Krugman Throttles GOP Elite for Their Dishonesty About Trump
Paul Krugman took aim at one of his favorite targets in Friday's column: the Republican elite and its freakout over Donald Trump. The problem is that instead of taking a good look at how their own policies have exacerbated the desperation of the working class, driving them into the arms of a candidate who at least acknowledges their pain, the heartless Republican establishment continues to blame the victims for the fact that their lives and economic opportunities have unraveled.
There has been a lot of buzz over the past few days about an article by Kevin Williamson in National Review, vigorously defended by other members of the magazine’s staff, denying that the white working class — “the heart of Trump’s support” — is in any sense a victim of external forces. A lot has gone wrong in these Americans’ lives — “the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy” — but “nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.”
O.K., we’re just talking about a couple of writers at a conservative magazine. But it’s obvious, if you look around, that this attitude is widely shared on the right. When Mitt Romney spoke about the 47 percent of voters who would never support him because they “believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of them,” he was channeling an influential strain of conservative thought. So was Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, when he warned of a social safety net that becomes “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”
Or consider the attitude toward American workers inadvertently displayed by Eric Cantor, then the House majority leader, when he chose to mark Labor Day with a Twitter post celebrating … business owners.
The collapse of the white working class, and their high mortality, suicide and addiction rates, is a deadly serious issue, of course. And places that are hardest hit are falling for Trump. The Republican elite blames this on a moral failing caused by too many social programs, which is as wrong as it is heartless.
"Tens of millions of people don’t suffer a collapse in values for no reason," Krugman writes. "Remember, several decades ago the sociologist William Julius Wilson argued that the social ills of America’s black community didn’t come out of thin air, but were the result of disappearing economic opportunity. If he was right, you would have expected declining opportunity to have the same effect on whites, and sure enough, that’s exactly what we’re seeing."
The argument that social safety nets cause these problems just flies in the face of the data from every other advanced country that takes care of its people when they need it. The Republican elite will never admit that it's the "Ayn Rand, every man for himself" narrative that is the problem.
Trump, whom Krugman has no love for, at least admits ordinary Americans have problems not of their own making.