James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal enjoys watching the New York Times columnists clash with each other. Most recently, Thomas Friedman was not a fan of Obama's mushy budget politics, while Paul Krugman played defense for the president.
"Here we are in America again on the eve of a major budgetary decision by yet another bipartisan 'supercommittee,' and does anyone know what President Obama's preferred outcome is?" asked Friedman on November 16. "Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut? The president's politics on this issue seems to be a bowl of poll-tested mush." Krugman sang a different tune two days later:
"Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to 'centrist' pundits who won't admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: 'Why won't the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?' Mr. Obama: 'I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.' Pundit: 'Why won't the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?' "-- former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, New York Times, Nov. 18
Conservatives remember the 1990 budget deal as giving in on taxes and watching spending soar. Krugman sees the current dealing and thinks of Republicans in 2000:
You see, admitting that one side is willing to make concessions, while the other isn’t, would tarnish one’s centrist credentials. And the result is that the G.O.P. pays no price for refusing to give an inch.
So the supercommittee will fail — and that’s good.
For one thing, history tells us that the Republican Party would renege on its side of any deal as soon as it got the chance. Remember, the U.S. fiscal outlook was pretty good in 2000, but, as soon as Republicans gained control of the White House, they squandered the surplus on tax cuts and unfunded wars. So any deal reached now would, in practice, be nothing more than a deal to slash Social Security and Medicare, with no lasting improvement in the deficit.
Friedman wants an Obama more in line with his "dictator for a day" philosophy.
It means that we are abdicating more and more leadership to technocrats or supercommittees — or just letting the market and Mother Nature impose on us decisions that we cannot make ourselves. The latter rarely yields optimal outcomes.
The European Union has a particularly acute version of leaders-who-will-not-lead, which is why both Greece and Italy have now turned to unelected technocrats to run their governments.
UPDATE: Taranto had another go at Krugman over his Thanksgiving column:
After marking 9/11 with a monstrously bitter screed, former Enron adviser Paul Krugman observes Thanksgiving by trying his hand at humor. Unsurprisingly, he fails, in a blog post titled "Thanksgiving Is Un-American":
Think, for a minute, about what happened on the original Thanksgiving. . . .
Here's how it went down: a bunch of people got together, with each group bringing what it could--the Wampanoag brought deer, the Pilgrims apparently shot some birds, etc. Then everyone shared equally in the feast--regardless of how much they brought to the table. Socialism!
Worse yet, many of the lucky duckies benefiting from the largesse of this 17th-century welfare state were illegal immigrants. (That would be the Pilgrims).
Krugman seems unaware that there was no such thing as an illegal alien before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. He also seems to think socialism means "sharing," whether or not it involves the coercive power of the state. Which reminds us of a joke: What's the difference between a turkey and former Enron adviser Paul Krugman? One of them is flightless and has a tiny brain, and the other you eat for Thanksgiving.