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Saturday, January 10, 2004

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The New York Times repeats Krugman's lies as news.

From today's business section:

"Friday's report on unemployment in December was much weaker than either the administration or most independent economists had predicted. Job creation was virtually nil, and the unemployment rate declined only because the labor force shrank by 309,000 workers. Many of those were people who had simply become too discouraged to keep looking for work."

From the Department of Labor -- the source of the statistics employment discussed in the article -- the number of discouraged workers in each of the last three months:

October: 462 thousand
November: 457 thousand
December: 433 thousand

Lie, error, call it what you will. Yes, the "the labor force shrank by 309,000 workers." But to attribute this to "people who had simply become too discouraged to keep looking for work" is flat-out wrong. The number of such people shrank in December, and thus acted to mitigate the shrinkage of the labor force, not to explain it -- yet the Times gets so specific about it as to say it explains "many" of the people who left the labor force.

Calling Dr. Okrent... Dr. Okrent... Dr. Okrent to surgery... immediately!

Correction [11:33 pm]: In the original posting, the discouraged worker figures above in thousands were given as being in millions. This editing error has no impact on the cogency of my point.

Update [1/11/2004]... Thanks to all of you on the email alert list who noticed this error and pointed it out. I'm really gratified that so many people read so carefully. But then again, you guys would, wouldn't you!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:05 PM | link  

COVER-UP OR CONFESSION AT THE TIMES?    Robert Musil catches the New York Times in a stealthy display of post analysis-as-news regret.

January 9: "Supreme Court Expands Review of 'Enemy Combatant' Cases" by David Stout:

"The Bush administration had urged the Supreme Court not to hear the Hamdi case, so the announcement today represented a sharp rebuff to the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy."
January 10: "Justices to Hear Case of Citizen Held as Enemy" by Linda Greenhouse:
"Though the administration's critics were quick to read favorable tea leaves in the latest development, it is equally plausible to assume that justices across the ideological spectrum simply concluded that the cases raised issues of historic dimension meriting the court's consideration."
Now Mr. Okrent... shouldn't that sentence from Greenhouse's story really have been on the corrections page? And is this not an admission by the Times that it counts its news pages as among "the administration's critics"?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:10 PM | link  

AN OKRENT ENCOUNTER OF THE AMBIGUOUS KIND    Reader John Schedler sends along this exchange with New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent, concerning his column last week about the foreshortening of President Bush's statement about gay marriage. Okrent's response seems to me to be crafted to make it hard to say for sure whether he's agreeing with Schedler or brushing him off.
"Mr. Okrent:

"I was one of those not so upset by this particular misquote. It was indeed a mistake, but one that did not misrepresent the president's position all that much.

"Your explanation made things very much worse, I'm afraid. First, the reporter did not listen [sic] or watch the actual words before reporting it? Is all NYT reporting 4th or 5th hand? Even when the actual words are so readily accessible?

"And then there is Bumiller's previous story. All Ms. Seelye & Ms. Elder have done is pass the buck to Ms. Bumiller (not a very honorable thing in itself). To me, the reader, they're all the NYT & it looks like a bunch of monkey's pointing at each other. The impression I get is that these reporters & editors are puerile, careless & partisan. I did not get the impression that any of them felt any contrition or believed there was any error. [I meant it when I said 'puerile,' as this sounds like the excusifying of an adolescent, not the admission of an unusual mistake by a mature professional.]

"What you should have said is: it was a mistake that should not have happened. Ms Bumiller did some bad reporting & it was compounded by still worse reporting Seelye & Elder, one of which is an editor, no less. The NYT is institutionally mistaken because its fact checkers missed the mistake both times. Not saying that is what worries me."

Okrent's reply:
"Dear Mr. Schedler,

"ALL mistakes 'should not have happened.' I believe that goes without saying.

"Thanks for writing,

"Daniel Okrent
Public Editor"


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:54 PM | link  

Friday, January 09, 2004

DELONG GOODBYE    From a reader:
"Brad DeLong has resigned from the Truth Squad. I had helped to provoke a discussion at Brad DeLong's comments section regarding the Krugman criticisms you recently raised . I didn't know the answers, but I did ask the questions. Some posters there provided terrific insights into federal labor statistics. I thought we were having a high level debate, without insults or rancor. I tried posting a comment tonight at DeLong's site and found a message, 'You are not allowed to post comments.' Of course, it's his site and he has the right to ban anyone for any reason."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:52 AM | link  

DID KRUGMAN'S WHISTLE BLOW?    John Hinderaker at Power Line puts a finer point on my Krugman critique: what did he know and when did he know it?
"...when he was serving as an adviser to Enron, Krugman certainly knew that its executives were eligible to receive stock options, and he undoubtedly knew how they were treated for accounting purposes. Did he do anything at the time to protest what he now views as a corrupt (although nearly universal) practice? Or did he just pocket his $37,500 in silence? Oddly enough, Krugman's column makes no mention of his having opposed Enron's options program when he was in a position to actually do something about it."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:50 AM | link  

WAIGHT RES-PONDS my critique of Lying In Ponds' kid-gloves treatment of Krugman.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:29 AM | link  


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:51 AM | link  

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Paul Krugman and Enron. Old news? Or is it? Everything that's old is new again, now that the New York Times' "public editor" Daniel Okrent is on the scene.

In today's Times column, Krugman once again skates on thin ice by writing about Enron with no disclosure of his involvement as paid member of Enron's advisory board. Two questions arise for the Okrent -- questions of fundamental credibility for the Times that Okrent ought to be addressing.

First, Krugman writes in the very first sentence of today's column that before Enron's fraud was revealed it was "then one of America's most admired companies." Are readers entitled to know that Krugman himself was one of Enron's admirers, once writing an homage to the company for Fortune in May 1999, and also that Krugman was on Enron's payroll at the time? Would that knowledge not make a difference to readers in evaluating Krugman's moralizing judgments of his ideological opponents in this column?

Second, if readers are entitled to know about Krugman's involvement with Enron, then how much disclosure is enough? Krugman did disclose his Enron role in the Fortune article. He disclosed it in his January 24, 2001 Times column, the first to mention the company (saying of Ken Lay at the same time, still in admiring mode apparently, "I presume that he is an honorable man"). The paper mentioned it en passant deep in a news story on January 17, 2002 when Krugman's involvement became a scandal. He's raised it twice more in Times columns, most recently on May 29, 2002, by way of claiming his critics on the right are smearing him. Sounds like a lot of disclosure. But shouldn't the reader who has come to Krugman subsequent to May 2002 also get the disclosure?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:39 AM | link  

Thursday, January 08, 2004

1,000 HEADLINES IN 460 DAYS    And now you can vote for your favorite. Hard to choose, though, between "Andy Dick kills son's hamster" and "Woman found dead with arrow in head." .

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:16 PM | link  

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David Brooks, once again, out-classes Paul Krugman, stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for a gaffe in Tuesday's column.  This is how it's done, in a memo from New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent published on Poynter. Compare this to how Krugman and his public editor handled issues of ant-Semitism recently.

"Subject: Re: brooks

"Dear Mr. Murphy,

"Thank you for your message. Because many readers have raised concerns about this column, I asked Mr. Brooks for his response. I reproduce it here:

"'For what its worth, that neo being short for Jewish was meant as a joke. Nothing more. Most of the people who get labeled as Neocons are Jewish, so I was just sort of playing off that.

"'As for me accusing anybody who accuses neocons of being anti-Semitic, there are a few issues here. First, I wasn't saying anything about people who criticize neocons' ideas. The column wasn't about that at all. It was about people who imagine there is a shadowy conspiracy behind Bush policy. Second, I explicitly say that only a subset of the people who talk about the shadow conspiracy find Jewishness a handy explanation for everything. I have no idea how large a subset that is, but judging from my e-mail it is out there.

"'So I was careful not to say that Bush or neocon critics are anti-Semitic. I was careful not to say that all conspiracy theorists are anti-Semitic.

"'I am still on the learning curve here, and I do realize that mixture of a crack with a serious accusation was incredibly stupid on my part. Please do pass along to readers that I'm aware of how foolish I was to write the column in the way I did.' -- David Brooks

"Speaking for myself, I'm grateful that you brought your concerns to my attention.

"Yours sincerely,
"Daniel Okrent"

This stand-up performance by Brooks and Okrent makes it all the more conspicuous that I have had no substantive response from Okrent on the matter of the lies in Krugman's December 30, 2003 column that has been raised by me and others. How bad a screw-up does Krugman have to make before Okrent will lay it on the line without Krugman giving him the kind of cooperation that Brooks has given here?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:04 PM | link  

STYLE 1, SUBSTANCE 0 AT THE TIMES    As reader Mike Keller puts it, "he's getting testy."
"Dear Mr. Keller,

"As I said before, the standards editor agreed that it was an improper use of the word in the lead. A note has been circulated to the staff.

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor"

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:10 PM | link  

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Still not a word of substantive response from the New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent on my proof of Paul Krugman's lies in his December 30, 2003 column. But the "public editor's" office has not been entirely idle. No, not idle -- just evasive. Here's an exchange between a reader and Okrent's assistant on a Times article published on Tuesday, covering the "Bush in 30 Seconds" TV commercial contest run by the liberal activist organization In the meantime, I continue to await Okrent's response to me, and continue to hope that he will be a positive agent for change... despite this kind of BS.

To The Public Editor:

The attached article states the following in its opening paragraph: "It sounded like a fun way to expand participation in this year's presidential election, at least for those opposed to re-electing President Bush. The left-leaning Internet group sponsored a contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds," inviting people to submit television advertisements about Mr. Bush, with the best to be determined by a vote of visitors to the site."

Nowhere in the article, however, does it explicitly state that the contest was was held "for fun". Wes Boyd certainly made no "fun" -ny references. If a competition, the winner of which is determined by celebrities, is "fun" by definition, I'm certainly not picking that up.

Therefore, my question is: To whom is the contest "fun"? From my reading of the article, I can only conclude that it is "fun" to The New York Times. I think the paper ought to clear that up.

Michael Keller

Dear Mr. Keller,

Thank you for your message.

An internal memo was circulated to reporters and editors on the use of fun in this way in the lead of the story. I include the stylebook entry below.

fun. Though the commercials may someday win respectability for fun as an adjective (a fun vacation), the gushing sound argues for keeping the word a noun.

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor

Thank you for your prompt reply; although, if I'm understanding you correctly, you seemed to interpret my concern as being purely grammatical.  It wasn't.

Michael Keller

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:52 AM | link  

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Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 30, 2003:
"It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains."
Reuters, January 8, 2003:
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc.... said on Thursday its December sales at stores open at least a year rose 4.3 percent, near the high end of expectations, as a late surge in holiday shopping made up for a slow start."
Reuters, January 8:
"Tiffany & Co. Inc. ... said Thursday its holiday sales amounted to more than it had expected... 16 percent in the United States."
So Tiffany's sales grew more than Walmart's. Will Krugman say that the whole point of his gripe is the that the rich got richer, even though the poor got richer too? Or will he admit he was wrong when he said that the poor did not get richer?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:26 AM | link  

JOKE OF THE DAY    Regulatory capture.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:03 AM | link  

GREAT CHURCHILL QUOTE    From the Wall Street Journal edit page: "We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:04 AM | link  

MANNE ON MUTUALS    Henry Manne's analysis seeking to prove that "market timing" in mutual funds actually helped long-term investors may not, in the end, convince you. But it shows at least that there's always another side to every story when sensationalistic charges by regulators are concerned. Does Manne create "reasonable doubt" about something you probably thought was open-and-shut? You bet.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:02 AM | link  

OH GOD    Christopher Buckley proves that Howard Dean has been a God-fearing man -- or at least a God-mentioning man -- for longer than anyone expected.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:55 AM | link  

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

SHRILL STILL    Kevin Hassett on Robert Rubin: the "legendary" Treasury secretary has been peddling anti tax-cut deficit-phobia snake-oil for a long time.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:44 PM | link  

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT    Visit the Ace of Spades HQ and check out their House of Love for Paul Krugman. Highly eccentric list of suggested topics for future Krugman columns that avoid the unpleasant topic of economics.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:33 PM | link  


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:34 PM | link  

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Have you noticed that it's been eleven weeks since Paul Krugman has posted a single word on his personal website? The last posting was on October 24, 2003 -- when Krugman penned an evasive, panicky response to my charges that he was in bed with the anti-Semitic dictator of Malaysia, Mohamed Mahathir. A month later Alex Beam, a columnist for the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, called Krugman's site "a nutty, score-settling tote board where he fires his rhetorical blunderbuss at the gnats buzzing around him," and advised him that "Good columnists make enemies. Take the chill pill and put the energy to better use."

I don't know if Krugman's energy has found a better use, but it sure hasn't gone into updating his website. No, he's been utterly silent on the controversy that has swirled around him since I exposed the substantive lies about economic statistics in his December 30 column. Indeed, why should he bother to say a word? He can sit back in imperial silence, letting Brad DeLong sacrifices his reputation by inventing a tortured path of transparent excuses, lame rationales, wild unsupported assertions -- and a generous dose of faux outrage -- to cover up Krugman's lies. Nice gig. Where do I sign up for one like that?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:01 AM | link  

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Paul Krugman's New York Times column yesterday concerns a paper co-authored by Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's "legendary" Treasury secretary. "Legendary" is Krugman's choice of words, and quite literally appropriate. Krugman's column is all about perpetuating his alibi -- a legend, if you will, begun in columns here and here -- that any attempt to criticize the Bush administration will be demonized by the supposedly conservatively biased media as "shrill," no matter how one does it. Rubin's paper cites the risks of large and persistent federal deficits -- a subject Krugman harps on whenever there is Republican in the White House -- so Krugman says "Mr. Rubin has formally joined the coalition of the shrill." The paper certainly has a point of view, but it's far from "shrill." Krugman's descriptions of it suggest that it compares the US economy to unstable third-world economies like that of Argentina -- but there's no hint of any such thing, substantively or metaphorically, in Rubin's paper. It's Krugman's description of the paper that is shrill, not the paper itself.

There is one Krugmanesque element in Rubin's paper, though -- and Krugman's so delighted with it, he can't help but point it out:

"...the paper rather mischievously quotes at length from an earlier paper by Laurence Ball and N. Gregory Mankiw, who make a similar point [about the destabilizing risks of mounting debt]. Mr. Mankiw is now the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, a job that requires him to support his boss's policies, and reassure the public that the budget deficit produced by those policies is manageable and not really a problem."

The paper's quotation is more Krugmanesque than Krugman would like to admit. The quotation from Ball and Mankiw is not especially "at length" -- in fact, it "rather mischevously" leaves out critical passages in which Ball and Mankiw state:

"Both the likelihood of such an event and its effects are highly uncertain... One surprising fact is that the government may...simply roll over its debt: it can pay off interest and maturing debt by issuing new debt. At first this policy might appear unsustainable, because the level of debt increases forever at the rate of interest. Yet as long as the rate of GDP growth is higher than the interest rate, the ratio of debt to GDP falls over time. With the debt shrinking relative to the size of the economy, the government can roll over the debt forever even as its absolute size grows. That is, the economy can grow its way out of the debt."

See how the game is played? Krugman protests being called "shrill" -- and redefines it as disagreeing with the Bush administration. He redefines distorting quotations in order catch administration officials in false contradictions as acting "rather mischevously." When he himself is criticized, he calls it "stalking."

How can we have a serious debate about these important issues in economic policy when Krugman invents meanings for words at whim in order to shelter himself and his cronies and smear his opponents?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:33 AM | link  

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

THANKS FOR THE LINK, GLENN    ...but why do you say "DONALD LUSKIN is praising Brad Delong"? I'm just delighted that DeLong keeps shooting off that gun of his -- you know, the one that fires backward.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:25 PM | link  

DETRIMENTS OF BENEFITS?    Commenting on Paul Krugman's claim that "Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new
jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years," reader Doug Artiles asks,

"Has anyone considered what the (repeated) extension of unemployment benefits has done to exacerbate this?"

This is just the right question to ask. And the answer is yes -- Bruce Bartlett has, here on TrendMacro Talking Points. Check out his extensive review of the arguments.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:15 PM | link  

REAL POVERTY    My posting of a whining letter to the Times about all the poor starving people not benefiting from the current prosperity prompted reader Mike Daley to point out this study of poverty in America from the Heritage Foundation. I will quote at length from the executive summary, because this is just such stunning information:

"For most Americans, the word 'poverty' suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 35 million persons classified as 'poor' by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. Most of America's 'poor' live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago. Today, the expenditures per person of the lowest-income one-fifth (or quintile) of households equal those of the median American household in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.1

"The following are facts about persons defined as 'poor' by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

  • Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
  • Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
  • The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
  • Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
  • Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
  • Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
  • Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
  • As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, supernourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

"While the poor are generally well-nourished, some poor families do experience hunger, meaning a temporary discomfort due to food shortages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 13 percent of poor families and 2.6 percent of poor children experience hunger at some point during the year. In most cases, their hunger is short-term. Eighty-nine percent of the poor report their families have 'enough' food to eat, while only 2 percent say they 'often' do not have enough to eat.

"Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:02 PM | link  

COVER YOUR WALLET AND HAVE A READ    Here's the DNC's summary of the tax proposals of the Democratic candidates. Rather, the tax hike proposals. The DNC says this is "a defining issue in the race for the Democratic nomination." If so, then we can look forward to a 9-way tie for last place. Thanks to Bruce Bartlett for the link -- be sure to read Bruce's commentary on Wesley Clark's plan.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:47 PM | link  

"THE PROMISE OF OKRENT"    My latest at National Review Online has been posted.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:24 PM | link  

HE'S BAAAACK....   from vacation, and the Man Without Qualities is blogging up a storm. Here's a terrific post on California's stealth spending spree, implemented during hard times through new regulations on business.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:35 PM | link  

HEADLINES THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAD TO BE WRITTEN    "Critics Attack Efforts to Link Bush and Hitler". It's the Times, of course. Thanks to Mike Keller for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:30 AM | link  

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The comments sections at Brad DeLong's website have been a hotbed of truth-telling by DeLong's readers about Paul Krugman's lies with unemployment statistics from his December 30 column (though one of my readers tells me that a particularly truthful chart torpedoing Krugman has been removed from the site). But where is Professor DeLong himself? Normally so quick to defend Krugman, he has been virtually silent. Except, as Daniel Drezner has noted, a flurry of DeLong postings of various unemployment statistics charts -- all without mentioning Krugman. Has Krugman finally told an economics lie so indefensible that even Brad DeLong won't lend his name to a defense? No, it's worse than that.

My favorite DeLong posting is this one, showing a chart of the median number of weeks of unemployment. DeLong, a fully employed professor who blogs in between guzzles from the public trough at the University of California at Berkeley, explains with typical narcissism and grammatical garbling, "This statistic is a measure of how lousy the labor market feels to those of us who have lost their jobs..." So no doubt it's supposed to be a defense of Krugman's statement that "Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years." But this chart is anything but a defense. The chart shows a couple of very transient spikes over the last several months that approach the recessionary highs achieved in 1983. But the current reading brutally puts the lie to Krugman's statement.

So welcome to the Krugman Truth Squad, professor. You can get your KTS T-shirt here (available in a variety of sizes, some for a small additional charge).

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:47 AM | link  


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:00 AM | link  

NOW WHY DIDN'T KRUGMAN THINK OF THIS ARGUMENT?    A letter in today's New York Times:
"To the Editor:

"Re 'Our So-Called Boom,' by Paul Krugman (column, Dec. 30):

"Mr. Krugman tells the tale of two recoveries one for the rich, and one for the majority of the population behind the Commerce Department figures hailed as harbingers for good times ahead.

"The truth is that Americans shopping at the low-priced chains are also finding it difficult to buy food for their children. The administration's own figures show 35 million Americans, including 13 million children, lived in homes that struggled to put food on the table last year, a one-year increase of 1.7 million people.

"The growth of hunger and poverty in our nation is the reality behind the headlines of rising corporate profits. A political road map out of this economic divide could begin with policies that support the greatest good for the growing number of Americans with the greatest need. The first stop on the road map should be focused on our hungry children.

Washington, Dec. 30, 2003
The writer is president of Bread for the World."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:33 AM | link  

Monday, January 05, 2004

MORE TIMES CLASS WARFARE    Alan Reynolds takes down more liberal nonsense from the New York Times claiming that the Bush boom is a bust for working people. Turns out Krugman's not the only guy who uses fancy credentials to get away with false statements about employment statistics. Thanks to JohnPatten for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:20 PM | link  

JOKE OF THE DAY    Business as usual...

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:04 PM | link  

WHAT'S SHAKIN'?    Thomas Sowell asks what's so different between an earthquake in Iran and an earthquake in California.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:24 AM | link  

Sunday, January 04, 2004

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Here's a letter from an anonymous reader, sent to New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent:
"Mr. Okrent:

"I doubt you hear too much about the sports columns, but Chris Broussard's 'Inside the NBA' column today on page 2 bears some scrutiny on a small but telling issue.

"In his ruminations about how poorly things are going in Indiana under first-year coach Rick Carlisle, he states that the offense has been slowed (and apparently suffered) because the Pacers scoring average dropped from 96.8 points a game last year to 88.8 points per game this year, "better" -- as Mr. Broussard notes -- "than only seven teams in the league." Mr. Broussard goes on to note that Indiana's defense "has actually declined," despite Carlisle's focus on defense. He proves this point by noting that the Pacers' opponents are shooting 43.5 percent this year -- up from 42.8 percent last year.

"If this were a fair comparison on this year to last, wouldn't have Mr. Broussard compared defensive points allowed this year, compared to last year -- just as he did when making his point on offense? If he had done so, he would have noted that the Pacers are giving up 84.7 points a game this year -- down from the more than 93 points a game they gave up last year. This is far from the 'decline' that Mr. Broussard alleges. In fact, only two teams in the NBA are giving up fewer points per game than the Pacers, which Mr. Broussard fails to note. This information is readily available in most daily newspapers and on the Internet.

"I would appreciate a response on your thoughts on this matter. Again, it is a small -- but troubling -- issue. It speaks to the credibility of columnists, the sports section and the entire newspaper when the Times selectively uses statistics in such a way."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:11 PM | link  

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The end-of-year partisanship rankings are out at Lying in Ponds, and Paul Krugman is number two behind Ann Coulter, the same positions they held at mid-year. Krugman earned the number two position not only by bashing President Bush and the Republicans so often, but by virtually never criticizing Democrats. Proprietor Ken Waight writes,

"In response to readers' comments, I've tediously gone through all 382 of Mr. Krugman's Times columns, looking for 'harsh criticisms . . directed against Democrats', but have been simply unable to find a column which consists mainly of substantive and unambiguous criticism directed at Bill Clinton or Al Gore or Terry McAuliffe or Tom Daschle or Al Sharpton or Howard Dean or Gray Davis or any other Democrat. That distinguishes Mr. Krugman from fellow left-leaning pundits such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, Michael Kinsley, Thomas Oliphant, Mary McGrory, Helen Thomas, and even Robert Scheer and Molly Ivins, all of whom have found occasions to substantively criticize their own party in only the last couple of years... Mr. Krugman is clearly a gifted economist and writer, but for whatever reason, his columns have scrupulously observed party boundaries, finding unlimited time to discuss Thomas White and Trent Lott but no time at all for Marc Rich or Al Sharpton."

Huh? "For whatever reason"? Perhaps Waight was too busy with final year-end rankings to have read Krugman's first column of the new year, in which the reason is given with great clarity (Krugman being such a gifted economist and writer, you know). According to Krugman, "a Democrat shouldn't say anything that could be construed as a statement that Mr. Bush is preferable to his rival." Democrats should make no "attacks that could, and quite possibly will, be used verbatim in Bush campaign ads."

In others words, Krugman's literary partisanship is a literal and precise reflection of his political partisanship. His columns are stump speeches. He wants to see Bush defeated, and doesn't particularly care which Democrat does it, or precisely what that Democrat does or believes. Krugman, being such a gifted economist, is simply doing what economists are trained to do: think "at the margin."

I never fail to be amazed by the kid-gloves treatment that Krugman continues to get from most media critics, even one like Waight who possesses the hard, irrefutable quantitative evidence of Krugman's over-the-top partisanship. Such critics always seem to have to throw in an obligatory homage to Krugman's credentials ("gifted economist and writer" and the like -- when, in fact, almost none of these critics is in any position at all to judge Krugman's gifts as an economist; it's just something they read somewhere, and it's their notion of "fairness" to repeat meaningless slogans that give their own judgments a superficial appearance of balance). And such critics are never willing to come right out and say that Krugman's over-reaching partisanship is out-and-out electioneering (there's always a qualifier: "for whatever reason").

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:47 PM | link  

QUICK! HAS ANYONE SEEN PAUL KRUGMAN?    Going where gnome man has gone before.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:03 AM | link  

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Does our collective need to imagine that somehow Alan Greenspan is exerting benign control of the economy so strong that no one is ever going to call him on his stunningly transparent lie that he is not responsible for the economic wreckage following his brutal bursting of the so-called "bubble" of the late 1990s? Here's a Reuters account of a Greenspan speech in San Diego yesterday:

"He said the idea that the Fed could have brought the 1990s stock bubble to a gentle decline by ratcheting interest rates up -- as some critics have suggested it should have done -- 'is almost surely an illusion.'

"In a question-and-answer period later, Greenspan said policymakers could have halted the rise in stock prices by hiking interest rates until it happened, 'but it would bring the whole economy down with it.'"

Does Greenspan think we have no memory of what he actually did and what actually happened?

Just look at the chart at left. He did hike interest rates -- starting in June, 1999 -- he kept hiking them precisely until it "halted the rise in stock prices." And then he stopped hiking them.

And it did "bring the whole economy down with it." But you surely don't need a chart for that.

So what do you need? A picture of his hand in the cookie jar clutching a smoking gun? Admit it -- it's an unappetizing thought, but this economic emperor has no clothes.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:03 AM | link  

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Here's New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent's third column, tracking down how a quotation from President Bush about gay marriage got foreshortened in a way that distorted its meaning. Here's the paragraph that explains how it happened:

"The elision in the Seelye-Elder article was not, as several of my correspondents insist, 'politically motivated,' or 'unethical' or a 'blatant manipulation of the facts.' It was a simple mistake. When first reported in The Times by White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller on Dec. 17, the president's comments appeared in two separate sentences: the news ('I will support') followed immediately by the qualification ('But Mr. Bush said he would support an amendment only "if necessary" to preserve traditional marriage'). Washington editor Rick Berke asked Seelye to freshen the poll data (it was more than a week old) by referencing the president's recent comment. After searching the Times database, Seelye told me via e-mail, 'I took the quote directly from Elisabeth Bumiller's story, which, unbeknownst to me, was foreshortened.' No one caught it during the editing process, and foreshortened it remained."

Okay, so it was an innocent mistake. But consider what this says about the Times' insular culture. Instead of going to an original source for a quotation, the Times quoted itself -- foreshortening and all.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:34 AM | link