Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Paul Krugman Says What We All Should Say -- Even Those in the Right Wing

Paul Krugman has enough savvy to understand work, income, and equality, or its evil twin, inequality. Lately, he zeroed in on the fact that there's almost as much inequality between the .1% and the 1% as there is between the 1% and the 99%. That's a true holy-shit observation.

Now, it's not enough of a shocker to make us worry about the poor feelings of the very rich when they look up to the stinking rich. But it does bring into focus what a person might think about the notion of the "dignity" of work. Krugman is on to something very crucial:
It’s all very well to talk vaguely about the dignity of work; but the idea that all workers can regard themselves as equal in dignity despite huge disparities in income is just foolish. When you’re in a world where 40 money managers make as much as 300,000 high school teachers, it’s just silly to imagine that there will be any sense, on either side, of equal dignity in work. And one demonstration of this reality is the angry reaction people like me get when we cite facts like this; nobody, and I mean nobody, on the right that I’ve encountered seems willing simply to accept the fact and argue that it’s justified. Instead, they regard pointing out the reality of extreme inequality as somehow inherently outrageous — because they know how explosive that reality is.
That's the nub of it: When CEOs and billionaires say "leave us alone we've earned it, make your own fortune," and politicians on the right say "get out of the hammock and grab yourself some minimum-wage job and feel the dignity of work," it's so insulting that it can no longer be taken as mere political speech. It's heartless, stupid, and, yes, actually evil.

I don't know when the breaking point comes. I know that Krugman knows that the Conservative Noise Machine has a mesmerizing effect on even those who are getting screwed by today's iteration of capitalism, and we can't count on an explosive reaction quite yet. That Noise Machine has to be countered.

If anything can counter it, though, it just might be when the Tim Armstrongs, Thomas Perkins, Sam Zells, and Ken Langones of this world wag their tongues just one time too many. I hope to witness that explosive moment yet.


  1. Interesting but I would argue that the difference between what the rich and poor have is not that great. 20 years ago if you wanted an iPhone you would have to pay $4million dollars. Today everyone has an iPhone and the people at apple have been handsomely rewarded. Cost of goods is always reducing so whatever the difference between what the rich can afford and what the poor can is not significant. What hurts people is politicians because the legislature that they pass effects the lives of people more than the people on wall street.

    1. I get your point about iPhones, though there's a difference between have an iPhone and owning $3 billion of Apple stock. Also, as Krugman points out, there's a problem when 40 hedge fund managers make as much as 300,000 teachers. Since I spent 7 years in college to earn $40,000 a year as a teacher (more later as I climbed the ranks), I'm sensitive to this. Back in the 1950s, the top margin rates for income tax was 90%. People still got rich; the difference was that the country got rich with them.