Paul Krugman: Politicians, Promises, and Getting Real

September 15, 2017
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Paul Krugman:

Politicians, Promises, and Getting Real, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: On Wednesday Donald Trump demanded that Congress move quickly to enact his tax reform plan. But so far he has not, in fact, offered any such plan…

Meanwhile, 17 Senate Democrats … have signed on to Bernie Sanders’s call for expanding Medicare to cover the whole population. So far, however, Sanders hasn’t produced either an estimate of how much that would cost or a specific proposal about how to pay for it.

I don’t mean to suggest that these cases are comparable: The distinctive Trumpian mix of ignorance and fraudulence has no counterpart among Democrats. Still, both stories raise the question of how much … policy clarity matters for politicians’ ability to win elections and … govern.

About elections: The fact that Trump is in the White House suggests that politicians can get away with telling voters just about anything that sounds good. …

On the other hand, the ignominious failure of Trumpcare shows that reality sometimes does matter. … Once the public realized that tens of millions would lose coverage…, there was a huge backlash…

The story of tax reform … is starting to look a bit similar. …

In fact, Trump himself seems to be experiencing cognitive dissonance. “The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” he declared Wednesday. … Is he oblivious, lying, or both? …

The contrast between what he’s claiming and anything Republicans in Congress will be willing to support is so great as to practically invite ridicule and another popular backlash. …

But is the push for single-payer health care taking Democrats down a similar path?

Unlike just about everything Trump and company are proposing, Medicare for all is a substantively good idea. Yet actually making it happen would probably mean … a serious political backlash. For one…, it would require a substantial increase in taxes. For another, it would mean telling scores of millions of Americans who get health coverage though their employers, and are generally satisfied…, that they need to give it up and accept something different. …

Democrats could eventually find themselves facing a Trumpcare-type debacle, unable either to implement their unrealistic vision or to let it go.

The point is that while unrealistic promises may not hurt you in elections, they can become a big problem when you try to govern. Having a vision for the future is good, but being real about the difficulties is also good. Democrats, take heed.


Posted by on Friday, September 15, 2017 at 10:35 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics, Taxes |

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