Robert Samuelson is an economics columnist for the Washington Post who is usually wrongheaded. I suspect the only reason that he has his prominent position is that he has the same last name as one of the most influential Nobel laureate economists of the 20th century, Paul Samuelson, who also used to write economics columns for part of the Washington Post company.
Today Robert Samuelson bravely claims that, “The [US] system is rigged in favor of the middle class” and that elites haven’t been getting their fair due. He even blames the financial crisis on government subsidies to the middle class while defending the elite banksters. [Note that I agree with Samuelson that we should eliminate housing subsidies because boosting housing prices doesn’t help most Americans, but that has nothing to do with the financial crisis. The elite banksters are truly to blame for that.]
Samuelson claims that the whole superstructure of government has been turned against elites in favor of the middle class who are resentful of elite success. Then he ends the essay saying that the middle class just needs to stop seeking policy solutions (like Social Security and Medicare) and “restore traditional beliefs and confidence… But repairing the middle class won’t be easy, because it’s a matter of psychology as much as economics.”
WRONG! Repairing the middle class is purely a matter of economics. None of the government spending programs that he blames for the decline in middle class belief “opportunity, stability, reward for effort, a brighter future and the ability to control their lives” actually help the working middle class whose wages have stagnated. All the spending programs he mentions are for the poor, elderly, or unemployed. What about stagnant middle-class wages?
Samuelson complains that fewer Americans believe in “opportunity, stability, reward for effort, a brighter future and the ability to control their lives” because it is measurably true that all these things really have declined over the past four decades. If we reverse the economics, the psychology naturally follow.