Planet Enron

Some columnists are not of this world.

Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman thinks he has an explanation for the failures of President Obama’s first year in office, which ends tomorrow:

It’s instructive to compare Mr. Obama’s rhetorical stance on the economy with that of Ronald Reagan. It’s often forgotten now, but unemployment actually soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Reagan, however, had a ready answer for critics: everything going wrong was the result of the failed policies of the past. In effect, Reagan spent his first few years in office continuing to run against Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Obama could have done the same–with, I’d argue, considerably more justice. He could have pointed out, repeatedly, that the continuing troubles of America’s economy are the result of a financial crisis that developed under the Bush administration, and was at least in part the result of the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate the banks.

But he didn’t.

This description of Barack ‘Someone Else’s Mess” Obama is so far removed from reality that there are only two possible explanations: (1) Krugman is trolling for links, or (2) He is from another planet. We’re going to assume it’s the latter, because trolling for links would be beneath the dignity of a Nobel Prize winner.

Let’s call Krugman’s home world Planet Enron. While there are few signs of intelligent life on Enron, Krugman is not alone in the unearthliness of his observations. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne is similarly–though, to be fair, not quite equally–deluded as he analyzes Democratic left’s political predicament:

The success of the conservative narrative ought to trouble liberals and the Obama administration. The president has had to “own” the economic catastrophe much earlier than he should have. Most Americans understand that the mess we are in started before Obama got to the White House. Yet many, especially political independents, are upset that the government has had to spend so much and that things have not turned around as fast as they had hoped.

It’s also striking that most conservatives, through a method that might be called the audacity of audacity, have acted as if absolutely nothing went wrong with their economic theories. They speak and act as if they had nothing to do with the large deficits they now bemoan and say we will all be saved if only we return to the very policies that should already be discredited. . . .

The truth that liberals and Obama must grapple with is that they have failed so far to dent the right’s narrative, especially among those moderates and independents with no strong commitments to either side in this fight.

On Planet Enron, this must all seem logical. Here on Earth, it makes no sense. Independents and moderates voted out the big-spending Republicans and ended up getting even bigger-spending Democrats. Now they’re upset at the Democrats. Dionne seems to be saying they should be more upset at the Republicans because the Republicans are almost as bad. We’d venture to say they will be if the Republicans get back into power and continue to be almost as bad. But we defy any Earthling to make sense of Dionne’s claim that this all somehow amounts to an argument in favor of Democratic policies.

What about David Brooks, a Krugman colleague at the New York Times? Is he human or is he Enron? He describes the president’s first year in office as follows:

In many ways, Barack Obama has lived up to his promise. He has created a thoughtful, pragmatic administration marked by a culture of honest and vigorous debate.

Is there any way to square that characterization with the president’s insistence on pushing ahead with ObamaCare, months after it was clear that it would be a political–never mind financial and medical–disaster?

It seems to us that, at least on domestic policy, exactly the opposite of Brooks’s characterization is true: Obama has created a reflexively ideological administration that brooks little dissent–and that has a particular disdain for public opinion. The next year or so ought to answer the question of whether the president is temperamentally capable of altering this approach. If not, the 45th president will likely take the oath of office three years from tomorrow.

James Taranto, Wall Street Journal


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