The Problem With Krugman-Era Commentary

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By Caroline Baum

In his Dec. 20 New York Times column trashing -- who else? -- Republicans, Princeton University economist Paul Krugman strayed from his main story line to include the following insight:

A brief digression: I’ve become aware of a new effort by the G.O.P. to bully reporters into referring only to the "Bush-era" tax cuts, probably in the hope of dissociating those cuts, which they want to preserve, from a president voters now regard with disdain. But George W. Bush and his administration devised those cuts and rammed them through Congress, and it’s deceptive to suggest otherwise.

I had noticed that Bloomberg stories were using "Bush-era" tax cuts, instead of "Bush tax cuts," and assumed the hyphenated version was our company style and adopted it myself. Independent of any style advisory, I used "Clinton-era tax rates" in a column last week! I adopted the post-hyphen "era" even though no bullies showed up at my door threatening to break both my legs.

I checked with some of Bloomberg's senior editors in New York and Washington, none of whom was aware of any uniform style policy on "Bush-era." Maybe the bullies just forgot to send us the memo?

This is the kind of sweeping accusation Krugman makes to demonstrate just how far the other guys are willing to go for political purposes. Notice his use of the passive voice: "I've become aware." How, exactly? Did someone selectively leak it to him? Did he read it on a left-wing blog and report it as fact?

Krugman's claim is pretty nuanced, not to mention off-the-wall. You can't take the Bush out of Bush-era tax cuts no matter how hard you try. Any attempt to disassociate the policy from the man would require an outright name change. If this was digression-worthy material,  Krugman should have stuck with his usual G.O.P.-bashing.

(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

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-0- Dec/26/2012 16:00 GMT