In an election year where one presidential candidate wants to raise taxes on the rich and the other wants to cut them, and immediately after near-party-line votes on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for income above $250,000 a year, you’d think that Tom Edsall’s review of Joseph Stiglitz’s tract against inequality would acknowledge that the voters have a choice to make about the issue. But no:

Prospects for programs boosting public investment are virtually nil. Republicans stand a good chance of taking control of both branches of Congress after the next election. Their presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, may capture the White House. If so, his tax and regulatory proposals will most likely embody all that Stiglitz finds repugnant. Even if Romney loses, the American political system does not appear ready to respond to Stiglitz’s call to arms.

Yes, it’s true: due in part to the new system of campaign finance put in place by the Republican Supreme Court, even Democrats find their ability to legislate against plutocracy limited by their need to raise campaign funds from plutocrats. Simply re-electing Obama and keeping the Senate in Democratic hands won’t change that. But if Republicans manage to take both the Presidency and the Senate on a frankly plutocratic platform – which would enable them to lock in their partisan control of the judiciary for another couple of decades – that will tend to exacerbate the trend toward more inequality, while a Democratic victory would exert pressure in the opposite direction.

This is more or less the same argument I had with Glenn Loury in a bloggingheads diavlog that unfortunately got eaten by technical problems and will have to be redone. The plutocrats don’t have any doubt about what’s on the table this fall: that’s why they’re going to spend a billion dollars or so to elect their homeboy. Nobody on the right is urging people to sit this one out because it doesn’t really matter. Only our side is burdened by this sort of thumb-sucking electoral nihilism, earlier instantiations of which elected Richard Nixon in 1968 and George W. Bush in 1980 2000.

Update And of course there’s the $200 billion in downward income redistribution embodied in Obamacare, which will survive or not largely based on the results of this election.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.