Well-paid media celebrity and (purportedly) boyishly good-looking New York Times‘ star finance reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin is, as they say on the streets, “starting some shit.” And he’s starting it inside the New York Times, with (purportedly) roguishly handsome op-ed columnist Paul Krugman. I wouldn’t know. But I do know the sound of SHOTS FIRED. And we’ve figured out who’s in the right, here.
Andrew Ross Sorkin is the boy wonder behind the New York Times‘ Dealbook, where he does magical finance reporting everyone seems to love. He also wrote a book about the banking crisis called Too Big to Fail, which everyone also seems to love. That said, media people are “bearish”* on him, thinking he’s overpaid, especially for an organization that’s up to its ass in debt, and also, that he’s too close to his stories, which was noted before a bunch of banking’s most swinging dicks showed up at his book party.
Paul Krugman is a Nobel prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist whose Wikipedia page will make you feel like you haven’t really achieved anything with your life and never will. Also, he knows how goddamn good looking he is, thank you. He’s the “old age and treachery” side of this equation.
SHOTS: In Sorkin’s Dealbook column today, he wrote:
“You may recall that during the most perilous months of 2008 and early 2009, there was a vigorous debate about how the government should fix the financial system. Some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times’s own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system. They argued that Wall Street was occupied by the walking dead, and that no matter how much money we threw at the banks, they would eventually topple the system all over again and cause a domino effect worldwide.”
The column was Sorkin basically saying “you dumb motherfuckers who said the bailout wouldn’t work are looking more and more wrong every day.” Or that is my characterization of it! And Paul Krugman might argue that my characterization of Sorkin’s column would be fair, because Sokin’s characterization of what he said was unfair!
FIRED: Krugman writes a blog post in response titled “Andrew Ross Sorkin Owes Several People an Apology.” By “several” he means himself and doomsday economist Nouriel “Big Pimpin” Roubini, whose words Krugman claims were mischaracterized with his. Krugman says that he didn’t call for a Hammer-and-Sickle-esque Commie takeover of America’s banks, just a temporary one, and he also dared Sorkin to find evidence to the contrary, and if he couldn’t, then he needs to step off.
“If you want to say that the advocates of nationalization were excessively pessimistic about the prospects for a light-touch bank strategy, fine. But caricaturing their position, making it sound far more extreme than it actually was, is definitely not OK.”
REACTION: And now, the rest of us media vultures gather round, to throw singles down cockfight-style as we wait for Krugman to drop a RamJam on the scrawny Sorkin with a lunch tray in the Times commissary if he doesn’t come up with a smoking gun. Rachel Sklar at Mediaite notes it as a “total, unequivocal and very public spanking.” Hamilton Nolan at Gawker thinks this “simply must end in a celebrity boxing match, which we will be happy to set up guys.” And Jessica Pressler at Daily Intel notes that it’s “It’s time for a reporting-off!
Ah, but we think we might’ve found what Sorkin was talking about.
SCORING: on February 1st, 2009, Krugman wrote:
If taxpayers are footing the bill for rescuing the banks, why shouldn’t they get ownership, at least until private buyers can be found? But the Obama administration appears to be tying itself in knots to avoid this outcome.
Later, on February 23, 2009, Krugman noted:
What Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman — and a staunch defender of free markets — actually said was, “It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring.” I agree.
And just how were Krugman’s views characterized by other publications back then? Two headlines:
“Paul Krugman: Nationalize the banks” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Obama Should Nationalize U.S. Banks, Krugman Says” – Bloomberg
As opposed to, say
“Paul Krugman: Temporarily Nationalize the banks” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Obama Should Temporarily Nationalize U.S. Banks, Krugman Says” – Bloomberg
See how one word changes everything?
The closest he might’ve come in context to noting something resembling Sorkin’s piece is this, from a March 2009 Newsweek profile of him:
Krugman’s suggestion that the government could take over the banking system is deeply impractical, Obama aides say. Krugman points to the example of Sweden, which nationalized its banks in the 1990s. But Sweden is tiny. The United States, with 8,000 banks, has a vastly more complex financial system. What’s more, the federal government does not have anywhere near the manpower or resources to take over the banking system.
Problem, again: Newsweek doesn’t specify what kind of takeover he’s referring to in the piece. Krugman, who apparently was always advocating the temporary takeover solution, appears to be correct in having pimpslapped Sorkin earlier today.
DECISION: Krugman. To be fair, we didn’t look into what Nouriel Roubini might’ve said, but unless Sorkin comes up with something better on Krugman, in that respect, at least, he was wrong. Not only was he wrong, but his attempt to shell-shock readers by calling someone out in his own building backfired miserably, and in doing so, he likely just threw his “haters” both in and outside of the Times some fuel for their fire.
We contacted both Times executive editor Bill Keller for quote on the matter, we didn’t hear back. New York Times spokesperson Robert “Call Me Bob” Christie declined to comment.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2010