It’s Any Day and Robert Samuelson Is Vile

Robert SamuelsonRobert Samuelson is a truly vile person. He uses his prominent perch at The Washington Post to argue week after week that all of our problems come from the fact that we treat our elderly too well. He thinks Social Security pays too much, even though it pays out what it takes in and it is not nearly as generous as similar programs in other advanced economies. And then he complains about all the money we spend on Medicare, but isn’t at all concerned that the cost is so high because we pay twice as much for our healthcare as people in other advanced economies where the medical care is better. He just wants to harm the poorer people in our society and assure more and more money for the already rich. Like I said: he’s a vile guy.

On Christmas eve, he sunk to new lows, Repairing the Middle Class in 2015. The title itself is funny. As if Samuelson is in the least bit interested in helping the middle class. But the article itself is just one distortion after another. He claims that the American system is not rigged against the middle class but rather for the middle class. “That’s a natural result for a democracy in which politicians compete more for votes than for dollars.” No serious person could look out on the vast American political system and conclude that the votes really matter. A tiny investment of $8 million by Monsanto caused a hugely popular GMO food labeling bill in California to go down to a resounding defeat.

But when it comes to all that money that the middle class is getting from the government, Samuelson points to — Surprise! — Social Security and Medicare. Keven Drum calls him on this issue, The Middle Class Needs More Income. Faith Will Follow:

When we speak of the “middle class,” we’re nearly always talking about the working-age middle class. Samuelson surely knows this. But the only programs he calls out by name are specifically directed at the elderly and the working poor. Barely a single dollar of those programs goes to middle-class workers.

But Samuelson doesn’t leave it there. He goes on to complain that most of the taxes fall on the rich. Well I wonder why that might be! Median incomes have been stagnant for almost four decades. But he is further disingenuous by looking only at the federal government where taxes are most fair. As I showed last week when discussing the supposed Texas Miracle, state taxes are usually ridiculously regressive. But Samuelson doesn’t want to talk about that, because he isn’t interested in what the truth is about life for the poorer classes in the United States. He’s interested in pushing the interests of the oligarchs.

But if that weren’t bad enough, he then goes on to blame the financial crisis of bursting the house bubble on those evil poor people getting loans they couldn’t afford. He noted, “There is much evidence for [the cause of the financial crisis], but it ignores the deeper cause: an intellectual, political and social climate that legitimized lax lending policies in the name of promoting middle-class well-being.” To begin with, those lax lending policies were not created to help the middle-class. They were created to help bankers make a lot of money. But his narrative is just outrageous. Oh, those poor bankers being pushed around by the intellectual, political, and social climate! Funny how when people are screaming for jobs, the business community is sitting on piles of cash, despite the intellectual, political, and social climate.

Samuelson ends his article by noting that the challenges for the middle class are only partly economic. It is also psychological. It seems we can’t really control the economic environment, but we can control ourselves. So let’s not do anything about the economy and let’s complain that the middle class just kind of sucks. Dean Baker called this for the nonsense that it is, Robert Samuelson Thinks That Because He Is Confused About the Economy, Everyone Else Is Also:

In fact the government has structured the market over the last three decades in ways that cause most income to flow upward. For example its trade deals have been focused on putting less educated workers in direct competition with the lowest paid workers in the world. This has the predicted and actual effect of driving down their wages. At the same time, highly paid professionals, like doctors and lawyers, are largely protected from international competition. The government has also had longer and stronger patent protection, causing middle class people and the government to pay hundreds of billions more for prescription drugs than would be the case in a free market. The benefits from these forms of protectionism disproportionately go to the wealthy.

The government also has adopted more anti-union policies in the last three decades, substantially reducing the ability of workers to organize effective unions. It also gives huge subsidies to the high six and seven figure salaries of top officials at non-profits like the Gates Foundation.

And the government gives free too big to fail insurance and special low tax status to the financial industry…

It’s also interesting that the government has done nothing to keep the minimum wage up with the rate of inflation — to say nothing of the rate of productivity growth. The government has done everything it could get away with to screw the poorer classes and lavish the rich with every possible benefit. But that’s what Robert Samuelson thinks it ought to do. I just wish he were more honest about it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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