Rural Rage and Republican Shenanigans

Paul Krugman responds to Thomas Edsall about the roots of conservative rural resentment, and how their three key perceptions are in fact wrong. Also, the GOP’s 30% sales tax idea; how religion would control or cut off the world; and some hypocrites and loonies.

And why politics and religion are the things we don’t talk about over dinner.


NY Times, Paul Krugman, 26 Jan 2023: Can Anything Be Done to Assuage Rural Rage?

Paul Krugman reacts to the Thomas Edsall piece I noted two days ago about the resentment fueling the Republican party, and three particular perceptions of rural voters.


This week my colleague Thomas B. Edsall surveyed research on the rural Republican shift. I was struck by his summary of work by Katherine J. Cramer, who attributes rural resentment to perceptions that rural areas are ignored by policymakers, don’t get their fair share of resources and are disrespected by “city folks.”

As it happens, all three perceptions are largely wrong. I’m sure that my saying this will generate a tidal wave of hate mail, and lecturing rural Americans about policy reality isn’t going to move their votes. Nonetheless, it’s important to get our facts straight.

Not that going over the facts will change anyone’s mind…

Krugman summarizes how “ever since the New Deal rural America has received special treatment from policymakers.” Farm subsidies, the disproportionate benefit given to rural states, how poor states pay less per person in federal taxes, “so in practice major metropolitan areas hugely subsidize the countryside.”

What about rural perceptions of being disrespected? Well, many people have negative views about people with different lifestyles; that’s human nature. There is, however, an unwritten rule in American politics that it’s OK for politicians to seek rural votes by insulting big cities and their residents, but it would be unforgivable for urban politicians to return the favor. “I have to go to New York City soon,” tweeted J.D. Vance during his senatorial campaign. “I have heard it’s disgusting and violent there.” Can you imagine, say, Chuck Schumer saying something similar about rural Ohio, even as a joke?

(This reminds me of those TV shows in the 1960s, including “Green Acres” and “The Beverly Hillbillies,” in which country folk routinely outsmarted those rich citified sissies.)

Admitting that rural resentment is nevertheless real, Krugman goes on:

Ironically, however, the policy agenda of the party most rural voters support would make things even worse, slashing the safety-net programs these voters depend on. And Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to point this out.


But even if these policies improve rural fortunes, will Democrats get any credit? It’s easy to be cynical. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new governor of Arkansas, has pledged to get the “bureaucratic tyrants” of Washington “out of your wallets”; in 2019 the federal government spent almost twice as much in Arkansas as it collected in taxes, de facto providing the average Arkansas resident with $5,500 in aid. So even if Democratic policies greatly improve rural lives, will rural voters notice?

Still, anything that helps reverse rural America’s decline would be a good thing in itself. And maybe, just maybe, reducing the heartland’s economic desperation will also help reverse its political radicalization.


Politics and religion are the things you don’t talk about at the dinner table because they are the topics about which almost everyone has opinions without any evidence or reason to back them up. And pointing out facts that dispute opinions and beliefs is considered extremely rude. People don’t want to know; they want to believe.


Earlier Krugman, NYT, 23 Jan 2023: Please Don’t Feed the Debt Scolds

Yet another explanation of how the national debt is not the problem Republicans think it is (the government is not a business, or a household), and how they only worry about it when Democrats are in charge.



Salon, Jake Johnson, 26 Jan 2023: Experts: GOP’s 30% federal sales tax plan is “one of the most regressive proposals in a generation”, subtitled “The bill would also eliminate corporate income taxes and abolish the IRS”

It’s regressive and would indirectly benefit the wealthy — of course, because that’s always been an underlying Republican motive. What’s interesting here is the idea’s origin story, in the first three paragraphs:

A House GOP proposal to repeal all federal income taxes—including levies on corporations and the rich—and replace them with a whopping 30% national sales tax is drawing increasingly vocal backlash from economists, tax policy experts, and Democratic lawmakers who say the plan is yet another Republican ploy to reward the wealthy at everyone else’s expense

Unveiled earlier this month by Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., the Fair Tax Act is hardly a novel piece of legislation. As Steve Wamhoff of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy noted in a recent blog post, the bill has its origins in a proposal “initially pitched by an organization created by the Church of Scientology during its dispute with the IRS over whether it constituted a church and was thus tax-exempt.”

“The Church of Scientology’s only goal in the matter was to eliminate the agency causing it trouble, and lost interest once the IRS threw in the towel and allowed it to present itself as a church,” Wamhoff explained. “But by then several politicians had bought into the idea and introduced it as legislation, which has been reintroduced in each Congress since as the Fair Tax.”

(To me this recalls Ronald Reagan’s beef with the government in general and IRS in particular: he’d gotten in trouble with the IRS during his acting years.)

Carter’s legislation, which currently has nearly two dozen House GOP co-sponsors, would abolish the IRS—a major gift to wealthy tax cheats—and eliminate the payroll taxes that finance Medicare and Social Security. The bill would also nix the individual income tax, the corporate income tax, the estate tax, and other taxes, establishing in their place a sales tax of 30% for calendar year 2023.

“The GOP’s so-called ‘Fair Tax’ proposal is one of the most regressive proposals in a generation, imposing a 30% federal sales tax on everything Americans buy from gas to food,” said former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “There’s nothing ‘fair’ about it. It would punish the poor and middle class while helping the rich.”

Robert Reich is, like Paul Krugman, an economist I trust, and who follows the facts, and who makes sense.


An explainer article here.

Vox, Dylan Matthews, 26 Jan 2023: FairTax, the GOP plan for a 30 percent national sales tax, explained, subtitled “Why Kevin McCarthy agreed to put a radical plan to remake the tax code up for a vote.

The FairTax, at its heart, is simple enough: It would take almost every federal tax and replace them with a fat 30 percent sales tax on everything. Virtually every American would get a monthly check from the government to cover the cost of paying the tax on essentials. It’s a radical idea, but one which since its first introduction to Congress in 1999 has been a favorite of conservative Republicans. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) already has 23 co-sponsors for the current iteration. Prominent party figures like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain have all championed the idea over the years.

Not surprisingly, liberal groups who judge the proposal regressive are against it. But so are many enthusiastic conservative tax-cutters, like the Wall Street Journal editorial board and Grover Norquist. Here’s what National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru had to say about it:

“Any House Republican who backs this bill can accurately be accused of voting for … raising the price of everything by a huge amount at a time when inflation is already high; shifting more of the tax burden to the middle class; instituting a large new wealth tax on senior citizens; increasing federal spending by a massive amount; increasing the deficit; and creating large black markets.”

Otherwise, it’s a great idea.


Here’s an essay about the eternal state of religion and authoritarians. I’ll quote just the overview. The graphic illustration for the article is a black rectangle.

OnlySky, Adam Lee, 26 Jan 2023: That which must not be seen

Religious people all over the world insist that their beliefs should control what everyone else can say, look at, or know about. The bargain of civilization means that these taboos can’t be enforceable.


Not quite the same, but here’s an example of a religion rebelling against the real world and sewing itself into a silo.

Jacksonville’s NBC affiliate First Coast News, 26 Jan 2023 (via): Yes, this prominent Jacksonville megachurch is making members sign oath opposing LGBTQ+ freedoms


To close today, the hypocrites and the loonies.


Salon, Samaa Khullar, 26 Jan 2023: “Hyperbolic hypocrites”: Republicans blasted for double standard on Biden and Pence documents, subtitled “Some Republicans say Pence is a ‘good man’ who made a ‘mistake’ but Biden is a ‘national security threat'”


Salon, Samaa Khullar, 26 Jan 2023: “Would make Alex Jones blush”: GOPer says land conservation is a plot to “control” and “kill” people, subtitled “Trump-allied Rep. Harriet Hageman says plan to preserve land and water will kill Americans through ‘starvation'”


NY Times, Frank Bruni, 26 Jan 2023: Anti-Gay? Anti-Science? Antisemitic? Run for Governor of North Carolina!

The likeliest Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, is also a trailblazer. He’d be the state’s first Black governor. But that’s the beginning, middle and end of anything forward-looking and progress-minded about him, and he’s extremism incarnate: gun-loving, gay-hating and primed for conspiracy theories, with a garnish of antisemitism to round out the plate.


[Tim] Funk captured Robinson well in that Assembly article: “In the Gospel According to Mark Robinson, the United States is a Christian nation, guns are part of God’s plan, abortion is murder, climate change is ‘Godless … junk science,’ and the righteous, especially men, should follow the example of the Jesus who cleansed the temple armed with a whip, and told his disciples to make sure they packed a sword.”

He has referred to homosexuality as “filth” and to the transgender rights movement as “demonic.” He’s preoccupied with the devil, whose hand he saw in the movie “Black Panther,” which was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist,” he railed in a Facebook post that could have used some copy-editing.


“Mark Robinson is extremely popular with the Republican base and the Republican rank and file,” Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, told me.

So what can we conclude about the Republican rank and file…?

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