I have worked in the Jewish community for many years.  As in the general
community, more and more resources are being concentrated in fewer and fewer
hands.  When my brother started working as the principal of the Community
Hebrew Academy of Toronto over twenty years ago, the financial assistance
program worked like this.  About 10 percent of the students required a full
subsidy in order to pay tuition and attend the school (the poor), about 10%
required no subsidy (the rich), and about 80% required varying degrees of
subsidy from a little to a lot (upper to lower middle class).  Nowadays,
about 25% require no subsidy (the rich), about 30% require full subsidy (the
poor) and the rest require some subsidy (the middle).  As you will note the
middle has shrunk.  If the current trend continues, somewhere down the line,
only rich and poor parents will be able to afford the tuition.  Middle class
parents will have to find other ways of providing a basic Jewish education.
I have worked for and with many charitable organizations and all report the
same pattern.  More and more of their money is coming from fewer and fewer
large donors.  The total number of donors shrinks while the total amount
collected rises.
I think it is simplistic to think that a few people are “manipulating” the
system.  I think many of us have bought into the consumer society, have
wanted to have more cash in our hands and have accepted lower taxation rates
as our due, have lost faith in the capacity of government to do anything
efficiently or effectively.  We have lost our sense of community and mutual
obligation.  We feel no connection to rich people and they feel no
connection to us.  If they succeed, we envy and resent them because then
they are no longer one of us poor folk.  They see the rest of us as people
trying to achieve what they have and feel no obligation to give away their
hard gotten gains to help us be like them.  Indeed, they would then be
nothing special so why do it?
To me, it is this mindset that has led us to the current situation and I see
nothing in Krugman’s or in the Star’s editorial that will have the slightest
impact on that.  To the contrary, they foster the sense that, “I am not
getting my due, so somebody must be screwing me.”
To my mind the group of people who is “manipulating” the system is the one
we all see in the morning when we get up and look in the mirror.
As to whether we are better off, it depends on what you like.  We can get
access to a lot more music and hear it with great quality in our own home.
We can see and hear and learn so much more than our parents could.  You can
get a bitchin’ HTDTV for relatively cheap.  
But my son’s tuition and living expenses for his two year program at U of T,
would have paid for about 8-10 years of education in my day.  Buying a house
in Toronto is almost impossible for young couples.
Yet what our children can or cannot get is partly the result of the choices
we all made.  If we can live with that, then I guess we should be happy