Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mark Thoma Senses a Coming Revolt

Academics aren't thought of as firebrands and radicals at the barricades. But strange times create strange new phenomena.

Here's a bit from an article by economist Mark Thoma published in the Fiscal Times. I've bolded the bit the strikes me:
Many of the policies enacted during and after the Great Depression not only addressed economic problems but also directly or indirectly reduced the ability of special interests to capture the political process. Some of the change was due to the effects of the Depression itself, but polices that imposed regulations on the financial sector, broke up monopolies, reduced inequality through highly progressive taxes, and accorded new powers to unions were important factors in shifting the balance of power toward the typical household.

But since the 1970s many of these changes have been reversed. Inequality has reverted to levels unseen since the Gilded Age, financial regulation has waned, monopoly power has increased, union power has been lost, and much of the disgust with the political process revolves around the feeling that politicians are out of touch with the interests of the working class.

We need a serious discussion of this issue, followed by changes that shift political power toward the working class. But who will start the conversation? Congress has no interest in doing so; things are quite lucrative as they are. Unions used to have a voice, but they have been all but eliminated as a political force. The press could serve as the gatekeeper, but too many news outlets are controlled by the very interests that the press needs to confront. Presidential leadership could make a difference, but this president does not seem inclined to take a strong stand on behalf of the working class despite the surprising boldness of his job-creation speech.

Another option is that the working class will say enough is enough and demand change. There was a time when I would have scoffed at the idea of a mass revolt against entrenched political interests and the incivility that comes with it. We aren’t there yet – there’s still time for change – but the signs of unrest are growing, and if we continue along a two-tiered path that ignores the needs of such a large proportion of society, it can no longer be ruled out.
When you make a large mass of people voiceless they revolt. Remember the cry of "no taxation without representation!" That was a revolutionary cry of a people who had no place in the Parliament of the country that was ruling them. It led to a bloody revolution to wrest power from a class of people in the UK and move it to the people in America who were being ignored. Mark Thoma is worried that the voiceless poor, working class, and even middle class may take up the banner of bloody revolt because they are not being listened to be politicians in Washington.

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