Paul Krugman spoke at Syracuse University this evening.
I am not able to give you Prof Krugman's words verbatim, but I want to share what I took away from the speech.
He graciously agreed to speak in place of Molly Ivins, who was originally scheduled but could not attend due to illness.
The speech was held at Hendricks Chapel,
a lovely chapel on the S.U. Campus.
imagine Paul Krugman at the podium center-stage
He had nearly a full house.
He began by looking around the massive chapel and up to the choir loft and commented that although he suspected he'd be "preaching to the choir"....this was surely the right place to do it!
He also jokingly called himself a writer on the "upset liberal authors circuit".
Even though Ivins has a markedly different writing stye, he said he found himself speaking about many similar issues...and had similar thoughts on many of those issues.
He has been an educator first, taking on writing as a moonlight-career. He began writing about international financial matters, mostly about global issues...usually
about economic trouble in foreign nations. It wasn't a subject in which a large audience was particulary interested.
One day he realized something in our very own nation was "off". Something just wasn't adding up. It started with the Bush administration's proposal for Social Security reform.
Krugman, a seasoned and experienced economist, sensed a dishonesty and irresponsibility within Bush's plans for Social Security (more than simple ignorance, as many claim about Bush). Frightening to me, Mr Krugman claimed the media never gave a straight accounting of the story surrounding Social Security Reform. The public was never given the straight facts..only shades of political talk on either side of the political aisle. (He would speak more about this media problem later in the speech).
He said that savage cuts in social spending must come as a result of these budget deficits..it is inevitable.
The political behavior of the Bush administration points to
a third-world-type political activity in America. If the world still trusts that America will be able to recover from this, we may not lose the trust of investors. But..as things stand...right now there's no sign that we will have a restoring of our once-thriving market economy..it's all hypothetical...and it's frightening.
Krugman jokingly (in light of the very serious subject matter) explained that eventually, if confidence in the market does not come back, our government may have a Wile E Coyote moment...the kind where ol' Wile E looks down midst the fervor of chasing the Road Runner and realizes he's been running his legs across thin air, for he's already well off the edge of the cliff .. ;)
the Wile E Coyote moment
He said he believes, if things continue as they are now, that an economic crisis will come at an undetermined
date..within the next ten years.
Krugman said Bush uses Orwellian rhetoric on environmental issues. Professor Krugman says that he misses what he believes was an honesty in economics. Even though he did not agree with the Reagan administration, he said he believed there was honesty in Reagan's own plans. Krugman did not agree with Nixon on very much, but he misses the responsibility Nixon showed to the EPA on environmental issues.
The Bush agenda, in contrast, seems to have been pre-planned..blind to contingency. The ANWR drilling, tax-cuts,
war...all planned before Bush was awarded the office of President.
Men like Grover Norquist are radical in their politics. Prof Krugman implored us to really listen to what Norquist is saying..because he is powerful and serious..and he wants to starve our federal government to a point where social spending is no longer an option. He mentioned Henry Kissinger's line from his doctoral dissertation in which Kissinger used the French revolution as study, but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s.
"Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent," Kissinger wrote, "they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework."
--I looked up the passage..the rest goes like this:
"..The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargining purposes; as if were motivated by specific grievences to be assauged by limited consessions. Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists; those who consel adaption to circumstances are considered balanced and sane.... but it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion."
Krugman thinks this is a very important and relevant statement today. He had previously discussed this in a September, 2003 Guardian article about him titled "I Do Get Rattled"
He mentioned Tom DeLay and how some refer to him as just a "crazy guy in Congress" when they hear him talk about conforming government to a Biblical world view...
but he's NOT just some crazy guy..he's the powerful House majority leader. Beware.
There are some forms of media that get the point across better through satire...such as the Onion (Krugman liked the fake Bush speech) an the Ironic Times (he appreciated "Bush: Iraq a Lesson to U.S. Foes
If you attack us, we will strike back at somebody else with overwhelming force."). He also positively cited the Simpsons episode with the fake FOX news ticker saying: "92 percent of Democrats are gay".
He mentioned that the mainstream media suffers from what he called "the curse of even-handedness". Giving equal weight to both political sides makes it nearly impossible to help the viewer (or reader) to know the basic facts which would enable them to reasonably decide for themselves. In so many words, it's all about 'the GOP said/theDems said'.
Krugman's words were: "You just get these awful, evenhanded stories that never gave you a sense that there is a core of truth there."
There is also low-grade intimidation...especially through highly-organized hate-mail (he didn't say Freepers..but I will)...and attacks of hostility (from the same folks who spent eight years attacking Clinton and are now Bush protectionists).
He mentioned Christiane Amanpour's poor treatment when she spoke out honestly about the intimidation she strongly felt from the Bush administration regarding Iraq war coverage (see my 9-14 blog entry)
Krugman also spoke of the disturbing story about FOX's infamous "Daily MEMO" which revealed their
daily agenda. (News should never have agenda...and it is doubly disturbing to know they promote, organize, and formalize their agenda daily).
Not to be totally negative in his outlook, Krugman assured us we are a nation which has the capability of coming through this, yet he fears there is a lack of political consensus about the things that need to be done to insure that strength.
Asserting that he occupies what used to be the center in American politics, he pointed out the disparaging fact that there is no center in Congress anymore. The Democrats are pretty much where they've politically always been, and the GOP has taken to the far right.
When asked what he thought the key issues would be in 2004 for the strength of Democrats, he stated he believed it would come down to foreign policy. The economy would be a fairly neutral issue because people generally believe what they choose to believe about economic news and the deficit is "hard to explain" to people. He mentioned that the environment might be another issue of strength for the Democrats in 2004.
He fully believes the all the stops will be pulled out for this upcoming election.
Fasten your seat belts.
Toward the end, Prof Krugman said he'd like to mention something positive about a particular Republican...
Michael Bloomberg. He praised him for nearly all he's done so far because he believes that Mayor Bloomberg is practicing
honest and responsible politics..even though it has brought him a (whopping) 30% approval rating.
These final thoughts are mine as I come away from Professor Krugman's speech:
Perhaps responsible governing is not going to win you popularity..or elections. Would we want our progressive politicians to sell our souls for votes and poll ratings? That's a tough question. Who will save our political souls if they must be sold in order for the political saviors to win?
What's wrong with politics in America?