Mon Jan 28th, 2013 at 04:30:41 AM EST
Paul Krugman discusses the "makers and takers" theme, according to which hardworking folks make the wealth that shiftless idle people take. A frame that is as relevant to European politics as it is to American: among the countries of the Euro area, and within each country, the common wisdom relayed by the mass media shows us all where the hardworking wealthmakers are supposed to be, and where the hangers-on are situated.
Krugman points out the tunnel vision of politicians:
Makers, Takers, Fakers - NYTimes.com
I think it’s important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they’re often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders.
So when Mr. Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks, he wasn’t, in his own mind, saying anything outrageous or even controversial. He was just repeating a view that has become increasingly dominant inside the right-wing bubble, namely that a large and ever-growing proportion of Americans won’t take responsibility for their own lives and are mooching off the hard-working wealthy. Rising unemployment claims demonstrate laziness, not lack of jobs; rising disability claims represent malingering, not the real health problems of an aging work force.
James K. Galbraith looks at this from the point of view of the too-much-debt theme (also known to Europeans): social "entitlements" (a frame in itself, that word) cause intolerable levels of debt that must be reduced:
Galbraith: Is This the End for the Deficit Drones? | Alternet
That the goal of the deficit drones is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has been plain for years to anyone who looks at where the money comes from. It comes largely from Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire former secretary of Commerce under Nixon, who is Captain Ahab to Social Security's Moby Dick. And when one trick, such as privatization, falls flat, his minions always have another, whether it's raising the retirement age or changing the COLA. But a cut by any other name is still, and always, just a cut.
Peterson's influence is vast; practically the entire DC mind-meld has bought his line to some degree.
But Galbraith sees some hope:
there is no good reason to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. These are insurance programs. They keep the elderly, their survivors and dependents, and the disabled, out of dire poverty. We can afford this. There is also no financing problem; if there were, investors would not be buying 20-year US bonds at 3 percent. These days when some economists say that cuts are needed, they say it's only for show – to establish “credibility.” Old-timers may remember, that's what DC insiders once said about the war in Vietnam.
And like Vietnam, this war is getting old. We're beginning to realize, we don't need it. If the United States really faced some sort of deficit or debt crisis, something would have happened by now.
Both Krugman and Galbraith agree, the defence of plutocracy is beginning to sound hollow. Any hope this is a turning point? Or will the drumbeat (scroungers, we have to live within our means...) go on?