By Paul Krugman | How the Republican Party Went Feral – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“There have always been people like Donald Trump: self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.

The modern G.O.P., however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history. If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our two major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.

It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators are backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are campaigning in the Senate runoffs in Georgia.

They aren’t running on issues, or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history. Instead they’re claiming, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate are based on lies.

On Sunday Mitt Romney excoriated Ted Cruz and other congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo the presidential election, asking, “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” But what principle does Romney think the G.O.P. has stood for in recent years? It’s hard to see anything underlying recent Republican behavior beyond the pursuit of power by any means available.

So how did we get here? What happened to the Republican Party?

It didn’t start with Trump. On the contrary, the party’s degradation has been obvious, for those willing to see it, for many years.

Way back in 2003 I wrote that Republicans had become a radical force hostile to America as it is, potentially aiming for a one-party state in which “elections are only a formality.” In 2012 Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein warned that the G.O.P. was “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts” and “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.” . . .

Opinion | Things Will Get Better. Seriously. – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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“The next few months will be hell in terms of politics, epidemiology and economics. But at some point in 2021 things will start getting better. And there’s good reason to believe that once the good news starts, the improvement in our condition will be much faster and continue much longer than many people expect.

OK, one thing that probably won’t get better is the political scene. Day after day, Republicans — it’s not just Donald Trump — keep demonstrating that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined, even when you tried to take into account the fact that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined. One of our two major political parties no longer accepts the legitimacy of elections it loses, which bodes ill for the fate of the Republic.

But on other fronts there’s a clear case for optimism. Science has come to our rescue, big time, with the miraculously fast development of vaccines against the coronavirus. True, the United States is botching the initial rollout, which should surprise nobody. But this is probably just a temporary hitch, especially because in less than three weeks we’ll have a president actually interested in doing his job.

And once we’ve achieved widespread vaccination, the economy will bounce back. The question is, how big will the bounce be?” . . .

By Paul Krugman | 2020 Was the Year Reaganism Died – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

Maybe it was the visuals that did it. It’s hard to know what aspects of reality make it into Donald Trump’s ever-shrinking bubble — and I’m happy to say that after Jan. 20 we won’t have to care about what goes on in his not-at-all beautiful mind — but it’s possible that he became aware of how he looked, playing golf as millions of desperate families lost their unemployment benefits.

Whatever the reason, on Sunday he finally signed an economic relief bill that will, among other things, extend those benefits for a few months. And it wasn’t just the unemployed who breathed a sigh of relief. Stock market futures — which are not a measure of economic success, but still — rose. Goldman Sachs marked up its forecast of economic growth in 2021.

So this year is closing out with a second demonstration of the lesson we should have learned in the spring: In times of crisis, government aid to people in distress is a good thing, not just for those getting help, but for the nation as a whole. Or to put it a bit differently, 2020 was the year Reaganism died.

What I mean by Reaganism goes beyond voodoo economics, the claim that tax cuts have magical power and can solve all problems. After all, nobody believes in that claim aside from a handful of charlatans and cranks, plus the entire Republican Party.

Opinion | The Ghost of Sabotage Future – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist


CreditCredit…By Klaas Verplancke

“The not-a-stimulus deal Congress reached over the weekend — seriously, this is about disaster relief, not boosting the economy — didn’t come a moment too soon. Actually, it came much too late: Crucial aid to many unemployed Americans and businesses expired months ago. But now some of that aid is back, for a while.

True, the aid will be less generous than it was in the spring and summer: $300 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits, rather than $600. But because the workers still out of a job as a result of the pandemic tended to have low earnings even before the coronavirus struck, they will, on average, be receiving something like 85 percent of their pre-Covid-19 income.

By the way, although the one-time $600 checks to a much wider group of Americans are getting much of the media coverage, they account for only a small percentage of the overall expense and are far less crucial than the unemployment benefits to keeping families afloat.

So what’s not to like about this relief package? There’s some dumb stuff, like a tax break for corporate meal expenses — fighting a deadly pandemic with three-martini lunches. But the serious problem with this deal is that economic aid will end far too soon: Enhanced unemployment benefits will last just 11 weeks. And the process by which the deal was reached has ominous implications for the future.”

“. . . .  Remember, until recently Mitch McConnell showed little interest in passing any kind of relief package. And there’s no mystery about what changed his mind: It was all about the Senate runoffs in Georgia. “Kelly [Loeffler] and David [Perdue] are getting hammered” over the failure to provide aid, he told his political allies.

Once those races end on Jan. 5, McConnell’s sure to lose interest all over again. And unless Democrats win both elections, he’ll still be Senate majority leader, in a position to stand in the way of any further economic relief.”

Opinion | Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“President Trump’s continuing attempts to overturn an election he lost decisively more than a month ago is, like so much of what he’s done in office, shocking but not surprising. Who imagined that he would go quietly?

What some people may not have been fully prepared for is the way Trump’s party as a whole has backed his dangerous delusions. According to a survey by The Washington Post, only 27 Republican members of Congress are willing to say that Joe Biden won. Despite the complete lack of evidence of significant fraud, two-thirds of self-identified Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos poll that the election was rigged.

But you really shouldn’t be surprised by this willingness to indulge malicious, democracy-endangering lies. After all, when was the last time Republicans accepted a politically inconvenient fact? It has been clear for years that the modern G.O.P. is a party that can’t handle the truth.

Most obviously, Republican refusal to accept the election results follows months of refusal to acknowledge the dangers of the coronavirus, even as Covid-19 has become the nation’s leading cause of death, and even as a startling number of people in Trump’s orbit have been infected.

Sure enough, virus denial and vote enial converged almost perfectly on Saturday, when Trump addressed a large, mostly unmasked crowd in Georgia — creating a potential superspreader event — and demanded that the governor overturn the state’s election results. The next day Rudy Giuliani, who has been directing Trump’s efforts to cling to office, was hospitalized with the virus.

The thing is, Republican rejection of reality didn’t start in 2020, or even with the Trump era. Climate change denial — including claims that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by an international cabal of scientists — has been a badge of partisan identity for many years. Crazy conspiracy theories about the Clintons were mainstream on the right through much of the 1990s.”

Opinion | Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Debt – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Columbia Pictures Corporation, via Alamy

“Amid all the wild swings in U.S. politics over the past decade, one thing has remained constant: the G.O.P. position on government debt. The party considers high levels of debt an existential threat — if a Democrat is sitting in the White House. If a Republican president presides over big deficits, well, as Donald Trump’s budget director reportedly told supporters last year, “nobody cares.”

So it’s a completely safe prediction that once Joe Biden is sworn in, we will once again hear lots of righteous Republican ranting about the evils of borrowing. What’s less clear is whether we’ll see a repeat of what happened during the Obama years, when many centrists — and much of the news media — both took obvious fiscal phonies seriously and joined in the chorus of fearmongering.

Let’s hope not. For the fact is that we’ve learned a lot about the economics of government debt over the past few years — enough so that Olivier Blanchard, the eminent former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is talking about a “shift in fiscal paradigm.” And the new paradigm suggests both that public debt isn’t a major problem and that government borrowing for the right purposes is actually the responsible thing to do.

Why are economists thinking differently about debt? Part of the answer is that we’ve discovered some things about how the world works; the rest of the answer is that the world has changed.

It made some sense, nine or 10 years ago, to worry that the financial crisis in Greece was a harbinger of potential debt crises in other countries (although I never bought it). As it turned out, however, the full list of countries that ended up looking like Greece is … Greece. What briefly seemed like a spread of Greek-style problems across southern Europe turned out to be a temporary investor panic, quickly ended by a promise from the European Central Bank that it would lend money to cash-short governments if necessary.

In other words, those dire warnings we used to hear (and will soon be hearing again) that America faces imminent disaster once government debt crosses some red line were always misguided. We weren’t and aren’t anywhere close to that kind of crisis, and probably never will be.” . . . . .

Opinion | How Will Biden Deal With Republican Sabotage? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“When Joe Biden is inaugurated, he will immediately be confronted with an unprecedented challenge — and I don’t mean the pandemic, although Covid-19 will almost surely be killing thousands of Americans every day. I mean, instead, that he’ll be the first modern U.S. president trying to govern in the face of an opposition that refuses to accept his legitimacy. And no, Democrats by and large were not claiming Donald Trump was illegitimate, just that he was incompetent and dangerous.

It goes without saying that Donald Trump, whose conspiracy theories are getting wilder and wilder, will never concede, and that millions of his followers will always believe — or at least say they believe — that the election was stolen.

Most Republicans in Congress certainly know this is a lie, although even on Capitol Hill there are a lot more crazy than we’d like to imagine. But it doesn’t matter; they still won’t accept that Biden has any legitimacy, even though he won the popular vote by a large margin.

And this won’t simply be because they fear a backlash from the base if they admit that Trump lost fair and square. At a fundamental level — and completely separate from the Trump factor — today’s G.O.P. doesn’t believe that Democrats ever have the right to govern, no matter how many votes they receive.”

“. . . . The good news about the very near future, such as it is, is that Americans will probably (and correctly) blame Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, for the misery they’re experiencing — and this very fact may make Republicans willing to cough up at least some money.

What about the post-vaccine economy? Here again there’s potentially some good news: Once a vaccine becomes widely available, we’ll probably see a spontaneous economic recovery, one that won’t depend on Republican cooperation. And there will also be a vast national sense of relief.

So Biden might do OK for a while even in the face of scorched-earth Republican opposition. But we can’t be sure of that. Republicans might refuse to confirm anyone for key economic positions. There’s always the possibility of another financial crisis — and outgoing Trump officials have been systematically undermining the incoming administration’s ability to deal with such a crisis if it happens. And America desperately needs action on issues from infrastructure, to climate change, to tax enforcement that won’t happen if Republicans retain blocking power.

So what can Biden do?

First, he needs to start talking about immediate policy actions to help ordinary Americans, if only to make it clear to Georgia voters how much damage will be done if they don’t elect Democrats to those two Senate seats.

If Democrats don’t get those seats, Biden will need to use executive action to accomplish as much as possible despite Republican obstruction — although I worry that the Trump-stacked Supreme Court will try to block him when he does.

Finally, although Biden is still talking in a comforting way about unity and reaching across the aisle, at some point he’ll need to stop reassuring us that he’s nothing like Trump and start making Republicans pay a political price for their attempts to prevent him from governing.

Now, I don’t mean that he should sound like Trump, demanding retribution against his enemies — although the Justice Department should be allowed to do its job and prosecute whatever Trump-era crimes it finds.

No, what Biden needs to do is what Harry Truman did in 1948, when he built political support by running against “do-nothing” Republicans. And he’ll have a better case than Truman ever did, because today’s Republicans are infinitely more corrupt and less patriotic than the Republicans Truman faced.

The results of this year’s election, with a solid Biden win but Republicans doing well down-ballot, tells us that American voters don’t fully understand what the modern G.O.P. is really about. Biden needs to get that point across, and make Republicans pay for the sabotage we all know is coming.”

Opinion | In Praise of Janet Yellen the Economist – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

“It’s hard to overstate the enthusiasm among economists over Joe Biden’s selection of Janet Yellen as the next secretary of the Treasury. Some of this enthusiasm reflects the groundbreaking nature of her appointment. She won’t just be the first woman to hold the job, she’ll be the first person to have held all three of the traditional top U.S. policy positions in economics — chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, chair of the Federal Reserve and now Treasury secretary.

And yes, there’s a bit of payback for Donald Trump, who denied her a well-earned second term as Fed chair, reportedly in part because he thought she was too short.

But the good news about Yellen goes beyond her ridiculously distinguished career in public service. Before she held office, she was a serious researcher. And she was, in particular, one of the leading figures in an intellectual movement that helped save macroeconomics as a useful discipline when that usefulness was under both external and internal assault.

Before I get there, a word about Yellen’s time at the Federal Reserve, especially her time on the Fed’s board in the early 2010s, before she became chair.

At the time, the U.S. economy was slowly clawing its way back from the Great Recession — a recovery impeded, not incidentally, by Republicans in Congress who pretended to care about national debt and imposed spending cuts that significantly hurt economic growth. But spending wasn’t the only issue of debate; there were also fierce arguments about monetary policy.

Specifically, there were many people on the right condemning the Fed’s efforts to rescue the economy from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Among them, by the way, was Judy Shelton, the totally unqualified hack Trump is still trying to install on the Fed board, who warned in 2009 that the Fed’s actions would produce “ruinous inflation.” (Hint: They didn’t.)”

Opinion | Trump Wars II: The Loser Strikes Back – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Andres Kudacki

“We all knew that Donald Trump would react badly to defeat. But his refusal to concede, the destructiveness of his temper tantrum and the willingness of almost the entire Republican Party to indulge him have surpassed even pessimists’ expectations.

Even so, it’s very unlikely that Trump will manage to overturn the election results. But he’s doing all he can to wreck America on his way out, in ways large and small. Among other things, his officials are already trying to sabotage the economy, setting the stage for a possible financial crisis on Joe Biden’s watch.

To the uninitiated, the sudden announcement by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, that he’s terminating support for several emergency lending programs created back in March might not seem like that big a deal. After all, the financial markets aren’t currently in crisis. In fact, defying Trump’s prediction that “your 401(k)s will go to hell” if he were to lose, stocks have risen substantially since Biden’s win.

Furthermore, much of the money allocated to those programs was never actually used. So what’s the problem?”

Opinion | Making the Most of the Coming Biden Boom – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“The next few months are going to be incredibly grim. The pandemic is exploding, but Donald Trump is tweeting while America burns. His officials, unwilling to admit that he lost the election, are refusing even to share coronavirus data with the Biden team.

As a result, many preventable deaths will occur before a vaccine’s widespread distribution. And the economy will take a hit, too; travel is declining, an early indicator of a slowdown in job growth and possibly even a return to job losses as virus fears cause consumers to hunker down again.

But a vaccine is coming. Nobody is sure which of the promising candidates will prevail, or when they’ll be widely available. But it’s a good guess that we’ll get this pandemic under control at some point next year.

And it’s also a good bet that when we do the economy will come roaring back.

OK, this is not the consensus view. Most economic forecasters appear to be quite pessimistic; they expect a long, sluggish recovery that will take years to bring us back to anything resembling full employment. They worry a lot about long-term “scarring” from unemployment and closed businesses. And they could be right.

But my sense is that many analysts have overlearned the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis, which was indeed followed by years of depressed employment, defying the predictions of economists who expected the kind of “V-shaped” recovery the economy experienced after earlier deep slumps. For what it’s worth, I was among those who dissented back then, arguing that this was a different kind of recession, and that recovery would take a long time.

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And here’s the thing: The same logic that predicted sluggish recovery from the last big slump points to a much faster recovery this time around — again, once the pandemic is under control.

What held recovery back after 2008? Most obviously, the bursting of the housing bubble left households with high levels of debt and greatly weakened balance sheets that took years to recover.

This time, however, households entered the pandemic slump with much lower debt. Net worth took a brief hit but quickly recovered. And there’s probably a lot of pent-up demand: Americans who remained employed did a huge amount of saving in quarantine, accumulating a lot of liquid assets.

All of this suggests to me that spending will surge once the pandemic subsides and people feel safe to go out and about, just as spending surged in 1982 when the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates. And this in turn suggests that Joe Biden will eventually preside over a soaring, “morning in America”-type recovery.

Which brings me to the politics. How should Biden play the good economic news if and when it comes?

First of all, he should celebrate it. I don’t expect Biden to engage in Trump-like boasting; he’s not that kind of guy, and his economics team will be composed of people who care about their professional reputations, not the quacks and hacks who populate the current administration. But he can highlight the good news, and point out how it refutes claims that progressive policies somehow prevent prosperity.

Also, Biden and his surrogates shouldn’t hesitate to call out Republicans, both in Washington and in state governments, when they try to sabotage the economy — which, of course, they will. I won’t even be surprised if we see G.O.P. efforts to impede the wide distribution of a vaccine.

What, do you think there are some lines a party refusing to cooperate with the incoming administration — and, in fact, still trying to steal the election — won’t cross?

Finally, while Biden should make the most of good economic news, he should try to build on success, not rest on his laurels. Short-term booms are no guarantee of longer-term prosperity. Despite the rapid recovery of 1982-1984, the typical American worker earned less, adjusted for inflation, at the end of Reagan’s presidency in 1989 than in 1979.

And while I’m optimistic about the immediate outlook for a post-vaccine economy, we’ll still need to invest on a large scale to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, improve the condition of America’s families (especially children) and, above all, head off catastrophic climate change.

So even if I’m right about the prospects for a Biden boom, the political benefits of that boom shouldn’t be cause for complacency; they should be harnessed in the service of fixing America for the long run.

And the fact that Biden may be able to do that is reason for hope.

Those of us worried about the future were relieved to see Trump defeated (even though it’s possible he’ll have to be removed forcibly from the White House), but bitterly disappointed by the failure of the expected blue wave to materialize down-ballot.

If I’m right, however, the peculiar nature of the coronavirus slump may give Democrats another big political opportunity. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be able to run in the 2022 midterms as the party that brought the nation and the economy back from the depths of Covid despond. And they should seize that opportunity, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the nation and the world.”   _30_

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A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 20, 2020, Section A, Page 26 of the New York edition with the headline: Making the Most of the Coming Biden Boom. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe