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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2003 / 9 Tishrei, 5764

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

A columnist unravels | Paul Krugman is probably not having a good week.

Krugman is the perennially grumpy op-ed columnist for the so-called "newspaper of record," The New York Times, and author of the just-out best seller, "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century" (W.W. Norton and Co.). The book, whose premise essentially is that George Bush inaugurated the end of America, easily unravels.

Krugman's book is a repeat -- literally -- of his Times op-ed columns, which tend to center on the evil of George Bush, the evil of everybody who has met George Bush and the evils of capitalism.

Of course, he's added an introduction which centers on the evil of George Bush, the evil of everybody who has met George Bush, and the evils of capitalism. Oh, am I repeating myself?

Krugman seems to see the Clinton years as a sort of Utopia, but that with the election of Bush "... it all went wrong." He says his book is here to explain how and why it's possible "for a country with so much going for it to go downhill so fast." He writes that his book is "in particular an indictment of George W. Bush." He argues that the "revolutionary power" in charge in Washington doesn't like America as it is, and these folks may really want to make American elections "only a formality."


Needless to say, Krugman describes an America that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't recognize (except maybe those in ivory towers like Princeton, where Krugman teaches economics).

Anyway, here's why Krugman may be having a bad week, and why no one should claim too loudly, as Krugman does, to have a crystal clear crystal ball. Krugman's life-thesis largely revolves around the coming economic catastrophe, caused by the Bush tax cuts. Only, news flash: those tax cuts are causing economic growth instead.

Here's what appeared on page 2 (nowhere near the op-ed section) of Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: "The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose by a robust .8 percent in August from July, following a .9 percent increase the month before." If sustained through September it will mean "the largest quarterly spending increase since 1985."

That's right, 1985. The Journal quotes Steven Wood, an economist with Insight Economics, saying that "massive tax relief has boosted disposable income and real consumer spending." The Journal reports that calculations by Mark Zandi, chief economist with, show it wasn't just the tax rebate checks which hit mailboxes in August causing this good news, but the fact that personal income tax rates have been lowered too.

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The question of whether or not consumers would spend their tax savings to any effect has now been settled.


But wait --- what about employment? Hasn't George Bush lost us almost three million jobs - and counting - as Krugman and other liberals claim?

No. The real story, which even Krugman's own newspaper the New York Times recently reported, is that government job figures rely on the increasingly faulty Establishment Survey, in which a sample of existing businesses are asked how many people they employ. But this count completely misses new businesses and the self-employed where the job growth often is, and also means that if someone leaves two part-time jobs to take one good job, for instance, it's still counted as a "job loss."

The other government measurement, which we are beginning to hear more about because many economists believe it paints a clearer jobs picture, is the Household Survey. It looks at a rotating sample of real households and asks its members whether they are working. Under this count, America has added 1.8 million new jobs to the economy since January 2002, notes economist Donald Luskin. He is the chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics and author of the forthcoming book, "The Conspiracy to keep You Poor and Stupid."

In the end, though, Krugman is really just a symptom of a larger "doom and gloom" mentality which has plagued the Left in this country for decades.

They honestly don't seem to like the fact that America, as a country, as an economy, or as an idea, is dynamic, versatile, adaptive, innovative and, egads, most of all successful.

One gets the impression, from Krugman and so many on the Left, that they really are rooting for a certain level of chaos and economic uncertainty in America.

How else to justify their pet goal of ever more government involvement in our lives?

But whatever their agenda, for the Left to so consistently hang on to its seemingly visceral animosity toward America shows that they may, in the end, be the ones unraveling.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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