Ask Paul Krugman, and he'll tell you a former senator has a few things in common with one of the biggest con men in history.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning economist wrote in a blog post Thursday that like major Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, former Senator Alan Simpson is benefitting from “affinity fraud” -- a dynamic where people ignore evidence indicating someone is obviously wrong because they view them as “their kind of guy.” Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles make up the deficit fighting duo President Obama tasked in 2010 with coming up with a plan to reduce the nation's debt and they recently released the latest version of their proposal.
“Simpson is, demonstrably, grossly ignorant on precisely the subjects on which he is treated as a guru, not understanding the finances of Social Security, the truth about life expectancy, and much more,” Krugman wrote. “Yet he remains not only respectable among the Beltway crowd; as Ezra [Klein] says, he’s lionized in a way that looks from the outside like a clear violation of journalistic norms.”
Krugman has been critical of Simpson-Bowles in the past, calling their first plan “terrible” and quipping that Simpson-Bowles devotees are in a cult. But this most recent blog post riffs on a much longer piece by The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein called “The Problem With Alan Simpson.” Klein argues that reporters and politicians hang on Simpson's every word because they already think like he does. Specifically, they believe that cutting the deficit takes precedence over ensuring the nation’s most vulnerable have access to the social safety net.
The Obama administration didn’t fully embrace the first Simpson-Bowles proposal in 2010 in part because it cut Social Security benefits too much, then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said last year.
Simpson and Bowles recently released the latest iteration of their deficit-cutting proposal; the newest version would cut the deficit by $2.4 trillion through reforms in health care and the tax code as well as some spending cuts. The proposal comes as President Obama and lawmakers are wrangling over an agreement to avert $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, commonly known as the sequester.
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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."