Robert Barro vs. Paul Krugman the conservative

Here is the debate, the link includes a streaming video as well.

The exchanges are an odd mix of agreement about many positive facts and squabbling over the rhetorical gloss. Their core disagreement concerns a value judgment about how much government should be spending:

Robert Barro: The reason I like the tax cuts is twofold. One is that I think it improves the incentives for the longer run economic performance for growth. And secondly, that I favor a smaller size of the government and I learned from the Reagan period that a way to accomplish that is to starve the government of revenue and I look at this as further going in that direction.

Paul Krugman: But that’s where we get to the nub of the matter. At this point talking about what looked like long-run deficits of 4% or 5% of GDP, 25% of the federal budget. You can’t close that gap. If you’re talking about a smaller government, what you mean is major cuts in the level of benefits provided by social security and Medicare. There’s no way to do it without that. Now that–if you favor that, then you favor tax cuts that lead the government to that kind of financial hole because it provides you the reason to cut these programs.

Here is more:

Robert Barro: Milton Friedman asked me once to name a program I thought that people were getting their money out of in terms of a government program. So I answered national defense. And then he said, well give me another example.

Paul Krugman: Well, there we are. Look, if George W. Bush wants to run in 2004 on the program that we don’t need Medicare and we don’t need Social Security and we don’t need Medicaid and we don’t need the Parks Department, and you can go on down the list of everything that isn’t national defense and I intend to cut taxes so that we can’t afford anything except national defense, I’d be happy [sic] if the American people were to give him a majority of the votes on that basis by all means, but that’s not the way that they’re campaigning. They’re campaigning on the basis, you get these tax cuts and we’re going to give you all of these programs we take for granted without any constraints and that’s a lie. [TC: Hey, wasn’t Social Security sold on a misrepresentation in the first place?]

Here’s a takeaway quotation:

Paul Krugman: I’m a conservative. I want to preserve these programs we have and that unfortunately requires more revenue than we’re collecting after the Bush tax cuts.


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