Paul Krugman is a very smart person who does a fine job of defending himself. But he has enough detractors who repeat the same nonsense enough times that some reasonable people may actually be deceived.

For this reason, I will briefly intervene to point out that the people claiming Krugman called on Greenspan to create a housing bubble in 2002, like Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal today, are just making stuff up.

The basis for this absurd claim was a 2002 column on the weak recovery following the 2001 recession. The column notes the weakness of the economy at the time (we were still losing jobs 8 months after the official end of the recession) and attributes it to the fact that the 2001 recession was not a standard post-war recession. It was brought about by the collapse of the stock bubble.

Krugman then wrote:

"To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble."

It should have been pretty evident that this was sarcastic. Later in the piece, Krugman derides Greenspan for failing to have taken steps to head off the stock bubble, explaining that Greenspan badly needed a recovery:

"to avoid awkward questions about his own role in creating the stock market bubble."

The last paragraph expresses Krugman's pessimism about the recovery's prospects:

"But wishful thinking aside, I just don't understand the grounds for optimism. Who, exactly, is about to start spending a lot more? At this point it's a lot easier to tell a story about how the recovery will stall than about how it will speed up. And while I like movies with happy endings as much as the next guy, a movie isn't realistic unless the story line makes sense."

Note, there is no moaning about how difficult it is to get a housing bubble going. The point was that we needed some additional source of demand and Krugman did not see where it would come from. In this respect, it is worth noting that two weeks later, partly at my prodding, Krugman wrote a column explicitly warning about the dangers of a housing bubble.

So let's cut the crap. There are plenty of places that right-wingers should be able to take issue with what Krugman says, but the story about him urging Greenspan to create a housing bubble in 2002 is complete nonsense. The people who repeat this line are either dishonest or too clueless to take seriously.

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  • Guest - Christopher

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    "Sarcastic"?!? Now who has wishful thinking? Read the paragraph before the infamous quote... he states unequivocally that this position makes sense and that he agrees with it. Krugman, along with all Keynesians, is shortsighted, with a short memory. They can never quite remember how their methods always lead to crashes, but they are quick to suggest another bubble whenever the reality of their poor policies catches up with them.

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