Paul Krugman

  • October 11, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As Occupy Wall Street continues to spread from city to city and garner backers from Union leaders to the head of Washington’s largest progressive nonprofit, an important and long overdue focus is shifting to the efforts of the nation’s super wealthy to keep things just the way they are.

    In a piece for The Huffington Post, Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, laments the stranglehold the status quo has on Washington, where austerity measures are all of sudden the obsession of many conservative politicians, and incessant talk of cutting Social Security and Medicare rules the day.

    While conservative talking heads bemoan the growing gap between the nation’s top one percent and everyone else as class warfare, Baker notes that the only redistribution of wealth occurring in this country is that which helps those within the top one percent.

    Baker concludes:

    In short, we have an economic system that, even when it is working, has been rigged to redistribute income to the rich. And we have a political system that at a time of immense economic distress is more focused on undercutting the means of support for working families than fixing the economy. It is hard to understand why everyone is not occupying Wall Street.

    As noted on this blog numerous times, Columbia Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier in the year about the power of the country’s top 1 percent and its efforts to hold the status quo. He argued that the top one percent is seriously out of touch with the rest of the country, and it appreciates a government that can only push policy that furthers its interests.

    But such action has created the current economic morass, one that doesn’t bother many conservative pundits or is not understood by them.

  • September 23, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The yawning gap between the nation’s super wealthy and everyone else is likely the widest it has been since the 1920s. And, as TPM reported recently, Fox’s talking head Brit Hume asked “who cares?”

    Obviously many right-wingers do not care. But history is replete, as Columbia University Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz noted earlier this year in a piece for Vanity Fair, with stories of crumbling societies where the wealthy few ignored the plight of the many.

    “The top 1 percent,” Stiglitz wrote, “have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

    So as Hume smirks at the growing inequality gap and his colleague Bill O’Reilly claims the discussion of income inequality annoys him, more and more Americans are catching onto the fact that right-wing economic policies pushed for decades are doing nothing for the country except making a tiny few much wealthier. Our infrastructure is eroding, and numerous states, as noted in this piece by The New York Times, are cutting already meager safety nets for the less fortunate. Such cuts are swelling the ranks of the poor and especially shoving larger numbers of children into poverty. According to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report, cited by The Times, by 2009 “about 2.4 million more children’s families lived below the poverty line than in 200, an increase of 18 percent.”  

    The Census Bureau reported earlier this month that the number of people in poverty is at its highest in more than 50 years. Just last year, the Census Bureau reported that another 2.6 million people fell into poverty. A press release announcing the Bureau’s findings, states, “The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 – the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 – the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years of which poverty estimates have been published.”

    Beyond irking knee-jerk pundits, talk of economic inequality also elicits typical cries of “class warfare,” from some congressional lawmakers, as The Times’ Paul Krugman writes, noting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan who bemoaned as “class warfare,” President Obama’s recent comments that the wealthy in the country pay too little in taxes, and that more should be asked of this group.

    Krugman dismantles the class warfare rhetoric, writing that “it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war.”

    Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and is now running for the U.S. Senate, also forcefully countered the right-wing’s take on economic inequality.

    Warren (pictured), who detailed her idea for a consumer protection agency at the 2009 ACS National Convention, said earlier this week, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers, the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”

  • August 11, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Tea Party activists and some in Congress remain dead-set against increasing taxes on the wealthiest, loudly proclaiming that the nation must make draconian spending cuts to lower the national debt. Indeed, as the debt-ceiling debacle revealed, some House lawmakers appear forever committed to slashing government programs. The Right’s mantra of no new taxes continues to thrive and galvanize, even as the economic inequality gap continues its devastation.  

    The president and other Democratic leaders are also apparently swayed by the obstinate stance against increased revenue, in light of the agreement reached on raising the debt ceiling, which includes plans for even more spending cuts, during a time when the effects of the Great Recession continue to be felt coast to coast.

    And yet, as numerous economists have pointed out time and again, there is an economic inequality gap that is exponentially growing. Columbia University Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier this spring for Vanity Fair in an article titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” about this yawning gap that has been nurtured by the economic policies of the Right, and embraced by too many Democratic leaders.

    “While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall,” he wrote. “All the growth in recent decades – and more – has gone to those at the top.”

    The shrinking middle class is increasingly taking note of this picture, recent polls bear this out. At capitalgainsandgames, Bruce Bartlett cites 23 recent polls that show overwhelming numbers of respondents believe the budget deficit must be tackled by tax increases, not just spending cuts.

    And the wrangling over national debt is just part of the ongoing effort by the nation’s wealthiest to keep things just the way they are. As Stiglitz wrote in his piece, “The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but the truth is they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.”