Krugman on Colbert: Bushies Were Stupid, Crazy

Columnist Paul Krugman on The Colbert Report: "[People in the White House] understand what the problems of the economy are. You know, as I say, they're not stupid, they're not crazy, which is a big improvement on previous management."

On Monday's edition of The Colbert Report, Times columnist Paul Krugman pitched his case for a much more massive "stimulus" of government spending. He said "Things are getting worse more slowly. We were losing, you know, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. We're probably now at this point going to be losing 300,000 a jobs a month." When Colbert challenged him to say something more cheerful, he unloaded on the stupid and crazy people of the Bush administration:

KRUGMAN: Let me say something positive. We do actually have people in the White House who understand this stuff. I think they're not forceful enough, but these are not stupid people. These are not crazy people.

COLBERT: You're saying that they understand what they did wrong, then.

KRUGMAN: They understand what the problems of the economy are. You know, as I say, they're not stupid, they're not crazy, which is a big improvement on previous management. [Whoops and applause]

Colbert joked that he agreed, that a lot of the economic blame can be placed on the Clinton administration. Krugman boasted that his view - "backed by numbers, unfortunately" - is that we're pussyfooting on government spending in an enormous crisis. Later, Colbert sounded almost like a real conservative when he pressed Krugman on how many jobs he's created:

COLBERT: How many employees do you, Paul Krugman have?

KRUGMAN: Um, I have -

COLBERT: Have you ever created one job?

KRUGMAN: Um, I have -

COLBERT: Have you ever run one business?


COLBERT: So much as a hot dog stand?

KRUGMAN: No. In fact, I have not.

COLBERT: So you are a theoretician.

KRUGMAN: This is true.

COLBERT: So you are like a theologian, okay?


COLBERT: A theologian can write about martyrdom, but only the martyr goes into the fire. True?


COLBERT: So shouldn't we let the free market cure these things? Because they've created jobs.

KRUGMAN: Um, you know, business got us into this, right?

COLBERT: Then they can get us out. They know the way. [Laughter] They go back up that slippery slope. That's where we came down.

KRUGMAN: There's a line actually that some of us use. You know, you do need people who know where the bodies are buried and maybe the best people are the people who put the bodies there. [Audience moans.] But I think not quite in this case.

COLBERT: That's the cheeriest thing you've said so far.

Krugman began his theorizing with the notion that massive government intervention is like administering antibiotics to the ill:

I will say, look, the big problem is, we all came into this, including people in the administration as well, saying this is the crisis of our lives, the crisis of several generations. You gotta hit it with overwhelming force. You've gotta take a massive dose of antibiotics to cure this thing and what they actually gave was enough to help, but not enough to cure it. And there were reasons for that it's not easy. They didn't have a clear sixty senators to vote for stimulus and all of that. But still, the solution has not been up in scale to the size of problem. That's the thing that's got me worried.

- Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.