Monday, October 10, 2011

Samuelson on Soaking the Rich

Robert Samuelson has a column in this morning's WaPost sure to stir up more than a bit of class envy.  In it, Samuelson--in his balanced, economist way--offers a few statistics designed to 1) quantify the growing "inequality" of wealth--and more importantly, to demonstrate its global nature (as opposed to something just happening here in the land of Bush) and 2) to reinforce the staggering share of our national budget that is paid by the rich, especially the top 1%.

Let's review, shall we?  Income inequality measures NOTHING but class envy.   No one has been able to definitively cite HOW inequality acts as a real force in economics--but it apparently remains a force in political economy.

I think the Senate Democrats are being pretty smart on the way they are approaching raising taxes.  The President's figure of $250K as the start of being "rich" never worked with most folks, especially when couched in the President's annoying and ridiculous rhetoric of "millionaires and billionaires", and the reality of small business owners, their income range, and their capacity to generate jobs.  A million dollars in income?  Now that's getting to the point where more and more Americans will believe someone is actually RICH.  And so, the envy quotient actually begins to become politically effective.

I'd be surprised if some kind of surtax on "the super rich" is not passed.  The politics of compromise--which continue to be the way we move balls down the field in Washington--will virtually demand something like it in order to get the kind of spending constraints that conservatives want (and to protect Defense from deeper cuts than have already been agreed to). 

Republicans in Congress are going to have to think long and hard on what is important to them, and the answers may have electoral consequences.

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