Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We're living in a new Gilded Age, but this time we have Paul Krugman to bash the Robber Barons


The greatest single benefit of the New York Times dropping its Times Select pay wall is that there is once again free access, not only to Paul Krugman's column, but now also to his new blog, The Conscience of a Liberal. -- which also happens to be the title of his new book. What do you call a blog by Paul Krugman?? Ezra Klein calls it a Krug.

This nifty graph appears in his introductory post. It illustrates the share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income over the past 90 years –- "an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality." Get the feeling we're living in a new Gilded Age? We are -- a phenomenal rise in income inequality that Krugman calls "the great divergence."
Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s. It’s important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality – even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.

On the political side, you might have expected rising inequality to produce a populist backlash. Instead, however, the era of rising inequality has also been the era of “movement conservatism,” the term both supporters and opponents use for the highly cohesive set of interlocking institutions that brought Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich to power, and reached its culmination, taking control of all three branches of the federal government, under George W. Bush. (Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.)
Krugman says he'll use the blog to share charts and stats and other information he can't fit into his NYT columns. Blogging has proven hazardous to some other practitioners of the columnist's trade. But I have the feeling Krugman can handle it. Welcome to the blogosphere!

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