Friday, June 10, 2005

Krugman nails it...

Yeah, I bet he's all over the centrist and progressive blogs today, because he nicely encapsulates things that everyone should know.

But this still bears quoting and remembering:

he middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.

Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages.

Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.

But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled...

[M]iddle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power...

The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.

Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy."

As far as that series on Class is concerned, it's pretty broad and deep, and well documented. Start here.

Don't forget to go here.

Chances are, readers of this blog are probably fairly well off. Though of course who feels like that? The interesting thing about the times class graphic is that the scales really don't measure the strata of class finely enough at its highest levels: the highest income levels are $200K and above, and the highest wealth levels are $50 million and above.

I don't come near the $200K figure yet, although I know quite a few people who do. I don't know anybody who's got $50 Million personally, except for one or two people whom I've met only once or twice.

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