Tuesday, June 11, 2002
A few final thoughts on Krugman: I say final in that I won't be online to critique him on Friday. The computer I'm working on now is the next thing to be disassembled for travel to my new home. If Krugman is particularly distasteful, I might post something Saturday or Sunday, but no guarantees.
First point: Krugman again took Bush to task for his anti-free trade policies. Bush should be taken to task for the protectionist measures that he has instituted. Krugman's problem again is one that I strove to emphasize last time Krugman wrote on the issue -- everybody does it.
Over at National Review Online's "The Corner" Ramesh Ponnuru (exactly how do you pronounce that?) had an apropos observation:
But his habit of always believing the worst about Bush and the best about Clinton ruins the piece. Thus, Clinton is presented as a simon-pure free trader whose "scrupulousness continued to the end." No mention that the Seattle trade talks collapsed because Clinton wouldn't put our anti-dumping protectionism (among other things) on the table. No mention of the tariff requests to which Clinton acceded. At the end of the column, Krugman suggests that Bush's opportunism might lead to another Smoot-Hawley. That's just neo-liberal hysteria.
Second point: I don't think Krugman's handle on politics is very good. Krugman claims that with a little pandering, Clinton could have given Gore the election:
If Bill Clinton had given the steel industry the tariffs it wanted, Al Gore would probably be living in the White House. But administration officials actually worried about the consequences — for the nation, and for the world economy — of giving in to special interests.
The top-5 steel producing states are: Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Of those five states, Gore won three (Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania). Bush won Indiana by more than 50 percent (Nader's candidacy had little effect there.) But Ohio Bush won, but not by a majority.
So, is steel why Gore lost Ohio's 21 electoral votes, enough to give him victory? Well, not according to Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn.
You want an explanation of why he lost Ohio by four points and New Hampshire by one? Try the WTI hazardous-waste incinerator (world's largest) in East Liverpool, Ohio. Gore promised voters in 1992 that a Democratic administration would kill it. It was a double lie. First, Carol Browner's EPA almost immediately gave the incinerator a permit. When confronted on his broken pledge, Gore said the decision had been pre-empted by the outgoing Bush crowd. This too was a lie, as voters in Ohio discovered a week before Election 2000.
William Reilly, Bush's EPA chief, finally testified this fall that Gore's environmental aide Katie McGinty told him in the 1992 transition period that "it was the wishes of the new incoming administration to get the trial-burn permit granted. The Vice President-elect would be grateful if I simply made that decision before leaving office."
Don't think this was a picayune issue with no larger consequences. Citizens of East Liverpool, notably Terry Swearingen, have been campaigning across the country on this scandal for years, haunting Gore. So too, to its credit, has Greenpeace. They were particularly active in the Northeast, during Gore's primary battles with Bill Bradley. You can certainly argue that the last-minute disclosure of Gore's WTI lies prompted enough Greens to stay firm and cost him New Hampshire, a state which, with Oregon, would have given Gore the necessary 270 votes.
And don't think these are conservatives critiquing Gore. Cockburn is a columnist for The Nation.
A final note on Krugman: I pointed this out last month, but Krugman's claim that the Clinton-Gore administration "actually worried about the consequences — for the nation, and for the world economy — of giving in to special interests." Well, they did give in to special interests. Witness the unlawful refusal to follow NAFTA and allow Mexican trucks free access to the United States.
One of Krugman's acolytes, Jeff Hauser, has referred to him as a "future Nobel prize winner." I won't say that that won't happen, after all, they gave the Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat.