Joe Scarborough Just Proved That Paul Krugman Is Right About the Debt

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In the midst of researching and writing a longer explanation of the amazing media slugfest that is Joe Scarborough & Responsible Television Media vs. Paul Krugman, I had a thought that's too long to tweet and too tangential to shoehorn into a debt explainer, so I'll leave it here.

Backstory: Paul Krugman went on Morning Joe a few weeks ago and said, basically: I'm not scared about our long term debt, because it's long-term, but I am scared of our short-term jobs crisis, because it's short-term.

Joe's response was essentially: We can worry about both. It's like walking and chewing gum.

Krugman's reply was essentially: Actually, we can't worry about both, and it's not like walking and chewing gum, because our federal government and our media luminaries are really only capable of worrying about one thing at a time. That makes the debt a distraction from the jobs crisis.

Joe disagreed, arguing that he can worry about jobs and debt simultaneously.

But here's the rich irony. In order to prove Krugman wrong, Joe Scarborough has spent the last two weeks talking obsessively about ... the debt. And attacking Paul Krugman about ... the debt. And asking Steve Rattner to emphasize, not why Krugman is right about jobs, but why he's wrong about ... the debt. In the two weeks after saying he could focus on jobs and debt at the same time, Scarborough has tweeted a lot. Five tweets mentioned debt. Zero mentioned jobs. Since January 27, he has written three columns for Politico that contain ten mentions of the word debt (including two headlines) and zero mentions of the word jobs.

Paul Krugman might be wrong about the future of our debt. But he's right about one thing. Walking and chewing gum is much harder than it sounds when it comes to jobs and debt.

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

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