It may be unfair to blame Michael Kinsley for Mickey Kaus, Charles Lane, Gregg Easterbrook, and Megan McArdle, just as it is unfair to blame Quentin Tarantino for Guy Ritchie. But there’s certainly no question that Kinsley pioneered a certain style — call it glib, neo-liberal contrarianism — that his intellectual heirs eventually ran into the ground. Here, Kinsley sounds more like one of his dipshit imitators and less like the guy who saw through George W. Bush from the get-go:
Here is the key point: If deficits of any size are harmless, why do we bother to have taxes at all? Why not let the government spend as much as it wants and borrow the whole amount? Deficits are larger than we could have imagined even a few years ago. If there is some limit, what is that limit if we’re not near it now? I’m not against another job-creating stimulus if my economic betters like Jamie Galbraith think it’s necessary. I would just like to hear some sort of acknowledgment that it isn’t free: that we are digging a hole that someday soon we will have to fill.
Can he really be this dense? The argument in favor of short term deficit spending during a recession is that it staves off things like increased structural unemployment and thus boosts future tax revenues, which offsets near-term budget deficits. It’s not that complicated. You can dispute that the argument is correct, of course, but to pretend that Krugman, Galbraith, et al. are ignoring the issue of debt is just silly. Look, I don’t agree with supply-side economic analysis, but I do understand that it isn’t all “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” (as Cheney once said), that supply-siders claim lower taxes will fuel economic growth and increase future tax revenues, I just think that their arguments are incorrect (I think history bears this out). I might add that even though I disagree with supply-siders, I also believe that setting tax rates much too high would dampen economic growth and decrease future tax revenue, it’s just that my idea of “much too high” is very different from theirs.
I get what Kinsley is doing. He wants to disagree with Krugman to prove (once again!) that he is of no party or clique. This is an easy issue to do it with because the numbers are large enough that he can easily tart “a trillion dollars is a lot of money” up into something that passes as intellectual discourse, at least among readers of The Atlantic.
Kinsley’s closing makes absolutely no sense. He writes
The real contribution Boomers can make, Galbraith says, is to quit their jobs and get out of the way. Easy to say for a man with tenure.
Why would having tenure make it easier to quit your job? I realize that pundits like to play this game where they talk about how academics in their ivory towers don’t get how hard it is in the read world of journalism, how hard it is to spend all day polishing Marty Peretz’s and David Bradley’s knobs, but Kinsley is well into gold-plated diaper territory with this quip.