Paul Krugman slams Republicans for protecting the 1 percent while pretending to care about "the dignity of work"

If GOPers actually cared about workers' dignity, Krugman writes, they'd support the welfare state

By Elias Isquith

Published February 14, 2014 3:30PM (EST)

Paul Krugman                                                                                                                                                                   (AP/Lai Seng Sin)
Paul Krugman (AP/Lai Seng Sin)

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist and best-selling author Paul Krugman tears to pieces Republican claims to oppose Obamacare because it denies Americans "the dignity of work."

"It’s all very well to talk in the abstract about the dignity of work," Krugman writes, "but to suggest that workers can have equal dignity despite huge inequality in pay is just silly." He notes that in 2012, the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders made $16.7 billion — basically equal to the wages of no less than 400,000 regular Americans.

"Given that kind of disparity," Krugman writes, "can anyone really believe in the equal dignity of work?"

Krugman then notes that it's actually the 1 percent who seem most dead-set against recognizing the dignity of the rest of the country, with oligarchs like Sam Zell demanding everyone else agree that the 1 percent "work harder" and are "much bigger factors in all forms of our society."

"Dignity for all!" writes Krugman, sarcastically.

Krugman then claims that the GOP is just like these members of the 1 percent when it comes to respecting most workers — he makes a point of highlighting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's recent admonition to his fellow Republicans to remember that most Americans aren't small business owners, something Republicans in Congress apparently forget.

Beyond savaging the 1 percent and their Republican backers, though, Krugman makes a bigger point: that the welfare state — Social Security, Medicare and now Obamacare — is the real guarantor of workers' dignity, making sure that people won't have to worry about the essentials of life if they lose or quit their job.

"Think about it," Krugman writes:

Has anything done as much to enhance the dignity of American seniors, to rescue them from the penury and dependence that were once so common among the elderly, as Social Security and Medicare? Inside the Beltway, fiscal scolds have turned “entitlements” into a bad word, but it’s precisely the fact that Americans are entitled to collect Social Security and be covered by Medicare, no questions asked, that makes these programs so empowering and liberating.

"The truth is," Krugman concludes, "... if you really care about the dignity and freedom of American workers, you should favor more, not fewer, entitlements, a stronger, not weaker, social safety net." And that's why people should celebrate Obamacare, Krugman insists, because it's "giving them exactly the kind of dignity and freedom politicians only pretend to love."

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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