Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chait On The Phantom Envy Haunting The Rich

The Imaginary Epidemic of Envy in America
Chait provides a good read on the latest right-wing talking point.  We'll see how the "you're all just jealous!" argument works out for them.
"Gore, Kerry, and Obama were all making the exact same point: Clinton-era tax rates for the rich needed to stay in place not because the rich needed to be punished, but because cutting those rates would create more painful alternatives, like higher structural deficits or cuts to necessary programs. One argument against this claim is that Clinton-era tax rates will slow economic growth — an argument Republicans made feverishly when Clinton proposed the higher rates in 1993, almost as feverishly when Bush proposed his cuts eight years later, but with diminishing enthusiasm since the Bush economic record capped off a mediocre recovery with an epic collapse. As it has grown harder and harder to depict the Bush tax cuts as an economic spur, some conservatives have argued that higher tax rates on rich people are simply wrong, regardless of economic effect. (That is the case made by Greg Mankiw, who is, ironically, an economist.) The moral defense that the rich are entitled to keep their earnings, never terribly popular, foundered when the economic crisis highlighted the least sympathetic slice of the upper-income stratum. Mitt Romney's 47 percent video dealt it another grievous blow. In the absence of either a usable economic rationale or a usable moral rationale, what remains is a generalized anxiety on behalf of a statistical category that has slowly emerged as a social class, "the one percent." The mere invocation of this class somehow feels aggressive and threatening. The backlash against "envy," while presented as an expression of dispassionate calculation, is actually a kind of superstitious fear. 

Our wealthy overlords can afford therapy, I hope more of them will seek it.

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