July 28, 2004

#162: It's time for a dose of reality

P. Krugman

We were away for only ten days and things really got looney at Krugman central. He and the New York Times editorial page are both going bonkers over the prospect of voting machine fraud in the upcoming election. In Fear of Fraud (07/28/04) Krugman wrote his third column and the Times is now up to at least six editorials on this marginal topic, all of them bordering on hysteria.

It's time for a dose of reality.

First the problem with the 2000 election was not simply that it was close. We have had close elections before. Rather, that election was statistical dead heat. Some important states (not just Florida) were decided by a several hundred to a few thousand votes. Even with a closely divided electorate the odds of that happening were in the hundreds of thousands to one. The odds in the 2004 election will be just as miniscule. Obviously we should improve voting process where practical, but to obsess over this subject is ridiculous.

Second, even if by some stretch of the imagination the 2004 election were to be another "dead heat" the contentious issues would most likely concern voter eligibility rather than vote counting technology. Notice that Democrats rarely mention the uncounted chads today, but prefer instead to talk (without a shred of evidence) of the million black voters denied the vote in Florida in 2000. When it comes to particulars, even Krugman himself mostly emphasizes the undercount of eligible felons and the over count of Hispanics as major problems:

"After first denying any systematic problem, state officials declared it an innocent mistake. They told Accenture to match a list of registered voters to a list of felons, flagging anyone whose name, date of birth and race was the same on both lists. They didn't realize, they said, that this would automatically miss felons who identified themselves as Hispanic because that category exists on voter rolls but not in state criminal records."
He may have some arcane point here. Apparently in Florida most felons are Democrats and most Hispanics are Republicans. But what pray tell does this have to do with his presumed topic – voting machine audits, touch screen technology and paper trails? Answer: NOTHING. Early in his column Krugman protests (too much??) that he is not paranoid. Okay. We prefer the technical term anyway. As we said in the opening sentence – he's looney.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at July 28, 2004 1:04 PM
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