October 25, 2011

David Frum's Ah Ha Moment - Smart Politicians Should Follow Frum's Lead


Frum + Krugman = ?

David Frum is a former Bush speechwriter, graduate of Yale and Harvard, the author of the famous axes of evil speech, and a conservative. He’s a Republican whose views have evolved over the years related to marriage equality, and he’s in favor of “gay rights and gay marriage.”

I wasn’t aware of his August 3rd blog post, but he wrote on his blog and wondered out loud if Republicans had become too entrenched in ideology, and far removed from reality, when viewing the ailing state of the US economy. Recent figures indicate that the economic mess was much worse than anyone was aware of.

Frum said:

Two years ago, Commerce estimated the decline of the US economy at -0.5% in the third quarter of 2008 and -3.8% in the fourth quarter. It now puts the damage at -3.7% and -8.9%: Great Depression territory.

Those estimates make intuitive sense as we assess the real-world effect of the crisis: the jobs lost, the homes foreclosed, the retirements shattered. When people tell me that I’ve changed my mind too much about too many things over the past four years, I can only point to the devastation wrought by this crisis and wonder: How closed must your thinking be if it isn’t affected by a disaster of such magnitude? And in fact, almost all of our thinking has been somehow affected: hence the drift of so many conservatives away from what used to be the mainstream market-oriented Washington Consensus toward Austrian economics and Ron Paul style hard-money libertarianism. The ground they and I used to occupy stands increasingly empty.

David Frum has a brain, and I like that. He’s not caught up in dogmatic ideals, and seems to be a pragmatist. He’s a journalist and talking head on TV now - but the GOP could learn something from him. Just those few sentences represent a flexibility and desire to put the people you serve first - and that's missing from today’s Republican party.

I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that he’s Canadian, though he’s a naturalized citizen now. He doesn’t have the chains and shackles of the party to weigh him down.

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?


Wow. Paul Krugman is so vilified by Republicans, and despite his Nobel Prize in economics, is dismissed as a liberal New York Times columnist. If you ever watch George Will on a Sunday morning, who looks more and more like George Jetson every day, he seems to kick start his rhetoric directly into high gear - and likes nothing more than to speak down to Paul Krugman whenever he is on the program.

Business Insider ‘s Henry Blodget wrote about David Frum, and Paul Krugman too.

Few economists have been more correct about the economic crisis of the last several years than the proudly liberal Paul Krugman.

Krugman spotted the "liquidity trap" early on (since the problem with the economy was too much debt, cutting rates and creating easier money would not get us out of it).

Krugman shot down the hyperventilation about a coming hyper-inflation, arguing that the global labor glut would prevent easy credit from inflating wages.  

Krugman quickly pronounced the Obama Administration's stimulus as far too small and said it would not get the job done.

Krugman scoffed at the idea that interest rates were about to skyrocket as our creditors decided en masse that we were so fiscally irresponsible that they couldn't possibly lend us any more money.
He has been right on all counts.

Recently, Krugman has denounced the "austerity" push of the GOP, arguing that tackling our debt and deficit problem right now with spending cuts is the worst move we can make. Such cuts, Krugman argues, will put more people out of work and shrink the economy. And this, in turn, will increase, not decrease, the deficit.  

A couple of months back, Republican commentator David Frum made a startling observation:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis?
The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Will Frum be ostracized for that remark?  After all, Paul Krugman is supposed to be Public Enemy No. 1.

Or will more Republicans begin to agree that, although government spending does indeed need to be cut eventually, and the debt problem does need to be addressed, suddenly chopping, say, $1 trillion of government spending next year is not the best way to get ourselves out of this mess?

I don’t know about you, but I get excited when a consensus builds, and opinions change, and you can see the “a ha” moment. I don’t believe that policy makers and politicians have to have one position - and then be wed to it, because others might perceive you to be a “flip-flopper.” If you evolve and you’re thoughtful, and you move forward in a pragmatic way, you will be respected and forgiven = even if you do a 360 degree turn.

Mitt Romney represents the worst of that - because his views regressed. He took a step back to please extremists. It’s hard to trust a politician like that - because they don’t have principles.

Henry Blodgett, David Frum and Paul Krugman I thank you. This was an “a ha” moment for me too. I’m glad to know there are Republicans that I have some respect and admiration for. And that’s easy for me to say - because you have to convince your brethren to get off their asses and actually do some work!.

Disqus