June 11, 2022
The wealthy rule
Some time ago I referred to the label Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson have applied to Republican politics: “plutocratic populism.” That insight is the theme of their 2020 book, Let them Eat Tweets, the title reflecting the level of concern politicians on the right have for the real needs of their manipulated followers. Republicans’ concern is to protect and advance the interests of the wealthy. As that obviously is a minority view, they needed to mobilize a majority (or at least the version of a majority our system recognizes), and did so by appealing to and stoking fears and resentments of white voters. “In short, Republicans used white identity to defend wealth inequality. They undermined democracy to uphold plutocracy.”
Part of the program is common to right-wing politics elsewhere, but part is peculiar to American conservatism. “In other rich countries where right-wing populists are challenging for power, animus toward immigrants and minorities gets coupled with a fervent defense of social benefits for white citizens. Republicans . . . have the animus part down. The defense of social benefits not so much. On the contrary, what they have done on economic matters has been consistently, breathtakingly plutocratic.”
Wealth and income in this country have become increasingly concentrated at the top. Faux populism is the device the wealthy and their Republican servants use to divert attention to non-economic issues and forestall any attack on that concentration, protecting the wealthy from democratic challenge.
Pointing out the unfairness of extreme economic inequality doesn’t seem to have any effect on the right wing. Pointing out its undemocratic nature is equally ineffective despite the right’s populist pretense. The deficit, about which conservatives claim to be worried, would be reduced by taxing the wealthy, but again there is no response. To the contrary, taxes were cut in 2017, most of the reduction going to corporations and upper-income individuals. Perhaps this report by the Economic Policy Institute will finally get some attention:
Rising inequality has had serious economic and fiscal effects. Key among them: It has hurt economic growth. . . . Rising inequality constrains overall economic growth by reducing economywide spending: Spending falls as inequality redistributes income from lower-income households (that need to spend more of their income to meet living expenses) to higher-income families (that have the luxury to save money).
Not likely, though.
<br>27. Hacker and Pierson, Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules In An Age of Extreme Inequality, p. 4
<br>28. Id., at p. 5
<br>29. https://www.npr.org/2019/12/20/789540931/2-years-later-trump-tax-cuts-have-failed-to-deliver-on- gops-promises
<br>30. https://www.epi.org/publication/inequalitys-drag-on-aggregate-demand/?utm_source=Economic+ Policy+Institute&utm_campaign=902fedfd0f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_6_1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e7c5826c50-902fedfd0f-60271117&mc_cid=902fedfd0f&mc_eid=faa04e9f25