More baloney from Krugman


Paul Krugman, tries to respond today to withering attacks on his column from last Friday in which he declared that a full statewide manual recount would have given Al Gore the victory in Florida in 2000.  Somebody at the New York Times may have gotten concerned about how far from the truth Krugman was straying.

In his weak attempt to rehabilitate himself in his column today  Krugman presents three scenarios.

The first is the most important:  what would have happened had the US Supreme Court not intervened, and stopped the manual recount of the undervote going on statewide?

Krugman's answer is that George Bush would have still been declared the winner. One really need not go any further than this. It is the only useful and completely truthful item in this column and by far the most important. For five years, the left and the Democratic Party have been screaming that the Supreme Court awarded the Presidency to George Bush. Here, the leader of the howling lefty pack, says this is not so.

A full statewide recount under the rules established by the Florida Supreme Court — a full statewide manual recount of the undervote in all Florida counties (much more, of course, than what had been requested by the Gore campaign) would have resulted in Bush's victory.

Amazingly, Krugman then tries to undermine this conclusion a few paragraphs later.  He tells us that the April 2001 Miami Herald—led consortium recount effort showed Gore winning two of three statewide recounts of the undervote conducted by the paper, and Bush only winning when the intention on the ballot was indisputable, an unrealistic standard.
Let us see how many falsehoods or mistakes are in this description of the Miami Herald study. To begin, the Herald did four tests, not three. Bush won three of them, including by 1,665 votes (his official margin in Florida was 537 votes) under the standard of counting pretty much every ballot that had even a partial punch, the standard Gore wanted (though he only wanted it to be applied in heavily Democratic counties such as Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Volusia).  

The only one of the four tests that Gore won was using a standard of only counting ballots in which the intent was indisputable, and here Gore wins by 3 votes. This is the test that Krugman claimed was unrealistic! The Herald cautioned that this particular test result of a 3 vote win of 6 million statewide was inconclusive, and the outcome might have resulted from the subjective interpretation of the undervote ballots by its panel from a national accounting firm.  So with the full statewide manual recount of the undervote, the Herald said Bush won 3 times, and the 4th set of results was  indeterminate.
So Krugman gets the Miami Herald results completely WRONG!.

There are a few possible explanations for this error and the others. The first is that Krugman is lazy. He almost never provides links, so he routinely gets away with misstating information that is easily verifiable. I think this is clearly at least a partial explanation for his failures. Krugman clearly demonstrates that the editorial standards of the New York Times do not meet the rudimentary standards of the blogosphere.

The second possible explanation is that Krugman is not so smart.  The world has changed, and people can spot his errors, whether unintended or deliberate, a lot faster than they once could.  To continue to lie or misstate is not a sign of great intelligence. I believe this explanation is also at least part true. Krugman is probably the most overrated economist in the country. When you put your efforts in the service of being a propagandist, rather than a seeker of truth, your academic skills deteriorate. Is he intoxicated with the prestige of his dual role at elite institutions of the press and academe?

When Krugman left MIT for Princeton I believed he thereby improved the economics faculties at both schools. [note: I am an MIT alum].

The third explanation is that Krugman cares little about the truth, and will do whatever it takes to get his propaganda message out through the bully pulpit of the New York Times, a paper which increasingly seems to think truth is not an important standard either in opinion  columns or straight news reporting . If the Times cared about its reputation, Krugman would be fired for his latest efforts. They are as invented and dishonest as anything Jayson Blair came up with.

As mentioned above, Krugman also presents two other scenarios, though neither of them relates to the statewide recount that was ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

Krugman's second scenario relates to what the consortia studies found by reviewing overvotes (double or triple votes or multiple marked ballots ). Here Krugman overstates the results for Gore. Some of the scenarios did show Gore winning when overvotes were reexamined. And some of them showed him losing.  Krugman says the consideration of the overvotes (what he calls a full manual recount, and which he believes should have occurred) would have produced a tiny Gore victory. Gore does win in a few of the varoius overvote scenarios which were examined, but not all of them. While not directly misstating the truth, Krugman misleads his readers by creating the impression that if overvotes are considered Gore would have been the clear winner.

Again Krugman shows no care for nuance, if he can find any kernel of a fact he likes.  Remember again, that nobody — not Bush, not Gore, not any court in Florida — ever requested a recount of the overvote, so who cares what it shows?  I challenge Krugman to find for me the states that manually recount overvotes in close elections.

Krugman's third scenario is the fantasy what—if game. What if the ballot had been designed differently in Palm Beach County? What if voters had not voted the wrong way there (for Buchanan and not Gore)? What if more felons had been allowed to vote (plenty of them did, all illegally of course)?  Krugman is certain that Gore would have won, if all those who intended to vote for him, had successfully done so.  It is also true that if Bill Buckner fields a ground ball cleanly, the Red Sox and Mets go to the 11th inning in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. Buckner, after all, clearly intended to field the ball cleanly. When votes are counted, results matter, not intentions. Screw up your ballot by voting for the wrong candidate, or by voting for two of them, and your vote will not and should not be counted. 

And of course Krugman completely ignores what happened in the Central Time Zone, in Florida's Panhandle, where every major broadcasting network announced that the polls had closed an hour earlier than they actually did. With the polls in the Panhandle still open, the networks compounded their error by declaring  the state for Gore (based on faulty exit polls). 

The Panhandle was Bush's strongest section of the state. While turnout in Florida was up across the state from 1996 to 2000, it was up by a much smaller percentage in the Panhandle than in the rest of the state. Were voters less interested in the contest in the Central Time Zone counties of Florida or did some of them listen to and believe the reports that the polls had closed or that the race was decided in the state and not vote? Some analyses of the Panhandle vote have suggested Bush may have lost net between 5,000 and 10,000 votes due to the errors (presumably not deliberate) by the TV broadcasters, who seemed blissfully unaware that Florida is one of the states with two time zones. If this had happened and the Panhandle had been a Democratic voting area, there would have been screams of voter suppression from Krugman, Jesse Jackson, and Mary Frances Berry.

One further point about Krugman's dishonesty.  In his Friday column, Krugman  insinuated that Bush had also stolen the 2004 election by some vote theft in Ohio. He provided no evidence, of course, but did point to some oddities in the vote count or ballot handling in a few counties in the state. John Hinderaker examined Krugman's misstatements about the Ohio counties in the Powerline blog on Saturday and took them apart one by one.  In today's column, Krugman makes no attempt to resuscitate his lies about the 2004 race.

One final outrageous cheap shot by Krugman needs to be examined. He says with regard to the 2000 race "...a  man the voters tried to reject ended up as President."  Well, by the test that 50% of the voters must vote for you or you are rejected by them, since 1976, only Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George Bush in 1988 and George Bush in 2004 were not rejected by the voters. They each won over 50% of the popular vote. Bill Clinton did not do this in either of his "wins," which we must assume Krugman regards as thereby tainted. No Democrat has hit 50% since Carter in '76, and he just barely exceeded 50%.  Carter is the only Democrat in the last ten elections to have hit 50% of the popular vote. By the rejection standard Krugman uses on Bush in 2000, the voters also rejected Al Gore in 2000.  Krugman may be unaware of this, but winning a majority in the Electoral College is what elects a President, not winning 50% of the popular vote.  The Democrats would truly be doomed if they had to win a popular vote majority.

Krugman's admission that the US Supreme Court DID NOT change the result in Florida is important.  He now admits that the recount  that had been ordered by the very Gore friendly Florida Supreme Court would have shown Bush to be the winner, had it not been interrupted by the US Supreme Court.  There are quite a few partisans on the left who still have not "received" this message. If they won't believe Paul Krugman, who will they believe?

Richard Baehr   8 22 05