Why Isn’t Paul Krugman in the Obama Cabinet?

I sit and wonder about the people President Obama chose to help him save America from ruin. Many of them are the same people whose wrong-headed ideas helped precipitate the financial crisis that caused the global economic collapse.

Meanwhile, sitting in the wings were people with fresh ideas, people whose credibility was well established, people like Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman.

I am sure many of you have read Paul Krugman’s syndicated columns. From his retreat in the U.S. Virgin Islands (when he isn’t conducting classes at Princeton), his brilliant wife, Robin Wells, at his side, the 57-year-old scholar sharply illuminates the economic and social challenges of the day in a down-to-earth way that the simplest of minds can grasp.

(This New Yorker photograph by Tina Barney shows Krugman and his wife, Robin Wells, at home with their cats, Doris Lessing and Albert Einstein.)

Sunday’s New York Times column is especially compelling:

www.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/opinion/05krugman.html

Krugman takes on the creeps in Congress who blocked extension of unemployment benefits, and he demolishes their mean spirited excuses for doing so. Here’s a sample of the convincing common sense Krugman offers:

One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

But won’t extending unemployment benefits worsen the budget deficit? Yes, slightly — but as I and others have been arguing at length, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided.

I find it liberating to read Krugman. This passage, for example, left me chuckling and nodding in agreement:

There was a time when everyone took it for granted that unemployment insurance, which normally terminates after 26 weeks, would be extended in times of persistent joblessness. It was, most people agreed, the decent thing to do.

But that was then. Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with five job seekers for every job opening, with the average spell of unemployment now at 35 weeks. Yet the Senate went home for the holiday weekend without extending benefits. How was that possible?

The answer is that we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused. Nothing can be done about the first group, and probably not much about the second. But maybe it’s possible to clear up some of the confusion.

How true! America today is facing a massive assault from “the heartless, the clueless and the confused” – manipulated by the greedy Svengalis who stand to profit from a perverted society.

And, sadly, America’s embattled president seems uncharacteristically oblivious to the powerful resource that Krugman would offer.

If you have the president’s ear – or know someone who does – it’s urgent that you beg Obama to recruit Paul Krugman before it’s too late, before the battle is forever lost.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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