Paul Krugman

  • October 4, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    It’s difficult to fathom how large swaths of the populace still embrace rightwing rhetoric proclaiming that in America almost anyone can significantly better their stations in life. It is the annoying yank yourself up by the bootstraps mentality that fogs the minds of far too many Americans, leaving them unable to appreciate just how detrimental the wealth gap is to sustaining a resilient economy.

    But leading economists and think tanks, and to a lesser extent the Occupy Wall Street movement, caught on long ago and have strived to amplify the hard truth that in American if you are born into poverty your chances of experiencing the “American Dream” of upward mobility are almost nil – one is more likely to be struck by an asteroid. Yes that’s hyperbolic. But as Professor Peter Edelman details in his recent book So Rich, So Poor, our country’s safety net is so tattered that it has made it vastly more difficult to move from poverty to the middle class. The tired argument that less regulations of corporations and more tax breaks for the nation’s superrich will spur job creation and help move large numbers of people out of poverty continues to resonate with far too many people.  

    As noted on this blog recently, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz dubbed the American dream a “myth.” The Columbia business school professor and author told a German publication that one’s chance of upward mobility in the country is really dependent on the income and education of your parents.”

    The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof recently offered a powerful piece about a nation that has become “unequal for all.”

  • May 4, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Slowly the economy continues to recover, with jobs being added over the past 26 months, but that progress is amazing in an atmosphere where one of the two major political parties is concerned only with advancing the outlandish interests of the nation’s super wealthy.

    The Great Recession, underway before the Obama administration was in existence, has shoved millions into poverty and the gap between the nation’s top 1 percent and everyone else is the widest since the 1920s. Last fall, the Census Bureau reported that the number of people in poverty is at its highest in more than 50 years. As noted earlier this week the super wealthy are increasingly out-of-touch, indeed one retired multimillionaire is pushing a book that calls for more economic inequality.

    But how did the country arrive at this point where the middle class is shrinking, the poor is growing and a tiny group of people are amassing most of the wealth? Because, according to some, the nation’s conservative party has been bought by the out-of-touch super wealthy.

    The mainstream media, in the name of objectivity, will continue to blame both parties for gridlock in Washington, but a growing number of economists, academics, lawyers, activists, and others concerned about the well-being of all people are pushing back against that tired line.

    Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, who have studied Congress for several decades, say the Republican Party is to blame for pushing fantastical policy and refusing to budge from it, therefore creating an atmosphere where progress or change is difficult to foster.

    “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics, Mann and Ornstein write for The Washington Post. “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

    One of the group’s to blame for the Republican Party’s unmovable concern about the nation’s super wealthy is Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which pushes conservative lawmakers to sign a pledge against raising any taxes. Norquist (pictured) is all about policy that starves the federal government of revenues, so policies to help the less fortunate dwindle, because those are not the people Norquist or the Republican Party are concerned with.

    In his May 4 column for The New York Times, economist Paul Krugman notes the work of Mann and Ornstein, writing, “Specifically money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.”

    “And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should doing impossible,” Krugman continued.

    In a piece last year for Rolling Stone Tim Dickinson, said the party of Ronald Reagan has “undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.”

  • April 11, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    While a Florida special prosecutor has finally lodged a second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman, the so-called neighborhood watchman, who killed an unarmed Florida youngster Trayvon Martin, a public interest group is having success at pulling corporate support from the right-wing organization that has played a major role in the proliferation of the troubling Stand Your Ground laws.

    Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law provides significant legal protections to those who kill others outside their homes, claiming they used lethal force in self-defense. Traditionally the law has provided some protection to those who use lethal means to protect themselves while in their homes. The Stand Your Ground laws go much farther and have been described as cowboy-esque.

    As The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently noted “it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.”

    Krugman was referring to the right-wing group ALEC, which has the backing of the Koch brothers, “Exxon Mobile, and so on.” As noted in this ACSblog post, ALEC essentially wrote the law for Florida, and likely provided the model for the twenty-some other states that have similarly ridiculous laws, which promote “vigilante (in)justice,” as Krugman put it.

    The public interest group, ColorOfChange has launched a campaign to urge corporate sponsors to stop supporting the work of ALEC. In an April 11 blog post, the group notes that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have all “parted ways with ALEC since ColorOfChange launched its effort late last year.”

  • March 30, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Before this week’s marathon oral arguments in the case challenging health care reform, many legal scholars, had strongly argued that the challengers’ arguments did not have a serious chance of surviving Supreme Court scrutiny.

    Primarily the reasoning was based on high court precedent in favor of a broad reading of Congress’ power to regulate commerce and to tax and spend for the general welfare.

    But those perceptions have been rocked following three lengthy days of oral argument, in which Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared to have bought the challengers’ arguments against the minimum coverage provision, and, at times, revealed utter callousness toward national lawmakers’ attempt to reform a terribly inefficient and exclusive health care system that has left tens of millions uninsured.

    Moreover as The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted, several of the justices appeared utterly or willfully ignorant of how “insurance works.” Krugman said Scalia’s comparison of purchasing health care insurance to buying broccoli “horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.”

    “Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick – which what happens in the absence of a mandate – the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those  who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has,” Krugman wrote.

    Walter Dellinger, former Solicitor General, at an ACS briefing on the oral arguments in HHS v. Florida, said it appeared, based mostly on their questions that three justices look ready to strike the minimum coverage provisions. Justice Samuel Alito’s questions were almost as hostile as Scalia’s and most, including Dellinger, believe Justice Clarence Thomas will vote to invalidate the law’s integral provision.

    But Dellinger (pictured) is still holding out hope that two more justices will not join those three in killing health care reform.

    “If there were five,” he said, “I would be shocked, because I think it would take us back to the jurisprudence of the 1920s. I think it would be the most stunning and indefensible judicial decision in half a century. It would be paired with Bush v. Gore in the law books forever.”

  • October 12, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Not only is Occupy Wall Street attracting more supporters and spreading to other cities, but it is sparking some over-the-top reaction from police departments.

    Yesterday in Boston, for example, when OccupyBoston protestors sought to move from Dewey Square to a portion of Greenway Park, which encompasses open park space, police arrested more than 100 people, including the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild’s northeast regional office. Urszula Masny-Latos was among the protestors as a legal observer, wearing a green cap that identified her as such – it included "legal observer" in bold letters across the front. 

    Since the inception of the OWS movement, the National Lawyers Guild has offered legal assistance to the protestors, who are engaged in peaceful and expanding demonstrations over a growing economic inequality gap in the country, and the lack of accountability for the large corporations that ushered in the Great Recession, and were then bailed out by taxpayers.

    Masny-Latos described to The Boston Globe her experience, saying, “They really attacked. They used force that was completely unnecessary. … It was just brutal. I have no idea why they arrested us with such force.”

    Regarding her arrest, she said, “It was very surprising. Boston police usually respect our legal observers. And they usually leave us alone. … I was legal observing. I wasn’t even chanting anything.”

    When police, many in riot gear, descended upon the protestors, they started throwing them to the ground, some numerous times, see video here, and fastening their wrists with riot cuffs.

    A post from Occupy Wall Street’s website from earlier in the day condemned the actions of the Boston Police Department and New York City Police Department. (The OWS protests launched in NYC in September, along with accounts of abusive police enforcement.)

    “Every day the actions of the BPD, NYPD, etc. continue to remind us that the police no longer fight to ‘protect and serve’ the American people, but rather the wealth and power of the 1%. With each passing day, as the violence of the state continues to escalate, the myth of American ‘democracy’ becomes further shattered.”

    On its website, OccupyBoston issued a press statement saying police “made no distinction between protestors, medics, or legal observers ….”

    The press statement added that its organization is “the beginning of an ongoing discussion about reforming Wall Street and removing special interests from government.”

    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino saw nothing inappropriate with the tactics of the police officers, telling The Globe that “civil disobedience will not be tolerated.” The mayor, however, claimed that he supported the message emanating from the protests. “I agree with them on the issues,” he said. “Foreclosure. Corporate greed. These are issues I’ve been working on my entire career.”

    The National Lawyers Guild’s website includes information for the protestors and numbers to call for legal assistance. Beyond fighting for the First Amendment rights of the OWS protestors, the National Lawyers Guild says its mission includes bringing “together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, farmers, people with disabilities and people of color upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends ….”