Paul Krugman’s latest unhinged column in The New York Times reeks of bad faith.
On Tuesday, the paper’s economic columnist from the City University of New York Graduate Center wrote a nearly 900-word piece outlining a false binary when it comes to aid for Ukraine. Republicans who oppose another multi-billion-dollar aid package to the war-torn country, he wrote, just “want Putin to win.”
“They view the Putin regime’s cruelty and repression as admirable features that America should emulate,” Krugman told the subscribers of The New York Times. “They support a wannabe dictator at home and are sympathetic to actual dictators abroad.”
Opponents of the generous aid packages might also be trying to avoid American involvement in another overseas war, but for Krugman, that would be giving his political rivals too much credit.
Krugman penned the column after conservative Republicans successfully ripped out another round of funding for Ukraine in the latest budget showdown last week. The compromise bill to keep the government open for another 45 days passed both chambers Saturday with bipartisan support. Absent from the measure was another $6 billion for Ukraine demanded by both Democrats and Senate Republican leadership. Lawmakers have until Nov. 17 to come to another agreement before a government shutdown.
Krugman criticized the conservative effort to eliminate more Ukraine aid, arguing the amount of tax dollars sent to Eastern Europe is a small budget item.
“Total federal outlays are currently running at more than $6 trillion a year, or more than $9 trillion every 18 months, so Ukraine aid accounts for less than 1 percent of federal spending (and less than 0.3 percent of G.D.P.),” Krugman wrote, as if $6 trillion was nothing to sneeze at. With a national debt of more than $33 trillion and rising, it might be time to question whether spending $9 trillion every 18 months is really sustainable. Instead, his focus is on whether taxpayer spending is a good deal for Ukraine.
The Biden administration committed more than $113 billion in aid to Ukraine last year, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. How much more money does Ukraine need? A blank check, apparently.
“Pay no attention to all those complaints about how much we’re spending in Ukraine,” Krugman wrote. “They aren’t justified by the actual cost of aid, and the people claiming to be worried about the cost don’t really care about the money. What they are, basically, is enemies of democracy, both abroad and at home.”
In other words, anything less than unchecked funding for the war effort, according to Krugman’s view, is antithetical to “democracy.” But is Ukraine even a democracy? In March, Federalist Senior Editor David Harsanyi outlined how it isn’t.
“Ukraine — which, before the war, regularly slotted in somewhere beneath Burma, Mexico, and Hungary on those silly ‘democracy matrixes’ left-wingers used to love — isn’t any kind of liberal democracy,” Harsanyi wrote. “Today Ukraine still shutters churches and restricts the free press. Maybe you believe those are justifiable actions during wartime, but under no definition are they liberal. Ukraine has never been a functioning ‘democracy.'”
Supporters of unlimited funding, meanwhile, are touchy when it comes to substantive aid oversight. In December, then-Democrat House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith said claims over lack of oversight “makes me a little crazy.”
“Number one, the focus on that is part of Russian propaganda. All these stories about how the money isn’t being spent wisely,” Smith said at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “Second, Ukraine is spending the money really well … That’s why they’re winning.”
The fact that Ukraine hasn’t lost the war, apparently, is all the evidence the Washington lawmaker needs.
In August, Democrats went on to block an effort to implement greater oversight of Ukraine funding. A leaked memo from the Biden administration published this week by Politico raised more concerns about where the tax dollars indeed went.
“Biden administration officials are far more worried about corruption in Ukraine than they publicly admit, a confidential U.S. strategy document obtained by POLITICO suggests,” the paper reported. “The administration wants to press Ukraine to cut graft, not least because U.S. dollars are at stake. But being too loud about the issue could embolden opponents of U.S. aid to Ukraine, many of them Republican lawmakers who are trying to block such assistance.”
Put simply, don’t talk about the transparency of taxpayer aid. It’s bad politics.