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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Yes, things are worse than we think.

That's the overwhelming impression Magpie went away with after reading a wide-ranging interview that economist Paul Krugman gave to Terrence McNally of KPFK radio in Los Angeles.

Krugman talks about how a middle-of-the-road economist who supported free trade (and was attacked for it by some of the left) became one of the strongest voices against Dubya's from the left, due to the obvious contradictions and dangers of Dubya's policies. He spends a good part of the interview elaborating on a point that that many people find hard to believe: With Dubya's administration, the US is dealing with a group of right-wing revolutionaries who don't believe 'in the rules of the game, the legitimacy of the system.'

Krugman warns that, once the administration has targeted a program or institution, it's fruitless to believe that making concessions will be productive. Instead, he says, compromise only makes it easier for Dubya and his right-wing allies to go on to destroy another program or institution. All of this, Krugman maintains, is in support of the administration's ultimate goal of of rolling the country back to what it was like before the New Deal of the 1930s — before there was any such thing as a 'safety net' for the average citizen of the US. As evidence of the administration's ruthlessness in pursuing this end, Krugman points to how Dubya has used the need to respond to the 9/11 attacks as a smokescreen for implementing a right-wing agenda at home and abroad.

This is one of the best interviews with Krugman that Magpie has seen. We suggest going over to AlterNet and reading the whole thing.

McNally: What I haven't heard quite yet is the point which you make very strongly in the book, that the purpose behind the tax cuts is to bankrupt the government, to undermine social programs, so that no one who comes into office after them will have an easy time restoring them.

Krugman: I'm not making that up. That's exactly what the lobbyists and the others behind these people say. The program that the Administration is following looks as if it was designed to implement their ideas. I think it is.

McNally: What would you do? And let me ask it two ways. What would Paul Krugman's solution be? And then, if Paul Krugman were Howard Dean or Wesley Clark or John Kerry – if he were running for office, what would his solution be?

Krugman: Okay. First off, you have to have a plan to get the budget back into balance. It's not possible to have a plan that doesn't include phasing out the bulk, if not all, of the Bush tax cuts. Not all in the first year, we're still in a recession. But a gradual plan to eliminate those tax cuts, bring the tax system back to about where it was in 2000. This would get us most, though not all, of the way to a balanced budget. You could talk about other things on the side, but that would have to be the core of it.

Meanwhile, we need to get the economy moving. To do that, you have to do the things that governments always do during recessions, but this government hasn't. Aid to state and local governments so they aren't laying off schoolteachers and firemen just when the economy is slumping. Public works programs. As it happens, we have a whole backlog of homeland security spending: ports and so on that we should be doing that the government is nickel-and-diming away.

McNally: And a huge amount of federal infrastructure that we just ignore completely.

Krugman: That's right. Just go and do these things which we need done anyway and particularly now. They would also help create jobs. Maybe on top of that we need another round of rebates, but rebates that are fully refundable and go to the people most likely to spend the money.

Is that guaranteed to work? I don't know. But it's certainly has a good chance of working and we haven't tried any of these obvious things.

McNally: How much of that do you think a candidate could say and get away with?

Krugman: I think a candidate has to be fairly forthright. We can argue about whether the whole Bush tax cut or just the upper brackets need to go. But at least they have to say that the upper brackets must go.

And look, I don't know that we'll win. I don't know what tricks the Administration will come up with to divert people's attention, but I think that unless a candidate is really prepared to come out swinging, to say these people are doing the wrong thing by the country, there's no chance. Saying "I'm like Bush only less so" is not going to win this election.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:33 PM | Get permalink




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