Something's Happening But You Don't Know What it Is: Do You Mr. Krugman

Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University and Nobel Prize-winning economist, speak
Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University and Nobel Prize-winning economist, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. The European Central Bank (ECB) can do substantially more in principle on the use of forward guidance and quantitative easing, Krugman said. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Paul Krugman, Team Hillary's ace New York Times columnist, simply cannot find a kind word for Bernie Sanders or his idealistic supporters.

"Sorry, but there's nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don't let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence," he wrote before the New Hampshire primary.

This week he took it one step further. Not only is the Sanders revolt utterly unrealistic, but it doesn't even exist:

"Or maybe you believe -- based on no evidence I'm aware of -- that a populist rising from the left is ready to happen any day now," Krugman states.

With that flip comment, Krugman dismisses the entire Sanders revolt as well as Occupy Wall Street and the dramatic rise of Elizabeth Warren. He also is dismissing the conservative versions like the Tea Party and the Trump campaign. More tragically, he is airbrushing from the political landscape all the incredible hard work of tens of thousands of young people, working class supporters and others who are working so hard for Sanders.

What world does Krugman live in?

The establishment's.

Krugman and Team Hillary live in its liberal spectrum -- among the more moderate politicians, pundits and economic elites who run, or want to run, our nation. For the past half century that establishment has helped to preside over runaway inequality.

In 1970, the top 100 CEOs earned $45 dollars for every dollar earned by the average worker. Today the gap is an obscene $844 to 1.

Starting in the late 1970s, both Democrats and Republicans embraced a new economic philosophy. Instead of New Deal social democracy, the new philosophy called for tax cuts, a reduction in regulations, cutbacks in the social safety net and reducing the power of organized labor. The liberal wing of the establishment moved right to "triangulate" that philosophy and compete for Wall Street's money.

In fairness, Krugman has never fully bought into it. He has far more sympathy for the poor, for unions and for struggling working families. He also worries much more about runaway inequality than the rest of the liberal establishment. However, he has chosen to play the role of loyal opposition within the that establishment, unlike Robert Reich who has joined the revolt against it.

Hillary is a different matter
She was a vital part of the Clinton administration which further deregulated Wall Street by destroying Glass Steagall and preventing the regulation of derivatives. The Clinton administration also reduced welfare for the poor and dramatically increased the prison population, so that the U.S. now leads the world in prisoners.

Even within the liberal wing, it is quite acceptable to switch jobs between Wall Street and Washington, between Congress and lobbying firms. It's viewed as a necessity to be bankrolled by Wall Streeters when running for political office.

The bond that unites
This establishment, both liberal and conservative, has one common bond that goes beyond ideology. All of its members -- from the TV pundits to the lobbyists to the politicians and even to academics like Krugman -- are well off.

They are in the top one percent or very close to it. They did not suffered through the Great Recession. They did not lose their homes. They did not face long bouts of unemployment. They're children are not struggling to payback their student loans. They are not trying to raise family on a McDonald's income.

They live in a world of financial stability and security.

Yes, the liberal wing has compassion. They donate to good causes. They want to see more justice. But they will not attack the fundamentals of their establishment world.

They will never renounce the life-blood of their existence --- the money that flows from financial and corporate elites. They may denounce this form of political corruption, but they have learned to live with it.

And in the case of the Clintons, they've learned to live exceedingly well, earning over $130,000,000 in the last eight years. Hillary sees no issue at all in taking over $9,300,000 in one year for 41 speeches to the wealthy. (See here.)

This vulnerability is now leading to the latest Team Hillary attack: that the Sanders campaign is a single-issue effort, aimed only at Wall Street. Sanders should not deny that focus, since the grassroots juice for his entire effort is based on a direct assault on the financial and political establishment. He's challenging the entire ball game.

So why doesn't Krugman see it?

It's because the establishment world is basically flat with clear edges. It's like a global map before Columbus. There's nothing out there when you go over the edge. It's just full of monsters.

For the liberal establishment, the folks beyond the edges are naive, emotionally unstable, irrational, unrealistic and even threatening to the very fabric of democracy. They should not be taken seriously. Hence Krugman chooses to deny their existence even after that non-existent uprising tied Hillary in Iowa and buried her under a Bernie landslide in New Hampshire.

This revolt is reawakening democracy. Krugman is fully aware of the academic study conducted by his Princeton colleague Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page from Northwestern. That study, which reviews 1771 congressional bills, proves that America's democracy is on life support -- that the average voter has "near zero" influence over legislation.

"But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened," they concluded.

The Sanders campaign is breathing new life into democracy. We've seen nothing like it since the Populists of the 1880s. Millions of small donors and volunteers are taking the fight to Team Hillary's millionaires .. and doing remarkably well.

Krugman, of course, has the right to support whomever he wants. But, it's truly disturbing when the liberal wing of the establishment refuses to acknowledge a populist revolt in full bloom.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute in New York is working with unions, worker centers and community organization to build a national economics educational campaign. His latest book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice (Oct 2015), is a text for that effort. All proceeds go to support this educational campaign.