Left-wing economist, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman hates deficits in tough economic times -- when the president of the United States is named George W. Bush.
Krugman, in a November 2004 interview, criticized the "enormous" Bush deficit. "We have a world-class budget deficit," he said, "not just as in absolute terms, of course -- it's the biggest budget deficit in the history of the world -- but it's a budget deficit that, as a share of GDP, is right up there."
The numbers? The deficit in fiscal year 2004 -- $413 billion, 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product.
Back then, a disapproving Krugman called the deficit "comparable to the worst we've ever seen in this country. ... The only time postwar that the United States has had anything like these deficits is the middle Reagan years, and that was with unemployment close to 10 percent." Take away the Social Security surplus spent by the government, he said, and "we're running at a deficit of more than 6 percent of GDP, and that is unprecedented."
He considered the Bush tax cuts irresponsible and a major contributor -- along with two wars -- to the deficit. But he also warned of the growing cost of autopilot entitlements: "We have the huge bulge in the population that starts to collect benefits. ... If there isn't a clear path towards fiscal sanity well before (the next decade), then I think the financial markets are going to say, 'Well, gee, where is this going?'"
Three months earlier, Krugman said, "Here we are more than 2 1/2 years after the official end of the recession, and we're still well below, of course, pre-Bush employment." In October 2004, unemployment was 5.5 percent and continued to slowly decline. At the time, Krugman described the economy as "weak," with "job creation ... essentially nonexistent."
How bad will it get? If we don't get our "financial house in order," he said, "I think we're looking for a collapse of confidence some time in the not-too-distant future."
Fast-forward to 2010.
The numbers: projected deficit for fiscal year 2010 -- over $1.5 trillion, more than 10 percent of GDP.
This sets a post-WWII record in both absolute numbers and as a percentage of GDP. And if the Obama administration's optimistic projections of the economic growth fall short, things will get much worse. So what does Krugman say now?
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