Paul Krugman on Jack Lew, Obama’s Treasury Choice

January 10, 2013

Our current obsession with slashing the deficit is getting in the way of real work that needs to be done to preserve both our economy and our democracy. It’s all about jobs, says Paul Krugman. In this excerpt from his interview with Bill,, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist discusses President Obama’s choice for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, as well as his reaction to public support for Krugman himself in that job.

“I probably have more influence doing what I do now than I would if I were inside trying to do the court power games that come with any White House — which I don’t think I’d be any good at, so this is fine,” Krugman tells Bill. “What the president needs right now is a hard-nosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got.”

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman.

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  • ivar

    “… including myself,” Krugman tells Bill”.

    – Incredible! Too bad PK probably will never have to face any real consequences from his hubris.

  • Jack Wall

    Sorry, Paul, but you did break lots of hearts and you should have regrets. It would be a hard job, no doubt, but someone of you ilk is needed so badly. You see things so clearly and POTUS needs your advice. If you were on his cabinet, he wouldn’t even have to read your column to get your advice

  • Sean Laney

    It is hubristic to refer to himself as an “outside economist” that the president can call on? Are you not aware of Krugman’s accomplishments in economics? The Nobel committee sure is.

  • Maryellen Sailors

    It’s not hubris for a Nobel laureate in economics to be willing to be available for consultation, if asked.

  • William Glassmaker

    “Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

    Bloomberg is reporting that Jack Lew, presently Chief of Staff of the Administration, is being named Secretary of the US Treasury.

    It is only right in our present financial world that one of the primary manufacturers and distributors of OTC derivatives should be made Secretary of the Treasury.

    God help us all.” Makes me want to puke bout this sad country and WS crap.

  • IzitAllGo Under

    I also heard reported that he was instrumental in the Clinton White House, et. al, repeal of Glas-Stegal. It is indeed extemely sad…especially for those of us damaged and ruined by this financials organised crime syndicate running WS and most everything else. The amount of unpunished global destruction is disgusting. How low are we going to go before its enough?

  • Michael DeWald

    Sounds more like he was letting someone know he would help if called on, not hubris. Like others have pointed out, the guy has won a Nobel prize, has government experience, and is respected world wide.

  • Edson Udson

    What can we do is keep hope in better days but I preffer fight for it and so many things may change since we realy make part to this happen…Universal Movement of Consciousness by Edson Udson (all rights reserved)
    A great movement for peace, love and freedom around of the world, but to obtain results and do solve problems as poverty, abuses and violence is necessary “union” and “good will” translated in a simple word…”love”. Respecting and preserving the nature or combating differences as racism, sexuality or culture and accepting any kind of love, no discriminating anyone in anywhere for anything. I believe it be possible…because love, respect and freedom are all of good.

    for worldwide children

  • Anonymous

    You should watch the video before you comment, Ivar. MOYERS suggests Krugman as one of these possible advisors. If Moyers had said nothing, Krugman would have left himself out of the picture completely.

  • Dirk

    Take a deep breath everyone. We don’t know how Lew will perform (or IF he’ll even be approved by Congress) and how he’ll perform under Obama. Don’t ever lose site of the fact that Chief Justice Earl Warren was “meant” to be a conservative and turned out to be a wonderful guy without the conservative bent. So don’t go falling apart until you know there’s a reason.

    WPA art on the wall is a good omen.

    And … as Paul Krugman said, he’s (Krugman) probably not much good at (nor would he care to) have to deal with a bunch of goof-balls in Congress. Clarity doesn’t much effect those guys — it’s a game of wits … hopefully Lew has the skills to poke ’em in the eye and then console them for their pain, all the while tricking them into voting for the ‘good stuff’. We’ll see.

    And meanwhile Elizabeth Warren can be doing her thing from behind the lines. Flanking pinscher moves can be effective.

  • jqb

    Nonsense. Krugman is a lot more pragmatic and mature than many of his supporters. He was never going to get the job, and he didn’t want it … for all the right reasons.

  • jqb

    Did you even watch the video, Ivar the right wing thug? Moyers said “including yourself” when Krugman humbly didn’t mention himself, and Krugman said “including myself” … dismissively.

  • Rodney Rodrugez

    Congress is the problem. As long as they are allowed to amass millions every election cycle, we will always be beholden to their benefactors. It is not government of/by/and for the people. It has become a government for the moneyed. Can you say cheney/bush. It will take more than 8 years to undo their mess. What blows my mind is these traitors that lied us into Iraq still can go out on the speaking engagement trail and pull in a $100k per speech for talking to the choir. God bless America.

  • James Ginsburg

    The Krugman for Treasury campaign was symbolic — a way of sending a message that we wanted a progressive in the office. Nobody’s “heart is broken.”

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but I believe that we need better than a lawyer who knows something about accounting as the next treasury secretary.

  • Joshua Kricker

    Fine, then either Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz for the Federal Reserve Chair.

  • Maybe

    Special interest money in elections is bribery. The only reason it is legal is because the recipients of it write our laws (or have pet lobbyists do it for them).

  • Peter Sanders

    Well gee, Ivar, the White House has already consulted Krugman, along with other economists. So you are the one guilty of hubris–and of embarrassing yourself in front of thousands of readers.

  • Brux

    Lew sounds a lot better for Treasury that the guy he wants for Defense Secretary. I feel a little better about this now, but I feel Obama beginning to backslide, and it makes me really unhappy. What choice did I have to vote for him, I specifically did not want to vote in a Republican and that is what we are getting.

  • Labo

    Paul said it best “a bunch of crazys” in congress to deal with! Wall Street and Bankers need to be held accountable. As the same with those who led us to war on LIES. They still have to answer to, in the end.

  • Mike Thorne

    I’m thinking, because we Democrats won most of the challenged positions for 2012, hope for the best is all we have. We can only hope that the representatives we elected, really stand for the causes that got our votes!

  • Anonymous

    This video is called Wake Up. It takes about 90 minutes but well worth it:

  • Anonymous

    Awareness is 9/10th’s of our power. We can disengage.

  • Anonymous

    No! Simply hoping will only make us into livestock which is the ultimate goal. We have to be aware that these people are not doing anything for our best interests, quite the opposite. We cannot fight violence with war. We cannot kill in order to prevent killing. When we have leaders that practice the principles of non-violence, then we will know we can trust again. It is us that gives them this consent because we are frightened of our own shadows these days when really the fact is that crime has plummeted over the last ten years. Fear is our biggest enemy. These leaders thrive on instilling fear into the population so that they can pretend to protect us. Snap! Wake up from the hypnosis! And Bill Moyers you are one of our greatest assets – I applaud you and thank you for your work.

  • Mike Thorne

    Well, obviously Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary!!!
    Real knowledge doesn’t gain you a position of power…

  • Korymic

    If The Choice is a Suited Suit instead of an Academia Star in Economics, We sell Ourselves Short in Futures.

  • caroline

    Mr. Krugman is such a class act, I just can’t see him having to lower himself to reason with some of the dimwits in Congress, mostly in The House’s leadership and the TPears, and other RWNJ.

    That Mr. Krugman generously gives us his advise, and so eloquently figures financial matters for us without the b.s. is so appreciated and a real gift.

  • Kate

    Thank you, Bill Moyers, for having Paul Krugman on as a guest. Krugman is one of the greats and a man of his convictions like Moyers himself. I’m one of the people who voted for Krugman on this petition, but I agree with what Prof. Krugman says; he’s in a better position to be heard and to be of influence, if he continues to do what he is doing now: teaching the American public about what’s going on and getting them fired us up about it. This is sure to be another great ‘Moyers & Co.’ show.

  • Wally Hayman

    The POTUS rejected the great opportunity to receive Dr. Krugman’s thoughtful advice four years ago when he very publicly snubbed the brilliant Nobelist, and instead, surrounded himself with Milton Friedman cultists like Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

    As for Mr Obama now having to read Dr. Krugman’s column for advice, I don’t believe that’s a tall order. The President certainly has the reading skills, so once again it’s a question of will.

  • Bruce

    I signed the Danny Glover petition not because I expected Krugman would accept, but rather to send a message to the White House: His is the kind of thinking we need in treasury policy. Oh, and also, to send a compliment to my favorite blogger….

  • Purr

    Rodney you have hit the nail on the head

  • Anonymous

    Dig deeper; the problem is not just money at the national level (Congress). The reason Congress has come under control of the thoughtless right is the Republicans have sufficient control over redistricting at the state level that it’s impossible to have a majority Congress (i.e., a Congress that reflects the majority vote of Americans). That problem is similar to but more hidden than the Electoral College problem that elects presidents who do not win the most votes (let alone a majority).

  • Jeffrey Rivard

    I know right. What an insult public outcry forced him to inaccurately sign his
    name with his own penmanship. No man should be forced to remake signature expression. Maybe we should ask him to do so if he
    makes his name legible or significantly suggest a legible assumption to
    all Americans that a “Jack Lew” signed the dollar.

    Regardless, I thought his signature was gnarly and smooth. Awesome.

  • TecumsehRising

    I’m looking forward to seeing the full interview. I have admired and enjoyed Bill Moyers’ thoughtful interviews, commentaries, and documentaries for decades. In contrast I’ve only been reading Krugman for a relatively short time, maybe 8 years; but I like that he is an honest broker who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power and intelligence to stupidity. And while I signed his the draft petition, I knew it would never happen. But the message it sent is perhaps as important: enough of us are tired of the game in Washington and State Houses with Wall Street and corporate boardrooms – e.g. George W. Bush’s constituents. Milton Friedman and the radical right’s theories about how the world should work have been a grand social experiment in wealth distribution – to the top .01% – and the dismantling of the middle class. I’ve actually heard Wall Street types in private openly disdain the middle class. It is the 11th hour, folks. We need strong personalities with superior argumentation to counter balance the thievery and fraud that has been occurring on behalf of the richest SOBs the world has every known.

  • Anonymous

    There are mighty few people who think what they think they think.

  • Phil Johnson

    Whoever winds up being Sec/Treas would do well to consult with Mr. Krugman on a weekly basis. I hope Mr. Moyers’ putting Mr. Krugman front and center for his input will sink into the Obama administration’s consciousness.

  • american idiot

    The God of Mammon has certainly blessed a segment of the American population. Yes, it is all quite amazing. Monty Python anyone?

  • american idiot

    The fox is not only guarding the hen house; the fox is in the hen house.

  • american idiot

    The fox is guarding the hen house

  • SocraticGadfly

    Well, that’s 80-90 percent of the problem. The other 10-20 percent includes continued shifting right of the Dems and that both major parties work harder all the time to cut third parties out of the political mix.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Indeed; don’t forget Lew is a Clintonista. He may be a “deficit hawk” yet to be unveiled.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, and unless/until we move toward a more democratic electoral system, what you say will likely continue to be true.

  • Mark Neal

    Said it before, I’ll say it again…
    The only hope this country has is public financing of political campaigns.
    The ONLY hope.
    As Molly Ivins said, “You dance with the one that brung ya”.
    Shouldn’t the people be calling the tune?

    It’s either us, or the special interests.
    A billion dollars on the last election?
    Couldn’t that money be put to better use?

  • Mark Neal

    And certainly beats Giethner

  • Mark Neal

    Don’t underestimate Lew.
    He suckered the R’s into the cliff deal.
    And they came off looking like the stinking stinkers that the are!
    Yeah, he’s Wall Street. But not owned by Wall Street like Geithner.

  • Mark Neal

    Oh God yes….

    And please never threaten to retire again.

    A very grateful nation needs you desperately.

  • GoldenGrandma

    for those willing to join, WOLFPAC is trying to get the money out of elections.Don’t just bemoan the problem; be part of the solution. WOLFPAC

  • michael kelley

    Please, you honestly think Lew would ever consider consulting Krugman…on anything? The guy is a Wall Street tumor just like Geithner. He wants Krugman as far away from financial policy making as possible.

  • michael kelley

    Only problem is we’re the President’s base. He doesn’t have to listen to us because he knows we back him in elections over Republicans pretty much unquestionably. Since he doesn’t need to get re-elected if he really was as progressive as we had all hoped he certainly would have at least considered Krugman. He didn’t. He picked a black-blooded Wall Street apologist just like Geithner to replace him. Obama fooled me, he made me think he was a true progressive, he’s not, he basically the lost species of moderate republican. All you have to do is look at his record. He’s no liberal at all. Honestly, I had to support him because the republican party is insane. But any of you who believe Obama is a progressive liberal need your heads checked. Look at his record on civil liberties (assassinating American citizens; warrantless wiretapping; drone attacks/civilian killings), and his financial policies are a joke. He hasn’t gone after any WS scum who screwed over countless Americans. He’s chasing down pot dispensers in Cali, who aren’t breaking CA law. He has pardoned individuals who were wrongfully convicted at about half the rate of W. Everyday I wish I had voted for Hilary. We would have been so much better off. I weep for 2016 and pray Hilary runs and dumps all of Bill and Obama’s WS buddies and stpes up to the plate as our first truly progressive President since FDR (at least in terms of the economy).

  • michael kelley

    Obama is a moderate republican. I honestly figured he had to toe the line during his first term for any chance at re-election. Now that he has it, he picks Lew for treasury? He could have at least considered Krugman or mentioned the movement if he actually felt our financial policy needed to be changed. He obviously doesn’t. He’s been atrocious on civil liberties (warrantless tapping; killing civilians with drones; assassinating American citizens without trial; keeping guatanamo open). He chases down pot dispensers in CA who aren’t breaking CA law. He hasn’t gona after anyone on Wall Street despite mountains of evidence. He’s given Wall St billions with almost no strings attached. He gets railroaded by republicans in every negotiation. The only time he came out at least even was when republicans were basically demanding tax cuts for millionaires and they just had to give in. What does he do? He goes back on his $250k “line in the sand!!!” I can’t wait to see what he gives up in the upcoming Debt limit II shitshow. He put soc sec on the table in the fiscal cliff deal before rep kicked it back!!! Are you kidding me!! Not to mention Simpson-Bowles, two of the most anti social sec/anti Medicare people in America. Now Lew, another austerity proponent, who choked while at citigroup, made millions selling exactly the kind of crappy mortgages that caused the financial collapse in the first place!!

    The only thing I can say I’m encouraged by are his Supreme Court appointments. Im’ dying for 2016 for someone with some backbone, an actual progressive, who isn’t so beholden to Wall Street.