Republican Candidates: Pawlenty Is Out, but Nonsense Continues

I’m going to miss Tim Pawlenty, now that he’s dropped out of the Republican race. He was, after all, an econopundit’s dream.

I mean, there’s a constant torrent of nonsense flowing from the likes of Michele Bachmann — but it’s so unvarying that there’s not much to say. What made Mr. Pawlenty fun was that he was supposed to be the smart, capable candidate, someone who actually knew stuff. Yet every time he opened his mouth on policy issues, he revealed that he didn’t know a blessed thing, that he just read supposed fact sheets from right-wing hacks with no notion that, say, claims about a vast expansion of government employment based on temporary Census hiring were something to discount.

Mitt Romney isn’t as much fun; his style is not so much mangling the facts as putting his foot in his mouth. And I do sort of wish that Newt Gingrich hadn’t flamed out

so early.

O.K., politics isn’t being devised for our entertainment — although given the dismal situation, finding the humor often seems the only way to get through the week.

Are People Corporations?

I’m coming in a little late on an already-famous remark from Mr. Romney, who declared that “corporations are people” in a heated discussion about raising taxes during a recent appearance at the Iowa State Fair.

It was an incredibly dumb thing to say.

Of course, he wasn’t really saying that legal persons in the form of corporations are real people. But he doesn’t deserve any slack on that account, because his real point was equally wrong, albeit in a subtler way.

Yes, corporations are organizations that consist of people. But the corporate profits tax isn’t a tax on these organizations. It’s a tax on these organizations’ profits — the share of their income that does NOT go to workers and suppliers. Now, stockholders are people, too — but they are, on average, quite rich people, who are doing very well as most Americans suffer.

And yes, I know that the incidence of the corporate profits tax is controversial, but most evidence suggests that it falls largely on capital in the end.

As for the whole job-creators thing: lots to say about that, none of it favorable, but let’s just point out that right now corporations are sitting on huge piles of cash; why imagine that making those piles bigger would lead to more job creation?

So Mr. Romney’s remark may not have been as stupid as it sounds, but it was deeply wrong all the same.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007).

Copyright 2011 The New York Times.