Monday, March 05, 2012


Economist Emmanuel Saez and his colleagues at the World Top Incomes Database have crunched the numbers for 2010, and, as Timothy Noah has discovered, the economy is recovering almost exclusively for the rich:

Now get ready for a statistic that you will likely hear President Obama and all Democratic candidates--maybe even a few Republicans--repeat this year. In the first year of the recovery, 93 percent of all income gains went to the top one percent. As of 2010, recovery was a luxury item. You had to be in the one percent to get any. "Such an uneven recovery," Saez suggests, "can help explain the recent public demonstrations against inequality." I'll say.

That's appalling -- but why does Noah think we'll "likely hear" this statistic from President Obama? We hear him say it's unfair that Warren Buffett's secretary pays a lower tax rate than he does (uttered with Buffett's enthusiastic assent), and we hear general statements about unfairness, couched in "Gosh, why can't we also do this decent thing for people?" terms. That puts Obama at the extremely progressive, populist end of the spectrum among high-profile U.S. politicians -- he's well to the left of most right now because most are extremely timid. They're certainly too timid to actually say, in effect, The rich are taking all the money, which is what you'd be saying if you were a pol citing this 93% statistic. Anyone who said it -- anyone who got that specific, and who accused the rich of taking virtually the whole pie -- would be damned as a filthy treasonous socialist engaging in class warfare.

So you're going to hear this, maybe, from Bernie Sanders and a handful of others. You're damn well not going to hear it from any Republicans. What the hell is Noah thinking?

If you're an American pol, you can say, "Gee, the rich seem to be, um, rich, so why can't other people have a little prosperity?" That's tentative and wimpy. It's (barely) acceptable. Citing the 93% stat would make you angry. That's still not acceptable for a pol. I bet the number of elected officials who cite that stat this year will be countable on the fingers of one hand -- if there are any at all.

1 comment:

Danp said...

The 93% number is not one that Dems want to claim responsibility for. But it should come up every time a Republican talks about their ridiculous trickle down theory.