Chrystia Freeland on Plutocrats

Monday, November 05, 2012

Chrystia Freeland, business journalist who has spent almost 20 year reporting on the new elite, examines wealth disparity and income inequality. Her book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else dissects the lives of the world’s wealthiest individuals.


Chrystia Freeland

Comments [29]

Amy from Manhattan

Wait, I didn't catch this the 1st time--Romney didn't say 47% don't pay income taxes--he said they don't pay taxes, i.e., any kind of taxes, which is false. And not paying (income) taxes doesn't equate to being on the dole! So please don't pick up his assumption that it does & perpetuate it.

Nov. 06 2012 01:05 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

FDR was called a "traitor to his class" by the wealthy. There has always been resistance by the rich to letting money really filter through this society. This is the very heart of "class warfare" in the USA.
In the '80s it was Regan demonizing "wellfare queens". Currently it is the inflated self regard of those that see themselves as "job creators" and the bottom half of society as spongers. Class warfare is a reality, but only by the wealthy at the expense of the poor...and now at the expense of the middle class as well.

Nov. 05 2012 11:36 PM

Over the 50 years from 1961-2011, average wages has grown at a 4.82% compound rate...$4,089-$42,980. Over the same period, the U.S. GDP has risen
2 percentage points over that. From $549 billion in 1961 to $14.58 trillion in 2011. The logical result of the pie growing faster than the average workers' slice, is that you work just as hard (or harder) but your income doesn't buy the things you need. If 1961 income had grown at the same rate as national GDP, the average wage would now be $112,000. That is 70 grand per year per worker that is going to the plutocracy. The plutocrats have used favorable tax policy, fear of labor organization and expansion of illegal immigration to hold down the pressure to increase middle class incomes.

The next step would be to pull up the ladder behind you. And I believe that many of our nouveau-riche would vote to do just that, contending that they have earned everything they have got and are not preventing you from doing the same. Right.

The other clear sequela is the starvation of government revenue as national income shifts from high percentage payers - income and payroll taxes combined - to low percentage payers - capital gains and dividends.

Today's millionaires may be self-made but their children will inherit. Progressive tax rates and estate taxes are a valid means of social equalization and we should use it.

Nov. 05 2012 05:02 PM

@gary from ULS

You know how to cut and paste. Terrific.

Final Grade: Z

Nov. 05 2012 03:50 PM
fuva from harlemworld

The author's emphasis on how hardworking and/or clever the plutocrats are is misleading and masks another disturbing trend: Recent studies have revealed that a great number of these worked in their father's firms and/or come from wealth -- not including those who come from otherwise advantaged if not monetarily rich families (i.e. children of university professors). Few of these are (mythical) Horatio Algers; not only are they excessively paid, many started on third base, reflecting an ever more entrenched American aristocracy.

Nov. 05 2012 03:27 PM
Ed from Larchmont

During the Industrial Revolution Pope Leo XIII wrote the famous encyclical 'De Rerum Novarum' ('On the new world order'.) As the guest said, it is a new situation, and Pope Benedict wrote an encyclical on the economy a year or two ago.

It was quite conscious of the environment. A theme was that the market is good, but needs to be regulated. And that the purpose of the economy has to be the human person. If it's not the human person, it isn't a successful economy, no matter how it's set up. I think it also comments on income inequality.

The pope gave the president a copy of it when he visited the Vatican with his wife.

Nov. 05 2012 01:17 PM
Grandpa Daniel from 10033

Remember Poland during the time of Catherine the Great of Russia -- and how the rich and privileged kept vetoing attempts to defend Poland, and individually accepted the rule of powerful neighbors as long as their families' privileges were kept intact. Poland was partitioned into three, never to be whole until the end of the First World War. Catalonia, the richest part of Spain, just voted in favor of seceding from Spain so that its citizens could could maintain their riches and not have to help maintain the general welfare of Spain. And there is a strong interest in maintaining Catalonia's relationship with the EU. Back to the future? Should we elect any of the super rich to our government? I would not.

Nov. 05 2012 01:08 PM
Charles NYC from NYC

The American billionaires suffer from Russian-China Oligarchs Envy.

Nov. 05 2012 01:03 PM

Honestly, this book would seem to offer little but a superficial re-hashing of what we are sadly all too aware of.

Nov. 05 2012 12:41 PM
Laura from UWS

Prof. Michael Parenti said that elites don't want more; they want EVERYTHING. When I asked another economics professor about greed, he said, "let's just call it 'the more factor'". . . . .

Fascinating segment. Looking forward to more about women......for example, what if we had European-style quotas to include women....what would our economy look like?

Nov. 05 2012 12:40 PM
John A.

Note the Lotto commercials that show you a 1-percenter and say: "Yes, that rich." Acceptance of greed is everywhere, folks. Start by keeping the concept unelevated and uncelebrated.

Nov. 05 2012 12:40 PM
John from NYC

The author brings up some important points about social mobility and the limitations in the United States.

Nov. 05 2012 12:38 PM
Megan from Brooklyn

I have always been impressed with Freeland's economic perspective, and the fact that she is so obviously Canadian and yet can see the world through American eyes. As a Canadian in New York dismiss this problem of plutocracy as a distinctly American one that I will never understand, since our economy and politics are so very different, even though I live and work here. I really am curious how she has been able to develope an American vision of the economy.

Nov. 05 2012 12:38 PM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

there was a **much** more dramatic structural change in 1970 than minor shifts in political policy.

Our whole approach veered away from humans being the masters of complexity to computers, and, not only for that reason, really began to split apart in an entirely new way.

A little deregulation didn't do that!!!!!

Nov. 05 2012 12:37 PM

Contrary to the hedging that Freeland does, there is _no_ measure along which social mobility in the US is higher than in _any_ western European country. Moreover — and stunningly — social mobility, popular satisfaction, happiness, literacy, longevity, health — are all highest in the countries that have the most socialist policies by American standards, the Scandinavian countries.

Nov. 05 2012 12:37 PM
Jf from Y

If there was no industrial revolution we would be self sufficient farmers instead of destroying the world with cargo ships burning crude oil a.d having everything wrapped in plastic.

Nov. 05 2012 12:35 PM
Hugh Sansom

Chrystia Freeland's summarization of the Kuznets Curve is not really right. Kuznets argued that as a country developed, inequality would initially increase, then max out, and then decrease as the country further developed. This seemed to borne out in developing, advanced industrial societies up into the 1970s. But the US leads the way in defying this prediction in the past 30 years.

Nov. 05 2012 12:34 PM
GW from Queens

The whole idea of being rich, or racist, or sexist etc is the pleasure to know that you can lord over someone else. Hence the necessity for a "moat" and to perpetuate inequality and a fear of Social -isms. There is nothing wrong with blending social equality and entrepreneurial sprit... the problem with western European capitalism as practiced in the US at the moment is it's baggage of racism, sexism and exploitation ... we are suspicious of it .. and it has to demonstrate that it is giving up it's evil legacy...

Nov. 05 2012 12:31 PM

Obama helped MILLIONS avoid Foreclosure.
Obama helped over 800,000 Veterans get Health Care that did not have it before.
Obama Closed the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan.
Obama Created a best practices list for private businesses in accommodating workers with disabilities.
Obama made Health Insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions.
Obama removed the "cap" on Health Insurance coverage.
etc... etc... etc...

Nov. 05 2012 12:31 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I would recommend Pope Benedict's last year book on the economy and where to go from here.

Nov. 05 2012 12:28 PM
John A

I live 50 miles outside of Connecticut, but I watch TV know the real cause: Chris Murphy. Its all Chris Murphy.
But seriously, How's it going in Canada? Chrystia Freeland sounds from there.

Nov. 05 2012 12:28 PM
M. L. from New York, NY

I've been wondering why there's been so little mention of Obama's bailout of the banks. It seems to me as if Republicans would rather not acknowledge how much of a capitalist Obama is. As for Occupy Wall Street and the issues they stood for, is that too last year for the media to bring up now?

Nov. 05 2012 12:24 PM
MC from Manhattan

Of course the reaction of the wealthy is to shut down ANY talk of the rape of the economy. You don't want people to realize that they are being trashed and disenfranchised.

Other wise they just might return to the points of view that the wealthy republicans have worked so hard to repress and expunge since the new deal.

Eventually, The numbers and poverty will increase to a point where there will be an explosion of resentment and an eventual adjustment as was the case during the Roosevelt administration.
The rich will scale back a bit and then plot their return ....

Nov. 05 2012 12:23 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Only accidentally related to Calvinism. It's more part of an economic theory, with no relation to God.

Nov. 05 2012 12:20 PM
Hugh Sansom

The U.S. stands out for income and wealth inequality, and this points to something that Freeland understates — the role of government policy in inequality. We've had over 30 years of essentially conservative policy from both Republicans _and_ Democrats. As Paul Krugman and others have pointed out, we've seen an enormous redistribution from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest.

Historian Gabriel Kolko disputes Freeland's (and others') claims about how progressive the Progressive Era was.

Huge question: Who does Freeland mean by "the left"? Dean Baker, Paul Krugman (the most centrist of those I might label as left), James K. Galbraith, Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, John Roemer, and others do indeed have proposals. But try finding them in the New York Times. I heard NPR interview Dean Baker for the first time ever (to my knowledge) just a few weeks ago.

Economic evidence overwhelmingly presses the conclusion that above a certain size, larger banks, larger firms return very little to the economy. Likewise, above a certain level of wealth, there is simply no return to the rich being richer except to those people themselves. That Mike Bloomberg has an extra 5 billion this year over last does _nothing_ more for the economy. Nothing. Ninety-nine percent of economists would not dispute this at all.

Nov. 05 2012 12:20 PM
John A

How to stop it, please, not endless descriptions of politicians failing along the way, and we haven't yet gotten to Clinton and Glas-Steagall.

Nov. 05 2012 12:19 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Yes, exactly! I've been asking for years why enacting policies that benefit the rich over the poor & middle-class *isn't* class warfare & even pointing out that those policies do this *is*!

Nov. 05 2012 12:17 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

Let's do a review of the Obama Administration:

Promise: Close Gitmo. Reality: Gitmo is STILL open for business.

Promise: Healthcare reform. Reality: 50M people STILL don't have coverage; premiums skyrocket by 32% in 2 years for those with insurance while benefits are reduced.

Promise: Financial reform. Reality: Dodd-Frank Law only stops the most egregious banking practices; credit card rates still at usury levels.

Promise: Prosecute those responsible for housing scandal. Reality: NO ONE has been even indicted by the DOJ, let alone prosecuted and convicted. NO ONE !!!

Promise: Immigration reform. Reality: More "illegals" deported than under Bush.

Fun Fact: Obama nominates tax evader for Secretary of Treasury (IRS is a division of Treasury).

Fun Fact: Obama wins Noble Peace Prize while dropping bombs on Afghanistan.

Fun Fact: Anti-Wall Street rhetoric in the morning, then Obama appears at Wall St. fundraiser later in the day.

Fun Fact: Goldman Sachs is Obama's largest campaign contributor.

Fun Fact: Rate of foreclosures accelerated from January 2009 to January 2012.

Fun Fact: Banks have the widest profit spread in U.S. history (banks borrow money at 0%--Fed Funds Rate set by government--but lend at 29.9% (e.g., credit card rates).

Fun Fact: "Proposal" (no law yet) for 2-yr reprieve on illegal immigrants b/w 16 and 31 years old that requires registering with I.C.E., which is really a way to "smoke 'em out" and find them for future deportation after 2-yr reprieve has expired.

Final Grade: F

Nov. 05 2012 12:17 PM
Vlad from Central, NJ

I agree 100% with Chrystia... and here is a "study" to prove it:

Nov. 05 2012 12:17 PM

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