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On Bill Moyers & Co., Paul Krugman talks about Thomas Piketty's new book and Gordon Gekko's daughter. An excerpt:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Even in this age of hyperlinks and cyberspace, nearly six centuries after Gutenberg devised his printing press, it’s still possible for a single book to shake the foundations, rattle clichés, upend dogma, unnerve ideologues, and arm everyday people with the knowledge they need to fight back against the predatory powers that have robbed them of their birthright as citizens.

This is such a book: Capital in the Twenty-First Century,  by the French economist Thomas Piketty. The book of the season to many. To others, the book of the decade. Reviewers have called it “a bulldozer of a book,” “magisterial,” “seminal,” “definitive,” “a watershed.” […]

Here’s one of its extraordinary insights: we are heading into a future dominated by inherited wealth as capital concentrates in fewer and fewer hands, giving the very rich ever greater power over politics, government, and society. “Patrimonial capitalism” is the name for it, and it has potentially terrifying consequences for democracy. For those who work for a living, the level of inequality in the US, writes Piketty, is “probably higher than in any other society, at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.” Over three decades, between 1977 and 2007, 60 percent of our national income went to the richest 1 percent of Americans. No wonder this is the one book the 1 percent doesn't want the other 99 percent to read. […]

BILL MOYERS: Here’s Piketty’s main point: capital tends to produce real returns of 4 to 5 percent, and economic growth is much slower. What's the practical result of that?

PAUL KRUGMAN: What that means is that if you have a large fortune, or a family has a large fortune, they can—the inheritors of that large fortune—can live very, very well. They can live an extraordinary standard of living and still put a large fraction of the income from that fortune aside and the fortune will grow faster than the economy.

So the big dynastic fortunes tend to take an ever-growing share of total, national wealth. So once you-- when you have a situation where the returns on capital are pretty high and the growth rate of the economy is not that high, you have a situation in which not only can people live well off inherited wealth, but they can actually pass on to the next generation even more, an even a higher share.

And so it's all, in his terms, "r" the rate of return on capital, and "g” the rate of growth of the economy. And when you have a high r, low g economy, which is what we now have, then you're talking not-- you're talking about a situation in which dynasties come increasingly to increasingly to dominate the top of the economic spectrum and a tiny fraction of the population ends up very dominant.

BILL MOYERS: What's the realistic impact of this on working people?

PAUL KRUGMAN: There's a direct impact, which is that part of income is always going to go to labor, although that seems to be a diminishing fraction. But the part that comes from capital is going to be in the hands of a very few people. The other thing, which I think is critically important, that he talks about more towards the end of the book is political economy.

That when you have—Teddy Roosevelt could’ve told you and did—that when you have a few people who are so wealthy that they can effectively buy the political system, the political system is going to tend to serve their interests. And that is going to reinforce this shift of income and wealth towards the top.

BILL MOYERS: Do you agree with him that we are drifting toward oligarchy?

PAUL KRUGMAN: Oh yeah. Oh, I don't think that’s even—I don't see that there's any question of it. If you look at the—certainly if you look at what we know already, and we're learning more, but what we know already about the concentration of income, of wealth, you can see that it is growing. You can see that—and you can actually see—I've spent a little while just sort of going through the “Forbes 400” list.

And what you find is already there’s an awful lot of inherited wealth in there. It’s no longer a list of self-made men. And of the self-made men, a lot of them are pretty elderly. And their—those fortunes are going to be passed on to next generations. So the drift towards oligarchy is very visible, both casual observation and in the numbers. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007"Partial Truth Abortion":

Many people hate the term "framing." I understand at least one of their fears: framing can turn into an excuse to substitute marketing for principles. In other words, instead of a technique to get a right-on message across, framing can dilute the message, contaminate and weaken the principle. In order to be more persuasive, what we're trying to be more persuasive about gets partially junked. It's a reasonable worry.

Other people, of course, argue that framing is merely a euphemism for marketing, which is a euphemism for manipulation, and no way in hell should progressive politics be marketed because to do so means selling out to the perniciously unprogressive idea that people should be manipulated into accepting any point of view.

Who can argue that we shouldn't manipulate people? Manipulation implies lying, and nothing could be less progressive than that.

However, framing or marketing, or whatever you prefer to call it, doesn't have to be manipulative. In this world of blurbs and rapid-fire images, it seems to me we progressives are compelled to find not only the right message but the right way to deliver our message, or we might as well stick to our echo chambers. Sometimes that means quick and dirty. The Freeway Blogger knows this. As does any good political consultant.

Rightwingers have beaten us silly for decades with terms like "Tax and spend" Democrats. "Weak on defense" Democrats. And it seems to have taken us an interminably long time to learn how to effectively return fire. Last election cycle, we did this with great effect by means of "rubber-stamp Republicans."

Tweet of the Day:  

In a way, it's an energy-policy breakthrough: the right finally cares enough about solar power to attack it

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, We're back on the air after a shortened Spring Break week, and Greg Dworkin's in the pundit round-up! Don't forget "doctor satisfaction" in health care delivery assessments. "When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart." And more on the brewing Gop war over Common Core. NYT and Morning Joe both urge Dems to run proudly on Obamacare. We somehow wander from there into the dynamics of campaign cash in determining party leadership. Alphabet soup: UAW drops NLRB appeal of VW vote. Once again, the guys who turn it up to 11 appear to have won. More scandal for Chris Christie.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments. Overnight News Digest.

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