Addicted to Morning Joe
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a junkie for Morning Joe. So much so that I actually DVR it and watch it at night, because my kids don’t let me watch it in the morning.
One of the reasons I like the show is that a couple of friends of mine, both with connections to Rock the Vote, are involved with the show: Ann Edelberg and Madeline Peters. Another reason I like it is because it’s one of the last remaining programs on any news network that brings together people with different ideas (though sticking mostly to the center of the spectrum) and gives them time to thoroughly debate them (sometimes too much time). I give them a lot of credit for their format; I think it’s brilliant.
Right now I’m watching Paul Krugman arguing against the conventional wisdom about the need for deficit reduction, and it’s fascinating. I take Krugman with a grain of salt - if Obama had followed his advice to nationalize the banks instead of bailing them out, I can’t imagine what the political fallout would have been. And as it turned out, it wasn’t necessary.
But his argument on the show today is more nuanced than most of what I’ve read of his arguing against deficit reduction. He’s not saying we don’t need a long term debt strategy, he’s saying we don’t need it now. In fact, he’s not even saying we don’t need it now - all other things being equal, it’s clear he’d prefer a policy that is fiscally expansionary now and fiscally contractionary some time in the unspecified future, when the economy is healthy.
But his argument is, Washington isn’t capable of processing this cognitive dissonance - the notion that debt is a problem, but not yet - and therefore if you dignify the concerns about debt, you lose the argument for pro-growth policies in the short term. The most compelling evidence that he’s right comes when Ed Rendell cites the early drafts of Simpson-Bowles, which advocated short-term growth policies and long-term deficit reduction, including a gas tax increase to fund infrastructure spending. Krugman interrupts to point out this proves his point: they couldn’t even get their small commission to agree to that provision, in the context of long-term debt reduction, so how can anyone expect Congress to enact deficit-fueled expansionary policies while acknowledging and addressing the long-term debt?
But my point here wasn’t to live-blog a show I recorded this morning. What’s funny about the show is Krugman’s visible struggle not to just yell at Richard Haas and Rendell: ”What part of I-have-a-Nobel-Prize-in-economics-and-you-don’t do you not understand??!!”
The closest he gets is when Haas makes the argument about the bond vigilantes asserting themselves and Krugman cuts him off, saying people have been predicting the market would reject American debt issuances for years, and our borrowing costs keep going down: ”How many times do they have to be wrong and people like me have to be right before they believe us?”
Then Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn comes on the show and basically proves Krugman’s point. Scarborough asks her whether she could support expansionary policies in the short term if she could package it with long term debt reduction. And she proceeds to launch into her talking points about the debt, foreclosing any discussion of short-term growth.
I said at the beginning I like the show because it brings people together with differing views and gives them time to hash things out, but they should have kept Krugman on the set for Congresswoman Blackburn’s segment. Crazy to let these two talk past each other without clash.