Opinion | The great fortunes and the lost decade in the U.S.

Elizabeth Warren is getting a lot of attacks in the media. Some of these attacks reflect, no doubt, errors of campaign. But in large part are a kind of visceral

Opinion | The great fortunes and the lost decade in the U.S.

Elizabeth Warren is getting a lot of attacks in the media. Some of these attacks reflect, no doubt, errors of campaign. But in large part are a kind of visceral reaction to criticism of the candidate with respect to the excessive influence of big money in politics, an argument that, in fact, is confirmed by this reaction.

it Is true that at the beginning of his political career Warren, like almost all others, campaigned to raise funds from donors rich. What? The accusations of inconsistency are very often a trick in journalism, a way of not addressing the substance of what he says to be a candidate. In the end, the politicians should change their mind when there is a good reason to do so. The question should be if Warren did well to announce last February that it would raise funds from millionaires. More in general, do you have reason when he says that the rich have too much political influence?

And the answer to the second question is certainly yes. The first thing that you need to know of the very rich is that, from the political point of view, they are different from you and me. Do not be fooled by the handful of prominent billionaires progressive or progresistoides; studies on the policy of the ultrarricos show that are very conservative, that they are obsessed with the tax cuts, which are opposed to environmental regulation, and financial, and that are eager to cut social programs

The second thing you need to know is that the rich often get what they want, even when the greater part of the citizenry wants the opposite. For example, a large majority of voters —including a majority of those who declare themselves republicans— believe that large corporations pay too little in taxes. But the internal politics that has defined the Government of Trump has been a huge tax break to large companies.

Or by taking an issue that is of great interest to Warren: the majority of americans, and among them a large number of republicans, is in favor of tighter regulation of the big banks, and yet, even before Donald Trump took office, the regulations relatively soft, which entered into force following the financial crisis of 2008 were subjected to a political attack constant.

why exerts a very low number of rich so much influence in what is supposed to be a democracy? Contributions of funds to the election campaign are only part of the story. Equally important, if not more, is the network of foundations, pressure groups, and others who shape the public discourse and that are funded by milmillonarios. And there is also the revolving door; it is deprimentemente normal that former officials from both parties go to work with big banks, multinational corporations or consulting firms, and the prospect of such employment cannot but influence policy when they are still their public position.

And, last but not least, the information policy of the media seems to reflect too often the points of view of the rich. Let us look, for example, in the matter of policies to combat unemployment. Unemployment in the U.S. is now at a historical low —only 3.5%— and that low unemployment is getting by without any sign of runaway inflation, which tells us that we could have achieved this kind of results all the time. Do you remember when some, like Jamie Dimon, ceo of JP Morgan Chase, told us that high unemployment was inevitable, because of the "mismatch of skills"? They were wrong.

But it has taken a long time to get here, because the unemployment has declined very slowly after the peak reached after the crisis. The average unemployment rate in the past decade was 6.3%, which translates into millions of person-years of unemployment free.

why don't we recover more quickly? The most important reason was budgetary austerity, supposedly to reduce the deficit, which was a drag constant for the economy since 2010. And who was obsessed with budget deficits? The voters in general, no; but the studies indicate that, even when unemployment was above 8%, the rich believed that budget deficits were a bigger problem than the lack of jobs.

And the media has echoed these priorities, creating as if they were the only reasonable position, and not the preferences of a small group of voters. As noted by then-Ezra Klein, Vox Media, in terms of budget deficits appeared that were not applicable to "the usual rules of neutrality of information"; journalists often defended political views that were, at best, controversial, that people in general did not share, and that, as we now know, were essentially erroneous.

But they were the political opinions of the rich. And in regard to the treatment of political opinions divergent, often the media, granted some americans are treated more equal than others. Which brings me back to the election campaign of 2020. I might not agree with the progressive ideas that come to us from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, which is fine. But the media should be the citizenship a serious debate about these ideas, not a rejection wrought by a combination of the reflexive "bias centrist" and the assumption, consciously or unconsciously, that any policy that upsets the rich must be irresponsible.

And when the candidates speak of excessive influence of the rich, that topic deserves a serious discussion, not the low blows that we've seen lately. I know that this type of debate upsets many journalists. And that is precisely the reason why we need to have it.

Paul Krugman is a Nobel prize winner in Economics.

© The New York Times, 2019.

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Date Of Update: 29 December 2019, 01:00