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July 31, 2017


Recently I blogged in effect that Piketty was a genius and Limbaugh was an ignoramus. I repeat that observation here. Piketty in his inequality-defining book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has per his peers “painstakingly detailed the dynamics of wealth and income inequality throughout the last two centuries, and offers a somewhat grim picture of the future of economic inequality.” (Matt Bruenig, The Week). Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes that “Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated by not just wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent. “

It took years to assemble the unarguable evidence supporting Piketty’s observations and conclusions in his great book, over 577 pages of text and nearly 100 pages of notes and citations, and then I read that Limbaugh and others of his ilk dismiss all such evidence in some radio studio with a wave of their hands and their standard charge that the author is a socialist, a communist etc. Millions of their listeners are literally “framed” out of reading and understanding Piketty’s outstanding effort in laying out the perimeters of economic inequality and what can be done about it, assuming their audiences are interested in such arcane research and “commie” observations and conclusions of a brilliant academic such as Piketty, an academic with no discernible political status. Limbaugh and his thoughtless peers with their out front dismissal of Piketty’s efforts on political grounds reminds me of Trump, who when faced by facts he doesn’t like, labels such objective truth as “fake news,” a convenient means of avoiding reality though the facts remain facts.

The problem is that although the research spanning centuries does take on an arcane aspect (like who cares about the economic impact of Nazi occupation of Denmark during WW II), Piketty’s observations and conclusions gleaned from such research are not only contemporary but destined to become prescient if we do not reform our present trajectory toward the even greater concentration in wealth of the few given his further findings in patrimonial capitalism, a system in which wealth is transferred from one generation to the next on the basis of birth and not merit while the rest of us are increasingly impoverished, and no, Rush, this is not communism – it’s arithmetic – and antithetical to our democratic institutions where we are told we can prosper with hard work and perseverance, which rules out the accident of birth.

There is little evidence these days that politicians have reform of our present system of economic rewards and punishments in mind. They are comfortable with the present system in which the coddled rich and corporate (and patrimonial) classes with their PACs now unleashed by Citizens United in buying elections to keep the good times rolling. Their cronies in state capitals with their right to work laws, gerrymandering, and voter suppression techniques augmented by massive propaganda on a national scale paid for by such as the libertarian Koch Brothers keep despairing Democrats and Independents at home on election day, the current result being that we have a psychotic chief of state and chaos on the Potomac which creates a vacuum in governing with the further result that Merkel and Macron are vying for the title of “leader of the free world,” Putin is expelling our diplomats, North Korea is testing our resolve with their rocketry, our status of the dollar as the world’s currency reserve is being challenged etc. etc.

This is what happens, of course, where there is a void in leadership, and so long as we have Trump around, we can expect more challenges to our influence around the world. Sooner or later even the Republican congressional leadership will have to start governing and concern themselves more with our domestic and international problems than making sure they haven’t hurt Trump’s feelings, and if they don’t govern, then all we have to offer as a military leviathan is force, but force for what when we don’t have any rational policies to defend or enforce for the common good and international equilibrium?

America should look to those such as Piketty who offer solutions to our long-standing problems rather than to the likes of Trump, who tweets his hurt feelings and offers no solutions to the nation’s pressing problems, chief of which is income inequality on the domestic front, an area in which Piketty is the world’s foremost expert and one unaddressed by Trump as he cavorts around the country seeking adulation from the adoring masses while making America great again.

What to do to stop or at least slow accelerating wage inequality in this country and loss of influence in matters international? Same old answer – elect corporatthose who look to the common good rather than providing more corporate (and now patrimonial) welfare to their financiers. Elect people who, like Lincoln, view government as a mechanism in self-government “of, by and for the people,” not of, by and for any chosen sector of the economy. Lincoln was right, and Piketty tells us how to do it, so let’s listen to our economists more and our politicians such as Trump, McConnell and Ryan less, since it is clear that their idea of governing is for a chosen few and not for the common good, and for the wrong reasons.       GERALD        E







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