Monday, July 15, 2002
WWKD? What would Krugman have done if he'd been writing for the New York Times at the beginning of the Clinton administration? Would he have been decrying Hillary's health care task force and its refusal to release minutes from its meetings? Would he have been critical of Clinton as allegations arose bout him using state troopers to help him get women?
In Krugman's latest, he attacks Bush for his administration's "obsession with secrecy and its intermingling of public policy with private interest."
Of course, the same can be said of any administration. Do those kaffeklatches ring a bell? I mean, seriously, at least the Bush administration is selling out to Americans and not the Chinese.
First, the city of Arlington built the Rangers a new stadium, on terms extraordinarily favorable to Mr. Bush's syndicate, eventually subsidizing Mr. Bush and his partners with more than $150 million in taxpayer money. The city was obliged to raise taxes substantially as a result. Soon after the stadium was completed, Mr. Bush ran successfully for governor of Texas on the theme of self-reliance rather than reliance on government.
Mr. Bush's syndicate eventually resold the Rangers, for triple the original price.
Ummm....when was the last time a professional sports team -- especially one with a brand new stadium -- lost value? I thought Krugman was a brilliant economist. As far as the taxpayer subsidizing of professional sports stadiums -- it's nothing new. San Diego is building one for the Padres using a similar model. Of course, I think that Krugman would've found something suspicious if the stadium had been funded 100% privately. It seems that Krugman can see evil in just about anything a Republican does.
Krugman then insinuates that Bush somehow funneled money to the same guy who bought the Rangers, Tom Hicks. Now, I'll admit that I don't know a whole lot about the University of Texas' endowment (UTIMCO) and how it is administered, but there's been no indictments and no convictions (or I'm sure Krugman would mention them). Yet Krugman gets a lot of mileage out of insinuation. Now, if I recall correctly, Bush did appoint Hicks to be chairman of UT's endowment fund, but the privatization that occurred couldn't have been done solely on Bush's authority. It would have been approved by Texas' democratically-controlled legislature.
It's a similar complaint that you hear from Democrats about the accounting scandals in corporate America. While most of the monkey business with the books occurred when Clinton was president, House democrats (especially Rep. Dick Gephardt) have taken to blaming Newt Gingrich and his talk about deregulation for the scandal. Of course, neither is really responsible for the corporate accounting scandal, but it's the blame game.
Krugman wants to blame Bush for any problems with UTIMCO solely on Bush, when to be fair the democratically-controlled Texas legislature is just as culpable.
One last item: Mr. Bush, who put up 1.8 percent of the Rangers syndicate's original capital, was entitled to about $2.3 million from that sale. But his partners voluntarily gave up some of their share, and Mr. Bush received 12 percent of the proceeds ? $14.9 million. So a group of businessmen, presumably with some interest in government decisions, gave a sitting governor a $12 million gift. Shouldn't that have raised a few eyebrows?
I'd agree with Krugman, if it weren't for Joe Conason's piece that Krugman referenced earlier. From Conason I learned that when it came to the Rangers, though Bush owned a very small stake, he was a great PR man and salesman. He was the public face of the ownership and, according to Conason's reporting, was key in promoting the stadium deal.
If Bush had done nothing, then I'd agree with Krugman, but I see nothing wrong with some profit-sharing for someone who'd done so much to increase the value of the franchise. Of course, any group of businessmen may have some interest in government decisions. Actually, everyone has some interest in government decisions. Does Krugman want to ban all outside income to elected officials? Personally I don't have a problem with requiring elected officials to liquidate all of their stock (as opposed to placing it in a blind trust) and put the money in T-bills.
And then the unsupported allegations continue.
Finally, there's the indifference to conflicts of interest. In Austin, Governor Bush saw nothing wrong with profiting personally from a deal with Tom Hicks; in Washington, he sees nothing wrong with having the Pentagon sign what look like sweetheart deals with Dick Cheney's former employer Halliburton.
So the Pentagon signs "what look(s) like sweetheart deals" with a company formerly headed by V.P. Dick Cheney. A company he no longer has any financial interest in.
Whatever. Paul "Desperately in Search of Wrongdoing" Krugman can continue on his crusade, but I don't see him ever gaining much traction outside of Washington -- because there's nothing there. Maybe 10 years ago this sort of thing would've raised some eyebrows, but compared to what former president Bill Clinton did, this is amateur hour, even if every one of Krugman's sinister allegations turns out to be 100 percent accurate.
Krugman got tired months ago. He needs to try a new tune, or pretty soon even his fans are going to abandon him.