Paul Krugman’s NYT op-ed column on “The Making of an Ignoramus” provides a reminder that the GOP’s nominee-apparent is not making this stuff up when it comes to his worst economic ideas; in most cases he is parroting well-established Republican policies and values. As Krugman explains:
Truly, Donald Trump knows nothing. He is more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine, even when you take into account the fact that he is more ignorant than you can possibly imagine. But his ignorance isn’t as unique as it may seem: In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally.
…Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: he could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.
Trump’s economic hucksterism, particularly on the issue of the debt, has left the financial and economic experts with “a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement,” adds Krugman. “One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.”
The global reverberations could be disastrous, says Krugman. “The Trump solution would, among other things, deprive the world economy of its most crucial safe asset, U.S. debt, at a time when safe assets are already in short supply.”
But, it’s not like Trump’s failed casino economics is bucking his party’s economic policies. The Republican party long ago abandoned the principle of economic prudence. Trump just restates their views with his customary bombast, and much of the media falls for it as something new and flashy, when really it’s the same old GOP story of rich guys screwing around with the hard-earned assets of everyone else.
With respect to Trump’s debt “crisis” hysteria, Krugman spotlights the real reason behind it:
.. Lots of supposedly serious people have been hyping the alleged threat posed by federal debt for years. For example, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has warned repeatedly about a “looming debt crisis.” Indeed, until not long ago the whole Beltway elite seemed to be in the grip of BowlesSimpsonism, with its assertion that debt was the greatest threat facing the nation.
A lot of this debt hysteria was really about trying to bully us into cutting Social Security and Medicare, which is why so many self-proclaimed fiscal hawks were also eager to cut taxes on the rich. But Mr. Trump apparently wasn’t in on that particular con, and takes the phony debt scare seriously. Sad!
Noting that Trump is “extrapolating from his own business career, in which he has done very well by running up debts, then walking away from them,” Krugman adds,
…Much of the Republican Party shares his insouciance about default. Remember, the party’s congressional wing deliberately set about extracting concessions from President Obama, using the threat of gratuitous default via a refusal to raise the debt ceiling.
And quite a few Republican lawmakers defended that strategy of extortion by arguing that default wouldn’t be that bad, that even with its access to funds cut off the U.S. government could “prioritize” payments, and that the financial disruption would be no big deal..Given that history, it’s not too hard to understand why candidate Trump thinks not paying debts in full makes sense.
…When Mr. Trump talks nonsense, he’s usually just offering a bombastic version of a position that’s widespread in his party. In fact, it’s remarkable how many ridiculous Trumpisms were previously espoused by Mitt Romney in 2012, from his claim that the true unemployment rate vastly exceeds official figures to his claim that he can bring prosperity by starting a trade war with China.
None of this should be taken as an excuse for Mr. Trump. He really is frighteningly uninformed; worse, he doesn’t appear to know what he doesn’t know. The point, instead, is that his blithe lack of knowledge largely follows from the know-nothing attitudes of the party he now leads.
Trump has a talent for making other Republicans’ worst economic policies and ideas seem like they are his creations. However contentious Democratic party economic proposals may be, no one can say that they haven’t been scrutinized and honed by serious economists and policy wonks — in stark contrast the the GOP. As Krugman concludes, “in this election, one party has largely cornered the market in raw ignorance.”