Oversimplified Fairness

Because the bulk of our analysis is aimed at conservative punditry, we have occasionally been accused of a left-leaning bias. We have spoken about this apparent lack of balance in our note on bias: most "liberal/progressive" newspaper pundits–unlike their conservative colleagues–simply don’t make arguments. The exception to this claim is Paul Krugman, back from behind the Times Select Curtain. Today, however, Krugman gets a little sloppy: >The main force driving this shift to the left [among the American voting public] is probably rising income inequality. According to Pew, there has recently been a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who agree with the statement that ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.’ To be sure, there are more varied and urgent causes—say, for instance, an increasingly unpopular war and blatant disrespect for the Constitution—for the Democratic sweep of 2006. This is not to say that economic disparity hasn’t played a role, but to chalk them up as “the main force,” is, well, a little overstated. Furthermore, agreement with a cliche doth not a platform plank make. Paul, buddy, let’s not get out over our populist skis whilst riding in the wake of our glorious victory. -pm

16 thoughts on “Oversimplified Fairness”

  1. “To be sure, there are more varied and urgent causes—say, for instance, an increasingly unpopular war and blatant disrespect for the Constitution—for the Democratic sweep of 2006.”

    Krugman never speaks specifically to the recent electoral success of Democrats. Instead he is speaking to an wider ideological shift amongst voters. “The main force of this shift to the left”. As an economist, his columns generally address economic issues. His argument here, is that America’s fiscal ideology has shifted to the left. The driving force for this ideological change, is a widening gap between the “rich and poor”. The problem is that there is very little evidence, if any, to suggest that America is experiencing this shift. While support for Universal Health Care and other domestic programs is growing, America has yet to fully appreciate their cost. At the moment the Bush Tax Cuts are not slated to expire for awhile yet, and so Americans have yet to feel the hurt of these new spending initiatives. One of the reasons that Americans are well to the right of their European counterparts, has often been their contempt of taxation. Taxation reduces real household income and shifts are nation’s supply curve to the left. Democrats, such as Pelosi, have indicated their support to extending many of Bush’s taxes while increaseing domestic spending. That is entirely infeasible. Support for these new domestic initiavies always rises until Congress reviews the President’s budget. New taxation will be needed to pay for the new spending, and until we see a poll showing a firm majority of Americans supporting higher taxes (not just higher spending) in order to pay for growing and other domestic spending, perhaps we can start talking about a liberal shift. As far as the November cycle went, the Democrats succeeded not because of a slowing, unappealing economy, but rather, inspite of a robust one. With new spending comes new taxation, both on businesses and consumers. Until those taxes are raised, it will be impossible to really assess the public’s opinion of the statement “I support greater Government spending for new domestic benefits”. With Bush’s cuts, Americans have yet to appreciate just who has to pay for the new spending. If you want to see something rather revealing, take a look at the editorial in the times depicting all the pork bill spending on this past Iraq Senate Bill alone. When President Bush vetoes that bill, he is going to have an easy time pointing the finger at Democrats.

  2. go back, read the article’s first paragraph. he’s referenceing the recent shift towards the left in the American voting public as refelcted in the recent elections. to chalk that up largely to economic issues ignores the varied causes of the shift to the left is oversimplifying. i don’t disagree that economic disaprity played a leading role; i just think this is a multifaceted phenomenom. check the link to the Post article from 2006. read the comments of the actual voters who chimed in on that discussion. there were many reasons for the shift, not just economics.

  3. The first few paragraphs describe the loss of support the GOP has suffered in the years since 2004. While many Republicans have a tendency to chalk this up to the poor performance of President Bush, Krugman alleges that the problem with the Republican party is ideological. While social ideology isn’t addressed in this arcticle, as Krugman is an economist, he is referring to the fiscal/economic ideology of American voters. Thus, he is alleging that the fiscal ideology of today’s GOP is out of tune with Americans. In my post, I simply refuted his evidence for a shift, by providing evidence of my own indicating otherwise. This article, for once, is not a critique on President Bush. Bush has supported tax cuts, cut back on domestic entitlement spending, endorsed private savings accounts, and has supported free trade agreements in Latin America. These are all traditionally parts of a conservative fiscal agenda. The problem, according to Krugman, is that this agenda simply too far to the right for most Americans. There just isn’t enough evidence to be conclusive about this shift. Once again, Krugman is not trying to offer a reason to justify the Democratic election in 2006, which was obviously a reaction to the war in Iraq, but rather he is demonstrating that the current ideology of the GOP no longer represents a majoarity of Americans, and they will have a tough time winning elections until they embrace more moderate positions. Just to be safe, let’s assume that one were to read the article as you did- that Krugman was offering up economic disatisfaction as a reason for the democratic sweep. The only area where the President scored big with the voters near November was the economy. Tax revenue was at an all time high, unemployment was at historic lows, the markets were up, real wages were on a tear, and a majority (significant), believed that they were better off financially then they were 4 years ago. In short the economy was doing exceptionally well. It would make little sense for Krugman to be offering economic dispartity as a justification for that sweep, because the figure he is citing is from last quarter and not from 2006. In fact the gap was less in November, before corperate earnings came out in the Spring. The earnings gap is going to undermine the GOP in future elections, where they won’t need to deal with Bush and the Iraqi war. That is the point of this piece.

  4. once again, you’re going after krugman on factual grounds; we don’t do that. his argument simply oversimplified the causes for the shift to left he perceives to be occuring. whether or not that shift is actually occuring is another matter altogether. if you have a problem with that assertion, then i’m sure there’s a comment function for his columns. let him know. i only meant to point out the argumentative sloppiness of his piece, not to mince words on a subject i know very little about, that is economics and public policy.

  5. just to be clear: you’re putting words in my mouth. don’t do that. I never reasoned this–

    ” Just to be safe, let’s assume that one were to read the article as you did- that Krugman was offering up economic disatisfaction as a reason for the democratic sweep. ”

    let’s not assume. assumption of the other’s position often leads to a strawmanning of that position. i didn’t make that claim;Krugman did. the quote is right there, in my piece. it’s sloppy work, for him, and if that’s not what he inteded, then he could’ve been a little more clear. but he wasn’t, so noted it.

  6. His argument is that the America is experiencing an economic ideological shift to the left. If he is citing insufficent evidence for this claim, which he is, than he has not reasoned correctly. You have a tendency to accuse me of misrepresenting your arugument without substantiating that claim. Now I am going to quote your original post,

    “to be sure, there are more varied and urgent causes—say, for instance, an increasingly unpopular war and blatant disrespect for the Constitution—for the Democratic sweep of 2006. This is not to say that economic disparity hasn’t played a role, but to chalk them up as “the main force,” is, well, a little overstated.

    Notice the words “Democratic sweep of 2006”? “this is not to say that economic disparity hasn’t played a role”. You, sir, are misrepresenting Krugman. He is not offering up economic disparity as a reason for the 2006 sweep; go ahead and identify a single reference to the November election in his column. You won’t be able to. Krugman is actually talking about an ideological shift. No economist, including Krugman, offered the economy as a reason for the Democratic Sweep. Krugman concedes here that Bush and the War are to blame for that result. He is referring the GOP’s ability to win elections in the future. Their ability will be compromised by the recent electoral shift in American economic ideology. That is his claim, and it has nothing to do with the November Elections. His evience for that claim is insufficient. I have demonstrated in my earlier posts how relying on a single predictor of economic well-being, in order to say anything about the economy or of the individual is misguided.

  7. i have a tendency to accuse of misrepresenting me, because you do misrepresent me. the tendency is yours; i only ask you not to give me any of this “so, what you saying is…” or any other strawman indicator statements. present your side of the argument, not mine. i never pretended to make my criticism of krugman to represent his entire article. he presented an oversimplified cause for what he percieves as a national shift to the left. he implied (i remember implicit claims vs. explicit claims from Critical Thinking; surely you do) that this was exemplified by recent elections. i say that represents a fallacious claim. perhaps i also oversimplified when i went straight to the 2006 elections, but we assume our readers have the sopihistication to recognize criticism of explicit vs. implicit claims. sure krugman doesn’t come out and say, but it’s implied, especially in his opener. he brings up the 2004 elections, which were supposedly this great conservative triumph, and throws the gloating of his neo-con colleagues in their faces. he could only do this in light of the 2006 elections, because they demonstrated exactly what krugman is arguing about the shift in ideologies. remember, there’s what is explicitly stated and what is implcitly stated. read carefully, not for effect. you’re right that his point is a larger one about a clash of ideologies, but his setup–the shift to the left–engaged a questionable claim. i highlighted that. period. point. end of story.

  8. Excellent move! Keep accusing me of misrepresenting your arguments, without specific instances to support that claim. “so, what you saying is”, is a good indicator of a strawman, but notice, how it is not present in any of my posts. I directly quoted your argument. I responded to exactly what it is that you wrote. Where, sir, have I misrepresented you? I disagree with your assertion that he is guilty of an oversimplified cause here. I contend that he has not demonstrated that an ideological shift has occurred. That would require evidence in the form of polling data, economic indicators, and measures of equity. The sweep in 2006, was a reaction to a mismanaged War and corruption in the White House, not because of a poor economy. He is talking about future sucess for the GOP in national elections. They will have problems contending with Democrats because of an ideological shift. Thus, after Bush and the War are long finished, the GOP will still have trouble winning elections because they are more fiscally conservative than their consituency. This is Krugman’s claim. The sucess of his argument is entirely dependent on his ability to demonstrate that an ideological shift has occurred. As he does not do so sufficiently, he has reasoned incorrectly. If it were the case (from exit polls) that the reason that Democrats were successful in November was because they felt that the ideolgoy of the GOP in the matter of the economy was too conservative, then one could conclude that the victory of the Democrats could support the claim of ideological shift. It was however, the War, and not our roaring economy, that lost the GOP that particular election. Thus, Krugman cannot be implicitly supporting the claim that the 2006 election is evidence for some shift in ideology. It just doesn’t follow. It also happens, that this is not his contention. Thus he still has the burden of demonstrating an ideological shift. He has not met this burden in the form of adequate economic evidence. The evidence provided, as I have demonstrated in earlier posts, is insufficient, and easily contradicted. Thus, he has reasoned incorrectly.

    Once again, while you are accusing Mr. Krugman of providing an oversimplified cause for an ideological change, I am asserting that there is no ideological shift to explain.

    Once again, I dont see the strawman…

  9. your precocious insistence on refusing to read my post is awe-inspiring. i wasn’t referencing the argument at large, only one specific claim i felt to be fallacious. you keep asserting that i misrepresented the entire aim of his piece, which i didn’t. i only critiqued a speific claim. when you do that, you’ve strawmanned my claim. once again, for the record, i am critical of the claim that Democratic shift was due to far more that economic disparity, as evidenced by the 2006 elections, not any further commentary on krugman’s article, just on that claim. any further insitence on your part that i did other wise is futile.your point about the shift not occurring is something i suspected, but once again, we don’t do factual analysis, but logical analysis.
    he may be wrong about that shift occurring, but even if it has occurred the reasons would be far more varied than economics. if he’s predicting, then he’s predicting based on what 2006 demonstrated; if he’s describing, then he’s decribing in the light of 2006. whatever we may disagree on as far as his aim, his piece is backgrounded by the 2006 elections, that’s why i mentioned it in my analysis. you’re free to disagree with that, but i think to do so is more than a little short-sighted.

  10. “your precocious insistence on refusing to read my post is awe-inspiring”

    What a nasty and untterly unprevocted comment. I find your bitter response completely in contradiction with the sort of friendly debate found on this page.

    I believe you’re analysis involved considerable effort, and I would never think to respond before reading it.

    “he may be wrong about that shift occurring, but even if it has occurred the reasons would be far more varied than economics. ”

    How could he reasons for a change in economic ideology involve issues totally unrelated to economics? What exactly might these be? “If he is wrong about a shift in ideology?” He must demonstrate that an ideology has occurred for it to make any sense for us to analyze the causes of such a shift. Conceding to him that the shift has existed simply doesn’t make any sense. His burden is to first demonstrate that a shift has occurred. Then, and only then, can he possibly be guilty of an oversimplified cause. I see no reason to consider a alternate reality where this burden has been met. Perhaps you think differently?

    One more thing, stop calling it a Democratic Shift! It is an ideological shift he is referring to, not a party realignment. They are two entirely different claims.

  11. for krugman, the 2006 election is proof of that the shift has occurred. if want to be semantically precise, we’ll call it a shift to the left. that’s why i mentioned the 2006 elections. they are the measuring stick for the shift that krugman describes. one more time, for the final time, my piece had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not that shift has occurred. i only pointed out that krugman engaged a logically flawed premise. your problem with krugman is you don’t think he’s argued for the shift. my contention is he feels he doesn’t have to because the American voting public did it for him in 2006. that’s why he brings up the 2004 elections, to demonstrate that that right wing tide has turned left; if he isn’t thinking of the 2006 elections, then you might be right, he has no argument for the shift, but, alas, he does–the 2006 elections, his implicit claim, which serves to support his explicit claim–that the American voting public has shifted left.

  12. “but, alas, he does–the 2006 elections, his implicit claim, which serves to support his explicit claim–that the American voting public has shifted left.”

    The White House changes parties quite frequently. More often then not, this is due to the poor performance of the administratrion rather than an ideological shift. Shifts, do happen, but they are rare. Every bit of polling we have following the election night, pointed to the Iraqi War and dissatisfaction with President Bush as the driving force behind the sweep. That represents a change in aditude with respect to a given adminstration, not an ideological shift. For that, either Americans would have had to indicated economic hardship as a reason for voting in the administration, or else it really cannot be considered evidence for an economic shift. No data taken immediately before or after that election points to a rejection of the current economc ideology of Republicans. Generally, though, elections are rarely used as measures of ideological change. Generally, we look at specific polls taken throuhout the year in order to gauge ideological climate. Those sorts of questions, include the couple which are offered by Krugman in this piece. The first being support for Universal Health Care, and the second a affirmation of a policy of increased public spending. Those are the sorts of ways that we can measure ideological change. As I have indicated in previous posts, these two changes are contradicted by many other measures of economic satisfaction, as to make any positive assertion of a shift in ideology unfathomable. Thus, I do not agree with your assertion, that Krugman has implicitly offered the 2006 elections as a measure of ideological change. He has instead offered a couple of important questions which are common used to assess ideology. That is the only way that one could determine ideological shifts. The problem, lies in the insufficiency of his evidence. There are simply too many other measures that he is not considering. People often mistake elections for referendums on public ideology. Unfortunatley, we do not really no what goes into the mind of every voter. Exit polls are helpful, but they are hardly conclusive. What real economists, like Krugman, rely on is hard economic data which is collected not at election time, but by independent economic think tanks and research insitutes throughout the year.

  13. Just a note, “precocious – characterized by or characteristic of exceptionally early development or maturity (especially in mental aptitude); “a precocious child”; “a precocious achievement””

    This is neither nasty or bitter. Dingbat might be, but not precocious. Unless he was calling you precocious in the botanical sense, in which case all leaves are off, literally.

  14. That was a sloppy column for Krugman. I think he was also refering to the recent Pew poll reflecting an ideological shift to the left and with some results that support his argument. Perhaps part of his column was edited out for space reasons? This is a trend since the early 90’s.

    “Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.”


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