PAUL KRUGMAN: HEAR HIM NOW, BELIEVE HIM LATER
Articles to skip today:
- anything that speculates about how Romney and Obama will perform in the debates
- stories about whether or not the polls are biased against Romney
Articles to read today, with all that time you just saved:
- The NYT column by Paul Krugman, a great reminder that November 6 isn’t the end of the real fight — it’s just the start.
Immediately after President Obama is reelected (an 85% likelihood, says Nate Silver) Congress will take up the debt and spending issues it postponed last summer. Krugman’s title - “The Real Referendum” - is a hopeful one:
… the election is indeed a referendum, but of a different kind. Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy. Will they vote for politicians who want to replace Medicare with Vouchercare, who denounce Social Security as “collectivist” (as Paul Ryan once did), who dismiss those who turn to social insurance programs as people unwilling to take responsibility for their lives?
If the polls are any indication, the result of that referendum will be a clear reassertion of support for the safety net, and a clear rejection of politicians who want to return us to the Gilded Age. But here’s the question: Will that election result be honored?
At stake in November and December, spilling into the new year and new Congress: will Medicare and other government support for the middle class be protected, or will it be sacrificed to provide tax cuts for the wealthy? Now, for sure, Obama’s campaigning on tax fairness and saving Medicare, but as Bob Woodward’s new book reports he was ready to cave last year and agree to steep Medicare cuts with only minor tax increases.
Obama is under pressure from the pious center (David Brooks, Tom Friedman and their like) to revive the deadly Simpson-Bowles debt reduction proposal, which would cut the top tax rate to 24% while ending middle class benefits like the home interest mortgage deduction. How does lowering taxes for the rich help cut the deficit? It doesn’t.
Will Obama cave in again? Does he still think bipartisan compromise and “changing Washington” (spoiler alert: it’ll never change) is more important than serving the people who elected him? It’s up to his supporters to make it clear now, while the election is still ahead, that this would be a total betrayal.
Krugman’s a good one to listen to: two days after Obama’s inauguration, his column warned that the new President had bought into dangerous falsehoods promoted by deficit hawks, i.e., that we needed to make “hard choices” (rather than reining in Wall Street and those who caused the financial crisis, canceling the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, etc).
He followed that column with a prescient one on Feb. 5, 2009 which warned that Republican efforts “to make the plan smaller and less effective” would cripple the recovery — as it did. Less than two weeks after Obama took office, Krugman warned that the stimulus was too small and likely to have its most crucial parts, aid to states and local governments, cut out. (It was indeed cut.) In a blog post two days later, he lamented:
The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it’s clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.
Krugman was right then. Listen to him now. And speak up. It’s not enough for Obama to win the election: it has to mean something.
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