One might think, in the wake of revelations of flaws in the intellectual underpinnings for austerity—flaws that include what appear to be cherry-picked data—and indeed the apparent failure of austerity policies in actual experience, that the elite, concerned as ever for the economic health of our society, and about putting people back to work, might be interested in what economists have to say now. What should we do now, they might ask. Or perhaps, they could score points on C-SPAN denouncing economists for failing to predict the financial crisis in the first place, and now for the most listened-to part of their profession being wrong about austerity. Why, the point-scorers might ask, should we listen to economists now, especially when they apparently still don’t know what to do?
Indeed there was a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. The press release names only one congressperson’s name: “U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), today held a hearing focusing on bipartisan solutions for reducing long-term unemployment.” Reports on Twitter and on Facebook—which I have not been able to corroborate—emphasize that this was the only member of congress from either house in attendance, although, possibly shamed by “tweets,” I understand that three more Democrats showed up late.
Congress, it seems, is much more concerned about easing the effects of austerity on the Federal Aviation Administration. It seems that the “sequester” has adversely affected its operations, leading to flight delays. Which might mean our esteemed congresspeople might be delayed on their flights home as Congress goes into recess. Despite failing to agree on ground rules for reconciling House and Senate budget bills, the Senate passed legislation to remedy this “emergency” licketysplit, with the House expected to follow suit today. (UPDATE, 19:01: The House did indeed pass the legislation, “[w]ith remarkable speed,” and President Obama is expected to sign it.) This, it would seem, is much more important than listening to economists declare that “long-term joblessness is [a] national emergency.”
On the way to rationalizing the status quo in a classic work on social inequality, Gerhard Lenski acknowledged that the elite act primarily in their own interest. He was able to rationalize the status quo because, at the time he wrote, there was, at least for white males, far less inequality than there is now and the system, for many people, worked better. When we see spectacles such as the ongoing TransPacific Partnership negotiation, dubbed “NAFTA on steroids,” that would compromise labor protections, environmental protections, human rights and national sovereignty in favor of corporate profits, and that almost entirely absent Joint Economic Committee, however, we must call into question the premise that the elite govern for the benefit of the majority in order to assure social stability, thus protecting their own position.
Rather, the elite give the impression that, as we saw with the Occupy movement, they rely entirely on brute force to preserve their position. The propaganda that Lenski saw as an attempt to legitimize rule by coercion seems to have now degenerated to a facade, a fig leaf appearing more as going through the motions of assuming legitimacy than as actually seeking to sustain or achieve it.
- Simon Kennedy, “Krugman Wishes He Were Wrong Amid EU Austerity Backlash,” Bloomberg, October 12, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-02/krugman-wishes-he-was-wrong-amid-eu-austerity-backlash.html; Mike Konczal, “Reinhart/Rogoff-gate isn’t the first time austerians have used bad data,” Washington Post, April 20, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/20/reinhartrogoff-gate-isnt-the-first-time-austerians-have-used-bad-data/; Paul Krugman, “The Excel Depression,” New York Times, April 18, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/opinion/krugman-the-excel-depression.html; Paul Krugman, “Academic Non-Obscurity,” New York Times, April 25, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/academic-non-obscurity/; Paul Krugman, “The 1 Percent’ Solution,” New York Times, April 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/26/opinion/krugman-the-one-percents-solution.html; Matthew O’Brien, “Who is Defending Austerity Now?” Atlantic, April 22, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-excel-error-heard-round-the-world/275200/; Lynn Stuart Parramore, “Meet the 28-year-old Student Who Exposed Two Harvard Professors Whose Shoddy Research Drove Global Austerity,” Alternet, April 18, 2013, http://www.alternet.org/economy/meet-28-year-old-student-who-exposed-two-harvard-professors-whose-shoddy-research-drove; Andreas Whittam Smith, “The age of austerity is over. Why? It doesn’t work,” Independent, April 25, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-age-of-austerity-is-over-why-it-doesnt-work-8586201.html↩
- Paul Krugman, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” New York Times, September 2, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html↩
- Eduardo Porter, “Economists Agree: Solutions Are Elusive, New York Times, April 23, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/business/solutions-remain-elusive-after-financial-crisis.html↩
- Joint Economic Committee, “Klobuchar Holds Joint Economic Committee Hearing Focusing on Bipartisan Solutions to Reduce Long-Term Unemployment,” U. S. Senate, April 24, 2013, http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=650ed00b-05b6-4be0-98bf-d292701790ff↩
- John dickerson, “House and Senate budget conference committee: Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on their own rules for disagreeing about the budget,” Slate, April 24, 2013, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/04/house_and_senate_budget_conference_committee_republicans_and_democrats_can.html; David Espo, “Senate passes bill to ease FAA furloughs,” Sacramento Bee, April 25, 2013, http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/25/5371454/top-dems-back-measure-to-ease.html; Alex Pareene, “Senate fixes the (part of the) sequestration (that affects rich people)! Salon, April 26, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/04/26/senate_fixes_the_part_of_the_sequestration_that_affects_rich_people/; Matthew L. Wald, “F.A.A. Chief Says His Hands Are Tied From Budget Cuts,” New York Times, April 24, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/us/politics/faa-chief-michael-huerta-comes-under-fire-on-capitol-hill.html↩
- Jonathan Weisman, “G.O.P. Claims Victory as Bill to Curb Flight Delays Passes,” New York Times, April 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/us/politics/congress-passes-bill-to-end-flight-delays.html↩
- Kevin G. Hall, “Economists: Long-term joblessness is national emergency,” McClatchy, April 24, 2013, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/24/189574/economists-long-term-joblessness.html↩
- Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).↩
- Emily Badger, “Political Polarization Grows as Job Security Falls,” Pacific Standard, July 19, 2011, http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/political-polarization-grows-as-job-security-falls-33968/; Sheila C. Bair, “Grand Old Parity,” New York Times, February 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/opinion/republicans-must-bridge-the-income-gap.html; Ben Bernanke, “The Level and Distribution of Economic Well-Being,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, February 6, 2007, http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20070206a.htm; Claude S. Fischer, Michael Hout, Martin Sanchez Jankowski, Samuel R. Lucas, Ann Swidler, and Kim Voss, “Why Inequality?” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 9-15.; Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).; Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, “What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us,” review of End This Depression Now!, by Paul Krugman, and The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York Review of Books, September 27, 2012, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/sep/27/what-krugman-stiglitz-can-tell-us/; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Natasha Lennard, “Income inequality greater than in 1774,” Salon, September 19, 2012, http://www.salon.com/2012/09/19/income_inequality_greater_than_in_1774/?/2012/09/19/income_inequality_greater_than_in_1774/; Jerry Z. Muller, “Capitalism and Inequality: What the Right and the Left Get Wrong,” Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2013, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138844/jerry-z-muller/capitalism-and-inequality; Timothy Noah, “The United States of Inequality: Introducing the Great Divergence,” Slate, September 3, 2010, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_great_divergence/features/2010/the_united_states_of_inequality/introducing_the_great_divergence.html; Michael A. Peters, “Why Equality Matters,” Truthout, May 13, 2012, http://truth-out.org/news/item/8985-why-equality-matters; Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).; Nichole Sobecki, “In Topeka, Kansas, a ‘new generation of poverty’ feels rising inequality,” Global Post, February 11, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130207/topeka-kansas-new-generation-poverty; Joseph E. Stiglitz, “The Price of Inequality,” Project Syndicate, June 5, 2012, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-price-of-inequality; Joseph E. Stiglitz, “Some Are More Unequal Than Others,” New York Times, October 26, 2012, http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/stiglitz-some-are-more-unequal-than-others/; Maxine Baca Zinn and D. Stanley Eitzen, “Economic Restructuring and Systems of Inequality,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 16-19.↩
- Carey L. Biron, “U.S. ‘Stalling’ Could Force Acceptance of Onerous TPP,” InterPress Service, March 5, 2013, http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/u-s-stalling-could-force-acceptance-of-onerous-tpp/; Roger Bybee, “Yes He Did: Obama Plugged Trans-Pacific Partnership While Touting ‘Middle Class’ Growth,” In These Times, February 12, 2013, http://inthesetimes.com/article/14571/will_president_obama_push_an_offshoring_agenda_in_sotu/; Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing new Corporate Powers and Broken Campaign Promises,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html; Cliff DuRand, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Free Trade vs. Democracy,” Center for International Policy Americas Program, April 12, 2013, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/9355; Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig and Zachary A. Goldfarb, “Obama’s record on outsourcing draws criticism from the left,” Washington Post, July 9, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obamas-record-on-outsourcing-draws-criticism-from-the-left/2012/07/09/gJQAljJCZW_story.html; Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Why So Secretive? the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Coup,” Truthout, November 25, 2012, http://truth-out.org/news/item/12934-why-so-secretive?-the-trans-pacific-partnership-as-global-coup; Dawn Paley, Tremendous Pharmaceutical Profits or Totally Protected Plunder? Center for International Policy Americas Program, April 17, 2013, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/9369; Arthur Stamoulis, “Seven Reasons to Fight the TPP,” Center for International Policy Americas Program, April 12, 2013, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/9349; Lori Wallach, “NAFTA on Steroids,” Nation, June 27, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/article/168627/nafta-steroids; Lori Wallach, “Can a “Dracula Strategy” Bring Trans-Pacific Partnership into the Sunlight?” Yes!, November 21, 2012, http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/can-dracula-strategy-bring-trans-pacific-partnership-into-sunlight↩
- Lenski, Power and Privilege↩