Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Laureate in economics, published his book Conscience of Liberal in 2007. The book outlines Krugman's political views, in particular focusing on the causes of America's growing income disparity. Krugman outlines the political differences that he feels have driven the two main parties, including how those differences have come about and who is to blame for the current state of American political. He does this by examining the 20th century in the context of both income disparity and the ways in which government policy impacts this disparity. From this study he draws the conclusion that the Democratic Party lowers income inequality and the Republican Party increases it.
In the book's opening, Krugman outlines clearly the values that underlie the arguments he later constructs. He draws on the years of his youth, a time of low income disparity, as his ideal age. With income disparity low and unions strong, the middle class of the U.S. rose to prominence during this era, which Krugman views as something of a golden age. His view of the years subsequent, in particular the past three decades, is less charitable, citing the alarming growth in income disparity as evidence. He examines the entire 20th century, and concludes that unlike the mid-20th century, recent decades have taken on a look and feel more like the early part of the century, representing a new gilded age.
From this basic point-of-view, Krugman then expands on the political changes that have occurred. Krugman appears to abandon his economic training somewhat here, and takes more of an approach that shifts in income disparity among Americans have tended to be more policy-driven than market driven. This rationale is reasonable, given that domestic economic policy, or lack thereof, does to a large extent determine the amount of control over the economy that government can have.
The New Deal, Krugman argues, represented the end of the original gilded age. As unions became stronger, middle class wealth improved and the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed developed. Over time, however, the policies in the New Deal that allowed the middle class to flourish have been dismantled. Krugman takes the stance that this has occurred as the deliberate work of the Republican Party. The economic elite, he postulates, have dictated policy, resulting in tax cuts to the wealthy, the weakening of labor unions and other policies that have seen the income disparity in the United States grow. As a result of these policies, the middle class has seen its real income stagnate while the wealth of the richest Americans has increased at near exponential rates.
There is a considerable amount of blame placed in this book by Krugman towards the Republican Party. He contends, among other things, that the Republican Party's sharp shift to the right in recent decades does not correspond with the general public as a whole; that Republican politics are to blame for today's current divisive political climate; and the GOP has been taken over by a small group of ultra-right who have pushed explosive issues in order to distract from more core issues of economic equality. The civil rights movement gave the GOP the ability to exploit racism to attract southern white voters, who previously supported the Democratic Party.
Krugman also offers some solutions, including a strongly argued chapter on health care reform, increasing taxes on the wealthy and casting aside the politics of inclusiveness and Democrats reaching across the aisle.
Krugman's strength as a writer is that he is able…