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Renowned Economist Blasts Bush's Economic Policies

by Aron Ballard Monday, Oct. 06, 2003 at 10:24 PM

After Krugman's speech, Nobel laureate and UC Berkeley professor George Akerlof led a standing ovation and hundreds of people stood in line to buy Krugman's new book.

Renowned Economist Blasts Bush's Economic Policies

By Aron Ballard

Contributing Writer

The Daily Californian


Eager to see renowned economics professor Paul Krugman give an impassioned criticism of the war on Iraq and tax cuts, hundreds of students and faculty were turned away at the door at the Haas School of Business Friday.


Long critical of the Bush administration in his columns in The New York Times, Krugman spoke before a packed auditorium to attack U.S. policies he said were falsely advertised to the American public.


"We are clearly at a moment of crisis over how the United States is governed," he said. "We seem to have companies where the actual members of government have a large financial stake and are getting a lot of profit at the expense of the government."


Originally hired at the Times to comment on the economy, Krugman found himself drawn toward writing on political problems in the White House.


The "eerie parallels" Krugman saw in how the Bush administration pushed the war in Iraq and the 2001 tax cuts compelled him to begin a series of columns doggedly critical of the White House policies.


"If you follow the arc of what I've written, it grew from puzzlement, to bemusement and gradually to outrage," he said.


Billed to put extra money in the pockets of middle-class Americans, the tax cuts spurred Krugman to take a critical eye to White House's economic policies.


"The 2001 tax cut was delivering the great bulk of its benefits to the top few percent of the population," Krugman said. "It was flat misrepresentation."


Forty-two percent of the 2001 tax cut's benefits will go to those in the top 1 percent of the nation's income distribution, Krugman wrote in The New York Times Magazine two weeks ago.


He said the same deception used to sell the tax cuts spilled over into the Bush administration's reasons for the war.


"It was sold on constantly shifting pretenses. There was a link to Al Qaeda. Well, no. And well, they're developing nuclear weapons, well, no. Well, it's about democracy in the Middle East," Krugman said. "A constantly shifting rationale is a clear signal that the underlying agenda is quite different than the actual agenda."


Krugman said that agenda stemmed in part from the growing influence of corporate lobbyists, who have paved the way for the administration's foreign and economic policies.


"The lobbyists and the government have merged," he said. The Bush administration's policies, he suggested, are for their wealthy benefactors rather than the public interest.


That money has skewed the rules, creating policies that Krugman said the U.S. government cannot afford to continue without facing bankruptcy.


"We have a new style of government," he said. "They're not playing by the rules that we are accustomed to in politicians."


After Krugman's speech, Nobel laureate and UC Berkeley professor George Akerlof led a standing ovation and hundreds of people stood in line to buy Krugman's new book.


Titled "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century," the book arrives at a time when Bush's approval ratings have faltered, plummeting to the lowest point since he took office.


Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, which hosted the event, praised Krugman's courage.


"He's a unique columnist," Schell said. "I admire him for saying what he really means, not what he can get away with."


Laura Swift, a graduate student in anthropology, held two signed books under her arm.


"I'd like to see more people like him making their voices heard. In fact, I wish he taught here," she said.


(c) 2003 The Daily Californian

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