Paul Krugman’s War on Facts

The unshakable dogma of the egomaniacal millionaire

Paul Krugman wears a fancy medal. (AP)

Taxpayer-funded millionaire Paul Krugman is known for his endless supply of hot takes, as well as his profound sense of self and perpetual outrage. In his latest column for the New York Times, Krugman writes about the same topic all other liberal pundits are writing about: How conservative climate change denial is destroying America. (Tuesday’s Washington Post, for example, includes two separate columns on how the GOP is "Dangerously in denial," and "Too stubborn for change.")

Krugman, like everyone else, declares the climate debate over by noting that 2014 was, according to NASA, the warmest year since 1880 by a margin of about two-hundredths of a degree. Or, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson disingenuously writes: "the hottest year in recorded history."

Krugman is angry that conservatives don’t agree with him on climate change, despite all the evidence, such as the fact that last year was slightly warmer than the next warmest year in the 134 years (out of 4,500,000,000) for which we have data:

Evidence doesn’t matter for the "debate" over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around "debate" because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board.

But here’s the thing about Krugman’s (and ever other liberal pundit’s) "evidence" about the headline-friendly "hottest year on record" that Republicans are endangering humanity by "denying." It is based on a significant amount of uncertainty. As NASA’s own report acknowledges: "Numerically, our best estimate for the global temperature of 2014 puts it slightly above (by 0.01C) that of the next warmest year (2010) but by much less than the margin of uncertainty." [emphasis added]

"Therefore," the report continues, "it is impossible to conclude from our analysis which of 2014, 2010, or 2005 was actually the warmest year… the Earth’s average temperature for the past decade has changed very little." [emphasis added again]

In a way, Krugman is proving his own point about members of his own side. Liberal pundits won't let a little scientific uncertainty get in the way of their gloomy prognostications about global warming. It certainly won't stop Eugene Robinson from declaring last year the warmest in "recorded history," which dates back much earlier than 1880, but sounds much scarier. No dogma here. Just the facts.

If Republicans were more clever, they could talk about climate change the way President Obama talks about everything, by trolling the more extreme, dogmatic elements of the left's climate hysteria, and highlighting the absurdity of those who claim to understand something as infinitely complex as the climate with absolute certainty.

Now, back to that dogmatic blowhard Krugman. He was recently taken to task by fellow liberal Jeffrey Sachs for his dire predictions about how efforts to reduce the deficit would crush the economy. Well, as Sachs points out, that hasn’t happened, but it hasn’t stopped Krugman from claiming he was right all along:

So much for Krugman’s predictions. Not one of his New York Times commentaries in the first half of 2013, when "austerian" deficit cutting was taking effect, forecast a major reduction in unemployment or that economic growth would recover to brisk rates. On the contrary, "the disastrous turn toward austerity has destroyed millions of jobs and ruined many lives," he argued, with the US Congress exposing Americans to "the imminent threat of severe economic damage from short-term spending cuts." As a result, "Full recovery still looks a very long way off," he warned. "And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen."

I raise all of this because Krugman took a victory lap in his end-of-2014 column on "The Obama Recovery." The recovery, according to Krugman, has come not despite the austerity he railed against for years, but because we "seem to have stopped tightening the screws: Public spending isn’t surging, but at least it has stopped falling. And the economy is doing much better as a result."

That is an incredible claim. The budget deficit has been brought down sharply, and unemployment has declined. Yet Krugman now says that everything has turned out just as he predicted.

Unshakable dogma across the board, indeed.