Economist Paul Krugman denounced the tendency among some in the media to call President Donald Trump a "populist" — when his policies reveal he is anything but a defender of the people's will.
He acknowledged in a New York Times op-ed that Trump does dress himself in the trappings of populism and use rhetoric that suggests he's acting on behalf of the American people. But the overwhelming bulk of the actions he's taken as president and that his party supports involve unpopular benefits for corporations and the rich. Meanwhile, workers and poor people are getting ripped off.
"Start with tax policy, where Trump’s major legislative achievement is a tax cut that mainly benefits corporations — whose tax payments have fallen off a cliff — and has done nothing at all to raise wages," he writes. "The tax plan does so little for ordinary Americans that Republicans have stopped campaigning on it. Yet the administration is floating the (probably illegal) idea of using executive action to cut taxes on the rich by an extra $100 billion."
Krugman also notes that under Trump, the GOP has sabotaged Obamacare and caused premiums to rise for millions of middle-income people, while the Department of Labor has weakened worker protections on multiple fronts. In the judiciary — up to and including Trump's new Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh — the party and the president have chosen people who consistently rule in favor of business interests at the expense of everyone else.
Watching Trump in action, it’s hard to escape the impression that he knows very well that he’s inflicting punishment on his own base. But he’s a man who likes to humiliate others, in ways great and small. And my guess is that he actually takes pleasure in watching his supporters follow him even as be betrays them.
In fact, sometimes his contempt for his working-class base comes right out into the open. Remember “I love the poorly educated”? Remember his boast that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters?
So those who call him a "populist" should seriously reconsider. Rhetoric aside, Trump is essentially just another Republican propping up the interests of the wealthy. Reporters who call him a populist are "in effect complicit in his lie."
In short, Krugman gives this warning to the media: "He’s scamming his supporters; you don’t have to help him do it."