Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 10, 2010

I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE GOP TO LOVE OBAMA IN 2026.... In light of the news that Democrats love to see former President Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail, while former President George W. Bush keeps a much lower profile, it's almost amusing to see Republicans decide maybe the Big Dog wasn't so bad after all.

Many Republicans with a deep animus for President Obama find their hearts aflutter with the memory of a former leader. He was a compassionate conservative, a guy who cared about free trade, a man who reached across the aisle.

He is the husband of the secretary of state.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch recently said that former President Bill Clinton "will go down in history as a better president" than the sitting one. Sean Hannity of Fox News, who has verbally abused Mr. Clinton for years, recently referred to him as "good old Bill." Republicans in Congress have begun speaking of him with respect, even pining.

"I enjoy Bill Clinton," Representative Paul D. Ryan, a six-term Republican from Wisconsin, said in an interview, echoing several colleagues. "The first two years of his term were one thing, but the rest of his presidency was tempered with moderation, and the nation benefited."

Of course, the "rest of his presidency" included the GOP crusade to literally impeach Clinton around the time of the '98 midterms.

The NYT's Jennifer Steinhauer added that much of the Republican nostalgia for Bill Clinton is "a brew of selective memory, convenient disregard for the bitter partisan battles that marked his tenure and longing for a time when major bipartisan legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, was possible."

Well, yes, I suppose so. But "major bipartisan legislation" would still be possible if the GOP didn't treat President Obama as some kind of Hitler/Devil combo.

Regardless, it's that "selective memory" I find especially amusing. Folks under the age of, say, 30, may not remember the political environment of the Clinton era especially well, but to say that Republican attitudes were toxic would be putting it mildly. The GOP -- and its conservative allies -- didn't just oppose Clinton, they loathed him with an intensity unseen in a long while. Most of the Republican Party woke up every day in the '90s with a fairly specific thought: "What can I do to destroy the president today?"

The notion in 1999 that a decade later, Republicans would like and actually praise Bill Clinton in public and on the record was so absurd, it would have been laughable.

Which is why I'm kind of looking forward to 2026, when Republican decide that ol' Barack may not have been such a bad president after all. The media landscape is different from Clinton's first two years, and no one ever accused the Big Dog of being a secret Muslim from another country, but there parallels are clearly there -- the GOP insisted that Clinton was a communist criminal who hated America and was intent on destroying our way of life. The hysterics might sound familiar.

We look back at the Republican rhetoric of the '90s and shake our heads in amazement. For all the hyperventilating the GOP did during the Clinton era, they were wrong; their hysterics were ridiculous; their predictions were misguided; and their wild-eyed critiques of the president, we can safely say with the benefit of hindsight, were completely at odds with reality.

And if I had to bet, we'll see the same trend play out with this Democratic president.

Jon Chait noted the other day, "Conservative beliefs about Clinton and Obama roughly mirror their beliefs about various liberal social reforms. At the time of its enactment, Medicare was dangerous socialized medicine that would mark the first step toward the end of freedom in America. Today it's a cherished program that Republicans vow to save from Democratic cuts. Right-wingers vilified John F. Kennedy; now they revere him. One day, Obama will play the same role in the Republican imagination that Clinton does today."

If the Clinton model holds true, I'd look for the realization to kick in around 16 years from now. And many of us will snicker, thinking, "Wow, remember how apoplectic those guys were about Obama? Don't they appear foolish now?"

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Impeachment. Government shut downs. Good times.

Posted by: blank on October 10, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I can't remember who it was, but there was a GOP member of Congress who publicly stated that his first thought every morning was along the lines of "what can I do today to destroy the Clinton Administration?"

And good ol' Sean Hannity once said during a guest hosting stint on Fat Limbaugh's show that he dreamed of seeing Bill Clinton shackled and wearing a prison orange jumpsuit.

In other words, the right wing will say whatever they think gives them an advantage at this particular moment.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 10, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

If your political philosophy is based around opposing Obama, then you might as well go ahead and pretend to like anything that isn't Obama. If Hillary Clinton had somehow become President and nominated Obama to the Cabinet, conservatives would probably be talking up how great Obama was and how maybe they would be able to work with the Democrats if Obama were in office instead of the "divisive" Clinton family.

Posted by: mcc on October 10, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Jon Chait noted

White. Like. Us.

Posted by: some guy on October 10, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Jon Chait noted the other day, "Conservative beliefs about Clinton and Obama roughly mirror their beliefs about various liberal social reforms. At the time of its enactment, Medicare was dangerous socialized medicine that would mark the first step toward the end of freedom in America. Today it's a cherished program that Republicans vow to save from Democratic cuts. Right-wingers vilified John F. Kennedy; now they revere him. One day, Obama will play the same role in the Republican imagination that Clinton does today."

The simple question, then, still remains: why does the nation and the media keep paying attention to these idiotic people?

They're no better than a spoiled, rotten child who throws a screaming tantrum every time they're told to do something, only to be found doing it ten minutes later. Most parents learn to ignore these outbursts; our rightward leaning media could learn a thing or two from them.

Posted by: electrolite on October 10, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

By 2020, Democrats will look back with fondness on the moderation of the George W. Bush presidency -- after 8 years of President Palin. (Hey, it could happen. Theoretically.)

Posted by: Grumpy on October 10, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

longing for a time when major bipartisan legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, was possible."

any republican sponsored legislation, especially those that undermine the survival of average Americans and provide with give-aways to the plutocracy as conservadems support everything republican and the rest of the dems just cave. Any tax cut for the wealthy is still possible, wars and military industrial complex spending are all still possible, deregulation and corporate welfare - the bigger the better are all still possible, ...just like in Clinton's days.

Posted by: pluege on October 10, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

if you ever find yourself saying 'man, that guy is a f*cking jerk', one thing you can be sure of: that guy is a republican/conservative.

Posted by: gak on October 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The media landscape is different from Clinton's first two years, and no one ever accused the Big Dog of being a secret Muslim from another country, but there parallels are clearly there -- the GOP insisted that Clinton was a communist criminal who hated America and was intent on destroying our way of life. The hysterics might sound familiar.

No, Clinton wasn't a secret Muslim. He was a secret mobster who smoked pot all the time and pined for the resuscitation of the USSR. He was the epitome of the boogeymen of the day, just as Obama is the epitome of the boogeymen of today.

Same playbook, slightly different circumstances.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on October 10, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't they appear foolish now?"

Well, YES! They also opposed Social Security, seat belts, handicap ramps, etc. They rallied behind the WMD crap and the "mushroom cloud over NY".

However, they don't have the capacity to feel foolish. That requires self-awareness of where you've been and what you've supported, and the Republicans can't seem to remember what happened yesterday.

Posted by: Mark-NC on October 10, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Selective nostalgia for opposition Presidents is nothing new. Reagan invoked FDR and Kennedy when it suited him, and RWR himself starts to look good compared to Bush 2, let alone the current crop of would-bes in the Republican Party. Truman is another former Democrat that modern Republicans have attempted to appropriate from time to time.

Democrats do it to, seemingly more interested in lionizing Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower than Republicans are, and recently have even been waxing nostalgic for Nixon's willingness to compromise with the Democrats.

Just as the right has in recent years tried to recast Martin Luther King as one of their own icons, I'm sure in 40 years they will be doing the same with Obama.

Posted by: Rip on October 10, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Grumpy, I know you're horsing around. And at first I was thinking along the same lines: "Who knows? Maybe there will come a time when George W Bush didn't seem so bad."

But there is a difference. Democrats don't typically hate Republicans out of hand. During Bush's inauguration, I remember thinking "What's the worst that can happen?" I actually cut the guy, as stupid as he is, a little slack. And I think a lot of Democrats did too — at first.

However, after 9/11, with the country [indeed the world] squarely behind him, he did the impossible. He turned the most powerful nation in the world into a blind, savage, murderous aggressor.

Clinton left the White House with a stained reputation, but with the country on pretty solid footing. Eight years later, the worst thing that could possibly happen did happen. Everything we'd managed to gain in sixty years was lost. Pissed away by Reaganomics, corporatism, deceit, and war. It wasn't all Bush's fault. But his was the clown face on the bursting balloon. His was the rusty ax that split the country down the middle — separating the thoughtful, the curious, the intellectual, and the caring from the fearful, the ignorant, the greedy, and the furious.

If a flat-out imbecile like George Bush can be the most powerful man in the world, then there is absolutely no reason why a stupid, insipid, vindictive shrew like Sarah Palin can't be. After all, these people voted for Reagan. They could vote for anybody.

And if, in some future smoldering hellscape America, we see that Grizzly Mama stand on the Capitol steps to be sworn in, I will not be pining for the days of GWB. No, no. I will be placing the blame for democracy's nasally, icy, half-witted death-rattle squarely on his slumping, sorry-ass shoulders.

Posted by: chrenson on October 10, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody and I mean nobody will be expressing fond memories about them..

Posted by: Trollop on October 10, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

@chrenson: Well said.

Posted by: Rand Careaga on October 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

"the Republican nostalgia for Bill Clinton is "a brew of selective memory,"

the Republican nostalgia for RONALD REAGAN is "a brew of selective memory,

-Fixed!

Posted by: DAY on October 10, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

As a matter of rhetoric and to avoid confusing your listeners, it is best to have just one Antichrist at a time. So for Republicans, any currently-serving Democratic President is, by definition, the worst person in the world. And by comparison, a previous Democratic President, although once the worst person in the world, is now good ol' Bill.

Posted by: tamiasmin on October 10, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

They always appear foolish. Actually, they ARE always foolish. Stupid, even.

No, I take that back. I've decided that, no matter what they say, all Republicans are liars.

THEY ALWAYS LIE

Posted by: Daniel Kim on October 10, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Tom,

No, Clinton wasn't a secret Muslim. He was a secret mobster who smoked pot all the time and pined for the resuscitation of the USSR.

You omitted that he and Hillary murdered Vince Foster.

We’re gonna run outta melons.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

NAFTA was a catastrophic bipartisan mistake; much of our increasing income inequality and the decline of the American middle class can be laid to this single freshwater-economics-inspired law.

Posted by: joel hanes on October 10, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Clinton looks more appealing to Republicans because he's relatively powerless now, and because Obama is seen as so much worse that Clinton benefits from comparison. When Obama is himself out of office--after 2012, say--perhaps his image will similarly improve...

Posted by: David Gaw on October 10, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

During Bush's inauguration, I remember thinking "What's the worst that can happen?" I actually cut the guy, as stupid as he is, a little slack.

Boy, I sure didn't. I thought, "How could this incurious, petty, ignorant cretin become our president save by theft and criminal collusion?" And I was right. The 2000 election and its aftermath told us all we needed to know about what the George W. Bush administration was going to be like.

Posted by: Daddy Love on October 10, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Passage of 16 years not required to answer "Don't they appear foolish now?" in the affirmative. They already "appear foolish now" in realtime.

Posted by: oaguabonita on October 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

To grossly simplify, Clinton was a an anti Vietnam War communist intellectual (not appearing to be, but there was the Oxford thing and being curious enough about the world to travel a bit) hippie with a feminist wife. Exactly the enemy of the former College Young Republican crowd, so they hated him insanely. But he was white, and a Southerner.

Although from a later era, Obama is all that as well - an anti Iraq War hippie communist intellectual, plus being half black. So the insanity is similar, but doubled down. Well, more like quadrupled. Plus now we have Fox News, which is Limbaugh etc., with visuals, on steroids. And a near Depression.

Sarah Palin for President! USA! USA!

Posted by: emjayay on October 10, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

No Democratic president worth his salt will ever be embraced by the right wing. See for instance FDR.

Posted by: Oscar Leroy on October 10, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps part of what inspires such conservative nostalgia is what Clinton has done *since* leaving office, like giving George Bush an alibi for invading Iraq and serving as the overseer for the destruction of Haiti (for which the Republican Congress bears responsibility second only to the earthquake itself; see news.yahoo.com/s/ap/cb_haiti_earthquake). He has certainly helped the conservative cause more in retirement than he did in having an affair.

Posted by: Charles on October 10, 2010 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

You know, someone really needs to put together a web video to fully remind us all how crazy the republicans were under Clinton. Government shutdowns, unanimous opposition to his economic plan, investigations of the Christmas card list, shooting bullets into "head-like objects," and of course impeachment. It could even make a good attack ad, reminding people 1) we've seen this movie before 2) Obama isn't all bad, but Republicans always get this crazy when a Democrat is in the White House 3) Is this what you want Congress to become?

Posted by: Eric L on October 10, 2010 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republican conservatives may not go to KKK meetings, but President Obama is still an uppity ****R to them!

Posted by: captain dan on October 10, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons why I favored Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton was that I figured if Ms Clinton won, it would be Crapstorm Part II, the Clinton Years Reloaded, and I was hoping to avoid that.

Little did I suspect.

Silly me.

We might have been better off with Hillary Clinton. The devil(s) you know. . .

Posted by: Steve on October 10, 2010 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Tungsten Carbide Hammer meets Gold Nail....

Lifelong Dem:

...And good ol' Sean Hannity once said during a guest hosting stint on Fat Limbaugh's show that he dreamed of seeing Bill Clinton shackled and wearing a prison orange jumpsuit.
In other words, the right wing will say whatever they think gives them an advantage at this particular moment.

Not only will they say whatever leverages, but they'll crank the mighty Wurlitzer up to blare it too. That crew has got some remarkable party discipline. In 20 months they've gone from a failed party to expecting a midterm route. Congratulations will soon be in order...

Posted by: koreyel on October 10, 2010 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

"and no one ever accused the Big Dog of being a secret Muslim from another country"

No, but he was an international drug dealer who had dozens of people murdered, including Vince Foster.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on October 10, 2010 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

As calm and unreactive as Obama is, I suspect the hatred for him is insincere. What the zealots really hate are liberals, cosmopolitans, secularists, and the youth culture. Obama is simply a stand-in for those things but in himself, a rather weak cup of tea. By contrast, W really got to us. The smirky frat boy persona was gallingly real. Does Obama have anything as remotely unnerving in his personality?

Posted by: walt on October 10, 2010 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Has Obama ever been seen near the Mena, Arkansas airport?

Posted by: MikeJ on October 10, 2010 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Tom Dibble on October 10, 2010 at 3:30 PM
Posted by: Joe Friday on October 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM
Posted by: Jose Padilla on October 10, 2010 at 7:29 PM

You all forgot Clinton the draft dodger.

Posted by: Schtick on October 10, 2010 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

That's because being conservative means clinging to ideas and theories even when they've been proven wrong. It's about standing athwart a a urinal yelling: "suck!", with guilty pleasure.

Posted by: HMDK on October 10, 2010 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget to add Truman to the "Democrat liked by Republicans more now than when he was in office." His administration was the one that that Nixon and McCarthy claimed was full of Communists after all. Hell, Truman's dismissal of General MacArthur had Republicans calling for his impeachment.

Posted by: heckblazer on October 10, 2010 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

there is a simple answer to this "conundrum": conservatives are for the most part hypocrites, liars, and above all, morons.

If you keep that in mind, it all becomes clear.

Posted by: cereal on October 10, 2010 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it happens the other way around, as well. I don't hate George W. Bush nearly as much now as I did 2 years ago. Mind you, my opinion about his Presidency hasn't changed much, but my feelings towards him, personally, have mellowed.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 10, 2010 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Forgetting the 1990's is probably one reason that people attribute hatred of Obama to racism. If Obama were white, the content of the attacks on Obama would be slightly different because racial slurs wouldn't work, but I doubt the intensity of the attacks would be any less.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist on October 10, 2010 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

See also: Martin Luther King. As Tom Tomorrow pointed out recently, were King alive today, he would be public enemy #1. But he's dead, so the right can cozy up to him.

It's beyond pathetic, but it's the world we live in.

Posted by: Noam Sane on October 10, 2010 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Charles,

Perhaps part of what inspires such conservative nostalgia is what Clinton has done *since* leaving office, like giving George Bush an alibi for invading Iraq…

Advocating for the political overthrow of Saddam Hussein is not an "alibi" for the illegal military invasion of another sovereign nation that was never a threat.


…and serving as the overseer for the destruction of Haiti

That’s silly.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 10, 2010 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Repubs will adore Obama once he's gone; he'll give them such a warm, warm feeling of *not* being racist (for a change), since they never really called him ni66er to his face...

Posted by: exlibra on October 10, 2010 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans are eventually always right, years later, after it's too late.

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on October 10, 2010 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Revisionists love Clinton because Obama is in the thick of an economic crisis (not of his making) that Clinton couldn't imagine, which cuts into his (Obama's) ratings. But let us remember that the Fabulous Clintons proffered "getting two for the price of one" to us proletarians, but even two of them couldn't get us heath care reform.

Voila! Less than two years in, Obama does the trick.

Posted by: Onowhere on October 10, 2010 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but is everyone else getting the anti-card check ads on the site? Normally I close these but it occurred to me today that Google advertisers are charged per click and it's not like they get anything because their site opens in my browser, so why not click to get right wing organizations to donate to sites like this? Do others do this or am I crazy?

Posted by: E on October 11, 2010 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

"What the zealots really hate are liberals, cosmopolitans, secularists, and the youth culture."

But what the leadership really hates is invasion of their territory, which is what the Great Triangulator led and what the Great Compromiser is leading. Had Clinton or Obama been registered Republicans their presidencies would have been no different but for the absence of rhetorical attacks.

Posted by: Forrest on October 11, 2010 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know -- they've never gotten over (forgiven; felt nostalgic for) Carter...

Posted by: William on October 11, 2010 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

My God, they said Bill Clinton was a murderer. They said his wife was a murderer. They claimed he'd rooted against the US during Vietnam. The GOP with the New York Times's complicity spent 8 years pursuing "Whitewater," about which both the Clintons were EXONERATED. They made huge flaps and lied about everything the man did, from Travelgate to his departure from office. They claimed he fathered out of wedlock children. They claimed he had Communist Chinese operating in the White House. Newt Gingrich slammed him and the Democratic Party on a regular basis from 1994 until Newtie's disgrace and departure. With the corporate media's complicity, the GOP demeaned the man daily from 1992 through 2000. They tried to impeach Clinton, and had a ball publishing the intimate details of his consensual sex life! Then, after he left office, they blew through the surplus he left and tried to blame Bush's 9/11 debacles AND the 2001 recession AND the disastrous initial period of the Iraq War on him! They even insulted the man's child!

Why anyone on earth would take these very dangerous sick Republican people seriously I'll never know, but it appears they're poised to take over the Congress, and resume their destructiveness, yet again.

Posted by: sleater on October 11, 2010 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

Time always makes the heart grow fonder. Well usually.

Think of how the Democrats now look at Eisenhower or Republicans look at Truman. Go back even farther -- in the 1820s the Whig party was founded in large part to fight what was seen as the increasing despotism of Andrew Jackson. By the late 1850s, the Whig's descendents, the Republicans, were invoking Jackson to battle the secessionist movement.

Posted by: Anthony on October 11, 2010 at 4:31 AM | PERMALINK

They still hate Carter.

Posted by: Tom Marney on October 11, 2010 at 6:03 AM | PERMALINK

They are missing what they called 'the first black president' and the wife of the 'pig in a pantsuit'?

I call BS.

I also doubt they miss moderation which they chased from the big tent.


Posted by: Kill Bill on October 11, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

No mention of the NYTimes war against Clinton? They kept drumming up the Whitewater story which had no basis in fact, yet that is what started the whole Starr special prosecutor.

Posted by: DR on October 11, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Too bad the "big tent" isn't full of methyl bromide..

Posted by: Trollop on October 11, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK


Anyone reading this so young they think that Steve's comment about Republicans waking up every day in the 90s wanting to destroy Clinton is hyperbole, it isn't. It was that bad. I've never forgotten that impeachment carnival, and I never will.

Posted by: Robert on October 11, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

One day, Obama will play the same role in the Republican imagination that Clinton does today.

Of course. One day, a Hispanic person will be the Democratic nominee for President.

Posted by: Gregory on October 11, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

They hate Carter for returning the Panama Canal. Had he not thus tacitly acknowledged we swiped it in the first place they'd have no objection to him today.

Posted by: Forrest on October 11, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Couldn't agree more, Steve. Obama makes a fine Republican.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 11, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Aaaaaah, Republicans.

The alzheimers in the political mindset.

Posted by: Darsan54 on October 11, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party has always determined to support only the wealthy, and if those wealthy are corporations and foreign nations, well, they'll make them citizens too!

For the Common American citizens, they have only ridicule, and wage and debt slavery. They try to pretend they have an opponent in the Democrats, but they are still keeping the old 'threaten and starve' technique for workers well-honed.

Since the Bush era, they also have Homeland Security and lots of private prisons to fill with the losers. It's the modern equivalent of the former British Workhouses for the poor of both the US and Mexico.

Posted by: luzmejor on October 11, 2010 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

US DFH want to "miss" him now, already! (As ill as DEM Pullosi Punch and Judy Reid).

Posted by: Vic Anderson on October 11, 2010 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

joel hanes wrote:

"NAFTA was a catastrophic bipartisan mistake; much of our increasing income inequality and the decline of the American middle class can be laid to this single freshwater-economics-inspired law."

Wow. That, right there, is a great example of the sort of confused ignorance that comes from reading mostly ideologically attractive opinion while ignoring what you don't understand or don't find so agreeable.

First of all, the "freshwater vs. saltwater" division in American economics is a disagreement about a) macroeconomic theory (primarily), and to a much lesser degree, about b) methodology (freshwater has more succumbed to physics envy, though this is a serious malady of the profession as a whole).

What it absolutely is NOT a disagreement about is the theoretical OR practical basis for the benefits of trade. You will be hard-pressed to find any Anglo-American economist anywhere across the political spectrum who doesn't support, in general, free trade.

Second of all, if you're throwing around terms like "freshwater economics", then you're almost certainly reading Paul Krugman and those like him. In the context of this comment, you almost certainly imagine that Krugman, being a "saltwater" economist and, in your mind, one of the good guys, must surely have opposed NAFTA and blames it, as you do, for "much of our increasing income inequality and the decline of the American middle class".

In that you'd be utterly wrong.

I have several books on my shelf that Krugman wrote in the 90s supporting free trade and NAFTA. He was a scathing and angry critic of the anti-globalist movement. I even corresponded with him about it at the time. He wrote a bunch of very good columns for Slate magazine, you can easily read them right now, if you like.

Not coincidentally, Krugman's true academic expertise, and that for which he won his Nobel, was in trade theory.

That said, the difference between economists like Krugman--who, indeed, is almost never wrong about anything--and the worst of the freshwater hacks and their followers and fellow-travelers in the business and media spheres, is that Krugman understands that the case for free trade is very strong both theoretically and in practice but, nevertheless, theory doesn't say that trade is always and everywhere good and practical experience, too, demonstrates that there are exceptions. Krugman describes this difference in thought as the difference between economics and slogans. I like to say that the free-trade and market fundamentalists have elevated Adam Smith's "invisible hand" to the "infallible hand of God", which it certainly isn't.

For example, market/trade fundamentalists will oppose restrictions on international movements of capital by appealing to the general principle that markets and trade are good. Krugman, notably, has come to endorse, in certain cases, such restrictions simply because he's come to understand (more deeply than most of his peers) that in those cases the lack of them produces worst outcomes.

That pragmatism, and the willingness to follow the theory and math where it leads even when it seems contrary to one's ideological instincts, leads Krugman, and some other economists, to fully acknowledge that a) NAFTA was a bit of a disappointment and, b) in some particulars, but not overall, it led to worse outcomes. Nevertheless, you will find neither he nor any of his peers, even on the left, blaming NAFTA for the increase in economic inequality of the USA and the decline of the middle-class.

Mostly because there's approximately zero data to support that conclusion while, in contrast, there's far, far more reason to blame much of it on the decline of labor unions and the reduction in the progressivity of the tax structure. Two things which can be squarely laid at the foot of the GOP door (with Dem complicity) but perhaps don't satisfy your personal need to blame dark-skinned people for...well, whatever is available. Do you also believe that illegal immigrants are taking away native jobs and lowering everyone's wages? I bet you do and that you nevertheless make arguments appealing to the very economists who will tell you, were you listening, that the data shows the exact opposite.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on October 12, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am well and truly pwned.

Posted by: joel hanes on October 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you! I consistently bare to address on my website the like. Can I apparatus a allocation of one's column to my blog?

Posted by: Pattie Calhoun on February 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly