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Have Geithner's Zombie Ideas Won? Paul Krugman on the "Cash for Trash" Program

Krugman on Geithner's toxic assets program: "It’s the zombie that you keep killing, and it just keeps coming back."

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Now, the only thing you can say is that if we’re going to be doing this, then we do need to look hard at who else we’re rescuing, and we need to say, “Look, you guys have to make some sacrifices as part of this, as well.” What we’re seeing right now is that it’s basically all free money from the taxpayer with no quid pro quo . And that gets to the heart of the dispute over what our policy is right now.

Goodman: Finally, Paul Krugman, has this made you reevaluate your support of NAFTA, the whole push for sort of unregulated globalization, why so many people took to the streets in the Battle of Seattle, for example?

Krugman: Yeah, the answer is no. There’s a huge distinction between letting actual trade in goods, stuff, real physical stuff, proceed, which is terribly important to the poorest countries, above all—when somebody asks, you know, why am I in favor of, more or less, free trade, my answer is, I’m really thinking about countries like Bangladesh, which literally are only able to keep their heads above water by their ability to sell labor-intensive stuff, thanks to their low wages. It’s really critical.

I’ve never been a fan of unregulated movement of capital internationally. This was a big fight back in the late ’90s between some of us who say, you know, “We need to regulate, we need to limit this stuff,” and people who said, “Oh, no. You have to trust the markets.” And what’s—it’s the hot money that’s the issue here; it’s not the auto parts from Mexico. That’s a different discussion. It’s the hot money from all over the world that is the crisis right now.

Goodman: And the UN panel that will next week recommend the world ditch the dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies?

Krugman: You know, there have been millions of plans—well, I’m exaggerating, but there have been many plans along those lines. That’s not a decision that can be taken by an international body. The dollar is the reserve currency because people think it’s the safest place to park their money. The euro is a natural competitor, except that the Europeans are as messed up in their policies as we are, if not more so, right now. But the way to deal with that is not to have some body agree that we’re going to do something different, but to simply have the world—have the natural competitors to the dollar make themselves worthy of the competition.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!

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