Who is radical now? The case of the minimum wage in the USA – 01/19/2021 – Paul Krugman

Most Americans, including me, will be deeply relieved when Joe Biden is finally sworn in as president. But almost everyone has a bad feeling, not only because of the specific threat of far-right terrorism, but also because Biden will take office in a political environment polluted by lies.

Most important, of course, is the “big lie”: the claim, based on absolutely nothing, that the election was stolen. Was there anything in US history like Republican leaders’ demand that Biden seek “unity” when they don’t even publicly say he won with justice? And polls showing that the vast majority of ordinary Republicans believe there was serious voter fraud are deeply frightening.

But not far behind in importance is what I see as the slightly lesser lie – the almost universal right-wing insistence that the moderately center-left leaders of the next government and the next Congress are radical socialists, or at least are controlled by them. This statement was almost the whole substance of the Republican campaign in the Georgia Senate final.

An answer to that bizarre – and not bad – claim would be a Biden-worthy response: “Come on, man. Be real!” But I’d like to dig a little deeper, focusing on one particular issue: Biden’s demand, as part of his economic stimulus package, for a minimum wage increase to $ 15 an hour.

Republicans who oppose Biden’s plan have pointed to the increase in the minimum wage as the main reason for their opposition, even though we all know they would have found an excuse to oppose anything he proposed. What’s remarkable about this fight – we’re not going to dignify it by calling it a debate, as if both sides are making real arguments – is that it shows us who the real radicals are.

Because what does a radical economic proposal mean? One possible answer would be a proposal totally contrary to public opinion.

By this yardstick, however, Republican politicians are clearly the radicals in this area. Raising the minimum wage is extremely popular; he is supported by 70% of voters, including a substantial majority of self-proclaimed Republicans. Or, if you don’t believe the polls, look at what happened in Florida last November: Despite Trump’s takeover of statehood, a referendum to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 won overwhelmingly.

This is why the Republican Party is very out of step with the public on this issue – it takes an almost marginal position. Oh, and this is a position totally at odds with the claim by many Republicans that they are the real party of the working class.

What if we define radicalism not as opposition to public opinion, but as a refusal to accept the conclusions of mainstream economics? Here, too, Democrats are moderates and Republicans are radicals.

It is true that there was once a near consensus among economists that the minimum wage significantly reduced employment. But that was a long time ago. Today, only a minority of economists believe raising the minimum to $ 15 would have huge economic costs, and a strong plurality believe that a significant increase – though perhaps less than $ 15 – would be a good idea. .

Why have economists changed their minds? No, the profession has not been infiltrated by the antifa; it was motivated by evidence, particularly the results of “natural experiments” that occur when an individual state raises its minimum wage and neighboring states do not. The lesson to be learned from this evidence is that unless the minimum wage is raised to higher levels than anything currently proposed, raising the minimum will not have major negative effects on employment – but it will have significant benefits in terms of increased income and poverty reduction.

But the evidence has a known liberal bias. Did I mention that on Friday (15th), days before his deportation, Trump officials released a report indicating that the 2017 tax cut had paid off?

The voodoo economy is perhaps the most completely overthrown doctrine in the history of economic thought, refuted by decades of experience – and voters consistently say that corporations and the rich pay very little, and not too much, taxes. But tax cuts for the privileged are at the heart of the Republican agenda, even under a supposedly populist president.

In economic policy, then, Democrats – although they have moved slightly to the left in recent years – are moderate by all standards, while Republicans are frightened radicals. So why does the Republican Party think it can get away with saying the opposite?

Part of the answer is the power of the disinformation machine on the right, which relentlessly paints anyone left of center as the second incarnation of Pol Pot. Another part of the answer is that Republicans clearly expect voters to judge certain Democrats by their skin color and not by the content of their policy proposals.

In any case, let’s be clear: there really is a radical party in the United States, which, in addition to hating democracy, has some crazy ideas about how the world works and does not agree with the views of most. voters. And it’s not the Democrats.

Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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