News & Politics

Paul Krugman: The GOP Is Waging War on Community Itself

We shouldn't be surprised the right is smearing shooting survivors as "crisis actors."

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

Donald Trump has proposed arming as many as 40 percent of American teachers, yet somehow his isn't the most ghoulish response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. That distinction belongs to right-wing personalities like NRA board member Ted Nugent and former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, who claim the school's teen survivors-cum-activists are actually "crisis actors" promoting a leftist agenda.

How did it come to this? When did conservatives decide that children were fair game for smear campaigns? For the New York Times' Paul Krugman, these tactics are part of a much larger Republican project to dismantle what's left of our country's sense of community.

In his Thursday column, Krugman reminds readers that the United States is the only nation in the developed world facing an epidemic of gun violence. Australia experienced a similar rash of shootings in the 1990s, but its government passed comprehensive gun control in 1996 following an especially deadly massacre. Not only has this kind of carnage become a thing of the past, but Australia has radically reduced its rate of homicide deaths caused by firearms.

"What I’d argue is that our lethal inaction on guns...reflects the same spirit that’s causing us to neglect infrastructure and privatize prisons, the spirit that wants to dismantle public education and turn Medicare into a voucher system rather than a guarantee of essential care," Krugman writes. "For whatever reason, there’s a faction in our country that sees public action for the public good, no matter how justified, as part of a conspiracy to destroy our freedom."

Krugman cites the conservative columnist George Will, who once railed against "liberals' love of trains" as evidence of a greater desire to "diminish Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism." How far removed is this sentiment, he wonders, than NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's repeated contention that "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"?

Krugman ends his piece on a distinctly philosophical note:

"In short, you might want to think of our madness over guns as just one aspect of the drive to turn us into what Thomas Hobbes described long ago: a society 'wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them.' And Hobbes famously told us what life in such a society is like: 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.'"

Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.

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Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig.