Krugman Dismantles the Right's Hysterical Fear of Actual Democracy

Economy

Plutocrats, they all think alike.


Take the leader of Hong Kong, Paul Krugman writes in his column Friday, who accidentally blurted out the truth when he expressed his opposition to the pro-democracy demonstrators' demand for open voting. “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies,” he said.

Oh no, not those kinds of policies—the ones that help people with lower incomes!

The fear that people who make less money will vote for "bad" policies is an oft-expressed one among America's plutocrats and their lackeys as well. It was there in Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remark, and even more radically in the 60 percent that "Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are 'takers,' getting more from the government than they pay in," Krugman writes. "For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy."

It's not just Rush Limbaugh and his listeners. The political elite is filling their minds with propaganda that the real problem in America is "runaway redistribution."

Krugman cracks that nut open and examines it a little more closely.

Is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

So, the main problem with the welfare state isn't the destruction of the economy at all, it is, as suspected, that the wealthiest of the wealthy have to pay higher taxes, which puts a crimp in their style... barely. That is, of course, unacceptable to them. Their solution is to launch an all-out propaganda war, which includes the ongoing fiction that tax cuts will help job creation. (Not working. Look at Kansas, for a case in point.) Next piece of propaganda, per Krugman:

Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

And finally, because these strategies don't work 100 percent, suppress the vote!

That's what Hong Kong's leader is trying to do, and that is precisely the motivation behind the right's effort to get Voter ID laws passed here. Krugman concludes: "The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win."

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