On Checking Wealth Privilege

Panathenic_AmphoraLast week, the New York Times published Princeton Professor Melissa Lane’s op-ed An Ancient Civics Lesson.  Hearkening back to the Roman Republic and Athenian democracy, Lane, who will be my guest at 6:30 Pacific/9:30am east coast Monday March 30, contends that the best governments check the political, but not economic, power of elites.  Here is my response:

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In “An Ancient Civics Lesson” [op-ed March 19], Princeton Professor Melissa Lane argues that successful efforts to mediate class warfare require the rich to share political but not economic power.  Reducing wealth disparities and growing a dominant middle-class cannot succeed, Lane writes, without the imposition of “drastic” taxes on the rich correlated with reduced support for the poor.  Cutting anti-poverty programs would be necessary to keep “the balance [of power] squarely away from each extreme.”  Lane contends.

But compared to today’s economically variegated America, a middle-class nation would consist of a smaller and relatively less affluent upper class and fewer and relatively more affluent poor people – in other words no extremes.  The road to this promised land is indeed paved with a radical hike in top marginal tax rates matched by increases in government support for the least among us.

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