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In the US, a Political Showdown Over Health Care

Thursday, 03 October 2013 00:00 By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaking to reporters at the Capitol on September 24. Mr. Cruz is leading an effort to stop the government from funding the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaking to reporters at the Capitol on September 24. Mr. Cruz is leading an effort to stop the government from funding the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

A decade ago, in the introduction to my essay collection “The Great Unraveling,” I argued that the modern Republican party was a “revolutionary power” in the sense once defined by, of all people, Henry Kissinger — a power that no longer accepted any of the norms of politics as usual, that was willing not just to take radical positions but to act in ways that undermined the whole system of governance people thought they understood.

At the time, I got a lot of grief for being so “shrill.” The accepted thing was to criticize both sides equally, to balance each column saying mean things about Republicans with another attacking Democrats, to insist that any signs of a dysfunctional political system rested on equal degrees of intransigence on both sides.

So, now we face the imminent threat of a government shutdown and/or a government default in the United States because Republicans refuse to accept the notion that duly enacted legislation should be allowed to go into effect, and repealed only through constitutional means. Oh, and the cause for which most of the G.O.P. is willing to threaten chaos is the noble endeavor of ensuring that tens of millions of Americans continue to lack essential health care.

Hmm. Maybe I was right? Nah.

The G.O.P. craziness may now be obvious, but recognizing it too early still brands you as unreliable and partisan. It’s true that the situation has changed some from 2003. Back then the Republicans were radical but rational: In order to push through things they wanted, like tax cuts and a war on false pretenses, the Bushies exploited the unwillingness of those who espoused the conventional wisdom to recognize the new asymmetry in American politics.

These days Republican leaders are weak, apparently helpless in the face of dingbat Jacobins who imagine that sabotaging the government can get President Obama to undermine his one major achievement, the Affordable Care Act. But the key point is that we are now in insane political terrain.

Pundits dove into the Syria affair with an obvious sigh of relief — that sort of thing, with all the bloviation about presidential leadership and so on, was comfortable territory. But for America at least it was very much a side issue; the political confrontation, which now seems almost guaranteed to produce at least a few weeks of chaos, is the central thing.

© 2014 The New York Times Company
Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.
Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007).
Copyright 2014 The New York Times.

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In the US, a Political Showdown Over Health Care

Thursday, 03 October 2013 00:00 By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaking to reporters at the Capitol on September 24. Mr. Cruz is leading an effort to stop the government from funding the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaking to reporters at the Capitol on September 24. Mr. Cruz is leading an effort to stop the government from funding the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

A decade ago, in the introduction to my essay collection “The Great Unraveling,” I argued that the modern Republican party was a “revolutionary power” in the sense once defined by, of all people, Henry Kissinger — a power that no longer accepted any of the norms of politics as usual, that was willing not just to take radical positions but to act in ways that undermined the whole system of governance people thought they understood.

At the time, I got a lot of grief for being so “shrill.” The accepted thing was to criticize both sides equally, to balance each column saying mean things about Republicans with another attacking Democrats, to insist that any signs of a dysfunctional political system rested on equal degrees of intransigence on both sides.

So, now we face the imminent threat of a government shutdown and/or a government default in the United States because Republicans refuse to accept the notion that duly enacted legislation should be allowed to go into effect, and repealed only through constitutional means. Oh, and the cause for which most of the G.O.P. is willing to threaten chaos is the noble endeavor of ensuring that tens of millions of Americans continue to lack essential health care.

Hmm. Maybe I was right? Nah.

The G.O.P. craziness may now be obvious, but recognizing it too early still brands you as unreliable and partisan. It’s true that the situation has changed some from 2003. Back then the Republicans were radical but rational: In order to push through things they wanted, like tax cuts and a war on false pretenses, the Bushies exploited the unwillingness of those who espoused the conventional wisdom to recognize the new asymmetry in American politics.

These days Republican leaders are weak, apparently helpless in the face of dingbat Jacobins who imagine that sabotaging the government can get President Obama to undermine his one major achievement, the Affordable Care Act. But the key point is that we are now in insane political terrain.

Pundits dove into the Syria affair with an obvious sigh of relief — that sort of thing, with all the bloviation about presidential leadership and so on, was comfortable territory. But for America at least it was very much a side issue; the political confrontation, which now seems almost guaranteed to produce at least a few weeks of chaos, is the central thing.

© 2014 The New York Times Company
Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.
Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007).
Copyright 2014 The New York Times.

Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus