Earlier today, on MSNBC, Norah O'Donnell gave Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson a chance to respond to the criticism of economist/New York Times contributor Paul Krugman, who laced into the Democrat and his Republican allies this morning for lessening the effectiveness of the stimulus package with the cuts. Now, when I say, "Nelson responded to Krugman," I should be clear. This was not a response on the merits, but rather, a response of word-like utterances blown through Nelson's cake-hole, in the same way that desperate whales attempt to attract mates. You see, Krugman today accused Nelson and his "centrist" Senate colleagues of "extract[ing] a pound of flesh -- not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo."
"Well, y'know, I don't know where he's from, but I'll tell you, in Nebraska, $60 billion for education on top of $40 billion, that's a hundred billion. That's a pretty big commitment to education nationwide."
And that's not a coherent response in terms of economics! That's a fancy way of saying: "I think Nebraskans can add six and four, and are easily impressed by big numbers."
Nelson added, "And this is on top of what the states are able to do," apparently unaware that "what the states are able to do" isn't that much in these current economic conditions. And that is one of the things the stimulus bill was supposed to address, but will do less effectively now that Nelson has cut $25 billion dollars from the bill that was supposed to help the states to do those things. Nelson went on to suggest that governors could add as much money as they wanted to education out of a special fund, which is a fancy way of saying that the governors could rob Peter to pay Paul. Anyway, none of what Nelson said came even close to addressing Krugman's criticism.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein says that Norah O'Donnell "could have said, 'But Senator, Krugman's argument isn't about the preferences of Nebraskans but the size of the output gap in the next few years and the number of people were going to need to put back to work. He says the stimulus is too small as compared to a recession that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will shave 14 percent off our output. Which part of his analysis do you disagree with?'"
He's right! Though it's difficult to imagine O'Donnell ever asking something about "output gaps." I mean, she's just a cable news anchor!