Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

The sorrow and the pity of Obama’s budget

Chrystia Freeland
Apr 11, 2013 21:15 UTC

Pity Barack Obama. Everything in his life experience prepared him to be the president who would take on the big challenge of the 21st century: rising income inequality and the hollowing out of the middle class.

His peripatetic youth taught him about the price of plutocracy. In an interview unearthed by Zachary A. Goldfarb of the Washington Post, in 1995 Barack Obama, plugging his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” recalled that experience for the Hyde Park Citizen, his neighborhood edition of a newspaper that bills itself as the “Premiere African American Weekly” in Chicago.

“My travels made me sensitive to the plight of those without power and the issues of class and inequalities as it relates to wealth and power,” he said.

“Anytime you have been overseas in these so-called Third World countries, one thing you see is a vast disparity of wealth of those who are part of the power structure and those outside of it.”

As an adult, he didn’t take the obvious and lucrative path for an editor of the Harvard Law Review: a high-flying Wall Street career. Instead, Obama returned to Chicago and continued to focus on the issues of the underclass he had first addressed there as a community organizer.

Putting the magnifying glass on the one percent

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 8, 2013 19:15 UTC

Academics can be dismissive of the concerns of the popular media. But when it comes to the growth of the super-rich, the tabloids may have gotten it right.

The numbers tell the story. According to a study by John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics and Brian Bell of Oxford University, the share of national income earned by the top 1 percent in the United States surged to 18.3 percent in 2007, from 8 percent in 1979. In Britain, the trend was almost identical: The top 1 percent received 15.4 percent of the national income in 2007 compared with 5.9 percent in 1979. And these figures exclude capital gains.

“A lot of the action has been at the very top end of the distribution, the top 1 percent or the top 0.1 percent,” Van Reenen, director of the Center for Economic Performance at the LSE, told me. “It shows you that the media’s focus on the very rich and on bankers’ bonuses wasn’t misplaced.”

Taxes: How low can you go?

Chrystia Freeland
May 24, 2012 20:11 UTC

Are your taxes too high? When Gallup asked that question in April, tax month in the United States, 46 percent said they were. An additional 47 percent said their taxes were “about right.” Just 3 percent said their taxes were too low.

This campaign season reflects that result. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, is offering a 20 percent tax cut for everyone. Given the mood of the conservatives in the United States today, that may not surprise you. But even President Barack Obama, who is routinely described as a socialist by his opponents, is peddling a plan under which 99 percent of Americans would pay less than they did under the last Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton.

This bipartisan agreement that the overwhelming majority of Americans should pay lower taxes than they did in the 1990s is remarkable for many reasons. For one thing, we are constantly hearing – and it is true – that U.S. politics is more polarized than ever. But unless you are a member of the 1 percent, on this core issue there is a lot more consensus than you might think. Political strategists on both sides, it turns out, know how to read poll data.

  •