Paul Krugman at the New York Times -- Need Your Help

09/07/2011 03:42 pm ET | Updated Nov 07, 2011

Sent by email 9-7-11 to Prof. Paul Krugman, Princeton University

Dear Dr. Krugman,

I want to alert you that I have written an "open" letter to you via the Huffington Post with "carbon copies" sent to other news outlets. My occasion for writing is your recent column in the New York Times that I read in my local St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In it, you remarked disapprovingly on the behavior of the current House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. You likened Mr. Canter to the late Senator, Joseph McCarthy and then went further and said Mr. Cantor's behavior was a display of "nihilism." Whether I concur is not relevant to my current question. I need your help in understanding something else:

Why should Mr. Cantor listen to you?

Let me explain what I am driving at in several steps.

Congress has the supreme power to legislate. When a subset of its members inside the two legislative chambers takes a position that upsets you standing outside the chambers, there is not a whole lot you can do except hope your local "good guy" gets elected to Congress the next time around. However, once ensconced in office, there is no requirement in the Constitution for your "good guy" to put his or her head together with the other members inside the legislative chambers to understand the country's problems, devise solutions, and if those solutions involve federal legislation, pass a bill. Meanwhile, you are still where you were previously; namely, outside the chambers.

Not being under any constitutional requirement to pass legislation, why should your "good guy" or any member of Congress do so?

You are a Nobel Laureate economist who deals in various rational models or maybe its irrational ones -- I do not know -- I am just an ordinary citizen. In any event, it seems to me that Congress is a particular "model" and in that model the rational (or maybe it's the irrational) thing for a Congressman or woman to do is something along these lines.

(A) Talk a good game during the election or re-election campaign. Be a "good guy"

(B) Win election (re-election); collect a salary, perquisites, valuable contacts, etc.

(C) Minimize the risk of voting. Not passing any legislation may be the ideal.

(D) Maximize fundraising for negative TV adds to blame the outcome on the "bad guys."

Am I missing something? Why should a politician -- any politician -- converse with colleagues to pass legislation if he or she has no constitutional requirement to do so and it does not fit his or her political model? Why should politicians look at one another, converse with one another or even be in the same room together?

Dr. Krugman, I do not understand how your model of citizenship standing outside the legislative chambers is relevant to the members standing on the inside when you -- the citizen -- do not constitutionally require the members to do anything.

Please explain yourself further. Please propose an actual solution that goes beyond you and me exhorting one another standing on the outside.

As a grandfather of nine, I am deeply worried about our country. I have come up with an idea that I call the "Kirkwood Amendment," but I can hardly believe in it when Nobel laureates like you have not already thought of better proposals.

So, please write and tell me your solution.

Sincerely yours,
Daniel Hough Jones, Citizen
Kirkwood, Missouri

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