News & Politics

Paul Krugman Explains Why You Should Be Deeply Unnerved by Sean Spicer's Jobs Report 'Joke'

Our president would like Americans to believe that reality is whatever he says it is.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Bloomberg

Referring to the latest jobs report, Sean Spicer told a room full of reporters last week that it "may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.” The press corps chuckled. But as Paul Krugman writes in his Monday column, there was nothing funny about the White House press secretary's joke.

Spicer's boss spent years disparaging the very real progress his predecessor made rebuilding the economy. But that hasn't stopped Trump from taking credit for the 235,000 jobs the American economy added last month. For Krugman, this is a symptom of a more malignant disease.

"America is now governed by a president and party that fundamentally don’t accept the idea that there are objective facts. Instead, they want everyone to accept that reality is whatever they say it is," he writes.

This behavior didn't begin with the jobs report. From the moment he took office, Donald Trump has made sure we don't believe our own eyes. First, it was the size of his victory. He tweeted, without a shred of evidence, that millions of Americans voted illegally. Then it was his inauguration audience—which may have elicited a few laughs, but really, is it funny that the man with access to nuclear codes thinks it's a good use of his time to argue about crowd size? Weeks later, he claimed, again with no evidence, that President Obama had wiretapped his phones during the campaign. 

According to Krugman, this disregard for facts could be the death of our access to health care. Despite the fact that "Obamacare has led to a sharp decline in the number of Americans without health insurance," Republicans, and not just Trump, have fallen all over themselves to call the gains in insurance "fake news."

"In Louisville over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence declared that 'Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky'—this in a state where the percentage of people without insurance fell from 16.6 to 7 percent when the law went into effect," Krugman continues.

Thankfully, we have access to data that back up these numbers. Trump, with the full support of the House GOP, is doing his best to ram his health care plan down the throats of Americans by staging a vote before the bill even has a chance to get a score and evaluation from the Congressional Budget Office. In fact, Krugman reminds us, "they have been pre-emptively denouncing the budget office, which is likely to find that the bill would cause millions to lose health coverage." 

Sadly, the facts are beside the point. This isn't a technical dispute, but a battle for the truth, as "Trump and company [are] attacking the legitimacy of anyone who might question their assertions." 

First it was the press who was the opposition party. Now it's anyone who dares to believe in what were considered facts mere months ago.

Krugman leaves us with this ominous warning: "what’s really at stake is whether ignorance is strength, whether the man in the White House is the sole arbiter of truth."

Read Krugman's column at the New York Times.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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