Paul Krugman and David Brooks Disagree on the Downturnaround

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New York, meet your new archbishop. Photo: istockphoto

Does Paul Krugman read the Downturnaround? Frankly, we doubt he has the time, what with all that Twittering. But we were positively delighted this morning to read in his column a line right out of our playbook. In the midst of his customary "kill me now" description of our economic woes, he actually wrote, "The seeds of eventual recovery are already being planted." He went on to cite figures we have discussed here, such as the plunging rates of auto sales and housing starts, which suggest healthy economic processes at work. Supply, in other words, is dwindling to the point where there will, at some point, be sufficient demand to meet it. And then — ta-da! — we have a functioning economy. How exciting!

Of course, Krugman wouldn't be Krugman if he then didn't drag us back to 1873 to remark that the current crisis reminds him of the one then — wow, we had no idea he was that old; his skin looks great — which lasted five years and then was followed by another recession. Hmmm, 1873, what was life like in America back then? Well, let's see, we only had 37 states, and the federal government was busy trying to restore the gold standard after the Civil War. Most Americans eked out a living as farmers, and a lot of them made their own shoes and clothes. At least, that's what it was like if Little House on the Prairie was historically accurate. The point being: That seems to be quite a different world than the one we live in now, and let's hope it stays that way.

Over on the other side of the Times op-ed page, we are sorry to report that there are virtually no signs of the Downturnaround in David Brooks's column. Brooks, however, still wins points with us for not scaring the bejesus out of us with another of his ruminations on "worst-case scenarios." Instead, he offers a more cogent and measured version of what Rick Santelli was raging on about on CNBC yesterday. Which is to say, yes, the Obama administration housing plan does come to the aid of the irresponsible, just as the banking bailouts have. But sometimes, in order to hold the entire system together, Brooks argues, we have to do things we don't necessary like or think are right. He also busts out a really nice metaphor:

"Right now, the economic landscape looks like that movie of the swaying Tacoma Narrow Bridge you might have seen in a high school science class. It started swinging in small ways and then the oscillations built on one another until the whole thing was freakishly alive and the pavement buckled."



Pretty cool, but that's not the Downturnaround's view of the U.S. economy. We prefer the image above.