Another Sign of the Impending Apocalypse

March 24, 2014


The Associated Press Stylebook has decided to throw in the towel on using “over” when one means “more than.”

Apparently, the jury is still out on “fewer” and “less than.” Listen for the hoofbeats. . . .


Some Extol the Dignity of Work, but What They Really Love is Money

March 23, 2014

We have heard from some quarters on the Right about how social programs and things like a mandatory minimum wage rob people of their incentive and deny them the supposed dignity of work. Well, as one who started about at $3.65 an hour (1975 – which would be $15.93 today, or a little over $33,000 a year) standing in front of a drop hammer on the second shift, my view is there ain’t all that much dignity involved in a lot of work done in this country. But more to the point, this rhetorical appeal to the gawl-dang-swagger-and-spit-don’t-take-nothin’-from-nobody individualism masks policy choices (don’t forget, most Members of the two Houses of Congress are millionaires) that are actually aimed at protecting wealth, particularly in the form of taxing high incomes at lower rates. Paul Krugman blogs today:

Favoring Wealth Over Work

In my last post I tried to document the extent to which modern Republican rhetoric has already adopted the values of “patrimonial capitalism”, even though America’s top one percent still owes its high incomes largely to compensation rather than wealth. On reflection, I thought I should also document the extent to which the GOP has put its money — or, actually, taxpayers’ money — where its mouth is, with concrete policies that favor wealth over work.

Consider, as Exhibit A, the Bush tax cuts. Bush did cut the top tax rate on earned income from 39.6 to 35 percent, a 12 percent reduction. But he cut the rate on capital gains from 21 to 15, a 28 percent reduction; he cut the rate on dividends from 39.6 (because dividends were previously taxed as ordinary income) to 15, a reduction of more than 60 percent. And he put the estate tax on a path toward zero — a 100 percent reduction.

The estate tax made a partial comeback thanks to the awkward fact that a Democrat was in the White House, and there have been some tax hikes on capital income. The point, however, was that Bush tried to give people living off wealth, inherited wealth in particular, much bigger tax cuts than he gave high earners.

And the efforts go on. I know that Paul Ryan likes to lecture the poor about the dignity of work; but his famous initial “roadmap” called for the complete elimination of taxes on interest, capital gains, and dividends, plus elimination of the estate tax. In other words, he proposed eliminating all taxes on income derived from wealth.

Now, Ryan casts this as policy that favors saving. But the truth is that it would mainly favor people born on third base or beyond. Even now, 6 of the 10 wealthiest Americans are heirs rather than self-made entrepreneurs — the Koch brothers plus a bunch of Waltons. There’s every reason to believe that the role of inheritance will only grow over time. And if it does, half our political system will be cheering it on and offering the ever-more-empowered heirs as much assistance as possible.

Probably more than half, Dr. Krugman. Include all those Third Way-ers. And, remember, a lot of Dems, doubtless afraid of being attacked for refusing to cut taxes during their re-election campaigns, voted for those cuts.


March 23, 1925 – Tennessee Outlaws Teaching Evolution

March 23, 2014


Clarence Darrow makes his opening argument.

And we were off to the races. Tennessee passed the Butler Law, forbidding the teaching of evolution and setting the stage for the prosecution of high-school teacher John Scopes, the famous “Monkey Trial” (the term coined by noted curmudgeon H.L. Menken) four months later.

It also spawned a great play and film, “Inherit the Wind.”

Just a reminder of how little some things have changed.


A Reminder of the Importance of Remembering (or Seizing) the Moment

March 23, 2014



One Classy – and Christian – Move

March 23, 2014

I pay next-to-zero attention to boneheads like the Westboro crowd; there are much better and more productive ways to spend one’s time, and I see no need to give them even a teensy extra mote of visibility. But this photo caught my attention, and I pass it along in admiration.


This Should be a Call-To-Arms on Unemployment, but Don’t Hold Your Breath

March 20, 2014

Between 2009 and 2010, I was unemployed for 11 months. With combination of a small package provided by my former employer, unemployment insurance, draining savings and retirement, and scrabbling some freelance work together, my household kept going, and I was lucky to find a good-paying job about a month before we estimated we would go over the financial edge.

Like I said, I was lucky. A new paper from three Princeton economists – Alan B. Krueger, Judd Cramer, and David Cho – reports that long-term unemployment never really goes away. Even after finding another job, reemployment does not fully reset the clock for the long-term unemployed, who are frequently jobless again soon after they gain reemployment: only 11 percent of those who were long-term unemployed in a given month returned to steady, full-time employment a year later.

The paper was presented at the Brookings Institution, and one of the things it points out is that monetary policy (that’s the Fed) is limited in what it can accomplish in terms of driving down unemployment and helping those who have been out of work for an extended period. What is needed is action by legislators, our elected officials, and since Congress and many state legislatures are dominated by Republicans, who don’t give a rat’s ass about unemployment, that’s not likely to happen.

Couple this with the personally devastating effects of unemployment (there are those who say one often does not fully recover, ever), and you have a genuine crisis, one too many politicians are content to allow to fester.


Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers

March 20, 2014

Only wish you’d had another 100 happy returns!


With grateful thanks.

Esquire ran a profile piece on him once.


1980 Was a Really Crummy Year for Most Americans, and What Followed Was Worse

March 18, 2014

From the House of Debt blog:


The fact that productivity has far out-paced wages (so much for the Social Contract, or whatever variation was supposed to be functioning) is not news, but read on:

The chart shows that productivity, or output per hour of work, has quadrupled since 1947 in the United States. This is a spectacular achievement by an advanced economy.

The gains in productivity were quite widely shared from 1947 to 1980. Real income for the median U.S. family doubled during this time just as output per hour of work performed doubled. The rising tide was lifting all boats.

However, what we want to focus on today is the remarkable separation in productivity and median real income since 1980. While the United States is producing twice as much per hour of work today compared to 1980, a small part of the gain in real income has gone to the bottom half of the income distribution. The gap between productivity and median real income is at an historic all-time high today.

And the wealth that’s been created by all the productivity had to go somewhere:

So where are all of the gains in productivity going? Two places:

First, owners of capital are getting a bigger share of GDP than before. In other words, the share of profits has risen faster than wages. Second, the highest paid workers are getting a bigger share of the wages that go to labor.

The net result is that families at the higher end of the income distribution have received more of the income produced by the economy since the 1980s.

They’ll be blogging further on this.


Just Wonderin’ . . .

March 18, 2014

What the public debate would be like if the mainstream media, with their multi-million-dollar network anchors and reporters who move easily among the Beltway salons, spent as much time and attention covering the budget proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus as they do the one put up by Paul Ryan?


Pew: No, the Internet Has Certainly Not Rendered Libraries Obsolete

March 13, 2014


My hometown library . . .

Americans still see the consider libraries as important to them and their communities.

Libraries loom large in the public imagination, and are generally viewed very positively: 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community.

The internet passed the quarter-century mark this year, but books go back thousands of years. Not to say the two aren’t compatible, but it is to say that libraries–repositories of knowledge, culture, history and imagination–make both available.

A search engine can bring you 100,000 answers, but a librarian can help you find the right one.



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