comments_image Comments

Paul Krugman Talks to Bill Moyers About How to Speed Recovery -- And Why He Doesn't Want to Run the Treasury

"I probably have more influence doing what I do now than I would if I were inside trying to do the court power games that come with any White House...," Krugman said on "Moyers & Company."

Continued from previous page


But he did. He actually did, in fact, make some significant concessions on spending, in order to get a rise in the debt limit. He blinked a little bit on the fiscal cliff. Not as badly as some of us feared, but he did not, in fact, hold out for the full revenue package. And so, some of us are worried. Now, I have to say, I mean, I'm reading my own stage directions here.

People like me are, in part, going after him, warning about the wimping out thing in order to turn that into a self-denying prophesy. That the idea is to make a situation where the president will be aware what people will say about him if he does give in here so it doesn't happen.

BILL MOYERS: More than many economists I read, you keep politics at center stage in writing about the economy. Those are two different narratives in one sense. And yet, you intertwine them as you keep writing and analyzing our situation today. Why is that?

PAUL KRUGMAN: I think we've reached a moment in our history where the extreme nature of our politics and the extreme nature of the economic situation has converged. You know, here we are, on one side we have a once-in-three-generations economic crisis. Right, this is -- starting in 2008, we've been experiencing the crisis that has haunted the nightmares of macro economists since the 1930s. And here it is again.

And this is as dramatic as it gets. It's a situation where you really have to throw out the business as usual. And on the other side, you have this extreme political situation, where a radical movement has taken over one of our two great political parties. And does not-- does not practice politics as usual. Anyone who talks about, "Well, we should make deals the way we used to. What about the Tax Reform of 1986? Why can't we do that again?" And the answer is, well, that might make sense to you if you've been in a Buddhist monastery for the past 20 years.

But that's not today's Republican party. You can't make that kind of deal with them. And so, how can you write about the economics? If you write about economics right now and implicitly adopt the perspective, "Well, let's get reasonable people together in Washington and reach a solution here," you know, you're paying no attention to reality. And, of course, if you talk about the politics without talking about the economics, you're also missing everything. So how could I not be writing about both?

BILL MOYERS: You begin one chapter of your book with a quote from your intellectual mentor, John Maynard Keynes, who writes in his masterpiece The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, "The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live--" and this was the ‘20s and '30s, "are its failure to provide for full employment. And its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes." Well, we don't have full employment today and we have gross inequality in income. So which is failing us, capitalism or democracy or both?

PAUL KRUGMAN: I guess I have a -- here's where I guess I am an optimist, which is that I believe that you can fix both capitalism and democracy. Not to produce a utopia, but to produce a workable solution. And the reason I believe that is we did that for a pretty long stretch.

Western economies in 1933 and western societies in 1933 were in a pretty horrible state. Mass unemployment, gross inequality, collapse of democracy in a number of places. And in the end, by the time 1950 had rolled around, we had managed to create a more equitable, not totally equal, but a more equitable society, with reasonably full employment.

See more stories tagged with: