From Krugman, a puzzling claim: Paul Krugman makes a puzzling claim in this morning's column. First, though, let's consider yesterday's essay by Charlie Peters.
Peters was born in West Virginia—in 1926! He founded the Washington Monthly in 1969. According to the leading authority, he continued to write his "Tilting at Windmills" column until 2014.
Today, Peters is 90 years old. Yesterday, in the New York Times' Sunday Review, he published an important political memoir beneath a sad headline:
"I Remember When Appalachia Wasn’t Trump Country"
Peters discusses the political history which turned his native West Virginia from blue to red. But uh-oh! He builds his analysis around an unpleasant topic—the alleged arrogance and snobbishness of our liberal elites.
He starts in 1965, "the year everything began to change." In that year, he says we liberals began to sneer at the unwashed concerning Vietnam. What follows is hard to read, but it isn;t untrue:
PETERS (3/5/17): Opposition to the war tended to divide the country along class lines, with the college-educated elite avoiding service and the fighting and dying left to the average man.Hard to read, but far from untrue.
I was against the war but worried about the class division. It seemed to me that too many members of the educated elite not only felt they were morally superior to those who supported the war but even began to feel a snobbish disdain toward the less sophisticated in matters ranging from not attending the right schools to not knowing about wine or, horror of horrors, wearing polyester suits.
From there, he runs through a series of topics, culminating with this:
PETERS: For me, the most maddening failure of the liberal elite was that too many of its members became indifferent to the declining share of corporate income devoted to wages. By the early 1980s, you could see clear evidence of their growing interest in accumulating wealth for themselves, of their focus on corporate profits that would pay them dividends and increase the value of their stocks; “Wall Street Week” soared to popularity on PBS—it was the “Downton Abbey” of its time. Profits have increased since 1980, yet wages have stagnated.Oof! According to Peters, some of our leading liberals may perhaps just possibly have started to chase the greenbacks themselves! He says we increasingly haven't seemed to give a hoot about what was happening to Them, the lesser breed, Down There in the lower orders.
It seems to us there's a great deal of merit in Peters' observations. He discusses the important issues and topics which have defined American politics in the roughly fifty years since he founded the Monthly.
Concerning each topic, he says "the liberal position is on the whole the right one." But uh-oh! In every instance, he says the "snobbish disdain" of liberal elites has helped create the modern world, the one in which Donald J. Trump swept the votes of his once-liberal state, with the more liberal party's candidate telling large swaths of the electorate that they were "irredeemable" "deplorables.
(If we might borrow from Jeff Foxworthy: You may be irredeemable if...you're thinking of voting for Trump.)
We're inclined to think that Peters is right in his basic outline. We'll offer more thoughts on the topics he raises as the week proceeds. We think of that kid our freshman year (1965) disrespecting that cafeteria lady. We think of Name Withheld in South Carolina and her fascinating rage about "northern condescension" (circa 1989).
With that, we turn to Brother Krugman's column. What on earth—what in the world—led him to make these puzzling statements about the GOP's long-standing, flim-flammable pledge to replace Obamacare with something "terrific" and better?
KRUGMAN (3/6/17): The whole party, it turns out, has been faking it for years. Its leaders’ rhetoric was empty; they have no idea how to turn their slogans into actual legislation, because they’ve never bothered to understand how anything important works.In the highlighted passages, Krugman plainly implies that Republican leaders didn't understand their rolling con of the past seven years.
Take the two lead items in the congressional G.O.P.’s agenda: undoing the Affordable Care Act and reforming corporate taxes. In each case Republicans seem utterly shocked to find themselves facing reality.
The story of Obamacare repeal would be funny if the health care—and, in many cases, the lives—of millions of Americans weren’t at stake.
First we had seven—seven!—years during which Republicans kept promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare any day now, but never did. Then came the months after the election, with more promises of details just around the corner.
Now there’s apparently a plan hidden somewhere in the Capitol basement. Why the secrecy? Because the Republicans have belatedly discovered what some of us tried to tell them all along: The only way to maintain coverage for the 20 million people who gained insurance thanks to Obamacare is with a plan that, surprise, looks a lot like Obamacare.
According to Krugman, Republican leaders "have belatedly discovered what [people like Krugman] tried to tell them all along" about the difficulty of replacing Obamacare. They "seem utterly shocked to find themselves facing reality" about this problem, because "they’ve never bothered to understand how anything important works."
Where does this lunacy come from? In that passage, Krugman clearly says that Republican leaders didn't understand the things he's repeatedly said about Obamacare. We have no idea why he would think or say such a thing.
It's always possible that some Republican office-holders didn't (and don't) understand the nature of the problem. But why would Krugman want to vouch for their honesty as a group?
Krugman has explicitly said, for years, that Paul Ryan is a con man peddling versions of flimflam. Now, he says the Republican leadership simply didn't understand!
Moral stampedes tend to weaken the mind. When our smartest player writes this way, you can see the problems we're facing as we replace attempts at outreach with outrage and moral thunder.
Back to Charlie Peters:
Liberals need to find ways to explain topics like "repeal and replace" to the many voters we've lost. We need to tell them they've been conned by the leaders they've come to trust, and that they have a citizen's duty to consider this claim.
Alas! Those voters are disinclined to listen to us, in part because of the decades of snobbery Peters cites. If they did, they'd find us saying bewildering things like this. Who knows? Maybe Donald Trump really believed that Obama was born in Kenya!
Baseball season starts in four weeks. Seven years into this rolling con, can anyone here play this game?
Coming attraction: Way back in 2005, Krugman wrote important columns about the ridiculous per-person cost of American health care. For one example, click here.
1) Why didn't our other liberal heroes follow Krugman's lead on this topic, which has completely disappeared from our public discourse?
2) Does their silence derive from what Peters said about their money chase?