Playboy magazine sent economics writer Jonathan Tasini to speak to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman about the economic crisis and the possibilities for the future. What resulted was a neat picture of Krugman’s views on the state of the U.S. economy, the plight of common Americans and the failure of the political class to do anything about it. —ARK
Jonathan Tasini for Playboy:
PLAYBOY: Some of [the] debate is irrelevant to the average person. All they know is they don’t have a job or they don’t have a job that pays enough.
KRUGMAN: The point is there’s a tremendous amount of suffering. A lot of America is much worse off than it was four years ago. I think the main reason you should be angry about it is that it’s gratuitous. This doesn’t have to be happening. We actually have the tools to make most of this go away. If we could throw aside the political prejudices and bad ideas that are crippling us, in 18 months we could be back to something that feels like a much better economy.
PLAYBOY: So people in America today are suffering when they don’t have to be because of policy makers who won’t do the right thing?
KRUGMAN: That’s right. I’ve gotten some grief for my remark that if it were announced that we faced a threat from space aliens and needed to build up to defend ourselves, we’d have full employment in a year and a half. But that’s true. Why couldn’t we do that to repair our sewer systems and put an extra tunnel under the Hudson instead of to fight imaginary space aliens? Everybody in the world except us is doing a lot of investment in infrastructure and education. This is the country of the Erie Canal and the Interstate Highway System. The Erie Canal was a huge public infrastructure project financed with no private or public-private partnership. Can you imagine doing that in 21st century America? We really have slid backward for the past 200 years from the kinds of things we used to understand needed to be done now and then. And all of that because we are shackled to the wrong ideas.