Most economists are not susceptible to partisanship in their work, a new scholarly study finds. But anyone who reads Paul Krugman's columns in the New York Times will hardly be surprised to learn he is a glaring exception to the study's findings.
He consistently changes his fiscal views depending on the party in power.
"Krugman has changed his tune in a significant way regarding the budget deficit when the White House has changed party," found Brett Barkley, an economics student at George Mason University. The study, published in Econ Journal Watch, a peer reviewed journal, examined statements from 17 economists from 1981 through 2009, and gauged the consistency of their stances on deficit spending and reduction during Republican and Democratic administrations.
According to the study, Krugman was the only economist of the 17 to "significantly" change his stance on the federal budget deficit for partisan reasons.
Large budget deficits represent a burden on the future, and debt accumulation eventually poses great problems. Economists writing for the public can either highlight such truths, neglect the issue, or try to allay worries or excuse or justify large budget deficits (as anti-recession policy, for example). Economists affiliated or aligned with one of the parties may be suspected of changing their positions on budgets deficits to serve their favored party or win favor with its constituency.
Krugman "explicitly supported deficit reduction in the 1990s and early 2000s under Republican administrations," the study found, "then changed his view once Clinton entered office in 1993 and the Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006."
This study lends academic weight to a theory anyone who consistently reads Krugman's work has no doubt already postulated. In his never-ending quest to score political points for the left, Krugman has even gone so far as to contradict his own findings to bash Republican politicians.
Revealingly, the only other economist who the study found had more than a "minor" partisan bent to his work -- though his "moderate" partisanship is less severe than Krugman's -- was Alan Blinder, another liberal.
Blinder, who worked in the Clinton administration and on the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, "consistently supported deficit spending that resulted from Democratic policies and criticized deficit spending that resulted from Republican policy," according to the study.