Monday, January 28, 2013

More on Wealth Supremacism

Paul Krugman writes again today on the intellectual bubble conservatives continue to inhabit while trying to pretend otherwise to win votes. Not only do Republican politicians live in an intellectual bubble (joined by conservative and pseudo-moderate Democrats), so too do journalists and scholars who claim to find 'evidence' supporting right-wing GOP economic policies. Conservative politicians may be grossly ill-informed or just weak-minded. But what accounts for undeniably very-intelligent researchers like Gregory Mankiw or Glenn Hubbard? Economics is dominated by conservative thinking.

The question is not whether the intellectual bubble exists, but, firast, how it is kept inflated despite all the evidence that should burst it and, second, what cherished belief is at its center.

I think the answer is profoundly troubling. A significant body of conservatives and pseudo-moderates (e.g., Cass Sunstein) are wealth supremacists. They believe that the wealthy are naturally superior — even biologically so. Gregory Mankiw stated this explicitly in his blog in August, 2009. He asserted that children of the wealthy perform better in school because they've inherited their wealthy parents' superior genes.

Conservatives (and pseudo-moderates) aren't all so extreme. But American culture is thick with evidence that many people, perhaps most, view the wealthy or famous as simply better people. It is quite amazing and disturbing that Americans have effectively reinstituted a divine right of wealth that many would have said we abolished two centuries ago.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama Inaugurated for Second Term — Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

Economist and New York Times essayist Paul Krugman today suggests that progressives take a break from our "anxiety" and take some solace in the few, modest accomplishments of the Obama administration.


I'm unclear whether Paul Krugman thinks Obama's 'accomplishments' are a "Big (so what!) Deal" or a "Big (wow . . . almost) Deal." And "anxiety" is an interesting choice of words — just that little bit demeaning, disparaging. 

As for the substance of Krugman's claims:

Nobody disputes that inequality in the US will continue to grow (with Obama and most Democrats seeming to embrace that, modest palaver to the contrary notwithstanding), and social mobility will continue to decline. 

We'll see whether health care in the US improves. Massachusetts is more of a mixed story than Obama-supporters will admit. Insurers got everything they demanded from Obama. 

As for financial reform, Wall Street is just as petulant as the NRA — and more powerful. Ninety-nine percent of American revile Wall Street, yet the oligarchs still get most of what they demanded. But they are spoilt brats. Unless they get 110 percent of their demands they whine about how hard-done-to they are.

Unmentioned are any international issues. The world has learned that Obama is as bad or worse than Bush: drone strikes; assassinations (including of American citizens); uninterrupted funding for Israeli occupation; denial of due process for all accused to terrorism; a different and poorer standard of justice for Muslims and Arabs; vicious and unprecedented abuse of whistleblowers and activists for openness (most recently, Aaron Swartz). And nothing at all on climate change

Sorry, I'm not going to take a break. And it's not anxiety. It's fury.