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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mario Cuomo Interviews Paul Krugman: Iraq

Paul Krugman on Iraq:

Paul Krugman talks to Mario Cuomo, Guardian Unlimited (Video): ...Cuomo: Of course your book does deal with Iraq, and that is a subject that divides liberals and conservatives. You believe that 2006 was a big victory for the Democrats, but in describing the reasons for the win, beginning with chapter 10, you never mentioned our implicit promise to get the troops home. Now, wasn't that a major reason why they voted for us in 2006, and isn't one of the Democratic problems now - a substantial one - that you were heard to say that you were going to bring them home and you failed. Now, the fault is maybe the Republicans for stopping you, but isn't that a problem for us going into the presidential election?

Krugman: It's a problem for mobilisation. It's not a problem - nobody is going to vote Republican because the Democrats failed to get us out of Iraq. I can't imagine that, but maybe some people will be less enthusiastic in putting their energies into the campaign.

It's a problem. It's - I'm simultaneously, like, I think everybody who hates this war, I'm simultaneously frustrated, angry, annoyed with the Democrats for wimping out and yet I can see their... it's very hard. They have no way to do this except to refuse to vote the funds, and that's a very risky thing to do, and because they have such an overwhelming advantage on domestic issues, their natural inclination - and it may even be the right thing to do - is to basically keep possession of the ball and not risk it on a confrontation.

But it's a terrible thing because in this period, this interregnum, we're going to have spent at least $200bn on the war, we're going to have lost the lives of at least 1,000 Americans in Iraq, and you know, that's continued. It's a terrible thing. But I don't know. I don't have a clear sense of what I would do if I were Nancy Pelosi right now.

Cuomo: I think the other thing that I'd suggest, for whatever it's worth, I'd like your comment. I think the big mistake was made in 2002 when Congress ignored the constitution and sought to delegate their singular obligation to be the ones that declare war - delegate it to the president by signing these resolutions that said in effect we're not going to declare a war. It's all right if you do, we'll leave it up to you, and then gave him some instructions.

Now, that was a mistake and it was unconstitutional. And one of the things that Democrats might do now is admit that and say we're not going to let it happen again, especially not with respect to Iran, which appears to be getting to be an issue. How do you feel about that?

Krugman: Yeah, well, certainly they should - and that's - that is no excuse, for not having a clear declaration that it's not OK to attack Iran. If there's one thing I hope we've learned, it is that you cannot trust this administration to be at all rational. It's clear that bombing Iran would be catastrophic, but it's not clear that reality penetrates into that bubble, and I am very afraid that they may go ahead and do that.

Cuomo: ...One thing that boggles the mind of most simple people like myself who look at this situation is how do you explain that - now the last number I saw was $600bn already spent on Iraq - $600bn. The second world war, $3trillion. They were in Depression and they spent $3trillion.

Now, you spend $600 billion, you're on your way to a trillion, a trillion dollars. How is it that you don't have enough money for healthcare, for education, for tax cuts for the middle class, if you can produce the money - and we always do - for war or a calamity of any kind? Is it as simple as you're using a machine to make dollar bills and just put them out there and hope that there's not inflation? How does that happen that you have all that money, but can still make a plausible argument that we can't afford to do these other good things?

Krugman: Oh, you can't actually. You can't. The money is being borrowed. We're actually not using the printing press, you know, the rate at which money is being printed has not gone up. It's all being borrowed. It's being borrowed, ultimately, largely from the Chinese and from the Middle Eastern oil exporters. So, ultimately the paymasters for this war are countries that [laughs] aren't actually on our side in other respects.

But there's no plausible case. A dollar spent is a dollar spent, but that comes back to what we were saying earlier: that the reason Bush doesn't want to spend money on children's healthcare, doesn't want to provide more for education, is not because the money isn't available, but because he's ideologically opposed to it. He does not want to establish the principle that children are entitled to healthcare. He does not want to establish the principle that bright kids from poor families are entitled to be able to go through college. That is the - it's not the - the sums are trivial. The whole SCHIP that was - 41 days in Iraq will pay for SCHIP for five years, so it's ridiculous.

Cuomo: People like Pete Peterson, the former secretary of commerce and Blackstone and titan of Wall Street, etc, has been writing books for years about the debt and deficit. And he's very gloomy about the prospects of what that will do to us cumulatively. You don't seem to share his degree of concern or did I misread you?

Krugman: I don't share that degree of concern because those gloomy projections you look at are driven by the rising cost of social security, medicare and medicaid. Well, there is no programme called social security, medicare and medicaid. Social Security is driven by an ageing population, and it's a modest size problem - not trivial, but it's modest size. It doesn't worry me that much.

Medicare and medicaid are healthcare problems. What drives it is healthcare costs, and we need to do something about healthcare costs in any case for the private -- for the non-medicare and medicaid. If we can cope with healthcare, then the whole entitlements crisis becomes something that's quite manageable.

So, no, when you look at those charts, they show that it's overwhelmingly driven by runaway healthcare spending. It's not about a government that's making too many promises. It's about a healthcare system that is out of control.

Cuomo: I've just about used up my time, and I want to be sure to give you one last opportunity to say anything you want to say that I didn't give you the chance to say so far.

Krugman: You know, maybe - because you've been through a political life and I haven't, but - the astonishing thing to me right now is how optimistic I'm feeling in spite of this terrible war going on, in spite of all the really very bad people still running the US. Three years ago, there was a real sense, I think, of despair about where this country was heading and now you can just see the American people are better than the pessimists had it. The system, I think, is more durable. So, hey, we may be about to turn this whole thing around.

Cuomo: I want to tell you, you know, Paul Krugman, The Conscience of the Liberal - your conscience is clear indeed. It is. [Laughter]

Krugman: Thanks.

    Posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 03:42 PM in Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (2)


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