In his Friday column for the New York Times, Paul Krugman says that the GOP is "addicted" to the claim that "runaway inflation is either happening or about to happen." And it seems that no amount of evidence to the contrary can convince them that they were -- and are -- wildly off base. This dogged commitment to being wrong may be good news for "inflationistas" in the party enamored of conspiracy theories and paranoid skepticism of the federal government, Krugman says, but it doesn't bode well for so-called reform conservatives hoping to save the GOP from its worst impulses.
The poster boy of the inflationistas is none other than CNBC's Rick Santelli (the Wall Street Journal's editorial page comes in a close second), according to Krugman:
Rick Santelli, one of the network’s stars, is best known for a rant against debt relief that arguably gave birth to the Tea Party. On this occasion, however, he was ranting about another of his favorite subjects, the allegedly inflationary policies of the Federal Reserve. And his colleague Steve Liesman had had enough. “It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong,” Mr. Liesman declared, and he went on to detail the wrong predictions: “The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.” [...]
And this has been going on for a long time — at least since early 2009. Yet despite being consistently wrong for more than five years, these “experts” never consider the possibility that there might be something amiss with their economic framework, let alone that Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen or, for that matter, yours truly might have been right to dismiss their warnings.
The inflation-obsessed right's refusal to accept reality and admit that their doomsday scenarios never came to pass is frustrating efforts by reform conservatives to convince the country that the Republican party has credible ideas on the economy. But this breach with reality is also setting the terms of our current economic debates. That isn't just bad for the GOP, it's bad for the country:
More generally, modern American conservatism is deeply opposed to any form of government activism, and while monetary policy is sometimes treated as a technocratic affair, the truth is that printing dollars to fight a slump, or even to stabilize some broader definition of the money supply, is indeed an activist policy.
The point, then, is that inflation addiction is telling us something about the intellectual state of one side of our great national divide. The right’s obsessive focus on a problem we don’t have, its refusal to reconsider its premises despite overwhelming practical failure, tells you that we aren’t actually having any kind of rational debate. And that, in turn, bodes ill not just for would-be reformers, but for the nation.