Krugman fears ‘making America ungovernable’

KRUGMAN FEARS ‘MAKING AMERICA UNGOVERNABLE’…. I’d noticed recently that some credible political observers have been making the same uncomfortable point about congressional Republicans: they may be tempted to keep the economy down on purpose to advance partisan goals.

Matt Yglesias, for example, said the Obama White House should be prepared for “deliberate economic sabotage.” Budget expert Stan Collender has predicted that Republicans perceive “economic hardship as the path to election glory.” Paul Krugman noted in his column last week that Republicans “want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House.”

I tied all of this together in an item on Saturday, noting that their collective points are at least worthy of discussion. The response from the right was less than kind — the post generated far more conservative anger than I’m usually accustomed to dealing with. (My personal favorite: Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson passing along a message on Twitter calling me an “idiot.”)

That’s fine, of course; criticism is just part of the job. It’s obviously a provocative argument, and I didn’t expect conservatives to like it. I’m not entirely sure why the right was more angered by me than by Krugman, Collender, and Yglesias, but I suppose I should be flattered by the attention.

With all of this in mind, I was glad to see Paul Krugman return to the general subject in his print column today, embracing a line similar to mine. In fact, Krugman seemed at least as intemperate about the issue as I was, insisting that the Republican Party “isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House.”

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming. […]

On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

There’s that word again, “sabotage.”

To be sure, I’m not saying my point has merit because Paul Krugman is on the same page. As far as I know, the Nobel Laureate and I might both be, to use Gerson’s word, “idiots.”

But after a weekend of unpleasant criticism from the right, I find it fairly reassuring to know Krugman and I are thinking along the same lines.