by Jeremy Leaming
If one really needs another example of how out of touch or clueless some of the nation’s super wealthy are, Adam Davidson’s piece on a retired multimillionaire for The New York Times Magazine provides it.
As Davidson notes the retired former partner of Bain Capital, the outfit that excelled in tearing down other businesses for a profit, is plumping a forthcoming book that extols alleged virtues of the filthy rich. Davidson writes that the “spectacularly wealthy guy” believes the “wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large,” to spur slackers or “art-history majors” into pursuing outlandish wealth.
Economist Paul Krugman, in his Times’ blog, says the former Bain Capital partner’s argument “might have some plausibility if the era when America didn’t have such overweening plutocracy – the 50s and 60s, when the top 0.01% received only about a fifth the share of income that it commands today – were a time of economic stagnation and low innovation. In fact, the postwar generation experienced the best economic growth – and the fastest productivity growth – of any era in the past century.”
Since discussion of the nation’s growing economic inequality, right-wing pundits have attacked or belittled studies showing that the middle class is dwindling, while a tiny few continue to become wealthier. In a widely cited article for Vanity Fair, Columbia University Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz noted that the “upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent.”
While the former Bain Capital multimillionaire, Edward Conard, is no innovator, he’s not invented anything that has enriched the lives of Americans; he has invested in a company that uses less aluminum for soda cans. “It saves a fraction of a penny on every can,” he told The Times. “There are a lot of soda cans in the world. That means the economy can produce more cans with the same amount of resources. It makes every American who buys a soda can a little richer because their paycheck buys more.”
This is the gibberish that passes for an argument that investors should be celebrated and indeed helped by economic policies?
Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, is unlikely to be persuaded. Last fall Baker scored economic policies that have catered to the super wealthy for far too long, and noted that those policies do redistribute the wealth – to the super wealthy.
“In short,” Baker wrote, “we have an economic system that, even when it is working, has been rigged to redistribute income to the rich. And we have a political system that at a time of immense economic distress is more focused on undercutting the means of support for working families than fixing the economy.”
Reporting for TPM, Brian Beutler notes forthcoming work from the Economic Policy Institute that will “provide a stark illustration of the fact that the vast majority of workers have been closed out by the country’s gains for nearly 40 years. EPI President Larry Mishel tells TPM, “The continuing growth of the wage gap between high and middle earners is the result of various laissez-faire policies (acts of omission as well as commission) including globalization, deregulation, privatization, eroded unionization, and weakened labor standards.”
Conard, the former Bain Capital partner, and soon-to-be high-profile advocate for the nation’s obnoxiously wealthy, however, is not concerned about fairness. He embraces the so-called risk-takers, a tiny group of people who have prospered in a system that awards and coddles the powerful.
[image via Truthout.org]