In a lofty disputation to start 2013, Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman resumed his obsessive remonstration of the free enterprise system in a New York Times column titled “Battles of the Budget,” which is an analysis of the fiscal cliff deal published on January 3.
Utilizing his typical lordly affectations, Krugman simultaneously congratulates President Barack Obama for winning the fiscal cliff drama, while admonishing his fellow liberals to prepare for vigilance in the forthcoming skirmishes over the federal budget.
Krugman once again presents his recrimination of the imaginary motives of political foes by cloaking his condemnations in his signature post-modernist language, laced with a heavy dose of factual relativism and Orwellian doublethink.
Starting with his personal conjecture that a so-called Grand Bargain was never attainable in the fiscal cliff negotiations because – he predicts, without offering evidence - Republicans would renege on any deal the next time they capture the White House, Krugman descends into the sort of sophomoric neo-Marxist blame worthy of “The Sixteen Points.”
First, Krugman deceptively defines what he terms “the reality” of the nature of current quarrel between the two political parties by presenting Democrats as guardians of the New Deal and Great Society, while alluding to Republicans as zealous barbarians seeking to dismantle these government programs.
Krugman magnifies the relative nuances of the current two-party system into a gaping chasm by writing:
“For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy.”
This statement is blatantly deceptive on many levels. To begin with, the United States does – and has for decades – had a “guarantee” of “essential” health services. Any human being, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or race, who walks into a public health center or hospital since 1946 under funding from the Hill-Burton Act is required to receive medical treatment, according to HHS.gov.
Additionally, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act – known as EMTALA – which was a federal law signed by President Reagan in 1986 to “ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay,” meaning that anyone who arrives at an emergency room or urgent care clinic must be treated. This applies to any health care facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid funding, which is virtually every single hospital in the U.S.
Add the federal health care entitlements of Medicare and Medicaid to these long-standing statutes, and it is clear for any reasonable person to see that “a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care” has been in place in the U.S. for generations. Perhaps Krugman thinks that cosmetic surgery, gene therapy, laser eye surgery, erectile dysfunction medication, or spa therapy should be paid for by taxpayers as well? It is also telling that he does not mention military health care, veteran’s health benefits, or the gold-plated health plans of federal employees at all.
Krugman sums up his appraisal of the political squabble by writing:
“Yes, it’s essentially a class war.”
Taken at face value, Krugman’s declaration – or acknowledgement, depending on one’s point of view – of a “class war” seems reasonable. This, of course, draws upon the view of Krugman and his liberal followers that Democrats are the party of the poorer class and “middle class” entitlement programs, while Republicans are the party of the wealthy.
When simple logic and even basic political science are applied to Krugman’s analysis, his statement rapidly disintegrates into spiteful invective designed to divide Americans.
If Democrats really are the party of the poor and middle class entitlements – a dubious proposition, given the facts – and Republicans are the party of the upper class; then political reality would decree that Democrats would benefit by having more people in poverty and seeking middle class entitlements.
Since the U.S. is a representative democracy, the Republicans could only win elections by securing majorities of voters supporting their party: the so-called party of the rich. Therefore, logic would dictate that the only way for Republicans to ever succeed would be to advance policies that create more wealthy voters.
Republicans must appeal to aspirations of wealth, while Democrats use fear of poverty and the appetence of a free lunch to create dependency. Nowhere is this logic more apparent than in President Obama’s eagerness to raise taxes on those working to become wealthy while opposing any efforts to means-test entitlements or reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security.
For Krugman, who describes any entitlement reform by Obama in a “Grand Bargain” as “a terrible and cruel policy idea,” and “probably politically disastrous as well,” he applies factual relativism to the reality that the programs were left alone completely in the final deal. Not one penny was taken away from entitlements, no future funding reform placed in the legislation, and no service reductions even discussed. Krugman refuses to let it go, determined to strike fear into his readers about losing entitlements.
Krugman systematically follows a line similar to his academic contemporary, French sociologist Bruno LaTour, who famously wrote, “Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome - Nature - to explain how and why a controversy has been settled.”
In acknowledging the current pathetic state of the divided GOP, Krugman admits, “According to the normal rules of politics, Republicans should have very little bargaining power at this point.”
Krugman then returns to his rhetoric of fear and division by writing:
“But the G.O.P. retains the power to destroy, in particular by refusing to raise the debt limit — which could cause a financial crisis. And Republicans have made it clear that they plan to use their destructive power to extract major policy concessions. Now, the president has said that he won’t negotiate on that basis, and rightly so. Threatening to hurt tens of millions of innocent victims unless you get your way — which is what the G.O.P. strategy boils down to — shouldn’t be treated as a legitimate political tactic.”
This hypocrisy is stunning when taken in the context of the Democrat attempts in 2007 to use funding for the troops in Iraq as a method to force former President George W. Bush to force unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces by March 2008.
The political tactic was every bit as legitimate as congressional Republicans are using now, simply because the House of Representatives has authority over spending and the debt ceiling. The President has no such authority. It is the American system of balance of powers.
As a professor, Krugman should also realize that a vibrant multi-party system is as critical to the success of a nation as peer reviews are to the advancement of academia.
If Republicans are judged wrong by the electorate, as Democrats were on their Iraq War de-funding efforts, they will either adjust accordingly or face political consequences.
For more analysis of Paul Krugman please read:
Steven Holmes is the Los Angeles Political Buzz Examiner.