America is facing a fiscal cliff and Republicans are threatening to push us off, according to Paul Krugman.
"The fiscal cliff issue reflects GOP intransigence," The New York Times columnist wrote Wednesday in his 'Conscience of a Liberal' blog, "they’re holding America hostage, saying — more or less explicitly — that if they can’t have what they want but can’t pass, they’ll tank the whole economy."
Krugman is talking about the Bush tax cuts and how it plays into a larger set of issues that together could significantly contract the American economy. Broadly it plays out like this. Republicans want to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to all Americans. Democrats want to preserve the cuts on everyone but the rich. If they don't strike a deal by year's end, the Bush tax cuts expire and all Americans will see their tax bills go up. That's scary to many economists, who fear increasing taxes while shrinking the government (more on that in a minute) could send the country's fragile economy hurtling off a cliff.
The irony is this crisis makes everyone feel smug. Conservatives argue raising taxes will kill the economy. Liberals argue shrinking government will send us back into recession. The beauty of the fiscal cliff is it does both and we did it to ourselves.
Last summer, Republicans created a faux crisis by insisting on a broad package of government cuts in exchange for raising the amount of money the government can borrow to pay its bills. Of course, agreeing on what to cut is the tough part, so both sides kicked that can down the road and knowing they probably would never want to deal with it, they laid a trap that would force the issue. If they can't agree to terms by the end of the year, $1.2 trilion in automatic cuts will slash into things Democrats love (the social safety net) and things Republicans love (guns).
It's sort of beautiful in a twisted way except the consequences likely mean another recession. Which gets us back to Krugman's point. While about to fall off a cliff, the last thing anyone needs is a hostage crisis.
Krugman has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/opinion/krugman-the-comeback-skid.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">slammed Christie</a> for touting a New Jersey comeback, even when the state still faces a 9.8 percent unemployment rate. He's also criticized the governor for his decision to raise taxes on low-income New Jersey residents, while vetoing a temporary tax boost for millionaires.
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Ron Paul's economic theories, particularly his dislike of the Federal Reserve. Krugman said of Paul's interest in keeping the government out of monetary policy during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/paul-krugman-ron-paul_n_1465870.html" target="_hplink">debate on Bloomberg TV</a>: "If you think that you can avoid that you're living in the world that was 150 years ago." Krugman's also called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/paul-krugman-gold-standard_n_1832767.html" target="_hplink">returning to the Gold Standard</a> -- a view Paul's touted for years -- "an almost comically (and cosmically) bad idea."
After presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan would be his running mate, Krugman wasted little time deriding the Wisconsin Republican's views on the economy and budget. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/krugman-galt-gold-and-god.html?_r=1&hp" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote of Ryan</a> that he "evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels."
After Harvard professor Niall Ferguson (left) penned a <em>Newsweek</em> cover story arguing President Obama doesn't deserve a second term, Krugman demanded that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/paul-krugman-niall-ferguson-newsweek_n_1810136.html" target="_hplink">the magazine issue a correction</a>, starting a bit of a spat with the <em>Newsweek</em> columnist and historian. Krugman said of the cover story on his blog: "There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson's cover story in Newsweek -- I guess they don't do fact-checking." <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/a-full-fact-check-of-niall-fergusons-very-bad-argument-against-obama/261306/" target="_hplink">The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien did a full fact-check of Ferguson's piece</a>, which <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/21/niall-ferguson-defends-newsweek-cover-correct-this-bloggers.html" target="_hplink">Ferguson defended himself against</a>.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Krugman argued that perhaps Estonia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/estonia-krugman-toomas-hendrik-ilves_n_1575937.html" target="_hplink">shouldn't be held up as a model</a> for successful austerity measures in a 67-word blog post in June. The country's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves took to Twitter to slam Krugman, calling him "smug, overbearing & patronizing."
Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Squawk Box"
Krugman appeared on "Squawk Box" in July to discuss his book, but was upset to find out that they "never actually got there." Instead, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/paul-krugman-cnbc_n_1664771.html" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote on his blog</a> that the appearance consisted of "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," adding that people counting on the shows for sound information are getting "terrible advice."
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Mitt Romney's plans for America's budget and economy, and he's taken the former CEO of Bain Capital to task for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/opinion/off-and-out-with-mitt-romney.html" target="_hplink">touting his business career</a>. In a column titled "Off and Out with Mitt Romney," Krugman wrote, "the truth is that even if Mr. Romney had been a classic captain of industry, a present-day Andrew Carnegie, his career wouldn't have prepared him to manage the economy."
Krugman has argued that the rich embrace Republican economic policies both because they want more money and simply because they're more inclined to buy into theories that justify their wealth. In a May <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/paul-krugman-rich-people-want-to-buy-praise-as-the-salvation-of-the-rest-of-us_n_1499679.html" target="_hplink">interview with Reuters</a>, Krugman said that rich people "want the world to praise them for their wealth, so they want economic theories that praise rich people as the salvation of the rest of us."
Krugman has been critical both of Wall Street's current practices and of the industry's ability to escape punishment for its role in the financial crisis. In a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/paul-krugman-playboy-interview_n_1284417.html" target="_hplink">February interview with Playboy</a>, Krugman said "It's hard for me to believe there were no crimes. Given the scale of [the financial crisis], given how many corners were being cut, some people must have violated laws. I think people should be in jail."