More Establishment Assholery
It's interesting to see how class warfare plays out in our society. Sometimes it seems there is a general call out to the apologists of our Establishment kleptocrats that more material is needed. The reason I say this is that I start seeing articles on different subjects but with the same general premise. Such at any rate is the case with these two op-eds by Fareed Zakaria and Paul Krugman.
I wrote on Zakaria's column at Naked Capitalism where I first saw it referenced. Zakaria cites discontent among Arab youth as the driving force behind the demonstrations and revolutions we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East. Bizarrely, Zakaria says this has no analogy with conditions in the US but then uses this as a springboard from foreign affairs where he has the rep, if not the reality, of being an expert to domestic matters where he surely has none. Zakaria's argument is that the old in our country are being selfish and greedy. We need to cut entitlements to fund big infrastructure projects. We need to invest, not consume. So Zakaria expands his argument against the old. We need to cut tax breaks to the middle class, like that on mortgage interest, and we need more regressive taxes, like a VAT and gas tax on them as well.
Targets that Zakaria doesn't bring up are, of course, the rich and corporations. You want to make sure Social Security is funded? Take off the income caps on it. Medicare a problem? Drop the disastrous, unsustainable private insurance model that is driving up prices for Medicare and move to a universal single payer system, you know like the rest of the developed world. Investment? Corporations are sitting on $1.4 trillion. Zakaria has not one word to say about why they aren't investing, or why he is not calling on them to invest.
Then there is Krugman. Krugman's argument is as bizarre as Zakaria's. As usual, he belatedly has come to the realization that a college education no longer pays for itself or translates into better jobs and higher incomes. He ascribes this to technology and outsourcing. His cry, truly amazing for a Princeton professor, is forget education. Let's worry about healthcare instead.
This reminded me of a story of Congressional hearings held during the height of the Cold War. A scientist was testifying on funding for a particular research project. A Senator ponderously asked him, " How will this help defend our country?" "It won't," the scientist replied, "it will just make it more worth defending." Education should not be about the dollars. It should be about having more worthwhile lives and being better informed citizens. Krugman would prefer us ignorant and manipulable.
I mean I understand no one goes to Princeton for the education. They go there for the prestige of the name and the connections they can make. It's a place where if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it. But as with Zakaria, what is interesting is what Krugman doesn't talk about. He says nothing about why government has allowed universities to corporatize themselves or why government insists on pushing so much debt on to graduates, when education is a social good in and of itself. We should not be pricing all but the upper class out of higher education. We should be expanding access to as many of us who wish the experience, and we should be supporting much more than we are now the costs associated with it.
Then too with technology and outsourcing, Krugman treats these as if they were forces of nature, and not the result of conscious government decision making. Technology doesn't just eliminate old jobs. It creates the possibility of doing new ones. Henry Ford put a lot of carriage builders out of work. He also made his workers vastly more productive, but he ended up creating many new jobs, and jobs that paid enough for people to afford his cars. In Krugman world, the carriage builders lose their jobs, and all the new ones get outsourced. There is a simple solution to this: Don't do it.
Government, if it were not controlled by the kleptocratic elites to which Krugman and Zakaria belong, could keep those new jobs here. It could raise the costs of outsourcing to make it unprofitable. I do not say uneconomic because in many ways it already is. When you consider in most manufacturing, labor costs are only a small portion, and add in costs from poor lines of communication, ability to quickly respond to markets, quality control and product safety issues, transportation costs, not to mention labor exploitation and environmental degradation in foreign countries, outsourcing isn't economic most of the time now.
That's manufacturing but service industries aren't much better. Indian call centers went from being the wave of the future to being an extremely bad joke. This is not to say that some outsourcing doesn't make sense, but government has a role in seeing that it benefits society as a whole and not just a few corporations engaged in a mad, often senseless, and destructive dash to the bottom.
Krugman and Zakaria are to be read not because they inform but, much like David Brooks and others, to see what tropes the kleptocrats are dishing up this time. Zakaria tells us to forget entitlements. Let's think about infrastructure projects instead, you know that some other soldier of kleptocracy will tell us either the government can't afford or should sell off to private enterprises. Krugman tells us to forget about education. Think about healthcare instead, but, of course, the healthcare system Krugman is talking about isn't one that actually works, like universal single payer. It's the same failed system with a few tweaks. Krugman may talk about the conscience of a liberal but I do not think that means what he thinks it means.