For sometime now, even figures that are politically sympathetic to Paul Krugman have been lamenting his abandonment of intellectual rigor and his seeming inability to debate in good faith. At times it seems the only real function Paul Krugman serves any more is, to borrow one of President Obama's favorite bits of jargon, that he's become a "permission structure" to nudge Democrats and otherwise well-intentioned liberals into adopting radical positions and/or dishonest rhetoric.
I can only conclude Krugman hopes that earnest New York Times readers react to his thoughts on political matters by saying, "Gosh, I thought that argument was something that only uncharitable and blinkered ideologues were making, but if this Nobel prize-winning economist is saying it -- maybe there's something to it!" But the truth is that often he's just being partisan and petty.
This brings us to Paul Krugman's latest appalling squib on the Koch bothers. Facing pretty bleak electoral prospects, Democrats are gearing up to run a campaign against the Koch brothers. No really -- Democrats are spending millions to run ads not against their Republican challengers, but against two private citizens. This is a total red herring to distract voters from Obamacare and myriad of other failed Democratic policies. But Paul Krugman's a team player, so if he's going to endorse Democrats Hail Mary strategy here, he's going to go all the way. Anyway, here's his post oh-so-cleverly headlined "Things Go Better With Kochs":
Hey, I had to use that headline before someone else claimed it.
David Weigel reports that Democrats are finding the Koch brothers an effective fundraising tool — emails that bash the Kochs raise three times as much as emails that don’t.
And you can see why: the Kochs are perfect villains. It’s not just what they are — serious evildoers who use their wealth to push hard-line right-wing, anti-environmental policies that redound very much to their own benefit. It’s also what they aren’t: they’re wealthy heirs, not self-made men, they aren’t identified with innovation (which you can at least argue for Bill Gates), they haven’t made money for other people like Warren Buffett. So focusing on the Kochs is a way to personalize a vision of conservative politics as a defense of people with unearned privilege.
"Perfect villains"? "Serious evildoers"? Even for Krugman, that's pretty Krugman. I'm so old, I remember when the phrase "evildoers" gave Krugman's ilk conniption fits. I mean, it's not like the Koch brothers are some benign entity like the government of Iran or North Korea.