October 23, 2002

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In this issue

OVER AT THE San Francisco Women's Building Saturday afternoon, at a rally organized by the backers of the combined campaigns against downtown's attempt to take over San Francisco, I ran into a couple who had gone to an earlier rally led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and backed by big business groups who think (correctly) that their power in town is ebbing. I have no idea what the couple – a middle-age man and woman – were doing at the progressive event (spying?), but I managed to get in a pretty good fight with them about housing, Proposition R, the local economy, and the general state of the U.S. of A.

I should have realized I was doomed when the woman told me my position on housing in San Francisco (it should be tightly regulated and treated as an essential human need, not as a commodity to be bought and sold in the speculative market) was (gasp!) "socialism." But I pressed on, pointing out to her that the United States is now the single most socially stratified nation in the industrialized world. "That's because of all the diversity," she said with a sneer.

She really said that.

Anyway, it's too bad I never got her name, because I'd love to send her a copy of Paul Krugman's cover story in this week's New York Times Magazine. It's called "The End of Middle-Class America." Krugman's thesis: The middle-class nation of the 1950s and 1960s is gone, replaced by a new plutocracy, a reign of inequality reminiscent of the world of the Gilded Age. The modern era may be even worse than the 1920s: "Even J.P. Morgan," he notes, "didn't have a Gulfstream."

More important, Krugman (a Princeton economist) notes that there's a "concerted effort to deny that inequality is increasing," a vast conspiracy of lies funded by the same plutocracy that benefits from it.

I thought of that when I saw the abominable ads in the mail the past few days from the campaigns against Propositions D and L and in favor of Propositions R and N. This slick pile of crap is funded by the same collection of interests – Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the Committee on Jobs, big real estate firms, Feinstein's pals – that want to deny that city services are underfunded, taxes on the rich far too low, and private power far too costly. They are San Francisco's plutocracy, and they need to be challenged on every front.

Tim Redmond tredmond@sfbg.com