I read the New York Times only rarely; mostly I go to its website to read the opinion columnists, and occasionally I scan the rest of the site on Sundays. But two days ago, I happened across an abandoned copy of the Friday's NYT on paper, left behind by some thoughtful soul at the Pentagon. When I got to the editorial page, I found these two articles there--one by David Brooks and one by Paul Krugman. Interestingly enough, they were arranged as if mirrored images of each other down the left and right sides of the page respectively--but the messages contained in each could not have been more different.
Both columns speak to the current economic doldrums besetting the US economy--but that's where the similarities end. Krugman's column focuses on what can be done to get the economy moving (by government, naturally) because of the failure of the Obama economic stimulus. Why did the stimulus fail? Why, because it was too small (of course). Here is Krugman on that point. "In the case of the Obama administration, officials seem loath to admit that the original stimulus was too small. True, it was enough to limit the depth of the slump — a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says unemployment would probably be well into double digits now without the stimulus — but it wasn’t big enough to bring unemployment down significantly." How does one know that this is true--that the failure of the stimulus was in its modesty? Why, because Krugman says so--and he's a Nobel Prize Winner. And by the way, who are you to question Professor Krugman?
David Brooks on the other hand, handicapped of course without a white tie and tails moment of his own, instead puts forward some data--or more correctly, a case study. In it, he contrasts the German economy (humming along at 9% growth rate) to ours. The point Brooks makes is that Germany chose NOT to engage in stimulative government spending (as a percentage of GDP, Germany's stimulus was 1/4 the size of ours); rather, Germany decided to act like an adult and impose spending restraint. Here's Brooks: "Over the past few years, the Germans have built on their advantages. They effectively support basic research and worker training. They have also taken brave measures to minimize their disadvantages. As an editorial from the superb online think tank e21 reminds us, the Germans have recently reduced labor market regulation, increased wage flexibility and taken strong measures to balance budgets."
Brooks takes this one, hands down. Krugman's economic analysis continues to be heavily influenced by his political biases. While he may be considered an effective political columnist, his insights on the macro-economy are simply derivative of the latest liberal talking points.