Paul Krugman, whose thinly-veiled partisanship cloaked in the language of science does much to undermine the collective trust in economics as a discipline, broke down President Donald Trump’s tax plan in a New York Times op-ed Monday. Departing from the attacks of traditional liberal economists on Republican tax policy — disputing the validity of the Laffer curve, for example — Krugman’s piece was much more a piece of moral consternation for Republican politicians and their unenviably duped constituents. The piece quickly devolved into a who’s who of conservative boogeymen: recipients of “so-called wingnut welfare” at conservative non-profits, shadowy “big donors” and the “top 1-percent” all made their way into Mr. Krugman’s recitation of progressive talking points.
To read Krugman’s piece is to read 100 other partisan screeds just like it. Consider its tired story arc: Republican politicians are evil, the types of people for whom “depriving millions of health care was just a minor side benefit” of the tax cuts incurred from a potential Affordable Care Act repeal, and the voters who voluntarily elected these Satanic spawns are, by fiat, either dumb, duped or wicked. For a bit of hyperbole: those who support the GOP tax plan are “in effect [accomplices] to the most dishonest political selling job in American history.” Forget early Democratic leaders who sold slavery as a moral good — if you disagree with Paul Krugman on the top marginal tax rate, you’re forwarding the most pernicious lie in the history of the country.
What began as a piece on tax analysis quickly became a Freudian exercise: “the question about this plan isn’t whether it favors the wealthy — it does, to an outrageous extent. The questions we should be asking instead are why Republicans are pushing this so hard, and how they can hope to get away with it.” For Krugman, it’s clear that his imagined proletariat aren’t the winners in this tax plan. So where’s the forced dispossession of the bourgeoisie? How can they “get away” with disagreeing with him on tax policy?
The undergirding assumption that has lead to a number of vicious slanders on Trump voters — particularly those in rural or working-class areas — is that America is a nation of class warriors. Why would a middle income farmer vote against what the Liberal determines to be “his best interest”? It must be because he hates black people receiving welfare. It’s the only possible explanation — the redistributionist utopia Liberals promise is too self-evidently paradisiacal to be rejected on any other grounds than unabated evil, the progressive reasons.
Anyone who has ventured to meet a conservative working on a farm or oil rig knows that they aren’t unilaterally racist or dumb — rarely, in fact, would you meet one whose worldly intellect and tolerance doesn’t surpass most of the chattering class who routinely impugn their motives. In a Goodreads review, Ronald Wright’s tongue-in-cheek “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” definition of American exceptionalism can be a trite catchall, but it remains true as an explanatory driver of American politics. There are a number of Americans who don’t view the world in Marxist terms, in spite of a media whose native tongue is rife with references to what “class” will “benefit” from different policy prescriptions. Perhaps these Americans’ refusal to bow before the insatiable rotary of progress stems from their opponent’s assertion that they are “complicit” in some profound moral crime by disagreeing with their ideological claims. For whatever their reason, the “40 percent of Americans” Krugman sneers at in his opening paragraphs for answering “no” to a slippery survey question about who the “tax plan favors” are indeed entitled to disagree with his partisan advocacy. The nation will be all the better for it.