In Tom we distrust. Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image Thomas Friedman is among the most successful political commentators in the world. A global readership devours his books on globalization. America’s premier newspaper prints his every reflection on current affairs. Event planners pay him more for a single speech than the median American household…


In Tom we distrust. Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Thomas Friedman is among the most successful political commentators in the world. A global readership devours his books on globalization. America’s premier newspaper prints his every reflection on current affairs. Event planners pay him more for a single speech than the median American household earns in a year. Awards committees shower him in prizes. Presidents seek his counsel.

And yet, there are still some Americans who can say that “we live in a meritocracy” with a straight face.

Forget Friedman’s past apologia for war crimes. Forget his praise of Russian autocracy, and the fresh prince of Riyadh (which is to say, forget “suck on this,” “keep rootin’ for Putin,” and “Arab Spring, Saudi style”). We need not cherry-pick from Friedman’s back catalogue to establish that he is living proof of a systematic market failure in the hot-take economy. An examination of his most recent column will suffice.

Is America Becoming a Four-Party State?” Friedman argues the following: The Democratic Party is growing ever more fractured between “grow-the-pie” moderates and “redivide the pie” progressives, while the GOP is on the cusp of a civil war between the “limited-government-grow-the-pie” right, and the “hoard-the-pie, pull-up-the-drawbridge” Trumpists. These unprecedented fractures in the two major parties — combined with the fact that globalization has rendered all traditional political divisions anachronistic — means that there is asignificant chancethat the U.S. will develop a four-party system by November 2020. Strom Thurmond and George Wallace threw their fleeting tantrums, southern Democrats gradually reconciled themselves to life beneath the GOP’s big tent. conservative House candidates campaigned on their absolute opposition to cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and in favor of incrementally expanding the state’s role in health care. Moderate Democrats want to expand tax credits for job training, while progressives favor free public college; but all agree that Uncle Sam needs to increase subsidies for labor-force development. Pro-life Democrats are, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. White Democrats have never been more “woke” on racial issues. In 2017, not a single congressional Democrat voted for Donald Trump’s tax cuts; in 2001, 12 Senate Democrats voted for George W. Bush’s. Sean McElwee of Data for Progress has demonstrated, the ideological divisions among the Democratic rank and file aren’t nearly as sharp as those among the party’s elected officials. In fact, Democratic primary voters have never been as ideologically united as they were in 2016; the vast majority of Bernie Sanders supporters have warm feelings for Joe Biden, and vice versa.

Illustration: The Outline

explained that by those “unwilling to work,” they specifically meant late-career fossil-fuel-industry workers displaced by a Green New Deal.

“We were essentially thinking about pensions and retirement security,” Chakrabarti tweeted. “E.g. economic security for a coal miner who has given 40 years of their life to building the energy infra of this country, but who may not be willing to switch this late in his career.”

directly funded and developed the technological advances that made the internet (and thus, Silicon Valley) possible. Risk-taking venture capitalists and entrepreneurs may create jobs by developing internationally competitive products, and discerning untapped consumer demands. But businesses can’t meet consumer demands when consumers do not have disposable income. And when the richest people in the country hoard income gains, and middle-class wages stagnate, mass consumer demand flags (and/or, becomes reliant on easy credit) — and so does economic growth. The explosion of inequality in the United States over the past four decades has not correlated with exceptionally high growth. In fact, the “redivide the pie” Scandinavian social democracies (which feature higher levels of taxation, redistribution, and state ownership than Bernie Sanders has dared to propose) have seen much higher growth in GDP per hour worked (a.k.a. productivity) since 1970 than the U.S. has. Demos

Meanwhile, recent economic research has produced evidence that various forms of redistributive welfare spending increase aggregate productivity by improving impoverished children’s later life outcomes, that the key to stimulating innovation may be to increase workers’ wages and bargaining power (thereby forcing firms to invest in automation), and that inequality can indeed undermine economic growth by drying up consumer demand.

Moderate Democrats may emphasize their commitment to growth, while progressives put more rhetorical weight on the moral necessity of redistribution. But it does not follow from this that the former’s policy ideas are more conducive to growth than the latter’s. If an inevitable trade-off between reducing inequality and increasing GDP did not exist, there’s reason to suspect that American centrists would have to invent it. After all, if implementing Bernie Sanders’s agenda wouldn’t reduce growth, then it is awfully hard to rationalize opposing drastically higher levels of progressive taxation and transfers in a nation where the wealthiest 0.1 percent own as much as the bottom 90 percent, and the welfare state does not guarantee working people affordable health care or child care, in defiance of OECD norms.

let the NSA listen in on Americans’ conversations without securing a warrant and have the CIA operate an international network of torture black sites were even greater affronts to those concepts. And the same can be said of the Reagan administration’s direct contravention of Congress through the Iran-Contra affair. And yet, those violations of the GOP’s “most core principle” did not fracture the party; in fact, the architects of Iran-Contra enjoy prominent positions in the Republican Party to this day. about $10 an hour, and lacks many of the basic benefits that unionized workers take for granted.

Furthermore, it is hard to imagine why an American who performs hard labor five days a week, works as a cab driver on weekends, tends to Airbnb tenants in the evening — and still can’t afford anything but “the cheapest Chinese imports” at Walmart — would find the notion of a fundamental conflict between capitalists and workers alien to his experience.

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Tom Friedman’s Latest Column Proves Capitalism Was a Mistake

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