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Do Liberals Want to Kill Iron Man?
New York Magazine ^ | 2/18 | By Jonathan Chait

Posted on 02/18/2014 9:23:35 AM PST by nickcarraway

Harvard economist, occasional Republican economic adviser, and avid social Darwinist Greg Mankiw has produced the latest in his series of passionate defenses of the financial prerogatives of the ultrarich. In his most recent New York Times column, Mankiw begins with the relatively sympathetic case of gazillionaire actor Robert Downey Jr. Nobody is upset that Downey earned $50 million to appear in The Avengers, he posits. Therefore, Mankiw proceeds to argue, nobody should be upset with the incomes of other extremely rich people.

One sleight of hand in Mankiw’s column (as Paul Krugman points out) is his easy leap from the relatively unobjectionable way Downey earns his fortune to the way other executives — especially those in finance, who represent an enormous chunk of the very rich — earn theirs. If you don’t like Downey’s movies, you can choose not to attend them. If you don’t like the financial industry siphoning off your 401(k) or plunging the world economy into a massive crisis destroying trillions of dollars and ruining the lives of millions of people forever, you don’t have as much recourse.

Mankiw wants us to ignore the serious moral problems embedded in the rentier class – such as the Wall Street titans joking in secret gatherings about their reliance on bailouts – and think of the one percent as Iron Men, to whom we owe admiration and gratitude. But even if we consider Mankiw’s chosen example on its own terms, the Iron Man problem does not take us where Mankiw wants to go.

Mankiw presents Downey’s income as the perfect synecdoche for the debate over inequality: “Does his compensation strike you as a great injustice? Does it make you want to take to the streets in protest? These questions go to the heart of the debate over economic inequality, to which President Obama has recently been drawing attention.”

Actually, these questions are peripheral to the debate over income inequality. Obama is not proposing any laws that would prevent Downey from earning $50 million to appear in a comic-book movie.

The first step of my plan: partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

But there is somebody who considers Downey’s income a great injustice: Greg Mankiw. As Mankiw has insisted time and time again, Obama’s tax policies unfairly seize too great a share of Downey’s income and spend it on people less deserving than Downey. Indeed, Mankiw’s work suggests he believes society’s cruel exploitation of Downey and his economic peers is the single most compelling social wrong in the world today.

Have Obama’s confiscatory tax policies discouraged Downey from sharing his talents with the world? Apparently not — he is already filming another Avengers sequel. If we followed Mankiw’s urgings and reduced Downey’s tax rates, would he give us even more films? That seems hard to believe. Does Downey himself even begrudge his current tax burden? I don’t know the answer, but the fact that he donated to Obama’s reelection, the failure of which would have spared him from his current onerous rate, suggests he probably does not.

So what does Downey tell us about the inequality debate? Is the conclusion, as Mankiw implies, that because millions of people flock to his performances, that he should have more money?

The richest one percent, Mankiw informs those New York Times readers he considers too dense to grasp this fact, “contribute many millions in federal taxes, and other millions in state taxes. And those millions help fund schools, police departments and national defense for the rest of us.”

That’s nice. But the issue is that Mankiw thinks they’re contributing too much to fund schools, police, and national defense. The relevance of Robert Downey Jr. to the inequality debate is as follows: Mankiw and the party he works for propose that Downey (or his heirs) should enjoy finer luxuries than he currently does – a few more classic cars, perhaps another vacation home – and that the rest of us should either pay more to the government or get less from it.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 02/18/2014 9:23:35 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Who’s paying for Obama’s “finer luxuries”, Chait-head?


2 posted on 02/18/2014 9:29:28 AM PST by Argus
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To: nickcarraway

This is an apples and oranges comparison. He’s comparing the rich as an individual (Robert Downey) with the rich as an industry (the finance industry). The better comparison would be comparing Hollywood with Wall Street. Each are equally dangerous.


3 posted on 02/18/2014 9:37:05 AM PST by circlecity
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To: nickcarraway

“avid social Darwinist”

The left has a serious misunderstanding about what social Darwinism actually is.

They look at the evolution of species, and “survival of the fittest”, and understand that involves the death of the weaker individuals.

Then they extend that to sociology, and mistakenly believe that “survival of the fittest” means the death of the weaker individuals.

That’s simply wrong. Social Darwinism isn’t about the survival of the fittest individuals, but of the survival of the fittest behaviors. In this context, “survival of the fittest” means the death of the weaker behaviors.

It’s not the weaker individuals that social Darwinists want to die, but their self-destructive behaviors.


4 posted on 02/18/2014 9:37:30 AM PST by jdege
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To: nickcarraway
Actually, these questions are peripheral to the debate over income inequality.

There is no such thing. People earn what they qualify for. IOW, what they are equal to. End of 'debate'...............................

5 posted on 02/18/2014 9:40:36 AM PST by Red Badger (Proud member of the Zeta Omicron Tau Fraternity since 2004...................)
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To: nickcarraway
Let the market decide how much Bob makes for his movies. If millions of people want to pay 20 bucks a pop to see him play out Tony Stark/Iron Man - what's the big deal? Good for him. Does he do a fine job playing the role? - yes. The producers would pay him far less if there wasn't a market for billionaire playboy superheroes.

I'm happy for him, he's a genuine nice guy in real life and except for the Obama donation (which I'm skeptical about, btw) I say more power to him. He' fully self supporting through his own contributions - Pass It On.

atc23 in Hollywood

6 posted on 02/18/2014 9:49:00 AM PST by atc23 (The Confederacy was the single greatest conservative resistance to federal authority ever.)
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To: nickcarraway
Here is the column that got Chait's panties in a wad.
7 posted on 02/18/2014 9:53:54 AM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: circlecity

YES! THe sophistry was startling!


8 posted on 02/18/2014 9:54:35 AM PST by Mad Dawg (In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.)
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To: nickcarraway
This was much more about liberals than about Iron Man.

Assuming Tony Stark was real, what some academic or journalistic leftist has to say is irrelevant.

Because liberalism has become such a sham, Tony has only to give enough to the Democratic Party to ensure his survival.

For the time being, anyway. If enough people who hated him gave to the DNC, he'd better watch his back (when he's not wearing his suit, anyway).

9 posted on 02/18/2014 9:56:35 AM PST by x
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To: jdege
It’s not the weaker individuals that social Darwinists want to die, but their self-destructive behaviors.

Excellent.

10 posted on 02/18/2014 10:01:48 AM PST by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: nickcarraway

“If you don’t like the financial industry siphoning off your 401(k) or plunging the world economy into a massive crisis destroying trillions of dollars and ruining the lives of millions of people forever, you don’t have as much recourse.”

Jonathan can’t seem to quite figure out how they manage to do all of that, nor can he figure out who they support in politics. Maybe if we experience another 4 or 5 bubbles, he will start to figure it out. I doubt it. Jonathan is an emotionally driven little fool.


11 posted on 02/18/2014 10:07:53 AM PST by cdcdawg (Be seeing you...)
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To: jdege

Hear hear!


12 posted on 02/18/2014 10:13:55 AM PST by Bogey78O (We had a good run. Coulda been great still.)
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To: jdege

“It’s not the weaker individuals that social Darwinists want to die, but their self-destructive behaviors.”

Exactly!

——and that is why the constant indoctrination to destroy Virtue (Excellence) in our children. This Flipping Good and Evil—and erasing Christian Ethics will destroy Virtue/Merit/Free Enterprise—that excellence and flourishing, that is only possible by being virtuous.

Individualism with Virtue is NOT conducive to slavery ever.


13 posted on 02/18/2014 10:18:00 AM PST by savagesusie (Right Reason According to Nature = Just Law)
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To: nickcarraway

All they need to do is get rid of the “Negative Affirmation” votes and proxies. Then let the share holders take care of it.

Big Difference between A list actor, or A list athlete and an A list Executive of a public corporation.

Things you don’t know or may have suspected ... Board Members and CEO’s can be just as corrupt as the common beltway politician.


14 posted on 02/18/2014 10:28:05 AM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: jdege

Read my sig.


15 posted on 02/18/2014 10:28:48 AM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: nickcarraway

when was the last time the left excoriated Soros?


16 posted on 02/18/2014 10:34:07 AM PST by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: nickcarraway

Don’t look now, Jonathan Chait, but Obama wants to invest your retirement for you with his MyRA initiative. Good luck on that one! Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

When it comes to corruption, Obama is all about eliminating the middle-man and taking the business direct.


17 posted on 02/18/2014 10:35:06 AM PST by Tallguy
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To: Red Badger

In private corporations and enterprises I would agree. In public corporations Common Shareholders are manipulated, lied to and tricked as much as the Electorate is.

Example: Around the 1990 Era, AT&T hired a CEO who fired 10k employees, closed down over 2 dozen business units over the course of 6 months, then stepped down for over $10M bonus plus his contracted compensation.

Executive compensation that requires a public shareholders vote should have their pay capped. There is way too much inbreeding in the corporate board world.


18 posted on 02/18/2014 10:36:36 AM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: jdege

“survival of the fittest behaviors. In this context, “survival of the fittest” means the death of the weaker behaviors.”

And that’s why they hate it - because this allows natural consequences to occur for behavioral choices, and those consequences (and benefits) prove, in reality, that their worldview is absolutely wrong - all cultures are NOT equal, and there is one, especially, that works BEST.


19 posted on 02/18/2014 10:38:13 AM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: jdege

How true.

Of course, the sole appeal of liberalism is to ensure a continuation of these selfsame weak and stupid behaviors by those in the base of the Democrat voting bloc to garner their votes.


20 posted on 02/18/2014 10:41:30 AM PST by februus
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To: nickcarraway
Whatever Downey’s politics are the “Iron Man” movies, in my opinion, celebrate patriotism and the triumph of good over evil.
21 posted on 02/18/2014 11:02:49 AM PST by Brad from Tennessee (A politician can't give you anything he hasn't first stolen from you.)
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To: jdege

Excellent explanation.


22 posted on 02/18/2014 11:25:55 AM PST by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
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To: Usagi_yo

Remember that AT&T also acquired National Cash Register at the time, turning that (for a few years) into AT&T GIS. Such an acquisition would have (at some point) motivated AT&T to have done such cuts.


23 posted on 02/18/2014 2:55:55 PM PST by setha (It is past time for the United States to take back what the world took away.)
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