Friday, December 7, 2012

Beyond the fiscal cliff

Herewith, some varied views about the looming fiscal cliff:

Beyond the fiscal cliff --- or below it --- lies the fundamental disagreement over the nation's direction.  The view of the horizon from the right has three main features:

1.  A belief in Meritocracy.  This is ironic, since the Left in the 1960s deserves the credit for ushering in our Era of Meritocracy.

2.  An article of faith, viz., that low taxes, especially on the rich, and the elimination of entitlement programs will result in the pie growing so large that we all get a fair share of it... according, of course, to our relative merits.

3.  Education will ensure that those who merit larger pieces will get the education they need to grab those larger slices.

The view of the horizon on the left is in my opinion more realistic.  It accepts that some of us just aren't equipped to earn our shares of the pie and that in this globalized oven the pie is simply not going to get much larger any time soon... it's much more likely to shrivel and burn.  If this is correct, and if, then, what there is ought to be distributed more evenly --- short of the revolution urged by the "Occupy" movement --- I can think of only three solutions:

1.  A steeply progressive tax structure... which we had in the 1950s and 1960s, but have steadily reduced

2.  A strong and energetic labor movement... which we had in the 1950s and 1960s, but which has been largely eviscerated

3.  An effective plaintiffs' bar armed with the club of class-action suits... which the conservative Supremes are working hard to eliminate

Republicans and Democrats alike --- the power elite --- had better come up with a combination of "pie growth" and "pie distribution" that restores the fairness (and sense of fairness) of a half-century ago... or face chaos and/or revolution.  I don't think that I am overstating the risks involved here.
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