How the Democrats Are Using Piketty’s Book on Inequality

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Yves here. We’ve remarked before that the Democratic party apparatus has been pushing Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century as a way to promote the party’s flagging fortunes. That might have seemed to be an extreme claim. But in this Real News Network interview, political scientist and seasoned intrigue-watcher Thomas Ferguson explains how the White House signaled its interest, not just in inequality as an issue, but in Piketty in particular.


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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

We’re now joined by Thomas Ferguson. He’s a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and he’s also a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Thanks for joining us, Tom.

PROF. TOM FERGUSON, SENIOR FELLOW, ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: Hi, there.

DESVARIEUX: So, Tom, French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Captital in the Twenty-First Century, it’s a bestseller. It’s really struck a chord with folks. What do you think is behind this? What do you think this means?

FERGUSON: Okay. Well, alright, Jessica, let me begin by declaring just a little bit of conflict–potential conflict of interest. I’m also the research director at the Institute for New Economic thinking, and we did help fund a very substantial portion of the research that went into the database that Piketty uses, the World Top Incomes Database. So I should say that.

The other thing I’d maybe better frankly confess is that everybody knows that Arthur Goldhammer, who translated the book, the best, I think, living translator from French into English there is, he was my roommate for many years back when I was teaching at MIT. So I’ll just–.

But now, that said, look, the striking thing to me is that a–we’ve got a brick], basically has become a bestseller. And while it’s a very well written book and I don’t mind saying I think it’s very important and very good, even if, you know, there are things in it I’d probably do different if I were writing it, this is indeed remarkable. It’s almost without precedent. So what’s up?

And, you know, my take is–let’s just set aside the questions, the particular discussions about the book that people have been focusing on. I think what you want to pay attention to is this. There’s a political context here that is pretty important. Let’s go take a step back for a second, though, to understand that. We’ve all heard about framing these days, about how in political campaigns, parties, political parties, will try to discuss an issue with the idea of influencing the electorate’s response. That’s triggered a torrent of writing. A lot of it’s garbage and a lot of it is–you get way overstated claims for what framing can do. But there isn’t much doubt that if you can, for instance, build in effect a background noise and make it audible, you can influence folks in their thinking.

Now, in the current election year–I mean, I–here I don’t guess. I’ve seen some Democratic Party memoranda, or, rather, from their pollsters. Their own focus groups show that President Obama is not very popular with most Americans. You know, we can all debate whether that should be or shouldn’t be, but that’s a fact. What they also realize is that, you know, most people don’t think they’ve gotten very much out of the Obama seven years or six years, as it were, in office. But when they change the subject to things like inequality, they discover that then they get a much more favorable response compared to, say, Republicans. And, you know, it’s not hard, I think, to figure out why that’s the case. It’s because on the question of inequality, the Republican Party is essentially unpresentable. There is no way that you can sit there, preach it, tell everybody that the existing state of income distribution in the United States is in any sense optimal, or keep nattering on about job creation, etc. You know, it’s just–it’s a loser for Republicans, just like it was a loser in 2012.

Now, you could see last fall the president begin to give speeches on income inequality and draw attention to the issue. That led immediately to a discussion with even some of the center-right groups in the Democratic Party squawking that that was really a bad idea. It was pretty interesting to watch how the Center for American Progress, which is a think tank very close to the White House, then jumped into that debate, and some of their spokespersons began saying, well, you know, income equality’s a legitimate issue. Then you could watch the next step. John Podesta, who’d founded the Center for American Progress, rolled back into the White House as a senior adviser to the president. Then you could watch a little later when Piketty came to the United States–I won’t swear it was his first talk, but it was his first big talk, down at one of the affiliates of the Center for American Progress.

And then that sort of–what then happened is even more interesting. Now, to understand what then happened, you have to realize that the White House press corps pretty much congregates around the White House the way birds were said to do around St. Francis. And so if they see the White House doing something, they start to sort of pick it up, imitate it, and talk about.

Okay. What was really interesting to me is that Piketty gets an interview with the secretary of the Treasury. Now, look, I will tell you I know lots of people who work on income inequality, and they do absolutely outstanding work. They haven’t been granted personal interviews with the Treasury secretary. That’s a political move. And very plainly it was intended to sort of signal to Democratic friendlies in the press corps, this is, you know, an issue we’d like to talk about. They have all done this. I mean, just about every correspondent I know that has any kind of residual tendency toward the Democrats is starting to think, act, and talk like they are interested in income inequality, though when I directly asked people if they’ve actually read Piketty’s book, the answer is usually no. I mean, I have a feeling this is one of those books that is going to be more–it’s going to be bought and it’s going to end on a coffee table in a large chunk of the beltway. But, you know, that’s life.

Anyway, my point here is this is going to go on at least through the November elections. Then it will probably tail off a bit. It will–I can write this trajectory too right now (predictive social science is possible)–it will probably resume as the 2016 presidential elections come up again, and then it will stop abruptly pretty soon after that.
I mean, the thing I think we all want to watch in this is, essentially, this is the background music. It’s framing in a political context. It’s fun to compare the amount of space The New York Times devotes to this, for example, with The Wall Street Journal. Guess what. You’ll find less space on it in The Journal and a far more hostile treatment of the question. It’s just to illustrate my point.

And in that sense, you know, I’m glad for all the attention Piketty’s getting. As I said, I think it’s a really important book, it’s a good one, and it makes agreement on particular points just irrelevant in a sort of–from the standpoint of a discussion like this. But, you know, understand what you’re seeing here. It’s really a political phenomenon, and it needs to be produced as that. It’s not, as it were, Piketty or his book himself; it’s the phenomenon of the brick as bestseller, which, I would observe, as–because it’s done so well in the United States–when it came out in France it did well but not sensationally. Now it’s doing sensationally in France, too, and France is yet another country riven by deep political conflicts in which income distribution is emerging as a big question.

DESVARIEUX: But, Tom, do you see this in any way potentially that this could backfire for the Obama administration and Democrats if they are sort of riling the base and having this being a major issue in the November elections? But if people sort of wake up and their consciousness is transformed by this book, could you actually see this carrying on beyond November?

FERGUSON: Well, look, this is an interesting question. Art Goldhammer, when I talked to him the other–the translator, the other week, reminded me of Jacques Necker’s book on French finances in 1780, you know, just before the French Revolution. Necker was amazed to discover it became a bestseller. And, of course, Necker was the guy whose dismissal helped bring on one of the–maybe the greatest single event in the history of the world. I mean the French Revolution.

Well, so, yeah, Jessica, you know, we don’t know how people will calculate, but I do think this is that the Democrats have a real problem. You know, after six years, they don’t have–I’ve said this before on The Real News, and indeed I started saying it, meh, within a month after the president took office that the economic plan was too little and too late. And so, you know, this is one of these deals where they’re kind of running out of tricks.

They’ve got to try something. They’ve been in power six years, and for the average human, there’s just no recovery. So, you know, the stock market’s great, but for the average human there’s still huge numbers of people unemployed. Most everybody’s children who graduate from college have huge troubles finding jobs. I mean, it’s pathetic. It’s ridiculous. And, you know, people don’t know, necessarily, quite all the ins and outs of this, but the recoil away from, if you like, the out-in, in-out sequence that I’ve talked to you about before in great recessions and depressions is clearly at work here. I mean, Obama was really lucky to have somebody as inept and caricaturable as Romney to run against. He doesn’t have a Romney to run against this time. But they are well on the way to constructing, if you like, the social equivalent of Romney, and, you know, that’s not easy to do. I mean, you can’t overemphasize how outrageously partial to the super rich the Republican leadership is. but you’ve got to keep reminding people of that.
But I take your point. Where this stops–you know, it’s like Jacques Necker found out in 1780 that he had a lot more to do with his life than write a bestseller at the time.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Tom Ferguson, thank you so much for joining us.

FERGUSON: Thanks.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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91 comments

  1. Lafayette

    WEALTH DISPARITY

    Whilst we are on “le sujet de l’heure” – which will indubitably pass once the media has some other bone to chew – I wish to make a simple remark. Which is this: Untaxed income becomes wealth (and minus debt, Wealth becomes Net Worth).

    So, yes, we have income disparity in the US, but we also have a gross disparity in wealth accumulation as well.

    There is also a study of wealth in America that has been around for quite some time and is not given in the press attention it deserves. It is by G.W. Domhof, of the University of California at Santa Clara, who’s site is titled Who Rules America?

    If the reader scrolls down to the pie-charts on that first page, they will see a similar distortion of the distribution of wealth, as there is for income. Of course, it is axiomatic that income becomes wealth, and far more so at higher incomes than at the poverty-threshold level.

    From those charts we learn that the bottom 80% of households own just 11% of America’s Total Net Worth (that is assets minus debts). Twenty-percent of American households therefore own the complementary 89% of Net Worth. Just who are these people?

    Well some of them might be just around the corner of your house, depending of course where you live. The upper 20% of income earners – that ultimately make for Wealth and Net Worth – start at somewhere between $90-$100K. (I make this estimate based upon the fact that the top 25% had incomes of $85K or more, from this analysis: Distribution of Annual Household Income in 2012.)

    This household income range is, I suggest, within the capacity of a two-earner household both of which are tertiary-level education graduates. So, whilst we are focusing media attention upon the wickedly high wealth-accumulation of 1Percenter income-earners, let’s remember that the 20Percenter families are not doing at all bad.

    The poor of America, otoh, are doing very badly; which is why savings, house-ownership and Social-Security are so very important to them. And our nation is certainly not doing enough for this class, especially after having set upon them the Toxic Waste Mess that foreclosed their properties …

    1. trish

      Yes, I get tired of the 1% catchword, with all that it excludes (like an overall progressive tax system). Yes, the 1% garners an obscene and increasing amt of the income, but the problem isn’t just “the 1%,” and I think this focus allows people to pretend that it is and if we just tax them…

      and of course obama can blather about inequality and welcome picketty and all that because it works. the media has done a good job ignoring the fact that obama has served the 1% and all those others not doing at all bad.

      1. Moneta

        The thing is that if you squeeze this 2-20% group to redistribute to the bottom 80%, they won’t be able to live in 350-800K houses with 2X30K cars. They will be forced back into a much smaller material lifestyle which will create even more dislocations for a decade or 2.

        1. jrs

          Rent and drive used cars pretty much – which is how I live so it’s no big deal. But houses aren’t below 350k in major urban areas.

          1. ambrit

            Try some of the “minor” urban areas. If you can go the South, a decent 1200 to 1600 square foot house can be got in the 100K to 150K range. (We’re living in a 1400 square foot domicile in a decent town for under $75K. [That’s purchase price plus some rehab work.] The neighbours walk their dogs and perambulate the kids along the streets and alleyways. The area is “mixed” and quite enjoyable.)

            1. Heraclitus

              I have long recommended small towns in the South as places where you can buy inexpensive real estate and live a high quality of life. Find some way to make money on the internet. Raise some animals. Grow a garden. Leave the traffic behind.

              1. Lafayette

                THE STATUS QUO

                Yes, unfortunately, until very lately, the “skilled labor” was found mostly in the north – which is why the north of America is so much more populated with poor-people.

                The challenge of Income Disparity is variegated – each specific to its community. There is no “one answer to all income-related problems”.

                Except this: It was a drastic mistake in the 1960s for LBJ (of all people) to start the reduction of upper-income taxation and even further stupidity that Reckless Ronnie continued to bring them down. They are now at about one-third of their pre-1960 level. (See the history of US tax levels to understand better what has been happening to upper-level taxation.

                Which translates directly into why the Replicants are so hell-bent on maintaining, by hook or by crook, the status-quo.

                1. Jim in SC

                  The reason skilled labor was found primarily in the North has its roots in slavery. See ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’–James Agee and Walker Evans. The Southern white population once was quite skilled, but when slavery became entrenched, there was nothing for them to do but move to the mountains and become subsistence farmers. Over a couple of generations, their skills were lost. Skilled black labor moved North after the war to avoid political conflict and to seek remunerative work, since there was little left of the Southern economy.

                  One reason textiles took off in the South was that it didn’t require as much skilled labor as other industries. There was a fear among the ruling classes that starvation was imminent–the division of labor on plantations under slavery meant that more food was produced before the war than after, under the sharecropping scheme–so it was decided that cotton mills would be built to employ the poor whites, while African Americans would do the agricultural work. “Mind of the South” W. J. Cash. Collections were taken up in hundreds of small towns to finance the building of the mills. Many were built in improbable places and went out of business. The one in our town went bankrupt once, but was re-organized and grew to be the largest producer of cotton products in the world. It was, unfortunately, sold to a foreign multinational in the ’90s after an illustrious 110 yr run.

          2. Moneta

            That’s why I put 800K… many making 100K are living in 800K homes with huge mortgages… if they start sharing more with the bottom 80%, the houses won’t stay at 800K…

            While talking about the 1-20%…

            they should not be living in 800K houses when making less than 100K or living in 3000 square foot houses that will become resource sucking money pits over time. Lifestyles in general are way too high.

      2. run75441

        trish:

        The issue is the 1% and the skewing of income to this particular group of ~ 1 million household taxpayers. The percent change in income since 1979 pre-2008 was 300% while everyone else was mucking around at far less. Even in 2012 and after the collapse of the economy in 2008 (~150%) they still managed to stay ahead of the game. in 2010 they advanced again to ~200%. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3629

        From the forties till the later seventies, income resulting from productivity gains was distributed in a manner benefiting most of the population. Today, productivity gains are heavily skewed to capital.

        1. Moneta

          The question is whether these productivity gains are real or just a flash in the pan. Maybe they are just an account of printed dollars stemming from debt that needs to get written off or a dollar that should get devalued.

          1. Lafayette

            There are many ways to calculate “productivity gains”. Output per hour of Labor Input. Output per dollar of Total Operational Costs. Etc., etc., etc.

            If a company spends a lot of money on replacing dislocated jobs with robotic manufacturing (which is likely to happen with “3D Manufacturing”), will increase output per Total Operational Costs but decrease output per hour of Labor Input.

            And, of course, it depends upon the sector. It is sure that Amazon.com has destroyed jobs in bricks ‘n mortar retailing (meaning physical outlets), but created jobs at Amazon.

            What is the point, Perhaps this: We must absolutely put money into and politcal pressure upon increasing not only the rate of HS-diploma graduates but also Post-Secondary Education.

        2. Bill Smith

          How much of this is due the tax law changes. I’m in the banking business and there are lots of Sub Chapter S banks out there now. Before mid 1980s still owned by same people but reported differently.

      3. Nathanael

        Trish: the problem is actually just the 0.1%.

        Really.

        A few billionaires have been causing nearly all our problems. They’re the ones who can afford to buy Congress, buy state legislatures, buy media companies to spread propaganda, and still have billions left over.

    2. EoinW

      There’s a big difference between the 1% and the 2%-20%. You can’t lump them all together. If myth was reality then the 1% are the brightest, most hard working and greatest contributors to the overall good of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know they are well connected insiders who manipulate money(debt) and produce little tangible for the benefit of others. The American dream myth also states anyone can join the 1% if they just apply themselves. We all know the reality on that score too. Maybe if my name is Gilligan and I save Mrs.Howell from a falling rock I can join the Country Club. Otherwise i’m only getting there through the Servant’s entrance.

      $100,000 doesn’t sound like much, especially for a two income family. Fifty years ago people lived that comfortably on a single income. Just shows that the 2%-20% class is not part of the problem but just another victim. I suppose this class votes Republican, while the bottom 80% votes Democrat. So it’s just another wonderful “divide and conquer” strategy to keep the 1% on top forever. Blame the 2%-20% class for apathy. That has been the biggest culprit in the Inequality rise and death of US democracy. Just don’t try and tell me the 80% are less apathetic.

      There may still be democratic solutions in Europe, even in Canada, though in both cases things will have to fall apart dramatically before the masses(all 99% of them) have the courage to vote for change. Not so much courage as NO CHOICE. Yet by that time it will be too late. It’s probably too late already. America is unique as your political process is already a closed shop. There is no 3rd option that the elites won’t suppress. I’m afraid the whole system must be brought down before any change can occur. That, unfortunately, will mean trying to drag everyone down to the bottom 80%. Still it will be the first step to meaningful reform.

      1. Moneta

        In Ontario, we have an election coming up. The conservatives are promising to cut 10% of the public service and reduce corporate taxes to 8%, all in the name of balancing the budget.

        Conservative signs are popping up on lawns everywhere. People love tax cuts and balanced budgets. Many don’t seen to realize that a government’s cost base is also its revenue base. Then you have the deluded who think they will be the winners under such policies.

        It’s going to take a huge shock for things to change.

        1. allcoppedout

          Here in England we are about to return a massive vote for the fascists, admittedly for the pointless EU election of powerless MEPs. We know Farrage and his cronies are hapless (indeed we have no idea who any of the rest of UKIP are, other than the ones who have been sacked for buffoonery as the countdown continues). A Conservative lawn would be a progressive lawn here in once had dominions land.

          1. EoinW

            Farrage is quite good at expressing the anger and frustration most people are feeling. Thus UKIP is an ideal protest vote in the virtually meaningless EU elections. But you won’t see those same votes go to UKIP in a UK general election. Such would require people to have the courage to vote for actual change. The general public, throughout the western world, just isn’t hard up enough to be willing to take such a gamble as to support change.

            1. John Yard

              Correct. But aside from the courage to support change, there has been a tremendous redefinition of self-interest as seen by the general population. Only the rawest self-interest passes muster. Go to the deliberations of any interest group, and what is demanded is a blank check for – here fill in the cause de jour.
              Since the greatest good for the greatest number is beyond conception, each maximal demand cancels out the maximal demand of competing groups. We end up with a circular firing squad where legitimate competing needs cancel each other out.
              I thought of this this morning when I read where the FDA is approving an AIDS preventative antiviral drug @$10k/patient
              per year for life. Demands that in sum make health care unaffordable : the circular firing squad.

        2. EoinW

          Steal from Paul to pay Peter? That’s hilarious, this idea they balance the budget with tax cuts – naturally to the entities that pay for their way. I believe they also intend to cancel green energy programs and pass the savings on to customers with reduced energy costs. No talk of ending government subsidized energy. Balance the budget? That’s as big a joke as the outrageous Ontario budget deficit.

          On the Hamilton station a citizen was interviewed so he could say a Green vote was a wasted vote – strategic voting, what a surprise! I’m strategically not voting at all because we’re never given choices to actually change anything. Even if we were, the ignorance of most voters would out count real reform votes 100 to 1. Sorry to sound arrogant but most voters are idiots!

          No correction. Most Canadian voters don’t want to change anything and convince themselves votes for the traditional parties achieve that. This requires ignoring that these parties are changing things – and not for the better – most days. And the days they don’t change anything they are selling out the future to keep the current free ride going. it’s all unsustainable. Such is the ignorance most happily embrace.

          1. Moneta

            1/3 of the power generation capacity has to be replaced over the next little while, green or not!

            Most seem oblivious to the current state of affairs. All they care about are their homes, cars, vacations and pensions.

            1. EoinW

              Quebeckers can take pride in the fact they aren’t afraid to vote for change. PQ, Bloc, even NDP in the last election. It’s one province where democracy has a chance. I support separation because i believe it would be the best thing for Quebec.

              1. Moneta

                My mom’s an anglo and my dad a francophone so the conversations have been quite lively throughout the years. I have always thought the separatists were nuts… why couldn’t everyone just get along?

                But over time I have started to think that Quebec separatism is what could potentially save Canada from getting totally Americanized over time.

                And I can’t wait for real estate to plummet because I am expecting Quebeckers to go ballistic and blame the bankers in Toronto and Ottawa for using CMHC… maybe that would trigger the desperately needed change.

    3. Romancing the Loan

      Great idea. Alienate everyone who might possibly have an iota of spare time or money left who would otherwise agree with you. Let’s make sure no one who isn’t actually living in a cardboard box could possibly be on your side. /sarcasm.

      A family making 80k has no reason in the world to sympathize with the asshole living off investments and flying around in a Lear, UNLESS they come to believe that unless they side with them, they’ll be hanging from lampposts themselves as the next best closest thing to the actual rich, who aren’t conveniently just around the corner. What a terrible suggestion.

      1. jrs

        “Alienate everyone who might possibly have an iota of spare time or money left who would otherwise agree with you.”

        :) I’m not sure that class actually tends to have a lot of time. The idle rich they aren’t, more like serfs of the unpaid overtime (they often tend to be salaried designation). However they *may* (depending on lifestyle choices) have disposable income. For which apparently they should do a 1000 mortifications of the flesh, and not just check their priviledge but get a second opinion on that priviledge checkup (although such middle class lifestyles that are NOW only affordable by the 20%, *USED* TO BE ALMOST THE NORM).

        Really what they should do is when their own conscience calls (and it will if they stay curious, stay aware, and pay attention to the state of the world. EVEN rational self-interest is not served by this particular runaway train to heck!) is do as Banger says: give until it hurts into creating better alternatives. As I put it: Alternative Economics, Alternative Energy, Alternative Viewpoints.

        “A family making 80k has no reason in the world to sympathize with the asshole living off investments and flying around in a Lear, UNLESS they come to believe that unless they side with them, they’ll be hanging from lampposts themselves as the next best closest thing to the actual rich, who aren’t conveniently just around the corner”

        That is EXACTLY how it’s done. Divide and conquer of people who work for a living (the WORKING class even if they are well paid) against each other.

        1. Nathanael

          For reference, the guys flying around in Learjets are the 0.1%. Less than 300,000 people.

    4. jrs

      THe 20% can’t even afford a house in California. So it’s they’re not doing that bad, but they’re not doing that well either (outside of hickville Kansas maybe). I’ve pointed out that such white collar “professional” (though I hate the term if you work for others your not a professional) don’t tend to enough solidarity down (and they should), but they aren’t the heart of the system. They’re run ragged by rentiers as well (what kind of student debt do you need to earn that income anyway afterall?)

  2. Skeptic

    “But if people sort of wake up and their consciousness is transformed by this book, could you actually see this carrying on beyond November?”

    Why would people all of a sudden “sort of wake up”? Because of a book, of all things? These Pipe Dreams of “suddenly everything’s gonna change” amaze me.

    Let the Massive Unprosecuted Crime Wave continue.

    1. PopeRatzo

      People “sort of wake up” when they realize how badly a hugely growing income and wealth disparity directly hurts them.

      And it’s starting to become more apparent, with eroding wages, out-of-control actual inflation in the cost of living, lost pensions, etc.

      1. Romancing the Loan

        Agreed. People have been “awake” for a long time, if by “awake” they mean “very unhappy with the country and are sure they’re being screwed, even if they don’t understand exactly how.” Conservatives, Liberals, everyone is already as wide eyed as they’re going to get. Doesn’t change a thing on its own.

        The two options for changing the state of affairs are massive political organization of regular people into citizens groups that are able to put actual pressure on elected representatives (and not just pick someone they like, throw money at them, and hope they live up to their promises) or violent revolution, which just isn’t gonna happen, period (and thank god for that, since it could easily get MUCH worse here if it did).

        I think neither is a real possibility, at least in the short term. Americans have long since lost the ability or will to organize politically on their own to form coalitions on issues they agree on (TALK to one of those scruffy racist conservatives? EW!) and exert pressure on politicians (but she liiiikes me! I got a photo op!), so there’s no changing things peacefully. And for all the red staters bluster, they’ll never get farther than a few isolated acts of terrorism. The military would have zero compunction about mowing them all down and salting the ruins afterward, and deep down they know it.

        1. jrs

          Also the red staters bluster in many cases is not just that they know it (I think the real left knows about state oppression as well – always and forever the victims of it afterall) but that they SUPPORT it. I don’t mean true urban libertarianism, that’s a very different thing. But authoritarianism runs VERY deep in any thought that is remotely conservative. Even when conservatives claim to be all about “freedom” and so on, and you take what they say at face value, and then you scratch them and find an authoritarian.

          1. Romancing the Loan

            True, but I’ve also found that scratching virtually anyone often reveals an authoritarian. Even urban libertarians have no problem with the jackboots as long as they’re privately funded.

            …I have never met this mythical “real left” you speak of.

            Fun Fact: My attempt to join my law school’s ACLU group ended abruptly after the first “getting-to-know-you” question among the group was “so what constitutional amendment would you get rid of, if you could?” While I sat in mute horror, they all enthusiastically agreed on the 2nd.

            1. Nathanael

              There’s no such thing as a coherent libertarian philosophy, so there are only degrees of authoritarian.

              ACLU == less authoritarian.
              Advocates of government-run churches == more authoritarian.

        2. Nathanael

          “violent revolution, which just isn’t gonna happen, period”

          Most people claim it won’t. It will happen if people get frustrated enough.

          I wish it wasn’t so likely, but I’ve studied a lot of history, and one really common thing? When things have been going really badly for long enough, there are violent revolutions.

  3. Heraclitus

    I remember when I was growing up in the ’70s in the South our town had a large textile employer. They were the largest employer in the state, and provided 20,000 jobs in three upstate counties, including ours. People who were relatively unskilled and uneducated made decent enough livings to afford to own their own home–even on one income. It really seems incredible today.

    Today, our town has grown dramatically in size. It is better educated, and on average incomes are higher. But it feels less healthy. People who have lived here all their lives can barely afford it. Property taxes have climbed, in large part because the school system has every bell and whistle. We should feel blessed, because other parts of the state are in bad shape thanks to the decline of manufacturing employment. I think this faith that education will be our salvation will end badly. Our kids are not going to find employment because they are smarter than kids elsewhere. But plenty of white collar educrats may be employed for a long time at high salaries feeding the dream.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Property taxes have climbed, in large part because the school system has every bell and whistle.’

      And the [yankee-edited] history textbooks say that Lincoln was the greatest president ever. Sherman’s march was just tough love. you know …

  4. Hugh

    “I do think this is that the Democrats have a real problem”

    The Democrats along with the Republicans are the problem. Until we recognize this, we will just be voting for complementary evils.

    “I mean, you can’t overemphasize how outrageously partial to the super rich the Republican leadership is, but you’ve got to keep reminding people of that”

    Yeah, because income inequality didn’t increase faster under Clinton than under either Reagan or Dubya, and Obama didn’t finance his Presidential bids with Wall Street money. Oh wait…

    There seems to be some cognitive dissonance in Ferguson’s comments. On the one hand, he continues to look to the Democrats for change or whatever, with a little too much of the Krugmanesque, look over there, crazy Republicans! for my taste. On the other, he recognizes that the Democrats have no interest in income inequality other than as a campaign ploy, and God knows they can’t run on Obamacare or really much else.

    1. EoinW

      Well written! Really all democrat apologists have to offer is: “those big, bad Republicans.” The Fed is responsible for this fast increasing inequality by creating endless amounts of money and practically giving it to the big banks to use on the Wall Street casino, yet it’s Rand Paul(a republican) pushing for an audit of the Fed. Truth is democrats love this inequality. It is the only lie left they can use that the voting public might believe. The simple fact is they are just as much owned by the super rich as the Republicans are. Don’t count on a democrat doing anything tangible to address this problem. They’ve talk about it, with or without teleprompter. Then Americans can, at least, feel good about being poor.

      1. weinerdog43

        Well, yes….and no. Yes, the Democratic (note the proper spelling) Party is pretty terrible. By and large, it is beholden to the elites and has been captured by Wall Street. But comparing them to the current Republican Party is unfair. Almost to a man (or woman), your basic Republican is a scumbag. They are working far more efficiently at ruining things for the 99% than your inept Dems. I’ve completely lost patience with anyone who holds out a Rep. as anything to emulate. Rand Paul is a racist jerkwad in a party full of them. Yes, the Fed has a lot to answer for, but they are not solely responsible for the mess we’re in.

        1. EoinW

          I must respectfully disagree. I believe there is not one iota of a difference between your two political parties. Yes they can sound different but it’s all part of keeping the Grand Soap Opera going, the pundits entertained and the masses ignorant. On matters of consequence, which effect people’s living standards, there is no difference. To believe there is simply extends the prison term Americans have imposed upon themselves.

          1. Ulysses

            The Grand Soap Opera is becoming even more ludicrous lately, with kayfabe posturing that is unconvincing even to a six-year-old!

          2. Nathanael

            Oh, no, the two parties really are different. Nearly every single elected official in the Republican Party is both malicious and completely disconnected from reality.

            By contrast, only slightly over half of the elected Democrats are malicious, and most of them are fairly in touch with reality.

            Not a great situation, obviously. I expect the Democratic Party to split into two fairly soon. The Republican Party is just going to vanish, because their disconnect from reality has gotten too great.

        2. Romancing the Loan

          Your basic Dem is pretty scumbaggy too. At least the Rs are upfront about the noxious crap they believe.

          “A true friend stabs you in the front.”

        3. President Costanza

          The difference between the twin parties of Wall Street is that the Republicans make no attempt to hide that they are the party of the 1%, whereas the Democrats (falsely) claim that they are the party of the common man.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Ferguson is not a Democratic party apologist. I suspect you read the transcript rather than listened to the interview and thus missed his vocal inflections. Ferguson is extremely cynical and under no illusions about the Democrats.

    2. DakotabornKansan

      Democrats along with the Republicans are the problem.

      Dishonest fools are dangerous and must not be suffered.

      “Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – that, I cannot stand! An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!” – Richard Feynman

      Scores of our political figures and pundits met this compelling definition of a pompous fool.

      Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing from prison, on why one should be something less than charitable in one’s tolerance of these fools:

      “Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be, prevented by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved–indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can be just pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied; in fact, he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel; we shall never again try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.”

      1. ToivoS

        “Democrats along with the Republicans are the problem.”

        If that is true then we should call it like it is: our politics are broken. As long as Democrats blame Republicans, and vice versa, we will not be confronting the real problems. Problem today is the two camps are wasting their time fighting each other while the deep state pours campaign funds into both parties to the keep the distraction going while successful candidates vote to give that power more control.

        1. Nathanael

          Our politics are certainly broken. Some of the problems:
          (1) Lifetime Supreme Court appointments
          (2) No tiebreaker rule between Senate and House
          (3) First-past-the-post elections (enable gerrymandering, make party system transititions very difficult)
          (4) Malapportioned US Senate
          (5) Insane 60-vote rules in the US Senate
          (6) 2/3 of Senate requirement to convinct on impeachment
          (7) Gerrymandered House
          (8) Treaty power vested in Senate
          (9) Electoral College

          Add these up and you get a nonfunctioning political system, where the Supreme Court acts as its own powerbase, the President and executive branch agencies arrogate power with no functional opposition, Congress can’t act most of the time, and when it does it’s never representing a majority of the people in any sense; and you can have two parties both of which oppose what the majority support and they can stay in power for decades.

          This is before we get into other problems.

  5. Moneta

    Now it’s doing sensationally in France, too, and France is yet another country riven by deep political conflicts in which income distribution is emerging as a big question.
    ———
    France is very unequal on the wealth distribution.

    Two distributions need to be addressed: income and wealth. Most of the time, I see a focus on income but those who control the wealth, not always but often, also control the income.

    1. Ping

      I think the word DISTRIBUTION is a Trojan Horse that ultimately diverts focus away from the core issue which is economic STRUCTURE.

      ‘Distribution’ implies the genius’s and hard working top of the pyriamid has to then relinquish their just desserts to those beneath them including riff raff.

      The issue is really about how the system is STRUCTURED to increasingly and massively benefit those who’s money has fraudulently deceptively transformed the way our economy now operates.

      Using the word ‘Distribution’ may temporarily rouse the electorate but it assures nothing of signifance will change as it will then run head long into all the other vapid slogans that rouse other electorates like ‘free market’.

  6. allcoppedout

    Maybe the Democrats are going to have a ‘New Deal’ run, maybe following another crash? I mean, I’d have that contingency plan.

  7. allcoppedout

    “But if people sort of wake up and their consciousness is transformed by this book, could you actually see this carrying on beyond November?”

    Like a book is going to do this rather than living skint on two minimum wage jawbs?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Edwards Two Americas made it onto the ticket in 2004. His very public predictions came true, and Democrats who didn’t figure it out by now are set in their ways. They have to be removed from office. Appealing to them on a broad spectrum of issues is even productive than convincing a Republican. At least Republicans can claim to not have been exposed to good ideas.

      1. John

        If Edwards has made his two Americas about the rich and the middle class he might have gotten somewhere.
        Instead he made it about the poor. And nobody cares about them.
        Today, as millions who were in the middle class are sliding towards poverty a populist running on a two America platform would win in a landslide.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          His real problem was his war vote and the shallow nature of voters who vote on superficial offerings. Obama’s point about people projecting onto him was the only worthwhile thing he has ever said.

    2. craazyboy

      hahaha.

      Yes, nothing like reading about being broke to make the unwashed masses get pissed off.

      I remember reading in grade school that a confectionary cookbook caused the French Revolution.

      People are sensitive towards these things, and that’s why we should thank the gawds we have the democratic party on our side.

      1. allcoppedout

        That’s Austrian economics for you Craazy junior. Have your cake and eat it stuff. Then 18 years in the creative destruction cellar. It all happened before the French started following small Corsicans onto British bayonets in some mad desire to reclaim a garlic hoard from the Portuguese back in the days of spice money. Tomorrow the celebrity chefs march for the American Spring, enthused that Mrs Beeton wrote a bigger book on cooking than a cheese-eating surrender monkey could manage on economics. To the gateaux barricades!

  8. Eureka Springs

    A 700 page book which as best I can tell from reading commentary on it says nothing new… but in terms of income/wealth disparity anyone over the age and IQ of forty knows it’s part of our constitutional design as well as a bipartisan feature/plan… has been all their lives. It’s who we are and its working for the few rich incredibly well. A 700 page book of this sort of drivel is perfect for “discussion’ by bureaucrats…it provides cover because so few will read it… yet, like the bible it can mean whatever one wants it to. And nothing has to actually happen.

    1. aletheia33

      just a small objection here, speaking as one who has actually read the book, all 700 pp and all the tables: could we please note that it is a work of scholarship by an economic historian based on the arduous mining of archival material heretofore never assembled or consulted as a source for understanding the economic history of the West. as such, it is well worth reading and is not drivel.

      as for its value to the Democratic Party operation, it does seem likely to me that had the book not appeared when it did, they would have found another way (and will find yet other ways) to devise their diversions/seductions. at the same time, the fact that piketty is not a known American “leftist” and has refrained from making any ideological claims on the basis of his research serves their purposes admirably.

      at the same time, as the interviewee points out, their use of the book (or rather their invention of the “book” as a phenomenon) does not invalidate the work piketty has done. his suggestions as to “what should be done” on the basis of the insights that his research supports take up a very small part of his book, and he says clearly that the problem the book presents is insoluble at the level of economics and can only be addressed politically, recognizing that politics is not his metier and he cannot speak to that aspect. if only more economists were as careful to refrain from venturing into a realm in which they are as ignorant as the ordinary citizen.

      economic history is a growing discipline where a lot of academically exciting work is currently being done. economic historians are now uncovering lots of interesting facts that will contribute, ultimately, to a changed understanding of the history of the rise of the West and the building of the empires of today. some of the insights in piketty’s book are quite new in this sense and challenge long-received assumptions about how and why the structure of European society and its classes evolved. others are at work on the same historical issues, rendering the discipline well worth following. some of the monographs that have come out are fascinating, if one has the patience to actually read them.

      the valuable database of archival material that piketty and his colleagues have established will be further mined by hardworking graduate students and dissertation writers going forward and will yield more insights. this kind of work is supporting new ways of writing history. as the contributions of history to understanding the current situation are mostly ignored today, while economics takes the limelight, insights that challenge the status quo may grow and flourish better in the archives where the new primary research in history is being done than in the glare of the economics scene, where free market ideology now reigns supreme.

      i suggest that anyone commenting on the book at this blog voluntarily indicate whether they’ve read the book, if only as an informal poll. i imagine the percentage here is higher than on the beltway. as far as i know, the book has not been obtainable for some time, as harvard has yet to print it in sufficient quantities to serve the demand. it does seem ironic how well this shortfall in the number of copies is serving the framing/spin process and serving to muddle discussion of the book in all venues, including on this blog.

      1. allcoppedout

        I’ve read the book twice. One has to read massive dross as an academic. 99 out of 100 books and papers don’t survive my first skim and I skim a lot of book reviews to avoid being told as much of the simulacrum as possible. I read a lot more than most academic colleagues, but I don’t hold with what Aletheia says here. I’d like to, but think after 20 years academe is skewed to scholasticism.

        You’d have not to know about a great deal of inequality work to find much in Capital 21. We knew most of this, excluding what has happened since, by Tony Atkinson’s publication in 1973 (Piketty acknowledges the intellectual debt). Despite the ‘toiling scholars’ things got much worse in many respects, how I’m old enough to remember what we didn’t have materially before about 1980. There’s a later example of Atkinson free here: http://www.ophi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Atkinson-1987.pdf

        Dan has been giving us a favourable read of Piketty. I disagree with little the Frenchman does say. The historical question concerns why we have been allowing inequality to continue and in many aspects get worse for so long, and why so many academics across a number of discipline have been so ineffective in influencing policy. I suspect interminable dullness is a factor, vanity publishing linked to pay and ease of work progress (early advice – don’t get good at teaching, you’ll never get chance to progress) and almost total cowardice in respect of establishment power. Many are as dumb as ducks and nowhere near as cute as my Labrador (he swims with ducks). The inability of academics to read across disciplines is dire, and Piketty at least has the decency to note this and complain economists know nothing about anything that matters.

        1. Nathanael

          “The inability of academics to read across disciplines is dire, and Piketty at least has the decency to note this and complain economists know nothing about anything that matters.”

          Piketty’s target is academic economists. Basically, he’s trying to get them to recognize what the rest of us recognized long ago. He seems to have largely succeeded. (Obviously the bought-and-paid-for shills won’t listen.)

    2. Hugh

      I agree a 700 page economic tome originally written in impenetrable French academese and then translated woodenly into its English equivalent telling us what we already know has about much relevance to most of us as rocks falling on Mars.

      It is about validation. The Snowden leaks also have not told us that much that we didn’t know. In that case, it was about public validation of our suspicions. In the case of Piketty, it is an elite validation. It has been carefully stage-managed and controlled by the elites. The Snowden leaks in addition to being directed to a different audience were less controlled. The elites couldn’t quite control the narrative on them.

    3. Nathanael

      “A 700 page book which as best I can tell from reading commentary on it says nothing new…”

      It says nothing new, but it says it in a way which convinces scholastic academic economists.

      This matters. They’re useful to have on our side in the coming class war.

  9. Deloss

    I’m annoyed by anybody whose argument is reducible to “all politicians are alike,” and when you equate Democrats and Republicans, you’re only postulating a subset of that witless argument. Have the Republicans got an equivalent of Jerry Nadler? Elizabeth Warren? Kirsten Gillibrand? I’m sorry to say that I’m also dismissive of people who say “I’m not going to vote because there’s no choice,” because it is part of the same–I was going to say “mindset,” but “Weltanschauung” sounds more intellectual–part of the same lausige Weltanschauung. The anti-abortion factions are definitely going to vote. The “no global warming” people are going to vote. Do you really want to turn the world over to them–any more than it already has been, I mean?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      What have they accomplished? Harry Reid is still leader. They have a choice. They can continue with the farce or denounce the Team D. Liz Warren is a hawk and a supporter of a Clinton candidacy, so it’s nice s he has some good ideas for credit reforms in the 1980’s, but your straw argument misrepresents the issue. The differences between Team D. And Team R exist to attract rubes.

      1. craazyboy

        I just remembered it’s 2014, and the democrats already slew the inequality dragon when they busted all the crooked banksters out there and took bold steps to restructure the economy, knowing it would be useless to let the Federal Reserve do all the heavy lifting!

        It’s a long impressive story, but my alternate universe portal beckons me – time to make something for lunch. Chicken today, again. Thank FDR for that.

    2. EoinW

      Is it not better to refuse to vote and demand a choice, than to ignore there is no choice and vote in your popularity contest? I’d be more than happy to vote if my vote could get us out of Afghanistan, return corporate taxes to where they were a decade ago, legalize raw milk, abolish the seat belt law, GMO labeling(or better making GMO’s illegal), banning freight trains from urban areas, reducing MP salaries and golden goose pensions etc… In a quarter century of voting I’ve never been given a say on any of those issues and many more. I’m done wasting my time voting until democracy takes a different form and is worth participating in.

      Regarding the GMO labeling issue, how in the world could it be defeated in California? What reason is there for the average person to oppose labeling – knowing what’s in the food they buy? Is electronic voting the start of a new stage for democracy – rigged elections. Naw they’d never do that. As unthinkable as rigging the markets! Either it was a clean vote and the electorate is stupid beyond belief or ballot box stuffing is the new norm. Both possibilities make voting useless.

    3. jrs

      Well they may really NOT have a choice. Since who they actually CAN vote for is local. Ok they can primary. That is an option. But my senator is not Elizabeth Warren it’s Diane Feinstein – do you see what people mean by continaully being faced by “no- choice” choices? By the way they are mostly “no global warming” people, or few act like they actual taking it seriously, and action is what matters.

    4. Hugh

      A long time ago, I created the analogy comparing the Democrats and Republicans to opposing football teams. They have different logos. The Democrats wear blue jersies. The Republicans red. They trash talk each other. They slug it out on the football field. We are invited to cheer whichever team we like, whichever players we want.

      But at the end of the day, it’s all football. It’s not that one side is pro-football and the other is anti-football.

      I would advise you to go back and do some basic homework on your team players, remembering that they are on the Democratic team, a thoroughly corrupt, anti-progressive, anti-99%, pro-corporate, pro-rich, pro-police state bunch as you will ever find. Look past what they say. What have they done? Some of us have been doing this for nearly ten years now. We have seen all the variations of the revolving heroes, politicians who use a few progressive catchphrases but always vote with their party when that party needs their vote and who are allowed to cast cosmetic votes to burnish their progressive image for or against legislation when their vote isn’t needed.

      Tell me too how many monkey wrenches have any of your fine upstanding “progressive” pols thrown into the machinery of the Senate. As Harry Reid once pointed out a single Senator can bring the place to a standstill at any time. So how often have they? How many anti-Obama marches have they led? How many times have they gone to a scandal hungry media to denounce the policies of their party and their President? You know taken a stand that might actually cost them something? Oh right, never.

      1. sd

        Actually, there was one. But he’s dead. Paul Wellstone. And it’s a safe assumption the plane crash wasn’t an accident.

  10. kevinearick

    Piketty

    Don’t you just love the way the upper middle class bleeds, more and more paper, for the lower middle classes, serving as its shock absorber, growing dumber and dumber military expeditions. Association and precedence as causation only makes sense in an automaton derivative world. If you have a process A-B-C-D-A, B does not cause C. Don’t go through a door with nothing but bad outcomes and expect a happy outcome.

    As provided all along, a change in direction only comes when the upper middle class is substantially removed / retired, depending on how you want to do it. War begins when the empire begins to pay interest on interest, because its operators see the end coming from their vantage point, and they begin to make increasingly self-fulfilling adjustments, accelerating the error. Capital flees, the lower middle classes get crushed, and the upper middle class becomes ever more entrenched to the false assumptions supporting it by law. That is Hillarycare.

    The vast majority on this planet can no longer grow their own food or raise their own children, despite the Internet and all the other resources available, because they are too busy doing make-work, screwing themselves and looking for someone else to blame. Just the other day, some moron from Vermont put an ad on craigslist to get growers from California, to teach him how to farm organic in exchange for temporary rent. We have the three types of farmers remaining here, old-timers who aren’t going anywhere, pot growing empire firefighters destroying the forest, and near sighted organic growers growing real estate price inflation, same as Vermont.

    The reason addressing inequality creates more of the same is because inequality itself is a derivative in time, consuming more time, in a bipolar, divide and conquer, empire. Inequality is a function of consumers assuming that they can force producers to produce for consumers, with only the surplus remaining for children, which, of course, results in poverty among children, by making all the land public with the proliferation of property laws, breeding stupid assumptions in public education, enforced by law, the Grand Bargain.

    Nation/states exploit their own slaves until they can’t, and then swap them, with immigration. The underlying assumption of empire schemes is that an overwhelming majority can force a shrinking minority, distillation, to bend to the will of the majority, and the majority wins, government controlled by legacy feudalists, until it doesn’t, when its DNA gets flushed.

    Don’t argue against freedom and expect labor to save you from yourself. A two-year-old could make a better argument. If you want to serve under Napoleon, you go right ahead. Peer pressure is as old as humanity, and it fails every time. Computers aren’t planning the majority’s future by accident. Labor will spot legacy the rockstars and inflation, and play on its knees, so our children and their children can see how ineffective peer pressure is.

    The French are throwing their own under Germany’s bus at this very minute. As all the jawboning over data demonstrates, the middle class will never know the true rate of growth in the economy, because it doesn’t care. It is bred from the beginning to seek something for nothing, with make-work. Has any of the arguments proffered, based on competing lies, for or against, changed the direction of the empire one iota?

    The AMA breeding program developed during WWII is going. Fight with any form of dependency you like. It is the AMA hospital, not labor, that is being replaced with a c-clamp, and all the King’s debt and all the King’s navies cannot save it. Distribute it in as many clinics as you like.

    Without your health, you have nothing. Think, before you breed.

  11. casino implosion

    All well and good. However, the Roosevelt Institute is not exactly a disinterested objective observer. They’re a Soros-funded think tank.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No they are not Soros funded. Lordie. And Soros only has one board seat on INET, the funding base is now pretty diverse.

  12. President Costanza

    The problem with the Democrats recent attempt to raise the issue of inequality is that many of Obama’s polices are nothing more than gifts to multinational corporations that will increase inequality. On issues ranging from intellectual property (the misnamed “Help America Invent Act” was a giant gift to Corporate America), to trade (the TPP will make multinationals every more powerful and further depress wages), to prosecuting criminal banksters (didn’t happen because of a “Too Big to Prosecute” mentality), to net neutrality, to who he chooses as economic advisers, Obama has favored the 1% even while publicly claiming not too.

    This is why Obama’s past attacks on Bain Capital and his recent support for the minimum wage make my stomach turn. They are completely disingenuous and only devised to fool voters into thinking he’s on the side of the average voter. Obama had the exact same stance on Romney on outsourcing and trade (despite rhetoric to the contrary) and didn’t care about raising the minimum wage when it was actually possible to enact an increase in the wage (when his party had power).

    1. Dan Kervick

      Furman recently gave a talk in which he tried to re-brand the same old administration policies as some kind of response to Piketty.

  13. ClutchesPearls

    Oh! Class warfare! The sky is falling!

    Somebody’s got to do it. This info has to be hammered home. In the first Bush/Gore election the dems tried to appeal to middleclass voters, and it backfired because middle class folks with an income of $50,000 believed they were in the top 2 percent or headed in that direction. (or something like that, I’m working from a defective memory here) They had no idea of the creeping inequality of wealth.

    Maybe because of CC debt, other debt — I mean they did have things and they could burn the equity on their homes because…because…they’d soon become homeowner zillionaires, maybe.

    Things are in the saddle and ride mankind, said an old fogey transcendentalist. And so it goes. I say soak the rich, but it probably won’t create much of an adjustment in income inequality, because things are in the saddle and ya just gotta have ’em.

  14. JTFaraday

    “But when they change the subject to things like inequality, they discover that then they get a much more favorable response compared to, say, Republicans.”

    It could be that down the line the D-Party establishment is going to reject Piketty, and they are going to signal to men in the R-Party who are embarrassed by the cultural clown show that the R-Party has become that it’s safe to come on home again, because in fact, they’re not going to do anything to assist Mitt Romney’s “47 percent.”

    This would be more consistent with everything they’ve done since the Clinton Administration.

    Also, despite everyone’s insistence that the D-Party only deals in “identity politics,” it seems to me that D-Party apparatchiks have historically been deeply preoccupied with the question of how to win back white male voters from the Repugnants ever since the Bros started running away from the wimmins and the N-ers in the 70s.

    This gendered angle should probably be part of any attempt at explaining the Clintonian Third Way-wardism that did, in actual fact, take over the D-Party. Meanwhile, the idea that white men are the singular victims of the neoliberal economy is probably as overplayed as the idea that they are the singular victim of D-Party machinations.

    More and more lately, I find myself wondering how much of this pissing and moaning about the relative importance of “economics” and “class” as versus the identities that are thoroughly intertwined with them, and particularly black people (but feminized labor as well), is in fact about a genuine concern with inequality and how much is just about white men’s efforts at reassertion and recapturing the terms of public discourse on the liberal/left/fake left. (Most days it’s all the same to me).

    “Now, you could see last fall the president begin to give speeches on income inequality and draw attention to the issue. That led immediately to a discussion with even some of the center-right groups in the Democratic Party squawking that that was really a bad idea.”

    Right. This will be over well before 2016. The disdain the neoliberal and “liberaltarian” apparatchiks that run the D-Party have for anything of substantive policy concern to the Party’s (too too) loyal base has always been palpable. (It’s also very butch).

    I could be wrong, but even they can’t possibly think “the morons” are going to buy this one again, now.

  15. Nathanael

    Art Goldhammer, when I talked to him the other–the translator, the other week, reminded me of Jacques Necker’s book on French finances in 1780, you know, just before the French Revolution. Necker was amazed to discover it became a bestseller. And, of course, Necker was the guy whose dismissal helped bring on one of the–maybe the greatest single event in the history of the world. I mean the French Revolution.

    NICE point. I’ve been talking about the parallels to the lead-up to the French Revolution for several years now, but I hadn’t spotted this particular parallel.

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