If you take the title of Paul Krugman’s latest book, “The Conscience of a Liberal” literally, you would find that a liberal’s conscience would not prevent him from portraying Southern whites as Republican pawns controlled by the ideological right.
“It’s almost embarrassing. I talk a lot to political scientists, and you go through the numbers and the polls. And it all boils down – almost everything else goes away, except for five words: ‘Southern whites started voting Republican.’ The backlash against the civil rights movement explains almost everything that’s happened in this country for the past 45 years,” Krugman said in an interview on the left-wing Democracy Now! newscast on October 17.
Krugman has been a columnist for The New York Times since 1999 and is an economics professor at Princeton University. He has created his share of controversies throughout his stint at the Times, including from within.
“Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults,” Daniel Okrent wrote in his farewell column as the Times’ “Public Editor” in the May 22, 2005, issue.
Krugman’s recent book is no exception to that statement. He attempted to back up his thesis that all the economic woes of America can be blamed on Republicans who were brought to power by Southern white voters.
Krugman believes the ideal situation for the United States hinges on the success of what he calls “the welfare state” – a notion he reiterates over and over again.
But it is Southern whites that have prevented “the welfare state” from existing as he sees fit:
“White backlash against the civil rights movement is the reason America is the only advanced country where a major political party wants to roll back the welfare state. Ronald Reagan began his 1980 campaign with a states’ rights speech outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three civil rights workers were murdered; Newt Gingrich was able to take over Congress entirely because of the great Southern flip, the switch of Southern whites from overwhelming support for Democrats to overwhelming support for Republicans.”
What constitutes the welfare state? According to Krugman, it all begins with the Democratic-led Congress pursuing “an unabashedly liberal program of expanding the social safety net and reducing inequality – a new New Deal.”
But all the big-government liberal ideas he holds true are stymied by what he calls “movement conservatism,” – a group he defines as not only the Republican Party and Republican politicians, but “media organizations, think tanks, publishing houses and more.”
So, how does “movement conservatism” do it? Krugman explains his conspiratorial belief by stating this movement is “largely financed by a handful of extremely wealthy individuals and a number of major corporations, all of whom stand to gain from increased inequality, an end to progressive taxation, and a rollback of the welfare state – in short, from a reversal of the New Deal.”
Krugman passed around plenty of blame for today’s economic woes through his revisionist view of history – all the way from the 1896 presidential election between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, with the best parts of American history occurring when Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted the wealth redistribution programs of the New Deal in 1933.
But, according to him, all the work of Roosevelt was eroded when President Ronald Reagan came to power in 1981. “Ronald Reagan was the first movement conservative president,” Krugman wrote. He called the years leading up to Reagan’s presidency “The Radicalization of the GOP.”
If it weren’t for “movement conservatism” playing on Southern whites, he says, achieving what Krugman believes is right could be done – enacting a hodgepodge of wealth redistribution programs fueled mostly by his class warfare rhetoric.
“I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty,” Krugman wrote. “I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal and I’m proud of it.”
By definition, Krugman’s beliefs fall more along the lines of social democracy – a movement that wants to undermine free-market capitalism and true individual liberty for the sake of fulfilling an egalitarian emotional desire.