Political Animal


December 24, 2012 11:26 AM Fiscal End-Times Cult

By Ed Kilgore

Being a student of religious phenomena, I’m pretty familiar with the impulse to speculate about—and use as an ideological weapon—End Times calculations. So Paul Krugman’s comparison of “fiscal cliff” doomsayers to the popularizers of alleged Mayan “doomsday” predictions sure makes sense to me:

Regular readers know that I and other economists argued from the beginning that these dire warnings of fiscal catastrophe were all wrong, that budget deficits won’t cause soaring interest rates as long as the economy is depressed — and that the biggest risk to the economy is that we might try to slash the deficit too soon. And surely that point of view has been strongly validated by events.
The key thing we need to understand, however, is that the prophets of fiscal disaster, no matter how respectable they may seem, are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They are emotionally and professionally committed to the belief that fiscal crisis lurks just around the corner, and they will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis.

It really is helpful to begin thinking of fiscal-cliff doomsayers as no more or less intelligent than folks who pour over their Scofield Reference Bibles trying to figure out when the divine hammer will be brought down on an unrighteous world. Such predictions have only such value as can be derived from the credibility of the oracles, and Krugman’s right: after a while we should just stop listening to them in awe and fear.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Tomm Undergod on December 24, 2012 12:43 PM:

    "Pour"? "POUR"? Ed, you are a very intelligent man and an absolute must read, but we have spoken about this before.

  • Celui on December 24, 2012 1:11 PM:

    Of course, Krugman's point is well taken, and should be part of the learned conversation that we should be having. However, given the nature of adversarial politics steeped in the advertising lore of 'fear-based resolution', I don't think that either side is going to espouse Krugman's point. How best to sell more guns? Have more gun-based tragedies which 'demand' that the rest of us go out and arm ourselves (to the profit of gun manufacturers everywhere) against the dangers of the unknown 'other'. How best to sell one-sided economic policy decisions? Whip up the fear element really high, continue the lies and innuendo, and pour in the mix some vast conspiracy theory BS. And, before we pore over all the WMD (weapons of mass distraction) being perpetrated on the populace, we need to take a moment and think beyond the end of our collective noses. Who matters, really? Is it only ME, or do I exist in a world of neighbors, friends, family, and citizens who should matter? Send the Cantor/Ryan/Boehner cabal away; no decisions today that engender impoverishing again the poor tomorrow. Negociations? (French spelling) Negociate from the point of power so that the end result is both right (safeguards the needs of those less fortunate) and proper (what we should be doing because we can do Right things).

  • c u n d gulag on December 24, 2012 1:24 PM:

    The problem lies not in the stars, and not ever in ourselves, but in our lazy, cowardly, compliant, and/or complicit MSM.

    The Peterson's, Simpson's, Bowles', and others of their ilk, need to be mocked and derided.
    Instead, they are revered and treated like oracles - and not the greedy sociopathic monsters that they are.

    Not every monster carries guns, and shoots little kids, teachers, shoppers, movie-goers, etc.

    There are plenty of willing monsters, sharpening their knives, and salivating at the thought of bringing pain to people through "Austerity."
    An "Austerity" that will never include any of their pet peeves and projects.

  • exlibra on December 24, 2012 8:08 PM:

    [...] pour over their Scofield Reference Bibles [...]

    Pour *what* over those Bibles?

    Pour, pore, poor... let's call the whole thing off.

    "sheCurr part"? Yes, well... Craptcha ain't the first to point out that I have those bitchy bits in my.

  • exlibra on December 24, 2012 8:11 PM:

    "in my make up", said she, sheepishly.

  • Doug on December 24, 2012 8:57 PM:

    People who've developed an explanation for how the economy "should" work are refusing to face that they're wrong?
    Say it ain't so!