Fresh from a feud with financial-news wunderkind Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman has trained his Nobel-caliber guns on a new NYT target: fretful economics columnist David Leonhardt.
The Columbia Journalism Review offers a compelling recap of the emerging feud — which, as with Krugman-Sorkin, may be little more than an excuse for media bloggers to write fun headlines and play into readers’ desire for palace intrigue.
And unlike Krugman-Sorkin, the issue here isn’t who said what, but rather who has a better handle on the facts. Leonhardt fears the U.S. faces a catastrophic Greek-style debt crisis. Krugman is less concerned.
At the heart of this debate is what the U.S. deficit will look like in a number of years. That’s a very difficult thing to predict — just ask White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, who hedged and dodged his way through last week’s Thomson Reuters media event.
As Krugman points out, there are larger political questions at stake in the Greece debate, and the public should be mindful of policymakers’ broad goals as they advocate for assorted solutions to the problem:
So here’s the reality: America’s fiscal outlook over the next few years isn’t bad. We do have a serious long-run budget problem, which will have to be resolved with a combination of health care reform and other measures, probably including a moderate rise in taxes. But we should ignore those who pretend to be concerned with fiscal responsibility, but whose real goal is to dismantle the welfare state — and are trying to use crises elsewhere to frighten us into giving them what they want.
As long as the government doesn’t collapse in the next year and the Times‘ economic pundits continue to pitch battle, we’ll be content to look on in comparative ignorance.