Friday, July 29, 2011

Paul Krugman on the Centrist Cop-Out and the Budget Stalemate

In the New York Times today, Paul Krugman lambasts the false centrism (à la E.J. Dionne) foisted on us by beltway pundits, which perpetually makes concessions to the extreme right in the name of "balance."  As Krugman notes, centrism is a big cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior on the part of extremists: to be specific, it is now encouraging the deliberate holding of the entire nation hostage by Republican extremists.  It's encouraging a scenario in which a minority of legislators who do not represent the will of the majority of the American people are threatening to blow up the global economy in order to create deliberate chaos to enable that minority to impose its economic policies on the nation as a whole. 

As Krugman notes, though it's not difficult to ascertain these facts and the Republican game plan, the media persist in treating the current budget stalemate as the result of intransigence on both sides, of hidebound ideological positions on both sides, whose partisans are creating the stalemate by refusing to compromise.  

And yet, as Krugman notes, instead of standing up to their bullying, Mr. Obama has already made one concession after another to the Republicans, until his outlook on economic matters now appears not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences," but "if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences."  And still this is not enough.  And still the bullying and threats of chaos continue.

And the false, principles-lite, always right-serving centrism of the mainstream media, with its meme of "balanced" coverage that empowers patently false ideas of the far right and never blows the whistle on the cynical game-playing of those pushing these ideas, has brought us to the brink of destruction: 

And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault. 

As Krugman maintains, "Wisdom doesn’t necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders who do the right thing, not the centrist thing."  And he's right, of course.  But, unfortunately, we have a presidential leader who fetishizes the middle, with its always nebulous and shifting centrist balance point, and who will do or say anything to serve the interests of the big economic players who are the ones ultimately benefiting from the constant trending of the center to the right.

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