Paul Krugman: U.S. is starting to "set new records" for inequality

The New York Times columnist and award-winning economist says America may be the most unequal society ever

By Elias Isquith
Published April 17, 2014 8:54PM (EDT)
 Paul Krugman                                                                                                                (Screen shot, Bloomberg)
Paul Krugman (Screen shot, Bloomberg)

Speaking with Bloomberg's Tom Keene, Paul Krugman claimed on Thursday that economic inequality in the U.S. is not only at Gilded Age-levels but is approaching a scale previously unseen in human history.

"We’re really starting to set new records here," Krugman told Keene. "Is that a good thing for anybody?”

Krugman argued the answer is no, and that massive inequality is not merely offensive to the American sense of fairness but is actually bad for economic growth, too. "There is zero evidence," Krugman said, "that the kind of extreme inequality that we have is good for economic growth."

"In fact," he continued, "there's a lot of evidence that it's actually bad for economic growth."

Yet despite the dire state of affairs, Krugman sounded an optimistic note, saying there was much in American history to inspire optimism that, eventually, U.S. policy would address skyrocketing inequality.

"American history is actually very encouraging," Krugman said. "We had people...actually, often people from the affluent classes themselves, who said, 'This is too much; it needs to be reined in.' If we could have modern politicians speaking as forthrightly about the danger of high concentration of wealth as Teddy Roosevelt did in 1910, we would be a long way towards having a good solution to this."

"I guess I believe," Krugman added, "that America has a tremendous redemptive capacity, an ability to take a look and say what, in the end, what are our ideals, what do we want our society to look like?"

"We don't have to become this kind of oligarchy that unfortunately we are drifting towards at the moment," Krugman declared.

You can watch a clip of Krugman's conversation with Keene below:

[h/t the Raw Story]

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Bloomberg Inequality Oligarchy One Percent Paul Krugman Teddy Roosevelt The New York Times Tom Keene Video