Saturday, July 14, 2012

Joe Kernen is a Moron.

Joe Kernen has got his shorts in a bunch. He claims that Krugman owes him an apology for dismissing his and Becky Quick's preposterous assertions about the economy as Zombie ideas -- i.e., Krugman speak for ideas that have long since been debunked but are nonetheless continually championed by the right. Krugman owes him nothing of the sort. Joe Kernen is a self righteous prick and an ignoramus to boot. He got what he deserved. Indeed, it was Kernen that fired the opening salvo. Right off the bat Kernen implied that Krugman is so far out there intellectually that he is "almost like a unicorn" and that if Krugman were not there in person before him he would have a hard believing that an actual living person and economist to boot would hold such bizarre views. With an opening remark like that Kernen had no right to expect Krugman to be civil. Not only was Kernen confrontational what he said was absurd. Krugman is not on the intellectual fringe and anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of economics understands this. In fact, that he is not on the fringe of the economics profession may be surmised by taking note of three basic facts. Krugman recently won a Nobel prize. He is a professor at Princeton and he is the co author of a leading first year economics textbook.

Kernen kept on pestering Krugman to name a point at which US government spending as percentage of GDP would be too high. A line of questioning that was continually undermined by Kernen's assertion that "Government spending as percentage of GDP is 25 and we will be at 40 to 50 with entitlements eventually." There is no advanced economy in the world with a level of government spending that is anywhere near 25%and the US is at 40% already. Furthermore, Kernen's implication that any country with a level of government spending over 50 is an economic basket case is absurd. Krugman pointed out that Sweden, for one, is no basket case.

As for Quick, she was even worse. She trotted out one absurdity after another. Most notably, Quick claimed incredibly that "If you are poor you are likely to die before you get your first medicare check. Life expectancy is 65." There is not a single county in the US with a life expectancy that low. A 2008 study found by 2000, the life expectancy for poor Americans was 74.7 years. Of course, in order to fully appreciate the absurdity of such a claim it worth noting that life expectancy is an average and that if one was to look at the medium life span of poor Americans it would be higher. Very few people live more than 30 years longer than the average but there are plenty that die at 44 and younger. Furthermore, someone dying at 6 months of age is going to affect the average a lot more than someone dying at 100.

To say that Krugman can be prickly is an understatement. The Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead observations were spot on. "Krugman is not the most clubbable of fellows. In person he's quite offhand, an odd mixture of shy and intensely self-assured, and with his stocky build and salt-and-pepper beard he conveys the impression of a very clever badger, burrowing away in the undergrowth of economic detail, ready to give quite a sharp bite if you get in his way." However, Paul Krugman's account of the whole affair is spot on.

"Wow. I just did Squawk Box — allegedly about my book, but we never got there. Instead it was one zombie idea after another — Europe is collapsing because of big government, health care is terribly rationed in France, we can save lots of money by denying Medicare to billionaires, on and on.

Among other things, people getting their news from sources like that are probably getting terrible advice about any kind of investment that depends on macroeconomics."