Making Ignorance Great Again


June 6, 2017

Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason. I don’t mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn’t offer any substantive justification for that decision. Oh, he threw around a few numbers about supposed job losses, but nobody believes that he knows or cares where those numbers came from. It was just what he felt like doing.

And here’s the thing: What just happened on climate isn’t an unusual case — and Trump isn’t especially unusual for a modern Republican. For today’s G.O.P. doesn’t do substance; it doesn’t assemble evidence, or do analysis to formulate or even to justify its policy positions. Facts and hard thinking aren’t wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.

Consider another huge policy area, health care. How was Trumpcare put together? Did the administration and its allies consult with experts, study previous experience with health reform, and try to devise a plan that made sense? Of course not. In fact, House leaders made a point of ramming a bill through before the Congressional Budget Office, or for that matter anyone else, could assess its likely impact.

When the budget office did weigh in, its conclusions were what you might expect: If you make huge cuts in Medicaid and reduce subsidies for private insurance — all so you can cut taxes on the wealthy — a lot of people are going to lose coverage. Is 23 million a good estimate of those losses? Yes — it might be 18 million, or it might be 28 million, but surely it would be in that range.

So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O., declaring that it did a “miserable” job of forecasting the effects of Obamacare. (It got some things wrong, but overall did pretty well.) He also accused the office — headed by a former Bush administration economist chosen by Republicans — of political bias, and smeared its top health expert in particular.

So, Mr. Mulvaney, where’s your assessment of Trumpcare? You had plenty of resources to do your own study before trying to pass a bill. What did you find? (Actually, the White House did do an internal analysis of an earlier version of Trumpcare, which was leaked to Politico. Its predictions were even more dire than those from the C.B.O.)

But Mulvaney and his party don’t study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions.

Which brings us back to climate policy. On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory — that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don’t care. Truth, as something that exists apart from and in possible opposition to political convenience, is no longer part of their philosophical universe.

The same goes for claims that trying to rein in emissions will do terrible economic damage and destroy millions of jobs. Such claims are, if you think about it, completely inconsistent with everything Republicans supposedly believe about economics.

After all, they insist that the private sector is infinitely flexible and innovative; the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. But then they claim that these magical markets would roll over and die if we put a modest price on carbon emissions, which is basically what climate policy would do. This doesn’t make any sense — but it’s not supposed to. Republicans want to keep burning coal, and they’ll say whatever helps produce that outcome.

And as health care and climate go, so goes everything else. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn’t gone post-truth? Take budgeting, where leaders like Paul Ryan have always justified tax cuts for the rich by claiming the ability to conjure up trillions in extra revenue and savings in some unspecified way. The Trump-Mulvaney budget, which not only pulls $2 trillion out of thin air but counts it twice, takes the game to a new level, but it’s not that much of a departure.

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?

Well, bear in mind that so far Trump hasn’t faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted many years ago in his essay “In Front of Your Nose,” people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” Now there’s a happy thought.

Image result for paul krugman

A version of this op-ed appears in print on June 5, 2017, on Page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Making Ignorance Great Again.

8 thoughts on “Making Ignorance Great Again

  1. LaMoy,

    What do the Republicans and their POTUS care as long as they screw up the system to shake up Washington. They are there to destroy the Obama legacy and enjoy the ride. –Din Merican

  2. This sex crazy horndog named Donald Trump,occupying the oval office is so obsessed with Obama,that anything that has Obama’s signature on,must be gotten rid of.From Obamacare to the Iran nuclear treaty to opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba,to the Paris treaty.

    The thing that this egomaniac sick dude had finally realize,is that being in the white house is different than being in the Trump building.Donald Trump cannot go around the white house groping and grabbing them by the pu*sies,the things that he did almost daily in Trump Tower.

  3. The solar sector will be the biggest job creator in this decade,next decade and the next decade,into the next century.Turkeys have their heads dug deep into the sand.Horndogs like Donald Trump have their heads dug deep into sewage waste.

  4. This POTUS is not only ignorant, he cant even read and understand the English language. See his tirade about the press statement by the Mayor of London.

  5. I appreciate Dr. Krugman’s giving visibility to our anger, the truth, our concerns and our heartaches. Because what is being executed on a daily basis by those bimbos and bombos in the White House and in the Congress is truly heartbreaking and demoralizing and crooked. Yes, they are the crooks.

    I’ve seen other ideologue Presidents (Reagan in his first term immediately comes to mind) making policy without any concern for its reality. Trump is different, and worse than that. Trump is the kayfabe president, the reality-show president. There isn’t even an ideology, only the need for a show where Trump is always “the winner.” Coupled to this are the needs of Trump’s “30% base” of Trumpanzees for revenge. These Trumpanzees are kind of like the Storm Troopers of Nazi Germany, except they’re not as violent. They’re holding the GOP hostage. Their primary goal appears to be “make ‘splodey heads’ splode.” Anything that outrages liberals is automatically good. Getting out of the Paris accord has no tangible upside. It sure doesn’t put coal-miners back to work! But it spits in liberal’s eyes and it gives Trump a “win.” This roughly 30% of the American electorate seems driven by no motives other than revenge and vicarious identification with a crude Richie Rich playing out uncontrolled id. The power this gives Trump is that they don’t really expect Trump to achieve anything for them at all.

    I understand differences of opinion on policy issues and understand that we won’t see eye to eye most of the time, but combating global warming shouldn’t be a partisan platform. I can understand differing on strategies to protect the environment and even the level of action, but a debate over whether or not climate change exists? Ridiculous. It’s a willful blindness required to support a position in the war of The Right vs The Left.

    Trump and his administration lack the imagination it takes to run the country. They lack the fundamentals it takes to research, qualify and quantify policy and issues. They seem only capable of reacting. Ignorance, apparently, is bliss. The knee jerk reactions that become what they believe in denotes basic ignorance and laziness. Yes, one thing Trump is good at is perpetuating ignorance. It’s easier to pursue his real agenda of dumbing down or further enraging the attitudes of his base of Trumpanzees, while his family takes advantage of every bit of opportunity grifters are good at sniffing out. There’s no “there there” because the intent is not to govern but to suppress. Taking out any policy that Obama favored is playtime for the idiot and his storm trooper Trumpanzees. A bit of sadism perhaps? Whatever the psychology it does mask the ineptitude that Trump brings to the table and his idea that he only has to be president for his 30% base of Trumpanzees.

    Trump is unwittingly channeling George Costanza from an old episode of “Seinfeld”, who, upon taking Jerry’s advice to do the opposite of what his normal instincts would dictate, found that he began to enjoy some success in his life. The problem is that Trump isn’t doing the opposite of his own bad instincts. He’s trying to do the opposite of whatever Obama did or would do. And instead of enjoying success with this strategy, he is continually encountering disasters. As it turns out, the problem with trying to be the “anti-Obama” is that Obama was a pretty fine President. Dr. Krugman is right. With few verifiable facts to back up his policy decisions, Trump is just making stuff up as he goes along. Apparently, this worked well enough when flogging real estate, Trump University, Trump Steaks and his line of neckties, so why change now? Simply because Trump, along with the people and the party that accept his baseless and consistently inaccurate assertions without question are hurting America. This sad, reckless and dangerous caricature of a Presidency cannot end soon enough to suit me.

    What I find most galling is the lack of leadership in the GOP pushing back against the damage Trump is doing to America both at home and internationally. GOP has put party agenda above the country and this, in turn, let them being ransomed by the Trumpanzees. The people to watch are the members of the GOP who have anything more in mind than this, even the extreme ideologues like Ryan. They hoped to ride Trump to their goals, and it isn’t happening … can’t happen. They are already facing the obvious: they can’t get what they want with Trump, but dumping him isn’t easy and will likely destroy the GOP for a generation. What most of the Republicans in Congress are doing now is to hope Trump destroys himself, without taking them down.

  6. “orang malaya”, it would be bad enough if it was as you suggested, that Trump does not have an adequate command of English.

    But methinks it is worse – Trump was fully cognizant of what the London mayor had said, but chose to quote a sniplet of his words out-of-context to put Mayor Sadiq in a dark light.

    Ugly politicking by gutless POTUS with integrity which is, to me, impossible to find any trace of.

  7. Well said bruno, his personal hate for Obama is so overwhelming, that the Donald duck is prepared even TO BRING DOWN the whole of America ….. , and . Americans have been duped by this Clown , for not PICKING UP Hillary Clinton to make America really , really great…. – Sad ! !

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