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Krugman on whether the rich really need the rest of us

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Paul Krugman has a nice column on Republican attitudes on education, contrasting "social conservative" Santorum's approach with "economic conservative" Romney's. I'll let you go read; it's excellent.

But I want to point out the following (my emphasis):

But what about people like Mr. Romney? Don’t they have a stake in America’s future economic success, which is endangered by the crusade against education? Maybe not as much as you think.

After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force. ...

So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.
I've asked many times — Do the rich really need the rest of us?
So which is it? Have the super-rich decided they don't need America any more? Or are they just so in love with Supply Side Jesus that they don't know they're burning the house down with them inside?

In other words, when this country becomes a faltering second-world economy with a useful first-world military, have the super-rich prepared their financial escape? Do the rich really need the rest of us?
I'm not alone. Over at Digby's joint, David Atkins wonders much the same thing (emphasis added):
The underinvestment in public education is very intentional. Thanks largely to Grover Norquist and his buddies, it now costs more to attend a public university in California than it does to attend Harvard. The elites don't really need that many skilled workers in America. They need some, but not that many. A lot of the needed skilled workers can come from overseas immigration. The vast bulk of the American population is much more useful to them as desperate, unskilled labor.
I don't think they think we're needed. As the Brazilian and Indian and Chinese (etc.) consumer class comes online, consumers in America (our only value to them) can be retired. At that point, we're very Old World, serving the new.

I hope hope hope I'm wrong. But if I'm not, welcome to the backside of history, my fellow Americans. Brought to you by the very very rich and the politicians who serve them.

If it's any consolation, the Brits who emerged from the Great War and saw a new American world, they preceded you. The Romans of the fourth century weren't as lucky — they didn't speak Goth.


(To follow on Twitter: @Gaius_Publius)

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