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Friday, July 12, 2013

Paul Krugman: Delusions of Populism

Do Republicans have anything to offer to "disaffected working-class white voters"?

Delusions of Populism, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Have you heard about “libertarian populism” yet? If not, you will. ... So let me make a helpful public service announcement: It’s bunk. ...
The idea here is that there exists a pool of disaffected working-class white voters who failed to turn out last year but can be mobilized again with the right kind of conservative economic program...
You can see why many on the right find this idea appealing. It suggests that Republicans can regain their former glory without changing much of anything — no need to reach out to nonwhite voters, no need to reconsider their economic ideology. You might also think that this sounds too good to be true — and you’d be right.., libertarian populism is delusional on at least two levels.
First, the notion ... rests heavily on claims by the political analyst Sean Trende that Mitt Romney fell short last year largely because of “missing white voters” — millions of “downscale, rural, Northern whites” who failed to show up at the polls. ...
But serious political scientists ... have now weighed in and concluded that the missing-white-voter story is a myth. ...
Suppose, however, that we put this debunking on one side and grant that Republicans could do better if they could inspire more enthusiasm among “downscale” whites. What can the party offer that might inspire such enthusiasm?
Well, as far as anyone can tell, at this point libertarian populism ... consists of advocating the same old policies..., cuts in unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid... And while many nonwhite Americans depend on these safety-net programs, so do many less-well-off whites — the very voters libertarian populism is supposed to reach.
Specifically, more than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white. Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. ...
So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding ... they may be disproportionately hurting Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the struggling Northern white families they are supposedly going to mobilize.
Which brings us back to why libertarian populism is, as I said, bunk. You could, I suppose, argue that destroying the safety net is a libertarian act — maybe freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. But populist it isn’t.

    Posted by on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (62)


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