Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Bush = evilPaul Krugman could just write that every week. Then he wouldn't have to bother phoning it in like this, and it would be slightly less embarrassing.
Rule No. 1: Always have a cover story. The ostensible purpose of the Bush administration's plan to open up 850,000 federal jobs to private competition is to promote efficiency. Competitive vigor, we're told, will end bureaucratic sloth; costs will go down, and everyone — except for a handful of overpaid union members — will be better off.Rule No. 1: Always focus on motives. That way, it doesn't matter whether it's a good decision. After all, if you make the right decisions for the wrong reasons, you're still a bad person, worthy of condemnation. We saw this with the spectacularly successful welfare reform law of the mid-1990s; Republicans who supported it were denounced as "mean-spirited," thus relieving critics of any obligation of actually analyzing the law or its effects. Kind of like how Krugman dismissed the possibility of the idea working with a throwaway line -- it "may actually save a few dollars" -- and went right into attack mode.
Note also the Krugman tactic of the "virtual poll." Don't bother to find out what people think; just announce that everyone agrees with you, or at least probably so.
Rule No. 2: Always assume the worst case scenario for the proposal:
After all, there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels — state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly — and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that.So if sometimes there are significant cost reductions, how can officials "know" that their projections of significant cost reductions are silly?
Rule No. 3: Get past the innuendo and explain the real truth behind the proposal:
First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration — determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses — must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.Ah. Karl Rove. The antichrist. So this is all an evil Republican plot. (Isn't that redundant, in Krugman's world?) But doesn't Krugman even read his own newspaper? Because just last week, the Times explained that this wasn't a sinister Karl Rove idea:
Paul C. Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy at New York University and the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research group, called the administration's policy "an aggressive and a dramatic extension" of the effort by both parties at all levels of government to save money and improve the quality of public services.Oops.
Not bothered by these facts, though, Krugman goes on to assert that this is all a plot to get campaign contributions for the Republican Party. (The possibility that the status quo is an attempt to buy votes for the Democratic Party doesn't even enter his one-track Bush-hating mind.)
To paraphrase a famous American, "Paul Krugman, have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
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