I hardly consider Robert Samuelson a "pop economist." And as much as I respect your judgment on many topics, I think Samuelson has the right idea on this subject. After all, he joined Newsweek as a contributing editor in 1984, and is one of the magazine's most recognized writers for his biweekly columns analyzing and reporting socioeconomic issues. Perhaps it is you who are playing junior economist here... Could it be?
Nope, Samuelson is oversimplifying the ramifications of the issue in his article. That is simple enough.
He is a good journalist and writes very good articles on business and the economy but, he apparently did not feel compelled to look at the entire picture when he wrote this missive on the housing market. While the last three paragraphs cover some of the details, his conclusions don't match the data he presents.
Put more simply, IF you had asked for a Cause and Effect Economic Analysis of the Housing Issue now facing this country and this was the report submitted to you, you would send it back to have the other 50% of the effects calculated into the analysis before the conclusions could be drawn.
It is not that he did a bad job because most of his facts are correct. He just did not do a complete job...and the conclusions drawn show that.
The facts gleaned are fully correct, some of the conclusions are correct BUT, without factoring in the rest of the information and ramifications, the conclusion that "The sooner prices fall the better." is careless and lacks support. That is where the pop economics comes in play.