Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Paul Krugman on America's angry rich

. . . can be read here in the New York Times. An excerpt:

"[. . .] The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses.

[. . .] For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.
At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.

[. . .] You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.
And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.
But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.[. . .]"

Yet further excellent political analysis from Krugman. Indeed, we often hear how public policy should permit the haves to retain more of their wealth while the have-nots should no longer receive as generous public assistance. Perhaps the "modern mainstream" (my phrase, but feel free to cite me!) make take a middle path in both holding firm on modest tax rises for the most wealthy while ensuring that only those who require public assistance receive it.

It is not enough to worry constantly about whether or not some persons may be "cheating the system" in claiming benefits they are not entitled to receive, although this seems to be an Anglo-American political pastime in recent years. Yes, we should do something about this, but we should also ensure that no one is "cheating the system" in higher income brackets by avoiding full payment of taxes. I do not have any figures at hand, but I would imagine that those improperly claiming benefits cost the general public less than those not paying their fair share at the top.

What do readers think?

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