossible? We’d better hope not.

    • dakinikat says:

      That’s because Medicare’s not the problem in and of itself. There could be some improvements but the basic problem is that the health care market is totally screwed up and not functional. Medicare is actually better costwise and efficiency wise when compared to private insurance plans. Whenever there’s a market with third party payers, that’s a failed market. That’s why health care delivery is much better in the places with single payer. It creates efficiencies and at least brings about the lowest costs and the biggest risk pool. The roll for private insurance companies should be specialty insurance and gap programs. Then, one big payer can negotiate better for prices and services as well as control better for risks. It’s really very simple but we have to make sure that political donors can profit off of everything from jailing people to dying people.

      The best examples of what not to do come from my governor. Here’s a good read to show you what the vision of giving away all public goods to political donors brings:

      Bobby Jindal Believes in Economic Cleansing

      They basically want to kill off poor people or drive them someplace else. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them be happy to send americans to mexico as long as the rich benefit.

  10. dakinikat says:

    Here’s a good article on why Social Security does not have anything to do with the Federal Debt or Deficit.

    For those used to thinking about Social Security as just another spending program and Social Security contributions as just another tax, the fact that Social Security does not and cannot contribute to the federal debt and deficit may seem counterintuitive, but it is true.

  11. RalphB says:

    Asking for defense cuts

    The looming budget sequestration imposes almost $50 billion in cuts on the Defense budget this year. It’s a terrible idea — and I’m for it.

    This hatchet job trims not just fat, but muscle and bone, too. It’s going to be ugly. But as I’ve watched the Defense Department pull shameful stunts and listened to congressional blather attempting to block sequestration, this defense hawk has become one irate taxpayer.

    The last straw came earlier this month when our Navy ostentatiously cancelled the deployment of the supercarrier USS Harry S Truman to the Persian Gulf, crying poverty. That’s like Donald Trump claiming he can’t afford a cab.

    I embrace a little austerity for the Pentagon. The DoD has way too much money to waste now. Spend a little of it someplace worthwhile.

    • dakinikat says:

      We sure could use that peace dividend. That would help the budget situation a lot plus we could spend money here instead.

      • RalphB says:

        The costs of high tech military hardware is ridiculously high, plus supporting all those generals in their lavish lifestyles when most of them are only uniformed lobbyists for some program. That doesn’t even take into account the 70+ golf courses and a few expensive resorts owned by the Pentagon or the half billion a year spent on marching bands.

        Yes we could use a peace dividend and it’s overdue.

  12. RalphB says:

    Joseph Stiglitz in the NYT … Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

  13. RalphB says:

    Wonkette: John McCain’s Hurt Feelings Will Run Your Life Forever, America

    Hey Americans! Do you like governance by snit? OF COURSE YOU DO. What country wouldn’t want its fate determined by petty grievances and your leaders generally acting like whiny little bitchcakes towards one another? We sure do love it! USA!

    Finally hit the proper tone of respect from Grumpy.

  14. RalphB says:

    Raw Story: Bay Area stargazers abuzz after spotting meteor overhead

    Northern California residents spotted the second meteor over Earth in less than 24 hours Friday night, KGO-TV reported.

    This meteor, seen just hours after the one that injured more than 1,200 people after crashing to the ground in Russia, did not cause any damage. Astronomer Gerald McKeegan, who works for the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, called it a “sporadic meteor,” a relatively harmless event which usually takes place away from populated areas, but can result in as much as 15,000 tons of debris falling to Earth per year. McKeegan also said the two events were not related.

    Last night’s sighting was also the second one in the Bay Area in less six months, following reports of a bright fireball streaking through the region in October 2012 and producing “loud booms” as it passed.

    with video

  15. ANonOMouse says:

    Joe Scarborough is both “pathetic” and “desperate”. I suppose we could just call him Pathetically Desperate or Desperately Pathetic. He simply can’t accept the fact that Krugman soundly kicked his ass and left him in the dust. In true narcissist fashion Joe’s trapped in his obsession with being right to the point of making a fool of himself over and over again.