Decoding David Brooks' attack on Paul Krugman.

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Nov. 9 2007 7:29 PM

Decoding David Brooks

Psst! His latest column is an attack on Times colleague Paul Krugman.

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In his Nov. 19 column, Krugman recycles some of the points he made about Reagan and race last week on his blog. He also restates one of the more provocative points in his book, The Conscience of A Liberal: The defection of white males from the Democratic party in recent decades was not a national phenomenon, but rather a southern one. Krugman cites a study by Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, showing that in 1952 and 2004, the proportion of non-southern white men lacking college degrees who voted Democratic was virtually unchanged (40 percent and 39 percent, respectively). To be fully persuaded on this point, I'd need to see how non-southern white men voted during the years in between.

Unrelated-but-interesting point: Bartels' study would seem to refute Thomas Frank's thesis in What's The Matter With Kansas that the white working class is economically populist but conservative on "values" issues. In fact, writes Bartels, the opposite is true: It is more tolerant on issues like abortion and gay marriage than the Republicans are, but less tolerant on issues like raising taxes on the rich than Democrats are. That might explain why the economic populism favored by Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum failed in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004.]

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.