Paul Krugman observes in his blog that we are being subjected to a new, and far more pernicious, kind of political correctness.
Remember the furor over liberal political correctness? Yes, some of it was over the top — but it was mainly silly, not something that actually warped our national discussion.
Today, however, the big threat to our discourse is right-wing political correctness, which — unlike the liberal version — has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order.
Thus, even talking about “the wealthy” brings angry denunciations; we’re supposed to call them “job creators”. Even talking about inequality is “class warfare”.
(via Paul Krugman’s blog)
That sort of correctness, at least to my eyes, is on display in a review in Sunday’s Times by Benjamin Friedman of Timothy Noah’s new book, The Great Divergence, about the causes and potential cures for our rapidly growing inequality.
I haven’t read Noah’s book, so I have no idea whether it addresses the concerns I’ll raise here, but if it does, Friedman ignores it. That is, Friedman totally ignores the extent to which our widening inequality is the result of deliberate and quite obvious government policy. Since 1980, with the exception of the Clinton tax increase, we have seen a series of tax cuts that have disproportionately favored the wealthy. This amounted to a direct transfer of wealth to the rich from the rest of us, particularly because our share of the tax cuts was so often absorbed by increased costs at the state and local levels to make up for decreases in federal expenditures in such things as education. This was entirely out in the open. It was basic math, hidden by a supply side fig leaf that really hid nothing. The drop in the top marginal tax rate is roughly inverse to the rise in inequality. This 10 ton gorilla is certainly worth more scrutiny than the right wing meme, to which Friedman returns again and again, that the educational system the right has done so much to cripple has not been producing workers with the skills needed for the available jobs. As Krugman and Baker have repeatedly pointed out, if that were true, employers would be competing for those workers who are qualified by offering higher wages. That ain’t happening.
There are nuances to almost everything, but the fact is that bringing back something like the marginal rates of the fifties, and, for good measure, lifting the cap on the amount of income subject to the payroll tax, would go a long way toward reducing the widening gap between the .001% and the rest of us. Unfortunately, it’s not politically correct to talk of such things.