Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Krugman on R&R and the Media

Romney/Ryan: The Real Target

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is — as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand — about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.

So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.

So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.


Steve said...

I have no idea why anyone would listen to Krugman. He has a "completely undeserved reputation" as a credible economist, whereas the truth is that he has been wrong more than he has been right. Paul Ryan is a brilliant man who understands far more than Krugman about the depth of the nation's fiscal problems and what must be done to solve them.

JamTheCat said...

Let's see -- Paul Ryan's "budget" does not add up and will do nothing to reduce the debt or deficit, and he wants to end Medicare and Social Security while giving even greater tax breaks to millionaires who already park lost of their cash in off-shore accounts, but he's brilliant. Paul Krugman has a Nobel Prize in economics, teaches it at a prestigious university, has written books about it, has been right WAY more often than he's been wrong...and has admitted when he's been wrong on those few occasions, and yet his reputation is undeserved.

Steve's is the sort of lunacy you have to face in this country, these days. People who are so far gone in their slavishness to a belief, they refuse to face facts or reality, even when shown to be irrefutable. It's scary how ridiculous things have become.