Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Defending the New Gilded Age--The Audacity of Privilege

Cross posted at the Huffington Post

Yesterday, New York Times columnist, David Brooks (A Reality-Based Economy) gave us a peek at the rhetorical and semantic tricks that will be used against Democrats' persuasive populist message. The Dems must be on the right track, because Brooks tries so hard to discredit the message. And what is the message that must be demolished?

Brooks' summary of the supposed deceit:
"C.E.O.’s are seeing their incomes skyrocket while the middle class gets squeezed. The tides of globalization work against average Americans while most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent."

Trick Number One: Lead with a dismissive grabber.

"If you've paid attention to the presidential campaign, you've heard the neopopulist story line."

You thought neoconservatives were full of it selling another oil war with fear and deception? Just wait for the neopopulists. They will sell you a simplistic bill of goods to advance their deceitful ambitions for power. They will seek support from the vast cohort of people not in the top 1% of earners with a "storyline" not "facts." Brooks and other reasonable conservative opinion shapers can be trusted to supply facts.

Trick Number Two: Defend the indefensible and frame it as utterly reasonable. Be sure to use numbers.

"The bigger a company gets, the more a talented C.E.O. can do to increase earnings. Over the past two and a half decades, the value of top U.S. companies has increased 500 percent, according to Xavier Gabaix and Augustin Landier. The compensation for the C.E.O.’s of those companies has also increased 500 percent."

Much can be done to increase earnings and it needn't be legal or ethical, just effective because at the end of the day all that matters are increased earnings. If the earnings increase, well, so should the pay of the silverback at the top. And hey, it's proportional (500% increase in company value, 500% increase in CEO compensation). So simple a child can understand.

"As Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution noted recently in The Washington Post, between 1991 and 2005, 'the bottom fifth increased its earnings by 80 percent, compared with around 50 percent for the highest-income group and around 20 percent for each of the other three groups.'"

80% of $15,000 really doesn't compare to 50% of $150,000. But the point is everyone is seeing an increase, so quit complaining if inequity persists, you whiny neopopulists.

Trick Number Three: Don't forget to blame the victim and shove a wedge between potential allies.

"...inequality is also rising in part because people up the income scale work longer hours. In 1965, less educated Americans and more educated Americans worked the same number of hours a week. But today, many highly educated people work like dogs while those down the income scale have seen their leisure time increase by a phenomenal 14 hours a week."

Those layabout, slothful poor actually have more free time than hard-working, highly educated types busy working their way to the middle. You more educated people know who you are. You are better than the poor. You are different. Remember that as you hear Democrats tell stories about the economy--stories that might motivate you to work for equity during our current gilded age.