During the Christmas season, one often finds liberals and progressives equating Republican economic policies with Charles Dickens’ fictional 19th Century character Ebenezer Scrooge. But economist Paul Krugman, in a New York Times column published two days before Christmas, explains why he now finds Republican/Scrooge comparisons problematic.
“It’s common, especially around this time of year, to describe conservative politicians who cut off aid to the poor as Scrooges; I’ve done it myself,” Krugman explains. “But if you think about it, this is deeply unfair to Scrooge.”
Modern-day Republicans, Krugman observes, are overtly cruel to the poor in ways that never occurred to Scrooge.
“While Dickens portrays Scrooge as a miser, he’s notably lacking in malice,” Krugman notes. “True, he’s heartless until he’s visited by various ghosts. But his heartlessness consists merely of unwillingness to help those in need. He’s never shown taking pleasure in others’ suffering, or spending money to make the lives of the poor worse.”
Cruelty to the poor, the 66-year-old Krugman points out, didn’t start with Donald Trump’s presidency. But it is accelerating in the Trump era.
“Many conservative politicians only pretend to be Scrooges, when they’re actually much worse — not mere misers, but actively cruel,” Krugman asserts. “This was true long before Donald Trump moved into the White House. What’s new about the Trump era is that the cruelty is more open — not just on Trump’s part, but throughout his party.”
According to Krugman, Americans who are among the victims of Republican economic policies include those who are receiving food stamps and unemployment benefits.
“Because America spends relatively little money helping the poor, even harsh cuts — like the Trump Administration’s new rules on food stamps, which will hurt hundreds of thousands — will at best save only tiny amounts compared with the cost of tax cuts,” Krugman writes.
Krugman slams state-level Republicans for opting out of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare.
“Why would any state make that choice?,” Krugman asks. “After all, the federal government will pay 90% of the cost, and experience shows that expanding Medicaid produces indirect cost savings — for example, by letting states reduce aid to hospitals for uncompensated costs.”
Moreover, Krugman adds, Medicaid expansion can “boost” a state’s economy because it “raises tax revenues.” But Republicans, Krugman contends, aren’t really motivated by balanced budgets and having budget surpluses rather than budget deficits — their motivation is making sure the poor suffer as much as possible. While Ebenezer Scrooge was self-centered, according to Krugman, Republicans take pleasure in hurting Americans who are struggling.
“I suspect that this mentality is part of the explanation for the seeming paradox of strong Republican support in places like eastern Kentucky, where large numbers of poor whites depend on programs like food stamps: those who aren’t receiving aid actually want to see their poorer neighbors hurt,” Krugman writes. “What Trump has brought to his party is a new willingness to be openly vicious.”
Krugman concludes his column by stressing that going forward, he will — for the sake of accuracy — refrain from comparing Republicans to Ebenezer Scrooge.
“I’m going to stop calling today’s Republicans Scrooges,” Krugman declares. “We’d be in much better shape if Trump and company were merely heartless misers. What they really are is much, much worse.”