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Krugman: GOP committed to hurting poor

  • (CLAY BENNETT / Chatanooga Times Free Press)

Suddenly it's OK, even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of FDR and LBJ. It's much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it's justified. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, GOP harshness toward the less fortunate isn't just a matter of spite (although that's part of it); it's deeply rooted in the party's ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics.

Let's start with the recent Republican track record.

The most important current policy development in America is the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Most Republican-controlled states are, however, refusing to implement a key part of the act, the expansion of Medicaid, thereby denying health coverage to almost 5 million low-income Americans. And the amazing thing is that they're going to great lengths to block aid to the poor even though letting the aid through would cost almost nothing; nearly all the costs of Medicaid expansion would be paid by Washington.

Meanwhile, those Republican-controlled states are slashing unemployment benefits, education financing and more. As I said, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that the GOP is hurting the poor as much as it can.

What would Republicans have done if they had won the White House in 2012? Much more of the same. Bear in mind that every budget the GOP has offered since it took over the House in 2010 involves savage cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other anti-poverty programs.

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