Today in ‘Paul Krugman Is Definitely Not Arguing With David Brooks’

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Business lunch
Photo: Photos: Old Visuals/Everett Collection/Getty Images,Old Visuals Everett Collection

Paul Krugman’s column yesterday argues that the fall in public-construction spending has harmed the U.S. economy. “And don’t tell me that the problem is ‘political dysfunction’ or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest doesn’t reflect something wrong with ‘Washington’; it reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party.

Who’s telling you that? Who would deny that it is Republicans, acting out of ideological conservatism, who have cut the infrastructure budget?

Oh, right — David Brooks, last Thursday:

If you get outside the partisan boxes, there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.

When he’s writing on his blog, Krugman can be perfectly explicit about whom he’s debating here. (“I actually agree with a lot of what David Brooks says today. But — you know there has to be a “but” — so does a guy named Barack Obama …”)

But the op-ed section is a more august place that requires a certain decorum. Readers of the op-ed page mustn’t find out that the columnists disagree with one another.