The voices of working people weakened after unions saw a sharp drop in their membership after Ronald Reagan's 1981 confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (Patco). Reagan threatened to fire nearly 13,000 federal workers who were on strike.
Krugman also describes sharp increases in economic disparities during the past 30 years, which saw dramatic increases in the incomes of the wealthiest Americans.
In 2006, for example, the 25 highest-paid hedge-fund managers made $14 billion -- three times the total amount earned by all 80,000 school teachers in New York City that same year.
"End This Depression Now" criticizes people like Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board between 1987 and 2006, who did nothing to control risky subprime mortgage lending, which led to major economic losses and banking problems.
Krugman argues "Obama and his aides never even tried for something big enough to do the job."
Obama's stimulus bill and recovery legislation put money into emergency programs, Krugman writes, but did little to generate long-term federal spending on projects like fixing roads and infrastructure.
The federal bailout of major banks and financial institutions, backed by Obama, saved those banks from collapsing and restored investor confidence by the spring of 2009.
But while the Federal Reserve took major steps to rescue banks, it did little to create jobs and rescue workers from unemployment.
In late 2009, Krugman argues, the national political discourse, strongly promoted by Republican leaders in Congress, "pivoted from jobs to [federal] deficits," with the Obama administration participating in that change.
The end to further federal stimulus funding, cutting back public investments, also caused spending cutbacks and layoffs by state and local governments across the country.
Krugman also urges other federal actions.
U.S. officials should sanction China for currency manipulation to help its own foreign trade profits. And political leaders should promote environmental upgrades to our manufacturing facilities -- projects that would stimulate the economy.
Krugman criticizes Ben Bernanke, who hired Krugman at Princeton when Bernanke was chairman of the university's economics department.
In "Earth to Bernanke" in the April 24 New York Times Magazine, Krugman says the chairman of the Federal Reserve System should allow some higher inflation to stimulate spending, create jobs and lower unemployment rates. Bernanke called Krugman's proposals "very reckless."
There is a moral imperative to change federal policy, Krugman concludes. It is "unconscionable" to let official unemployment rates remain above 8 percent.
"The economic doctrine that demands austerity also rationalized social injustice and cruelty. ...
"We need more, not less, government spending," Krugman concludes. "Tens of millions of our fellow citizens are suffering vast hardship, the future prospects of today's young people are being eroded with each passing month -- and all of it is unnecessary."
Today, the causes of our major economic problems are not mysterious.
"In the Great Depression leaders had an excuse: nobody really understood what was happening or how to fix it," Krugman writes. "Today's leaders don't have that excuse. We have both the knowledge and the tools to end this suffering."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or (304) 348-5164.