Krugman: Where’s the Compassion in Conservatism?

This interview with Paul Krugman is fascinating – why is it, after all, that right-wing ideologues seem to lack empathy or compassion for people less fortunate than they are? Mostly, it’s about race, and a lot of of it is about “get your hands offa my stack, Jack.”

Conservatives keep their ilk in line by attacking anyone that criticizes them out of all proportion to the criticism – and as Krugman notes, in conservative circles, you can say anything about a liberal or a Democrat, no matter how untrue it is, and never be called on it. But say something unflattering, but true, about a Republican, and you’ll catch all kinds of froth-at-the-mouth abuse… which is why journalists tend to tread carefully around uncomfortable facts where loudmouth conservatives are concerned.

The end is illuminating – most Americans would not characterize Franklin Delano Roosevelt, architect of the New Deal that brought this country back from the economic brink during the Depression, as “the savior of Capitalism.” But when you think about it, he very may well have saved this country from trying something drastic, like socialism after the Russian model, or fascism after the post-WWI German model. He got this country back on its feet, or almost back on its feet, just in time to meet and overpower the WWII German Anschluss. Talk about “just in time” management.

And then Krugman comes to a startling insight about an earlier Roosevelt who was actually a progressive Republican… and how modern-day Repubs kind of wish they could  repudiate TR and go back to a dark time before government got in the charity business.  Because compassion for others’ misfortunes, apparently, is Un-American. And not very white, either.

AlterNet: WorkPlace: Paul Krugman: Why Do Right-Wingers Mock Attempts to Care for Other People?

Krugman: Well, what Roosevelt wrought was actually bad for you if you were in the top 1% or top 10% of income distribution. It is actually true that the rich got poorer as a result of the New Deal.Karlin: Or less rich.

Krugman: That’s right — less rich, if you prefer that. At the time, many of them did not appreciate that Roosevelt was maybe hurting their fortunes but saving their heads. As the memory of the crisis fades into the past, people just start to say why should I be paying taxes to support social insurance that I’m never going to need? And, not everybody who’s rich takes that attitude, but enough of them do to basically fund their movement.

It is amazing how not just the memory of what Roosevelt accomplished, but what followed, has been expunged. Again and again I’ve seen statements like, well, the U.S. economy has never been as successful as it was before the New Deal, and it was successful under Reagan, but it was terrible in between them. People completely miss the thirty-year era of incredible prosperity after World War II. The greatest equalization that ever took place in the United States was, in fact, followed by the greatest economic boom that ever took place in the United States. But it has really gone away.

Of course, some people like Norquist or Marvin Olasky, are saying I want things back to the way they were before Teddy Roosevelt. So Norquist doesn’t just want to undo the New Deal, he wants to undo the progressive era, too. And someone like Marvin Olasky, who’s actually the originator of “compassionate conservatism,” is a guy who says we really need to go back to the nineteenth century, when there was no public assistance to the poor. The only way they could get it was through faith-based organizations, which made sure they were morally upright before they could get any aid. It’s amazing, but people on the right just really wish that the twentieth century had never happened.

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