According to an old joke, a sign you’re getting old is when you get Playboy to read the articles.
Although I’ve seen a number of calendar pages pass by me, a number which some might consider “alarming,” I guess, as the old joke goes, I’m getting old since I recently received my first issue of a twelve-issue subscription to Playboy and I read the articles. (I was offered a “professional” rate of $15.46 for 12 issues. I accepted, but Playboy didn’t tell me why it considered me a “professional.” If I were a woman, however, I’d hate to know what kind of “professional” Playboy thought I was.)
One of the articles I read was the signature “Playboy Interview,” in which none other than Paul Krugman was interviewed. The subtitle went: “A candid conversation with the Nobel Prize-winning economist and controversial columnist about how the economy went crazy and whether it can be fixed.”
I don’t know about you, but from what I read in his articles and op-eds and from the many comments and editorials about him from writers in “our camp,” when I think of Paul Krugman, words like “buffoon,” “charlatan” and “crackpot,” among others, come to mind. If you also associate Krugman with these words, the interview will verify your association.
Unless you already subscribe to Playboy, you could read the interview by shelling out $6.99 for the March 2012 issue. If you have trouble finding it at the newsstands, which you probably will, or if you’re “funding-challenged,” then you could read it for free by going to: http://www.playboy.com/playground/newsroom/business/playboy-interview-paul-krugman
BTW, I did look at and enjoy the pictures, including Playboy’s trademarked “Playmate of the Month.” So I guess I’m not completely getting old (maybe half-way getting old?). You will, however, be considered old if you say that those pictures of stunningly, if not impossibly, beautiful women were “air brushed,” to make them look “more perfect.” To avoid this gaff, you should say, “The pictures were Photoshopped.”
Anyhow, below are some of my favorite groan-inducing howlers Krugman made; do enjoy:
PLAYBOY: It seems every month various people debate whether we’re in a depression or a recession. Where are we—recession, depression? Or is it something else?
KRUGMAN: . . . What we’re experiencing is an economy that probably feels in a lot of ways like the U.S. economy in 1937, when, almost everyone now agrees, policy makers were way too complacent and should have kept on pushing for more employment. It’s lousy. [Anyone think FDR’s New Deal was “way too complacent”?]
* * *
PLAYBOY: What about Wall Street’s role [in the housing bubble]?
KRUGMAN: If you’re asking why people were buying those houses, it’s because the money was being made available. Why was the money being made available? You had a whole machine making it seem as if dicey loans were actually safe, and a fair bit of predatory stuff was also going on. People were being pushed into mortgages they were told they could afford because they didn’t understand the fine print. Of course there was the slicing and dicing and tranching and making subprime toxic waste appear as triple-A bonds. [Krugman never mentioned the government’s or the Fed’s role. Anyone surprised?]
* * *
PLAYBOY: Many complain that the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t have a clear message. What do you think?
KRUGMAN: I think OWS has done a great service. [Really.] We didn’t need 10-point proposals. We needed someone to declare that the emperor was naked. The conversation has shifted since the protests began, and that’s good.
* * *
PLAYBOY: You have written that race is central to why people vote for Republicans against their economic interests. Is the Republican Party a racist party?
KRUGMAN: I don’t think it’s that simple. There’s certainly a racist aspect to it. It’s not explicit, and the code has gotten increasingly subtle over the years. You know, it was “the bums on welfare.” Now “big government” in general becomes a kind of code for taking your money and giving it to “those people.” There’s a fair bit of crude racism still, but that’s changed. We’re actually a better country in that respect. [Too bad Krugman was not asked, “Is the Democratic Party a racist party?”]
* * *
PLAYBOY: George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. More recently Rick Perry called it a Ponzi scheme. Is it?
KRUGMAN: It’s a pay-as-you-go system. [Unbelievable!] Each generation pays in while it’s working and then collects when it’s retired. There’s no reason that ever has to stop. It’s not going to run out of customers. End of story. It’s a social insurance program run on a pay-as-you-go basis. No Ponzi scheme has ever lasted for 75 years. Let’s put it this way. We’ve upped the ante. Bush was saying untrue things about Social Security in 2000, but they were nowhere near as untrue as the things Perry is saying now. Mitt Romney goes around saying that Obama has been touring the world apologizing for America, which is a flat falsehood. So you have to ask: Are the Texas lies bigger than the Massachusetts lies? But it’s not as if Perry is being uniquely dishonest among the Republican contenders. [Anyone suppose Krugman has FICA taxes deducted from his paycheck?]
* * *
PLAYBOY: When you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, a large number of the jobs of the future don’t require a college degree. Yet many people run around arguing that we have to educate everybody, that the problem is a lack of education.
KRUGMAN: It’s a very American thing to believe that education is a panacea. It’s always good. But we’re not all going to be Ph.D.s doing technical stuff. The task is to create a society in which hardworking ordinary people can earn a decent living. But the idea that if only we had a better educational system and invested more in education the problem of jobs and inequality would be solved is wrong. [With this view on education, it seems Krugman hasn’t got it completely wrong. But do you suppose he wants the government (implied in his “we”) to completely withdraw its role in providing education?]
* * *
So if you want some groans–and laughs, do read the full interview. And do consider Krugman for President in 2016.
Thanks for reading.