Krugman the Inexplicable - August 22, 2003

Times Watch for August 22, 2003

Krugman the Inexplicable

Conan The Deceiver, Fridays piece from columnist Paul Krugman, takes on the thankless task of defending California Gov. Gray Davis from the Schwarzenegger juggernaut. Krugman tries to put Davis basement-level popularity in a positive light, one earned by making tough but necessary budget decisions: One reason Gray Davis is so unpopular is that, unlike the challengers, he has actually had to take painful steps to close the budget gap. Although news reports continue, inexplicably, to talk about a $38 billion deficit, the projected gap for next year is only $8 billion.

Its really not that inexplicable. In fact, that figure is in the May revision of the governors budget for 2003-2004, which on page 3 reads: The adjusted Budget Gap is $38.2 billion. This gap would have been larger, but for higher receipts in the last two weeks, which brought current year revenues closer to the January forecast.

And if Krugman didnt trust the state budget, he could have heard similar talk from the horses mouth. As AP reported in December: Gov. Gray Davis announced Wednesday that Californias budget deficit will be a staggering $34.8 billion over the next 18 months. The higher deficit figures Krugman finds inexplicable have been confirmed by Davis himself.

Krugmans contention that Davis has actually had to take painful steps to close the budget gap implies the budget gap is being closed. But page 7 of the May budget revision shows its growing-from $34.6 billion in January to the current projection of $38.2 billion.

For the rest of Paul Krugman vs. Schwarzenegger, click here.

California | Columnists | Gov. Gray Davis | Paul Krugman | Recall | Arnold Schwarzenegger

A Communist Photographer With a Belief in Progress

Portraits of 'Ordinary' Lives Full of Poverty and Richness fawns over a Milton Rogovin photography retrospective at the New-York Historical Society. Times art critic Holland Cotter notes the politically engaged Rogovin based his work on a humanistic belief in progress. Yet Rogovin, now 93, was a Communist Party member and remained so even after Josef Stalins purges became common knowledge.

While praising Rogovins street scenes of smiling elderly men pushing carriages and teenage mothers with infants, Cotter soft-pedals Rogovins beliefs: Politically engaged, he helped reorganize the local chapter of the Optical Workers Union and served as librarian to the Buffalo branch of the Communist Party. He was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1957 but refused to answer questions. When a local newspaper labeled him Top Red in Buffalo, his optometry practice dried up, and he lived largely on his wife's salary as a teacher. Interested in optics, he began to fill his time by taking pictures of the neighbors near his office.

Mark Sommer of the Buffalo News interviewed Rogovin July 27 and got a few more details: He didn't admit his affiliation with the Communist Party for years, but was-and still is-drawn to the socialist ideal of equality, full employment and free medical care, even though he had little regard for its actual application in the Soviet Union. I guess a lot of people were in the same situationthey defended the Soviet Union but didn't like Stalin. Thanks to Nikita Khrushchevs denunciation of Stalin in March 1956, Stalins purges were well known when Rogovin was summoned before HUAC. Yet Rogovin didnt give up his Communist Party affiliation.

Sommer adds: When Rogovin worked on his mining series, he found authorities he encountered on a trip to the Soviet Union to be the least cooperative. That was the only country where I took all the photographs and tore them up. That's not a place I wanted to show, he said.

Now thats intriguing: Why would the Communist Rogovin, renowned for his pictures of workers and the common man, tear up pictures from the Soviet Union, home of the ideology that professes to let the common man rule? Had Rogovins photos unwittingly revealed appalling truths about life under Communism? Its one of many challenging angles Carter could have taken to his controversial subject. Instead, Carter is content to celebrate the Communist Rogovins humanistic belief in progress.

For the rest of Holland Carters review of Milton Rogovins photography, click here.

Arts | Communism | Holland Carter | Photography | Milton Rogovin | Josef Stalin