Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paul Krugman and The Angry Rich

American columnist Paul Krugman has an uncanny ability to catch the zeitgeist. And his latest column in the New York Times taps into the perhaps the ugliest aspect of the current crisis: the venality of the people who caused the crisis in the first place.

Poverty levels are on the increase. In the USA, as in Europe, real absolute poverty stalks the streets in numbers not seen in decades. This blogger was in Liverpool (England) yesterday, and saw plenty of evidence of young, middle-aged and elderly people ekeing out an existence on the breadline. Are they angry? Yes, two days ago thousands of people took to the streets to protest outside the Liberal Democrat party conference in Liverpool. But the anger levels haven't reached those of the 1980s when rioters trashed entire districts of the city.

But if you're looking for anger, the nasty, vicious stuff, its coming from the self-serving elites who dished up Capitalism v3.0 in the 1980s and have done very nicely for themselves ever since. And their anger is welling up into new and ever more insane ideas about self-entitlement. As Krugman observes:

"Self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.

Tax-cut advocates used to pretend that they were mainly concerned about helping typical American families. Even tax breaks for the rich were justified in terms of trickle-down economics, the claim that lower taxes at the top would make the economy stronger for everyone.

These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet"

Read Paul Krugman here


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