A newspaper columnist is free to write whatever he wants, and you expect him to have a bias. And you expect him to have a favorite topic. But it gets awfully tiresome when he writes the same column every week. One wonders if Paul Krugman even shows up to work anymore at the New York Times, or if he just cuts-and-pastes from old columns. Today's column: Bush is bad. Tax cuts are bad. Bush is bad. Rich people -- except those who get money from Enron without disclosing it -- are bad. Government is good. Bush is bad.
Mr. Bush is a master of photo-op populism; his handlers seek out opportunities to show him mingling with blue-collar workers. But the reality is that this administration loves 'em while the TV crews are around, then leaves 'em when it comes to actual policy. And that reality is becoming ever harder to conceal.In short, to Krugman, real populism = wealth redistribution. Bush is a fake populist, because he doesn't want to take from the rich and give to the poor.
The federal budget is now deep in deficit, and everyone except the administration thinks it will remain there — not because of runaway spending, but because most of last year's tax cut has yet to take effect. And as my colleague Frank Rich points out, to offset the revenue losses from his tax cut, Mr. Bush would have to veto a $5 billion spending proposal every working day for the next year. Mr. Bush can no longer pretend, as he did during the 2000 campaign, that there is enough money for everything. Now, to justify that tax cut, he must hack steadily away at programs that matter to ordinary people.
Yet conservatives enthusiastically rely on populism — fake populism, based on staged shmoozing with ordinary Americans and attacks on the imagined cultural elitism of the liberal media. Why shouldn't liberals, who actually have the facts on their side, try engaging in the real thing?