Paul Krugman on How the GOP Got Taken Over by Scam Artists

In a take-no-prisoners column Friday, Paul Krugman pretty much levels the Republican presidential field. They are, in a word, grifters, Krugman writes, representatives of a party that has defined respectability down. And the gullible base is only too happy to buy the snake oil they are selling. 

Perhaps the most obvious example was Ben Carson's denial Wednesday night that he is involved with the company Mannatech, a purveyor of nutritional supplements that has been forced to pony up $7 million in a deceptive practices lawsuit. Carson simply and brazenly lied, denying his involvement, and the audience applauded him and booed the questioners. "These days," Krugman writes ruefully, "in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset." And this doesn't just go for the outsider candidates like Trump and Carson, who are still in the lead. Krugman proceeds to lay out the taxonomy of the grift:

Start with the lowest level, in which marketers use political affinity to sell get-rich-quick schemes, miracle cures, and suchlike. That’s the Carson phenomenon, and it’s just the latest example of a long tradition. As the historian Rick Perlstein documents, a “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

At a somewhat higher level are marketing campaigns more or less tied to what purports to be policy analysis. Right-wing warnings of imminent hyperinflation, coupled with demands that we return to the gold standard, were fanned by media figures like Glenn Beck, who used his show to promote Goldline, a firm selling gold coins and bars at, um, inflated prices. Sure enough, Mr. Beck has been a vocal backer of Ted Cruz, who has made a return to gold one of his signature policy positions.

Oh, and former Congressman Ron Paul, who has spent decades warning of runaway inflation and is undaunted by its failure to materialize, is very much in the business ofselling books and videos showing how you, too, can protect yourself from the coming financial disaster.

At a higher level still are operations that are in principle engaging in political activity, but mainly seem to be generating income for their organizers. Last week The Times published an investigative report on some political action committees raising money in the name of anti-establishment conservative causes. The report found that the bulk of the money these PACs raise ends up going to cover administrative costs and consultants’ fees, very little to their ostensible purpose. For example, only 14 percent of what the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends is “candidate focused.”

Such revelations have hardly ruined the perpetrators. They know if they just blame the "liberal mainstream media" they can deflect the charges. The many people living inside the closed conservative information loop will simply keep buying what the grifters are selling. Carson, Trump and Cruz are supported by around 60 percent of Republican voters, Krugman reports.

Then there's Rubio, touted as the respectable candidate now that Jeb Bush has laughably shown his true ineptness. Rubio's consistent claim has always been that somehow trillions of dollars in tax cuts would miraculously pay for themselves, voodoo economics if ever there was some. Now this deeply unserious man is the standard bearer for the party. And any reporter who questions him or accurately describes his economic plan is painted as part of the liberal media cabal.

Republicans will nominate someone who habitually lies. They just have to choose their favorite scam artist.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.