What’s the matter with Thomas Frank? This question was posed and answered a few years ago in The New York Sun’s review of Frank’s The Wrecking Crew. “Mr. Frank’s point about contemporary conservative politics is straightforward and dogmatic,” writes the Sun. “It lives and breathes to support American plutocracy.”
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — both governing from the center right — repeatedly were pilloried by the left as plutocratic tools. And both presided over vibrant creation of many millions of new jobs, the very kind of jobs that are eluding America under President Barack Obama. The left’s conflation of free market advocacy with plutocracy is at the root of prejudicing millions of workers and would-be workers. Memo to Thomas: Nobody hates a plutocrat with greater intensity than a free market advocate. Not even you.
Frank writes in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine on the emergence of the gold standard as an issue of the day. “We realize that yet another eccentricity of the right-wing fringe has moved into the mainstream of American life,” he says. There is a fascinating discussion to be had on the reinstitution of the gold standard and its power to generate jobs. Instead, Frank’s dogmatism appears to have him mired in the discourse of the 20th, and even 19th, century.
Frank is yet another big name on the left to note and deplore the powerful uprising in favor of restoring the gold standard. His column echoes Paul Krugman’s July 6 New York Times blog post, “The Armageddon Caucus“: “Gold bugs have taken over the GOP.” It also follows Think Progress‘ June 9 report by Marie Diamond that “the Obama years have seen the lowest inflation in 30 years, but Tea Party groups are determined to make returning to the gold standard a litmus test for GOP presidential candidates. And it looks like they’re succeeding.” The Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal wrote on April 27, “Conservatives are organizing against a full employment mandate and rallying around the gold standard wing of their party.”
So … kudos to these public intellectuals for noticing the populist movement to restore gold. The way they describe it, however, is completely unrecognizable. Frank and his compatriots treat the gold standard as a slightly ludicrous (and possibly alarmist) anachronism and as a tool by which the wealthy oppress workers. This critique is itself an anachronism. The “ox carts,” “social dystopian” and “Daddy Warbucks” narrative bears no resemblance to what actually is under discussion — and shows little recognition of what is at stake.
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