Thomas Piketty Feels The Bern

The economist says Sanders is the only candidate who's willing to tax the rich.

02/16/2016 06:33 pm ET | Updated Feb 16, 2016
MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE via Getty Images
French economist Thomas Piketty's op-ed about Bernie Sanders wasn't an outright endorsement, but signaled clear support for the Vermont senator.

Bernie Sanders is the great hope for America's economic future, according to French economist Thomas Piketty. 

In his latest weekly column, Piketty wrote that the Vermont senator's campaign represents a turning point in the country. "[W]e are witnessing the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections," he wrote in a piece that appeared in French in Le Monde earlier this week and in English in the Guardian on Tuesday.

The French rockstar economist is the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which showed that global income inequality has gotten much, much worse in the 36 years since Ronald Reagan was first elected. Piketty's life's work is about showing how low tax rates on the rich, particularly in the United States, exacerbate inequality for those of us below the top 1 percent, or even 0.1 percent, of earners.

In that sense, Piketty has a bone to pick with the U.S. government, and anyone who represents its economic policy over the last three decades. It is through this lens that Piketty looks at the current presidential race and sees Sanders as the hope for "a new political cycle":

Sanders makes clear he wants to restore progressive taxation and a higher minimum wage ($15 an hour). To this he adds free healthcare and higher education in a country where inequality in access to education has reached unprecedented heights, highlighting a gulf standing between the lives of most Americans, and the soothing meritocratic speeches pronounced by the winners of the system. 

Piketty dislikes the Republicans as a group: The "party sinks into a hyper-nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam discourse ... and a limitless glorification of the fortune amassed by rich white people," he wrote.

But he has almost as much disdain for Clinton based on her connections to the establishment, since even under Democratic presidents (Bill) Clinton and Barack Obama, Reagan's low tax rates continued.

"Hillary Clinton, who fought to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton-Obama political regime," Piketty writes.

The Clinton of 2016, for the record, may be more moderate than Sanders, but is running substantially to the left of her 2008 campaign.

Head over to the Guardian to read Piketty's entire op-ed.

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