Perhaps sore about the unflattering attention he received from his previous month’s column, suggesting that white rural Americans were beyond help, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a follow up arguing that it’s actually conservatives who hate the heartland (“Armpits, White Ghettos And Contempt.”)
“If you live in the Midwest, where else do you want to live besides Chicago? You don’t want to live in Cincinnati or Cleveland or, you know, these armpits of America.” So declared Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to install on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, during a 2014 event held at a think tank called, yes, the Heartland Institute.
The crowd laughed.
Moore is an indefensible choice on many grounds. Even if he hadn’t shown himself to be extraordinarily misogynistic and have an ugly personal history, his track record on economics -- always wrong, never admitting error or learning from it -- is utterly disqualifying.
(A side note: The Times really has it in for Trump nominee Stephen Moore. Saturday’s off-lead story had this over-the-top reaction to bits from Moore’s previous humor columns: “If Mr. Moore sounds a lot like Mr. Trump, that may be no coincidence. Gleefully indiscreet, politically incorrect and unrepentant about his views of women, Mr. Moore is not just similar to the president, but also the latest in a long line of male malefactors for whom Mr. Trump displays a strange affinity.”)
Moore was doomed from the start with Krugman. If Moore had preferred Cleveland and Cincinnati to Chicago, one could imagine Krugman accusing Moore of thinking of the predominantly black South Side of Chicago, and cheerfully called Moore a racist
His remarks about the Midwest, however, highlight more than his unsuitability for the Fed. They also provide an illustration of something I’ve been noticing for a while: The thinly veiled contempt conservative elites feel for the middle-American voters they depend on.
This was revisionism on steroids:
This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.
But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.
Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.
Krugman claimed that while liberals like him came to a rational conclusion regarding the decline of Middle America, noting “changes in the economy,” while asserting that “Many conservatives, however, blame the victims.” He cited just two examples: Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart: The State of White America” and a National Review essay which used the term “the white ghetto.”
So who, exactly, doesn’t respect middle America?
Again, Krugman can play “heads I win, tails you lose” with his targets. One could imagine how Krugman would have reacted to a book by Murray (especially given his controversial ideas on I.Q.) called “Coming Apart: The State of Black America,” or if National Review’s Kevin Williamson had written about “the black ghetto.”
Some Democrats, notably Elizabeth Warren, have been offering real proposals to help rural areas. They’re probably not enough to reverse rural and small-town economic decline, which would be hard to do even with plenty of money and the best will in the world. But they would help.
His one cheer for Warren was far more sympathetic to government intervention than Krugman was last month in his infamous column where he gave up on throwing money at some problems: “But as I said, experience abroad isn’t encouraging. West Germany invested $1.7 trillion in an attempt to revive the former East Germany -- more than $100,000 per capita -- yet the region is still lagging, with many young people leaving.”
Before that, on Election Night 2016 as Hillary Clinton was losing, the heartland's newest champion spewed this about white rural citizens: "There turn out to be a huge number of people -- white people, living mainly in rural areas -- who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy."
In his Friday column, Krugman next pretended that government policy had nothing to do with shuttering coal mines.
Meanwhile, all that Republicans have to offer are fantasies about bringing back lost jobs in things like coal mining and manufacturing. In reality, coal mine closures have continued and the manufacturing trade deficit has widened since Trump took office.
The point is that if you look at what conservatives say to each other, as opposed to what they pretend to believe, it becomes clear that contempt for middle America is much more prevalent on the right than on the left....