Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winner Takes All Politics (and Economics)

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have written a book, Winner Take All Politics, about numbers and politics and economics.
What they discovered was that since the Bush tax cuts, which were sold as tax cuts for all, each of the wealthiest 400 families got $49 million extra dollars, whereas the middle class taxpayer got $600 the first year, and little since.

I think I have those numbers right. There are a lot of numbers.

What they describe, setting the numbers aside, is following World War II, the great bulk of the population got richer, with a huge jump in the percentage of college educated (owing to the federally funded GI bill) and a broad middle class emerged.

What has happened since the Bush tax cuts is the country has moved closer to Mexico and Brazil, where a very small number of very wealthy people are shuttled back and forth between safe havens, gated communities, while the 99% get their houses repossessed, or move back in with their parents.

Some of this was explained as happening as a result of technology and economic forces like the globalization of the economy, but as their work shows, what really drove this gobbling up of all the goodies by the one percent was government rules, laws, policy. The Congress and the Republican Presidents were in the pockets of the very rich and they made sure the very rich got everything they had paid for.

My coworkers at my office tell me they don't care how rich the rich get, as long as the pie keeps getting bigger and there's enough pie for them.

I don't think the American pie can ever get that big.

We are re capitulating history. Silent Cal Coolidge, Herbert Hoover had for their Secretary of the Treasury one of the country's richest men: Andrew Mellon. He pushed through the Mellon plan, which made fortunes for the richest and pushed the nation into the great Depression.

So here we go again.

It's a free country. People like Hacker and Pierson can tell the truth, can organize it, write about it, but other people, like Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney are free to drown out the truth speakers.

And in a nation where money is speech--well, we get what we pay for.

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