Paul Krugman’s Monday NYT column is a sharp observation of how the American Right is untethered from evidence on a wide variety of policy issues.
Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.
Before I get into that, let me remind you of some other news that won’t matter.
First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s right-wing governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately for his constituents, his experiment has been a resounding failure. The economy of Kansas, far from booming, has lagged the economies of neighboring states, and Kansas is now in fiscal crisis.
So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus? Of course not. If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago. Instead, it has only strengthened its grip on the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected. We already knew that the number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates. Now we have evidence that the number of Americans experiencing financial distress due to medical expenses is also dropping fast…
…The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?
Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest…
Paul Krugman is a brilliant guy but I’m often incredulous at how long it takes such leading lights as he to figure out what has been so utterly obvious to us lesser lights since forever. I knew it back in the ’80s when I started following the anti-choice movement. These are people who think abortion is murder and that the correct response to every unplanned pregnancy is “have the baby”. Yet do they support, say, sex ed, contraception access, or social supports to poor families – things that have been proven to reduce the rate of abortion? Fuck no. They never have. (I remember reading a Washington Post article about anti-abortion protests in the mid ’80s where the reporter asked a protester on the Metro how the unplanned babies would be supported. She replied, serenely, with something along the lines of “Jesus will provide”.)
Instead, anti-choice activists and politicians have relentlessly pursued bans on government funding of abortion (Hyde Amendment and state equivalents), restrictions on the procedure (waiting periods, notification requirements, TRAP laws), increasing attacks on contraception and sex-ed (Hobby Lobby, defunding family planning programs, abstinence-only sex ed), and a startling and outright onslaught of the legal system against pregnant women. Evidence about reproductive health outcomes means no more to anti-choicers than the research of climatologists means to climate change deniers or the undeniable failure of tax cuts on the rich to lead to economic nirvana resonates with the trickle down mob.
I should make the obvious note that the anti-choice movement differs from right wing movements opposing spending on “good government” infrastructure and social programs, addressing climate change, and achieving universal health care in a crucial way: Anti-choicers want to expand the power of the government, where meddling into women’s private behavior and medical decisions are concerned. That is a highly legitimate project of government to them. Similarly, anti-drug warriors and “law and order” types want the government to spare no expense in tracking down and jailing people selling or using drugs or who are suspected of being up to no good, based on their complexion. And as we all know, warmongers have no compunction whatsoever about invading whatever country Dick Cheney thinks they should and expanding the national security state to infinity.
Reactionaries don’t hate government at all. They love it, when it’s an instrument of bullying and destroying “lesser” people, that is. So, yes, Dr. Krugman is spot-on in his assessment of their laissez faire approach toward climate and economics and health care. He is adept at calling out their obstinate refusal to admit that government plays a necessary role in all of that. But the quest toward good government also means grasping the ways in which government – far from being laissez faire at all – can reach way too far into people’s lives to punish people, without doing anything to improve their lives materially.
Krugman has mentioned abortion a time or two, but has shied away from directly addressing the issue. I’m not sure why. I can promise him that pro-choice activists and every abortion patient who has had to wade her way through the screaming mob to get to the clinic has understood that these right wingers are a bunch of control freak assholes. They’re not haters of government at all. Just definitely not proponents of good government.
We were saying as much 30 years ago.