Every now and then a pundit publishes a piece of writing so simple, so right on, that it’s necessary to force a momentary pivot away from the gaping maw of the 24/7 news cycle to celebrate it. It’s one thing to share a link on Facebook or retweet a story, but I have to wonder if those sorts of essentially mindless activities have supplanted the demand of critical thought. And as a busy person who is as often as guilty of the “read, digest and move onto the next thing” as anyone else, I’m going to practice what I preach this week.
Because friends, Paul Krugman’s Monday morning column, “The Wonk Gap,” subtitled, “What the G.O.P. doesn’t know can hurt us,” is really what it’s all about. I have long admired The New York Times’ Nobel Prize-winning economist for his approachable, accessible good sense. That approval went to another level in the fallout from the late 2008 financial collapse and the Great Recession that we seem unable to fully shake. While a large assortment of Krugman’s colleagues began to issue battle cries railing against the Federal deficit and debt, when it was clear that our biggest problem was the dual devastations of joblessness and demolished home value and equity, Krugman refused to throw in with popular opinion.
The result is that while the often-heartless austerity team has been proven wrong time and again (there’s zero examples of cutting a nation’s way to prosperity – see Greece, Spain, etc.), Krugman’s Keynesian philosophy has been vindicated over and over. He labeled the 2009 stimulus package too small and argued that a larger plan would pose no great threat to our nation’s long-term debt structure. With a U6 unemployment rate still hovering near 14 percent, a measure that includes people seeking full-time employment, as well as those forced into part-time positions out of basic necessity, the jobs situation hasn’t improved much in the last four years. Meanwhile factcheck.org highlights the obfuscations of the GOP’s favorite debt policy fraud, Paul Ryan, by concluding “Ryan’s chart ignores $2 trillion in deficit reduction and compounds that exaggeration by projecting the inflated deficit figures out for many decades in the future.”
If the data fails to support the G.O.P. platform and the liberalism of economists like Paul Krugman has been proven to encompass solid policy as well as human empathy (imagine!), why then have the failed ideas of the modern Republican Party been so difficult to banish from our discourse? Let’s go to the man himself for a possible answer:
“[A sizeable portion of today's Republican leaders] are inadvertently illustrating the widening ‘wonk gap’ — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.”
Moreover by tuning out any creditable sources that conflict with the party’s wish fulfillment, Krugman writes, “conservative ‘experts’ are creating false impressions about public opinion…Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real conservative.”
I experience a genuine surge of adrenaline, accompanied by an increased pulse rate, flushed cheeks and giddiness when I read truth manifestos like this one. Whereas the majority of conservative pundits have to contort themselves to make anything resembling a logical point, Krugman’s very success is located in the simplicity of his arguments. He is unafraid to continuously point out, very respectfully, that the emperor is wearing no clothes.
I respect Krugman’s apparently genuine belief that there will be a time when facts win, when the people of this Great Union will pause to wonder why they keep getting poorer, availing themselves of less and less opportunity anytime the modern Republican party controls an arm of the government. More war, less jobs and the removal of the social safety net even as the top one percent and the corporate interests they represent gobble up remaining resources. There are certain weeks I feel almost too demoralized, too exhausted to continue raising my voice in an attempt to counter the efforts at middle and lower class suppression I see everywhere I look. It is in part the stubbornness of experts like Krugman, with too many credentials to ignore, that inspires me to continue. We can’t let today’s G.O.P. destroy this great democracy. If Krugman can find new and interesting ways to spread a staunchly consistent message, then so can I.