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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dionne On the Anti-Social Rich

Every now and then a pundit puts her or his finger on an important phenomenon that’s been hiding in plain site. That’s true of E.J. Dionne’s remarkable Washington Post column over the weekend on the “American Ruling Class” and its unprecedented indifference to the fate of the country:

An enlightened ruling class understands that it can get richer and its riches will be more secure if prosperity is broadly shared, if government is investing in productive projects that lift the whole society and if social mobility allows some circulation of the elites. A ruling class closed to new talent doesn’t remain a ruling class for long.
But a funny thing happened to the American ruling class: It stopped being concerned with the health of society as a whole and became almost entirely obsessed with money.

Dionne goes on to chronicle the declining effective tax rates of the very wealthy, and its connection to one of the most intensive lobbying campaigns in U.S. history, particularly aimed at lowering or eliminating taxation of capital gains and dividends, which is of greatest important to the financial sector:

Listen to David Cay Johnston, the author of “Free Lunch” and a columnist for Tax Notes. “The effective rate for the top 400 taxpayers has gone from 30 cents on the dollar in 1993 to 22 cents at the end of the Clinton years to 16.6 cents under Bush,” he said in a telephone interview. “So their effective rate has gone down more than 40 percent.”
He added: “The overarching drive right now is to push the burden of government, of taxes, down the income ladder.”
And you wonder where the deficit came from.

It’s unlikely that the “ruling class” notices this sort of admonition or cares about it. But it does provide a nice break in the monotonous pandering of conservatives to the very rich as oppressed “job creators” who need to be liberated from taxes and regulations in order to work their magic on behalf of the useless drones who make up the bulk of the U.S. population, who are longing for salvation from John Galt.

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