The greatest generation was pretty great, but my post on intergenerational transfers may have given them a little too much credit relative to voters of the last three decades or so. My colleague Bob Reich points in an email to
…one big reason why middle-class Californians began thinking more about themselves than posterity starting in the late 1970s: Their real incomes started to flatten. In the thirty years before that – when their parents invested in California’s education system and infrastructure – the median wage tracked productivity gains. The typical family grew so much better off it could afford to be generous. But then the median wage flattened even as productivity gains continued. Public-spiritedness is harder to inspire among people who feel they’re losing ground.
How did the few people so rich that they really don’t need much from government – maybe a Coast Guard to pick them off their yachts in case of trouble – contrive to get an exploding share of the value created by everyone’s labor since 1980? This is an important political question, not to mention how to fix it. Letting their federal taxes go back up to where they were in the very prosperous Clinton years wouldn’t hurt.