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Paul Krugman on the ‘Conscience of a Liberal’
Posted on Nov 16, 2007
By James Harris
Harris: ... and Fridays, for the Times, and yesterday you wrote something that probably would resonate very well with a lot of minority communities. I’ll share the quote: “Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up—perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.” Now this is something black people have been saying for a long time now ...
Krugman: Oh, sure.
Harris: ... Latino people. What encouraged the economist to say this?
Krugman: I wrote “The Conscience of a Liberal,” my new book, and the centrality of race to American politics, the centrality of race to right-wing successes, is just overwhelming. Almost everything—if you look at the numbers. Once you take account of the fact that Southern whites switched sides after the civil rights movement, there isn’t much left to explain in American political trends. And you look: the profile of people who are fiercely anti-immigrant is the same as the people who are fiercely anti-African-American and they are the same people who are hysterical over the terrorist threat and to a degree it’s a real threat. And they map it in. Look at all the hysteria: “We must not let terrorists come in from Mexico.” Now, how many Catholic Mexican Islamic terrorists have you actually seen? Right? But this is that same—the lumping it all together, the Other. The Alien.
Harris: Which is postmodern thinking, what we fear.
Harris: We fear the Other. So tell me a little bit about your new book, “The Conscience of a Liberal.” Shouldn’t an economist be a centrist, at best?
Krugman: Oh, no. Economists are people—not all of them, but most of us are people. And you have a view, you have your ideals. Economics doesn’t tell you what your ideals should be. Liberal. So it’s about ideals and how you think society should be. I’m a liberal because I believe in democracy in the broad sense: economic as well as political. I think that’s what it comes down to. The argument in the book is that middle-class society has been unraveled by people who wanted it to. They wanted greater inequality. They actually sought a second Gilded Age. I quote Grover Norquist —people don’t know him—the great tax cutter. He wants to bring things back to the way it was before Teddy Roosevelt and the socialists came in. So he really wants to undo the whole 20th century. And that they actually had a big effect in causing our society to become more unequal, through everything from tax policy to labor policy. And the way they win elections, sometimes it’s moral values, national defense—Bush won in 2004 by running against gay married terrorists. But the real, the underlying, consistent source of their success has been race.
Harris: I’d love to hear your opinion. You look at the weak dollar, you look at the looming crisis. It does not look very good, economically speaking, for the U.S. Where does this all end, and does it change greatly in ‘08 or are we in for a long-term of—?
Krugman: My central forecast is that we’re not in for an outright recession, or not a severe one if it is, but we’re in for a long period of trouble. And the reason is, a lot of the bad, subprime— the bad lending took place in the final frenzy of the housing bubble. So there’s all lending that took place in ‘05-06. All of the mortgage resets are just starting now and they run all the way through next year. So that’s where the tough stuff is going to be. The weak dollar doesn’t bother me so much. It’s not a catastrophe, but it’s going [to be] a troubled couple of years.
Harris: OK. Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, thank you. Be sure to pick up a copy of the new book, “The Conscience of a Liberal,” a book I consider a necessity for anyone trying to take charge of their social or financial well-being. This is James Harris saying thank you for tuning in to another edition of Truthdig.
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