How President Obama (and Paul Krugman) Set Off One House Republican's "B.S. Meter"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 20 2013 4:12 PM

How President Obama (and Paul Krugman) Set Off One House Republican's "B.S. Meter"

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New York Times columnists Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman in 2009.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Last week, before CPAC, I stopped by a "Liberty on the Rocks" happy hour with a special guest: Michigan Rep. Justin Amash. He'd brought Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie, part of his apology for being late, and the two of them spent an hour fielding questions from college-age (and slightly older) libertarians. Only a day had passed since House Republicans had been visited by the president, and asked him some questions. I'd heard a little bit about the president's defense of a theoretical "unbalanced budget," one that merely fixes a debt to GDP ratio, but wanted Massie to describe what was really said.

"He said it stimulated the economy to reduce the deficit when Clinton was president because it gave the confidence to lower interest rates," said Massie scornfully. "He said we don't need to do that now, we've already got low interest rates. Well, you can't take water out of the deep end of the pool and put it in the shallow end of the pool and make the shallow end deeper. When you lower interest rates, you're depriving seniors of all that money, and you're depriving state pensions of money because they've invested in bonds."

The president, said Massie, had "set off everybody's B.S. meter." It sent his into overdrive, because as a young man at MIT, he'd studied under Paul Krugman.

"I've already had a load of that hogwash," said Massie. "I was sick of it 20 years ago."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.