Paul Krugman: GOP is like a neighbor from hell

The New York Times columnist on why the GOP's bargaining position makes a mockery compromise

By Elias Isquith

Published October 14, 2013 1:15PM (EDT)

Paul Krugman                                                                                                                                                                       (Reuters/Anton Golubev)
Paul Krugman (Reuters/Anton Golubev)

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist Paul Krugman offers a parable to explain the Republican Party's position in the ongoing D.C. crisis:

So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume.

Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog.

And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations.

In Krugman's telling, the GOP is the neighbor, the sequester is the lawsuit, and the debt ceiling is the threat of bodily harm. The neighbor's offer is Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to provide a short-term lift of the debt ceiling and reduced sequester cuts in exchange for slashing Medicare. And the neighbor's dog-hating relatives are, of course, the Tea Party.

"I do not think that word 'compromise' means what Mr. Ryan thinks it means," Krugman writes.

Krugman then goes on to offer a possible way out. Harkening back to the mid-century alliance in Congress between conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats (often known as "Dixiecrats"), Krugman argues that the only way out of D.C.'s current impasse is for a similarly heterogenous majority to form — this time between Democrats and a small but decisive minority of Republicans. He calls this coalition the "reverse-Dixiecrat" majority.

The only problem with Krugman's plan? The lack of resolve on the part of the non-extremist Republicans. "The question," Krugman concludes, "is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the non-extremists’ spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess."

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Debt Ceiling Dixiecrats Government Shutdown Paul Krugman The New York Times