March 22, 2016
Paul Krugman: On Invincible Ignorance
Republicans are in denial:
Remember Paul Ryan? The speaker of the House… I was interested to read what Mr. Ryan said in a recent interview with John Harwood. What has he learned from recent events?
And the answer is, nothing.
Like just about everyone in the Republican establishment, Mr. Ryan is in denial about the roots of Trumpism, about the extent to which the party deliberately cultivated anger and racial backlash, only to lose control of the monster it created. …
You might think that Republican thought leaders would be engaged in some soul-searching about their party’s obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy. …
But here’s what Mr. Ryan said about all those tax cuts for the top 1 percent: “I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables. What you’re talking about is what we call static distribution. It’s a ridiculous notion.”
Aha. The income mobility zombie strikes again.
Ever since income inequality began its sharp rise in the 1980s, one favorite conservative excuse has been that it doesn’t mean anything, … statistics showing that many people who are in the top 1 percent in any given year are out of that category the next year.
But a closer look at the data shows that there is less to this observation than it seems. These days, it takes an income of around $400,000 a year to put you in the top 1 percent, and most of the fluctuation in incomes we see involves people going from, say, $350,000 to $450,000 or vice versa…, which means that tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich are indeed targeted at a small group of people, not the public at large.
And here’s the thing: This isn’t a new observation. …
Appalled Republicans may rail against Donald Trump’s arrogant ignorance. But how different, really, are the party’s mainstream leaders? Their blinkered view of the world has the veneer of respectability, may go along with an appearance of thoughtfulness, but in reality it’s just as impervious to evidence — maybe even more so, because it has the power of groupthink behind it. …
What we’re getting … is at least the possibility of a cleansing shock — of a period in the political wilderness that will finally force the Republican establishment to rethink its premises. That’s a good thing — or it would be, if it didn’t also come with the risk of President Trump.
March 20, 2016
Trump Didn’t Put the Con in Conservatism
By Paul Krugman
So, I’m in a time zone far, far away — and also still shaky, although I’m finally managing to hold down some food. Output will still be low, but I wanted to note something about the reactions to the John Harwood interview with Paul Ryan, * which are very relevant to understanding the Republican mess.
Liberals have been jumping, rightly, on Ryan’s extraordinary dismissal of any attempt to look at the distribution of tax cuts as “ridiculous.” But conservative writers — even those who are relatively moderate, or at least try to seem that way — clearly still view Ryan as an almost saintly figure: serious, intellectually honest, and compassionate toward the poor.
He isn’t, of course. His various budgets all have the same basic outline: huge tax cuts for the rich combined with savage cuts in benefits for the poor, with the net effect being to increase, not reduce the budget deficit. But he pretends that they’re deficit-reduction proposals by claiming that he will raise trillions in revenue by closing unspecified loopholes and achieve trillions more in unspecified savings. In other words, Ryan has been playing a con game in which he uses magic asterisks to mask a reverse Robin Hood agenda — take from the poor, give to the rich — as deficit hawkery.
This isn’t hard to see, and it has been pointed out many times. Back in 2011, at the height of media Ryanolatry, the truth even became slightly mainstream, as reporters started to point out the absurdities of his assumptions.
But moderate Republican pundits can’t, won’t see the obvious. For them it’s all about affect — how he comes across — which is also why they saw tax-slashing, war-starting Marco Rubio as somehow a break from the failures of the Bush years.
So when these commentators lament the blindness of primary voters, their willingness to be taken in by an obvious con, they might want to take a look in the mirror. Is it really the con that bothers them, or just the vulgarity?