Krugman Exposes the True Roots of Trump's Ignorance


Donald Trump's ignorance is hardly unique, although he does bring a new spin and certain pizzazz to it. "In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally," Paul Krugman writes Monday.

When Trump unveiled his long awaited concrete plans to make America great again last week, it sounded a lot like "running the country like a failing casino," Krugman continued. "He could, he asserted, 'make a deal' with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out."

The absurd proposal was generally met with "amazed horror and horrified amazement . . . The Trump solution would, among other things, deprive the world economy of its most crucial safe asset, U.S. debt, at a time when safe assets are already in short supply."

Trump is an easy target, though. Krugman is really after the source of his truly terrible ideas,which are not as original as you might think.

Firstly, where does he get the idea that America is facing a debt crisis? Even this baseline assumption is based on a fallacy, Krugman argues. Investors are still lending America money at very attractive interest rates, and federal interest payments are a mere "1.3 percent of G.D.P., or 6 percent of total outlays."

Indeed, the only reason Trump is even talking about the debt as this looming crisis is that far more "serious-sounding people" keep talking about it that way, people like oh-so-serious House Speaker Paul Ryan. Warning about the debt has always been politically motivated, and primarily about scaring Americans into cutting badly needed entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. Trump must not have heard about that on the Internet.

As for the irresonsibility of the suggestion that America just walk away from its obligations, that's not exactly original either. Krugman:

Remember, the party’s congressional wing deliberately set about extracting concessions from President Obama, using the threat of gratuitous default via a refusal to raise the debt ceiling.

And quite a few Republican lawmakers defended that strategy of extortionby arguing that default wouldn’t be that bad, that even with its access to funds cut off the U.S. government could “prioritize” payments, and that the financial disruption would be no big deal.

Trump, Krugman concludes, is just offering a more "bombastic version" of dangerous positions that are already widely shared in his party.

Maybe not as much of an anti-establishment candidate after all.

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