Jeffrey T. S. MacDonagh on American Experiment

Overall, the paper did an excellent job encapsulating, on an abstract level, the anger felt by the "progressive" political establishment.  If it was targeted to any other audience, the paper might be discredited as being too extremist.  

One general concern I had with the paper (perhaps intentional on your part?) was that it focused overwhelmingly on outlining this "neo-royalist elitism," which left very little room for making the case that progressives need "stories" of their own to compete with the elites.  The latter point shouldn't be taken for granted -- by articulating the argument for progressives needing to create "stories," it might better clarify the difference between progressive politics and standard left-of-center DNC politics.

I also think you could flesh out the part about elitists deceiving the
public into believing their view.  Some of my concrete comments below elaborate.  From my personal experience growing up in a small Michigan factory town, surrounded by endless farms, I saw firsthand how the working class are deceived into supporting Republican presidents.

Lastly, the paper is a bit scant on examples.  It would make the paper much longer, but might be worth it if you have the room.

Here's some concrete comments:

p.3 "Elitist Economics" - I take some objection to casting free trade in
such a negative light, although my viewpoint is partially grounded in the investment world!!  More importantly, elitists can't be equated with free trade.  I believe the elite co-opt free trade when it serves their ends (such as with NAFTA), but they equally oppose free trade when it doesn't serve their ends (e.g., cotton subsidies, steel tariffs).  But this supports your latter points about the elitists having to use deception to maintain popular support.

p.3 "Elitist Economics" - Elitists want to tax consumption, not income.  One the elitists' cute arguments is that a consumption-related tax is more fair. Never mind that, proportionally speaking, a consumption tax hurts the middle and working class more!  This supports your latter points about deception again.

p.4 "Elitist Economics" - The IMF characterization oversimplifies their
complicated relationship with developing countries.  They often promote socially progressive programs, such as unemployment insurance.  While some of their actions are questionable, I see the IMF more as a force for both good and bad (rather than a tool of the elites).

p.5 "Elite Prosperity Story: Reality" - One could make another argument against concentration of wealth -- the wealthy are lousy consumers.  They tend to save money at the wrong times (recessions) and purchase less productive economic goods (one BMW vs. 5 Toyotas).  AGAIN, the elites deceive working and middle-class folks into thinking the rich are this necessary investor class!

p. 6 "Elite Prosperity Story: Reality" - I think a step might be missing
here -- the situation you describe about the gradual destruction of the middle class would result in economic contraction before we get to the "all hell breaks loose" stage.  The effects of Wal-Mart on small towns exemplifies this beautifully.  The loss of good paying jobs leads to localized economic contraction, which then leads to a host of social problems and self-esteem destroying welfare-dependencies.

Posted February 17, 2004