Tim Carney | Confirmed: Paul Krugman’s full of crap

Liberal New York Times blogger Paul Krugman doesn’t read conservatives, because conservatives are, ipso facto, hacks and unwonkish. He makes that clear repeatedly. He also has many smart, younger, liberal followers.

Matt O’Brien at The Atlantic, for instance, concurs with Krugman’s silly "Wonk Gap" thesis, citing as a prime example that the Heritage Foundation made an analogy between the federal budget and a family budget.

The analogy doesn’t work perfectly, because, well, no analogies work perfectly. They always have limits. In this case, the most important differences are (1) the federal government can raise tax rates through an act of Congress, while I can’t raise my income similarly, (2) the federal government can print its own money, (3) If you cut spending, you don’t singlehandedly slow down the economy around you.

But if you want to, say, explain to the average reader how much more Uncle Sam spent last year than he brought in, maybe it’s helpful to bring those trillions of dollars down to a scale more accessible — such as the median family’s annual budget.

It would seem to me that analogies become problematic when you apply the rules of one situation where the rules of the other don’t apply — like if you said "a family can’t create its own money, so the federal government can’t either." But if you want to compare the size of overall debt and current deficits, I think the analogy works, even if not ideally.

But, no, the liberal Twittersphere won’t tolerate this unwonkishness. "The ‘credit card’ analogy is just wrong," writes liberal economist Noah Smith, "since credit card interest rates are high and Treasury rates are low."


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