Home > Uncategorized > Paul Krugman’s Op Ed Title “The Plot to Help America’s Children” Nails the GOP’s Mentality and Hypocrisy

Paul Krugman’s Op Ed Title “The Plot to Help America’s Children” Nails the GOP’s Mentality and Hypocrisy

February 17, 2021

To his credit, Paul Krugman’s article, “The Plot to Help America’s Children“, sticks to the economic argument for increasing the amount of aid provided to parents and increasing the pool of parents who qualify for the aid. He writes:

Indeed, there’s an overwhelming economic and social case for providing such aid, in addition to the moral case.

Yet most conservatives seem to be opposed, even though they’re having a notably hard time explaining why. And the fact that they’re against helping children despite their lack of good arguments tells you a lot about why they really oppose aid to those in need.

The balance of the article presents the “overwhelming economic and social case” for providing the aid while undercutting the major argument against it, which is that it creates a class of welfare dependents.  The positive benefits of offering increased aid are, I believe, self evident. The argument against creating welfare dependents is more nuanced:

Yet conservatives and even some centrists have long argued that compassion can be counterproductive — that attempts to help the less well-off can create perverse incentives that undermine self-reliance and trap people in poverty. So it’s important to understand why these arguments don’t apply to the proposed child credit — why this policy, far from creating a trap, would offer an escape route.

The usual argument against anti-poverty programs is that any form of aid that is tied to income reduces incentives for self-improvement, because households that manage to earn more money end up losing some of that aid. For example, Medicaid is available only to families with low enough income, so taking a job that pushes one’s income above that threshold leads to a loss of health benefits.

When House Republicans released a report on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, they essentially argued that these perverse incentives are the main reason we haven’t made more progress in reducing poverty, that anti-poverty programs “penalize families for getting ahead.”

There are good reasons to be skeptical about such arguments in general: Relatively few people actually face the extreme disincentives to work that conservatives like to emphasize. In any case, however, these arguments don’t apply at all to child tax credits, which wouldn’t be withdrawn as families’ incomes rose, even if they made it well into the middle class and beyond. To be a bit sarcastic, should we be worried about reducing children’s incentive to choose more affluent parents?

Furthermore, there’s extensive evidence that the real source of the “poverty trap” isn’t lack of incentives, it’s lack of the resources needed for adequate nutrition, health care, housing and more. As a result, helping poor children doesn’t just improve their lives in the short run, it helps them escape poverty.

His disdain for the GOP’s position on taxes and helping those in need is embodied in the title. A party that increasingly embraces wild conspiracy theories likely views this “giveaway” to the poor as a way for the Democrats to win over voters and, therefore, abandons a moral prerogative to help the needy for fear that it might undercut their ability to win elections. This kind of program should have bi-partisan support and, as Mr. Krugman points out, it DOES have the support of at least one member of the GOP: Mitt Romney. But as he notes, Trumpists in the party view Mr. Romney with disdain. He, after all, really believes that families need more help and he wants to offer it to them as directly as possible. Shame on him for having a creative idea to help people! The last time he had such an idea it turned into Obamacare!

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