Wisconsin representative and former GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan put new gloss on his old budget and has been schlepping it around and about -- to perhaps somewhat diminished interest, compared to the other times he's touted it. Tuesday, Ryan took his thought-having campaign to the Hugh Hewitt show, and among those thoughts, apparently, is the notion that he and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman are locked into some wonderful "Captain Kirk versus the Gorn" battle for economic supremacy:
"Well, so I have three certainties in my life -- death, taxes and liberal attacks from Paul Krugman," Ryan said. "It's something I've come to realize. Keynesians, which is what Krugman would call himself, believe in just, in the constant pumping of the prime, and just spending more money to grow the economy. They believe in this, that if you spend more money, it produces more than a dollar's worth of economic growth for every dollar you spend."
Now, chances are, Ryan's being a little bit tongue-in-cheek. At least I hope so, because as it turns out, when it comes to making a spectacle of oneself in service to Keynesian economics, you could do a lot worse than Paul Ryan. Here's Ryan, in 2002, speechifying on behalf of God, country, and stimulus:
As Joe Weisenthal -- who calls this a "dazzling" and "full-throated" speech in support of stimulus -- notes:
What's key here is not just that Ryan supported stimulus then, it's that he supported it for explicitly Keynesian reasons, including the idea that spending money during a recession would then juice the economy to improve government revenues down the road. And in addition to supporting tax cuts, he explicitly supports things like unemployment insurance and ongoing support for healthcare.
And Ryan made sure his district got its share of the stimulus -- which is the job of a responsible Representative, so bully for him. But it's far from the only example of Ryan tipping his hat in the direction of Keynes. As Jonathan Chait pointed out back in 2011, Ryan also made dazzling Keynesian arguments in support of goosing the economy during the 2001 recession, via the Bush-era tax cuts. And Paul Ryan voted for a whole range of big deficit-drivers during Bush's term.
And while it may not be entirely fair to call Ryan a "deficit hawk" (and here's Ezra Klein, arguing that he's not), that's certainly how he's presented in Beltway media circles. But Krugman isn't averse to deficit-hawking, either. I'm pretty sure that if he were given something that looked like a normal employment situation, he would become a deficit hawk. But don't take my word for it!
"Give me something that looks like a normal employment situation and I'll become a deficit hawk." --Paul Krugman
That said, there is definitely a conflict between Ryan's budget proposals and Krugman's own economic priorities, but it mystifies the matter to a fare-thee-well to simply say that the conflict lies in differing opinions over Keynesianism. The issue is this: Ryan claims his budget benefits the poor, it actually does precisely the opposite, and Krugman discerns this and calls the whole thing a scam, the end.
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