Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Paul Krugman

Not since the Great Depression has our nation suffered such financial hardship. We are angry, depressed and scared. And we want to know how we are going to get out of this mess. No one is better at giving voice to all this than Paul Krugman.

Through his Op-Ed columns in the New York Times, his blog and his books, he has become our most incisive observer of a global economy in deep crisis. His gift is his clarity. He is able to use his mastery of his subject — he won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics — to make the dismal science understandable to everyone.

Krugman, 56, is not just comprehensible but practical. Understanding economics is important, but only insofar as it advances the policy debate of the day. His debate with the Obama Administration has generated philosophical heat, but it's really about nuts and bolts; he doesn't disagree that government should use its resources to fix the crumbling financial system, stem surging foreclosures and shore up demand, but he does have a lot to say about exactly how.

While Krugman isn't currently making policy, his imprint on it is undeniable. His cogently articulated views shape the public opinion to which policymakers are ultimately beholden. The Administration's bank-rescue plan, which involves taxpayers teaming up with private investors to purchase the banks' toxic assets, is a good case in point. Krugman not only dislikes the plan; he also worries it increases the odds that the already severe downturn will unravel into something much worse. The President may not adopt his solutions, but he'd best answer his concerns, lest the rescue plan not get off the ground.

And on a personal level, Krugman certainly shapes opinions in my household. I'm an avid reader of his work, but my wife likes to make sure, so twice a week she places a cutout of his Times column next to my bedside. On those two days at least, I read and discuss Paul Krugman's view of things before going to sleep. I am a much better economist for it.

Zandi is the chief economist at Moody's

Fast Fact: Krugman, a cat lover and literature lover, named one of his cats Doris Lessing, after another Nobel laureate

See why Paul Krugman made the TIME 100 list