The Conversation

Paul Krugman's Asymmetric Stupidity

Paul Krugman published a blog post yesterday titled "Asymmetric Stupidity" which argues that it's primarily conservatives who suffer from epistemic closure. Here's the core of Krugman's thin argument:

Here’s the thing: the lived experience is that this effect is not, in fact, symmetric between liberals and conservatives. Yes, liberals are sometimes subject to bouts of wishful thinking. But can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of conservative denial of climate change, or the “unskewing” mania late in the 2012 campaign, or the frantic efforts to deny that Obamacare is in fact covering a lot of previously uninsured Americans? I don’t mean liberals taking positions you personally disagree with — I mean examples of overwhelming rejection of something that shouldn’t even be in dispute.

The reality is that Krugman can't think of any progressive corollaries to these views because Krugman himself doesn't get outside his own bubble, a bubble which in this case seems to be 90 percent based on this equally biased New Republic story. What we have here is progressive Paul Krugman linking progressive Noam Scheiber as proof that conservatives don't get out enough. Cozy.

So let me help you out, Paul. Yes, I can think of a liberal equivalent of everything you just mentioned. Let's start with "conservative denial of climate change." There is a body of scientific evidence which suggests that genetically modified crops are not dangerous to human beings. On the contrary GM food has significant advantages to human beings including better yields, better resistance to pests, better nutrition, etc. Despite this, GMOs have been heavily resisted. Here's Scientific American on the genesis of the worldwide resistance to the facts, see if you can spot the conservatives:

In the mid-1990s, when the first GM crops reached the market, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Ralph Nader, Prince Charles and a number of celebrity chefs took highly visible stands against them. Consumers in Europe became particularly alarmed: a survey conducted in 1997, for example, found that 69 percent of the Austrian public saw serious risks in GM foods, compared with only 14 percent of Americans.

This recent story from the NY Times about efforts to ban GMO crops in Hawaii puts a fine point on it:

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.

“These are my people, they’re lefties, I’m with them on almost everything,” said Michael Shintaku, a plant pathologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who testified several times against the bill. “It hurts.”

An ABC poll found Republicans evenly split on the issue but Dems said GMOs were unsafe by a 26-point margin. Again, the science is settled. Why can't Democrats wise up?

Next on Krugman's wishlist, can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of "the 'unskewing' mania late in the 2012 campaign?" He means a take on polls in late 2012 that turned out to be wrong. Yes, I can think of a similar, short lived and highly partisan craze which turned out to be wrong. Remember when the Huffington Post and many other left-wing and some mainstream sites claimed that raising McDonald's salaries to $15 an hour would only add 68 cents to the cost of a Big Mac? That turned out to be a big fail and Huff Post had to retract the entire claim after everyone had bit into it.

Or if that's not big enough for you, how about the White House promoted minimum wage increase? The CBO looked at the proposal and concluded the impact would be mixed. On the plus side, an increase to $10.10 would lift perhaps 900,000 families above the poverty level. On the downside, as many as 500,000 people could lose their jobs entirely. The White House rejected the CBO numbers saying the analysis did not reflect "the consensus view of economists." CBO Director Elmendorf took exception to that claim.

Krugman also wants an example comparable to "the frantic efforts to deny that Obamacare is in fact covering a lot of previously uninsured Americans?" I disagree with Krugman's premise since I think most conservatives have been far more careful with enrollment numbers than the White House. But let's not duck the challenge.

Today the White House devoted all of its PR effort to equal pay. For weeks the White House and its allies have used a bogus figure to claim that women make 77 cents on the dollar of what men make for years now. In fact, everyone who looks at this number agrees it is misleading. Here's Pew Research and here's Slate explaining why. There is a slight gender pay gap but it is almost entirely the result of career choices. Somehow, none of that has made it to the White House which keeps spinning the 77 cents figure as if it were reality.

Krugman also wants something equivalent to Bush's "heckuva job" moment, referring to the Katrina disaster. How about Sec. Janet Napolitano's claim that "the system worked" after the Christmas Day bomber came very close to detonating a bomb on a plane and was subsequently restrained by passengers who wrestled him to the ground. Heckuva job, Janet!

Finally Krugman wants to know if there is anything like they "years-long denial" that there were problems in Iraq. Well, he might start with the years-long denial by Barack Obama and others that President Bush's surge was a success which made it possible for us to exit Iraq on better footing that had seemed possible in early 2007. Or how about the years-long denial, again mostly by liberals, that Iran was engaged in a deadly proxy war against the U.S. inside Iraq. There was plenty of evidence for that but all progressives could hear was the drumbeat of war from the White House.

How about the decades-long belief by some Democrats that President Reagan had a secret deal with Iran to release the hostages in 1980. That was still being debunked in 1993. Of course we still haven't touched on 9/11 trutherism. Back in 2006, 51 percent of Democrats thought it was very or somewhat likely that Bush knew about the attack in advance. What big data supported that idiotic and offensive idea?

Krugman has made this kind of claim before, back when he said one would "look in vain" for anything remotely like Sarah Palin's district targeting map. I found not one but two similar maps, one created by the DLC and another by the DCCC. Krugman, of course, never acknowledged being wrong. On the contrary, he led the charge against Palin's map after the shooting in Tucson. He was completely wrong about that too but don't hold your breath for him to admit it. Then as now, he remains ensconced in his bubble.


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