Picketty’s Charge

April 24, 2014

A book on Income Inequality is a surprise bestseller.  Surprise? Not surprising at all. If one day we noticed that the moon was like, twice as close to the earth as it used to be, would anybody be surprised if a book about the lunar orbit sold a lot of copies?

I’ll tell you the story here, in brief. The US economy got a bad case of flu in the 1970’s. Our post-WWII sizzle faded and our oil addiction was making our head hurt. We panicked and bought the medicine show guy’s Special Elixir. If we cut taxes for the wealthy, maybe the rich would fix things for us. Well, fix things they did. For themselves. Deals with the devil can seem like good deals, for a while. We perked right up! Prosperity, of a sort, returned.

There were some things to notice, like how we were going further and further into personal debt trying to keep up, but still. And there was that niggling thing that wealth distribution kept on distributing more and more to fewer and fewer. But still! Economists told us not to worry. All good! And sort of it was, until it wasn’t. The new Elixir economy detonated in our midst like a barrel bomb. The new economy did what everyone had told us could never happen. As we plucked nails out of our torsos we had the opportunity to listen to the explanations. There were none.

“Stuff happens” was about as revealing as the explanations got. And as the dust settled we noticed another thing. The bad wealth distribution was still there, intact, and, oh, still getting worse. The explanation for that? “Nothing anybody can do about that!” Needless to say, this is not a thoroughly satisfying explanation.

So our economy gets forklifted up to the economic elite, and our government right alongside it, and these new elites have nothing, absolutely nothing to say to us about national and international problems other than you and I are not working hard or smart enough yet. And then a book comes out which begins to shed some light on all of this. Why would anybody be surprised that people wanted to read it?

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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