Economy

Paul Krugman: Why GOP Establishment Darling Marco Rubio Is Actually a Fringe Crackpot

Rubio is pandering to an ignorant elite.

Photo Credit: via YouTube/Bill Moyers

Not even Paul Krugman can resist making a crack about Donald Trump's hair in Monday's column, which opens with a clever little piece of indirection:

The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.

The other man, of course, has very peculiar hair.

But the real topic at hand for Krugman is the fact that the clear Republican establishment choice, Marco Rubio, is just as much of a crank as Cruz and Trump, and not just for his dangerous ideas on foreign policy and civil liberties, but in the area Krugman knows best, economics.

You probably know that Mr. Rubio is proposing big tax cuts, and may know that among other things he proposes completely eliminating taxes on investment income — which would mean, for example, that Mitt Romney would end up owing precisely zero in federal taxes.

What you may not know is that Mr. Rubio’s tax cuts would be almost twice as big as George W. Bush’s as a percentage of gross domestic product — despite the fact that federal debt is much higher than it was 15 years ago, and Republicans have spent the Obama years warning incessantly that budget deficits will destroy America, any day now.

But not to worry: Mr. Rubio insists that his tax cuts would pay for themselves, by unleashing incredible economic growth. Never mind the complete absence of any evidence for this claim — in fact, the last two Democratic presidents, both of whom raised taxes on the rich, both presided over better private-sector job growth than Mr. Bush did (and that’s even if you leave out the catastrophe of Mr. Bush’s last year in office).

Rubio is also completely and stubbornly wrong about calling for a balanced-budget amendment, and on the topic of monetary policy. All in all, Rubio is peddling "crank economics," Krugman assesses. And these are the economics of today's Republican establishment, which continues to pander to the big donors, and supply-side numbskulls that make up the party's elite. "Mr. Rubio’s consolidation of establishment support isn’t a testament to his good sense," Krugman concludes. "In fact, it’s almost the opposite, a reward for his willingness to echo party orthodoxy even, or perhaps especially, when it’s nonsense."

Republican primary voters merely get to choose from variations of crankery.