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Paul Krugman Asked About #OWS Debt Refusal On The Brian Lehrer Show

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By Cryn Johannsen on November 28, 2011

New York Times columnist and Nobel-winner economist Paul Krugman was a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show on Monday, and he was asked about the OWS Debt Refusal Pledge from a caller.

The exchange between the caller and Krugman is really worth noting, particularly in light of the recent brouhaha over the poorly articulated terms of “loan forgiveness” versus a refusal to pay student loan debt.

Here’s what was asked, and how Krugman responded:

Caller: “I am an academic. I am a scientist at a major public university here in the area . . .  Generally, what I would love to hear is your opinion on the latest out of Occupy Wall Street, which is their occupying student debt movement. Just to give the listeners a little bit of background, what Occupy Wall Street organizers are trying to do is to get a million people to pledge  that they will default on their student loans. Now I have my own opinions about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I . . . I . . . generally am a fan. However, I think this is a terrible, terrible idea both in what’s wrong with the current education system, but moreover potentially very dangerous situation for the economy, and given I am a scientist and not an economist, I would love to hear a Nobel Laureate economist speak to this point a little bit.”

Lehrer then asked what Krugman what he thought about that branch of the Occupy movement — that is, the group that is encouraging a million students to default on their student loans.

“To be honest, I haven’t done enough homework to figure out what I think,” Krugman replied. “I think the idea that it is a threat to the economy is wrong. It’s just not that big of deal in terms of the economy one way or another, and there is a lot that is wrong with how we handle student debt. Basically, we’ve been using public funds, but running them through the private sector for no good reason, except to provide some extra profits to the financial industry.”

Hey, those who are claiming this call for default is “immoral” and God-knows-what-else, did you hear that? Did you just hear that?!? Krugman said it wouldn’t be that big of a deal! Let’s see what he has to say when he has done his homework. But he was pretty non-nonchalant in his response, and he didn’t seem outraged like some folks are at this juncture.

Here it is — the caller comes in around the 13:20 mark.

Cryn Johannsen is the founder and executive director of All Education Matters (AEM). She is currently writing a book about the student lending crisis and how this mess can be fixed. Read her full HyperVocal archive here, and make sure to follow her on The Twitter @cjohanns.

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