Krugman flips GOP’s propaganda machine on its head with devastating critique of the party’s extremism
Economist Paul Krugman (Commonwealth Club/ Creative Commons)

As the GOP directs its "propaganda machine" to smear progressive Democrats as "extremists," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman mused that Republicans may be the real radicals.

"While today’s G.O.P. can’t do policy, it commands a powerful propaganda machine," Krugman wrote. "And this machine is now dedicated to a strategy of portraying Democrats as extremists. It might work — but it shouldn’t, because Democrats aren’t extremists, but Republicans are."

The latest smear campaign has centered primarily on two freshman Democratic congresswomen, both of whom are people of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

"It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism," the columnist wrote. "But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion."

Ocasio-Cortez's "famous advocacy of a 70 percent tax rate on very high incomes" is, Krugman noted, in line with public opinion polls that show people both support her proposal and also think the rich pay too little in taxes.

"Republicans, on the other hand, really are extremists," he mused. "As Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in 2012 — long before the rise of Trump — the modern G.O.P. is 'ideologically extreme' and uninterested in 'facts, evidence, and science.'"

Krugman used Stephen Moore, the pro-Trump pundit tapped by the president to sit on the Federal Reserve Board, as an example of just how "extreme" the GOP has become.

Moore is "very much a part of the right-wing establishment," has written for the Wall Street Journal and served as a chief economist for the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"What’s coming out only now, however, is the extent of Moore’s political extremism," Krugman mused. "Many of his past statements — like his assertion that 'capitalism is a lot more important than democracy' — sound like a liberal caricature of conservatism. But it’s not a caricature; Moore shows us what the right actually thinks."

Whereas most Americans think the rich don't pay enough taxes, Trump's Fed pick "wants to eliminate income taxes and replace them with sales taxes, which would dramatically shift the tax burden away from the rich and onto the middle class." He also, the writer noted, "called the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax, 'the most evil act that has passed in 100 years.'"

"Even if you cherry-pick left-leaning Democrats, a look at their actual positions shows them to be not at all extreme," Krugman concluded. "At the same time, pillars of the right-wing establishment hold views that are utterly at odds with both evidence and public opinion. Republicans are the real extremists."