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Friday, July 29, 2011

Paul Krugman: The Centrist Cop-Out

Why won't members of the media "acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional"?:

The Centrist Cop-Out, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.
As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media ... portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.
Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally ... at fault on any issue... The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For ... there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.
Let me give you an example... As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain”... To do so, he ... offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. ...
But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president ... who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over ... is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!
Which brings me to those “centrist” fantasies..., what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.
But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

    Posted by on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 12:42 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (51)


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