Thursday December 12, 2013
Paul Krugman and the Great Depression 2.0Glen Bledsoe Salem-News.com
Mr. Krugman and his cohorts at Princeton had speculated in the early years of the decade about just such a situation. He, in fact, wrote a book called The Return of Depression Economics -- now revised and reprinted as The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, but he didn't expect it to become reality. Nobody did.
(SALEM, Ore.) - I'm a cartoonist not a reporter, but when Bonnie King, publisher of Salem-News.com, asked me if I would be interested in covering Paul Krugman's visit to Willamette University Friday, I decided I could fake it.
I've been reading Mr. Krugman's column in the New York Times online for about nine years so I was familiar with his writing. I'm a liberal, and he's a liberal. Works out real nice. If he has an opinion about something I do, too.
Mr. Krugman, in addition to being an Op Ed columnist, is a professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton. On October 13, 2008 Mr. Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. This guy is a rock star in his own crowd, and I'm a Krugman fanboy.
I'm an elementary school teacher not an economist, but Mr. Krugman writes so that nearly anyone can understand what he has to say, although you may not be able to explain it to others. You can pick up one of his books, flip to any page, just start reading and not feel lost. It just so happens that Mr. Krugman's area of expertise is hot now. You've heard that the economy tanked, right?
I arrived at Willamette University early. I was met by Nadene Steinhoff from the Office of Communications and made to feel welcome. (Thank you, Nadene.) Willamette is pure class and an enormous cultural asset to the community. (Full disclosure: I am a Willamette graduate and former employee.)
I was soon joined by reporters from a number of other news organizations. At last the man himself strode in through the door and took his place. He looked more or less like the photos I'd seen of him. Maybe he was shorter than I'd imagined--most famous people are shorter than I imagine. His tie was draped around his neck, but not knotted. But he wasn't casual. As reporters asked him questions, his face wore an earnest expression--worry. Serious times, friends. This was not about an economics rock star. This was about diagnosing the troubles of the world and searching for a remedy.
Having never done this reporter-thing before I was careful not to say or do something which might reveal me for what I really am. I wasn't worried about appearing to be ignorant about economics. Everybody, even economists (especially economists), looks ignorant on the subject these days. I was worried about not acting like a reporter. Like Catch Me If You Can I knew I should be cool and natural. Mostly I kept quiet and looked interested. Okay, I actually asked two questions, both too scattered to repeat here. I'm surprised Mr. Krugman could understand my stammering, but he answered me as if I were an actual reporter. How cool is that?
The press had their hour session with Mr. Krugman in the afternoon. Later that evening we were invited back to join members of Willamette University's extended family of staff and students to hear Mr. Krugman lecture. Mr. Krugman was clearly more comfortable in this setting. He slipped in funny one-liners under his breath as if he were trying to get his class of freshmen to relax on their first day. His message, however, remained the same as the afternoons: Oh, oh. Mr. Krugman and his cohorts at Princeton had speculated in the early years of the decade about just such a situation. He, in fact, wrote a book called The Return of Depression Economics -- now revised and reprinted as The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, but he didn't expect it to become reality. Nobody did.
So everything's going to be okay, right? Well, yes and no. Krugman says this isn't your father's recession. It's your grandfather's recession. The numbers may show that we're out of the recession later this year, but jobs may not return quite so fast. You may remember our jobless recovery not so long ago.
Is this the end of civilization as we know it? Mr. Krugman doesn't think so, but clearly the lesson is that business and banking must be regulated. The Free Market can't be trusted to do the right thing in spite of the conservative mindless mantra. Our advantage is that we have knowledge that will help us direct the recovery. If we knew no more than we did in the Great Depression 1.0 we'd be in real trouble.
This doesn't make me a reporter, I realize. Difference in style. But I want to thank Bonnie for the opportunity from the bottom of my heart.
Glen L. Bledsoe was born and raised in Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelors of Art in Fine Arts and was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for several years. Glen made his home in Oregon in the early 80's where he continues to enjoy the mild climate and lack of sales tax. He and his wife Karen have published seventeen books together for the school library market. Glen has written extensively on the issues of technology and education for the National Education Association and other publications. When he not is creating "Reverend Benny & Mister Sid's At Your Service," Glen is either teaching, writing a novel, composing music, reading, or developing his sleight of hand.
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