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.

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