Part 4—Then again, so are we liberals: All too often, we the liberals seem to love trashing Those People.
Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof described this tendency as it exists among the rank and file. But the love of loathing also exists among our liberal leaders.
If you doubt that, consider today's column by Paul Krugman. He starts with a comment about Donald J. Trump, then whacks the gentleman's 63 million voters:
KRUGMAN (4/7/17): This week’s New York Times interview with Donald Trump was horrifying, yet curiously unsurprising. Yes, the world’s most powerful man is lazy, ignorant, dishonest and vindictive. But we knew that already.Donald J. Trump made a very dumb comment about the O'Reilly matter.
In fact, the most revealing thing in the interview may be Mr. Trump’s defense of Bill O’Reilly, accused of sexual predation and abuse of power: “He’s a good person.” This, I’d argue, tells us more about both the man from Mar-a-Lago and the motivations of his base than his ramblings about infrastructure and trade.
There's no imaginable way he can judge the merits of the claims against O'Reilly—a series of claims which have led to large cash settlements. But so what? He went ahead and made a sweeping judgment about those cases all the same.
That was very dumb and very typical. In all honesty, it was also rather dumb when Krugman took that additional step—when he said that Trump's remark "tells us about the motivations of his base," full stop.
That too strikes us as a dumb remark. It's also an unkind, perhaps ugly. Letting us know that it wasn't a slip, Krugman goes on to push back against Kristof's claim that Donald J. Trump's 63 million voters are a varied group of people, that they're even "human:"
KRUGMAN: Does the appalling character of the man on top matter?Perhaps by observing the flight of birds, the exalted columnist knows what (snark alert!) those "down-on-their-luck rural whites" are probably thinking when they still won't denounce Trump—full stop, apparently all of them.
I think it does...[W]hat Trumpism has brought is a new sense of empowerment to the ugliest aspects of American politics.
By now there’s a whole genre of media portraits of working-class Trump supporters (there are even parody versions). You know what I mean: interviews with down-on-their-luck rural whites who are troubled to learn that all those liberals who warned them that they would be hurt by Trump policies were right, but still support Mr. Trump, because they believe that liberal elites look down on them and think they’re stupid. Hmm.
Anyway, one thing the interviewees often say is that Mr. Trump is honest, that he tells it like is, which may seem odd given how much he lies about almost everything, policy and personal. But what they probably mean is that Mr. Trump gives outright, unapologetic voice to racism, sexism, contempt for “losers” and so on...
Krugman seems aggrieved by the fact that those rural whites wouldn't listen to liberals like him—to the folk who were right all along. After producing a parody version of the interviews he is mocking, Krugman tells us that those rural whites "probably mean" by their continued support for Trump.
Inevitably, they probably mean that they like Donald J. Trump's racism and sexism. They like the fact that he is bringing "a new sense of empowerment to the ugliest aspects of American politics."
Full stop. In a remarkably sweeping comment, Krugman seems to speak for the 63 million Trump voters, or for whatever portion are "rural whites."
Krugman paints with a very broad, rather unpleasant brush. Needless to say, as if by law, this pleasing put-down appeared:
They "still support Mr. Trump, because they believe that liberal elites look down on them and think they’re stupid. Hmm."
Hmmm. That last word seems to say that those "rural whites" really are "stupid." They refused to listen to what Krugman told them (quite correctly) from his perch near the top of the liberal elite.
In these passages, Krugman continues to show that he's very weak as a political pundit. That said, Krugman is reigning journalistic MVP concerning matters of policy.
Elsewhere in today's column, he notes the inanity of Republican claims about health care over the past eight years. We would assume that his policy assessments are perfectly right.
Krugman has explained, many times, that Republican posturing about repeal-and-replace was always a major con. To the extent that rural white voters didn't know that, we'd say that they may have failed to understand the basics of health care policy.
We liberals love to trash Them for this. In this column, Krugman tells us, with a wink and a nod, that it's OK to call Them "stupid."
We think that's mindlessly dumb. Just consider the cluelessness of us exalted suburban liberals when it comes to health care matters.
We liberals! In recent years, it has become chic in liberal circles to support "Medicare for all," which we tend to call "single payer."
We'll guess that very few people within our tents could explain why we call Medicare "single payer." But let's set that point aside and focus instead on this letter to the New York Times, published in the wake of Trumpcare's recent legislative implosion:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/25/17): Republicans have never liked the idea of a national health care system. President Obama's triumph in passing the Affordable Care Act infuriated them into an obsession to make it fail by any means necessary, lying about its successes and convincing their base that it was a terrible system.The letter came from New York City. The writer voiced a standard tribal belief—Medicare for all would be (much?) less expensive.
Now the Republicans are facing a crisis of their own making, when a bipartisan effort could have made the Affordable Care Act work for everyone at reasonable costs.
Of course, it would be so much easier (and less expensive) to expand Medicare to cover all Americans—but that would make Republicans' heads explode, so it's off the table.
To what extent is that statement true? Like most of us self-impressed liberals, we have no idea.
We have no idea because we highly-educated suburban liberals have floundered along for many years inside a long series of pseudo-discussions—pseudo-discussions which we're too dumb to recognize or too meek to complain about.
Our cluelessness about health care policy is legion. But we liberals only criticize cluelessness when it's found Over There.
In what ways are We, the exalted "suburban whites," clueless about health matters? Let's start with this:
How many white liberals—whites of the type of whom Krugman approves—would have any f*cking idea how to explain these astonishing numbers?
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Weird! In some unexplained way, $5000 per person per year is disappearing into the maws of our American health care system! That's compared to the level of spending which occurs in France.
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
How many of Krugman's "suburban whites" could even begin to explain this? The answer, of course, is none—and this is a topic which Krugman himself introduced, or tried to introduce, in a series of columns back in 2005.
What happened when Krugman wrote those columns? Were they ignored by the "rural whites" for whom he holds such contempt?
Actually no! His columns were ignored by "the liberal elite," by a wide array of ranking liberals who Krugman doesn't have the courage to name or confront.
As with almost all his columns, Krugman's series of columns in 2005 produced zero further discussion. Twelve years later, we've seen no one try to explain where all that missing money is going every year.
We aren't permitted to think about that—and we self-impressed liberals don't notice!
This leads us to our second question about Krugman's suburban whites:
How many "whites" of this approved type have ever so much as seen those numbers, or their equivalent? How many "Krugman whites" could tell you, even in general terms, that this is the actual size of this remarkable state of affairs?
Per capita spending, health care, 2015How many "Krugman whites" have even seen those remarkable numbers? Surely you jest. The answer is virtually none!
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
We members of Krugman's exalted class can't be called policy giants. Next question:
When we liberals advocate "Medicare for all," saying how much less expensive it would be, how many of us have any idea what we're talking about?
For ourselves, we've never seen data comparing health care spending on people on Medicare to comparable spending in nations like France. Based on everything we know, we'd assume that American spending in that age group, as in all others, would dwarf the level of spending in France.
That said, we whites have never seen those numbers—or even wondered about them! Despite our brilliance, it has never occurred to us that those numbers are being withheld, or that we have no f*cking idea how much health care spending would be reduced if someone waved a magic wand and extended Medicare to all.
It's especially odd to see us "genius whites" extolling the savings involved in "Medicare for all." Reason? One of the very few specific matters we know how to discuss is this: Medicare pays exorbitant prices for prescription drugs, as compared to the prices paid by people in other countries.
In short, a "single payer" system can engage in massive overspending too. Have you ever heard a "Krugman white" note that basic fact?
In truth, we liberals rarely know squat or squadoosh about any policy matter. (We got played for decades about the Social Security trust fund.) Nor do we ever seem to notice the way basic information is withheld from us in our health care pseudo-debates—withheld from us by our own liberal leaders.
For ourselves, we started this site, in large part, because of the clownish Medicare debate of 1995 and 1996. Night after night, week after week, pundits debated this question:
Was Speaker Gingrich proposing "cuts" to Medicare? Or was he simply reducing the rate at which the Medicare program would grow?
Week after week, month after month, our liberal thought leaders scratched their heads about that puzzler. After a substantial struggle, we came close to solving the riddle in an op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun. Later, we posted three explanations—short, medium and long—right here at this site.
We'll guess our work was reasonably good. At one point, Krugman linked to our three reports to support his own account of that absurd pseudo-debate. But how many liberals ever complained about the inanity of that bungled discussion, which went on for more than a year? How many of us "Krugman whites" could have explained that basic health care matter?
We Krugman-approved suburban whites aren't intellectual giants. Neither are the folk Over There. That said, the most maddening part of this whole shebang is the way we liberals get conned by our own liberal leaders, even as we're told to ridicule the dumb stupid folk Over There.
Twelve years ago, Krugman tried to start a discussion of our nation's crazy level of health care spending. The rest of the "liberal elite" refused to follow his lead.
Krugman doesn't have the courage to call the roll of people like that; instead, he name-calls the dumbness of rural whites. Meanwhile, here in our liberal bubble, we liberals don't know how much information is being withheld. We don't understand that Rachel Maddow will never show us these data:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Rachel would jump off the Golden Gate bridge before she'd rock that (corporate) boat.
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
Those numbers, which we've posted three times, are extremely important. Those numbers explain why it's so hard to provide universal health care in this country.
Those remarkable, puzzling numbers are extremely important. But we "acceptable whites" have never been shown those numbers, and we never will be.
In truth, we don't have the first f*cking clue. The only thing we really is know that The Others are stupid.
Paul Krugman doesn't seem to care for rural whites. As we close, let's mention two in particular:
When Bernie Sanders went to rural West Virginia, he spoke with a coal miner who had hoped that a President Trump could restore work in the mines.
When Sarah Kliff went to rural Kentucky, she spoke with a 59-year-old woman who couldn't afford to go to the doctor. That woman had hoped that a President Trump could improve her health care situation.
In each case, we'd say those voters probably didn't understand the policy matters at issue. For this reason, Krugman says they're "stupid."
Krugman says the miner is stupid. When Sanders went to West Virginia, he said those miners were "heroes."
Which of these famous people was right? We'll only tell you this:
When that West Virginian was down in the mines, Krugman was spending his undergraduate years at Yale. He then moved on to MIT, where he earned his doctorate.
Is it really hard to understand why the one man might understand policy matters better than the other? Is it hard to see that graduate seminars aren't piped into the mines?
Does that West Virginia miner have to be stupid and racist? Why can't he simply be mistaken and human? What is the world makes a person like Krugman want to loathe him so?
As it turns out, Krugman is human too! In a lengthy profile in New York Magazine, Krugman seemed to say that he was once rather clueless too, as late as 1999:
WALLACE-WELLS (4/14/11): Krugman had begun the work that would eventually win him the Nobel Prize—an aggressive revision of international trade theory—by the time he was in his mid-twenties, and so for nearly all of his adult life he has had good evidence for the proposition that he is smarter than just about everyone else around him, and capable of seeing things more clearly. Krugman is gleeful about being right, joyous in the revelation of his correctness, and many of his most visible early fights were with free-trade skeptics on the left. Of Robert Reich, for instance, Krugman wrote: “talented writer, too bad he never gets anything right.” He was a liberal and a Democrat, but even in 1999, when he was hired by Howell Raines to write his Times column, “I still saw equivalent craziness on both sides.”As late as 1999, Krugman was astonished and radicalized when he saw that Bush's proposals were disingenuous! Up until then, he had supposed that the craziness was equally found on both sides.
This evenhandedness began to disappear almost immediately. Four months after his first column, Krugman began studying the economic proposals of the Bush campaign and found, somewhat to his astonishment, that they were deeply disingenuous. “That was a radicalizing experience. Not just that the presidential candidate of one of America’s major political parties could say something that was demonstrably false, but that nobody was willing to say so,” Krugman says. “That was pretty awesome.”
Today, that's the person who is calling that Kentucky woman stupid! Is that what we should say about him, up through 1999?
Sanders called the miner a hero. Krugman calls him stupid and racist. We'd say that one of these men knows a great deal more than the other, human being-wise.
At least in his mind, Bernie Sanders has gone down in the mines. It's dark as a dungeon down in the mines. Somehow, Sanders knows how to respect the people who go down there.