At Berkeley, Krugmanâ€™s warning becomes reality
Dov Werdiger stashed this in News
I make that point because itâ€™s almost impossible to have a serious discussion about this countryâ€™s economic problems without getting trapped into partisan political bickering, which is almost irrelevant in this context. The activist Tea Party right (at least in its populist, non-elite form) and the activist Occupy left are essentially reacting to the same phenomenon â€“ worsening inequality, and the long-term economic and psychic decay of the United States â€“ but interpreting it in different ways. Working-class whites who feel an immense loss of relative privilege and social status are not wrong, for example â€“ but it doesnâ€™t have much to do with the Kenyan socialist Muslim in the White House, or his namby-pamby and admittedly screwed-up healthcare law. As Nobel-winning economist Joseph StiglitzÂ recently noted,Â census data reveals that men with high-school diplomas but without college degrees earn about 40 percent less today (in real terms) than they did in the 1970s. Obama didnâ€™t do that; capitalism did.
Stiglitz concluded his essay on inequality â€“ which argued that it was a political choice, rather than the inevitable result of macroeconomic forces â€“ by writing that he saw us â€śentering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity â€” the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok.â€ť Which kind of country do we live in? That was the question that ran through my mind this week while I was watching Frederick Wisemanâ€™s magisterial documentary â€śAt Berkeley,â€ť a portrait of Americaâ€™s most prestigious public university as it wrestles with piecemeal privatization and the near-total abandonment of its historic mission.