January 19, 2014

Paul Krugman notices he's in the One Percent

Paul Krugman writes in "The Undeserving Rich:"
The Occupy movement popularized the concept of the “1 percent,” which is a good shorthand for the rising elite, but if anything includes too many people: most of the gains of the top 1 percent have in fact gone to an even tinier elite, the top 0.1 percent.

I've never quite understood the political appeal of defining the Class Enemy so broadly as to include over 3 million people. I would think that you'd want to define it much more narrowly: The 400, say, the number who could fit into Mrs. Astor's ballroom, which Forbes appropriated a third of a century ago.

Perhaps one problem is that if you start narrowing the number of Class Enemies down to the point where it gets personalized, then you run into the problem that lots of people like famous rich individuals. Billionaires can afford appealing public relations strategies.

But I'm probably overthinking this. I doubt if all that many people denouncing the One Percent have ever even calculated what is one percent of the the population of the country (what's that?). One Percent is just a numeric-looking shorthand for a Really Small Number.
   

30 comments:

some other anonymous said...

Steve said:
I've never quite understood the political appeal of defining the Class Enemy so broadly as to include over 3 million people.

It depends on what you plan to do to your class enemies Come The Revolution. 3 million is too many to liquidate and too many to liquidate the assets of. It is too few as the number of people whose income taxes rise.

BTW I RTFAed Krugman's op-ed and it was generally positive.

Although this sounds like an internal dispute within the NY scotch-irish communities, between those of NYT persuasion and those of WSJ persuasion:

"These may sound like innocent choices, but they’re not, because they involve lumping in married lawyers with the wolves of Wall Street."

I found the main thesis of the article, as indicated by the last sentence:
"But even if the facts have a well-known populist bias, they’re still the facts — and they must be faced."
quite amenable to everyone, including Steve himself.


DW Budd said...

Krugman - who has at least an apparent grasp of real mathematics, not like the president - recognises the challenge of defining a group that is so large as the "one per cent." Obviously, one per one hundred is a relatively small fraction, but the denominator problem immediately presents - one per cent of 300 million is the city of Los Angeles.

"The one per cent" is a useful short-hand for the intellectually lazy, who require slogans rather than ideas.

I wonder, though, if Krugman's epiphany has less to do with a mathematical "a-ha" moment, and more to do with his recognition that this definition puts him in the class enemy list, a place where he and other country club communists are loathe to be?

Now, it's true that "most of the gains" have gone to "the top one per cent." And within that top one per cent, to the top one per cent. Et cetera.

Krugman is bumping into the problem of a distribution that may be quite fractal in nature - that is to say, a small piece of it reproduces the same properties as the large one - hence one per cent of the total looks remarkably like one per cent of that sample, and so on.

The paradoxical challenge that folks like President Obama and others face is that, in order to prop up tax-spend policies, the net must be large enough. It's not really possible to pay for all the 'free' stuff the Democrats desire by taxing only the group that Krguman would go after, unless you are going to confiscate virtually everything they earn AND a good chunk of their accumulated wealth as well. A trillion is a massive amount. If you target the really big earners (say, to be generous, one per cent of the one percent), you're suddenly down to 30,000. Some quick maths will show how much you will have to take to cover a trillion dollar deficit.

Every year.

Just to cover the FEDERAL deficits.

Good luck with that.

So, the denominator has to be larger as a matter of course. Thus, the net to catch enough class enemies must be enlarged, or the scheme will not work.

One other thing - I've seen it written that the distriution of liberal supporters (take those who vote Democrat as a proxy) is U-shaped - most of the really poor, and most of the really rich. If you start singling out too small a group and naming them... Well, I don't think that calling some of his best supporters class enemies will make the president - or Paul Krugman - very welcome for summer parties in the Hamptons.

Anonymous said...

defining the Class Enemy so broadly as to include over 3 million people

But don't underestimate the number of people required. It wasn't just Hitler in Germany and it wasn't just Lenin and Trotsky with a small bunch of comrades in Russia. In all cases, it's hundreds of thousands of active and willing participants colluding to control the whole country.

Anonymous said...

The "One Percent" meme has always been a convenient obfuscation that provides cover for a much smaller group. It's no accident.

Anonymous said...

The real problem is that the 1% are not just Koch like Republicans, in fact I think that the majority are Democrats. It thus faces the same problems that many political parties in the West are facing, it needs the votes from the bottom but it gets all its money from the top. If the 1% really did consist of only Republicans, then I have no doubt the knives would have come out a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

defining the Class Enemy so broadly as to include over 3 million people

But don't underestimate the number of people required. It wasn't just Hitler in Germany and it wasn't just Lenin and Trotsky with a small bunch of comrades in Russia. In all cases, it's hundreds of thousands of active and willing participants colluding to control the whole country.


Yes, the "1-Percent" is a relevant metric for this group of class enemies. Not only does this cabal consist of the true movers and shakers, but also a couple million of their sidekicks, toadies, henchmen and lackeys who carry out their ground game. Paul Krugman is one of those toadies.

SFG said...

I always figured it was pure sloganeering-- 0.1% was more accurate from the start, but sounded too nerdy. "The point one percent!" Naah, won't fly. Geeky still isn't cool in way too much of this country.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrixtAkg5B0

Celebritocracy

Anonymous said...

http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/whod-a-thunk-it-all-9-movies-nominated-for-best-picture-were-filmed-in-jurisdictions-with-movie-production-incentives/?utm

peterike said...

Krugman makes a decent if rather obvious point, but of course he misses all the ironies of it, starting with the fact that he is publishing his thoughts in the house organ of the 1% of the 1%. Another irony is that the 1% is probably 85% Progressive Democrats, yet he somehow or other seems to haul in Republicans as being responsible and the people to target (Progressives Incorporated has already put a target on the Koch brothers, come the revolution).

The sad thing about the stupid Republicans is so many of them are such "Free market!!" robots that they don't recognize looting when it's right in front of them, as if the latest hedge fund billionaire or thieving Russian oligarch was the same as Henry Ford.

Krugman continues the oldest political canard we have in suggesting the Democrats are the party of the working class, when of course they are the party of the dependent classes and the rich. Though I guess a lot of those Hispanics do work pretty hard. But hey, guess what, Krugman of course draws no connection between stagnant wages and endless immigration. Whoda thunk it?

If I had him locked in a room and pumped full of truth serum, the only thing I'd want to ask of Krugman is, "Do you realize you're just a pimp for the power structure helping to peddle their lies, or do you really think you're some kind of rebel speaking truth to power?" I'd really like to know the answer to that.

Anonymous said...

Better than the 47 percent.

stari_momak said...

Personally, I think it is the 5 to 10% that is the problem. The 1% (or .1%) can hire European au pairs and an American gardener. Some even do (notice that ‘celebrities’ nannies always seem to be white girls).

No, it’s the lawyer down the street, perfectly healthy at 45, that can’t mow is own lawn, the ‘investment professional’ that can’t nag his kids to wash the family wagon, the wife of the sales rep that simply must have help with her three offspring and thus hires the Mexican ‘nanny’ -- they are the problem.

countenance said...

One doesn't have to have an exceptionally high income to be in the top one percent of income earners. It's not even a seven figure amount; IIRC it's in the higher six figures.

peterike said...

Speaking of the few, Oxfam reports that the 85 richest people in the world have wealth equal to the entire poorer half of the world combined. That's pretty wealthy.

http://nws.mx/LI3R24

Pity that white people have been so neutered that no revolution is in the offing.

pat said...

You know 'The Bell Curve' wasn't really about the white - black IQ gap or the genetics thereof. As I remember Murray and Herrnstein went to some lengths to make that point. Their real point was to sound the alarm over the partitioning of the populace into two groups - the hoi polloi and the IQ elite.

But that wasn't as sexy a story as the race story, so their warnings have gone unremarked while the media mob went after them for racism.

But it seems to be coming true. Wealth seems to be more concentrated. Acceptance into every level of school has become more competitive. And no one seems to be employable for even the most mindless job without some academic credentials.

I was dumb struck when the Occupy movement got under weigh. I couldn't understand how the richest and pampered people in history could mouth stale Marxist slogans. But only the rhetoric is old the economic condition is quite new.

The US and the developed world do indeed seem to be developing a privileged class which are called for convenience - the 1%. The IQ- education dimension is confounded with other characteristics but it's there at the center of the nexus of wealth and power.

The world has changed. I never much saw the point in getting filthy rich. But if I were a teenager today, I would try for Harvard and a career as a hedge fund trader.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

The 2% are esp well represented in the 0.01%.

Anonymous said...

put-on-a-ped

Anonymous said...

Weird.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Wyman#Personal_life

"Politically, Wyman has supported Britain's Conservative Party."

--------------

Jagger the jerk(but like the energizer bunny, he keeps going and going and going).

From his last solo album in 2001. Still same high energy today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUk_Dqiow0A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p8pB2jf4Gw

Anonymous said...

Actually one percent is far too narrow, it is the upper middle class. about 15% of the population that's the real problem. The true upper class doesn't really give a damn about social engineering, they are comfortable in their feelings of superiority, and most of their corruption is aimed merely at making more money, e.g., bribing politicians to allow them to dump pollutants into the local river or loosening some financial laws. It is the technology driven massive growth (or at least change) in the upper middle class that is the root source of most of our misery. It is from this class that political correctness comes and is administered. It is this class that is desperate to be gentry, desperate to differentiate itself from the classes below that has produced race war as a class war by another means. I speak only of whites here, nonwhites, regardless of their class, are simply driven by racism and the desire to exploit whites for the benefit of their own group.

Anonymous said...

150K or 250K for a family of four is all it takes, IIRC, to be in the "1%".

Anonymous said...

I wish I was in the 1%. Its good to be the king!

Svigor said...

I've never quite understood the political appeal of defining the Class Enemy so broadly as to include over 3 million people.

The .1%, the .01%, etc., contains the leftist oligarch class. The people who really make leftism possible and keep it on top. The 1% contains a whole lot of big fish in small ponds, small businessmen, etc. In fact, most of the potential future .1%-ers, .01%-ers, etc., are currently 1%-ers. And the 1% is a lot less leftist than the .1%, the .01%, etc.

If the American people are angry at the 1%, they're a lot less likely to target a leftist oligarch than they are if they're angry at the .1%, the .01%, etc. Basically, it's a way for the oligarch class to hide in plain sight; the much more numerous 1%-ers are their camouflage.

I'm not so sure about their reasons for going along with the x% thing in the first place. Maybe they didn't start the class warfare x% thing, but figure 1% and no further is a good policy. Maybe they didn't start the 1% thing, but still figure that's a good place to draw the line, and anywhere after that, they start crying "ANTI-SEMITISM!!!" Maybe they figured some good, controlled class warfare x%-er rhetoric was a good idea, and they could control it; maybe they figured power abhors a vacuum, so why wait for someone else to come up with .01%-er rhetoric?

Anonymous said...

Nassim Taleb is fond of saying "the one percent of the one percent", or the top 0.01%, which is a good approximation of the rea big shots in society.

Anonymous said...

1% or 0.1% or 0.01%, they can do what they do cuz they have so many minions willing to serve them.

Most Wall Street folks don't make billions or even millions a year, but they work in the system and enable the uppermost rich.

Most people working in Hollywood are not rich moguls, but they go along with a system that gives rise to the upper echelon.

Most government employees are not super rich but they support the vast bureaucracy that supports the agenda of the upper elites.

It's like Hitler and his upper echelon goons couldn't have done what they did without the support of lower elites, the middle Germans and the masses.

So, there's blame to go all around Despite all the stuff about 'we hate elites', most libs go along with lib elite policies and most cons go along with con elite policies(that bend over to lib elite policies).

Anonymous said...

As peterike mentioned, the nano percent owns as much as half the humanity.

link

David said...

>1% or 0.1% or 0.01%, they can do what they do cuz they have so many minions willing to serve them<

Then a bloodless revolution might include pulling out of minion-like commitments to them.

Maybe you don't need a brand-new car every year. Buy a used one. Or just cut back on your travel requirements.

I've been out of the corporate world for almost 9 years now and have been dodging every minion-like responsibility that has come my way since.

Let the funky ball of evil wax melt or keep rolling, but without your active participation.

If you are seriously addicted to greed and need a substitute addiction to get off of it, cultivate passive-aggressiveness. PA can be extraordinarily satisfying.

Anonymous said...

The "One Percent" meme has always been a convenient obfuscation that provides cover for a much smaller group. It's no accident.

You mean the Talented Tenth?

Anonymous said...

Actually one percent is far too narrow, it is the upper middle class. about 15% of the population that's the real problem. The true upper class doesn't really give a damn about social engineering, they are comfortable in their feelings of superiority

The modern upper middle class of PC social engineers sounds very much like the lower middle class of Tard Hats in 1960. Maybe social mobility is not such a good thing after all, when the upwardly mobile have huge axes to grind on everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Jack Klugman might do a better job than Paul Krugman.

NOTA said...

Membership in the top 1% is largely about where you live, because professional salaries track with costs of living. The actual complaints that go with the 1% slogans don't have much to do with, say, electrical engineers in the Bay Area or obstetricians in Boston.

The financial meltdown demonstrated that quite a few people are in practice above the law, and quite a few can have the rules of the game changed for their benefit when necessary. But the recipients of that aren't the top 1%, they're much higher up the chain than that.