Huckabee and the Politics of Greed

Sarah Laskow rounds up considerable evidence that Mike Huckabee won’t run for president because he’d rather earn money. If so, that’s too bad, since the kind of guy who’d pass up a presidential bid because he doesn’t want to take the financial hit is exactly the kind of person we need more of in politics. That’s why I always have a little bit of a soft-spot for elected officials who find ways to corruptly enrich themselves in office. At the margin, I’m comforted by the idea of more greedy elected officials and fewer power-crazed egomaniacs.

Another way of looking at this is that there’s a kind of indirect political economy cost to skyrocketing inequality. Elected officials are high-status individuals, and it’s natural for them to spend a lot of time talking to other high-status individuals. But the ratio of a congressman’s income to the income of a person who’s high-status because he’s a CEO or a financier has plummeted over the past thirty years. This doesn’t just suck people out of politics, I think it’s actually quite psychologically distorting. If half the people you see earn 20 times as much, then you can easily start convincing yourself that a salary of $174,000 a year (plus pretty generous benefits) is actually really low. From there it’s easy to see that a couple with $250,000 in household income isn’t “really” rich even if some annoying blogger is trying to tell you that’s five times the national median.

(As for Huckabee personally, I wonder if he’s familiar with that part of the Bible about the camel and the eye of the needle)