Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When Sneering Pundits Attack

Pundit Paul Krugman, who used much of his 2016 New York Times column space to sneer at Bernie Sanders and even pettily punch down on his supporters, has conveniently pivoted back to concern-trolling progressive mode just in time for the 2018 midterms. 

He now directs his ire at what he calls "The Big Sneer"- other pundits (whom he doesn't bother naming) who are allegedly complaining that Democrats (also unnamed) running for office don't have enough "new ideas." This is both sexist and silly, according to Krugman.

After a whole Democratic primary campaign season spent sneering at single payer health care and debt-free higher education as "pie-in-the-sky" utopian pipe dreams, Krugman complains that it's not fair for somebody like Paul Ryan to be lauded by the media, while the righteous Democrats are chronically sneered upon for being so dull and dreary:
I’m not saying that politicians shouldn’t be open to new thinking and evidence about policy. But a political party isn’t like Apple, which needs to keep coming up with glitzier products to stay ahead of Android. There are huge problems with U.S. policy on many fronts, but very few of these problems come from lack of good new ideas. They come, instead, from failure to act on what we already know – and, for the most part, have known for a long time.
Since Krugman has never been one to sneer at himself, he does not name himself as the most prominent expert who took the good idea of Medicare For All and sneered all over it in his quest to ensure that Bernie would never beat Hillary in the rigged Democratic Party primaries.

Now, to be fair to Krugman, he doesn't actually go so far as to belatedly espouse Medicare For All, which he dutifully sneered at as "a distraction" when Hillary came out against it on the campaign trail. Rather, he now carefully opines that "access" to universal health care is a good idea, with only a non-progressive president and Congress standing in its way. He doesn't mention that even the uninsured and underinsured already have ways to "access" their local emergency rooms  - by taking an ambulance, an Uber, or even crawling there on their hands and knees if they have to, to display that all-American grit, determination, resilience and entrepreneurship.

"Access" is not the same thing as actual care. "Access" isn't getting health care without the fear of going bankrupt and getting even sicker from the relentless worry about how the heck you're ever going to pay the mortgage or rent on top of that mountain of medical bills.

And, to be even fairer to Krugman, he isn't actually calling for an end to the endless obfuscatory delay-tactic discussions of how "we" are ever going to pay for all the good ideas that have been floating around since at least the time of FDR. "Details" do still matter, especially when they're thrashed about in think tanks and universities by credentialed experts. Because despite his claim that Democrats shouldn't be constantly hounded to come up with "new ideas," one never knows what new ideas will burst forth while pounding into dust the details of the good ideas in the think tanks.

 And thus does Krugman effectively destroy his own argument for "keeping it simple, stupid!"  Meanwhile, though, there still has to be a sneering Strawman upon which to divert all our sneers:
So why the demand for new ideas? Partly it’s because pundits are bored with conventional policy discussion – and/or don’t want to be bothered learning enough to understand actually existing policy issues, preferring sparkly new stuff they can praise simply for its newness. Partly it’s just an excuse for sneering at Democrats, which as I understand it is required by the pundit code.
In case you were wondering why Krugman's historic and relentless and punditory sneering at Bernie and his supporters doesn't actually count as sneering, repeat after me: Bernie Is Not a Democrat, Bernie Is Not a Democrat, Bernie Is Not a Democrat. So of course he doesn't really count as either a sincere human being or a politician  --  and neither should you, if you're a lefty or an independent.  

Since Krugman doesn't bother delving into who actually finances this "pundit code," I mentioned it in my published comment:
When media pundits urge Democratic politicians to "go big, go bold and go new," what they're really prescribing is more austerity for the masses and more riches for the billionaires and corporations who keep them on the air and in print.

This embrace of plutocratic values - "ending welfare as we know it," the deregulation of Big Finance and the telecoms, the offshoring of jobs and manufacturing via "free" trade deals, and the "tough on crime" policies resulting in mass incarceration - is how the "New Democrats" first grabbed power in the 90s. Despite the aftershocks of these neoliberal policies and the loss of a thousand legislative seats in the past decade alone, the party elders and their media stenographers want more of the same. This championship of the status quo is actually their perverted definition of "new."

It doesn't help their message that the most famous New Democrats are now hitting their 70s and 80s. The pundits and the oligarchic donor class running this show are desperate for younger, more charismatic "rising stars" to sell us the same old "Incrementalism You Can Believe In."

Of course Medicare for All is a great idea, and would be much more cost-effective than our current privatized system. But they don't want to admit this because ordinary people having too many nice things might give Mr. Market a nervous breakdown.

Until we force finance capital and the government to get a divorce, and overturn Citizens United, nothing is going to change.


Karl Kolchak said...

The pundits and the oligarchic donor class running this show are desperate for younger, more charismatic "rising stars" to sell us the same old "Incrementalism You Can Believe In."

Yep--and after Obama it's going to be a tough sell. A lot of voters are going to say, "fool me once..."

Mark Thomason said...

We don't need any new ideas. We need someone to do the old ideas.

All we need is in the Second Bill of Rights laid out by FDR in his 1944 State of the Union speech. He listed a job, a living wage, food, clothing and leisure, housing, medical care, social security, and education. That is more than Bernie Sanders talked about in 2016.

Just do it. Don't think, don't talk about it, don't bemoan lack of ideas. The problem of Krugman and the rest is they never actually wanted to do it when they had any chance. They wanted the corporate candidates, to triangulate doing it with not doing it, somewhere at a mid-point if pretending and getting votes but not doing it.

The Joker said...

Somewhat off-topic, but the latest reminder that "the system" does violence not only to ideas and principles, but to actual people as well:

Video Shows Miami Police Officer Taking Running Start to Kick Prone, Handcuffed Man in Head:

Erik Roth said...

America has gone direly wrong and is critically sick, addicted to avarice and opiates.

"There is a period when it is clear that you have gone wrong but you continue.
Sometimes there is a luxurious amount of time before anything bad happens."
~ Jenny Holzer

"Coming to recognize you are wrong is like coming to recognize you are sick. You feel bad long before you admit you have any of the symptoms and certainly long before you are willing to take your medicine."
~ Norman Maclean, "Young Men and Fire"

"Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promise only; pain we obey."
~ Marcel Proust

“When health is absent Wisdom cannot reveal itself, Art cannot become manifest, Strength cannot be exerted, Wealth is useless, and Reason is powerless.”
~ Herophilies, 300 B.C.

How ironic that our rampant burning of fossil fuels while heedlessly poisoning our planet with toxic chemicals and both nuclear and plastic waste, driven by greed and lust for power, will be the cause our demise, closing the circle like a noose, connecting the La Brea Tar Pits to the Alberta Tar Sands.

Amid this looming catastrophe, the pompous braying of Paul Krugman will stand out no more than an infected zit on the body of a cancer victim. Nevertheless, against his insidious soap box in Our Gray Lady of the Oligarchy, at least we have Karen Garcia, like Joan of Arc, standing up for fundamental truth, moral stewardship, and compassionate democracy. Without her sardonic insight I'm afraid I might lose heart, having lost hope long ago.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Denis? I'm sure it's you, Denis. You broke my heart, staying away so long. Best wishes.

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

Nothing will change, and things will continue to get worse.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Oxycontin family supported "research literature" in the '90s that said doctors weren't providing their patients with adequate pain medication. No flags were being raised back then about addiction and accidental overdoses.

As with all things privatized and corporatized, we pay more to get less. Office visits have large disincentives (aka "copays", which is a slap-in-the-face term when one has already paid a car payment or mortgage-sized premium), long wait times (usually), and 5 to 10 minutes with the provider (if one is lucky enough to get THAT).

As with all things privatized and corporatized, quality and accountability go down. There is no way that quality care can be done when an office visit, in its entirety (history, exam, documentation) is 15 minutes or less. Dear patient, you are just a "number", to be crunched and billed. "Quality" is a rarely uttered word in those provider and administration meetings, I assure you.