The Jon Stewart/Paul Krugman Smackdown

Maybe Paul Krugman thought the host of the Daily Show was an easy mark.

The pugnacioius New York Times columnist pulled no punches in whacking Jon Stewart over a subject that, if you think about it, is kinda humorous: the minting of a trillion-dollar coin.

Why is the esteemed Nobel Prize winner debating economics with a professional funnyman? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Stewart is a cultural force and people like, oh, Barack Obama have been known to stop by.

So there it was in Krugman’s blog: “Lazy Jon Stewart.” This was in response to a bit poking fun at the idea (which Krugman has championed) that President Obama can avoid a debt-ceiling showdown with the GOP by using an obscure law to create a platinum coin and declare it to be worth a trillion or so.

Above all, says the Princeton professor, “what went wrong here is a lack of professionalism on the part of Stewart and his staff. Yes, it’s a comedy show — but the jokes are supposed to be (and usually are) knowing jokes, which are funny and powerful precisely because the Daily Show people have done their homework and understand the real issues better than the alleged leaders spouting nonsense. In this case, however, it’s obvious that nobody at TDS spent even a few minutes researching the topic. It was just yuk-yuk-yuk they’re talking about a trillion-dollar con hahaha.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Krugman added this dig: “Hey, if we want this kind of intellectual laziness, we can just tune in to Fox.”

Well, Stewart didn’t need an engraved invitation before taking after “the rare gray-bearded urban laureate” on Monday night. The host played a video in which Krugman said of him: “He’s ruining his own brand.”

Cue the side-by-side photos of the two men: “If somebody is ruining their brand with a trillion-dollar coin idea, I don’t think it’s the non-economist,” Stewart said.

He did admit that “there are always counter-arguments and nuances of language and thought which can be cited as evidence of this show’s inherent unfairness or ignorance.”

Still, said Stewart, “my ignorant conclusion is that minting a trillion-dollar coin to allow the president to circumvent the debt ceiling, no matter how artibrary that may be, is a stupid fucking idea.”

To use the technical term.

Is that it for the spat? Well, in an update, Krugman said some people are asking why he doesn’t make his case on the Daily Show: “Um, first I have to be invited—which hasn’t happened since, I think, 2005.”

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Your move, Jon. We could yet see a televised faceoff worth a trillion dollars in free publicity.