Friday, November 29, 2002
Awards I don't ever want to win: When you win an award, I often see it as joining a club of people who've won it before. Therefore, I'm creating a list of awards I don't want to win.
We'll start with the Nobel Peace Prize (Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter).
The Heisman Trophy (O.J. Simpson).
Time's Man of the Year (Adolf Hitler).
Editor & Publisher's Columnist of the Year (Paul Krugman).
Yep, you read it right, Paul Krugman is the columnist of the year.
The intersection of politics and economics was big news in a year of rising joblessness, corporate scandals, and soaring deficits. "So much of the political landscape is dominated by economic questions," says Paul Krugman, who was smack in the middle of that intersection as a New York Times Op-Ed writer and prize-winning economist. Now the Princeton University professor is also E&P's columnist of the year.
With a clear, nonacademic writing style, Krugman appeals to many people who normally avoid economics like the plague -- even if they disagree with his political views. This year, Krugman used his high-profile Times forum and economic knowledge to skewer Bush-administration policies in columns with such titles as "The Bully's Pulpit" and "Crony Capitalism, USA." That made him a lightning rod read closely by both liberals and conservatives.
Why is this a joke? Well, Krugman gets credit from E&P for the titles of his columns. E&P, of all magazines, should know that editors write the headlines, not the columnists.
Why is he closely read? For the liberal set he is the most vocal and visible proponent of Hillary Clinton's vast, right-wing conspiracy. Every word is either a lie, or part of a plot to control the world.
Conservatives read him because they cannot believe that such a nut managed to get a job on the New York Times op-ed page.
"I get a huge volume of mail," says Krugman, with the correspondence numbering in the hundreds some days. "It's more positive than negative, but very strong and very intense on both sides. And there's hate mail."
LA Weekly's John Powers wrote last week that Krugman is "the president's most effective establishment critic. ... Because he's a renowned Princeton economist who actually understands markets and finance, nobody has more forcefully exposed Bush's lies about his tax plan, Social Security, and corporate reform. Naturally, this has made him a bête noire of the right, subject to frequent intellectual and personal attacks."
Yeah, that's an unbiased assessment right there. Bush is lying -- Krugman is the only one brave enough to tell the truth. Of course, you can search through my archives and find numerous instances of bias on Krugman's part -- along with inaccuracies, shading of the truth and reliance on forgeries and falsehoods.
Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation conservative think tank in Washington, is less admiring of Krugman: "He's sort of a doctrinaire, left-wing, big-government type. I don't think he's terribly effective."
That's a fair assessment.
While Krugman's economic commentary probably didn't change many Bush-administration minds, it did help educate the opposition and the public -- a process that can sometimes pay dividends down the road. But why didn't he have more impact on this month's election results?
You've got to be kidding me? E&P actually thinks that a columnist (even an extremely popular one) can have an impact on national election results? Did an intern write this article?
Krugman adds that his impact was blunted also because Republicans "were extremely successful at camouflage." He notes that polls suggest many Americans favor paying more attention to corporate reform and are against tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. But Republicans were perceived as similar to Democrats on some key economic issues, says Krugman, while they diverted voters' attention with preparations for a possible war with Iraq.
There's the ivory-tower academic's disdain for the intelligence of the electorate. People voted Republican in this past election because they weren't smart enough (like Krugman is) to see pas the camouflage.
Krugman says continuing as a professor not only helps give him the knowledge that goes into his column but also makes it easier for him psychologically to take strong Op-Ed stands. "In a sense, I'm moonlighting as a columnist," Krugman says. "I'm probably willing to say unpopular things more than people for whom journalism is their solo career."
Get serious. There's no danger in taking anti-Republican stances on the Times' op-ed page. Krugman's really brave!