Samuelson: Krugman ‘Maddeningly Wrong’ on Reagan and Inflation

Washington Post columnist rebuts New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s claim President Reagan had little to do with taming rising prices.

In an economic columnist face-off, The Washington Post’s Robert J. Samuelson declared Paul Krugman of The New York Times wrong about inflation history.

Samuelson said that Krugman’s Jan. 5, column made a “glaring error” when it claimed President Ronald Reagan had little to do with getting double-digit 1980s inflation under control. Samuelson said it was the first time he could recollect devoting an entire column to rebutting another person’s column.

“[H]e asserted that Ronald Reagan had almost nothing to do with it. That’s historically incorrect. Reagan was crucial,” Samuelson said on Jan. 11.

Krugman gave Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker all the credit, but while Samuelson agreed “Volcker crushed inflation” through tighter monetary policy, he said Volcker couldn’t have done it without Reagan’s support and “patience.”

“This patience enabled Volcker to succeed, though it took about two years of tight money. It’s doubtful that any other plausible presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, would have been so forbearing,” Samuelson wrote. “During Volcker’s monetary onslaught, there were many congressional proposals, backed by members of both parties, to curb the Fed’s power, lower interest rates or fire Volcker. If Reagan had endorsed any of them, the Fed would have had to retreat.”

Ultimately it was a “joint venture,” the Post columnist concluded and for Krugman to omit Reagan’s role “is not history. It’s fiction.”

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.