An Intriguing Analysis

Paul Krugman recently had a column that–almost incidentally–amplified the findings I reported on yesterday from Democracy Corp’s focus groups.

He began by noting that Biden simply doesn’t arouse the same degree of animosity that Obama did. Krugman leaves it there, but the reason for the moderation of vituperation is pretty obvious: Biden’s a White guy. Yes, he’s a hated Democrat/Socialist/Leftie/Whatever, but at least he’s not Black.

Krugman focused on the lower level of animus and hostility aimed at Biden by Republicans, and speculated over what that “low energy” opposition might mean for the prospects of upcoming legislative proposals.

Just about every analyst I follow asserted, almost until the last moment, that $1.9 trillion was an opening bid for the rescue plan and that the eventual bill would be substantially smaller. Instead, Democrats — who, by standard media convention, are always supposed to be in “disarray” — held together and did virtually everything they had promised. How did that happen?

Much of the post-stimulus commentary emphasizes the lessons Democrats learned from the Obama years, when softening policies in an attempt to win bipartisan support achieved nothing but a weaker-than-needed economic recovery. But my sense is that this is only part of the story. There has also been a change on the other side of the aisle: namely, Republicans have lost their knack for demonizing progressive policies.

Krugman is careful to note that the decrease in demonization applies to policies (after all, lots of Republicans still believe that Democrats managed to steal a federal election at the same time they were sexually exploiting and then feasting on small children…) But as he notes, there’s been an absence of “bloodcurdling warnings about runaway inflation and currency debasement, not to mention death panels.”

True, every once in a while some G.O.P. legislator mumbles one of the usual catchphrases — “job-killing left-wing policies,” “budget-busting,” “socialism.” But there has been no concerted effort to get the message out. In fact, the partisan policy critique has been so muted that almost a third of the Republican rank and file believe that the party supports the plan, even though it didn’t receive a single Republican vote in Congress.

Krugman notes a number of possible explanations: the obvious hypocrisy of screaming about deficits under Obama and then incurring huge ones via tax cuts for the rich; the fact that none of their past, dire warnings of inflation under Obama–or their rosy predictions of a boom under Trump–materialized (although, as he points out ” inconvenient facts haven’t bothered them much in the past.”)

Or perhaps Republicans no longer know how to govern. They are trapped in a culture war of their own creation. As Krugman notes, while the Democrats were fashioning legislation and hammering out policy compromises, Republicans were screaming about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

In short, the prospects for a big spend-and-tax bill are quite good, because Democrats know what they want to achieve and are willing to put in the work to make it happen — while Republicans don’t and aren’t.

I have been extremely happy with what the Biden Administration has done–and failed to do–thus far. This is a highly competent operation. What is undoubtedly true, however, is that one reason the path has been smoother for Joe Biden is simply because his skin is white.

And that is an incredibly sad commentary on the current state of America.


  1. Growth in the middle if a pandemic is necessary. How do you get there? After a 33% hike in corporate taxes Ford announces moving a plant to Mexico. Thats not growth. So how much do you increase taxes without corporations wanting to head to the border. How do you give reparations to ancestors of slave owners when it includes policies to open the borders to those who will take jobs. Do we look the other way or demand reversal of current missteps. Politicians who are honest are the ones that can be believed. Calling states actions to change voter laws unconstitutional when HR 1 is unconstitutional under art 2 sect 1 clause2 giving states the right only to pass these laws.
    So many dont believe Biden is actually running the government like a President should has nothing to do with skin color. But that makes a good excuse for someone who is willing to blame others for his missteps in getting rid of good legislation just because Trump signed it. Things like getting rid of laws that target sex trafficking . How crazy this is. 11-14 yr olds are now more easily being trafficked?

  2. The same group of white lawmakers who formed that behind-the–scenes committee after President Obama’s election are sill in force which additional members they have gathered since 2009. Today they are out in the open; led by McConnell’s remaining powers even as a minority leader, to stop all forward movement by all Democrats.

    I understand Republicans do not want to allow Democrats to vote but do not understand how suppression of all voters in 47 of 50 states can be supported and condoned by the American people or how voter suppression can be supported and condoned by either party. By suppressing specific areas they are also suppressing their own constituents. Or how it can be legal at the level we are currently seeing, even with the right-leaning SCOTUS currently sitting in judgement.

    “I have been extremely happy with what the Biden Administration has done–and failed to do–thus far. This is a highly competent operation. What is undoubtedly true, however, is that one reason the path has been smoother for Joe Biden is simply because his skin is white.”

    I echo Sheila’s statement above but…there is that other white guy McConnell who is wielding the same powers over the entire Republican party he had under Trump. Thoughts of the outcome of the 2022 elections are frightening; with Republican members of Congress deciding not to run for office…what dastardly plan does the party have for us. And your can be sure they have one.

  3. I think Krugman’s suggestion that Republicans no longer know how to govern is the correct answer to the question of why they have been so muted. All they know how to do is listen to McConnell say No! They may not even be aware of the hypocrisy associated with cutting taxes for the rich while accusing Democrats of increasing the deficit. They are just concerned with saying no and making sure that as many Democrats as possible will not be able to vote next year, at which point they can get back to the business of cutting taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for those who need them.

  4. They no longer know how to govern. More precisely, they no longer understand what actual governing means or requires. I may be wrong, but I think the second Ronald Reagan said, “Government IS the problem”, they determined that they really didn’t have to propose much as long as they could run against a nebulous thing that was supposedly too big and out of control. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America was the last time Republicans had anything they could call a coherent policy agenda. But even then, beyond supply-side economics, they really didn’t have any idea what smaller government would mean when they uttered the words (dumping the Office of Technology Assessment was an achievement for “smaller government”? Really?)

    I’ll also say that they have no discernable policy agenda because they no longer value the intellectual capital and expertise it takes to put one together. There are, for example, no Richard Lugars on the Republican side of the Senate- no one with the scope and depth of foreign policy knowledge and expertise that he had to put together solutions to complex foreign policy problems, and no one, so far as I can, tell with comparable knowledge and expertise in any critical policy area necessary to formulating a legislative solution to real problems. Indeed, it seems easier for them to simply deny the existence of the problem. That is, when they’re not actively thwarting proposed legislative solutions because those solutions would require government action and, you know, “government is the problem.” We do, occasionally, get the policy equivalent of vaporware (Republican health care reform and infrastructure plans), but can you see Ted Cruz, or Tommy Tuberville, or our two boot-licking trumpist blockheads possessing the necessary subject matter expertise to actually come up with solid policy solutions complex and coherent enough to address any of the current problems facing the country? And no, McConnell’s proficiency at process manipulation doesn’t count.

    Having nothing with which to work, they have nothing to offer voters other than the broken record of tax cuts for the rich, and the modern bread and circuses that are the so-called culture wars. The sooner today’s Republican Party is replaced by a conservative party that understands that knowledge matters and governing is not a zero-sum game, the better we’ll all be.

  5. Golly gee, Sheila, Bidden is passing because he is an Old Fellow. You failed to list that as one of the reasons he is getting less kickback. He’s got that double barreled characteristic, he’s Old and he’s a He. That’s a double minority status which almost guarantees his acceptance in today’s world. It doesn’t offset his unforgivable Whiteness, but what’s an old guy to do?

    It’s a sad day when a Liberal responds as if an Ultra-Rightist. Yet it happens when another Liberal slips into the morass of the Ultra-Left.

  6. John S, you are little off into the deep end.

    The entire economy will do better when everyone is doing better. One Ford factory is the not the economy. Ford has been planning on moving this factory to Mexico for months or years. You don’t make an announcement like that out of the blue. It makes good right wing fodder “see I told you so” when they make the announcement at the same time as Biden announces a new tax plan. Besides there are lots of other reasons to move the factory to Mexico like; tax laws and shelters (that Republicans voted for as well), cheap labor that can be exploited in poor working conditions, and overly strong US dollar that makes it cheap to import goods.

    As for voting laws, the 2013 supreme court ruling that gutted a key provision of the the Federal (Note: this was a Federal voting regulation law) 1967 voting rights act, said that this clause was outdated and that congress needs to enact a new updated law. So I think you are mistaken on that point.

    Reparations might be as controversial on the left as on the right, but at the same time don’t confuse equality with equity. It is fine and good to make sure that everyone is treated equally (which still does not happen even today), but that assumes that everyone started on a level playing field. There are millions of people out there that did not start on the same footing as us white guys, and that is where you need to give a boost up to level the playing field and that is called equity. It does not mean that you as white guy are held down. It means you are big enough to know that some people might need a boost up.

    I think Sheila’s blog is on point. Biden is a white guy. He has very similar policies as Obama, but I have not heard leading Republicans stand up and announce “We are going to make sure he is a one term President” on his first week in office. You could almost hear the subtext in the announcement, “this black man”.

    As for automatically overturning all of Trump’s policies, Biden is moving quite slowing in some areas. If you are paying attention, the courts actually seem to be doing a better job of undoing most of Trumps actions, since most of the changes were done just for show, knowing they would not stand up to legal challenges. It just takes longer and is less obvious than executive actions. I also don’t know if that is because the Trump administration left so many dumpster fires burning, Biden has to prioritize, but there are some thing that Trump did right.

    You will have to elaborate on the sex trafficking thing. That must be some horrendous and offending information that is only circulating in right wing echo chambers, because I have no idea what you are talking about.

  7. John S, I would also like to thank for insight into the manufactured outrage dosed with a good amount “what about this”, all the while avoiding the point the of blog. It certainly did distract me from the point of Shiela’s blog post.

  8. Morton; you have simply forgotten how sensible, intelligent, qualified elected officials govern and speak to the public. You have forgotten that they do not target victims with name-calling and concentrate on insulting those who oppose their off-the-wall, scrambled, rambling, meaningless diatribes called speeches to the nation which incited violence in our streets and called them protests.

    We are in the beginning steps of the process of moving back to a trusted and respected nation in the world with a rational leader who concentrates on resolving the issues which have divided this country within our boundaries and against our allies the past four years. We have a way to go yet but we are on our way under the leadership of a mature gentleman with decades of experience to guide him and the intelligence to seek guidance from others when needed. President Joe Biden plays well with others; an attribute we have been missing since 2016.

  9. Appears that Krugman and Boehner (sp?) have similar opinions of the 21st century Republican Party.
    To the Ford plant Mexico, that or any other auto facility was not built overnight nor in 2 years. Corporate taxes for huge corporations can be virtually eliminated regardless of profit, especially when writing off capital expenditures. Labor costs on modern facilities are exaggerated to fool the public and blame the unions.
    Note that Subaru had increased the size of the Tippecanoe Cty facility while Honda was building the large facility in Greensburg. Foreign auto manufacturers are not troubled with US taxes or labor as the modern factory is so automated that labor cost differential is no longer a prime cost factor in highly automated faciities. Capital equipment and transportation plus inventory that sits on ships/docks/ trucks has caused both Asian and German auto makers to build in North America. The loss of factories in the US is more a factor of the present US investor/bank looking for instant gratification rather than long term factory investment both for steel mills, white goods and autos.

  10. I’ll go back to my rhetorical question yesterday; the GOP is funded by dark money. Their policies are written by corporate lawyers and handed out to GOP legislators at the state level where the money operates. Their goals are to make sure federal laws don’t infringe upon their control of the states. Since all this money, corruption, and power operates in the dark, you can’t very well go on Fox News to brag about it. In fact, the goal is “don’t draw attention to the ultimate agenda.”

    After forty years of trickle-down economics which has only made economic matters worse…aside from inequality of income and wealth, it has the financial oligarchy addicted to free money from the Central Bank. As more and more alternative media outlets discover corruption with corporate giveaways, the public will be very irritated. You can clamor about job reports, but what kind of jobs are coming back so quickly? It’s the low-paying service jobs which both parties failed to elevate wages. I’m sorry, but the minimum wage should be around $25 an hour if just pegged to other basic economic factors to determine wages – productivity, inflation, etc.

    On NPR yesterday, they were trying to get a guy being interviewed to brag about Biden cutting child poverty in half with his one-year tax credit, but he said, “It still lags what other affluent countries have been doing for years to reduce child poverty.”

    He went on to explain the “study” or science that backed this up. The GOP doesn’t have studies, or the studies they do have are prepared by think tanks who manufacture evidence to meet their goals. Art Laffer was laughed out of the economic industry. However, he is still the head economics director for ALEC – the Koch-funded policy group feeding legislation to Indiana and another 22 states.

    Indiana is getting how many millions to spend in this state from the last federal government bailout, and not one of our “representatives” voted for it in Washington. With a Nationwide infrastructure grade of C-, how many billions of dollars will be spent in Indiana for our decaying infrastructure? McConnell said he would fight it every inch of the way. LOL

    These aren’t progressive policies…these are fundamental investments in our country. We should have been doing this as a standard. How can we brag about American Exceptionalism when the bedrock of our nation – the infrastructure is rated a C-?

    And one political party is going to fight against it? Think about that.

  11. Yes Sheila, America is in a sad state and has been for years – itʻs just out in the open now.

    Hereʻs a quote from an article about the upcoming book by former House Speaker John Boehner: “What Boehner “had not anticipated was the extent to which this new crowd hated—and I mean hated—Barack Obama,” he writes. Obama “didn’t help himself much either,” Boehner writes, saying the former president didn’t make Republican outreach a top priority during his two terms. “But on the other hand,” Boehner writes, “how do you find common cause with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?”

    Actually, I disagree with House Speaker Boehner about Obama not reaching out to Republicans. On the contrary, he kept trying for bi-partisan participation over and over again, but to no avail.

  12. @JoAnn – Well said:

    “We have a way to go yet but we are on our way under the leadership of a mature gentleman with decades of experience to guide him and the intelligence to seek guidance from others when needed. President Joe Biden plays well with others; an attribute we have been missing since 2016.”

  13. The GOP has devolved into a mob of neo-Fascist buffoons with no concern for governing, but concern only for their self-interest, blind to any contradictions in their messaging.

  14. One thing you can depend upon with today’s GOP is a total lack of any coherent platform that actually addresses any issues that effect the health and well being of Americans.

    The Social-Cultural Wars have worked in the past for the GOP so now they have injected themselves with Steroids of Fear. It is all the GOP has and The Trumpet was and is the perfect example of the modern GOP -Intellectually Vacant.

  15. Joe is the right guy for the moment. He’s steady, he listens, he most of all sets and holds to priorities, he has international respect, he has a very capable VP and Cabinet, he has capable leadership in Congress, and overwhelming support among the people who are simply tired of Republican noise and incompetence. Roger Ailes is no longer in charge of anything, and Rush Limbaugh is dead.

    The first evidence is that the US has gone from last to first place in beating the pandemic (both the public health and economic problems) among all European background countries (who were the only ones in the world in the grip of it). Voter rights are next but there are some obstacle clearing efforts necessary first. Right foot, left foot, never stop.

    Also in evidence at the southern border is that:

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    still describes who we are and have always been.

  16. Almost as curious as the amnesia Republicans suffer over how to govern is the willingness of their constituents to let them get away with it. In what state do we hear Republicans screaming “Hey. This posturing and game playing are reprehensible and not what we sent you to Washington for.” It was once supposed that people in general were motivated by self-interest. If that was true, then Republicans must be an altruistic breed – they no longer speak of the policies or programs that might serve their economic or social interests, unless the subject is opposition to abortion or how to keep Black people from voting.

    As for Ford moving a plant to Mexico, our current implementation of capitalism would deem them negligent if they didn’t. Our tax system and corporate profits demand that work must flow to wherever labor is cheapest and least empowered. Laws to alter this reality would be almost laughably easy to craft but, alas, might reduce the bottom lines of corporations which make vast contributions to political campaigns. Like that’s going to happen in the 21st century?

    As for Biden’s racial advantage, has the white man’s burden suddenly become the white man’s edge? It could be argued that Biden’s connections in the Senate and his mastery of its formal and informal rules give him an advantage Obama didn’t enjoy.

  17. Seems kind of ironic — or not — that we’re once again hearing bleats from the Trump-McConnell party (once known as Republicans) about how awful and U.S. job killing raising taxes on corporations is (would be) at the exact same time it is being reported this week that over 50 major U.S. corporations paid no Federal income tax last year on Billions of dollars of profit:

    OBTW: these same U.S. corporations received $3.5 Billion in tax rebates last year, and over half of those 50+ corporations, including Nike and FedEx, haven’t paid any Federal Tax in the last 3 years.

    2nd OBTW for John S.: The 33% increase in the corporate tax rate is a proposal. It isn’t in effect now, and may never be unless the Democrats have the guts to modify or do away with the filibuster. So zero — that’s zero — impact on Ford’s decision to move some production to Mexico.

    And one last OBTW: Throughout the entire 8 years of Eisenhower’s Presidency (an actual Republican), which just happened to coincide with the greatest economic boom and growth of the middle class in U.S. history, the corporate tax rate was 52%. The top income tax rate was 91% (not that anyone actually paid 90%), and the rate on long-term capital gains was 25% (currently somewhere between 15% -20%).

    And what did Eisenhower do with all that tax money? Invested it in infrastructure — most notably the Interstate highway system that generated decades or more of economic growth.

  18. I have heard that corporate taxes would increase from 21 to 28% so that is a 7% increase according to my arithmetic not 33 %. I don’t know where that 33% is coming from.

    I think corporate America should give back to the community by using some of their profit to repair and rebuild infrastructure. If they want a lower tax rate then maybe they should support the local economy with infrastructure and hire the workers to repair it and maintain it. I know El Lilly’s gives a sizable amount back to Indiana. They recently contributed to building a Community Center in Rushville, In. which will also contain a food bank.

    President Biden goes out to the country to promote his bills and agenda to the voters of America.

    I think there is one thing he has missed with Covid-19. People are talking about vaccine passports which would allow people to travel and stop wearing masks.I think it’s a good idea because it rewards those who have taken the vaccine. That reward might move others to get the vaccines.

    President Biden served in the Senate much longer than Obama and had long term relationships with both Democrats and Republicans. If anyone can negotiate with Mitch McConnell., it will be President Biden. And I do believe that because he is white, he is facing less opposition to his ideas than Obama did. The question is what will happen to VP Harris’s ideas about immigration reform. Will it be opposed due to the fact that she is both a woman and a woman of color?

    I think it’s much easier to be obstructionist than to propose ideas that make this government improve its service to the citizens of this country. Republicans have been obstructionist since Newt Gingrich and as a result, have stopped coming up with innovative ideas. Instead, they have stuck with economic theories that have increased the disparity of wealth and the diminishment of the middle class. I believe healthy democracies and economies have a strong middle class.

    I wish Eisenhower had invested more in mass transit. He chose the auto industry instead. Tolkien predicted that the combustible engine would be the ruin of civilization. He loved trees. That’s one reason conservationists see him as an early advocate of earth’s ecosystems. Scientists have now discovered that trees communicate by passing chemicals through the fungi that grow on their roots. I am sure he would be pleased to hear of cars going electric and of Biden’s inclusion in green energy as part of his Jobs bill.

    Too bad trees are not considered infrastructure. After all, they are superb at absorbing carbon from the air.

  19. What Patrick, both Dans and Todd wrote.

    Party of Lincoln? Hardly. Try Party of Trump, a “party” sans a platform, governing set of principles or vision for America’s future, a grouping of the corrupt and presidentially ambitious along with gun nuts and a mindless mix of the libertarian and the narcissistic, a grouping of those who hate government but want the power government gives them and who implore us to elect them to “run (or is that “ruin?) the government.” See January 6. This party (if it is one) is headed for the dustbin of history, one I frequently analogize as “heading back to the oblivion of Whigdom from which such party arose in 1854.”

    To repeat: Party of Lincoln? Hardly. That was the party Kearns defined for us in her Team of Rivals, and one would have to be terminally out of touch and/or dystfunctional to equate the then new and liberal Republican Party with what Trump has brought to our political table today, i. e., mayhem via a party of insult, prevarication and libertarianism on steroids – aka nihilism).

    To paraphrase: Lincoln’s “with malice toward none and charity for all,” and his “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people” are covenants not to be found in Republican sponsorship these days in their repression of the vote, overt racism, attempted theft of votes cast, ridiculous claims that their opponents are socialists, cannibals, etc., all of which amount to red meat for the gullible but are damaging to our democracy to a yet unknown extent.

    Perhaps when the Republican Party collapses into obscurity a new party will emerge from the ashes of the old with similar vigor as the Republican Party that arose from the ruins of the Whig Party, adopt political platforms and principles of governing while abandoning the party of insult and delusion and become a force in American politics again. Perhaps there is a Lincoln in their ranks who will come to the fore and rid America of the last vestiges of Trumpian politics. Perhaps. Time (and our perseverence in saving our democracy) will tell.

  20. The corporate tax “rate” is only part of the issue…there are multiple loopholes/rules which allow corporations and other business structures to dodge billions in taxes. Just a few:

    – Estate tax exemption limit
    – “Stepped up” loophole
    – Carried interest exemption
    – Real estate 101 exchange loophole
    – Capital gain tax rate
    – Earnings top limit for FICA
    – Deferral of taxes for off-shore profits

    And, by the way, there is much research that shows that thanks to horrific staff cuts over the last 10 years, the IRS is unlikely to go after rich tricksters who have squads of accountants/lawyers to drag any cases out – hmmm, sound a former….??

  21. Good point, Lester – I should also point out that the Reagan administration came up with the idea of cutting the IRS staff to allow the rich to get away with cheating. I think it was the columnist, David Broder, who noted at some point that some tens of billions of dollars in taxes had been irretrievably lost, as time ran out on investigating these tax cheats.

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