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Paul Krugman on Joe Lieberman

Paul Krugman on Joe Lieberman 16 months ago:

The $600 Billion Man - The Archive - The New York Times: In his Jan. 15 radio address, President Bush made a startling claim: ''According to the Social Security trustees, waiting just one year adds $600 billion to the cost of fixing Social Security.'' The $600 billion cost of each year's delay has become a standard administration talking point.... In fact... Bush was grossly misrepresenting the meaning of a technical discussion of accounting issues... which has nothing to do with the cost of delaying changes in the retirement program. The same type of ''infinite horizon'' calculation applied to the Bush tax cuts says that their costs rise by $1 trillion a year. That's not a useful measure of the cost of not repealing those cuts immediately.

So anyone who repeats the $600 billion line is helping to spread a lie.... [I]n his latest radio address, Mr. Bush -- correctly, this time -- attributed the $600 billion figure to a ''Democrat leader.'' He was referring to Senator Joseph Lieberman, who, for some reason, repeated the party line -- the Republican party line -- the previous Sunday. My guess is that Mr. Lieberman thought he was being centrist and bipartisan, reaching out to Republicans by showing that he shares their concerns.... [But] Mr. Lieberman gave the administration cover by endorsing its fake numbers....

Meanwhile, the party missed a big opportunity to make its case against increasing families' risk by acquiescing to the credit card industry's demand for harsher bankruptcy laws.... Mr. Lieberman stated clearly what was wrong with the bankruptcy bill: ''It failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment,'' making it unfair to ''working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own.'' A stand against the bill would have merged populism with patriotism, highlighting Democrats' differences with Republicans' vision of America. But many Democrats chose not to take that stand. And Mr. Lieberman was among them: his vote against the bill was an empty gesture. On the only vote that opponents of the bill had a chance of winning -- a motion to cut off further discussion -- he sided with the credit card companies. To be fair, so did 13 other Democrats. But none of the others tried to have it both ways.

It isn't always bad politics to say things that aren't true and claim to support things you actually oppose: just look at who's running the country. But Democrats who engage in these tactics right now create big problems for a party that has been given a special chance -- maybe its last chance -- to remind the country of what Democrats stand for, and why.

What was most interesting was Lieberman's response: he counterattacked, claiming to know more about economics than Paul Krugman:

Protecting Social Security - The Archive - The New York Times: To the Editor:

Paul Krugman (''The $600 Billion Man,'' column, March 15) claims that when I say that every year we do nothing about Social Security's coming insolvency we add $600 billion in unfunded liabilities, I am ''helping to spread a lie.''

Nonsense. Experts we've consulted at the Social Security Administration have confirmed this estimate.

Everyone knows that Social Security is on a path to insolvency. Every year that we wait to make the program solvent will cost us more.

I know that Mr. Krugman opposes the president's carved-out private savings accounts. So do I. But if we stop there, the victims will be tens of millions of seniors who need Social Security to escape poverty.

As a columnist, Mr. Krugman has the right to just say no. As a lawmaker, I have a responsibility to work with other members of Congress in both parties and with the administration to protect this great program.

And as a Democrat, I feel a special responsibility to preserve one of my party's most effective initiatives ever.

Joe Lieberman

Certainly Lieberman does not believe he needs support from the reality-based community.