Monday, June 4, 2012

This Republican (and Democratic) Economy

Paul Krugman writes this Monday of "This Republican Economy" and Barack Obama's and the media's unwillingness or inability to state the obvious regarding GOP obstructionism. I think Paul Krugman fails to grasp the nettle (to paraphrase the great left political philosopher G. A. Cohen speaking on John Rawls).

The most obvious liberal-progressive response to Mr. Krugman is that Obama and the media have failed to highlight know-nothing Republican obstructionism because they largely agree with it. On healthcare, foreign policy, education, Social Security, domestic security and a raft of other issues, Obama is conservative. The media in the US is likewise conservative. News organizations like the Times have supported war almost without qualification. They have raised only the most tepid challenges to Obama attacks on American civil liberties. They have largely supported talk of privatizing Social Security, even after the crimes of Wall Street. The list goes on.

If Paul Krugman's question for Obama is "Why the weak response," a question for Mr. Krugman is, "Why not take your own reasoning to the conclusion evidence supports?" This country, not just GOP fanatics, is largely conservative and anti-Keynesian. Obama is anti-Keynesian, just not as extreme as the GOP (on economics; he's more extreme on foreign policy and domestic security). When he had the choice, the opportunity, and the swell of opinion with him, Obama nevertheless surrounded himself with substantially anti-Keynesian economic thinkers (the exception being Christina Romer, who was soon forced out). Keynesians like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz were pointedly excluded.

Media elites (with some like Bill Keller related to industry executives, some like Cokie Roberts related to government elites, or some like Thomas Friedman being actual economic elites) identify with wealth, not with common Americans. Many academic elites do also.

As John Kenneth Galbraith noted decades ago, these people's interests align with wealth. Moreover, the perceptions of self among media and government elite align with wealth. Elite interests and ideas — to borrow a phrase economist Dani Rodrik has recently used — are highly homogeneous. The contempt Mike Bloomberg shows average Americans is widely shared among Democrats, not just Republicans.

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