Paul Krugman Is an Idiot

Yeah that Paul Krugman.  I don’t care what degree he has or who gave him a prize.  He may be a genius, but when he acts like an idiot, someone should call him on it.  This isn’t my idea, it is his argument.  He noted that someone should call out Ron Paul when he gets facts wrong.  I think he is correct when he says in that same post that face-to-face debates are silly because you can’t present data.  What you present instead are ideas.  And when he presents stupid ideas, someone should call him on it.  Eric Schmidt (Google) tried but his argument was flawed.  Details please?  Yeah I hear you.

I just got finished with this past week’s episode of This Week with George Stephanopoulos.  There was talk on the show of how to get the economy growing.  Krugman continues to argue that a bigger stimulus is needed to get out of the current “depression.”  He notes that private sector employment is back to pre-recession levels, so when questioned if government should hire the unemployed he replied “… the government should actually re-hire the 300,000 school teachers who have been laid off because of — because of misplaced austerity …”

If you know me, you know that I am a strong supporter of education, and at a local level, I believe in much higher funding levels because I want better equipment, teachers, schools, resources, etc.  Colleges and universities need a MAJOR theoretical overhaul.  Primary and secondary education has been neglected for too long.  To ignore an opportunity to make quantum shifts, is just stupid, and ‘calling’ it the way Schmidt did, is simplistic and misses the point.  He replied “…the easy way to do the 300,000 is to do government block grants. I’ve never understood why government can’t do one-time grants. The government basically funds things, but then they become perpetual.”

This is a good point and seems to address the original point about spending stimulus money, creating jobs and ‘investing’ in education, but why would we just rehire the teachers en-masse?  People need to question fundamentals.  In a similar theme, on March 19, 2002 there was a Congressional hearing I was watching on CSPAN (you know me).  This was just after the INS had sent Mohammed Atta his student visa approval.  The House Judiciary committee held hearings on how the INS screwed this up.  I am listening to testimony about how the applications are sent to a vendor and the vendor (ACS, $3B revenue) does some data entry and then puts the images on microfilm.  There is a lot of discussion about how long it takes to get the film back, and how the vendor is planning to work with INS to get it back quicker and they even modified their contract to do so.  Good ideas to fix the current problem of time delays and helping the operations of the INS.  But I am SCREAMING at the TV, “Microfilm!?! We can’t burn the image to a CD so we can actually search it on a computer instead of some stupid 1950’s overhead projector?!?”  Well there was a lot more colorful language, but you get the point.  None of the Congressmen did.

People need to fundamentally rethink the way we do things.  Does the Ryan budget plan “end Medicare as we know it”?  Yes and it should.  Why else would Health Care “reform” have to pass provisions that target “waste, fraud and abuse” in Medicare.  The administrator can’t have operational procedures to fix that which is already illegal (fraud)?  If we come to know something as one way and we change it, by definition, that ends it as we know it.  Same with Welfare reform in 1994, and no children died starving on the streets.

Think about the 300K teachers.  A fully loaded (benefits, FICA, overhead, management) teacher costs probably $100K per year.  So the one year cost of Krugman’s idea is $30B.  But if we look at that $30B as an opportunity to rethink education, imagine what it could do.  And how exactly has student performance looked over the past 20 years?  Would the same exact 300K teachers suddenly change that trajectory?

For $1B in the first year, you could buy tablets for 1M students and give them unlimited internet service for the year.  For $3B, you could fund an education pool for those 300K teachers at $10K each to take two programming classes, plus memberships in Codecademy,, etc.  Add in another $2B to fund a venture fund managed by professional VCs to look for high tech education opportunities (built by those teachers) that would require mere breakeven profit models (who cares about a 10x return at this point).  Let’s throw in a $2B fund to pay bonuses to students (up to $2K each) that excel in their coursework and/or show significant improvements.  So what are we left with? At the end of 1 year you spend only $8B and you get; Retrained education-experienced developers, Close the technology gap with (what will probably be) lower income students, Create a scholastic incentive to achieve, and Fund the development of lots of new startup businesses themed like Khan Academy or something we haven’t even dreamed (which by the way, could be sold to other countries).

Would it work?  Who knows, but it would cost less, be something new, and address problems in a way that doesn’t lead to the stagnation of the past 30 years in education.  Would it pass?  Who knows, I don’t get to sell creative ideas on This Week, or Meet the Press or the floor of any hall for that matter.  The people who are, have a responsibility to be smarter than that silly watered down hire-more-teachers union-liberal-dogma-crap.   I only have 1 degree, no Nobel gold medal and it would seem I can be more creative than Dr. Krugman.

A few minutes later in the debate they talk about how the investment in GM (how did liberals manage to change the language of “government spending” to “investment”) which was out of the box thinking by the Obama administration, worked so well.  So why is it a great idea for GM to start from scratch, lay off a bunch of workers, restructure union agreements, change the product model, but not for education?  When faced with the same opportunities in education, Medicare reform, and SS reform we lose all sense of creativity?  Is that what smart people do?  Because if creative thought is both good and bad but only when Krugman says so, I agree that We’re Doomed.

Point 2 of Krugman being an idiot…Oh wow, this post is getting long.  Suffice it to say his notion that the US doesn’t have a worker shortage in high tech (have you seen how many Indians are here as developers?) and that companies don’t move where taxes are cheaper (because the data says so), well these are just ludicrous.  I noticed in his bio, while the professor has written 20 books and 200 papers, he has never had a job in industry.  How can he possibly comment on a company’s decision making process vis-a-vis their tax preferences, using macro-economic statistics as a leading indicator?  You really think a CEO says, “We need to move to a new office building.  Hmm, let’s not move to a state with lower tax rates because history shows that when states lower tax rates it doesn’t necessarily increase their total tax receipts.”  Individuals make decisions based on financial facts and intuitions, economies do not make decisions.

An egg-head isn’t always smart.  Someone who didn’t go to the same Ivy league schools isn’t necessarily less-smart.  But the genius is correct, when you act dumb, no matter who you are, someone should call you out on it.

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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