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The GOP’s Nonsensical Attempt to Paint Elizabeth Warren as a Hypocrite

(Image: CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate) George Washington was a hypocrite. O.K.

George Washington was a hypocrite. O.K., that’s not what I believe.

But it’s apparently what Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts believes.

Mr. Brown, in his campaign for re-election, is going all out on the proposition that Elizabeth Warren is a big hypocrite.

According to Brian McGrory, a columnist at The Boston Globe, Mr. Brown, a Republican, “seems to be fuming that his main Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, has done pretty well for herself financially.”

“A filing publicized last week had her making $700,000 in income over a recent two-year period, and it’s even more than that when you factor in a government salary she received during part of that time,” Mr. McGrory wrote in a column on Jan. 18. “Whatever the figure, it’s sent Brown over the edge. It caused his campaign manager, a seemingly nice young Vermonter named Jim Barnett, to toss out the ‘elitist hypocrite’ description, like it’s a crime to climb the ladder of success in America and impossible to remember what life is like on the lower rungs.”

You see, Ms. Warren has been crusading to help the endangered middle class — but she herself is a well-paid Harvard professor, who would end up paying higher taxes as a result of the policies she advocates. See the hypocrisy?

Neither do I.

I’ve written about this before; somehow the notion has entered our politics that supporting a cause that isn’t in your personal financial interest makes you a hypocrite.

It’s really bizarre.

As I suggested, think of what this says about George Washington. The fact is that he personally was doing very well under British rule — he was a big landowner, a man of stature in the colonies.

His life was just fine; yet he took huge personal risks to lead a rebellion for the cause of liberty.

He was a hypocrite!

Or, maybe, he was a man of civic virtue, who placed the needs of his nation above his own comfort.

Part of the reason this plays on the right is that the right’s response to any attempt to talk about inequality and the tax system is met with claims that it’s all about envy; supposedly, anyone who thinks that the capital gains tax should be higher only says that because he or she hates rich people.

So how can they be affluent themselves?

Strange to say, however, it’s possible to have no special animosity toward rich people as people, and still believe that they should pay more in taxes, that their workers should have more bargaining power, and in general that policies that would make them not quite as rich would make this a better nation.

But then as a liberal, well-paid professor/journalist myself, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007).

Copyright 2012 The New York Times.

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