Paul Krugman: The Great Unraveling Continues - September 12, 2003

Times Watch for September 12, 2003

Paul Krugman: The Great Unraveling Continues

Out promoting his collection of columns, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, the Times Paul Krugman was interviewed Wednesday on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air, where he outlined his paranoid view of the Bush administration and the behind-the-scenes extremists he thinks are running the show.

He let Fresh Air host Terry Gross in on the Bush administrations secret wish list, saying: Its gonna roll back federal revenues to a level where we can't afford to have those great entitlement programs. And it also shifts the kind of taxes we collect back to a kind of pre-New Deal system in which wealthy people are taxed at very, very much lower rates than they are today. So it really looks like something that's much more radical than any of the official pronouncements. It's a dismantling of America as we know it.

Krugman used backhanded praise of President Reagan to bash Bush as a liar: The Reagan administration had what I thought then and still think now were irresponsible policies. They justified their irresponsible policies on the basis of theories that I thought were crazy but, given their theory, you could justify. If you accepted the theory, then the policy made sense. The Bushies are different. They just plain lie. They just plain say, 'Here's our tax cut; it goes mostly to the working class.' And then you actually take a look at the numbers and it's not subjective. You just say, oh, 42 percent of it goes to the top 1 percent of the population.

Krugman goes on: And actually, if you really want the story, when did I know that there was something seriously strange and frightening about the Bush people? It was during the campaign when they unveiled the Social Security program, 'cause the immediate thought, if you knew anything about the system, was, 'Well, gee, all right. You want to divert a trillion dollars over the next 10 years into these personal accounts. What's going to replace it? Where does the money come from?' And they never answered that question. They just pretended that somehow the money comes out of thin air. They even pretended that it would strengthen the system. It was a real two-minus-one-equals-four policy, and it was just scary. The Times columnist is apparently easily frightened.

Then Krugman goes farther than he ever has in print. See, he knows what the real threat to our way of life is, and its not terrorism: But I've gradually come to realize that we are facing a challenge to our way of life, an internal challenge. The real threat isn't some terrorists who can kill a few people now and then but are not fundamentally a threat to the continuation of America as I know it, but the internal challenge from very powerful domestic political forces who want to do away with America as I know it. And it's just clear to me that this is one of those crucial points in American history.

Then he admits a mistake (for once) in not at first understanding the deep mendacity of the Bushies: I didn't understand the depth of the cynicism in our leadership. I didn't understand the extent to which they would exploit September 11th for political goals, the extent to which they would use it for partisan advantage in the elections and the extent to which they would use it to rationalize projects that had nothing to do with terrorism. Now they've done all that, and I think we will, in fact, look back at September 11th as a turning point, but it'll be a turning point that we're ashamed of in future generations. They'll look at the way in which patriotism and fear were exploited and abused, and we'll say, 'My god, this was the point when America really took a very serious wrong turn.

Paul Krugman

Quayle-Hunting Still the Times Favorite Past-time

Fifteen years after Dan Quayle made his national political debut as George Bush Sr.s vice-presidential running mate, hes been honored with a marble bust in the Capitol rotunda. But the Times still cant resist picking on him. Quayles marble bust was put on display alongside other U.S. vice presidents. Elisabeth Bumillers Thursday story opens with this snide remark: Dan Quayle, the politician who will be remembered for his youth, conservatism and mishap in spelling, proudly assumed his place in marble today alongside John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and 41 other vice presidents of the United States.

For the rest of Bumillers story on the Quayle tribute, click here.

Elisabeth Bumiller | Gaffes | Senate | Dan Quayle

John Ashcroft, Polarizing Figure

Eric Lichtblaus Thursday story, Counterterror Proposals Are a Hard Sell, focuses on Bushs seeking of additional powers in the war on terrorism. Lichtblau then relates a couple of concerns he seems to think emanate from the public at large, but may have more resonance among the liberal media elite.

After stating the president appears to have calculated that the renewed memories of the Sept. 11 attacks evoked by their second anniversary will be enough to outweigh rising concerns over civil liberties, Lichtblau casually mentions, as if its self-evident, that attorney general John Ashcroft is a polarizing figure.

In the last several months, Lichtblau writes, Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed making more terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty and making it more difficult for suspects to be released on bail, two critical components of the new initiative. But rather than using Mr. Ashcroft, a polarizing figure, to unveil the proposals, the White House decided to have Mr. Bush personally announce the plan on the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks-and at an early stage of the presidential campaign.

For the rest of Eric Lichtblaus story, click here.

John Ashcroft | Eric Lichtblau | Patriot Act | War on Terror

Politically Incorrect Times

Is the crime of lookism (evaluating people based on appearance) infecting the Times?

A Mean Scrum on Playing Fields of South Africa, Michael Wines Friday story on racial strife on South Africas national rugby squad, includes this rather disparaging description of Geo Cronje, a player who refused to share a dorm room with a black: Rugby's latest travails are only heightened because Mr. Cronje fits the physical stereotype of a redneck Afrikaner. Beefy and bushy-bearded, he comes from Limpopo Province, the northern stronghold of lingering apartheid sympathy. Whatever his views on race, give him a slouch hat, a rifle and a couple of bandoliers and he would pass as a Boer commando, the British newspaper The Guardian wrote last month.

First it was freakish actor/candidate Gary Coleman, now its redneck rugby player Geo Cronje. Is sensitivity training required at the Times?

For more on South African rugby and alleged racism, click here.