It’s almost as if Paul Krugman doesn’t want his readers to know what Marco Rubio’s anti-poverty ideas are …

Image Credit: Ze Carlos Barretta (Flickr)(CC-BY-2.0)

Image Credit: Ze Carlos Barretta (Flickr)(CC-BY-2.0)

I wouldn’t all mind knowing what economist Paul Krugman thinks of the anti-poverty speech Senator Marco Rubio gave last week. The address had some interesting ideas including (a) giving states wide latitude over running safety net programs fully funded by the feds, and (b) replacing the Earning Income Tax Credit with a straight-out wage subsidy. I don’t think it will be the last policy speech Rubio gives on the matter, but in my opinion a strong first step.

Instead what I got was a columnist Paul Krugman and his backward-looking, nuance-free analysis of all the stuff he thinks Republicans get wrong on anti-poverty policy. Oh, and this: “For now, however, Republicans are in a deep sense enemies of America’s poor. And that will remain true no matter how hard the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio try to convince us otherwise.”

Wow. How amazingly uninsightful and unhelpful, though perhaps not to Krugman’s web traffic. Krugman knocks the GOP for being all talk on helping the poor and then completely ignores the substance of a GOP policy speech on helping the poor. Here is what I wrote about the Rubio plan:

There is much to recommend the Rubio plan. Policy analysts on the left and right should take it seriously while highlighting its pluses and minuses. The proposal gets some big things right. It doesn’t confuse poverty fighting with budget cutting, though spending will drop if poverty falls. It tries to raise the ceiling for work rewards rather than lower the floor for income support. It takes advantage of states as laboratories of policy innovation while still maintaining a federal funding role. It recognizes how globalization and automation are transforming the American labor market and changing the nature of modern work.

Add in other pro-middle class/anti-poverty ideas such as expanding the child tax credit and reforming jobless benefits, and what emerges perhaps is much of the foundation of a 21st century center-right economic agenda for greater economic mobility, and prosperity and human flourishing.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Or if I don’t embrace the current Democratic policy agenda, I am just an “enemy of the poor.” Gosh, it is almost as if Krugman doesn’t want his reader to know what Rubio’s ideas are and decide for themselves if they make any sense. Well, maybe his next column will be better!

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

4 thoughts on “It’s almost as if Paul Krugman doesn’t want his readers to know what Marco Rubio’s anti-poverty ideas are …

  1. Geez, when are you Washington elites going to understand that, with $100t+ in unfunded liabilities, THERE IS NO MONEY FOR NEW PROGRAMS?! Not for wars on poverty or for middle east wars for profit. No money. Period.

  2. Krugman is right to think that nothing Rubio or Ryan propose would make it through the House in any shape or form. So what’s the point of ruminating on nonstarter ideas?

    And Ryan has an excellent idea — using housing programs to move the poor into into neighborhoods with jobs, transportation, good schools and positive role models. Only an R could take on a Nixon-to-China idea like this. Bright blue Montgomery Co Md went to war in the 90s over a program using the county’s affordable housing profits to build mixed-income apartments in good neighborhoods, Today, most full-rent tenants don’t know they share the halls with subsidized renters. Critics claim that careful screening keeps the peace. Regardless, here is one group of poor people who know not to screw with a good thing.

  3. Earned. It’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Under what dim lights is the Flex Fund idea going to help? States, as the author of this post noted, already administer almost all the anti-poverty programs Rubio named. That further devolving authority to the states would help the poor is fact-free pablum with no empirics behind it. How much money are we talking about? Is there reason to believe that a ‘unified’ revenue stream would result in more efficient delivery of services by state governments? If so, Rubio hasn’t explained that or provided numbers. But that might require a bit of work. As it happens, some of the programs that are at issue are among the most brutally efficient and effective in the federal arsenal.

    As for the EITC replacement plan, that’s not actually new. EITC reform ideas have been around since the author was a tadpole. Rubio also didn’t even attempt to make a case for how much it would reduce poverty.

    Rubio’s are fact-free policy theories on building a better mouse trap. Why should Krugman take this seriously at all while UI benefits lapse, tossing 1.2 million people into poverty in an instant while we know perfectly well how to avoid that?

  4. GOP wants to be taken seriously? OK, pass the extension of unemployment benefits.
    Support food stamps and extend social security for the poor.

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