Monday, October 13, 2008

Good News for Obama

The announcement this morning, that Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in Economics, is good news for Barack Obama. Except perhaps for the Peace Prize, which has had no credibility left since Henry Kissinger won it decades ago, the Economics Prize is, by far, the most political of the Nobels. That Krugman won out over the usual Chicago School types speaks volumes. Thanks to the unwitting – and witless—Cheney/Bush administration and despite continuing Democratic collaboration with their bellicose, corporate-friendly policies, it is looking more and more like “the times they are a changin’.”

As a New York Times columnist, Krugman was, to put it mildly, soft on the Clinton administration. But he has been a forthright and insightful critic of the economic policies of the current occupants of the Oval Office, even back in the days when it took courage to buck the tide. As it turns out, this morning’s column is a good example. Although he has no official position, yet, with Obama, Krugman is certainly a fellow traveler of the left-most flank of the Obama campaign. Thus his award is good news for Obama. It is also as good news as progressives can expect – in the short run. Our task, for now, is to assure McCain’s defeat and then to do whatever we can to block Obama’s post-primary rightward surge. If Krugman and his co-thinkers gain sway, it can only help the Democratic “base” to return Obama at least to where he was in the long ago primary days – when the Edwards campaign dragged all the Democratic candidates, including Obama and even Hillary Clinton, to the left.

If Obama is smart and if he is able, he’ll put Krugman and Joe Stiglitz and other prominent leftish economists in charge over Robert Rubin and other Obamaite holdovers from the Clinton era. The last thing Obama needs is the last thing we all need: more free market theologians and Wall Street moles shaping economic policies. Desperate times require not just bold leadership but also new departures. If Obama rises to the occasion, he can seal the election in advance of November 4, notwithstanding the furies the disintegrating McCain-Palin campaign will continue to arouse.

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