Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Krugman misleads about Filibusters

A month ago, Paul Krugman lamented the minority use of the Filibuster:

“The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.”

Notice something? Krugman casually jumps over the period between 1980s and 2006. Krugman is the most dishonest economist I know; whenever he omits a fact one can be pretty sure he is deceiving his readers.

In fact, rather than Filibusters having “soared” from 27% to 70% when the Republicans found themselves in the minority, they gradually increased during the 80s and 90s, reaching 55% under the Democratic minority in 1997-1998 (before declining temporarily in the less partisan climate after 9/11).


In the 2005-2006 session, with a Democrat minority, there were 36 filibusters, more than double the number of the 1980s. Does anyone remember Krugman complaining? Of course not. When his party was in the minority, Krugman was busy worrying that the “religious right” and "extremists" were threatening the Filibuster: “the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster”.

The book containing the latest figures was loaned out at the University of Chicago Library, but today I went to the UCLA library and looked at the original article to see if Krugman was simply wrong or if he knew the facts and was lying. Take a guess. Sinclair does not skip the periods between the 1980s and 2006, and makes it very clear that filibusters gradually increased during a long period of increasing partisanship, whether Republicans were in the minority or Democrats, not simply “soared” in 2006 by Republicans as Krugman claims.


Barbara Sinclairs, the source of this data, is a real social scientist, not a former scientist that now has turned into a partisan hack like Paul Krugman. Describing the extensive use of Filibusters in the last two Bush senate sessions (the first with Democrats in minority, the second with Republicans) Sinclar writes that “Not surprisingly, in both congresses the minority chose strategies obstruction played a considerable role” (my highlight).

Filibusters did increase somewhat in the 2007-2008 senate with a republican minority, but hardly tripling as Krugman tricks his readers into believing, instead following the trend of hardened partisanship. Sinclair writes that Republicans in the 2007-2008 Senate “made even greater use of obstructionist strategies”.

Bottom line: The political scientist Barbra Sinclar "did the math", the habitual liar Paul Krugman chose to disregard the parts that did not suit his story.










6 comments:

  1. % of "major measures with a filibuster problem." The term "major measures" seems like one that could be manipulated. Are judicial confirmations major measures?

    ReplyDelete
  2. would you interpret the increase in filibusters over time as an indicator for the increasing polarization in the country?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, and regarding 2007 it is easier to Filibuster with 49 Senators, you can afford to lose 8.

    ReplyDelete
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