Wobbled by Wealth?
By Paul Krugman
Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts from a must read article published in The New York Times. The entire piece can be read by clicking here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/05/opinion/05krugman.html?ref=opinion&pagewanted=print
At just about every stop I’ve made so far on my book tour, what I’ve come to think of as The Question comes up. I talk about the origins of the long right-wing dominance of American politics, and the reasons I believe that dominance is coming to an end. Then someone asks, “How can you be optimistic about the prospects for progressive change, when big money has so much influence on politics?”
It’s a good question.
The public wants change. “If Americans have ever been angrier with the state of the country,” begins a new strategy memo from the polling organization Democracy Corps, “we have not witnessed it.”
Nor is the demand for change solely about Iraq: there has been a strong revival of economic populism. Democracy Corps asked those who believe America is on the wrong track to choose phrases that best described their views of what’s gone wrong. The most commonly chosen were “Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington” and “Leaders have forgotten the middle class.”
So much, by the way, for pundits who claim that Americans don’t care about economic inequality. […]
[…] But the Democracy Corps memo warns that “Democrats have not yet found their voice as agents of change.” Indeed. What the memo doesn’t say, but is all too obvious, is that one big reason the Democrats are having trouble finding their voice is the influence of big money.
The most conspicuous example of this influence right now is the way Senate Democrats are dithering over whether to close the hedge fund tax loophole — which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income. Only a handful of very wealthy people benefit from this loophole, while closing the loophole would yield billions of dollars each year in revenue. […]
[…] But as The Financial Times reports, “Key votes have been delayed and time bought after the investment industry hired some of Washington’s most prominent lobbyists to influence lawmakers and spread largesse through campaign donations.” It goes on to describe how Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was “toasted by industry lobbyists” (and serenaded by Barry Manilow) at a money-raising party for his special fund to help Democrats get elected next year. […]
[…] I sometimes hear people say that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans; that’s foolish. Look at the fight over children’s health insurance, and you can see how different the parties’ philosophies and priorities really are. All of the leading Democratic candidates are offering strongly progressive policy proposals; the Republicans are, if anything, running to the right of the Bush administration. […]
[…] So, how wobbled are today’s Democrats? I guess we’ll find out.