Paul Krugman thinks Harvard economist Greg Mankiw forgot an important detail in his new paper, "Defending The One Percent": Social inequality just keeps growing.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist wrote in blog posts Saturday and Sunday that rising social inequality makes it less likely for children born into poor families to earn more money later in life. Krugman illustrates this point with a chart from Miles Corak, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, that shows a widening gap between how much money the rich and poor spend on their children.
Earlier this month, Mankiw wrote that the top 1 percent of society is richer because they contribute more to society and in essence earn more as a result. But, as Krugman points out, the former economic adviser to President George W. Bush fails to acknowledge how much society has changed in the last 50 years and how those changes lead to differing opportunities for children, depending on the family into which they are born.
"It was a different country, one in which ordinary public high schools were often pretty good, in which good higher education was available cheaply at state universities, in which almost none of the vast apparatus of tutors and private instruction now used by the elite existed," Krugman wrote, referring to how America has changed since 1958, when Mankiw was born.
Indeed, as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger illustrated with the concept of the "Great Gatsby Curve," high inequality is associated with low economic mobility. This problem only appears to be getting worse as income inequality in America continues to grow.
Between 1966 and 2011, the incomes of the bottom 90 percent grew by an average of merely $59 after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston for Tax Analysts. This compares to an average increase in income of $116,071 experienced by the top 10 percent during the same period.
As Krugman notes, he is not the first to take aim at Mankiw's defense of the richest members of society. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, points out that even if the top 1 percent deserve to earn more because of their contributions to society, policy plays a large role in deciding how much they are rewarded for those contributions.
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Krugman has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/opinion/krugman-the-comeback-skid.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">slammed Christie</a> for touting a New Jersey comeback, even when the state still faces a 9.8 percent unemployment rate. He's also criticized the governor for his decision to raise taxes on low-income New Jersey residents, while vetoing a temporary tax boost for millionaires.
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Ron Paul's economic theories, particularly his dislike of the Federal Reserve. Krugman said of Paul's interest in keeping the government out of monetary policy during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/paul-krugman-ron-paul_n_1465870.html" target="_hplink">debate on Bloomberg TV</a>: "If you think that you can avoid that you're living in the world that was 150 years ago." Krugman's also called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/paul-krugman-gold-standard_n_1832767.html" target="_hplink">returning to the Gold Standard</a> -- a view Paul's touted for years -- "an almost comically (and cosmically) bad idea."
After presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan would be his running mate, Krugman wasted little time deriding the Wisconsin Republican's views on the economy and budget. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/krugman-galt-gold-and-god.html?_r=1&hp" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote of Ryan</a> that he "evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels."
After Harvard professor Niall Ferguson (left) penned a <em>Newsweek</em> cover story arguing President Obama doesn't deserve a second term, Krugman demanded that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/paul-krugman-niall-ferguson-newsweek_n_1810136.html" target="_hplink">the magazine issue a correction</a>, starting a bit of a spat with the <em>Newsweek</em> columnist and historian. Krugman said of the cover story on his blog: "There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson's cover story in Newsweek -- I guess they don't do fact-checking." <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/a-full-fact-check-of-niall-fergusons-very-bad-argument-against-obama/261306/" target="_hplink">The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien did a full fact-check of Ferguson's piece</a>, which <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/21/niall-ferguson-defends-newsweek-cover-correct-this-bloggers.html" target="_hplink">Ferguson defended himself against</a>.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Krugman argued that perhaps Estonia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/estonia-krugman-toomas-hendrik-ilves_n_1575937.html" target="_hplink">shouldn't be held up as a model</a> for successful austerity measures in a 67-word blog post in June. The country's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves took to Twitter to slam Krugman, calling him "smug, overbearing & patronizing."
Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Squawk Box"
Krugman appeared on "Squawk Box" in July to discuss his book, but was upset to find out that they "never actually got there." Instead, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/paul-krugman-cnbc_n_1664771.html" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote on his blog</a> that the appearance consisted of "one zombie idea after another -- Europe is collapsing because of big government, health care is terribly rationed in France, we can save lots of money by denying Medicare to billionaires, on and on," adding that people counting on the shows for sound information are getting "terrible advice."
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Mitt Romney's plans for America's budget and economy, and he's taken the former CEO of Bain Capital to task for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/opinion/off-and-out-with-mitt-romney.html" target="_hplink">touting his business career</a>. In a column titled "Off and Out with Mitt Romney," Krugman wrote, "the truth is that even if Mr. Romney had been a classic captain of industry, a present-day Andrew Carnegie, his career wouldn't have prepared him to manage the economy."
Krugman has argued that the rich embrace Republican economic policies both because they want more money and simply because they're more inclined to buy into theories that justify their wealth. In a May <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/paul-krugman-rich-people-want-to-buy-praise-as-the-salvation-of-the-rest-of-us_n_1499679.html" target="_hplink">interview with Reuters</a>, Krugman said that rich people "want the world to praise them for their wealth, so they want economic theories that praise rich people as the salvation of the rest of us."
Krugman has been critical both of Wall Street's current practices and of the industry's ability to escape punishment for its role in the financial crisis. In a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/paul-krugman-playboy-interview_n_1284417.html" target="_hplink">February interview with Playboy</a>, Krugman said "It's hard for me to believe there were no crimes. Given the scale of [the financial crisis], given how many corners were being cut, some people must have violated laws. I think people should be in jail."