Monday, September 20, 2010

Krugman: The Angry Rich At The Barricades Over Modest Tax Increase

Paul Krugman observes that many among the wealthiest are indignant at the prospect that the Bush tax cuts will not be extended for them. Of course, the Republicans and conservative Democrats are fighting against letting the top tax rates revert to Clinton-era levels. If they win, we will accrue $700 billion more debt over the next decade. Those who take this position also consider themselves deficit hawks. How do they smooth over this contradiction? Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell denies that we pay for tax cuts and states that raising taxes on the top two brackets will "affect 50 percent of small business income." According to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, it will affect less than 3 percent. Further, according to Moody's Analytics, the rich are more likely to save their tax cuts than stimulate the economy. Naturally, the vast majority will have to make sacrifices so that millionaires and billionaires will not suffer a modest tax increase, as Krugman notes in "The Angry Rich":

...among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.

But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.


ryan.jvanvelzer said...

Paul Krugman is a fantastic writer who I believe really acts as a voice of the people. When the the wealthiest 2 percent of the country control 98 percent of the wealth its easy to see why these tax cuts need to expire. Krugman had it dead on when he said that politicians hear the wealthy before they hear their own constituents because the wealthy are whispering into their ears through donations and lobbying.

Jeff Tone said...

I completely agree, Ryan. Krugman continuously exposes the corruption of a political system that's bought and sold by the wealthy.