Movement Conservatives and Income Inequality: It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

Josh Barro gets it wrong about Paul Ryan (boldface mine):

The problem with this budget is its premise: the quasi-religious view that lower spending and lower taxes will enrich everyone. I think Republicans genuinely believe this, which is why Ryan frames a more-than-40-percent cut in Medicaid as an effort to create more “opportunity.”

The argument is that a rising tide lifts all boats. But there is no reason to believe that these policies will raise the tide. Even if they did, they would not lift all boats, as over the past four decades, income inequality has widened, the labor share of GDP has declined, and returns to capital have risen relative to returns to labor. If the economy does expand, the benefits are likely to accrue disproportionately to those who are already rich.

This is a question that most conservatives seem not to have thought about at all. Why do conservatives think inequality has risen over the last four decades? What caused middle-class wage stagnation? Is it that the government is too big and tax rates are too high? If so, why was inequality lower and wage growth stronger back when tax rates were higher?

…It’s like the 1930s all over again: Republicans will be a minority party until they realize they must change their economic agenda to better serve more Americans

The reason they don’t think about the question of income inequality is because they don’t care about it. Period. When Charles Murray makes his statements about genetics and socioeconomic status, he is finding fertile ground.

It’s also worth noting the origins of the libertarian strain of movement conservatism has its roots in the agenda of corporate lobbyists. Considerable inequity and poor outcomes for the non-select aren’t a bug, they’re a feature.

If you’re looking for Republicans who care about middle class quality of life, income inequality and the like, they do exist. They can be found in the Democratic Party–for example, President Obama. But the current crop of conservatives are brutal Social Darwinists–that’s where all the ‘makers versus takers’ garbage comes from. Rampant inequality is their due. It is their justification.

That even a smart observer like Barro doesn’t recognize this at this late hour is disturbing.

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1 Response to Movement Conservatives and Income Inequality: It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

  1. paintedjaguar says:

    “That even a smart observer like Barro doesn’t recognize this at this late hour is disturbing.”

    I have to say I feel the same way about you and other “lefties” who still can manage to convince themselves that Democrats like Obama “care about middle class quality of life, income inequality and the like”. They for damn sure don’t give any sign that they relate to or give a rip about anyone who isn’t already pretty comfortable. Sure, the Democrats aren’t all crazy Birchers like the current Republicans, but it seems to me that they also aren’t a whit less true believers in heirarchy.

    Per example, I’m still waiting for someone (anyone) to explicate how the Frankenstein dog’s breakfast of Obamacare is ever going to lead to REAL healthcare reform, rather than blocking that possibility for yet another fifty or so years.

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