You’d be laughed out of your average Arkansas coffee shop for saying what Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times today. But, as we’ve said before, faith and conventional “wisdom” override facts around here all the time.
Health care reform, after a rocky start, is showing every sign of success. Climate policy is a real and bold start on a planetary crisis. And Krugman doesn’t mention the booming stock market amid other signs of incremental economic recovery after the Bush disaster.
So why the poor reviews?
A larger answer, I’d guess, is Simpson-Bowles syndrome — the belief that good things must come in bipartisan packages, and that fiscal probity is the overriding issue of our times. This syndrome persists among many self-proclaimed centrists even though it’s overwhelmingly clear to anyone who has been paying attention that (a) today’s Republicans simply will not compromise with a Democratic president, and (b) the alleged fiscal crisis was vastly overblown.
… There are, I suppose, some people who are disappointed that Mr. Obama didn’t manage to make our politics less bitter and polarized. But that was never likely. The real question was whether he (with help from Nancy Pelosi and others) could make real progress on important issues. And the answer, I’m happy to say, is yes, he could.
But whatever you do, don’t try to confuse the Obama naysayers with facts. Another good example was a report in the Times today on the suburbs full of transplants that helped power Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia and seem likely to topple Thad Cochran in Mississippi. There they sit, amid suburbs full of gifts from pork barreling Republicans (think highways and waste treatment plants) and gripe about pork barreling and federal debt.
In recent decades Mr. Cochran, a six-term veteran, has used his senior status on the Appropriations Committee to make these very neighborhoods possible: He steered nearly $80 million to DeSoto County to help build new wastewater treatment facilities to meet the growing demand that has come with the surge in commercial and residential construction.
Mr. Cochran’s backers note that the earmarking of such money — now taboo in the Tea Party era — has kept utility bills in the county reasonable and prevented higher local taxes.
“People in DeSoto County, many of whom work in Memphis and have not been there very long, they don’t know about Ingalls shipyard, they don’t care about Columbus Air Force Base, Meridian Naval Air Station, the Army Corps of Engineers center in Vicksburg, the Stennis Space Center,” said former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who backs Mr. Cochran, reeling off places and projects that mean precious little to many voters here.
This is at play in Arkansas this year. A steady diet of billionaire propaganda — issued in the name of lowering their taxes and their regulation — has convinced many voters that debt is the problem in the U.S., not lack of opportunity or infrastructure or education. They may well vote for the Just Say No candidates like Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson. And rue the day later.