NYTimes commentator Paul Krugman is an economist who tackles all sorts of issues beyond just the economy, and I’ve been reading him since the early 1990s when I first discovered the New York Times. While I find I agree with him on a great many issues, I cannot understand his recent downplaying of the problem of Social Security. Last week he ripped Senator Barak Obama a new orifice for having the audacity to suggest that the Social Security problem was actually a “crisis,” and while I agree that Sen. Obama could have chosen a better word, the fact of the matter is that it’s easier and cheaper to fix Social Security’s various problems sooner rather than later.
And, as the Washinton Post’s Ruth Marcus pointed out in her commentary today, even noted commentator and economist Paul Krugman agrees with me.
In a commentary that is a thing of beauty, Ms. Marcus fed Mr. Krugman his own words from prior commentaries going back to to 1996, and in the process she effectively points out that even he used to support:
“sensible proposals” to “slow the growth in benefit levels, gradually raise the retirement age . . . and — last but not least — raise taxes moderately now, rather than massively later.”
If Mr. Krugman has changed his mind for some reason, that’s fine. Everyone has a right to change their mind or refine their opinions over the course of a decade or so. But he should really come out and tell us which Paul Krugman we should listen to, the 1996-2001 version or the 2007 version.
In the process of fixing Social Security, we’ll probably figure out better how to fix the massive problems that are Medicare and Medicaid. And it’s an excellent development that most of the Democratic candidates for President have suggestions for how best to solve Social Security’s problems that differ not so much in degree but in approach – they have all accepted the basic tenant that Social Security needs to be fixed. I’ve been saying that we needed to fix Social Security with higher taxes, an older retirement age, and some version of reduced benefits ever since I was in college….
And I’m happy to see that Paul Krugman agrees with me.