Home > Uncategorized > Disagreeing with Paul Krugman: His friends probably do vote against the interest of the working class (white and other)

Disagreeing with Paul Krugman: His friends probably do vote against the interest of the working class (white and other)

from Dean Baker

Paul Krugman told readers that intellectual types like him tend to vote for progressive taxes and other measures that benefit white working class people. This is only partly true.

People with college and advanced degrees tend to be strong supporters of recent trade deals [I’m including China’s entry to the WTO] that have been a major factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs in the last quarter century, putting downward pressure on the pay of workers without college degrees. They also tend to support stronger and longer patent and copyright protections (partly in trade deals), which also redistribute income upward. (We will pay $430 billion for prescription drugs this year, which would cost 10-20 percent of this amount in a free market. The difference is equal to roughly five times annual spending on food stamps.)

Educated people also tended to support the deregulation of the financial sector, which has led to some of the largest fortunes in the country. They also overwhelmingly supported the 2008 bailout which threw a lifeline to the Wall Street banks at a time when the market was going to condemn them to the dustbin of history. (Sorry, the second Great Depression story as the alternative is nonsense — that would have required a decade of stupid policy, nothing about the financial collapse itself would have entailed a second Great Depression.) 

His crew has also been at best lukewarm on defending unions. However they don’t seem to like free trade in professional services that would, for example, allow more foreign doctors to practice in the United States, bringing their pay in line with doctors in Europe and Canada. The lower pay for doctors alone could save us close to $100 billion a year in health care expenses.

None of this means that the plutocrats standing alongside Trump are somehow better for working class people. They have made it pretty clear that they intend to use his presidency to take everything they can from the rest of the country. But Krugman is engaging in some serious fanciful thinking if he thinks that intellectual types have in general been acting in the interests of the working class. (And, I suspect many do ridicule the behavior and lifestyles of the working class.)

Yes, all of this is talked about in my new book Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Have Been Structured to Make the Rich Richer (it’s free).

  1. Craig
    December 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Yes, an integrative third way that enhanced the lifestyle of the individual and also the viability and competitiveness of small to medium sized businesses while breaking up the monopoly powers of finance and dominant powers of corporations with global reach seems like the intelligent route toward the future.

  2. Paul Davidson
    December 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    part of the reason why Hillary had such a bad campaign strategy — where she did not present a message to save income and jobs for blue collar workers — perhaps because economists like Krugman were for free trade and they were providing Hillary with economic advice

    Being for free trade when the other nations are using the same technology but using child labor, longer hours, lower pay, no safety environment for workers, permitting pollution to spill out of factories merely to reduce the price of the product for consumers is a non progressive view of the economic system.

  3. December 10, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    In my Brit experience, the equivalent types to Paul tend to support policies that they think will benefit ‘ordinary working people’, of whatever class or colour. The problem is that on some of the issues you raise, they seem to be wrong.

    There may also be some cynical types about, but I give Paul the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Craig
    December 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    So what policies would enhance both the individual and small to medium sized business viability and that even large corporations couldn’t resist?

  5. December 12, 2016 at 4:16 am

    The answer to your question is one historians have known about for at least a century. The poor (working class today) and the rich (the 10% at the top) live in different worlds, culturally speaking. Meetings between these two cultures is like the meeting of a 21st century MD or PhD and a Martian. The rich seek and understand control and subservience. When the poor refuse control and subservience, the rich’s only desire is to force the poor into compliance. That force can be anything from what we saw from Trump and Breibart in the 2016 election to the “police presence” at the Dakota Access Pipeline to the invention of new wars for the poor to fight. The poor are always at a disadvantage in this fight. Because many of their number side with the rich, in hopes of advantages, and because the poor lack the resources to mount any defense at all. Right now the weapons are fake news and advertising. But police and Blackwater stand ready to do the work of control as well. And as we’ve seen the nation’s professional military is useless in this struggle. Or, worse it follows the orders of the plutocrats that now control the economy, the government, and the internet.

  6. December 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I only partly agree :) I’m in favour of free trade in manufactured goods but think IP rights need to be rolled back significantly, especially patents of which I’m guilty of several. I’m OK with GMO foods but think territories need to be able to manage their own agricultural policy including subsidies for all manner of ecological and social reasons. I think derivatives trading is just fine, but so are losses and Wall Street banks should have gone through bankruptcy or nationalisation. I think unions are sometimes a drag on a sector that should modernise, but have no trouble competing with other professionals from India or wherever. OK this is just me. What I’m trying to say is the intellectual professional class does need to have a nuanced set of views and not just adopt a block “pro capitalism” position.

    • December 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      In other words, so called capitalist arrangements don’t always support the well-being of a society or its member groups. In those instances another option is probably a better choice. Now, how do we first pass this need on to every member of society, and second, select the “other” options?

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