On planet Earth, every day’s a struggle for the Republican party. George W. Bush won the presidency in the most closely contested election imaginable, and his once-soaring net approval ratings in the polls are no higher now than when he first took office. The GOP holds power in the Senate by a fragile thread. And they lost state governorships, on net, in the last election.
But on planet Krugman, America is on the verge of permanent “one-party rule,” thanks to a conspiracy of bullying Republican politicians, corrupt lobbyists, and predatory corporations.
That’s what Paul Krugman, America’s most dangerous liberal pundit, reported today from the alternate universe in his New York Timescolumn. Back on Earth, Karl Rove must be saying, “Sheesh! If only life were that simple!”
Krugman made his spacey case primarily by citing a “forthcoming article in The Washington Monthly” by Nicholas Confessore. According to Krugman,
Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation — from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.
Mr. Confessore starts by describing the weekly meetings in which Senator Rick Santorum vets the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. These meetings are the culmination of Grover Norquist’s “K Street Project,” which places Republican activists in high-level corporate and industry lobbyist jobs — and excludes Democrats.
It’s hard to fact-check a forthcoming article — but it’s easy to check up on Nicholas Confessore. And what do you know … his journalistic pedigree makes him out to be a one-man vast left-wing conspiracy: editor of the Washington Monthly, senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and writer for The New Republic, the Boston Globe, Salon, and The Atlantic Monthly Online. And what do you know … Krugman elects not to mention that Confessore is the author of a hagiographic portrait of Krugman that ran in the Washington Monthly just six months ago, in which he compared Krugman to Walter Lippman. One hand washes the other.
Let’s have the Krugman Truth Squad take a look at Confessore’s “stories usually reported in isolation” — and see if they really hang together as elements of a sinister plot for “establishing one-party rule in America.”
Bush’s plan to require seniors who choose the prescription drug benefit to enroll in a private insurance company isn’t faring too well on Capitol Hill. … Looks like the AARP still has some influence on Capitol Hill. Guess Tom DeLay hasn’t installed one of his stooges there yet.
And that “drive” to spend at least $400 billion on the prescription-drug benefit looks suspiciously bi-partisan. Hogberg wrote in his column on the American Prowler, “… the specter of deficits is always invoked against tax cuts, not spending increases … neither the media, nor Democrats, nor Republicans seemed much to care.” You gotta love this one-party rule.
How about General Motors and Verizon including pro-tax-cut fliers with dividend checks? As I asked on my website, The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid, doesn’t a public company have a fiduciary duty to make money for its shareholders? GM CEO Rick Wagoner was simply doing his job when he told his shareholders that there will be “more money for you” if the Bush plan to eliminate the double taxation of dividends were enacted.
For Krugman, when Republicans and corporations work together for economic growth and shareholder wealth, that’s corruption on the face of it:
… corporations themselves are also increasingly part of the party machine. They are rewarded with policies that increase their profits: deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination of environmental rules. In return, like G.M. and Verizon, they use their influence to support the ruling party’s agenda.
But Hogberg got it right when he asked,
What explains Republican support for tax cuts and deregulation when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House during the last 20-plus years? What explains GOP support for those policies when Democrats had the money advantage? A more likely explanation for Republicans’ support of such policies is that they believe they are good policies.
And how about the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel? This was the subject of a Krugman column last March. With an extravagance matched only by its offensiveness, he likened “a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD’s” to Kristallnacht. A day before that column ran, a New York Timesarticle by Douglas Jehl explained that rallies were organized by a radio host who broadcasts on a Clear Channel affiliate in Philadelphia, and quoted a Clear Channel official saying that the events were “not sponsored by Clear Channel corporate.” But Krugman waved that little inconvenience away — and apparently so must Confessore.
And how about the “K Street Project”? Well, I must say it’s hard to be too surprised that Republicans want sympathetic people in positions of influence, and that their project “excludes Democrats.” I believe it’s also the case that the Republican presidential nominating convention in 2004 “excludes Democrats.” And I’m pretty sure that Alabama’s locker room “excludes Auburn.”
Krugman quoted a Washington Poststory that ran Thursday on the K Street Project. It claimed that Republicans use “‘intimidation and private threats’ to bully lobbyists who try to maintain good relations with both parties.” The Post story, in fact, cited only a single incident of an alleged threat — against a lobbyist for the Investment Company Institute — without citing even a hint of a source for the allegation. As it turns out, the threat was not even successful. But there’s plenty of vague bellyaching from Democratic pols in the story.
Of course, Krugman and Confessore really object to the fact that, as the Post stated, “Before Republicans won control of the House in 1994, they received about 40 percent of business contributions. Now they get 60 percent or more …” But why is 60 percent for the GOP now a bad thing, when 60 percent then for the Democrats was presumably okay?
Krugman quoted White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who offered what, on planet Earth, is a perfectly sensible explanation for a shift at the margin toward the GOP. But apparently, on planet Krugman, this is regarded as a guilty confession:
Naturally, Republican politicians deny the existence of their burgeoning machine. … Ari Fleischer says that “I think that the amount of money that candidates raise in our democracy is a reflection of the amount of support they have around the country.” Enough said.
The reality is that, for both good and ill, politics for both parties is always going to involve money and lobbying. Krugman Truth Squad member Arthur Silber pointed out earlier this week on his blog, The Light of Reason, that even close family members of politicians are getting involved — apparently without any “intimidation and private threats” from the K Street Project. He quoted a story from the usually left-leaning Los Angeles Times that reported:
Perhaps the best-known example is Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle, whose wife, Linda, represents the aviation industry. She says she does not lobby the Senate. But her partners do, and her clients benefited from the airline bailout pushed by the Democratic leadership.
Krugman concluded by going Confessore one better:
I think he’s actually understating his case: like Mr. DeLay, Republican leaders often talk of “revolution,” and we should take them at their word. Why isn’t the ongoing transformation of U.S. politics — which may well put an end to serious two-party competition — getting more attention?
That’s an easy one. Because this is planet earth. Not planet Krugman. But hey … “deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination of environmental rules …” When’s the next space ship?