Paul L. Caron
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The "Skeptical Aggressor": Leonhardt on "The Return of Larry Summers"

Posted by Neil H. Buchanan

Wednesday's New York Times included a very good article by David Leonhardt about President-Elect Obama's selection of Lawrence Summers to be the Director of the National Economic Council.  For those who (like me) find Summers endlessly fascinating, frustrating, and impossible to categorize, it is a must-read.  Although Leonhardt takes a (very slightly) more optimistic view of Summers' potential impact than I would take, he certainly lays out the enigma that is Larry Summers.  Do you like provocation?  Try this:

INEQUALITY Mr. Summers has spent much of his career tweaking fellow liberals with arguments he considers unpleasant truths — on the dangers of budget deficits, the benefits of capitalism and other subjects. But he seems to have decided that conservative orthodoxies have become a vastly bigger threat to good economic policy than liberal ones. His favorite argument today is one that instead drives some conservatives nuts

It goes like this: To undo the rise in income inequality since the late ’70s, every household in the top 1 percent of the distribution, which makes $1.7 million on average, would need to write a check for $800,000. This money could then be pooled and used to send out a $10,000 check to every household in the bottom 80 percent of the distribution, those making less than $120,000. Only then would the country be as economically equal as it was three decades ago.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/11/the-skeptical-aggressor-leonhardt-on-the-return-of-larry-summers.html

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