Paul Krugman Takes on the Pizza Lobby

Paul Krugman’s latest column is titled “Pepperoni Turns Partisan.” It is a trivial piece; years ago, Krugman apparently resolved never to spend more than half an hour on any column, and he isn’t pushing the envelope here. Still, it has entertainment value. Krugman begins:

If you want to know what a political party really stands for, follow the money. …

So what do contributions in the last election cycle say? The Democrats are, not too surprisingly, the party of Big Labor (or what’s left of it) and Big Law: unions and lawyers are the most pro-Democratic major interest groups.

The link goes to contributions in one election cycle, 2013-14, by industry. Lawyers and lobbyists gave $147 million, 65% to Democrats, and labor unions gave $137 million, 89% to Democrats.

Republicans are the party of Big Energy and Big Food: they dominate contributions from extractive industries and agribusiness.

In fact, agribusiness is pretty far down the line. Krugman only singles out agribusiness because he wants to talk about pizza. Actually, I am pretty sure that Krugman’s source, Open Secrets, classifies the fast food industry, including pizza, under “miscellaneous business,” not agribusiness. But technical accuracy has never been Krugman’s strong point. All of this is just an excuse to talk about pizza:

And they are, in particular, the party of Big Pizza.

No, really. A recent Bloomberg report noted that major pizza companies have become intensely, aggressively partisan. Pizza Hut gives a remarkable 99 percent of its money to Republicans. Other industry players serve Democrats a somewhat larger slice of the pie (sorry, couldn’t help myself), but, over all, the politics of pizza these days resemble those of, say, coal or tobacco. And pizza partisanship tells you a lot about what is happening to American politics as a whole.

So Republicans are “the party of Big Pizza.” The connection is obvious, since, as Krugman explains, pizza is evil. But is there such a thing as Big Pizza? If you read the Bloomberg story, you see that the entire pizza industry, led by Pizza Hut with Papa John’s a distant second, contributed a mere $1.5 million over two election cycles, 2012 and 2014. Which means that, per cycle, Big Pizza represents .0051 the electoral clout of lawyers and lobbyists, and .0055 the clout of big labor. The total annual political contributions of the entire pizza industry, to Republicans and Democrats alike, would barely cover one week’s worth of Tom Steyer’s cash. If Republicans “are, in particular, the party of Big Pizza,” we are in deep trouble.

The rest of Krugman’s column consists of the usual insults directed to Republicans. Republicans are stupid (because they don’t want to mandate labels on delivered pizzas) and fat (because they like to eat pizza). So, does “pizza partisanship [tell] you a lot about what is happening to American politics as a whole”? No, but the misleading, partisan attacks that Krugman consistently churns out do typify one of the worst aspects of American political life.

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