Paul Krugman Wants to “Balance Out” the Power of…

posted at 12:15 pm on February 22, 2011 by John Sexton

Paul Krugman has another hysterical column in today’s NY Times:

What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy.

There are liberal diarists at Daily Kos who would be embarrassed to publish this sentence. This goes far beyond calling someone unpatriotic. Krugman is accusing one party of wanting to destroy the Republic. So when Republicans aren’t offending Krugman’s sensibilities by reading the Constitution aloud on the House floor, they’re tearing down democracy. And then his column gets dumber:

And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

In case you thought this was a throw away line, he comes back to this point later in the piece:

On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money.

Do you immediately see the problem here? How exactly are public sector unions a balance to the power of big money? Granted, if Krugman were writing about private sector unions this would at least be arguable. As it is, he’s writing about public sector unions. And guess what, public sector union aren’t in a struggle against the titans of industry. They get their money from the government.

If you want to simplify it even further, public sector unions are a special interest aimed at extracting more money from taxpayers. So let it henceforth be known that Paul Krugman wants a check on the power of Big Taxpayer. Does that sound like a sensible idea to you? Me either. Maybe that’s why there is a long history of exempting the public sector from union organizing. Perhaps Mr. Krugman should check out this article in his own paper and get back to us.

But he’s not done yet. Next we come to the big lie in Krugman’s pro-union opus:

Contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

Notice he says public sector unions make slightly less than their private counterparts if you rank by level of education. This last bit is critical because it happens to be the only way the numbers come out right. In fact, as I explained here (in regard to the same debate over New Jersey public workers) even the liberal EPI agrees that public sector employees are only behind until you correct for the number of hours they work relative to their private sector counterparts. Yes, it’s true that public school teachers make less on an annual basis than private sector workers with college degrees, it’s also true that teachers only work 9 months a year. If you look at their salary and benefits on an hourly basis, they come out ahead (often well ahead) of private sector employees. Manhattan Institute has a paper on correcting for this difference here.

Paul Krugman isn’t a dumb man. He knows where he is eliding the truth in these columns. He also knows that most of his readers won’t know. He’s obviously counting on their ignorance. As for myself, I’m selling out to the power of Big Taxpayer. Let’s break up the public sector unions, especially the teacher’s unions which do as much harm to our children as they do to our budgets.

Update: Looks like Krugman made a factual error in this column that I overlooked. He wrote:

Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Add it to the list of Krugman’s mistakes. Turns out only 4 of 314 police and firefighter unions in WI supported Gov. Walker. The largest statewide unions all supported his opponent. Click over to Newsbusters for proof courtesy of Noel Sheppard. Krugman made a complete hash of this column.

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Comment pages: 1 2

The flip side of this is that if labor loses after elevating the Wisconsin battle into a national battle, anti-labor activists will seize on it to embolden other governments to move forward. Indeed, I spoke to one anti-labor activist who said he’s relishing a defeat for labor in Wisconsin, because it will stiffen the spines of other governments eyeing similar efforts. In other words, what happens in Wisconsin could have major ramifications for whether the phenonemon Krugman describes — the undermining of one of the last institutions representing the interests of middle-class and working-class Americans — will continue apace with the further erosion of public employee rights in other states.

Desperado in Krugmanland. Nice!

Schadenfreude on February 22, 2011 at 3:35 PM

E.J. Dionne is giving Kruggsy a run for his money in the fantasy financials league today – EJ sez that “Obama is not to blame for his budget proposals.” and then goes on to another topic, as if that settles that!

Who knew? Is there no limit to the power of Republicans to do evil?!!

And E. J. says there is not much coverage of the suffering of the average Joe today because… the Tea Party controls the media! Damn, I hate it when hot coffee goes up and out through my nostrils!

drunyan8315 on February 22, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

Even if that were true, Krugman conveniently ignores the public sector’s ridiculously generous health care and pension benefits that almost no one in the private sector receives.

Krugman is an intellectually dishonest crank who will say anything to advance his statist agenda. Were it not for the platform he spews his nonsense from, no one bother with him.

RadClown on February 22, 2011 at 3:38 PM

He should slither away and become a big professor in someplace like, I don’t know, University of North Korea? I don’t want this idiot anywhere near the US. Keynesian Economics is a failed theory………

adamsmith on February 22, 2011 at 4:21 PM

This complete tool, Krugman the house-organ mouthpiece, lives 100% of his life in socialist fantasyland, I swear.

No understanding, none at all, of the lives of ordinary people who live outside of plush, insular New York condominiums — ordinary people trying to keep the ever-ravenous government wolves at bay, and somehow make ends meet.

Edouard on February 22, 2011 at 4:29 PM

At the stated average of ~$100K in compensation, that works out to $75/hour for 180 seven hour classroom days + 10 other days (in-service, parent teacher meetings, etc.). And this doesn’t include benefits that others do not get (ability to trade accumulated sick time and vacation for $/and or a pension multiplier).
.
Granted, many teachers work longer hours, but less every year because the union rules guarantee there’s no reward for working the extra time – so once you see there’s no reward or penalty, why work harder than your cohort – human nature takes over. Hard to call $75/hour middle class income when the average compensation is half that in the new rust belt.

aritai on February 22, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Two groups of people revere Krugman. The groups overlap each other in a big way. They are he evil and the fools. No one believes him who is not a member of at least one of these groups.

proconstitution on February 22, 2011 at 7:36 PM

Where was this urge for “balance” when the liberal progressives were running things like a collection of crazed hungry locusts?

{+_+}

herself on February 23, 2011 at 6:46 AM

Krugman won the economics Nobel at some point apparently. But we all know how those prizes have been devalued over the years to the level of game show parting gifts. If he were a real economist he’d be able to bring himself to point out that in general unions are granted a monopoly over an entire segment of an economic transaction. If a private enterprise attempted to exercise that kind of monopoly power it would be prosecuted for anti-trust violations. When working conditions were dangerous and wages were slave-level, say, if you worked in a coal mine, it might have been the place for the government to tilt the playing field toward the oppressed worker. Are these teachers on par with coal miners? By any definition? In the case of public unions you also have a clear conflict of interest. The union members also vote in elections. They are as much their own employer as any other voter. That alone should be enough to convince the dimmest-wit legislator that decertifying public unions is actually the fair way to go. But sadly, our legislators these days appear to be even dimmer than dim.

So Krugman, then, would be great economist, if being one were defined as “one who cravenly advocates a solid economic principle as long as it supports his side of a political argument.” And that’s probably the basis of his Nobel in any case. So it works out.

curved space on February 23, 2011 at 7:30 AM

How exactly are public sector unions a balance to the power of big money?

My friends THEY are also big money.

Herb on February 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Comment pages: 1 2