Trumpcare Is Anti-Populist

Paul Krugman - Trumpcare Is Anti-PopulistObamacare helped a large number of people at the expense of a small, affluent minority: basically, taxes on 2 percent of the population to cover a lot of people and assure coverage to many more. Trumpcare would reverse that, hurting a lot of people (many of whom voted for Trump) so as to cut taxes for a handful of wealthy people. That’s a difference that goes beyond political strategy.

But one way to say this is that Obamacare was and is a truly populist law, while Trumpcare is anti-populist. That’s reflected in the legislative struggles.

And yet, and yet: Trump did in fact win over white working-class voters, who thought they were voting for a populist; Democrats, who did a lot for those voters, got no credit — rural whites, in particular, who were huge beneficiaries of the ACA, overwhelmingly supported the man who may destroy their healthcare.

–Paul Krugman
Populism and the Politics of Health

4 thoughts on “Trumpcare Is Anti-Populist

  1. And apparently, Trump voters who aren’t bigoted dweebs support populist ideas:

    Who woulda thunk it? I mean, sure, Dean Baker, Ha-Joon Chang, Thomas Frank, Naomi Klein, Rick Perlstein, Kate Pickett, Cornel West, Richard Wilkinson, but what Very Serious Person could have imagined?

    Certainly no liberal who’s sophisticated enough to know that the old Democratic Party model, where politics supports struggling working people, is old-fashioned and passé. Now, we target office voters. Suburbanites! That’s the future base! College tax credits!

    Apparently, in this future, all difficult jobs will be performed by robots, and we’ll all be Personnel Resource Specialists for GloboChem. Hooray! Bill Gates will figure out a way for computer screens to solve the problems of educating different children, and Tom Freidman’s cabdriver will fix global warming.

    Bravo, corporate Democrats! Never change, you heroes!

      • I believe the article is absolutely correct on what’s happening in Europe; less so in America. Russ Feingold losing, for example, was largely because in an anti-establishment wave, he was an old political name, and not a highly popular one at that. Personality does matter in politics, and a Feingold or Kucinich (no matter how much I admire them morally) is not going to draw as much support as a feisty scrapper like Sanders, Warren, Wellstone. (All of whom I also admire, and have more distinct personalities than a Feingold.)

        In America, I believe the problem is more about culture than merely economics or bigotry. Specifically, white-collar vs. blue-collar culture. The DLC crowd has focused party strategy on appealing to white-collar workers. This leaves blue-collar workers to vote Republican, vote “throw ’em all out,” or, increasingly, not vote at all. So we lose votes to fundamentalist Christians (who turn out in huge numbers, and always vote Republican).

        Reducing the cultural gap between blue-and-white collar workers would, I think, peel away enough votes to start winning us back those state elections we’ve been dropping. Particularly if we delivered on policies which have no perceived advantages for “those people.” (White Republicans on government assistance believe they deserve it, while black people must just be malingering.) Pushing for universal healthcare and a far higher minimum wage would not necessarily be thought of as catering to “those people.”

        In Europe, while I am no expert on the local politics, I do know one Danish couple who votes exactly as described in that Vox article you shared. When I met them ten years ago, they were proudly liberal. During a lake vacation in Minnesota, I got them very drunk, and they asked my relatively sober partner for a ride to the local store. In order to buy condoms. The local store did not sell condoms, as the store’s owner thought birth control was immoral.

        Oh, my goodness, did the Danes give us an earful about how much better liberal Denmark was. From free birth control to worker protections to unemployment benefits to education — you name it, they praised Denmark and chastised America for it. (I agreed with them!) And, nine months later, they had their second child rather earlier than planned …

        This couple (a teacher and a house painter) have become increasingly conservative, virtually fascist. At first it was an obsession with Muslim immigrants. “They spit on the Bible,” I was told. This from people who have not been inside a church in years, and ridiculed American fundamentalist beliefs.

        Then came the vacation timeshare in a gated community. Then came new friends. Their old friends came over in their work clothes, drank beer and stayed up until 3 AM talking liberal politics. Their new friends dressed up, drank wine, talked conservative politics and left by 9 PM.

        So this couple have become wanna-be social climbers. And, as such, do not wish to pay taxes anymore. Not a dime for those awful Muslims, or lazy Danes on welfare getting unemployment benefits. It’s sad to see. (And their family members think this couple has gone bananas, while admitting more and more Danes say similar things.)

        It seems (in this case, at least) that the Vox article is right — many European voters simply want to kick away the ladder. In America, that ladder was removed decades ago. I believe many blue-collar Americans simply wish they would stop being considered white trash. Reducing inequality here might go a long way towards this.

  2. Krugman ceased to be anything more than a well paid shill for neoliberalism sometime not long after George W. left office. I really can’t take him seriously. Here’s an article that has something more pointed and analytical to say about our social defects —

    I do take issue with the author’s overuse of the label “socialism for white people”. Whatever role racism may have played in establishing and maintaining our current structures (and I believe it had a role), it would be more accurate now to call this phenomenon “socialism for the comfortable” or “corporate socialism”.

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