Saturday, January 23, 2016

How Condescension Happens

Nobody really knows who Paul Krugman was aiming at in his Friday column, "How Change Happens" where he more or less recommended another Clinton presidency on the grounds that "Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama" since "the health reform we got was basically her proposal."

I have some respect for Krugman here for sticking to policy. I agree that "while idealism is fine and essential — you have to dream of a better world — it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends." However, he doesn't follow through on the logic of his argument. Obamacare is good, therefore Hillary Clinton will produce more successes similar to this. 

What is really kind of sad is that Krugman is so offended by the people on his case, he hasn't found space to note that Clinton has put forward another proposal showing what she learned from Obamacare, based on "free-market" ideas from the Republican machine. What Clinton has learned apparently is not that the remaining uncovered people need coverage. According to Phillip Rucker at the Washington Post last April, “Clinton said that she wanted to “keep what works” but that she was open to changes, including the Republican idea of allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines." This idea was shot down both by Obama himself in the debates where he warned insurance companies would simply set up in Delaware, and mirrored again by Post columnist Ezra Klein who argued in 2010 "the legislation would not change the number of insured Americans or save much money, but it would make insurance more expensive for the sick and cheaper for the healthy."

After assigning Sanders and Clinton to pretty stupid categories, Krugman then goes on the attack. Sanders supporters must admit that "Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists."

This is really strange reading of history, and betrays a kind of ignorance of how political movements do work. Krugman should suck it up, admit he's in over his head in essentially asking the Democrats to destroy the momentum that has pushed Bernie to the left on guns, and Clinton to attack the banks (whatever she means by that, I'm not sure). Roosevelt's New Deal, similar to the Civil Rights Act, was in many ways a rearguard defense against the organizing power from below. All one needs to do to see this is put the platforms of the Communist and Progressive Party side-by-side with those of Roosevelt to see where his ideas came from. If we did this with Obamacare, we'd end up seeing the program of the Republican party and the Heritage Foundation.

If Krugman believes that's the best we can do right now, fine, but his tirades against the imbecility of Republicans suggest he believes we can do better.

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