When Paul Krugman says the 2010 election means disaster, you can bet on the opposite happening

Paul Krugman is full of doom and gloom about this Tuesday. He’s sufficiently emboldened make the following pessimistic prediction:

This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

As opposed to the 2008 election? Almost two years of unemployment hovering around double digits and $3 trillion in new debt since Obama has taken office blown on stimulus, bailouts, Obamacare and other legislation that Americans hate with the fire of a 1,000 suns — but it will be this election that marks political chaos and economic weakness?

In any event, this shouldn’t worry you too much because Paul Krugman is a terrible prognosticator. Remember when he said this in 2002:

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.

And his cheerleading of the housing bubble was not an isolated comment, either. Or remember in 1982 when Krugman, quite wrongly, predicted the country was on the verge of massive inflation? We could play this “Krugman got it wrong” game all day.

He can’t even put cause and effect together in hindsight. A few years ago, Krugman’s own paper gave his book Conscience of a Liberal a bad review for, among other things, making really specious arguments defending Democrats on foreign policy grounds:

As for national security — well, as Krugman sees things, it was not Democratic bungling in the Iranian hostage crisis or humiliation in Somalia or feeble responses to the first bombing attack on the World Trade Center or the assault on the U.S.S. Cole, but the runaway popularity of the Rambo films (I’m not making this up) that hoodwinked the public into believing that the party of Carter and Clinton (not to mention McGovern and Kucinich) might not be the most steadfast guardian of the Republic’s safety.

In Conscience, Krugman did write “If there was a moment when these theories went mainstream, it was with the success of the 1982 film First Blood, the first Rambo film, in which Rambo declares [regarding Vietnam] ‘I did what I had to do to win. But somebody wouldn’t let us win.’” However, Krugman objected the Times reviewer’s characterization that Rambo marked a turning point in foreign policy perceptions on his blog:

I presented polling evidence about the timing and role of the perception that Democrats are weak on national security; he just waves it away.

Krugman did present polling evidence, but here’s what he wrote in his book:

As late as October 1979 a poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee, asking which party would do a better job of “maintaining military security,” found 29 percent of voters saying Republicans, 28 percent the Democrats, and 21 percent saying both would do a good job. The perception that Democrats are weak on national security — a perception that made the partisan exploitation of 9/11 possible — didn’t settle until the 1980s. And it had very little to do with the realities of defense or foreign policy. Instead it was a matter of story lines, and above all about the Ramboification of history. … If there was a moment when these theories went mainstream, it was with the success of the 1982 film First Blood, the first Rambo film, in which Rambo declares [regarding Vietnam] ‘I did what I had to do to win. But somebody wouldn’t let us win.’

So Krugman cites polling data from October of 1979, but conveniently neglects to mention the Iranian hostage crisis began in November of 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was in December of 1979. Is Krugman really dismissing these pretty significant “realities of defense or foreign policy” that occurred under a Democratic administration to argue that Americans subsequently lost confidence in Democrats because of Rambo? Yes, yes he is.

But far be it from me or anyone else to suggest that Krugman’s off his rocker when he says a Republican House of Representatives portends disaster. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and Krugman’s gotta make terrible predictions. As we speak, he’s probably stroking his Nobel Prize and staring wistfully out the window — the leaves are pretty on Princeton’s campus this time of year — and contemplating the Xanadu we could have had if only we’d coughed up another trillion in stimulus.

Let him indulge his fantasies. It’s better that way.

Beltway Confidentialelection 2010Paul KrugmanUS

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