David Brooks Is Right, but He's Also Wrong

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Friday, 25 January 2013 08:27

Okay, I'm stealing from Paul Krugman today. Brooks' column today points out that modest redistributional measures implemented by Obama don't amount to a hill of beans next to the enormous upward redistribution going on in before-tax income. The restoration of Clinton era tax rates at best take away 2-3 years of growing inequality of before tax income.

Where Brooks is out to lunch is when he tells readers:

"On the one side, there is the meritocracy, which widens inequality."

That one is more than a few million miles far of the mark. When Erskine Bowles earned $340k as a director of Morgan Stanley as it was pursuing practices that would have landed it in bankruptcy had it not been saved by a government bailout, was that due to meritocracy? Did all the CEOs who got tens of millions of dollars in compensation as they tanked their companies get their pay due to meritocracy? Is the reason that our doctors get twice as much as doctors in Western Europe meritocracy?

The list here is very long, yes it's my book about Loser Liberalism, but you have to be pretty blind to realities in the United States today to think that the story of inequality is primarily about meritocracy -- although it might be useful for some people to think this.