For now, it seems that Nobel laureate, Princeton professor, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is giving up in his fight against Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
When asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD if Krugman will respond to Ryan's latest comments in the slugfest initiated by Krugman last week, Krugman's assistant Patricia McLaughlin wrote in an email: "If you take a look at his NY Times blog, I believe you'll see that Mr. Krugman has already responded to Mr. Ryan. I'm afraid the next few days are very busy for him and he won't be available for any interview."
Any chance Krugman would be free for a short interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD next week? "Prof. Krugman is on a deadline and not available, as Ms. McLaughlin wrote," replied a second Krugman assistant, Barbara Monteiro. "Nothing additional."
It's too bad that Krugman is too busy to do a ten-minute interview any time in the next ten days because his response failed to rebut a number of points made by Ryan.
In his Friday New York Times column, Krugman attacked Ryan as "the flimflam man" for failing to have the Congressional Budget Office score how much revenue his plan would generate; an analysis by the Tax Policy Center showed that Ryan's plan would come up short on revenue.
On Saturday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ryan replied that he made a good faith effort to get an accurate estimate. He had asked the CBO to score the bill, but it declined, saying that scoring revenue falls under the purview of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
On Sunday, Krugman continued to level his accusation of bad faith against Ryan, writing that "Ryan could have gotten JCT to do a 10-year estimate; it just wouldn’t go beyond that. And he chose not to get that 10-year estimate. So it was Ryan’s choice not to have any independent estimate of the 10-year revenue effects." Krugman also criticized Ryan for not defending his proposed spending freeze.
On Monday, Ryan told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Krugman's claim is just not true--he did ask the JCT to do a 10-year estimate, but it was too busy to perform the task. (So Ryan asked Treasury Department experts to look at the plan, and they said the numbers added up.) In his TWS interview, Ryan disputed Krugman's claims that his proposed spending freeze is impractical and that the Roadmap would raise taxes. Ryan said Krugman's attack was "intellectually lazy" and "ad hominem."
On Tuesday, Krugman wrote a blog post merely claiming that his criticism of Ryan was not ad hominem. Krugman had previously attacked Ryan personally as an "unscrupulous flimflammer" and "charlatan" who exudes the "audacity of dopes." Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "ad hominem" as "marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made" ("ad hominem" also has a technical meaning in the realm of logic, as the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto points out).
Much more remarkable than Krugman's quibbling over the definition of "ad hominem" is his silence on whether he was wrong to have falsely claimed that Ryan chose not to have JCT score the Roadmap. As The Atlantic's Megan McArdle wrote later in the day on Tuesday: "Paul Krugman is Still Wrong on Paul Ryan and the CBO."
Krugman has still not responded to McArdle's post. Nor has Krugman tried to rebut Ryan's comments to TWS in defense of the Roadmap's tax reform and spending freeze. Why is Krugman so certain that the Tax Policy Center's analysis is better than the Treasury Department's? And, while we're at it, could it really be true that Krugman changed the comment policy on his blog in order to keep his commenters from debunking his arguments?
Hopefully, for Paul Ryan's sake, the reason Krugman is too busy to answer these questions right now isn't that he's planning another one of his famous effigy-burning parties.
Update (11:40 a.m.): On his blog this morning, Krugman criticizes a New York Times profile of Ryan. He accuses Ryan of being a dishonest person but is still silent on whether or not he was wrong to falsely accuse Ryan of choosing not to have CBO or JCT score the revenue side of the Roadmap.