Paul Krugman Subtweets David Brooks, Again: ‘The Poor Don’t Need Lectures’

Krugman Subtweets David Brooks: 'The Poor Don't Need Lectures' 

New York Times columnist David Brooks achieved Peak Brooks in last week’s column about Freddie Gray and the self-defeating “values” of poverty, including this line that raised a lot of Twitterbrows:

Given that Brooks and his colleague Paul Krugman have carried on a passive aggressive bi-column debate for several years now, many speculated we were but days away from Krugman rebutting Brooks’ argument without ever actually mentioning him.

And here we are. “It has been disheartening to see some commentators still writing as if poverty were simply a matter of values, as if the poor just mysteriously make bad choices and all would be well if they adopted middle-class values,” Krugman wrote in a fun summary of Brooks’ column. “At this point it should be obvious that middle-class values only flourish in an economy that offers middle-class jobs.”

Krugman named declining wages — not “values,” as Brooks had it — as the primary controlling factor in the miasma of poverty that always attends the deaths of African-Americans at the hands or guns of police. He also decried “some commentators” for what he characterized as misleading statistics about how much we actually spend on poverty programs, as direct a reference to Brooks’ column as possible without a hyperlink.

Even the opening paragraphs seemed engaged in a call-and-response. Brooks:

Lately it seems as though every few months there’s another urban riot and the nation turns its attention to urban poverty. And in the midst of every storm, there are people crying out that we should finally get serious about this issue.


Every time you’re tempted to say that America is moving forward on race — that prejudice is no longer as important as it used to be — along comes an atrocity to puncture your complacency. Almost everyone realizes, I hope, that the Freddie Gray affair wasn’t an isolated incident…And the riots in Baltimore, destructive as they are, have served at least one useful purpose: drawing attention to the grotesque inequalities that poison the lives of too many Americans.

Krugman all but called Brooks an elitist ass in the concluding paragraph:

There is no excuse for fatalism as we contemplate the evils of poverty in America. Shrugging your shoulders as you attribute it all to values is an act of malign neglect. The poor don’t need lectures on morality, they need more resources — which we can afford to provide — and better economic opportunities, which we can also afford to provide through everything from training and subsidies to higher minimum wages. Baltimore, and America, don’t have to be as unjust as they are.

[h/t New York Times]

[Image via NYT]

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