Okay, who broke America?

Kevin Drum asks,
Who's to blame for our fiscal problems of the past decade? Paul Krugman says elites deserve a lot more of the blame than the general public, but Dan Drezner disagrees: the public, he says, was in favor of tax cuts and in favor of the Iraq war, so they deserve a big chunk of the blame too.
Drum then presents Drezner's data, and concludes:
But guess what? Despite this broad support, nobody was crying out for either huge tax cuts or invading Iraq until George Bush and the rest of the GOP started talking them up. Without that, the public would have continued to vaguely think that taxes were too high and Saddam Hussein was a bad guy before switching the TV to Monday Night Football and forgetting about it.
It's true that public support was probably necessary in order to pass the Bush tax cuts and invade Iraq. But the polling evidence is pretty clear that it was far from sufficient. Nothing about public opinion changed in 2001. The only thing that changed was the occupant of the Oval Office. The public isn't blameless in all this, but the polling evidence makes it pretty clear that it was a minor player.
I'd say that there's plenty of blame to go around. It's easy (and right) to assign a lot of blame to the so-called "elites." As Stan Lee continues to teach us, with great power comes great responsibility. Drum and Krugman are indicting not only the Bush administration, but also the elite institutions (the New York Times, etc.) that didn't forcefully present the opposing view. No pun intended, but that's a drum worth banging. Success in the public sphere often hinges on how well the referees have been coached.

However, I'm really uncomfortable with Drum's assertion that the public is a "minor player" because, he basically says, they are always willing to go along with certain dumb ideas. His sentiment is, well, elitist.
The public is made up of all of us (elites and not so elite), and we ought to expect more from ourselves, one and all. And we should take the blame when policies we support turn out to be stupid.


  1. We should blame the people who elected Bush in 2000.

    Goddamned Supreme Court justices.

  2. Talk about goddamned elites!

  3. That Krugman piece was in the Times!

  4. I'm really looking forward to hear Krugman's unvarnished opinion of the paper after he eventually leaves.


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