Paul Krugman: 4 Surprising Reasons to be Cheerful at the Close of 2014

Don’t believe the propaganda that good governance can’t deal with big problems

Source: NY Times via AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

Paul Krugman is feeling a tad optimistic as the year 2014 winds down. In his Friday column, he writes about “Tidings of Comfort,” if not quite tidings of great joy. The reason? Despite all the miserable messages about a world spinning out of control and a government completely not up to the task of confronting tough problems, “a number of major government policies worked just fine,” he writes. “And the biggest successes involved the most derided policies. You’ll never hear this on Fox News, but 2014 was a year in which the federal government, in particular, showed that it can do some important things very well if it wants to.”

Here are the four areas where Krugman posits the government, and in particular, the Obama administration showed its competency:

1. Ebola

Just a month or so ago we were in a full-blown panic about Ebola coming to this country. And the message of many policiticans was that our public health officials were in no way up to the task of dealing with it using conventional methods.” Instead, they insisted, we needed to ban all travel to and from West Africa,” Krguman writes, “imprison anyone who arrived from the wrong place, and  close the border with Mexico. No, I have no idea why anyone thought that last item made sense.”

This was all wrong. It turned out that the epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually knew what they were doing, despite some early mistakes. Ebola is still killing people in Africa, but there was no outbreak here, despite what the fearmongers projected. 

2. The Economy

Yes, the recovery has been painfully and unneccessarily slow, in particular it has been ” held back by unprecedented cuts in public spending and employment,” Krugman writes.

But the story you hear all the time portrays economic policy as an unmitigated disaster, with President Obama’s alleged hostility to business holding back investment and job creation. So it comes as something of a shock when  you look at the actual record and discover that growth and job creation have been substantially faster during the Obama recovery than they were during the Bush recovery last decade (even ignoring the crisis at the end), and that while housing is still depressed,  business investment has been quite strong.

What’s more, recent data suggest that the economy is gathering strength —  5 percent growth in the last quarter! Oh, and not that it matters very much, but there are some people who like to claim that economic success should be judged by the performance of the stock market. And stock prices, which hit a low point in March 2009,  accompanied by declarations from prominent Republican economists that Mr. Obama was killing the market economy,  have tripled since then. Maybe economic management hasn’t been that bad, after all.

Whether the gains in the economy help poor Americans still struggling with low wages, staggering inequality and brutal rises in the cost of living, remains to be seen. But at least by some conservative standards, Obama’s stewardship has been on track. Not that you’ll ever see that acknowledged on Fox or by Republicans.

3. Obamacare Krugman cites one of his favorite topics, “the hidden-in-plain-sight triumph of Obamacare,” at the end of its first full year.  Krugman says he is asked, even by liberal friends, whether the program can be made to work. Apparently, they have not gotten the memo. It is working. 

In fact, Year 1 surpassed expectations on every front. Remember claims that more people would lose insurance than gained it? Well, the number of Americans without insurance  fell by around 10 million; members of the elite who have never been uninsured have no idea just how much positive difference that makes to people’s lives. Remember claims that reform would break the budget? In realitypremiums were far less than predicted, overall health spending is moderating, and  specific cost-control measures are doing very well. And all indications suggest that year two will be marked by further success.

4. Foreign policy This one will be controversial, but Krugman writes that Obama’s foreign policy of containing threats like Putin’s Russia and Islamic State. rather than waging all-out war on them, is “looking pretty good.” The message is that, despite all the right-wing propaganda to the contrary, 2014 shows that the government can be part of the solution, which is not to say that problems have disappeared from the world. Or that Fox News and their flunkies will admit it. 


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