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Rajan Calls Krugman "Paranoid" for Criticizing Reinhart and Rogoff's Research | New Economic Perspectives

By       Message William K. Black, J.D., Ph.D.       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Rogoff's criticisms of Stiglitz and his (and the IMF's) embrace of Greenspan, Rubin, and Summers' assaults on financial regulation produced the criminogenic environments that led to the epidemics of control fraud that drove the global financial crisis and the Great Recession.  Reinhart and Rogoff (R&R) published a book claiming that government stimulus programs were counterproductive and that austerity should be the response.  They asserted in policy recommendations that there was a cliff when a nation's debt reached 90% of its GDP that led to untenable interest expense burdens that served as a long-term brake on economic growth.  Their book was widely and favorably cited by proponents of austerity.  The proponents were able to restrict the size of the U.S. stimulus program, remove its vital "revenue sharing" component that could have prevented so much harm to states and communities and speeded the recovery, and force much of the stimulus to be in the form of relatively ineffective tax cuts for the wealthy.  The impact of R&R in the Eurozone was far worse.  It led to austerity programs that forced the Eurozone into a gratuitous recession and much of the periphery into a second Great Depression that continues.

Round Three: Heterodox Economists v. Reinhart and Rogoff's Study

There were strong, immediate criticisms of R&R's claims about austerity and the asserted debt cliff, including those of my colleague Randy Wray that proved correct.  R&R failed to distinguish between nations with fully sovereign currencies and other nations and engaged in selective data that excluded nations and years that ran counter to their claimed findings.  Graduate students from two of the Nation's few remaining heterodox economics departments (University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the University of Missouri-Kansas City) devastated the R&R book by examining its data -- and the data R&R excluded.  The U. Mass graduate student won deserved fame for finding that R&R had made serious data entry errors that when corrected revealed that the purported 90% cliff was fictional and greatly reduced the relationship that R&R reported between increased debt and reduced growth.  Our graduate students demonstrated that if one were to infer causality from the data the direction of causality ran the opposite of what R&R claimed in their policy arguments.  Recessions led to high levels of debt, not the other way around. 

R&R's errors were embarrassing and their policy advice in favor of austerity proved disastrous, but Stiglitz did not rush to recycle Rogoff's famous attack on him and explain that rather than providing "battlefield medicine," the IMF, the ECB, and the EU infliction of austerity on wounded economies was equivalent to bayonetting the wounded.  The whole thing would have ended there, but Reinhart and Rogoff's response to the U. Mass article led to Round Four.

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Round Four: Reinhart and Rogoff v. Reinhart and Rogoff

For reasons that pass all understanding, Reinhart and Rogoff decided to claim that the U. Mass study had confirmed the R&R study that higher debt was associated with lower growth and to claim that they had never argued that there was a cliff or that high debt led to lower growth.  This was a strategy that had to fail in the modern era, which retained records of their statements and statements of policy makers about the cliff and about their claim that high debt led to low growth.  (Note that Rogoff's 2002 letter lambasting Stiglitz made that same claim.)

Round Five: Krugman v. Reinhart and Rogoff

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Reinhart and Rogoff's disingenuous response to the revelation of their many errors prompted Krugman to call them out on their claims.  Note that Reinhart and Rogoff's response (immediately above) did not complain of Krugman's (quite mild) comments one week before they wrote their April 26, 2013 response.

Krugman cited Brad DeLong's graphical demonstration of the disingenuous nature of R&R's description of their findings.

Round Six: Reinhart and Rogoff v. Krugman: Reprising Rogoff's 2002 Attack on Stiglitz

Reinhart and Rogoff reprised some of the tactics of Rogoff's 2002 open letter attacking Stiglitz with an open letter (May 25, 2013) attacking Krugman for criticizing R&R.  The famous line in this iteration was: "it has been with deep disappointment that we have experienced your spectacularly uncivil behavior the past few weeks. You have attacked us in very personal terms, virtually non-stop"."

Round Seven: The IMF Clan Closes Ranks to Attack Krugman

Just when one might have hoped that R&R's flawed study, their disastrous support for austerity, and the feud would become a bit of arcane economic history, Rajan, on the way to India to lead its central bank, decided to rally around his IMF colleagues and to (by innuendo) accuse Krugman of being "paranoid."  The title of Rajan's article is: "The Paranoid Style in Economics" and his first two sentences are:

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"Why do high-profile economic tussles turn so quickly to ad hominem attacks? Perhaps the most well-known recent example has been the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman's campaign against the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff"."

There are three obvious things to say in response to Rajan's title and claim.  First, having read Rogoff's open letter to Stiglitz, if Rajan wants to criticize a "paranoid," "spectacularly uncivil" style of discourse containing myriad ad hominem attacks he has aimed his pen at the wrong economist.

Second, Krugman did not make ad hominem  attacks on Rajan's IMF colleagues.  Krugman made substantive criticisms of Reinhart and Rogoff's arguments and practices.  One can debate the accuracy of his criticisms, but they were addressed to the merits of their research.

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William K Black , J.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Bill Black has testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee on the regulation of financial derivatives and House (more...)

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Rajan Calls Krugman "Paranoid" for Criticizing Reinhart and Rogoff's Research | New Economic Perspectives