Paul Krugman on “Egos and Immorality”
May 26, 2012 5 Comments
Sure, sure, Paul Krugman is invariably good, but there are some occasions when his columns seem to take it to another level, or perhaps it’s that talent he shares with Atrios — the ability to say with clarity and concision what the bulk of the traditional media ignore, and that they frequently drown out with their willingness to perpetuate false narratives.
On Thursday, Krugman took care to remind all of us just who we’re dealing with on Wall Street…
Remember when Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group compared a proposal to limit his tax breaks to Hitler’s invasion of Poland? Remember when Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase characterized any discussion of income inequality as an attack on the very notion of success? But here’s the thing: If Wall Streeters are spoiled brats, they are spoiled brats with immense power and wealth at their disposal.
Krugman also reminds me of Rachel Maddow in that both of them have this ability to cut through the haze and remind us of what happened before and what is at stake. There’s the blunt reminder that our economy worked better when it was better regulated…
In fact, overall business productivity in America grew faster in the postwar generation, an era in which banks were tightly regulated and private equity barely existed, than it has since our political system decided that greed was good.
And the correspondingly depressing reminder of our present…
Think about where we are right now, in the fifth year of a slump brought on by irresponsible bankers. The bankers themselves have been bailed out, but the rest of the nation continues to suffer terribly, with long-term unemployment still at levels not seen since the Great Depression, with a whole cohort of young Americans graduating into an abysmal job market.
I know that columnists don’t choose their own headlines, but this one — “Egos and Immorality” — is particularly important because it argues that much of what’s happening economically is not due to rational decisions but to greedy men (mostly) feeding their egos. Plus, it’s immoral, and progressives need to highlight how this fight is a fight about values. Conservatives promote anti-homosexual bigotry on the basis of values, so why can’t progressives push an agenda of economic justice on the basis of, you know, feeding and clothing our fellow human beings? Wall Street is lose-lose, both impractical and immoral. Egos and immorality, indeed.