As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Conscience of Paul Krugman

It's propitious that Times Select took down its paywall just in time for the release of Paul Krugman's new book, The Conscience of a Liberal. It's not only spurred me to buy it, it's allowed me to get a new appreciation for him, and he's been on a roll lately. He launched a new blog which has quickly become a must-read, and his last two columns have been first-rate. The first debunked the oft-repeated argument from the right that Bush isn't a "true" conservative, showing how he displays the same fealty to tax cuts, disinterest in government and fiscal irresponsibility that the modern conservative movement shares. And today's column, about the Swiftboating of Graeme Frost, is really just a gem.

You might be tempted to say that bloggers make unfounded accusations all the time. But we’re not talking about some obscure fringe. The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

The attack on Graeme’s family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney.

And G.O.P. politicians were eager to join in the smear. The New York Times reported that Republicans in Congress “were gearing up to use Graeme as evidence that Democrats have overexpanded the health program to include families wealthy enough to afford private insurance” but had “backed off” as the case fell apart.

In fact, however, Republicans had already made their first move: an e-mail message from the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, sent to reporters and obtained by the Web site Think Progress, repeated the smears against the Frosts and asked: “Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?”

And the attempt to spin the media worked, to some extent: despite reporting that has thoroughly debunked the smears, a CNN report yesterday suggested that the Democrats had made “a tactical error in holding up Graeme as their poster child,” and closely echoed the language of the e-mail from Mr. McConnell’s office.

Read the whole thing. Krugman expertly lays out the argument that this is how the right actually operates these days, that they are an attack machine instead of a political party. And he winds it around to how the episode demonstrates the crisis in modern health care, where a family that works hard and plays by the rules cannot survive the system. And he proudly speaks first principles, that "American children who need medical care should get it, period."

I can't wait to see what Krugman will do with this latest report, showing evidence of something he often discusses: the rise of a new Gilded Age.

The richest one percent of Americans earned a postwar record of 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, up from 19 percent a year earlier, reflecting a widening income disparity among different classes in the nation, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing new Internal Revenue Service data.

The data showed that the fortunes of the bottom 50 percent of Americans are worsening, with that group earning 12.8 percent of all income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent the year before, the paper said.

It said that while the IRS data goes back only to 1986, academic research suggests that the last time wealthy Americans had such a high percentage of the national income pie was in the 1920s.

Krugman is important because he has the most valuable op-ed real estate in the country, and he uses it, not to blabber about haircuts, not to tell us what taxi drivers in other countries think, not to prattle on with conservative talking points. He uses it to tell the truth. He'll be out in L.A. on Bill Maher's show tonight and next week for a book signing, and I'll be proud to shake his hand there.

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