Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the gap between the 1% and the rest of us is far larger than most people are permitted to see:
(T)here’s also a big difference between being affluent, even very affluent, and having the kind of wealth that puts you in a completely separate social universe. It’s a difference summed up three decades ago in the movie “Wall Street,” when Gordon Gekko mocks the limited ambitions of someone who just wants to be “a $400,000-a-year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable.”

Even now, most Americans don’t seem to realize just how rich today’s rich are. At a recent event, my CUNY colleague Janet Gornick was greeted with disbelief when she mentioned in passing that the top 25 hedge fund managers make an average of $850 million a year. But her number was correct.
Why should we care about the very rich? It’s not about envy, it’s about oligarchy.

With great wealth comes both great power and a separation from the concerns of ordinary citizens. What the very rich want, they often get; but what they want is often harmful to the rest of the nation. There are some public-spirited billionaires, some very wealthy liberals. But they aren’t typical of their class.

The very rich don’t need Medicare or Social Security; they don’t use public education or public transit; they may not even be that reliant on public roads (there are helicopters, after all). Meanwhile, they don’t want to pay taxes.
(W)e should be able to understand both that the affluent in general should be paying more in taxes, and that the very rich are different from you and me ­— and Bernie Sanders. The class divide that lies at the root of our political polarization is much starker, much more extreme than most people seem to realize. 
- Sean Coughlan discusses how hollowing out of the middle class is destabilizing both our economy and our political environment. And Brent Patterson highlights the need to challenge an economic model based on selling what's shiny and new rather than building and preserving what matters.

- Crawford Kilian views the Notre Dame cathedral fire as a vivid example of the dangers of neglecting the maintenance of our social goods, while Aditya Chakrabortty notes that the ability of a few ultra-wealthy people to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in response shows that there are plenty of resources available to actually take better care of ourselves and our world. And Carol Kroeger comments on the need for our political leaders to similarly pay far more attention to helping people, and far less to manipulating them to preserve their own power.

- Finally, Anne Kingston laments Canada's backsliding in lacking any female jurisdictional leaders, while noting that broken promises of proportional representation are a significant part of the problem. And Melanie Green discusses the harassment of Rubab Qureshi in response to her mere recognition that Islamophobia is a problem.

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