It wasn’t the middling middle that wrecked the world economy. It was what David Halberstam, in his analysis of how America got lost in Vietnam, called “The Best and the Brightest.”
The financial games that led to the meltdown of the global economy were invented by people with PhDs and MBAs, usually from schools so elite they’d make the rest of our noses bleed if we got anywhere near them. It was faculty at elite institutions that inculcated generations of students with the free market principles of the Chicago School and supply side economics. It was their Wharton and Harvard business school graduate students who implemented the ridiculous economic order of the last 30 years.
So, frankly, the skepticism that is apparent in many complaints about the bank bailout and various stimulus packages has a glint of truth to it. “People like YOU screwed everything up,” populist sentiments suggest, “so why should we trust people like YOU to fix it?”
These complaints may well be misbegotten—after all, would you really rather have national economic policy set by people without much formal training or experience in global fiscal regimes? But the anti-elite, populist sentiment that underlies so much resistance to continued efforts stimulate the economy is real, and explains part of why the tea party makes sense to so many Americans. One conundrum of modern life is that we are relying on elites to solve problems that were caused by elites.
That’s a hard sell. As President Obama has surely discovered!