On one side, David Brooks once again strives to solidify his position as the single most achingly banal columnist working anywhere in any media:
Edwards talks about poverty in economic terms. He vows to bring jobs back to poor areas and restrict trade to protect industries. He suggests that if we could take money from the rich and special interests, there’d be more for the underprivileged.
This kind of talk is descended from Marxist theory, which holds that we live in the thrall of economic conditions. What the poor primarily need is more money, the theory goes.
Imagine suggesting that the poor need jobs to improve their lives. The sheer Marxist lunacy of it all! Good lord, if John Edwards became President, we’d all have to sing the Internationale or risk being shipped off to a forced labor camp!
Fortunately we’ve got David Brooks to remind us, once again, that what the poor really need are strong family values.
But while Brooks does his Talking Barbie impersonation, (“Math class is hard!”), Krugman is busy on the other side of the page explaining some facts of life:
The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle- and lower-income families than it does on the rich. In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, families near the middle of the income distribution pay almost twice as much in payroll taxes as in income taxes. Yet people were willing to accept a regressive tax increase to sustain Social Security.
Now the joke’s on them. Mr. Greenspan pushed through an increase in taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used that surplus to argue for tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people, but are worth a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to cut Social Security benefits.
So the poor and middle-classes are being shafted in order to finance a huge tax break for the wealthy. But no matter! As long as everyone has strong family values, I’m sure it’ll all work out okay!