In my latest reading of The Conscience of a Liberal, Paul Krugman tells a typical left-wing narrative, and yet he also diverges from it, in areas. Where Krugman echoed the typical left-wing narrative was in his argument that a number of Republicans succeeded in the late 1960’s-1970’s through exploiting the race issue. Ronald Reagan when he ran for Governor of California in 1966 was an opponent of a fair housing law. And Reagan’s attacks on welfare—-when the Aid to Families to Dependent Children was only a small part of the government’s budget—-won racist voters, even if Reagan did not explicitly mention race.
At the same time, Krugman acknowledges nuance. He notes that President Richard Nixon had progressive policies. He acknowledges that crime was a real problem in the late 1960’s-1970’s, whereas a number of liberals maintain that Republican appeals to “law and order” at that time were racist. He argues that the Democratic Party’s coalition included the South for some time after the New Deal, since southern states benefited from government programs, and that the Republicans for some time were the progressive party when it came to race. At one point, Krugman says that Harry Truman was progressive on race for a political reason—-because he thought that he could benefit from urban African-American votes in 1948—-whereas Bruce Bartlett in Wrong on Race contends that Truman was principled because he stood for African-Americans even when it hurt him politically (see here).
I thought that Krugman’s discussion of crime was noteworthy. According to Krugman, the reason that there was a high crime rate in the inner-cities was the lack of manufacturing jobs there, as these jobs moved to the suburbs. But Krugman notes that crime came down during the 1990’s, when more cops were put on the street. During the 1960’s-1970’s, were there attempts to bring jobs to the inner-cities? Krugman says that the increase in crime during that time shocked a number of liberals because they did not expect for crime to rise after their social justice policies were put into effect. Maybe there were efforts to revive the inner-city at that time, but they were poorly administered. As I discussed in this post, one reason that Richard Cheney became a conservative was that need-based assistance to poor areas lined the pockets of local politicians. But could the enterprise-zones that Bill Clinton supported in the 1990’s have contributed somehow to the decline in crime during that decade, by bringing jobs to the inner-cities?