Audit D.C. Notes: A Meta, Mega-Krugman Profile; State Tax-Receipt Nosedive; Traffic Tix as Revenue Source? Maybe.

—Larrissa MacFarquhar’s 10,000-word New Yorker profile of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has kind of a meta-feel to it, what with the two publications’ overlapping audiences, both made up of people basically sympathetic to Krugman. It’s sort of a liberal in-house discussion about a favorite son, not about whether to like him but why. The premise of the piece is that Krugman was not always politically engaged but was pushed into it by, well, the facts. See if you buy it.

Politics aside, the piece is a pleasure to read with plenty of personal detail for the curious —two cats, no kids, (nice but modest) place in St. Croix, fellow economist wife who edits his stuff and teaches yoga in the big living room.

It’s most helpful as a primer on the “freshwater/saltwater” debates among academic economics departments, debates that have become even more envenomed in the wake of the meltdown. The profile says Krugman doesn’t understand why any rival would take what he says personally.

Highly recommended.

HuffPo Cliff’s Notes version is here.

—State tax revenues dropped by 4.1 percent across the country during the last quarter of 2009, says a new report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government. That marks the fifth straight quarter of “year-over-year decline in overall tax collections,” a new record. h/t Calculated Risk

—From AlterNet, an alarming report that cash-strapped cities and states are shortening their yellow lights to boost revenue from red-light tickets.

“With all of the stories we hear on a daily basis, there is little doubt that the desire for ticket revenue trumps safety concerns,” Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association told AlterNet. “A quick current example is California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who a few weeks ago proposed state budget including a proposal to add speed sensors to 500 existing red-light cameras. The reason? Safety wasn’t mentioned, but an expected additional annual revenue of $338 million was.”

While the shorter yellow lights might mean more cash, they can also bring more accidents, AlterNet says. This falls into the “interesting if true” category. We’d love to see some follow-up on this.

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Dean Starkman and Holly Yeager are CJR staffers. Starkman edits The Audit and is CJR's Kingsford Capital Fellow; Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy.