News from May 27, 2008
|Paul Krugman at the FU Berlin|
|Celebrated US Journalist , Commentator & Princeton Professor Finds His European Audience|
Berlin (Weltexpress) The influential and persuasive voice of American liberals gives hope to those who wish to see a decisive change in US politics “After Bush”. After former Foreign Minister of Germany Joschka Fischer, NY Times columnist and Princeton professor Paul Krugman was the second guest speaker to appear in a series of talks organized by the Graduate School of North American Studies at the Free University Berlin.
Speaking in front of an eager and large crowd in the university’s auditorium, Krugman took the stage to speak about his latest book, `The Conscience of a Liberal` (Nach Bush, so the German title), US elections and a possible upheaval of current social, economic and political structures within the United States.
The book’s title is its mission, being a play on Barry Goldwater’s book “The Conscience of a Conservative”, which came out in 1960 and is seen as a manifesto for the conservative movement in the United States. Krugman focused largely on Movement Conservatism, an alliance of the wealthy elite, the religious right and corporate interests that came into being in the 1960s and has since controlled US politics and the economy through conservative think-tanks and the infiltration of lobbies and the media. Krugman pinpointed the beginning of the movement to Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, calling the current Bush administration its “culmination” and eventual failure.
Not mincing words, he blamed this movement for the growing social inequality in the United States, which manifests itself in managerial salaries that are spiralling out of control, while the common work-force has seen a decrease in buying power, lacking health care benefits and minimum wages that have fallen below the rate of inflation. Highlighting the conservative’s main concern as an economic one, Krugman outlined the current administration’s ability to mask it’s true (economic) motivations through topics like national security and the build-up of Bush as “America’s Defender” in the wake of 9/11 in what he titles “Weapons of Mass Distraction” in his book - a common conservative tactic that, thankfully, appears to lose its effectiveness due to the public’s overexposure to it.Another issue raised was the race division in the US, a major reason for the conservatives’ success since the Great Southern Switch in the 1960s, when the Southern States became a stronghold of the Republican Party. But this period is over, Krugman argued, since the US is becoming a more diverse country. Where the division used to be strictly between black and white, a growing Latino and Asian influence can be felt in more votes for the Democratic Party in what used to be conservative states like California (which gave the US Reagan back in the 70s).
Now one of the most liberal states, Krugman sees California as an example of a major factor in the upcoming election which at the same time is beginning to make the religious right lose some of its power and has certainly proven to be true with Barack Obama now being the most likely nominee for presidential candidate for the Democrats. Krugman went so far as to call the US “a better country” by now, citing the race issue losing its edge in politics as well as pointing towards a less stereotypical portrayal of race in US media today.
Throughout his talk and subsequent Q&A, Krugman once again proved his unique ability to blend politics and economics while at the same time being able to appeal to both, an academic as well as a general audience. Through convincing arguments and colourful examples, which ranged from Karl Rove (mastermind behind Bush’s elections and now consultant for FOX News) or the influence of You Tube in the assassination of the political career of hopeful, conservative candidate George Allen - whose racial slur towards an Indian American was caught on tape by Sidarth himself and inevitably appeared on the video sharing site - Krugman’s presentation was a powerful and hopeful voice for radical changes in the United States towards a more liberal conscience.
As one of the first and most vocal critics of the Bush administration, it was no surprise that Krugman holds high hopes for a potential Democratic win in the 2008 election and he certainly was able to inspire a positive belief in a possible future of the United States which, according to him, may even see the introduction of universal health care and an ultimate end to the 40 years of conservative influence the country has seen.