Paul Krugman (AP/Lai Seng Sin)

Paul Krugman needles centrists for ignoring Obama's "seriously good year"

The New York Times columnist tries to remind the mainstream press that policy success is what truly matters


Elias Isquith
June 16, 2014 5:01PM (UTC)

In his latest column for the New York Times, celebrated economist and pundit Paul Krugman pushes against the conventional wisdom and argues that President Obama is actually having a really good year.

"The truth is that these days much of the commentary you see on the Obama administration ... emphasizes the negative," Krugman writes. "But this is all wrong. You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year."

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How good a year is Obama having? According to Krugman, 2014 has seen policy developments so consequential that future historians may looks back on Obama's sixth year as president as "one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction."

While he makes brief mention of a Wall Street reform effort that he believes is more substantial than some Obama critics are willing to admit, Krugman bases his argument almost entirely on two policy initiatives: The (disastrous then successful) launch of Obamacare's health insurance marketplaces and the Environmental Protection Agency's recently announced new regulations on power plants.

"Put it all together," Krugman writes, "and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed."

So how does Krugman explain the prevailing narrative that says Obama is struggling, treading water, bored and ineffectual? To no one's surprise, Krugman argues that D.C. centrists — who live in a socio-economic bubble of their own makes — are largely to blame.

"Simpson-Bowles syndrome," as Krugman calls it, is the centrist's conviction that Obama could not be a consequential president unless he brokered a Grand Bargain to implement austerity. "The result of the syndrome’s continuing grip," writes Krugman, "is that Mr. Obama’s big achievements don’t register with much of the Washington establishment: he was supposed to save the budget, not the planet, and somehow he was supposed to bring Republicans along."

Krugman's ultimate response to this blind spot, however, is to shrug. "[W]ho cares what centrists think?" he smirks.

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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