Paul Krugman | The Snake Oil Theory of the Modern Right – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“You don’t hear much these days about “economic anxiety.” Most observers acknowledge that the rise of the Trumpist right was driven by racial and social antagonism, not economic populism.

Yet there is an economic element to political extremism, just not what you’d think. Right-wing extremists, and to some extent even more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme. Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Paul Krugman | Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I’m a huge believer in the usefulness of social science, especially studies that use comparisons across time and space to shed light on our current situation. So when the political scientist Henry Farrell suggested that I look at his field’s literature on cults of personality, I followed his advice. He recommended one paper in particular, by the New Zealand-based researcher Xavier Márquez; I found it revelatory.

The Mechanisms of Cult Production” compares the behavior of political elites across a wide range of dictatorial regimes, from Caligula’s Rome to the Kim family’s North Korea, and finds striking similarities. Despite vast differences in culture and material circumstances, elites in all such regimes engage in pretty much the same behavior, especially what the paper dubs “loyalty signaling” and “flattery inflation.”

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.”

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Paul Krugman for another superlative essay. This writer worries greatly about the prospects of the future. Regarding the new covid 19 pandemic, I harbor dark thoughts of using sticks, not carrots. Deny anyone who refused a vaccine, the right to hospital care if they get covid. I think Bret Stephens is the only writer I’ve read who has dared say this before I said it in public now. One or two other commenters are bringing us similar ideas. To continue my line of dark thinking, Protect our front line medial personnel. Let the new covid patients who refused vaccination go to a quarantine ward in a prison in the hospital to die as quickly as possible. Require proof of vaccination for everything under the sun or society has to offer. The only exemption, would be a medical one, in writing from a medical doctor, corroborated by a government agency, such as the CDC.
David is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews

Paul Krugman | The Decline of Republican Demonization – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/opinion/republicans-biden-stimulus.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

“. . . And looking forward, why should we expect the G.O.P. to do any better in opposing Biden’s longer-term initiatives?

Bear in mind that both infrastructure spending and raising taxes on the rich are very popular. Democrats seem united on at least the principle of an invest-and-tax plan — and these days they seem pretty good at turning agreement in principle into actual legislation.

To block this push, Republicans will have to come up with something beyond boilerplate denunciations of socialists killing jobs. Will they? Probably not.

In short, the prospects for a big spend-and-tax bill are quite good, because Democrats know what they want to achieve and are willing to put in the work to make it happen — while Republicans don’t and aren’t.”   -30-

Paul Krugman | Et Tu, Ted? Why Deregulation Failed – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“Nobody is ever fully prepared for natural disaster. When hurricanes, blizzards or tsunamis strike they always reveal weaknesses — failure to plan, failure to invest in precautions.

The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes.

Texas isn’t the only state with a largely deregulated electricity market. It has, however, pushed deregulation further than anyone else. There is an upper limit on wholesale electricity prices, but it’s stratospherically high. And there is essentially no prudential regulation — no requirements that utilities maintain reserve capacity or invest in things like insulation to limit the effects of extreme weather.

The theory was that no such regulation was necessary, because the magic of the market would take care of everything. After all, a surge in demand or a disruption of supply — both of which happened in the deep freeze — will lead to high prices, and hence to big profits for any power supplier that manages to keep operating. So there should be incentives to invest in robust systems, precisely to take advantage of events like those Texas just experienced.” . . .

” . . . The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes.

Texas isn’t the only state with a largely deregulated electricity market. It has, however, pushed deregulation further than anyone else. There is an upper limit on wholesale electricity prices, but it’s stratospherically high. And there is essentially no prudential regulation — no requirements that utilities maintain reserve capacity or invest in things like insulation to limit the effects of extreme weather.” . . .

Opinion | America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did. – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

“Earlier this year much of America went through hell as the nation struggled to deal with Covid-19. More than 120,000 Americans have now died; more than 20 million have lost their jobs.

But it’s looking as if all those sacrifices were in vain. We never really got the coronavirus under control, and now infections, while they have fallen to a quite low level in the New York area, the pandemic’s original epicenter, are surging in much of the rest of the country.

And the bad news isn’t just a result of more testing. In new hot spots like Arizona — where testing capacity is being overwhelmed — and Houston the fraction of tests coming up positive is soaring, which shows that the disease is spreading rapidly.

It didn’t have to be this way. The European Union, a hugely diverse area with a larger population than the U.S., has been far more successful at limiting the spread of Covid-19 than we have. What went wrong?

The immediate answer is that many U.S. states ignored warnings from health experts and rushed to reopen their economies, and far too many people failed to follow basic precautions like wearing face masks and avoiding large groups. But why was there so much foolishness?

Well, I keep seeing statements to the effect that Americans were too impatient to stay the course, too unwilling to act responsibly. But this is deeply misleading, because it avoids confronting the essence of the problem. Americans didn’t fail the Covid-19 test; Republicans did.”

Opinion | The Legacy of Destructive Austerity – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Gregory Bull/Associated Press

“A decade ago, the world was living in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Financial markets had stabilized, but the real economy was still in terrible shape, with around 40 million European and North American workers unemployed.

Fortunately, economists had learned a lot from the experience of the Great Depression. In particular, they knew that fiscal austerity — slashing government spending in an attempt to balance the budget — is a really bad idea in a depressed economy.

Unfortunately, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic spent the first half of the 2010s doing exactly what both theory and history told them not to do. And this wrong turn on policy cast a long shadow, economically and politically. In particular, the deficit obsession of 2010-2015 helped set the stage for the current crisis of democracy.

Why is austerity in a depressed economy a bad idea? Because an economy is not like a household, whose income and spending are separate things. In the economy as a whole, my spending is your income and your spending is my income.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Thank you Paul Krugman, this is so correct, if tragic. It is because of your ability to bring such analysis to bear on the confusing issues of our era, that I created a catelogue for you at my blog, InconvenientNews.net called:
Paul Krugman: the Oracle from MIT, Yale, Stamford, Princeton & CUNY.
I remember when you begged Barak Obama and his administration to double their stimulus spending, from about .8 to 2 trillion.You wrote that the depression was so great, that it would take a big stimulus to get the leviathan ship of state moving again in the water. If they had taken your advice then, we might never have suffered the world set back of Trump’s immature, self-centered and corrupt excuse for world leadership.

Opinion | The Party That Ruined the Planet – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“But why have Republicans become the party of climate doom? Money is an important part of the answer: In the current cycle Republicans have received 97 percent of political contributions from the coal industry, 88 percent from oil and gas. And this doesn’t even count the wing nut welfare offered by institutions supported by the Koch brothers and other fossil-fuel moguls.

However, I don’t believe that it’s just about the money. My sense is that right-wingers believe, probably correctly, that there’s a sort of halo effect surrounding any form of public action. Once you accept that we need policies to protect the environment, you’re more likely to accept the idea that we should have policies to ensure access to health care, child care, and more. So the government must be prevented from doing anything good, lest it legitimize a broader progressive agenda.

Still, whatever the short-term political incentives, it takes a special kind of depravity to respond to those incentives by denying facts, embracing insane conspiracy theories and putting the very future of civilization at risk.”

David Lindsay: Bravo Paul Krugman.  I’ve been worried about the cascading effects of the permafrost probably for about four years, and I’m pleased to see you get more concerned. Those of us who have become climate hawks need to bring round the public, who will then bring round the GOP.  I loved your piece, and I hope everyone reads all of it.

I did quibble with your assertion that the GOP “are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.”  The Bolsonara government in Brazil is now allowing the burning and cutting of the Amazon rain forest. 27% of the Amazon rain forest is now gone. In Australia, the green government was overthrown by climate change deniers, who are taking the island continent and hemishere backwards. There are regular reports of governments around the world paying lip service to the Paris accords, while ignoring their paltry pledges. A few Eastern European countries were mentioned. But welcome to the club of science, gloom and hope. I look forward to more from your mighty platform on this most urgent of all issues.

Opinion | The Great Republican Abdication – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

Mitch McConnell hanging on President Trump’s every word.CreditBrendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“So all the “fake news” was true. A hostile foreign power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of this intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened.

Never mind attempts to spin this story as somehow not meeting some definitions of collusion or obstruction of justice. The fact is that the occupant of the White House betrayed his country. And the question everyone is asking is, what will Democrats do about it?

But notice that the question is only about Democrats. Everyone (correctly) takes it as a given that Republicans will do nothing. Why?

Because the modern G.O.P. is perfectly willing to sell out America if that’s what it takes to get tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans may not think of it in those terms, but that’s what their behavior amounts to.”

Opinion | America the Cowardly Bully – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

March 4, 2019,   529 c


President Trump’s trade belligerence has done lasting damage to America’s reputation.CreditCreditPete Marovich for The New York Times
This is the way the trade war ends. Not with a bang but with empty bombast.

“According to multiple news organizations, the U.S. and China are close to a deal that would effectively end trade hostilities. Under the reported deal, America would remove most of the tariffs it imposed last year. China, for its part, would end its retaliatory tariffs, make some changes to its investment and competition policies and direct state enterprises to buy specified amounts of U.S. agricultural and energy products.

The Trump administration will, of course, trumpet the deal as a triumph. In reality, however, it’s much ado about nothing much.

As described, the deal would do little to address real complaints about Chinese policy, which mainly involve China’s systematic expropriation of intellectual property. Nor would it do much to address Donald Trump’s pet although misguided peeve, the imbalance in U.S.-China trade. Basically, Trump will have backed down.

If this is the story, it will repeat what we saw on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump denounced as the “worst trade deal ever made.” In the end, what Trump negotiated — the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A. — was very similar to the previous status quo. Trade experts I know, when not referring to it as the Village People agreement, call it “Nafta 0.8”: fundamentally the same as Nafta, but a bit worse.”

via Opinion | America the Cowardly Bully – The New York Times

Opinion | Hope for a Green New Year – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Let’s be honest with ourselves: The new Democratic majority in the House won’t be able to enact new legislation. I’ll be astonished if there are bipartisan deals on anything important — even on infrastructure, where both sides claim to want action but what the G.O.P. really wants is an excuse to privatize public assets.

So the immediate consequences of the power shift in Washington won’t involve actual policymaking; they’ll come mainly from Democrats’ new, subpoena-power-armed ability to investigate the fetid swamp of Trumpian corruption.

But that doesn’t mean that Democrats should ignore policy issues. On the contrary, the party should spend the next two years figuring out what, exactly, it will try to do if it gains policymaking power in 2021. Which brings me to the big policy slogan of the moment: the so-called Green New Deal. Is this actually a good idea?

Yes, it is. But it’s important to go beyond the appealing slogan, and hash out many of the details. You don’t want to be like the Republicans, who spent years talking big about repealing Obamacare, but never worked out a realistic alternative.

via Opinion | Hope for a Green New Year – The New York Times