In an interview with PBS' Gwen Ifill on Tuesday, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman tore into the GOP's fiscal cliff proposal and launched a spirited defense of President Barack Obama.

Krugman explained that Obamacare has done more to bring down entitlement costs than anything Republicans have proposed. "In Washington, that is considered not serious because he's not actually taking benefits away from people who need them. It's a really weird thing. It's only considered serious if you inflict pain on vulnerable people," he said, referring to the recent GOP proposal to raise the Medicare eligibility age.

That proposal is "cruel" and would save a "trivial" amount of money. He also said that reducing the inflation adjustment for Social Security benefits, as Republicans have proposed, would inflict "some serious hardship for very little money."

Krugman hammered home the jarring point that the Republican proposal only "sounds serious because it hurts vulnerable people."

He is not the only economist noting that raising the Medicare eligibility age wouldn't significantly reduce entitlement costs. Austin Frakt, a health care economist at Boston University, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that "the savings are too small" and "it does nothing, absolutely nothing, to increase the efficiency of Medicare or the health system."

Qualifying for Medicare at age 65 is a critical lifeline for many seniors; 16.3 percent of Americans age 45 to 64 lacked health insurance last year, according to the Census Bureau. The government's adjustment of Social Security benefits for inflation also helps prevent the elderly from finding essentials to be more unaffordable as they age, according to the Associated Press.

(Hat tip: The Raw Story.)

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • Chris Christie

    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.

  • Ron Paul

    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."

  • Paul Ryan

    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."

  • Niall Ferguson

    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."

  • Mitt Romney

    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."

  • Rich People

    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."

  • Wall Street

    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."