Paul Krugman addressed the Netroots Nation conference on Saturday morning and took a dig at the Republican nominee for president, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R). Talking Points Memo reports that while his speech was brief, it pulled no punches.

The Nobel Laureate said that the current state of the U.S. economy is "incredibly awful," and dinged Romney's exorbitant wealth, saying, "If you don’t know multiple people who are suffering, then you must be living in a very rarefied environment. You must be maybe a member of the Romney clan, or something.”

Krugman underscored the fact that the current economic crisis has been created by deregulation and poor policy decisions. “None of this has to be happening," he said, "We didn’t have a plague of locusts, we were not hit by a tsunami, there wasn’t some act of God that created this terrible situation. It was acts of man.”

Krugman's new book, End this Depression Now!, addresses the failure of austerity measures both in the U.S. and Europe and offers a plan for economic recovery. However, the New York Times columnist feels that he's being undermined by his own paper in a review of the new book that he has read, but which will be published for the public this Sunday.

“The New York Times Book Review is run by Sam Tanenhaus, who is very much a neocon, and makes a point whenever a progressive comes out with a book to find someone who will attack it," he said, "It’s not really an attack, but the reviewer is shocked at the lack of respect I show for ‘highly respected people,’ I think he uses that phrase.”

Krugman has long been a critic of many Washington insiders who are inexplicably accorded respect and credibility by an overly credulous political press. His rejection of Republican golden boy Paul Ryan's budget plan has been ruthless and complete. He has called it a fraud, and condemned Republicans as snake-oil salesmen who want to stall and dismantle the president's recovery effort.

“Solving this depression is not fundamentally an economic problem," he said, "it’s a political problem.”

(image via Reuters screen grab)