Q&A with Paul Krugman
The Daily was able to ask Paul Krugman a few questions before he left the campus. Here is a transcription of the brief interview.
The Daily: On Jan. 7, The New York Times published your column called “The Texas Omen.” In it, you argued that Texas was long held up as a conservative model for economic success, but that model failed. I noticed what seemed like many similarities between Oklahoma’s current economic situation and Texas’s. Oklahoma has long been dominated by conservative ideology, and we now have a Republican dominated House and Senate and Governor’s Mansion. The state faces a $600 million budget shortfall and it appears the only solution being proposed is cutting wasteful spending while continuing to lower taxes for those in the highest income bracket. What implications could this have for Oklahoma?
Paul Krugman: “The thing is, I do know Texas. I don’t know Oklahoma, but I did some homework on Texas. [Texas] was boasting about how it had no budget problems, and that turned out to be not true. Meanwhile you have really bad education, poor quality in education, and really poor quality health care, the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, especially bad among children. [Texas lawmakers] just say now we’re going to deal with this fiscal shortfall by cutting even more. And again, the brunt of it is going to fall on children. And when we talk about government employees and the need to cut the number of government workers in this country — who’s a government worker in America? The answer is a plurality, almost half of the government workers in this country, are school teachers. That’s basically who works for government. School teachers, firefighters and policemen are the majority. So every time someone talks about having fewer government workers, you’re talking about having fewer and fewer teachers. Everyone talks about cutting salaries of government workers, you’re talking about cutting the salaries of teachers. Is that really the route we want to go down? I mean, in the end we’re going to pay for it, we’re going to pay for it in the next generation being not prepared to be productive economically, not being prepared to be citizens. I don’t think that’s what we want to do.”
The Daily: After your column, “The Texas Omen,” ran, The Daily Oklahoman published a scathing editorial against your column, saying increasing taxes didn’t help states like California get out of their recessions. The editorial also defended Texas policies, saying the state has seen an increase in 1.78 million job seekers even as its unemployment rate has become similar to New York’s. How would you respond?
Krugman: “Well Texas is a long-term higher population growth state, we knew that. So that’s the trendline around which you work. And it has higher population mostly because of land-use policies, because land is cheap and relatively open for development. And that’s how you deal with the taxes. And the unemployment rate, typically you ask people, ‘How do you think the unemployment rate in Texas compares with the unemployment rate in New York?’ And they say, ‘Oh, it must be lower in Texas.’ And they’re kind of in shock to find out it’s actually the same. Politifact, you know, got hold of me and said, ‘Can you defend the assertions you made?’ And I said, ‘Here’s the fact sheet I sent to [The New York Times],’ and they had to read it and I was right about everything.”
The Daily: You mentioned how children and students suffer from cuts to public agencies. What advice would you give students to impact the political scene?
Krugman: “Well, you know, maybe we could learn a little bit from British students or French students who actually demonstrated against these cuts. What happens, we’ve got actually in America, the seniors are very noisy. Everybody knows you don’t dare cut programs for the elderly, so let’s cut programs for the youth. If we can change that, then we’d do a little better.”