Niall Ferguson v. Paul Krugman: Ferg Defends Obama Newsweek Story From Critics

Dusten Carlson - Author

Oct. 5 2017, Updated 3:42 a.m. ET

Niall Ferguson has been pushing back against his critics ever since he lit a political powder keg with a Newsweek story that seemingly laid out all of President Obama’s transgressions after four years in office and urged readers to consider voting for that other guy this time around.

Several media outlets including top economist Paul Krugman fact-checked the piece and shredded Ferguson for spinning yarns of unabashed fiction. Though Ferguson has been firing back at all of his critics across the board, he took a special moment to single out Krugman, giving us the impression that this wasn’t his first rodeo with the politically-savvy Nobel prize-winning economist.

Guess what? It isn’t. Ferguson and Krugman have been at it for years. But more on that later.

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Krugman wrote a scathing op-ed for the New York Times, highlighting the many “misrepresentations” of Obama’s economic record, concluding that the Newsweek piece was “unethical.” Though Ferguson has faced much criticism for his original op-ed, he specifically answered Krugman’s response on Bloomberg TV Tuesday and further defended his story.

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“The critics are the ones who are splitting hairs because it’s absolutely clear what the CBO has said, is that the costs of the ACA [Affordable Care Act] will not be met by the new sources of revenue,” Ferguson said. “You have to distinguish here between the direct sources of revenue created by ACA and the indirect ways the CBO says it will not increase the deficit. … Krugman is being disingenuous.”

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Several other bloggers highlighted Ferguson’s errors, including Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Matthew O’Brien of The Atlantic. Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, even called for Newsweek to fire Ferguson and for Harvard to reject his tenure.

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“I don’t think you can claim that this is in any way undermining my academic reputation because the facts are absolutely clear,” Ferguson said. “What we’re dealing with here is a very carefully orchestrated campaign to try and discredit the piece by those who are ideologically loyal to the president.”

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Furthermore, Ferguson further defended his ultimate assertion that the Affordable Care Act will end up costing taxpayers in the long run, saying “either that is going to require a substantial commensurate increase in taxation, which of course is another thing that President Obama pledged would not happen, or it’s going to increase the deficit.”

Ferguson also published a full rebuttal to criticisms of his Newsweek piece to The Daily Beast.

In the massive fallout, how are we to tell what the truth is on this issue? Particularly difficult is Ferguson’s relationship to Krugman, which we said earlier has been contentious for a long time. You get the sense that here are two economic ideologues, and, economic ideology aside, these two just plain don’t seem to like each other. They’ve traded feisty words on the European debt crisis, international bond rates, and Obama’s economic philosophies since at least 2009. Krugman has called Ferguson a “poseur,” giving off “the impression of wisdom,” and saying he is “all style, no comprehension of substance.”

So goodness gracious. What’s this all about? Can we just get the truth please?

For Ferguson’s response to his Newsweek piece on Bloomberg TV, head on over to the Huffington Post.


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