WASHINGTON -- The other day, New York Times columnist (and Nobel laureate, though he has yet to be found guilty of plagiarism or fabrication) Paul Krugman indulged one of my favorite pastimes. He engaged in vituperation. He affected a superior pose and lamented that so many of the other superior types had been taken in by mere hucksters. Alas and goddamn!
Said he: "One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders (of his quality of mind) would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no." His target was Rep. Paul Ryan and Ryan's effort to eventually balance the budget in light of the huge challenges facing America today from the cost of entitlements and the yearly budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Ryan calls his plan "A Roadmap for America's Future." Krugman is Ryan's sworn enemy.
Though I never have seen Ryan described as "intellectually audacious," Krugman insisted that the term is commonplace and went on to josh, "But it's the audacity of dopes." He threw around the word "flimflam," as in Ryan is "serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce." He used "flimflam" elsewhere and concluded that "the Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America's fiscal future." Well, the agelastic sap is trying his best to be a wit, and I say give him a pass. He is a professor at Princeton University, and laughter in those parched precincts has been banned since about the 1920s, when the students and the junior faculty were suspected of reading H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan's American Mercury and concluding that they were even funnier than Marx (Karl, not Groucho). That offended the profs.
I, at least, found "audacity of dopes" mildly amusing, and I laughed aloud at flimflam's being used as a sauce, or perhaps it was the idea that the decade of the 1990s was an unalloyed economic failure. I really cannot remember which, but I laughed.
Yet Krugman's main criticism of "A Roadmap for America's Future" is in error and possibly intentionally so. Those Washington insiders whom he is patronizing are not too smart. He claims that the roadmap would not raise the revenues necessary to cover Ryan's cuts -- thus it is flimflam.