Wait, Maybe the Right Does Have Some Ideas!

The current debate about the budget usually goes something like this: The left says the right has no ideas (or at least no new ideas) and the right says the left has no good ideas (or at least no ideas that won't blow up the size of government). So here I go: I do think the right has some ideas, and I'd really love the smartest thinkers on the left to take them more seriously.

Here's Paul Krugman's most recent column on Republican vacuity. It's good, it's cogent, it's mostly right. It's also frustrating. He's accusing Republicans of refusing to have "serious discussions" about the budget. Then he identifies some Republican ideas and doesn't discuss them seriously.


Krugman is writing about the right's plans to reform entitlements. (It's important to understand throughout this that Krugman isn't as concerned about our deficits as a lot of other politicians and policy thinkers.) He criticizes the idea of putting a hard budget on Medicare (as Paul Ryan's plan would do) as an act of Republican hypocrisy. He is against means-testing entitlements, because he's afraid that making Social Security mainly a benefit for the poor will make it unpopular. These are technically defensible positions (Republicans are being hypocritical on Medicare cuts, and means-testing entitlements might erode their popularity). But let's agree that these are, in fact, "serious discussions" worth having. Putting entitlements on a tighter budget has left-of-center defenders. Focusing aid on those who need it most is a reasonable solution to cutting costs in an underfunded program.

Look, Krugman is under no contractual obligation to agree with anything Republicans say.  At the end of the day, my sense is he thinks entitlements don't need an overhaul as dramatic as others want. That's fine, and possibly even right. But it's frustrating to hear him say "the GOP has no solutions, the GOP has no solutions" and see him swat two serious solutions out of the air because he doesn't think the authors are being intellectually honest.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In