Forget Taxes for Redistribution: What to do about Inequality

By L. Randall Wray

America has discovered inequality. But, as Jared Bernstein says, dealing with that will be expensive. He comes up with a nice wish list of policies to help the poor:

What will work here is a large, publicly funded infrastructure program to begin to repair our deteriorating public goods, with the jobs targeted at the working poor. All of the above — the expanded earned-income tax credit, universal preschool, job-creating infrastructure — will take more tax revenue, and much of that new revenue will need to come from those at the top of the wealth scale. 

He wags his finger at those who think there’s some free lunch that would let us help the poor without soaking the rich. Nope, he claims. Uncle Sam needs those taxes. The rich will have to pay-up.

We all love Robin Hood. Wouldn’t it be great if Kevin Costner rode his trusty stead through Wall Street, relieving the rapacious thieves of a few trillion of their ill-gotten gains, to be redistributed throughout the lands to all the deserving poor?

You remember Robin Hood from your children’s storybooks. Of course, those were well-laundered so as not to cause little kiddies to question the authority of your friendly monarch, the “good” King Richard the Lionheart. Robin was supposed to be a dispossessed aristocrat who helped restore the good king to his rightful throne.

Actually Robin was a yeoman living in feudal times, fighting the attempt by the lords to enclose the commons. He robbed the rich to give to the poor so that they could pay the rent-collecting sheriffs. Today he’d steal from the Banksters and pay the overdue mortgages to forestall foreclosures.

Take from the rich and give to the poor. We love that meme.

This is the third in a series on taxes. Virtually every liberal I know wants to raise taxes on the rich to pay for programs to benefit the poor. They see these taxes as necessary to reduce income inequality.

Me? I’d rather send Robin Hood to Wall Street to aim his straight and true arrows at the Black Hearts of the conniving CEOs that President Obama refuses to investigate for their crimes. Robin Hood and his Merry Band would cart them off to the dungeons where they belong.

I think that real punishment would do one heck of a lot more to reduce income inequality than taxes will ever do. Put a thousand of Wall Street’s “finest” behind bars.

Put such fear into our Bankster Class that before they try to push some new fancy derivative deal on a pension fund, they’ll imagine what it would be like waking up in a cell with a tattooed roomie named Bubba.

Trying to punish them with taxes is a fool’s errand. They’ll just raise their compensation package and buy tax exemptions from Congress.

And, as we know, Uncle Sam doesn’t need any stinking taxes to “pay for” jobs and income and healthcare and decent retirements for the poor. If you have unemployed resources, free lunches abound! Just put the resources to work, and you’ve got Bernstein’s wish list filled.

Forget taxes for redistribution. It will not work. It is a bad meme—especially in America. Once you let the greedy rich get their riches, trying to take them away is harder than prying guns out of the “cold dead hands” of NRA members.

Every time a progressive proposes a tax hike on the rich to pay for welfare, the Koch brothers giggle in gleeful delight. It is the surest way to prevent any policies that would help the poor. Tying tax hikes to sensible policy plays right into the greedy hands of the Conservatives and Regressives.

Did you ever hear a One-Percenter ask for a tax hike to bail out Wall Street? Come on, they are not that stupid.

What I’ve long argued is that we need “predistribution”, not “redistribution”.

Now, I know many will question my progressive credentials after that argument. But none other than Rick Wolff has just penned the same argument. Rick’s progressive credentials are beyond question. He’s been beating the inequality drum since long before Pikkety brought it to the attention of our nation’s liberal thought leaders a few months ago.

Let me quote from his powerful piece, Better than Redistributing Income,

Discussions of Piketty’s work show considerable support for redistribution. Yet history has shown both its friends and foes that redistribution has at least three negative aspects. First, redistribution mechanisms rarely last. Once established, progressive tax rates, social securities, safety nets, minimum wages, welfare states, and all the other mechanisms of redistribution can be and usually are undermined. The last 40 years, and especially the aftermath of the global crisis in 2008, starkly illustrate the undoing of redistribution.

Second, redistribution is socially divisive, often extremely. When taxes not only pay (quid pro quo) for government services rendered, but also serve to redistribute income, opposition usually grows. Some taxpayers suspect they pay more and get less in public services than others. Deteriorating economic conditions that lessen capacities to pay taxes intensify resistance. That often turns into opposition to income redistribution in principle. Lower-income people get demonized as lazy welfare-dependents. Racist and anti-immigrant oppositions get drawn into the mix, and so on. Meanwhile, advocates of redistribution make ethical appeals and/or threaten that without income redistribution, deepening income inequalities endanger capitalism and the social status quo.  

Third, redistribution is costly.  Taxing, spending and regulating require large government bureaucracies funded by tax revenues. Opposition to taxes easily extends into opposition to bureaucracies like the IRS. Those bureaucracies usually intrude on privacy and quickly become objects of influence peddling, bribery, and abuse. Exposés of the latter provide further fuel to redistribution’s opponents.

Yep, let’s see: Unsustainable, divisive, and inefficient. Rick’s “predistribution” is worker’s co-ops. I’d add jobs for all.

Of course, I do not agree with Rick on this “taxes pay for government services” notion—except for the case of state and local taxes. But Rick is absolutely correct that when the public begins to see taxes as a payment for services rendered, then they start trying to calculate whether their own payment is “fair”.

That is a path to hell so far as government services are concerned. Since around 1970 that is exactly what has happened to state and local government taxes. In the economics literature it is called “devolution”—moving provision of most government services to the state and local government level, and forcing them to pay for it with taxes.

It encouraged the “donut holes” that devastated cities as the more affluent whites ran off to the suburbs.

With new infrastructure and higher income and wealth in the ‘burbs, relatively low tax rates could provide good services. The cities that were left behind had to raise tax rates on an ever-shrinking tax base to try to provide even basic services.

Witness Camden, NJ, which has essentially abandoned large swaths of its jurisdiction to “Escape from New York” dystopia.

This “stakeholder”, “taxes pay for the goodies I get” view has already reduced much of America to third world living standards. No wonder that Regressives pushed the devolution that wiped out cities.

Now the Progressives want to do the same at the Federal level.

The notion that you’ll significantly reduce inequality through taxes on the rich is a pipedream. How high would taxes have to be on the top few tenths of a percent? 50%? 75%? Forget it. They’d still be filthy rich and you’d be poor by comparison.

As I said in the first instalment, we don’t need taxes for revenue. We can justify taxes on the rich not for revenue purposes but as sin taxes. Look at it this way. Let’s raise sin taxes on the rich to reduce the sin of ill-gotten gains.

How high? 100%? Nay, 1000%. Take everything: all their income, all their wealth, the house, the car, the dog. Don’t let crime pay.

But you won’t collect the tax anyway. As the great Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele (a UMKC alum, by the way) documented, rich folk don’t pay taxes because they purchase tax exemptions from Congress: See Barlett, Donald L.; Steele, James B. (1988-04-10) “A Rich Texas Widow Could Save $4 Million”. The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A15.

Leona Helmsley was right: taxes are for little people.

Bill Clinton has a better idea. At a Pete Peterson “fiscal summit” he argued: you can’t do anything about the top 1% doing better “unless you want to start jailing people.”

One wonders what the One Percenter Peterson thought about that.

Why is it that Democratic Party Presidents can only tell the truth once they’ve left office? Yes, that is the same Bubba who auctioned off the Lincoln Bedroom to the highest bidder, filled every Administration position higher than toilet cleaner with a Gov’tSachs or CitiGov official, and found novel uses for his favorite cigar.

Do I “want to start jailing people”? Heck yes. If you want to reduce inequality, you’ve got to incarcerate the top 1%.

And give jobs to the rest.

31 responses to “Forget Taxes for Redistribution: What to do about Inequality

  1. Prof Wray you’re right jail the bastards. But then you’ve got to deal with the AG wimp Holder and his Covington buddies, Obama and 99% of the supporting cast of financiers and banksters, who uses “Collateral Consequences” rather than RICO law to give the bastards a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE PASS.”

    We need an army of folks with the integrity to uphold the law. There is no semblance of that in our current institutional leadership.

  2. This is a bit dramatic, no? Would jail be effective? Perhaps, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Your post assumes that all the uber-rich are also thieves, but this isn’t the case. Some people get rich through other absurd, yet quite legal mechanisms that are part of our wonderful system.

    There are other ways without invoking taxation. One doesn’t have to let the wealth be accumulated in the first place. How about having a maximum wage? How about a much higher minimum wage (supported by a job guarantee)? How about having some new policies regarding inheritance (it doesn’t have to be a tax, as such).

    • Well, it was Bubba who suggested jailing ALL of the top 1%, not me. I’m talking about “ill-gotten gains”, “banksters” and others in the criminal class at the top. They must learn that “crime doesn’t pay”. To significantly diminish the hideous inequality at the top, you’ve got to change the criminal culture. It is not JUST that they enrich themselves, but that they do it by sucking income and wealth out of the rest of society.

      • It is not JUST that they enrich themselves, but that they do it by sucking income and wealth out of the rest of society.

        Well stated, but really, it goes far beyond even that, they truly are the forces of anti-progress. Most of our progress today results from incremental improvements from the pure R&D research which occurred during the (Kennedy Administration created) NASA space program.

        These super-rich criminals have destroyed numerous lives going into multiple generations now, rigging the student loans (SLABS, or Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, etc.) along with all their other numerous financial fraud scams.

        When former Mayor Bloomberg of NYC appointed Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) as his “education czar” it was the commission of pure idiotic insanity: it was Welch who destroyed so many lives by offshoring the jobs of professionals (engineers, programmers, scientific R&D researchers, etc.) along with manufacturing and technician positions, and laughing all the way to the bank!

        Welch helped to destroy education, and that is the long range plan: to turn everyone into serfs.

    • Your post assumes that all the uber-rich are also thieves, but this isn’t the case. Some people get rich through other absurd, yet quite legal mechanisms that are part of our wonderful system.

      Huh??? Clinton was attending the “fiscal summit” of one of the master criminals of our time, Peter G. Peterson, who — with David Rockefeller, his mentor — founded the Peterson Institute, whose absolute agenda has been the offshoring of as many American jobs as possible, the ending of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and making sure America and all other countries adhere to the WTO’s Financial Services Agreement, especially the Fifth Protocol (allowing for foreign ownership of banks and the acceptance of credit derivatives)!

      Wonderful system? Which has dismantled the economy and transformed it into one giant Ponzi scheme of schemes with completely rigged markets (LIBOR rates rigging, interest rate derivatives rigging, precious metals markets rigging, forex rigging, etc., etc., etc.

      You are right about one thing, at least one American, the lady who founded Spanx, evidently earned her money honestly — but that is a real rarity today in this country!

  3. This was the first good explaination about what happened in the 1970s regarding the tax base collapse in cities. Thanks. I never thought of that too much. You think federal spending in the cities would be a great way to improve this situation I take it? Certainly many of these cities could use the work on their roads and bridges etc.

  4. Jerry Hamrick

    You don’t have to incarcerate the rich, all you have to do is to take their power from them. But no one ever proposes that. Sure, some will say that marching in the streets, or staging various kinds of sit-ins, or registering voters and busing people to the polls will produce the change we need. But it won’t. Exactly as you have just said, working within the system to change the system is a fool’s errand. So, what do we do?

    We take another path. We look at our history to find situations in which the nation’s future depended directly on the efforts of masses of the People. In those efforts the power of the government was used to support the People, and the People pretty much operated without regard to anything the government said, except to bitch about the government’s inability to deliver the tools the People needed to perform the tasks necessary to save the nation. Once we find those instances, and there are a few of them, then we adapt them to our present predicament. And, lucky us, we have the tools to do that quickly without any input from the national and state governments.

    All it takes is a little determination, a little technology, and a recognition that now is the time for change. One other thing is needed: a plan to get a plan. We don’t even have to have a whole plan. Just a plan to get a plan. But part of that story has to include a description of the goal of the plan, and that has to include a new economic system, a new education system, a new legislative system, a new scotus, a new rights system, and several other new systems. This description of those systems will show what the next America will look like. For example, the work of economists will change. They will be asked what effects six trillion dollars annually of stimulus would have on our nation’s economy. How should that stimulus be injected into the system? How will inflation be detected and controlled?

    I could go on and I have. But this kind of stuff sounds far out of reach. But it is not. It is more in reach than winning WWII. It is more in reach than finding a way to force Japan to surrender without having to invade their homeland. But those things happened, and my father who was on the west coast ready to invade Japan with millions of other Americans survived. He was a belly-gunner on a bomber. I remember visiting him there and realizing that I might never see him again. And then, from out of nowhere something good happened and he was home safe and millions of Americans and millions of Japanese were alive who otherwise would have died in the fires.

    I am not kidding. The abyss we think we face is nothing compared to the one that generation faced, and the job we face is well within reach. All it takes is a plan to get a plan and a description of what the new America will look like.

    To hell with Krugman, Summers, Bernstein, etc. To hell with the present system. Stop talking about the old system. Talk, in detail, about the new one. Let’s replace the old system. Now.

    • You don’t have to incarcerate the rich, all you have to do is to take their power from them

      Jerry (my new favorite commenter), listen to this:

      Randy Wray is right. Put ’em in jail. No one can escape that disgrace.

      • Jerry Hamrick

        I am in favor of justice, but we still would be stuck with the current system and in a few years more evil will come to light and we will cry out for justice.

        In fact you have put your finger on something that I have noticed as well. There are two living varieties of our species: tyranni, who naturally work against the common good, and democrati, who naturally work for it. When the more aggressive tyranni push forward to take power and wealth, the more numerous democrati almost always step back to let them pass. Tyranni naturally use their power to indulge their selfish urges, people (tyranni and democrati alike) suffer and die unnecessarily, a great commotion takes place, tyranni-outs (with the assistance of democrati) seize power from tyranni-ins, and the cycle renews.

        In the world I just described the dialogue between tyranni and democrati never gets anywhere. Democrati are constantly being suckered into being reasonable while tyranni lie, cheat, and steal. Tyranni and democrati will never reconcile their differences. I have read the MMT people and political blogs for years now and the democrati just try and try and try to get tyranni to face the facts, but it has not happened and it never will happen. Tyranni and democrati have two different views of the world and they can only be dealt with by force. The democrati are more numerous and this has slowly made it possible for tyrannies to be replaced with halfway steps to democracy, and that is where we are today.

        The Founders started three things, two on purpose and on accidentally. They started the revolutionary war which they won, and they started the Madisonian republic (an elected oligarchy) which rules us today. But in order to convince ordinary Americans to fight for the benefit of the economic elites the Founders resorted to the language of democracy and wrote the Declaration of Independence. Since that time generations of Americans have believed themselves to be among those “created equal.” So, accidentally, the Founders started us down the long road to democracy, which, unfortunately, lies far beyond the horizon. But by following the prescription I offered above, we can implement democracy within two election cycles. I hope we do, because I might live to see it.

    • We look at our history to find situations in which the nation’s future depended directly on the efforts of masses of the People.

      Have their been any such situations apart from defensive war? And if so, how would we adapt this to our current needs, apart from going the “Watchmen” route? 🙂


      It is more in reach than finding a way to force Japan to surrender without having to invade their homeland.
      And then, from out of nowhere something good happened and he was home safe and millions of Americans and millions of Japanese were alive who otherwise would have died in the fires.

      This “something good” was the declaration of war of the Soviet Union, something that was rather out of hand of the US-American population. And I am afraid if the solution of the current problem consists of getting China or the EU to do something first so that the US wakes up, this is not very practical.

      • Jerry Hamrick

        The “something good” was the atom bomb.

        Let’s follow your idea. What is wrong with using the “defensive war” as a model for change? We don’t have to actually murder each other, but we do have to switch power from the politicians in Washington and the state capitols to the People. That is what happens in a “defensive war” isn’t it? I think you are on to something good.

        • The “something good” was the atom bomb.

          is a much-traveled piece of propaganda but it simply doesn’t pass the test:

          But even if one follows your reasoning – the “good thing” was setting off a device the results of which no one was entirely sure about, and killing a quarter million people to solve a not-really-existing problem given the destruction of Japan’s industrial capacity.
          Government might have had a plan but it was a plan the population wasn’t privy to and it involved killing foreign average people – why not bomb the imperial palace instead? That really doesn’t look like a good model to emulate. In particular since at the time of bombing Hiroshima “the nation’s future” was not at stake anymore – Germany had surrendered and Japan was under siege.

          Even picking up your general argument doesn’t work:

          What is wrong with using the “defensive war” as a model for change?[…] We do have to switch power from the politicians in Washington and the state capitols to the People.

          clearly clashes with

          We look at our history to find situations in which the nation’s future depended directly on the efforts of masses of the People. In those efforts the power of the government was used to support the People[.]

          defensive war gets government to “support” people because it threatens government. But if the goal of the operation is to disempower government, it is a bit naive to assume that government will lend a hand. Guerilla warfare or revolutionary warmight be a better analogy (and are clearly what would be needed right now) but then you lose government support.

    • Call me the pessimist, but it’s incredibly difficult to change an socio-economic system like the one we have. Take a look at the failures in the Middle East and eastern Europe, even in the presence of revolution and civil wars.

      Still, progress can be made, but it needs to be done incrementally and in a way that makes it seem like the government isn’t the controlling party, even if it is. People don’t like government programs, taxes and redistribution, but they’re fine with the rule of law, family and fairness. One needs to find a way through law to create a system that, to a great extent, self-regulates, promotes fairness (NOT equality, even though that’s the ultimate goal) and rewards rule-following.

      • Jerry Hamrick

        Okay, you are a pessimist. And that is a problem. And maybe you will be proven right. Maybe nothing will change. I am pretty sure that pessimism is not an agent of change.

  5. I would wholeheartedly agree with this article — throw them all in jail. Or if you can’t do that, regulate the banks heavily.

    But a question.

    To be able to accomplish these tasks, you’ll have to do two things for success.

    One — The Houses will have to pass laws and make it normal policy to regulate the banks more strictly and honestly.

    Two — The Houses will have to ensure that laws are passed to throw CEO’s in jail for fraud and excess risk.

    The Executive will also have to ensure that the DoJ implements these laws. In fact, as Bill Black has already stated a million times, laws were indeed brought in after the S&L crisis to throw the CEOs in jail. So there are already laws on the books now that can be used. During the Financial Crisis, these existing laws were completely ignored and side-stepped by Obama administration and the Houses and you gotta ask why.

    Great emphasis here on the failure of the Executive to achieve all the above.

    Now, as we all know, both Houses are already completely bought and paid for by Wall Street to abide with their own wishes. Look at the Dodd-Frank Bill — its in shreds!! So Wall Street already owns the vote. We all know this is true.

    And its still true.

    So, with this political reality now in a more complete perspective then how do we change the laws against the banks when the Houses and The President are all bought and paid for by their paypals in Wall Street ?

    Plainly, you will have to have honest government first in order to achieve any of your dream changes against the banks. This is really when the dream shockingly becomes so impossible to implement.

    Obviously the government is not going to change its corrupt, greedy and lucrative ways in a hurry — anybody can see this.

    So this urgent and necessary political change will have to come about from the ordinary US citizens themselves because it is the dirty wheels of American Democracy that is the real culprit that has to change. And this change has to come — can only come — from the commoner ground outside government. Even this approach may be too heavily wishful because those already in power will never give up their power so easily.

    • entreposto

      The politicians are not afraid. The only politicians who are responsive to the voters are the ones who are terrified that they’ll lose their gravy train. With gerrymandered districts the only incumbents who lose are the ones who get primaried. That means, to make Congress responsive to the voters, they have to vote for the “Witch of Delaware” and her fellow-travelers.

    • Slow: what they did is already illegal. Witness the latest: Credit Suisse Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion
      The banking giant has pleaded guilty in a Virginia courthouse to one count of conspiring to help U.S. clients dodge their taxes – the first time a large bank has admitted criminal wrongdoing in two decades. The result? Credit Suisse must pay $2.6 billion in fines and hire an independent monitor for up to two years. The plea follows federal prosecutors leaning heavily on the bank for months in a bid to show that powerful financial institutions are not above the law. It’s widely speculated that this is simply the first guilty plea and that France’s BNP Paribas will soon follow suit. Sources: LA Times, Reuters, NYT, FT (sub)

      You know, it is ILLEGAL TO CONSPIRE TO HELP CROOKS EVADE TAXES. ALREADY! Banksters should not be paying fines. They should be jailed. I notice Dan Kervick is going to great lengths over on Mike Norman’s site to argue that it is “DIVISIVE” to jail members of the bankster criminal class. Right. Just like it was “divisive” to go after mobsters. The vast majority of Americans support punishing criminals. Is it “divisive” to punish bankster crooks? I suppose so. But the alternative is to open the doors to criminals that will destroy civil society. I think that trying to protect the criminal class from prosecution is an embarrassing position to take.

      • Yes, agree with you completely. But it was very interesting in the Reuters news excerpt that you quoted that Credit Suisse were fined 2.6 billion, but nobody from Credit Suisse — no CEO — was ever thrown in jail. AGAIN!! The same happened when HSBC were caught money-laundering drugs money for the cartels in Mexico. They paid a fine and no-one was prosecuted. And to be honest, Credit Suisse could probably make up that 2.6 billion in a week. It’s a drop in the ocean for Credit Suisse.

        So this just reinforces my main point:

        To accomplish your aim, you must FIRST change the American political system and make it open, honest and for the people again. Disconnect all those paypal lobbyists and influences in the Houses. Otherwise the changes that we all want in the financial system will never ever come into law or see the light of day. This makes it a HUGE task.

        This, of course is not so much an economic problem but is more of a socio-political problem because you will not be able to accomplish this task without educating the duped citizens to get them onside as well.

        In conclusion, perhaps politics can be said to be the darkest and most insidious of all the sciences and so, whether you believe in Communism with their oligarchs or Democracy with their elites or whether you are a Democrat or Republican — it makes absolutely no difference — these silent demagogues are always there, well entrenched and hidden in the shadows, somewhere in control no matter what the politics.

  6. Thought-provoking post.

    Short remark at the beginning: I would have thought that the threat of spending a couple of one’s years incarcerated would be enough to discourage crime so adding “they’ll imagine what it would be like waking up in a cell with a tattooed roomie named Bubba.” smacks to me of invoking (and making light of) sexual assault in prisons. Please don’t do that!

    As to the general message: it seems to me that
    a) you are arguing against (and claiming the impossibility of) “predistribution” mechanisms such as minimum wages, universal healthcare and education free of charge etc. I honestly don’t see how in the absence of such mechanisms people can significantly improve their situation, job guarantee or not. Can you explain your idea of how this would work some more?
    b) you claim that it is impossible to reduce the rich’s power over politics by taxing away their wealth. But if they can just continue to buy political influence, job guarantees and other MMT measures are as unlikely to last as predistribution mechanisms are, aren’t they?

    As always thought, thanks for writing, educating, and making me think.

  7. Randy Wray is right.

  8. Jim Shannon

    The accumulation of wealth by the “FEW” has been the sole purpose of ALL governments since the beginning of time. Any fool now clearly knows that these United States are owned by and for the Benefit of the CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$. The last 50 years of their wealth extraction from the people, the only source of all accumulated wealth since the beginning of time, stands as proof to that maxim!
    The ONLY way to change that observed reality is to TAX ALL their accumulated wealth or income above $10,000,000 at 100%!
    Rule of Law is one huge fraud on the consumer and the World as the CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ play fast and loose with everyone for power and profit. Remove the wealth and we remove the power as well as their ability andincentive to corrupt ALL governments and ALL Markets!
    Always and everywhere it’s about the money!

  9. Wray writes: “I think that real punishment would do one heck of a lot more to reduce income inequality than taxes will ever do. Put a thousand of Wall Street’s “finest” behind bars.”

    How about what they really fear? Sentence them and their family (if any) to live on a middle class income for the period of sentencing. They would be divested of the right, benefit and use of all existing property and assets during period of the sentence. During the sentence middle class income would be fully provided by the government and be the only money that the individual and family may spend under the strict control of a single debit card as the only means of spending. Receiving or spending money from any other source would be a violation of conditions of sentence resulting in the individual confined to the residence for the remainder of the term.

    The sentenced individual or any family member may seek employment from any 501.3c entity but may not be paid for their work. No outside gifts or “in kind” goods or services may be received. The individual or family is otherwise entitled to government or community support and services available to all citizens.

    A punishment for the family? If the sentenced individual is in prison that punishes the family by separation. If the person sentenced to live on a middle class income is married the spouse has the same rights as any other citizen regarding the marriage relationship.

    Inhumane punishment or just a TV series plot?

  10. John Christensen

    The “devolution” phenomenon didn’t take long to make it’s way around the world. The same process of off loading most of the services from federal to provincial and municipal governments began occurring in Canada in earnest in the 90’s. In fact Liberal governments have been directly responsible for much of this, perhaps in what may be their response to conservative criticism of the mythic unsustainable federal debt/deficit. This may reveal some ignorance on the part of progressive politicians that urgently needs to be addressed before it leads to the end of effective universal health care or public education.

    It is ironic that a Liberal finance minister and later Prime Minister Paul Martin, whom many Canadians had great respect for based on the apparent strength of his economic knowledge, was at the helm during some of the most aggressive devolution.

    Michael Hudson hit it on the nose when he said “neoconservatism and neoliberalism are complimentary doctrines of power” where economic policy is concerned.

    Insisting that politicians become adequately educated about and honest in their dialog regarding the realities made clear by MMT, ie not using or feeding into the misleading myths for political gain, is a good place to start movement toward government that is more responsive to the needs and wishes of it’s constituents.

  11. In the aftermath of the S&L debacle/meltdown, just under 1,000 banksters were jailed (either 962 or 982, I believe), all excepting Neil Bush, ‘natch!

    Yet that was a fraction of the Great Wealth Theft (wrongly called wealth transfer) of today.

    Have to go with jail time and the guillotine.

  12. Well, there is also what CLR James once wrote: “The rich are only defeated when running for their lives.”

  13. Steven Penfield

    An interesting piece that made me think. If taxation is not a good way to remove money from the top 1% then does this undermine MMT’s reliance on fiscal policy in checking inflation? Or are we talking about a trivial part of the economy?

  14. Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered. Wall Street is a hog.

  15. Tadit Anderson

    to echo a bit, inequality at the upper layer of the troposphere will continue to matter as long as campaign contributions are not regulated and as long as fraud, as in Gresham’s dynamic, is not removed from being an enabling factor. Robin Hood needs to be made the new Sheriff besides directly making higher paying jobs a priority. Economics in the absence of a social history and an empowered communal critique will also be a fantasy. There is a fundamental difference between economics as an academic pursuit and economics as a defining part of a community. It is not the result of chance that Smith and Malthus held positions also under the category of moral philosophy. MMT needs to become more than an academic perspective upon economics. Once upon a time there was a social science named political economy. This concept was dropped exactly because the corporate types influencing academic curricula identified the concept as a threat to their interests. Slavery in its several forms is assumed to be a privilege of wealth to produce more wealth.

  16. Tadit Anderson

    On further reflection it seems very odd that you are mute in this article on the blatant abuse of the capacities of sovereign fiat currencies by way of the US Federal Reserve which is the same capacity being refused implementation for a jobs guarantee/ELR program. This is an additional abuse that has to be ended as well toward restoring a greater level of income equality. What we have now is simply full bore plutocracy and capture of the institutions of governance. Under such control and circumstances decreasing inequality will remain an anathema, with an inevitable endgame of collapse or mass mob perpetrated beheadings.

    • Jim Shannon

      Great comment!
      What ceases to amaze is this fact! CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ are presumed to be wealthy because they are “the best and brightest” or “blessed by God” – at least that’ s what they want the little people to believe, when in fact their greed eventually results in their own demise!
      Proving the Maxim – a greedy man would rather die than part with his money!
      Taxing them ALL out of existence, something the PEOPLE have never demanded of government, would change how and for whom government ie run!