Thursday, September 26, 2013

Working Our Way Back to Feudalism

Paul Krugman has a thought-provoking post on his blog today that touches on the increasing economic inequality in America. Here it is, in full:
Mark Thoma has an excellent column at the Fiscal Times linking the fight over the debt ceiling to the larger issue of extreme inequality. (By the way, I start my day, every day, with a quick skim of the Times followed by Thoma’s blog Economist’s View, which is the best place by far to keep up with the latest in economic discourse.) I’d like, however, to suggest that the reality is even worse than Thoma suggests.
Here’s how Thoma puts it:
Rising inequality and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads to an attack on these programs.
So he links the debt ceiling fight to the influence of the wealthy, who want to dismantle the welfare state because it’s nothing to them, and they want lower taxes. One could add that the very inequality that distances the rich from ordinary concerns gives them increased power, and so makes their anti-welfare-state views far more influential.
How, then, are things even worse than he says? Because many of the rich are selective in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall Street? Yay!
Seriously. Charlie Munger says that we should “thank God” for the bailouts, but that ordinary people fallen on hard times should “suck it in and cope.” AIG’s CEO — the CEO of a bailed out firm! — says that complaints about bonuses to executives at such firms are just as bad as lynchings (I am not making this up.)
The point is that the superrich have not gone Galt on us — not really, even if they imagine they have. It’s much closer to pure class warfare, a defense of the right of the privileged to keep and extend their privileges. It’s not Ayn Rand, it’s Ancien RĂ©gime.
 Emily pointed out to me this morning that 87 percent of Chicago public school children87 percent! – come from low income families. "Well," you say, "everybody knows that Chicago is the next Detroit, so that's not out of line with what I'd expect."

Okay, how about this: "45.4 percent [of Illinois schoolchildren] qualified for a free or discounted school meal, the highest rate in decades." [My emphasis.]

Good-bye, middle class.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and Mario Whatever are doing their best to make sure millions of children don't get health insurance.

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