Photo Credit: YouTube/Moyers & Co.
Europe’s far-right leaders in Hungary and Poland are horrible authoritarians and racists, but they are better than Trump, Paul Krugman argues in Friday’s column. That’s because they arguably have passed some measures that help their white working class, while Trump’s “populist” label has already proven to be a complete and utter fraud as evidenced by his cabinet picks.
First Krugman examines whether “populist” is even the right label for these groups, since it seems kind of misleading. “I guess racism can be considered populist in the sense that it represents the views of some non-elite people,” he writes. “But are the other shared features of this movement — addiction to conspiracy theories, indifference to the rule of law, a penchant for punishing critics — really captured by the ‘populist’ label?”‘
The answer is a hard “no,” but Krugman does continue with some interesting side by side comparisons.
Still, the European members of this emerging alliance — an axis of evil? — have offered some real benefits to workers. Hungary’s Fidesz party has provided mortgage relief and pushed down utility prices. Poland’s Law and Justice party has increased child benefits, raised the minimum wage and reduced the retirement age. France’s National Front is running as a defender of that nation’s extensive welfare state — but only for the right people.
Trumpism is, however, different. The campaign rhetoric may have included promises to keep Medicare and Social Security intact and replace Obamacare with something “terrific.” But the emerging policy agenda is anything but populist.
All indications are that we’re looking at huge windfalls for billionaires combined with savage cuts in programs that serve not just the poor but also the middle class. And the white working class, which provided much of the 46 percent Trump vote share, is shaping up as the biggest loser.
Trump has not taken office yet, nor has he laid out any specific policy proposals—apart from terrifyingly calling for more nukes—but his cabinet picks show a very clear direction, and it is hardly good for his struggling white working class supporters. “His pick as budget director and his choice to head Health and Human Services want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and privatize Medicare,” Krugman reminds. “His choice as labor secretary is a fast-food tycoon who has been a vociferous opponent both of Obamacare and of minimum wage hikes. And House Republicans have already submitted plans for drastic cuts in Social Security, including a sharp rise in the retirement age.”
Here are some hard numbers to prove how many people repealing Obamacare would hurt from the non-partisan Urban Institute: 30 million Americans — 16 million of them non-Hispanic whites.
Krugman also cries bullshit on the notion that Republicans will replace Obamacare with something better. When they do replace it—or if they replace it—it will “cover only a fraction as many people as the law they would displace, and they’d be different people — younger, healthier and richer.” More damage will be caused by converting Medicare with a voucher system, and raising the entitlement age for Social Security, which would especially hard among Americans whose “life expectancy has stagnated or declined, or who have disabilities that make it hard for them to continue working — problems that are strongly correlated with Trump votes,” Krugman writes. “In other words, the movement that’s about to take power here isn’t the same as Europe’s far-right movements. It may share their racism and contempt for democracy; but European populism is at least partly real, while Trumpist populism is turning out to be entirely fake, a scam sold to working-class voters who are in for a rude awakening.”
Adding a ton of insult to this grave injury in the making, watch for how Republicans and Trump will somehow shift all the blame to Democrats and Obama. And then there will be the myriad distractions and stunts, trade wars with China, late night tweets, calls for more nukes and scapegoating of minorities and immigrants.
We can’t let them get away with it.