Typically, I despise all Paul Krugman has to say because I feel like the subject of economics is one of those holy grails (like science in general) that shouldn't be tainted with political bias. And Paul Krugman has made zero effort to hide the very biases that shape his economic thinking. His economic rationale has always seemed like an outgrowth of his political philosophy, while I contrarily believe one's political leanings should be grounded in sound economics. Simply put, Krugman is a Liberal first and an Economist second.
But in the first half of this article, I actually found myself agreeing with much of what he has to say. To some extent, the traditional model of "get a fine education, acquire a solid job, collect wealth slowly" has been broken in recent years, though why that is so is likely a huge point of disagreement between myself and Krugman. In my belief, employers simply can't afford to give employees raises that outpace the higher expenses those employees face in the form of higher taxes, higher healthcare costs, and the like. This tends to be quite destructive to one's ability to build wealth.
Regardless of whether we disagree as to the cause, here's what he says that I agree with:
A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect.
These numbers should (but probably won’t) finally kill claims that rising inequality is all about the highly educated doing better than those with less training. Only a small fraction of college graduates make it into the charmed circle of the 1 percent. Meanwhile, many, even most, highly educated young people are having a very rough time. They have their degrees, often acquired at the cost of heavy debts, but many remain unemployed or underemployed, while many more find that they are employed in jobs that make no use of their expensive educations. The college graduate serving lattes at Starbucks is a cliché, but he reflects a very real situation.
But this is what I really disagree with:
So what can be done? For the moment, the kind of transformation that took place under the New Deal — a transformation that created a middle-class society, not just through government programs, but by greatly increasing workers’ bargaining power — seems politically out of reach. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on smaller steps, initiatives that do at least a bit to level the playing field.
I don't believe it's a lack of bargaining power against employers; it's a lack of bargaining power against an ever-more demanding government.
And then this is where he completely loses me. And the reason I disagree with this is because I agree with the first two items I posted above (particularly the second one; the family stuff is a bit overboard):
Take, for example, the proposal by Bill de Blasio, who finished in first place in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and is the probable next mayor of New York, to provide universal prekindergarten education, paid for with a small tax surcharge on those with incomes over $500,000. The usual suspects are, of course, screaming and talking about their hurt feelings; they’ve been doing a lot of that these past few years, even while making out like bandits. But surely this is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing: Taxing the ever-richer rich, at least a bit, to expand opportunity for the children of the less fortunate.
So while arguing that more and more education is essentially doing nothing to give the middle and working classes a shot at upward mobility, he then poses one solution could involve taxing the rich to provide for ... wait for it ... more education for the less affluent.
Here's the link to the article in its entirety: LINK
This post was edited on 9/13 at 12:13 pm