Our Robber Barron Apologists
The Piketty Panic
by Paul Krugman
April 24, 2014
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”
Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.
I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.
Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.
No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved. Read more.
The Austerity Agenda
by Paul Krugman
LONDON - May 31, 2012
“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem — and who doesn’t? — slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.
So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn’t? Unlike the governments of, say, Spain or California, the British government can borrow freely, at historically low interest rates. So why is that government sharply reducing investment and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger?
Over the past few days, I’ve posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.
The bad metaphor — which you’ve surely heard many times — equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt. So if Britain, as a whole, has run up too much debt — which it has, although it’s mostly private rather than public debt — shouldn’t it do the same? What’s wrong with this comparison?
The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.
So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better. Read more.
Corporate Tax Myth
Warren Buffett: High Corporate Taxes Are an American 'Myth'
The Huffington Post by Bonnie Kavoussi 02/27/12
Corporations, like the rich, aren't paying their fair share in taxes, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday.
Even while enjoying record profits, corporations last year paid just 12.1 percent of those earnings in taxes, their lowest tax rate since 1972, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At least thirty of the country's most profitable companies had a negative tax rate between 2008 and 2010.
Buffett, for one, says it's time to take notice.
"It's a myth that American corporations are paying 35 percent or anything like it," Buffett said, referring to the top marginal corporate tax rate. "Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness." Read more.