Mitt Romney Touts Anti-Poverty Platform

Mitt Romney certainly seems to be running for president again. And he's now on at least his third reinvention.

Mitt Romney Tired

Mitt Romney certainly seems to be running for president again. And he’s now on at  least his third reinvention.

WaPo (“Romney, moving toward 2016 run, outlines vision to eradicate poverty“):

Mitt Romney laid down a marker for a prospective presidential campaign in 2016, telling a Republican audience here [in San Diego] Friday night that the party can win the White House with a conservative message that stresses security and safety for the American people, opportunity for all regardless of background and a plan to lift people out of poverty.

In his first public appearance since his surprise announcement that he will seriously consider a third campaign for the White House, Romney offered an economic message that represented a dramatic departure from the themes he sounded in losing the 2012 campaign to President Obama.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans. On Friday, he seemed determined to send a signal that he would try to deal with that problem from the start, should he run.

“It’s a tragedy — a human tragedy – that the middle class in this country by and large doesn’t believe the future won’t be better than the past or their kids will have a brighter future of their own,” Romney said. He added, “People want to see rising wages and they deserve them.”

As with others in his party, he raised the issue of social mobility and the difficulty of those at the bottom from rising into the middle class. He cited former president Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty half a century ago. Johnson’s intentions were good, he said, but his policies had not worked. He argued that Republicans must persuade voters that conservative policies can “end the scourge of poverty” in America.

Beyond a focus aimed more at struggling middle-class families and those in poverty, Romney’s brief remarks Friday included comments about the work he had done as a lay pastor in the Mormon Church, a topic he rarely spoke about in his past campaigns. He invoked his wife Ann, who stood on the stage with him.

“She knows my heart in a way that few people do,” he said. “She’s seen me not just as a business guy and a political guy, but for over 10 years as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations… She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is.”

I recall being at CPAC when Romney was first running for the 2008 nomination and he was being dogged by someone in a Flipper costume. The knock against Romney was that he was positioning himself as a conservative despite a relatively moderate record in Massachusetts. Yet, by the time he was getting ready to concede the nomination to John McCain in early 2008, most of my more conservative counterparts on bloggers’ row were disappointed, seeing Romney as the most conservative candidate in the race. I never understood that and reflexively disliked Romney, not because he was too liberal or even because he was emphasizing different messages in a national run as he had in a liberal state but because he seemed so phony.

In the 2012 campaign, I supported Jon Huntsman but quickly realized that he had zero chance of securing the nomination. Romney became the default choice, in that he was so much better than the other plausible nominees and had a solid record as governor to fall back on. He still came across as wholly unnatural on the stump, though, because he was running on a script rather than as himself.

This latest reinvention interests me in that it strikes me as authentic. That is, I think he’s going to try to run as Mitt Romney. For a variety of reasons, I think it’s too late. Whether this version of Romney could have beaten Barack Obama in 2012 is an interesting question. He’d have had a better shot than the 2012 version of Romney of connecting with the zeitgeist, but I ultimately think Obama was unbeatable.

Regardless, the Republican Party needs to take the issue of income inequality—and especially the stagnant middle class—seriously if it’s going to win back the White House. But Romney is almost certainly the wrong vehicle for that. Not only does he have to overcome his own past—the “43%” business makes him an implausible populist—but it’s not clear that he has anything resembling a plan for addressing the issue. He wants rising incomes—thinks people deserve them—but thinks the old liberal ideas have failed. Fine. But he doesn’t seem to be proposing any new, conservative policies in their place. It’s not a very interesting conversation until he—or someone else—does.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    I can’t see any Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) with a descent shot at nomination proposing anything more than another tax reform proposal for dealing with income inequality. Whether one likes it or not, such proposals won’t have a significant impact on the problem and anything along those lines should be considered window-dressing.

    This is an issue neither party wants to confront.

  2. Argon says:

    “This latest reinvention interests me in that it strikes me as authentic.”

    How could you know that? This opinion seems driven more by your wish to believe than any actual evidence.

    Also, to combat income equality, a Republican candidate would have to repudiate practically every Republican policy of the past 30 years. Romney is a product of that mindset. He’s not his father by a long shot.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    What a pathetic, pathetic, man.
    Republicans have prevented Obama from enacting any kind of agenda that would help anyone.
    And now it’s Obamas fault that the Republicans 30 year long war on the middle class continues apace. Pretty typical. The entire Republican strategy since Jan. 20, 2009 has been to sabotage the economy and blame Obama for the resulting slow economic recovery.
    Doug does his part every month when he refuses to acknowledge the drag Republican policies have on employment numbers.
    In any case…

    “…a conservative message that stresses security and safety for the American people, opportunity for all regardless of background and a plan to lift people out of poverty…”

    …always means the same thing….voodoo economics…proven not to work by 3 decades of history and current events in Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    When the wind blows, the windsock changes direction.

    Same as it is ever was …

  5. Rick Almeida says:

    Many of his critics in Massachusetts called him “Multiple-choice Mitt” for a reason.

  6. Rob Prather says:

    I don’t see any Republican doing anything policy-wise that will help the poor or the middle class. These are mere talking points to them. As Clavin says, it’ll just be more voodoo economics. For example, the dynamic scoring nonsense that Paul Ryan instituted for tax changes, but not spending changes.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Argon:

    How could you know that? This opinion seems driven more by your wish to believe than any actual evidence.

    I’ve only met the man a handful of times and have next to no personal insights into his private beliefs. But I think the evidence shows him to be a committed Mormon with a long history of working to help those in need. I’m an anti-theist and find some of the Mormon belief system bizarre even by the standards of organized religion. But the evidence is pretty clear on this score:

    In a report issued in January 2012, “Mormons in America: Certain of Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society,” a research team representing the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that most Mormons are regular churchgoers and that more Mormons (73 percent) believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon” than believe the same thing about “not drinking coffee and tea” (49 percent).

    According to a new study previewed on March 15 by an expert panel convened at Pew’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practice what they preach about helping the needy. Led by Ram A. Cnaan, a renowned Israeli-born social-work scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, the study concludes that churchgoing Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society.”

    On average, Mormons dedicate nine times as many hours per month (nearly 36 hours) to volunteer activities than other Americans do. The comparison stands up even after one subtracts from the Mormon totals the work of young, full-time Mormon missionaries.

    Mormons reliably tithe to their churches and also give about $1,200 annually “to social causes outside the church.” Even Mormons who have relatively low household incomes both tithe fully and give more of their income to assist non-Mormons in need than other Americans do.

    I believe he genuinely cares about poverty. What public policy choices he would propose to fix it is an open question.

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob Prather: Even spending changes aren’t going to have much impact given that spending to increase low incomes (typically called welfare or handouts) is an ex post facto solution not touching the core problem of capital/labor income ratio. Any politician not advocating a tight, full employment policy isn’t interested in grappling with this.

  9. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “I believe he genuinely cares about poverty.”

    As evidenced by his refusal to consider taxing investment bankers at the same rate as workers, insisting that it would be terrible if they had to pay more than 15% on their multi-billion dollar incomes. Clearly he’s a fighter when it comes to keeping the ultra-rich out of poverty.

  10. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @James Joyner: So the personal is political here? Why in the world did he say most of the crapola he said the last two times he ran for prez? Was he less authentically mormon then? I think not.

  11. humanoid.panda says:

    Platform? Besides some platitudes about how liberals make things worse and how he was nice to poor people as Bishop, did he mention a word about policy? I don’t know why the media (and James, in this case) are just buying his words, without asking for details.

  12. humanoid.panda says:

    With that being said, the very fact that Romney acknowledged that inequality is bad is an indication of how much the political conversation changed in the last couple of years. I wonder what all the people who think that Elizabeth Warren is a silly college professor think about her, and her ability to shape the national agenda, now.

  13. humanoid.panda says:

    @Argon:

    Also, to combat income equality, a Republican candidate would have to repudiate practically every Republican policy of the past 30 years. Romney is a product of that mindset. He’s not his father by a long shot

    Exactly. As Chait wrote about Ryan’s “poverty agenda” to do something about income inequality, you need to spend money, and to spend money you need to raise taxes. Both are non-starters for GOP.

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,

    Um, wait, I thought that the Romneytron 2.0 accused President Obama of being a socialist? Now the Romneytron 3.0 is complaining that Obama is too much of a capitalist?

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    Mitt Romney laid down a marker for a prospective presidential campaign in 2016, telling a Republican audience here [in San Diego] Friday night that the party can win the White House with a conservative message that stresses security and safety for the American people, opportunity for all regardless of background and a plan to lift people out of poverty.

    Without even having read it yet, I’m willing to bet $10,000 that the “plan to life people out of poverty” involves cutting taxes on the rich….

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    This latest reinvention interests me in that it strikes me as authentic.

    So old, and yet so naive.

    That is, I think he’s going to try to run as Mitt Romney.

    AHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I believe he genuinely cares about poverty.

    “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.” — Mitt Romney

  18. superdestroyer says:

    Instead of writing about an irrelevant Republican who will never be president and never have any influence on policy, why not write on Hillary Clinton’s economic plan. http://www.vox.com/2015/1/16/7557803/inclusive-prosperity-hillarynomics

    The only question for the Democrats is why would anyone with money to invest want to do it in her version of the U.S. If people want to invest in a high tax, high regulatory, high cost setting, they can always invest in Germany or Scandinavia. If questions want to invest in cheap labor, third world immigrants, why not just let the workers stay in India or Mexico rather than importing them to the U.S.

    What should be discussed is the belief that incentives now have no impact on the economy and that the Democrats can do no wrong in economic policy. .

  19. wr says:

    @humanoid.panda: “I wonder what all the people who think that Elizabeth Warren is a silly college professor think about her, and her ability to shape the national agenda, now.”

    Fauxcahantas! Academic fraud! Benghazi!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. michael reynolds says:

    I have a plan to save the middle class. It’s quite simple. It’s called a union.

    The rich can buy congresspeople and senators left and right, and since the very successful Republican campaign against unions there has been no counterbalancing force defending working folks. Kill right-to-work laws and pass laws defending the rights of union organizers. Fast food and retail desperately need unionization. Odds of Mitt Romney agreeing: zero.

    In the end he will turn out not to have a plan. There is no way to get from A to Z that does not involve some disadvantage to the 1%, and neither Romney nor his party is remotely capable of such evolution. If you want to move money out of the pockets of the rich and into the pockets of working people, there’s tax increases to fund transfer programs (welfare), serious increases in minimum wage, or unionization. None of those work for the GOP.

    So, either Romney just smoked his first joint, or he’s delusional, or he’s making a sad effort to undo the damage done by a bartender with an iPhone who taped the real Romney.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    This latest reinvention interests me in that it strikes me as authentic. That is, I think he’s going to try to run as Mitt Romney.

    Really? Go back and listen to him on the 47% video. The contempt for people who do not pay income tax is crystal clear. The real Mitt Romney was standing up, he did not know anyone was watching.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slFZ8K2aBoY

  22. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

    Do you honestly think that this description of Romney is anything but correct? Do you have any evidence, any at all, that he is in touch with ordinary Americans?

  23. ktward says:

    Re: Romney’s newfound “authenticity”- pretty much what everyone else said. I mean, c’mon. It seems absurd to attempt to magically erase his ’08-’12 history.

    However, the thing I found most interesting about your OP is that as a self-identified anti-theist you’d even consider backing a Mormon. Seems a very … anti-antitheistic position for an anti-theist to take. If you considered yourself just a plain old atheist, I probably wouldn’t have noticed a contradiction worth mentioning. But an anti-theist? That’s unusually specific, and makes your Romney support seem, really, more than a bit odd.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    As evidenced by his refusal to consider taxing investment bankers at the same rate as workers, insisting that it would be terrible if they had to pay more than 15% on their multi-billion dollar incomes.

    It’s possible to both care about poverty and think redistribution is the wrong policy solution.

    @Rafer Janders: @anjin-san: The 47% speech was about political calculus. That is, if 47% of the people don’t pay federal income tax, it’s pretty easy to sell them on tax increases and entitlement programs and pretty hard to convince them that we need to rein in spending and cut taxes. I simultaneously think that it’s perfectly reasonable that most people who don’t pay federal income taxes, given their station in life, and that it creates a classic “stake in society” problem.

    @michael reynolds:

    If you want to move money out of the pockets of the rich and into the pockets of working people, there’s tax increases to fund transfer programs (welfare), serious increases in minimum wage, or unionization.

    Theoretically, at least, there’s training for and creation of good jobs. I think it’s a preferable strategy to artificially increasing the earnings of people doing menial, low-skill jobs. The question is how to make it happen.

    @wr: @humanoid.panda: I happen to like Elizabeth Warren. But the notion that she’s the one who put income inequality on the national agenda is absurd. Surely, the Occupy movement deserves far more credit?

    @anjin-san: That’s from the WaPo report, not my commentary. I don’t think most rich people are in touch with poor people. I think Romney cares about poverty, not that he’s a Regular Joe.

    @ktward: This is America, easily the most religious nation in the developed world. Our leaders are going to be religious or at least able to fake it. I think most of Romney’s Mormon faith is silly; but I do think he’s taken its teachings about social responsiblity to heart.

  25. For some reason I’m reminded of the Futurama bit of Nixon’s head playing the electric guitar on TV, “I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies!”

  26. @michael reynolds:

    I have a plan to save the middle class. It’s quite simple. It’s called a union.

    The unions have themselves become just another big corporation with executives who really only care about supporting their own lavish lifestyles at the expense of their low level members.

    A local level union composed of just the workers at my business might accomplish something, but as long as unionization is built around national level big labor, all putting me in a union does is create more managers screwing me over.

  27. JohnMcC says:

    Seems like the commenter community doesn’t sense the same authenticity behind Gov Romney’s new-voiced concern. If I may presume to short-hand our objection: There is a vast difference between personal concern for the poor and policies that correct the imbalance between rich and working folk. Even stipulating that Gov Romney’s concern is authentic, there is actually zero likelihood for the policies that would change the present course of consolidating finance and riches in the investment side and stripping the production and demand part of their share of the economy.

  28. humanoid.panda says:

    @James Joyner:

    I happen to like Elizabeth Warren. But the notion that she’s the one who put income inequality on the national agenda is absurd. Surely, the Occupy movement deserves far more credit?

    There is something to this, but I’d argue that what she did was to give the rather inchoate agenda of Occupy a political form politicians must respect (and,in the case of Democrats, fear). Like every political shift, this clearly wasn’t a product of her genius, but she is its focal point.

  29. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “It’s possible to both care about poverty and think redistribution is the wrong policy solution.”

    I’m sorry, but if you claim to care about poverty and your only solutions are ones that are guaranteed to bring benefits to the rich — like cutting taxes on millionaires and “reforming” social security — then no matter how much you believe you care about poverty, you simply don’t. Allowing yourself to believe that things which will benefit you will actually be of much greater benefit to others is at best solipsism, and at worst hypocrisy.

    When Romney’s care about poverty leads him to suggest a solution that in any way inconveniences people like him, give us a call. Until then, he’s just another pious fraud.

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I think Romney cares about poverty, not that he’s a Regular Joe.

    He should, given how much of it he helped to create in the course of earning those (hundreds of) millions.

    I’m not going to get into denigrating Bain’s business practices, for the simple reason that I earn my living on Wall Street as well, and it would be more than a tad hypocritical for me to do so. I’ll leave that to others more appropriately situated morally.

    That said, those business practices are what they are, and they don’t exactly (nor were they ever intended to) promote domestic job growth. For Romney to feign concern for the working class at this late date, even if it is legitimate (about which I have serious doubts), without ponying up the cash to actually do something about it – and proposing policy which forces others like him to do the same – is, well, it’s just that much more “I wanna be president, dammit!” variety boolsheet.

  31. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “Theoretically, at least, there’s training for and creation of good jobs.”

    Yes, and magic fairy tale unicorn ponies are nice, too.

    So in this scenario, who pays for the training? Because big business has made it quite clear that they no longer think it’s their responsibility to train workers to do the specific jobs they need done.

    And what are these magical jobs? Who is creating them, and why didn’t they create them over the last eight years?

    No, don’t tell me: Businesses have refused to create jobs because of environmental regulations, labor laws, minimum wage, and crippling taxes on job creators. And so Mitt will fix all this by wiping away regulations, doing away with the minimum wages, going after unions and slashing taxes on the rich.

    In other words, his platform to end poverty will — completely by coincidence — be identical to the wish list of every member of his social class.

    Yeah, we all believe he cares about poverty.

  32. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “A local level union composed of just the workers at my business might accomplish something, but as long as unionization is built around national level big labor, all putting me in a union does is create more managers screwing me over.”

    Congratulations. You have bought the right wing’s Big Lie.

    Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why when there is a corrupt union official or even a corrupt union, it’s evidence that all unions are useless parasites and should be disbanded or at least ignored… but when there is a corrupt businessman or a corrupt business, it’s just one bad apple and no kind of indictment of capitalism at all?

    Of course not. Our business leaders have so completly manipulated you that you feel you have come to your belief in the uselessness of unions through your own wisdom and cynicism. Congratulations on your decision to work against your best interest and in that of those who would exploit you.

  33. humanoid.panda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The only question for the Democrats is why would anyone with money to invest want to do it in her version of the U.S. If people want to invest in a high tax, high regulatory, high cost setting, they can always invest in Germany or Scandinavia

    Because the United States has one of the world’s biggest markets?
    Because English is the universal language, and American culture is uniquely transportable?
    Because the US has an abundance of land, and huge amounts of natural resources?
    Because the US is home to the word’s best universities and most productive workers?

    Really, the absolute disgust towards real existing America and real life Americans many “patriots” feel is something to behold.

  34. ktward says:

    @James Joyner:

    This is America, easily the most religious nation in the developed world. Our leaders are going to be religious or at least able to fake it. I think most of Romney’s Mormon faith is silly; but I do think he’s taken its teachings about social responsiblity to heart.

    All atheists agree on at least one thing: religion is silly.

    But anti-theists, the camp you’re apparently in, specifically believe that religion is not just silly, but that all religion is actually a danger to society to various degree. So like I said, it really is weird that someone who publicly self-identifies as an anti-theist (vs. a run-of-the-mill atheist like, say, myself) would be backing a purportedly devout Mormon.

    Seriously, dude. If you really are an anti-theist, you must know how weird this seems.

  35. Mikey says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Even stipulating that Gov Romney’s concern is authentic, there is actually zero likelihood for the policies that would change the present course of consolidating finance and riches in the investment side and stripping the production and demand part of their share of the economy.

    And even further stipulating he actually does favor such policies…all that would do is get him branded as a “RINO” again, and his chances of actually gaining the GOP nomination would drop to zero.

    Hypothesizing for a moment the vanishingly unlikely event he were actually nominated and elected, any such policies he promoted would die on the vine in the GOP-controlled Congress.

    So the real question is…does the utter impossibility of any real policy change by Romney enable him to be totally honest about his intentions, or is he just trying once again to figure out what sells?

  36. ktward says:

    @James Joyner:

    I happen to like Elizabeth Warren. But the notion that she’s the one who put income inequality on the national agenda is absurd. Surely, the Occupy movement deserves far more credit?

    She is indeed the one keeping it on the national agenda, as an elected Senator to boot. Unlike Occupy.

  37. Kylopod says:

    My father, an economist, likes to tell the following joke:

    A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, “Let’s smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says, “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says, “Let’s assume that we have a can-opener…”

    Replace the word “economist” with “Republican” and you have the perfect description of Republican policy-making.

  38. Argon says:

    James, it’s easy to ‘care about income inequality and poverty’. I think everyone ‘cares’. It’s quite another thing to actually be a force for positive change. Odd that after all these years Mitt finally thinks it’s worth putting front and center as his current goal. Does anyone, for one moment doubt that he ran this new, improved platform past a focus group first before standing behind it?

    It’s possible to both care about poverty and think redistribution is the wrong policy solution.

    Hahahaha! Describe one government policy that isn’t some form of income distribution. Improved education? ‘Extra benefits paid disproportionately by the wealthy for stupid, lazy people that can’t get it right like everyone else’. Better transportation to access jobs? ‘Subsidizing something others don’t use.’ Improved infrastructure to improve the movement of goods and services? ‘Socialism’.

    Look, Mitt could have been ‘the good Mormon’ as governor of Massachussetts. But he sold his soul to Ayn Rand while in office to run nationally. If he wants to do good things there are a million ways that don’t involve yet another run for US President. Perhaps he should try those first, ‘Bill Gates style’, and then he might, for once, gain some credibility. For now the only thing I am certain about the way his religion impacts his actions is that he wants to be the first ‘Mormon’ President. Beyond that, all bets are off.

    Huntsman, in comparison, was somewhat more ‘authentic’, but even he sold out to the global warming denialists in hope of improving his poll numbers too.

    Why don’t we all just grow up and admit, like the Quakers figured out long ago, that one really can’t be true to one’s religion and operate at high levels in government office? Take off the rose colored glasses and finally see that every Presidential candidate has something seriously wrong with them.

  39. al-Ameda says:

    Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

    Coming from man who made his second fortune as an LBO specialist – acquiring firms, stripping away assets and firing thousands of workers – it is indeed inspirational to hear him speak to the need for anti-poverty programs.

    As for the current anti-poverty scene in Washington, Mitt knows well that the Republican Congress could have tried to stop Obama from doing such alleged harm, they COULD have obstructed the president at every turn and none of this would have happened, right? Oh wait, they DID obstruct the president, and the so-called result that Mitt is now wringing his hands over is directly the result of Republican inaction.

    Mitt should have Jon Stewart’s writers draft his anti-poverty plan.

  40. steve q says:

    america created lots of policies to successfully lift million out of poverty in the mid-20th century. There were unions, and George Romney paid way more taxes than Mitt, and the money paid poor people like my dad and granddad to build roads, and become middle class. Me, I’m college-educated (STEM) and now work in a big box store making $10 hr and no bennies. And mitt’s buddies who own this big box store like it that way.

    anybody who believes mitt romney that Obama’s policies have hurt the middle class is on the opposite end of the bell curve than albert einstein was.

  41. Dave D says:

    @James Joyner: I have a hard time believing Romney or even Hillary or any of these cozy big finance guys are actually going to tackle the financial sector which is the key driver of this inequality. Wall Street is actually a drain on the US economy now
    “In perhaps the starkest illustration, economists from Harvard University and the University of Chicago wrote in a recent paper that every dollar a worker earns in a research field spills over to make the economy $5 better off. Every dollar a similar worker earns in finance comes with a drain, making the economy 60 cents worse off.”
    Have you heard anything out of the Republican side except complaints that these job creators are hampered by high taxes? You have companies with negative effective tax rates, off shoring a quarter of their workers (GE) receiving money back from the IRS. But anytime law makers on the right talk about taxes it is always how to reduce them for our betters and sit back and watch the tax revenues increase and the jobs roll in, neither of which are happening. When this sector is so big, writes the tax code to reflexively benefit it over the working class and then does it’s damnedest to hide the money off shore to avoid paying for it; what politician who needs these people to run for re-election is actually going to do anything? Especially considering all the insider trading these same congress members benefit from.

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think more education = better jobs. If it did we’d have the problem solved because a larger and larger percentage of kids get a shot at education. It’s why Mr. Obama’s plan for free community college just earns a shrug from me.

    Something profound and far-reaching is happening, and I think we need to start to come to grips with it. 40 years ago when I started working an American competed with another American for a given job. Now that same American competes against an Indian or a Malaysian or an undocumented immigrant. And increasingly he competes against computers.

    I think the future has fewer people holding down regular jobs. If you want a job 20 years from now you need to either be smarter than a machine or cheaper than a machine. Given the speed at which machines are getting both smarter and cheaper I don’t think we are going to win that race. And I don’t think 2 years of community college, or 4 years of Harvard is going to change that math by much.

    Are you smarter than a machine, or cheaper than a machine. That will define the employment picture going forward. The trick will be to avoid creating a class of slaves, essentially, who will sweep a floor for less than a machine. We’re pretty close to that already.

    If working people, people in the lower deciles, don’t have power – either through unions or political parties – the net result will be more of what we’ve already seen: money will concentrate at the very top, and everyone else will be sharing scraps.

    In order to manage the transition from human to machine labor – and all the revolutionary changes that implies – we need some mechanism for the non-millionaire to have a say. Republicans and their pet justices have ensured that the working class has very little pull in politics, so peaceful political action has been largely cut off for the lower classes. And Republicans will continue efforts to disenfranchise voters because that’s what their masters want, despite the fact that they are sowing the seeds of long-term instability.

    The Democrats are only better by contrast. If Republicans are the high-class escorts of big business, offering the full enthusiastic “girlfriend experience,” the Democrats are the street whores offering back alley quickies. Neither party has the stomach or the will for a fight with their Goldman-Sachs masters. The steel in Democrat spines was always the unions, and they’re gone. The Democratic party has become all about defending minorities and the environment and no longer has an economic game plan.

    Change is coming, in fact it is here, it’s going to get a lot worse, and the system we have in place is utterly incapable of managing the adjustment so long as the only voices that matter belong to the 1%.

  43. Anonne says:

    This is a laugh. Romney’s plan and the Republican plan for poverty is getting rid of the social safety net because “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into complacency and dependence.”

    There is no evidence that he will back any policy that does otherwise. All redistribution is bad unless it goes up to the top 1%.

  44. James Joyner says:

    @ktward:

    But anti-theists, the camp you’re apparently in, specifically believe that religion is not just silly, but that all religion is actually a danger to society to various degree.

    I find the notion of a supernatural being who’s controlling our lives and to whom obeisance must be paid dangerous. But that’s a philosophical position about how we ought order our affairs; I don’t take it to the level of anti-religious bigotry. I can simultaneously believe that Catholicism and Mormonism are a net negative and acknowledge that they teach some good behaviors that lead to genuine good works.

  45. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: We don’t disagree fundamentally about the emerging economy. I don’t have the answers on fixing it. We’ll likely create a higher safety net at some point, certainly to include some sort of baseline right to healthcare, although I don’t know what that will look like.

    I think it’s possible that there’s a conservative approach to the issues. Jack Kemp, among others, was leading the way in the 1980s and 1990s. But it’s been awhile since new conservative ideas have caught fire; we’re still acting as if Jimmy Carter were still in office.

  46. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think it’s a preferable strategy to artificially increasing the earnings of people doing menial, low-skill jobs.

    This is a great point, but in many cases, what’s “artificial” is the “menial-ity” of the job. Hats off to Wal-Mart and McDonald’s and all the other companies that have systems in place that don’t really require skilled workers. They would like you to believe, then, that since this work is unskilled, that it is also menial. And yet, from an operational perspective, is that true?

    In many cases, it’s not.

    In that context, the minimum wage isn’t “artificially increasing the earnings of people doing menial, low-skill jobs” so much as it is as arbitrarily*increasing the earnings of people doing low-skill, but very important, jobs.

    * I say “arbitrarily” because if we were to do an accounting that lines up the fruits of one’s labors with one’s actual labors, it’s entirely possible that a top performer should deserve more compensation than the business owner.

  47. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    I think Romney cares about poverty

    And again, why do you think that? Here’s a Romney quote:

    “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.

    Either Romney is so clueless that he should not hold any important public office, or he is a very cold fish indeed.

  48. ktward says:

    @James Joyner:

    I find the notion of a supernatural being who’s controlling our lives and to whom obeisance must be paid dangerous. But that’s a philosophical position about how we ought order our affairs; I don’t take it to the level of anti-religious bigotry.

    I really think you might want to re-examine this statement for the inherent contradictions that seem, well, pretty obvious to an atheist who’s not an anti-theist.

    Meanwhile, one of your fellow, more prominent anti-theists disagrees with you.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2011/10/is_mormonism_a_cult_who_cares_it_s_their_weird_and_sinister_beli.html

  49. superdestroyer says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    If the U.S. market is made up for a small cadre of elites and a massive number of poor, then it is not a very good market. If the U.S. has massive land use and environmental regulations then having a lot of empty land does not help the economy since it cannot be used. English is the universal language because the elites of other countries learn English. Being monolingual does not seem to be a real benefit for the middle class and poor in the U.S. The U.S. has the best universities because the top 10% of universities in the U.S. draw from students all over the world, Since those universities have not added seats to match population growth, they actually help less with the economy. In addition, the top universities are very small. Arizona State University has as many undergraduates as the entire Ivy League.

    There are very few inherent competitive advantages to the U.S. and a second Clinton Administration would work hard to eliminate them and reward the underclass (the core of the Democratic Party). The real question for the middle class is why get up in the morning and go to work when working will have so little impact on a person’s quality of life.

  50. michael reynolds says:

    Humans perform certain tasks. We drive trucks, flip burgers, write books, diagnose illnesses, mop floors, build houses, design software, etc… We do things.

    Machines also do things. They crunch numbers, they provide communication, they help us drive, they lift heavy objects, they cut steel, etc…

    Is the list of things machines do growing faster than the list of things humans do? Clearly. The “humans only” sphere is shrinking relative to the “machines too” sphere and the “machines only” sphere. I doubt humans can ever be made fully redundant, but very substantial numbers of us will be.

    In the end the wealth created by the work machines do, will have to be shared among humans. Allowing it to concentrate in the .1% is the path to violent revolution and civilizational collapse.

    People on the right need to accept the fact that their ideology is deader than Catharism. The future is redistributionist. If people who have no work have no income, they can buy no goods, which I rather think will not be great for the economy. And at the extremes, people who have no food kill people who do have food. So, redistribution of wealth is coming because in the end it’s the only choice that provides any sort of stability. Which means the entire Republican Party, and the entire Libertarian Party, are talking absolute rot and are already intellectually dead, buried, and not smelling great.

    Lefties need to accept the fact that we’ve now liberated just about all the people we can liberate, and we’ve done a swell job indoctrinating folks with all the lovely environmental messages, and we need now to get busy formulating an economic plan for the future.

  51. @wr:

    Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why when there is a corrupt union official or even a corrupt union, it’s evidence that all unions are useless parasites and should be disbanded or at least ignored… but when there is a corrupt businessman or a corrupt business, it’s just one bad apple and no kind of indictment of capitalism at all?

    I consider both an indictment of humanity. Most people are corrupt and any large organization will necessarily be corrupt. The left’s big lie is, despite thousands of years of human history in which every single large organization we create becomes a method for the powerful to exploit the powerless, that if we create just one more large organization, we will FINALLY have the right people in charge and it will finally solve the problem rather than just adding to it.

  52. Rafer Janders says:

    In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

    In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by the reality, pushed by the entirety of the life he led an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

    Fixed that for you.

  53. James Pearce says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The left’s big lie is, despite thousands of years of human history in which every single large organization we create becomes a method for the powerful to exploit the powerless, that if we create just one more large organization,

    That’s not the left’s big lie….but nice try.

  54. Scott F. says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Did you even read the article you linked to?

    What person with money wouldn’t want to invest in a version of the U.S where prosperity was inclusive? The 1% can only spend so much, while dramatic increases in demand as the broad middle class has more money to spend would be very attractive to new businesses and innovators alike.

  55. superdestroyer says:

    @Scott F.:

    Yes, I actually went through the linked PDF’s and tried to find Hillary Clinton’s ideas for unions. There were just a repeat of card-check and passing a federal law to ban states from being right to work states. If people want to invest in countries with very powerful unions, why not Germany where the work force is better educated and more stable than the U.S.?

  56. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The question for the future is why try hard in school, put off immediate gratification, and think about the long term when the people who short term thinking and do not work have exactly the same standard of living and the have more time for recreation. The idea that the future will be better if more people are on the dole and that establishing a dole for everyone will have no long term effect on human behavior is foolish. Why work hard when there is no reward and more downside from actually working.

  57. Ben Wolf says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The left’s big lie is, despite thousands of years of human history in which every single large organization we create becomes a method for the powerful to exploit the powerless, that if we create just one more large organization, we will FINALLY have the right people in charge and it will finally solve the problem rather than just adding to it.

    For thousands of years that was the opinion of the Old Conservative Order which sorted humans into social and economic classes and enforced a rigid hierarchy. King, state, lord, Church and peasant were their creation and their legacy. Concepts like individual liberty, freedom of and from religion, from oppression, from war and the tyranny of one human ruling over another were wholely a product of the left.

  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Pearce:

    The left essentially has the same problem that the right does – namely that the people most motivated to be involved are also those farther towards the ideological extremes of the belief system. In other words, the more stridently ideological / tortured idealist one is inclined to be, the more likely one is to be involved in politics (at the electoral / voter level).

    The Tea Party and the Occupy folks are 180 degrees apart from one another with respect to WHAT they believe, but they’re mirror images with regard to the fervor with which they believe it (and the disdain they show towards anyone who questions them or their dogma in the slightest way.) To an extent, we’re both hostage to the rantings of our True Believers.

  59. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Concepts like individual liberty, freedom of and from religion, from oppression, from war and the tyranny of one human ruling over another were wholely a product of the left.

    They’re all also largely unachievable fantasies. The folks who extolled those admittedly laudable principles while forming this nation also violated each and every one of them. Nothing much has changed.

  60. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92: What does this opinion have to do with the exchange? I don’t understand where this is coming from.

  61. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I was using the posting as an example of this @HarvardLaw92:

    It’s rather like saying one favors world peace. Well, yea, who doesn’t, but even your average 8 year old child has figured out that it’s a utopian goal.

    In other words, if you don’t actually believe those things are achievable, there’s little point in invoking them. If you actually do believe they can be achieved, then you have an uncomfortable date with reality looming somewhere down the road.

    At some point, one has to confront the reality that the absence of those things, throughout human history and including the present, pretty much indicates that they are also utopian in nature. Human beings don’t want true equality, they pay lip service to fairness and the natural state of mankind isn’t peace.

  62. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Good point. If efforts to improve the lot of the poor don’t result immediately in complete success with no problems at all, then they are all failures and should be shut down immediately rather than fixed.

  63. Stan says:

    @James Joyner: “Theoretically, at least, there’s training for and creation of good jobs. I think it’s a preferable strategy to artificially increasing the earnings of people doing menial, low-skill jobs. The question is how to make it happen.”

    I agree. Can you see any Republican candidate proposing tax increases to pay the costs? I can’t. I expect that if Romney or somebody similar calls for increased job training, he’ll suggest a voluntary program in which benevolent businesses pick up the tab. When it comes to the welfare of the American people, you’re Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, and the Republican party is Lucy.

  64. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: ” To an extent, we’re both hostage to the rantings of our True Believers.”

    Except that what they believe kind of makes a difference. A liberal who devotes himself to a low-paid social work job because he feels obligated to help other people and a neo-Nazi who blows up a crowded synagogue are both True Believers — are we supposed to feel the same way about the two of them simply because of the strength of their ideologies?

  65. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    but as long as unionization is built around national level big labor, all putting me in a union does is create more managers screwing me over.

    Showing that what you know about unions is absolutely zip, zero, nada. When I went union, I went from $20 per hour to 28.75, no health insurance to the best health insurance money can buy, from no retirement outside of SS to a defined benefit pension.

    We could all do with such a “screwing over”.

  66. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “In other words, if you don’t actually believe those things are achievable, there’s little point in invoking them. ”

    One works towards the ideal and hopefully ends up making the world somewhat better.

    You mock the founding fathers because their actions didn’t live up to their ideals. But those ideals formed a great nation — never as great as it claimed, but far freer and more equal than anything that had been seen up to that point.

    And if they hadn’t held these ideals and just founded a country so they could cash in? Where would we be today?

  67. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes, but Hoffa was in bed with the mob fifty years ago, so your payraise and benefits don’t count.

  68. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    On the flipside, programs that have clearly failed must still be viewed as beneficial because they were implemented with the best of intentions.

    We’ve spent literally trillions of dollars since the 1960s fighting poverty, and yet by all appearances we’ve failed in dramatic, wholesale fashion. If anything, poverty is worse.

    How long do you think it’ll take?

  69. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    One works towards the ideal and hopefully ends up making the world somewhat better.

    How’s that working out for you?

    You mock the founding fathers because their actions didn’t live up to their ideals. But those ideals formed a great nation — never as great as it claimed, but far freer and more equal than anything that had been seen up to that point.

    Quite the opposite. They at least understood the difference between platitudes and reality. It’s great to talk of lofty ideals, but when it came down to forming a nation, those ideals got thrown under the bus of realistic necessity. The folks I mock are the ones who idealize them, and romanticize history, while failing to see the reality of the situation – the founding fathers largely created a benevolent plutocracy and viewed the common man pretty resoundingly with a mixture of contempt and paternalism.

    And if they hadn’t held these ideals and just founded a country so they could cash in? Where would we be today?

    What gives you the idea that they didn’t do exactly that?

  70. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    Not to split hairs, but what happens to those things when the company closes his workplace and moves it to Texas (or Mexico, or Malaysia …)?

    Unions CAN be a good thing within the context of a closed system economy. When you shift over to an open system “I can produce my widgets anywhere” model, they become less of one – not because they’re bad, not remotely, but because they can accelerate the decision to eliminate entirely the labor that they represent.

  71. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    False comparison. I would equate the Neo-Nazi with the folks over at the ELF, and yea, I feel exactly the same about both of them.

  72. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: That’s why we’ve got to figure out stuff that humans can do that machines can’t.

    I don’t understand who the business owners imagine are going to buy all those marvelous products once they kick out 99% of their human employees and turn everything over to robots. Humans that don’t have salaries don’t buy much. But then, US business owners seem for the most point to operate from a position of greed and not from an understanding of economics. Or do they think that the “demand” side of the equation is something that is totally None of My Business?

    When Mitt Romney insists on estate taxes, progressive taxation, cutting back the rights of corporations, and taxation indifference to salary income and capital gains income, then I’ll start believing he’s really thinking about the situation. Until then, he’s just saying what he thinks is necessary to get attention.

  73. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Frankly, (assuming sane Unions) if unionisation tips the scale towards relocation, those jobs were already scheduled to go out. Labour costs are just not that much of a factor in most relocatable businesses.

    That said, a better (as in beneficial) economy might actually require a certain amount of protectionism. As has been pointed out, higher efficiency and productivity increases pretty much kill the idea of a national middle class. While an open system is more productive, its benefits accrue at the top and (to a degree) at the bottom.

    There is a reason that the US golden age was, by today’s standards, pretty disorganized.

  74. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “On the flipside, programs that have clearly failed must still be viewed as beneficial because they were implemented with the best of intentions. We’ve spent literally trillions of dollars since the 1960s fighting poverty, and yet by all appearances we’ve failed in dramatic, wholesale fashion. If anything, poverty is worse.”

    Because poverty isn’t a house fire or a war — a singular event that can be decisively ended. It’s a state of being that occurs to people throughout the world and throughout history. We will never eradicate it. But we can lift many millions of people out of it and help them acquire the tools to stay out of it.

    And Johnson’s War on Poverty was a great success (as were FDR’s programs). Who knows how much better off we’d be if successive Republican (and some Democratic) administrations worked to improve and build on them, instead of gutting them?

    And really, what’s your program. “Hey, we tried to help some poor people 50 years ago, but now there are different poor people, so that was a waste of time. Let the rest of them die.”

    Good plan.

  75. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Human beings don’t want true equality, they pay lip service to fairness and the natural state of mankind isn’t peace.

    That’s just not true. Anthropology shows us that humans are tribal, and tribal societies are highly equitable. Modern cultures are maladaptions not in line with human psychology and nature.

  76. Rafer Janders says:

    In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

    Two words: car elevator.

  77. Rafer Janders says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    If anything, poverty is worse.

    Poverty is not at all worse. Income inequality is worse, but raw poverty — the kind of Appalachian, living in a tar paper shack, no running water, no indoor plumbing, using an outhouse, going without shoes — is far, far rarer than it was fifty years ago. Take a look at some of the pictures from Bobby Kennedy’s Appalachian tours – that kind of bone-deep poverty was common.

  78. Davebo says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You have to keep in mind the fact that a car elevator was only required because those rich industrialists had made California real estate too expensive to own an actual 15 car garage.

    Mitt was being held down by the rich elite.

  79. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    and we need now to get busy formulating an economic plan for the future.

    Bingo, with the understanding that we are not the first country in the world to undergo post-industrialization, nor will be be the last, but the process moves in one direction. Nobody has reversed it, and nobody ever will.

    The cold hard truth is that we’re transitioning to an economy in which there will simply not be enough chairs left on the ship for everybody, and those suited by training and/or innate for manual labor will largely be left behind. We’re essentially Britain, post WW2. We are where they were, and they are where we are headed.

  80. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Which, in keeping with my prior posting, is absolutely great if your ideal is for the world to revert back to resemble some tribe living in the Amazon rainforest. Here in the real world, which isn’t going anywhere, I think my characterization is pretty close – too close for comfort I would imagine.

  81. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    And really, what’s your program. “Hey, we tried to help some poor people 50 years ago, but now there are different poor people, so that was a waste of time. Let the rest of them die.”

    No, but part of the reason I explored this line of reasoning was to provoke that sort of snark, in support of my initial posting.

    The broader point is that some folks are so unbelievably self-righteous that they’re compelled to condemn everybody who doesn’t jump onto their utopia train. This is highly counterproductive when, truthfully, your best chance of achieving at least some of those goals is buy in from the people you despise. I’m highly amenable to writing a check, and do so more than I say anything about (in keeping with my peoples’ admonition against garnering approval or benefit from charity), but that amenability drops considerably when the people demanding that I do so criticize me while I’m writing it.

    We won’t even get into the optics of marketing self-interest, but that’s a broad topic for discussion as well.

    Making it punitive or forced just ensures that a lot of us are going to resist you on principle. Being arrogant about it certainly will, so maybe some thinking about the best way to proceed is in order.

  82. michael reynolds says:

    It is unquestionably true that many unions – the teachers union comes to mind – are highly destructive. It’s true that other unions have in the past become criminal enterprises. The answer is to reform and regulate unions, not eliminate them.

    It is equally true that the Catholic church has at times become a criminal organization. Most people don’t suggest eliminating churches. It is certainly true that banks and other financial institutions have at times been criminal enterprises. We don’t eliminate banks.

    Without unions the working man has zero power. None. Power vacuums are inevitably filled, and the power vacuum created by the obliteration of the unions in this country was filled by criminal banks and other financial institutions and tools of the 1% that use open bribery of public officials to capture an ever greater slice of the pie.

    Sometimes if you want to fight a Tattaglia you need a Corleone. We got rid of Don Corleone and kept Tattaglia. The result was not a better world.

    As we move into this unfamiliar economic landscape the working man has to have a voice. That voice is almost by definition a union. Failing that the parasite class that currently sits atop our economic pyramid will drive us straight into the toilet as they did eight years ago.

  83. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    . . . but that amenability drops considerably when the people demanding that I do so criticize me while I’m writing it.

    Ah, so you’ve met my kids.

  84. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius:

    Labour costs are just not that much of a factor in most relocatable businesses.

    I would argue the opposite – labor costs are pretty much the only variable left which can be manipulated in pursuit of profit growth. In an age of global shipping and distributed industrialization, I can buy raw materials at the same price regardless of where I do business, and I can work out affordable logistics. My cost of physical plant is largely fixed, since I’ll be using the same machinery regardless of where in the world I plant it. My quality of production, after a start-up period, will largely be the same regardless of where I produce thanks to automation removing much of the human variability with regard to quality from the equation.

    The only variable left for me to manipulate is cost of labor, and in that environment, I’m going to locate production in such a way as to minimize it. The short version is that corporations were not forced offshore in a flight from taxation. They trampled one another trying to be the first one out of the door of cheaper labor.

    In that environment, labor unions have lost / are losing the one factor which gave them the power to mandate an equal footing with management – control over production. It’s meaningless for a workplace to unionize if the company can just avoid the higher costs by moving the plant somewhere else, and increasingly, that’s what they are doing.

    The Germans, for example, get much credit for working out a cooperative model with labor – but they certainly wasted no time locating production in right to work states in the US, where they have largely resisted attempts by the workforce to unionize. Daimler in Alabama is a good example. The company stridently resisted recent efforts by the UAW, and they keep moving production of more and more models destined for the US market to the US. Thanks to the tax giveaways which were necessary to motivate the location of the plant there in the first place, the same taxpayers who are earning money at the plant are helping to pay for it.

  85. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You know what I’m saying. The simple truth is that all of these lofty goals require capital. There are multiple ways to obtain that capital – one being seizing it and calling the people that it’s seized from nasty names. The second is to present a tangible argument focusing on societal benefit and associated self-benefit.

    I pay the taxes that I do (a tad over 50% of gross, a good portion of which I could avoid) for the simple reason that it’s in my own best interest to have good roads, and fire trucks, and clean water at the tap, and an educated workforce. Everybody benefits, including me, but the water doesn’t come out of my tap any cleaner and the fire trucks don’t show up at my house any faster. That said, somebody has to pay for it, and since I’m the guy earning 7 figures, it’s unavoidably going to fall on me and people like me to pay. It’s the only way that it’s going to work, and I’m glad to be able to do it.

    That said, I do tend to get a bit testy when I’m being called names while I’m doing it. Just saying …

  86. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Is the list of things machines do growing faster than the list of things humans do? Clearly. The “humans only” sphere is shrinking relative to the “machines too” sphere and the “machines only” sphere. I doubt humans can ever be made fully redundant, but very substantial numbers of us will be.

    The whole notion that we have moved to a society where there will be structural unemployment because of automation is, at best, premature. We’ve been deferring maintenance on our existing infrastructure, to say nothing of not bothering to upgrade any of it. That’s a whole lot of jobs that just aren’t being done — and not because they don’t need to be done, we’re just choosing to not do them and live with the consequences of crumbling infrastructure and increased unemployment.

    There are reasonable free-market-ish ways to help the middle class and the working poor, if someone where interested in actually doing so, but they would all have to start by funding all of those deferred and undone jobs.

    We could also bill employers for the poverty related social services used by their employees, so we wouldn’t be subsidizing the labor costs of Wal-Mart.

    And pursue employers who are hiring illegal immigrants and suppressing wages that way.

  87. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Two points:

    1) Unions have relationships other than with business. They have relationships with their members, the public at large, and the political parties. American corporations can off-shore because political parties (and the public, the consumers) allow them to. This is a political and propaganda problem that a competent union leadership could combat.

    2) A second factor beyond wages is that corporations can poison, rob and generally abuse folks in third world countries with impunity. Here, too, a competent union leadership could be actively resisting by publicly shaming the worst perpetrators. That doesn’t always work, but the public will apply some limits – for example, as much as they might wish to, I don’t think Apple could use literal slaves. Near-slaves, sure, but that again is a propaganda issue. If you can get Americans to stop eating veal out of a tender concern for baby cows, you can get them to stop buying goods produced by ethically contemptible means.

  88. Gustopher says:

    I don’t see any evidence that Romney has touted a platform. Are there proposals that I have missed?

  89. humanoid.panda says:

    “There are very few inherent competitive advantages to the U.S. and a second Clinton Administration would work hard to eliminate them and reward the underclass (the core of the Democratic Party). The real question for the middle class is why get up in the morning and go to work when working will have so little impact on a person’s quality of life.”

    First,how me a single country that has even a fraction of the relative advantages the US has.

  90. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Re: testiness, I’m with you. I also lose fifty cents on the dollar, and while I groan a bit (talk to me mid-April) I’m not terribly upset by it because if you’re paying 50% you’re not exactly doing stoop labor picking fruit in the hot sun, are you. And I don’t need anyone to love me for it, but by the same token don’t piss on my leg.

  91. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    The whole notion that we have moved to a society where there will be structural unemployment because of automation is, at best, premature.

    You know when automation will start to make me nervous? When I can run a German paragraph through Google Translate and have the result come out sounding like it would if my wife translated it.

    There are just a whole lot of things computers can’t do yet.

  92. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    I agree the full brunt of the Robopocalypse is not upon us, as evidenced by the fact that jobs have recovered quite a bit. But the direction is unmistakable. You ever watch a road crew at work? You see four guys where even 30 years ago it would have been ten guys. And a lot of those guys are going to be either undocumented or recently-arrived workers because they’re the only ones who will underbid a machine.

  93. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s weird, isn’t it? I use Twitter to talk to fans, a substantial number of which don’t speak English. So I use the Google machine and speak reasonably good Portuguese.

  94. James Pearce says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The left essentially has the same problem that the right does – namely that the people most motivated to be involved are also those farther towards the ideological extremes of the belief system.

    Not to get all “both sides do it” again, but there’s something to this. Although, the caveat is that most people tend towards the ideological extremes only occasionally.

    I know people who couldn’t tell you left from right, but they have opinions. They don’t know that you can’t hate Obamacare but also like gun control. Or be against gay marriage but for GMO food labeling. I think many of these people would be more “politically engaged” if they weren’t also dismissed as dupes or hypocrites by the Party Purity Police.

  95. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “That said, I do tend to get a bit testy when I’m being called names while I’m doing iy.”

    It’s not charity, and you don’t get a little pat on the back just because you pay your taxes. It’s not out of the kindness of your heart, and if you expect the world to kiss your ass because of it, you’re as bad as the investment bankers whose feelings are hurt because the little people don’t worship them enough.

    I pay my taxes because that’s what we’ve got to do. I don’t need a cookie, and I don’t need strangers to think I’m keen because of it.

  96. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “No, but part of the reason I explored this line of reasoning was to provoke that sort of snark, in support of my initial posting.”

    Yes, it’s nice that you’re trolling. Maybe some day you can find something productive to do with your free time.

  97. Pharoah Narim says:

    @James Joyner: No James Joyner, Owning property and assets creates a feeling of having “stake” in society…..not paying income taxes. This is one of the most non-thought out conclusions I’ve ever read from you.

  98. DrDaveT says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    We’ve spent literally trillions of dollars since the 1960s fighting poverty, and yet by all appearances we’ve failed in dramatic, wholesale fashion. If anything, poverty is worse.

    I’m generally sympathetic to many of the stances you take here, but this is simply (and demonstrably) false. Poverty in 2015 is nothing like poverty in 1965 was, and poverty in 1965 was nothing like poverty in 1915. We may not be going about it in the most efficient possible way, but we clearly are raising the standard of living for the bottom decile of the population over time. By a lot.

    People who focus solely on redistribution are missing a point. Yes, safety net programs have played a big role in the changes, but less unequal access to justice has played at least as big a role. We have a long way yet to go, but this is something that is much more cost-effective than transfer payments. Focus national efforts on enforcing the laws we have equally, and holding law enforcement accountable for unequal enforcement, and poverty magically lessens.

    You can’t cure poverty. But we have lessened it enormously, and can continue to do so. This is not unrealistic optimism.

  99. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    I don’t expect a pat on the back. What I do expect is that smartasses like yourself will dial down the snark. I’m glad I can pay 7 figures in taxation, but I’m less inclined to tolerate someone who acts as though I owe it to them. I’m glad to do my part, but I owe you nothing. I don’t expect you to kiss my ass, but I’m well beyond tired of you acting as though I should be kissing yours.

    Believe me – investment bankers don’t care if you like them or not. Most of the ones that I know neither know nor care that you or people like you exist. I think it’s more a case of you being offended that they aren’t wracked with guilt over what you see as their evil actions.

    The basic point – and purpose of the conversation – was to highlight this unbelievably self-righteous thing some of you have going on. Someone as righteous as yourself must have a statue of themselves somewhere, so where’s yours? This whole morally superior to everybody else thing that you have going on? Consider giving it a rest.

  100. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Have we really though? In some sense, we’ve just created a class of people largely programmed for dependency. It’s a self-perpetuating problem in a lot of cases – if you’re willing to give someone a check, to supply them with food and housing, why would they want to work?

    Does that apply across the board as a blanket statement? No, not remotely, but it applies a lot more often than most bleeding hearts want to face. Back in 1959, we had right at 40 million people living below the poverty line. In 2013, we had 48.2 million, and that number would be a great deal higher without the transfer payments. The economy itself has done little to nothing to reduce poverty, while the magnitude of transfer payments has increased geometrically over time. What does this mean? The “war on poverty” has essentially done nothing to alleviate the actual causes of poverty. It has, however, created a permanent and permanently growing segment of society which has to be paid for on the public dime.

    Anybody with a brain can look at the numbers and tell you that it’s not sustainable long term, so what have we really achieved?

    Just asking.

  101. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: I can carry on a simple conversation with my relatives in Italy using Google Translate too, even though I speak essentially zero Italian.

    But to do a whole chunk of text, and have it come out sounding like a true translation, with idiom and context intact? Machine translation just isn’t there yet. Computers don’t understand idiom and context and nuance, and until they do, the “Robocalypse” is far off.

  102. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    No, I just get tired of people who seemingly have an endless laundry list of ways that they can fix the world with my money. It’s not the paying that annoys me so much as the attitude I get from folks like you that I have some sort of duty to jump on board your emotionally driven utopia train. It’s the apparently never-ending sense of entitlement that you evince with respect to other people’s money.

    The average federal income tax paid in the US in 2013 was $11,715, while the average tax burden for a family of 4 with one earner making $65,000 was less than $1,500. I paid about 109 times the national average in federal income taxes alone, so I’m carrying my weight – and the weight of 108 other people as well. I’m well and truly doing my part, and then some …

    Get back to me when you can say the same – or when you’re prepared to drop the holier than thou attitude – but you’ll have to pardon my lack of interest in the myriad ways you’ve dreamed up by which I can do more.

  103. Dave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Wow, the self pity meter is going off the scale! You read like a guy who just got a letter from their kid that says they completely disavow your money and your lifestyle and you are now deep into your third or fourth martini. Seriously, make suggestions about a course of action for the future, don’t just try to “direct the conversation” and bitch about how you’re not getting enough respect. It is annoying and will earn you nothing but derision.

  104. Pharoah Narim says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Why don’t you just be happy your vampire industry has sucked chunks of capital away from the families you’re being snarky about? You go on a soapbox about snark but have no shortage of it for people whose industries didn’t have the capital to buy favorable policy like Wall St does. After you pay the taxes, you’re still ahead of where you’d be in a fair economy. Enjoy it. Because it’s not sustainable and will be corrected either through policy or violence. Guess whose got everything to lose… Most days you have readable commentary. Today you’re being a jerk.

  105. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Dave:

    It’s not self-pity. It’s “I have had my fill of this asshole”. Believe me, the last thing that I worry myself about is the approval of strangers on the internet. That having been said, the whole self-righteous do-gooder thing just grates on my nerves, especially when they usually expect me to pay for their grand schemes – I have a limited threshold for it and it has been surpassed in this instance.

    Make suggestions? Here’s one – end Medicaid. End food stamps. Use that money to put people to work rebuilding infrastructure and thereby put them in the position of supporting themselves, feeding themselves and taking care of their own health. At least then we’d have something tangible to show in return for the $458 billion in spending we dropped on those two programs in 2013 alone, and maybe, just maybe, the folks getting the jobs would get something tangible out of it as well.

  106. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    LOL, how, by making them sign mortgages with a gun to their head? Spare me. They certainly weren’t complaining while their “use your house as an ATM” spending spree lasted …

    Enjoy it. Because it’s not sustainable and will be corrected either through policy or violence.

    Honestly? No, it won’t. I suspect that people like you dislike people like me so much because you know it won’t. It’s easier to figuratively blame the drug dealer, but nobody made the addict put the heroin up his nose.

    Except himself. The American lifestyle, such as it is these days, depends on an avalanche of debt enabling people to buy things that they can’t afford, and they can buy those things because we make it possible. We back out of that deal and the whole house you can’t afford / car you can’t afford / vacations you can’t afford but get to enjoy anyway bonanza gets adjusted back to normality in a hurry. People say they hate us, but they line up to get another and another and another hit of what we’re selling …

    You folks want to hurt the street? Cut your cards up and start living within your means. I won’t be holding my breath …

  107. Pharoah Narim says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Actually, I’d have to give a sh#t to dislike you or anybody on WallStreet. I don’t. Too busy making my own way and implementing plans to realize my own dreams. I suspect you and you social peers are doing that same and I can respect that.

    But don’t fool yourself, there are millions of people that want a pound of flesh from WallStreet types. Even having ·1% willing to act on that impulse is problematic. All it needs is a trigger… and some sociopath will have Charlie Hebdo-esque fantasies. Not much different than the police ambushings recently….. When people feel they are not being listened to and their quality of life sufferers…the more impulsive among them kill people. It’s unavoidable.

  108. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    My apologies for blowing up. I allowed someone to get under my skin in a bad way.

    People under stress want someone to blame. I respect that. The simple truth is that they have been sold the myth that a period of aberrant post-war prosperity is the norm and their birthright. That was never going to last, and it was always going to go downhill once the rest of the industrialized world rebuilt and we stopped being an island of outgoing toys. It hasn’t stopped. It isn’t going to stop. Like I said above, we aren’t the first economy to go through post-industrialism and we won’t be the last, but it goes in one direction.

    The myth has been exposed as a lie, and they’re angry about it. I get that. I do, but the fact remains that many of their problems are self-inflicted. They spend like there is no tomorrow trying to preserve the illusion of an expected standard of living that hasn’t been sustainable since the early 1970s.

    Truthfully, they blame us for their largely self-imposed lot in life (nobody ever forced anybody to go into debt) because we make money from their choices, but – and this is the gospel – they’d hate us just as much if we turned off the tap. In fact, they’d probably hate us more. That’s more hypocrisy than I’m willing to stomach.

    The underlying truth is that they are faced with making an adjustment – indeed a series of adjustments – to their expectations of what “normal” is. They don’t want to do it, and they’re going to find someone to blame. if it wasn’t us, it’d be somebody else. Anybody but the guy staring back at them in the mirror.

    Case in point – I actually engaged with some of those “we are the 99%” folks who took over Zuccotti, despite one of them egging my Benz. One in particular struck me – bright, articulate, and in possession of a very expensive degree in Women’s Studies from Smith, for which she was seriously in debt. Her attitude was simply that she could not meet her student loan obligations, therefore someone should eliminate them.

    The questions of “why did you major in an utterly unmarketable field?” and “why did you do so at one of the most expensive colleges in the country when you clearly couldn’t afford it” just made her angry. Despite her intellect and her achievements, the one thing she either couldn’t or wouldn’t do was accept responsibility for her own choices. The folks to blame were folks like me – who gave her money and had the temerity to think that she’d honor her promise to repay it. In the face of something that irrational, I just disengaged. There was nothing more to say. She’d gotten in over her head and expected that someone else was responsible for shouldering the pain of her willfully committed mistakes. Sadly, she is indicative of the norm in America these days.

    Will she or someone like her blow up my car someday? Who knows? I don’t live my life worrying about what could happen. I think the fact remains that the basic problem isn’t me – it’s her. She expects something that isn’t reasonable in order to allow her to continue to have a standard of living that she believes herself to be entitled to, but can’t afford. I can’t do anything with that.

  109. T says:

    The simple truth is that they have been sold the myth that a period of aberrant post-war prosperity is the norm and their birthright.

    Maybe baby boomers and to a less degree gen xers, but a lot of younger people now are living their lives a lot differently. Not buying cars, houses and not having kids. They see what the rat race did to their parents and dont want that for themselves. Well that and the crippling student debt that they have incurred so they are living at home while working some crap retail or restaurant job.

    Fast food and retail desperately need unionization.

    The restaurant business in general, i’d say.

  110. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @T:

    The obvious questions there are:

    1) Why did they take on so much debt?

    2) What did they major in?

    Take my son, for example. My kids were all set up (by me) early in life with academic trusts to fund their education. They’re able to go pretty much wherever they want to go. This kid decides he wants to go to NYU Stern, does his homework and figures out that he can do two years here at Westchester Community College (for peanuts), transfer to Stern on an articulation agreement and save himself 120 grand, minimum, which he plans to invest instead of blowing it on tuition when he doesn’t have to.

    What stops these kids from doing that? Did they recently close down community colleges and I didn’t hear about it? Did those kids max out their loans even in instances where they didn’t require the maximum to fund tuition? Were they able to work while in school to defer debt, but chose not to? Now that they have graduated, why are they working retail / food service?

    I’m not saying that they’ve all made bad choices, but I’ll bet you a year’s salary that the majority of them did. Whose fault is that? More to the point, who should be responsible for bearing the consequences?

  111. jukeboxgrad says:

    humanoid.panda:

    the very fact that Romney acknowledged that inequality is bad is an indication of how much the political conversation changed in the last couple of years

    Yes, exactly, and I think the enormity of the change is illustrated in one sentence I noticed. These words were posted 366 days prior to Mitt’s recent speech. Fox News, 1/6/14:

    White House resets focus to ‘income inequality,’ amid ObamaCare problems … The Obama administration has set the stage for a push that could rekindle cries of class warfare — calling for renewed long-term unemployment benefits, a minimum wage increase and a campaign against what Democrats call “income inequality.”

    Notice the hidden messages in that sentence:

    A) Anyone who mentions the term “income inequality” is pushing for “class warfare.”

    B) The term is used only by Democrats.

    Also note the use of “scare quotes,” which (wiki) “imply skepticism of or disagreement with the quoted terminology.” And notice these various headlines:

    Income Inequality Doesn’t Matter, Washington Times, 5/13/11
    Inequality Does Not Matter, National Review, 12/18/13
    Why Inequality Doesn’t Matter, The Federalist, 4/23/14
    Does Income Inequality Even Matter?, Town Hall, 1/5/15

    That message is emphatic and absolute. It’s not that it’s a small problem, or an insoluble problem, or a low-priority problem; it’s not a problem at all, because it just doesn’t matter. Which means that only fools would ever think about it or bring it up.

    This is going to be a major whiplash experience for the GOP base. They’ve been indoctrinated to see the term itself as a joke, and something only socialists care about. Now suddenly all their candidates are going to be discussing the subject. This is going to be fun to watch.

  112. T says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    he can do two years here at Westchester Community College (for peanuts), transfer to Stern on an articulation agreement and save himself 120 grand.

    They have the same setup here in Virginia and I was able to build credits while working retail. It took me a bit longer to finish my degree, but those credits were extremely important. There are tons of kids that do their first two years at a NOVA campus outside DC and then move on to George Mason, UVA, Virginia Tech etc. I think Mr Obama’s plan is a great thing. Community college is an excellent way to save money and get the same education from quality professors that often have the same resume as you would find at a state or private school. And not just for young people either. Plenty of working professionals have used community college to further their employment opportunities. Tom Hanks recently wrote a good article about it in the NY Times.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/14/opinion/tom-hanks-on-his-two-years-at-chabot-college.html

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Whose fault is that? More to the point, who should be responsible for bearing the consequences?

    Hey, i’m not saying she should be able to weasel her way out of the loans. My student loans come to me with my name on them so it is my ass if I don’t pay them. I like having nice things so I pay them. Having her get a get-out-jail-free card would piss me off because well then what am I doing working so hard to keep up my end of the bargain. Though my college degree is not exactly a yoke around my neck.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    1) Why did they take on so much debt?

    I don’t know her but like a lot of young Americans, I’d say she was egged on by her parents to go to school. Maybe they would not pony up the cash for a womyns study degree. So she has to take out loans to further her education. Now, the college certainly isnt going to tell her “hey, we dont want to make any money off of you”. They will gladly walk her through the process of filling out fafsa forms and all that. Nor will her parents know about her massive borrowing until it is way too late and she’s back at home. I certainly don’t sympathize with her inability to pay back the money. She signed the contract, that’s the bottom line. Maybe she went in with the idea of being something else and changed her mind or got overwhelmed? Or maybe she genuinely planned on never paying the money back. Who knows.

    So what does she do now with that expensive piece of paper? Beg her parents for help? Get her masters? Learn a marketable trade? Many parents don’t want their kids to be carpenters, plumbers, electricians or HVAC techs. They see it as beneath them, but there is certainly a demand for skilled tradesmen and you can make a great career out of it.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You folks want to hurt the street? Cut your cards up and start living within your means. I won’t be holding my breath …

    Cant tell you how many times i’d be checking someone out and their card would be declined. So they’d hand me another one. declined. and another one…declined. All the while professing “This just cant be right, I know there’s money on that one”

  113. gVOR08 says:

    @Dave D: Thank you for the link. I hadn’t seen numbers attached to the belief that finance is a drag on the economy.

  114. Barry says:

    @Argon: I’m seconding this – James, do you have a shred of evidence for this?

    Please note that his record as a governor of a liberal state, with an overwhelmingly liberal legislature willing to override his vetoes, doesn’t count for much.

  115. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Everybody has pretty well covered the high points. Let me hit a couple of minor points.

    Jack Kemp? Fer gawd sake. I once saw Jack Kemp described as the leading intellectual light of the Republican Party. I took the remark to be a slam on the Party?

    James, you’re falling into one of the great conservative fallacies. Conservatives seem to reduce everything to personal morality. When it comes to public policy, personal morality has very little to do with anything.

  116. gVOR08 says:

    This is reminding me of The Imitation Game. “The Imitation Game” is what Alan Turing called what we now call the Turing Test. How could you tell the difference between a real person and a robot programmed to behave like Mitt Romney? All of the actions you find so admirable, James, represent programming by the Mormon church. Everything else seems to be just echoing back whatever the audience of the moment believes.

  117. gVOR08 says:

    This seems incredibly naive, James. Romney left the 47% video on the table. He’s had two years to try to figure out some way to get past it. This is the best he could come up with.

  118. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s possible to both care about poverty and think redistribution is the wrong policy solution.

    There is always redistribution. The party you support merely explains the direction of redistribution you prefer.

  119. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Make suggestions? Here’s one – end Medicaid. End food stamps.

    Neither of these proposals would improve the macroeconomic environment.

    Use that money to put people to work rebuilding infrastructure and thereby put them in the position of supporting themselves, feeding themselves and taking care of their own health.

    This is a category error, as reducing spending on these programs does not enable additional spending on another.

    At least then we’d have something tangible to show in return for the $458 billion in spending we dropped on those two programs in 2013 alone. . .

    The lives of others aren’t tangible to you?

    . . .and maybe, just maybe, the folks getting the jobs would get something tangible out of it as well.

    Their lives and health aren’t tangible to them?

    What stops these kids from doing that?

    Did they have parents who educated them financially? Did their schools? Unlikely given how much effort financial services has put into lobbying against financial education as part of primary curricula. Your argument is based on the assumption all children are born with equivalent knowledge, skills, domestic environments and parental quality.

    Did they recently close down community colleges and I didn’t hear about it?

    You assume children are aware of this possibility when their parents, teachers, guidance counselors and financial aid officers almost never suggest this as an option. We aren’t taught to be inquisitive, we’re taught to passively absorb from adults and do as we’re told. As a Harvard graduate you should be aware of this as anyone.

    Did those kids max out their loans even in instances where they didn’t require the maximum to fund tuition?

    As we have no evidence this is a problem the question doesn’t do much useful.

    Were they able to work while in school to defer debt, but chose not to?

    The Census report tells us 71% of undergraduates worked in 2011, with one-fifth working full-time when advisors suggest working no more than fifteen hours per week.

    Now that they have graduated, why are they working retail / food service?

    Employment is a product of effective demand. While sectors such as law, finance, medical and tech receive large government subsidies to maintain employment, microbiologists and marine chemists emerge into an employment environment (not market as there is no such thing) with declining demand as governments withdraw subsidies.

    I’m not saying that they’ve all made bad choices, but I’ll bet you a year’s salary that the majority of them did.

    Your assumption depends upon your conclusion. The logival pragmatics don’t work.

    Whose fault is that?

    Why assume someone is at fault?

    More to the point, who should be responsible for bearing the consequences?

    The same people who bear consequences of mass unemployment and unserviceable aggregate debt, which is to say all of us.

  120. Barry says:

    @James Joyner:

    “But I think the evidence shows him to be a committed Mormon with a long history of working to help those in need.”

    No, he’s a man with a long history of stealing acquiring vast sums of other people’s money.

    “I believe he genuinely cares about poverty. What public policy choices he would propose to fix it is an open question.”

    Not a shred of proof, except for a study discussing several million Americans. By your standard, we should assume that Nixon believed in justice, since he was a Quaker.

    Again – proof.

  121. Barry says:

    @anjin-san: @ James

    “In his last campaign, Romney was hampered by an image, pushed by the Democrats, that he was a wealthy business executive who was out of touch with ordinary Americans.”

    anjin-san: “Do you honestly think that this description of Romney is anything but correct? Do you have any evidence, any at all, that he is in touch with ordinary Americans?”

    Yes, James has his gut.

    James, there have been times when I’ve seriously questioned your judgement, but this might take the cake.

  122. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I’m not saying that they’ve all made bad choices, but I’ll bet you a year’s salary that the majority of them did.

    You have made an assload of bad choices in your life. So have I and everybody else. Additionally, a lot of the “good choices” you (and the rest of us make) are really made for us by our families, our communities and our culture.

    Which isn’t to deny that there are lazy, stupid people in the world because only a fool would do that. But let us simply look at our very recent past. I’m willing to grant that George W. Bush isn’t the complete buffoon his critics paint him as but, having seen his abilities and intelligence on display every day for nearly a decade, can ANYONE even suggest that his success and status in life is even partially due to his innate talent or his “good choices?”

    Mike

  123. Barry says:

    @James Joyner:

    “It’s possible to both care about poverty and think redistribution is the wrong policy solution.”

    No, that’s equitable taxation.

  124. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The simple truth is that they have been sold the myth that a period of aberrant post-war prosperity is the norm and their birthright.

    And since your success is built on that “aberrant” prosperity?

    Mike

  125. Barry says:

    @al-Ameda: “Coming from man who made his second fortune as an LBO specialist – acquiring firms, stripping away assets and firing thousands of workers – it is indeed inspirational to hear him speak to the need for anti-poverty programs.”

    What’s doubly evil about this is that Mitt made one fortune, by actually creating something. It’s clear that he realized that to become wealthy, as opposed to rich (see Chris Rock), he had to become a looter, a taker, not a maker.

  126. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “I think it’s possible that there’s a conservative approach to the issues. Jack Kemp, among others, was leading the way in the 1980s and 1990s. ”

    And note that Kemp’s ideas are now rank heresy in the GOP.

  127. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    That period of aberrant prosperity ended around 1972. That’s when real wage growth became stagnant, and it has remained stagnant since that time. In the place of real wage growth, Americans have substituted debt to maintain the illusion that their buying power is increasing.

    My success is built on their determination to avoid reality & pretend that the good times are still here.

  128. Dave D says:

    @gVOR08: There is also this now, we knew it was just a US problem but it seems to be getting worse worldwide as well.
    “The richest 1% of people will see their share of global wealth increase to more than 50% in 2016 at the current rate of growth.

    Their wealth increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year, said the group.

    Oxfam’s report warns that the “explosion in inequality” is holding back the fight against global poverty.”

  129. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    You have made an assload of bad choices in your life. So have I and everybody else.

    Absolutely, but my response to the consequences of them wasn’t to stage a sit in and demand that somebody else fix them for me. Just saying …

  130. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “It has, however, created a permanent and permanently growing segment of society which has to be paid for on the public dime.”

    Yes, across the globe it’s a certainty that the reason why 80 people own as much of the world’s wealth as the 3.5 BILLION people who make up the bottom half of the economic ladder is because all of those poor people are losers who are trying to steal your money.

  131. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “Theoretically, at least, there’s training for and creation of good jobs. I think it’s a preferable strategy to artificially increasing the earnings of people doing menial, low-skill jobs. The question is how to make it happen.”

    Perhaps you should see what’s been happening to salaries, wages, and the percentage of GDP going to capital/the rich for the past 40 years first.

  132. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “My kids were all set up (by me) early in life with academic trusts to fund their education. They’re able to go pretty much wherever they want to go. This kid decides he wants to go to NYU Stern, does his homework and figures out that he can do two years here at Westchester Community College (for peanuts), transfer to Stern on an articulation agreement and save himself 120 grand, minimum, which he plans to invest instead of blowing it on tuition when he doesn’t have to.”

    So your kid’s around 20, right? Which would mean he was born when you were two years out of law school? And then just a handful of years later, according to your earlier posts, you were working for the Bush justice department?

    I realize that the Bush JD was among the most corrupt in history, but you were making you seven figure income, with enough after your crippling taxes, to set up trust funds?

    I mean it makes perfect sense you’d have a cushy job now. Having government connections allows that. In fact, if those poor people weren’t so busy making bad choices and majoring in women’s studies, they’d realize all they need is to get a high-level government job and then live off their access to power for the rest of their lives.

    If only more people were super-geniuses like you!

  133. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Read through your entire posting again, and tell me if you don’t come away with the conclusion that you’re asserting that people are largely both helpless and free from any responsibility for their own lives.

    I have no problem with helping people, but selling them the concept that they have to be helped because they are incapable of helping themselves, which is what your comment conveys, is something that I see as insidious. It’s one of the things that annoys me about the left – this paternalistic, condescending view that people have to be rescued and nobody can do it but you.

    Sure, there is no real macroeconomic change in the diversion, but you do give people pride (or more aptly stated, you give them the means with which to find a sense of pride for themselves) and, hey, you get some bridges repaired in the bargain. What a concept …

  134. jukeboxgrad says:

    James, do you have a shred of evidence for this?

    The real point of Joyner’s article is to inadvertently illustrate the extraordinary conservative capacity for self-delusion.

  135. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: My success is built on their determination to avoid reality & pretend that the good times are still here.

    So, you’re like a vulture? Or an opportunistic infection? And you are proud of that?

    Mike

  136. jukeboxgrad says:

    C. Clavin:

    There is always redistribution.

    Correct. All taxation is a form of ‘income redistribution,’ because everyone pays taxes for things that help someone else more than it helps them. Citizenship is not a la carte. Children, libertarians and conservatives find this hard to grasp.

  137. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    He’s 17, and those trusts have been funded gradually over the course of the last 20 years. Education is important enough to me that I began making provisions to fund my children’s education before I actually had any children.

    Even when doing so on a government salary was fairly difficult. The really interesting thing, though, is that I was offered a position with a white shoe firm directly out of law school. I diverted to the DoJ in order to gain something relatively intangible – experience as a litigator – which while beneficial in terms of ability cost me quite a bit in terms of lost earnings over the course of my career. Professionally, it was a detour, not a segue.

    If only more people were super-geniuses like you!

    Does investigating the earnings potential of a career in Women’s Studies, and contrasting that with the cost of a degree from Smith really require genius? Funny, it seems to me that it involves nothing more than a little bit of research and a calculator. Odd that she’s bright enough to graduate from Smith, but incapable of planning her career, no?

    Question for you – is there ANY circumstance in which you think people other than the successful are responsible for their own failures? It doesn’t sound like it.

  138. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: Before you get too comfortable on that high horse, imagine what would happen if HL92 and his peers stopped doing what they do.

    The ensuing economic collapse would make the Great Depression look like a minor economic blip.

  139. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    No, I help provide a service, one that people are free to avail themselves of or choose to avoid as they see fit.

    If they want those houses and cars and toys that they can’t otherwise afford, and they want them NOW instead of deferring gratification, I help make that possible. They benefit, and I benefit, but nobody makes them sign on the dotted line.

    They CHOOSE to do that.

  140. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Absolutely, but my response to the consequences of them wasn’t to stage a sit in and demand that somebody else fix them for me.

    If Person X gets an unearned benefit and Person Y does not, why should Person Y not ask for that inequity to be addressed? And what kind of an ass would Person X be to begrudge Person Y that?

    Mike

  141. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Um, would you care to be a bit more direct with regard to what you see as an unearned benefit?

    Person X worked his ass off in law school and working 80 hour weeks as a grunt to get where he is today.

    Person Y was enabled to earn something tangible, an education at a top ranked college, which she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. I don’t begrudge her that. I’m thrilled that she had the opportunity. That having been said, she chose to attend Smith, she chose to major in a field that is pretty much a professional dead-end and she chose to borrow a fortune in order to make that possible.

    Her choices, her responsibility for the consequences of those choices. I didn’t make them for her, so I’m left a little confused as to why I should be held responsible for fixing them for her.

    I just expect her to live up to her commitments and do what she said she’d do – repay her debts. At the least make an effort to do that. What a concept …

  142. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: No, I help provide a service, one that people are free to avail themselves of or choose to avoid as they see fit.

    Loan sharks provide a service. So do child pornographers, hit men, fences and human traffickers.

    What, other than arbitrary societal sanction, is the difference between you and a guy who swindles old ladies out of their life savings?

    You’ve just admitted you know what you do is bad for people, yet you do it any way? On what way is that not evil?

    Mike

  143. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I think a lot of them got shoved towards expensive colleges because a) their friends were going to similar locations and b) it gives Mommy and Daddy something to brag about.

    Plus there is the fact that it’s the network of friends you make at college that a lot of people depend on in later life–but the multiplier effect is even more if you go to a prestigious school (partly because you’re always getting hounded by the Alumni office to belong to the local alumni club.)

    I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t at all be in the same location as I am in had I not gone to MIT. (In MIT’s defense, they do try to provide sufficient financial aid in the way of scholarships to incoming students so that they don’t get clobbered with incredible debt. It does help when you have a portfolio that is more than the GNP of several European countries.)

  144. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Um, would you care to be a bit more direct with regard to what you see as an unearned benefit?

    YOU’VE ALREADY ACKNOWLEDGED THE UNEARNED BENEFIT.

    Everything in your life is built first, not on your efforts, but on that period of “abberrant” prosperity.

    Mike

  145. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Loan sharks provide a service. So do child pornographers, hit men, fences and human traffickers.

    I’m not going to dignify that with a response.

    What, other than arbitrary societal sanction, is the difference between you and a guy who swindles old ladies out of their life savings?

    LOL, what?? Who am I swindling? You want something you can’t afford – I help make that possible. In return, you pay me a fee for my services. What’s different about it? You benefit, I benefit, the merchant benefits, the people he pays benefit, and so on down the chain.

    Would you prefer a world where you have to save up and pay cash for that new car, and thereby cut me out of the loop?

    That’s easy to obtain- just don’t borrow the fricking money, which nobody has ever forced you to do. Enough said?

  146. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Um, no, I haven’t. I think you mean to say unearned advantage

    Even assuming that there is some sort of unearned advantage, it would accrue from being born in the US, and accordingly everybody thus situated would enjoy it. Me, you and that looney tune from Smith.

    The difference in our outcomes depends to a large degree on our choices. Not entirely, by any means, but the assertion that someone is completely devoid of any responsibility for their own life and the consequences of their own choices is just ludicrous.

    So what are you actually arguing? That since it’s difficult for her, she should just be allowed to walk away?

  147. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    No argument. I got shoved towards Harvard pretty much from birth.

    That having been said, I had absolutely middle class parents and I went to public school – in Baltimore – not exactly the epicenter of the universe of good schools.

    Would I be where I am had I attended Random State Law School? Without a doubt, no.

    I didn’t because the quality of my undergrad work got me into Harvard – an option, incidentally, which is available to pretty much anybody willing to do the work and earn the privilege.

    Harvard is like MIT in that regard – they provide a great deal of institutional aid – but the underlying concept is this: I followed the path that I did because the end benefits were worth the cost. I could expect to recoup the cost and then some, which made it a worthwhile investment. There’s no way, for example, that I would have expended the same amount of resources to attend, say, Harvard Divinity.

    Not because it’s a bad path or the educational field is somehow “less than” – because the return on the investment is abysmal.

  148. DrDaveT says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    It’s one of the things that annoys me about the left – this paternalistic, condescending view that people have to be rescued and nobody can do it but you.

    It’s one of the things that annoys me about the right — this smug Panglossian view that everyone is equally armed to make rational choices in their own self-interest, regardless of how shitty their early lives were.

    What you don’t seem to realize is that the left is working toward a society in which you would be right — that all individuals would be entirely to blame for their own stupid anti-productive choices, because they made them in spite of their perfectly adequate nutrition, education, socialization, etc. (You also seem happy to ignore the fact that the current situation was a deliberate creation of the Gilded Age magnates, who understood very well the dangers of an educated working class and worked to undo the unusual American propensity for educating farmers and laborers. Andrew Carnegie was the one exception of note.)

    As it is, you’re doing the equivalent of blaming the kids who grew up eating lead paint for not making smarter decisions.

  149. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    view that everyone is equally armed to make rational choices in their own self-interest, regardless of how shitty their early lives were.

    Given that rational self-interest – i.e. benefit to the self – is among the most powerful, if not THE most powerful, drives that a human being possesses, yea, I expect that everybody will act in their own best interest.

    What you don’t seem to realize is that the left is working toward a society in which you would be right — that all individuals would be entirely to blame for their own stupid anti-productive choices, because they made them in spite of their perfectly adequate nutrition, education, socialization, etc.

    LOL, no, I’m well aware of that. I and people like me are largely the ones paying for it, and truthfully, I don’t mind paying for it. I pay taxes that I could easily avoid, because as I said earlier it’s the only way that it’s going to work.

    Consider the hubris required to not only demand that someone else fund your proposals, but also denigrate them while they’re doing it.

    As it is, you’re doing the equivalent of blaming the kids who grew up eating lead paint for not making smarter decisions.

    Going back to our earlier example – she’s smart enough to get admitted to, and graduate from, Smith, but she’s somehow either too stupid or too disadvantaged to make even a rudimentary effort at planning her life choices?

    Spare me …

  150. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The worst part of all of this? I’m a left leaning guy. Pro just about everything that you and the rest believe in. If this attitude towards personal responsibility offends even me, which is saying something, how much more does it alienate the rest of the spectrum?

    Point being? You’re working against your own interests by alienating the very people whose buy in you need to realize your goals.

    Food for thought …

  151. stonetools says:

    The debate about inequality which we have begun has its beginnings in several sources:the 2008 financial crisis, which conservative economists utterly failed to predict and had no answer for it, the writings of liberal economists (Stiglitz, Krugman, Thoma, Delong and lastly Picketty criticizing and analyzing the failure of conservative economics), the Occupy movement, and certain liberal politicians led by Elizabeth Warren. Not all of these people are singing from the same song book, but they all clearly identified a problem exacerbated by the 2008 crisis-a problem that the right wing pretended (and still pretends for the most part) does not exist.Frankly, it goes beyond that. The very ideas propounded by the right wing 1964-2014 led to this inequality problem.

    Romney-to his credit-seems to recognize there is a problem, but he minds me a lot of John D. Rockefeller- a man content to give away a small faction of vast fortune to charity, but opposed to government efforts to alleviate poverty. In his present effort, he reminds me of the later Rockefeller who was told to demonstrate his concern for the poor by tossing quarters to street urchins, who ran to pick them up.
    Romney might be content to toss some quarters to the urchins by agreeing to a few small redistribution programs, but that will be it. An attack on the fundamentals of inequality will not come from Romney.

  152. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The very ideas propounded by the right wing 1964-2014 led to this inequality problem.

    This goes back to the post I made earlier about aberrant prosperity. Absent the brief period from the mid 1940s to the late 1960s, inequality has been the norm in this country, from day one.

    People are taking a brief period, in which we had a captive market and could sell everything we could produce to a world incapable (due to the destruction of their own industries by war) of producing it for themselves, as being the normal and typical state of affairs. You’ll always make a killing when you have the only hot dog stand on the block.

    But that monopoly will never be perpetual. Eventually somebody else is going to open another hot dog stand, and when they do, your economic reality is going to revert back closer to the norm. When the rest of the world rebuilt, as it was always going to do, the game changed.

    This is the fallacy that I have been attacking – things didn’t go to hell in the early 1970s in this country. They began to revert back to the norm. Taxation policy wasn’t responsible for the prosperity of the 1950s. A manufacturing monopoly which enabled wide swaths of the workforce to earn was.

    And it was great while it lasted, but it was never going to last indefinitely.

  153. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Note that it’s the Right that thinks we can all go back to a single-earning household with no problems. And if you just aren’t able to do it, it’s Obviously Your Fault.

    (The person I really grit my teeth about is Ann Romney. She’s been dependent on Daddy or her husband her entire life. She’s never had to worry about where her next rent check comes from. And she thinks that because she lucked out in the marriage sweepstakes that her path is what every single other woman in the US should do.)

  154. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And I agree that is equally fallacious. The answer, as with most things, lies somewhere in the middle.

    The days of the single earner household are over. Gone. Period, never to return. We absolutely can do things to mitigate the fallout from that, but turning the US into the next Scandinavian country, which is what it feels like many of these folks want to do, might be a bit much.

    I suspect they’d end up agreeing if they were funding it.

  155. DrDaveT says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I expect that everybody will act in their own best interest.

    Then you’re either an idiot or an economist(*). At best, you might expect that everyone will act in their own perceived best interest, with a personal discount rate that might be wildly different from yours or a ‘rational’ objective rate. And that discrepancy between the perception and the reality is something society can do better at.

    I and people like me are largely the ones paying for it, and truthfully, I don’t mind paying for it. I pay taxes that I could easily avoid, because as I said earlier it’s the only way that it’s going to work.

    Good for you. You’ll recall that I said upthread that I can agree with most of your stance on this. I’m in much the same situation, and I feel the same way — with the caveat that I’d prefer my tax money be used on things that actually work, long-term.

    Going back to our earlier example – she’s smart enough to get admitted to, and graduate from, Smith, but she’s somehow either too stupid or too disadvantaged to make even a rudimentary effort at planning her life choices?

    I have no problem at all with you blaming her. The problem is when you project her failure onto the 99% who didn’t have her advantages, and tar them with the same brush. Wealth disparity, wage stagnation, multi-generational welfare, ignorant voters, poverty, hunger, etc. are not noticeably affected by smart women at good schools who choose to major in mediaeval French poetry or what have you. There simply aren’t enough of them to matter, and getting them to make better choices would only help them — and they shouldn’t need any help. We agree on that.

    (*) Yes, I recently saw an Econ PhD candidate from a good school try to argue that it was reasonable to use a constant annual personal discount rate of 4% in a model that, among other things, was predicting how young unmarried men actually choose careers. Honestly.

  156. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The problem is when you project her failure onto the 99% who didn’t have her advantages, and tar them with the same brush

    Given that you nothing about her background prior to Smith, aren’t you assuming that she enjoyed an advantage, and further assuming that 99% of the rest of the country doesn’t?

    i’m simply saying that ANYONE capable of gaining admission to college should be able to add and subtract, which is all that would have been required to identify the speed bump looming in her future as a result of her choices. Not seeing where that’s stretching the limits of credulity.

  157. jukeboxgrad says:

    wr:

    80 people own as much of the world’s wealth as the 3.5 BILLION people who make up the bottom half of the economic ladder

    Thank you for mentioning this. I was stunned to hear this, so I went looking for the source. The report, released today, is quite detailed. Link:

    80 people now have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, down from 388 in 2010

    Conservatives should be asked this question: how extreme do those numbers need to be before you wake up? What if it was 40 people owning as much as the bottom 80%? What if it was 10 people owning as much as the bottom 95%? What if it was one person owning everything and everyone else owning nothing? There is a point where collapse is inevitable. How close do you want to get to the edge of the cliff?

    Another great resource is the video Wealth Inequality in America (youtube, about 6 minutes). Seen 16 million times. This video is always easy to find. Just do this google:

    income inequality video

    This video is the top result.

  158. jukeboxgrad says:

    grumpy realist:

    I don’t understand who the business owners imagine are going to buy all those marvelous products once they kick out 99% of their human employees and turn everything over to robots. Humans that don’t have salaries don’t buy much.

    There is answer to this, and the answer shows that the business owners are both rational and treasonous. It doesn’t matter that the American middle class is being crushed and won’t be able to buy much, because there’s still plenty of money to be made selling to the new middle class that is rising in places like China and India.

  159. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Does investigating the earnings potential of a career in Women’s Studies, and contrasting that with the cost of a degree from Smith really require genius?”

    Shockingly, some people care about other things than getting rich.

    I have no idea what this (most likely fictional) woman’s career path was.

    I do know that a lot of people took on a lot of college debt expecting to go into what was then a strong academic job market. But then the people elected by the makers like you decided to stop slash funding for higher education so they could shovel tax breaks to, well, you. And then a new corporate class of educational bureacrats — appointed frequently by regents who share your philosophy — decided university money would be much better spent by slashing tenure track jobs, hiring only adjuncts at barely more than minimum wage, and shovelling money at upper level administrators — basically, your people.

    So yeah, it’s all her fault. She made bad choices — because she didn’t foresee that the richest of the rich planned to steal everything from everyone and keep it for themselves.

    But you keep on whining about how much you pay in taxes. It really moves people.

  160. jukeboxgrad says:

    Michael:

    In the end the wealth created by the work machines do, will have to be shared among humans. Allowing it to concentrate in the .1% is the path to violent revolution and civilizational collapse.

    Notice what that wacky Marxist Alan Greenspan has said:

    As I’ve often said… this [increasing income inequality] is not the type of thing which a democratic society—a capitalist democratic society—can really accept without addressing.

    Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobelist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank) explains why:

    Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few [note: he wrote this in 5/11, when the Arab Spring was getting started]. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret. …

    Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

    The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

    Six members of the Walton (Walmart) family have wealth exceeding the bottom 40% of the country. How large would that number have to be to convince conservatives that the situation was unhealthy and unsustainable, morally, politically and economically? 80%? 99.9%? Is there any number big enough to convince them?

    And that is the natural state: a two-class society, where there are rich and poor, and no one in between. That is what most human societies have looked like, through history. A middle class does not arise spontaneously. It needs to be created deliberately, via government policies (which is why people like Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson advocated progressive taxation). And there is no democracy without a middle class, which is why Greenspan said what he said.

    The rich don’t realize that what they’re doing is ultimately self-destructive.

  161. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Wow, it’s truly astonising how in love you are with your money.

  162. Liberal With Attitude says:

    @michael reynolds:
    A bit late to this thread, but your comments about globalism are spot on.
    I notice that globalism is in fact a rigged game.

    I can ship goods and capital effortlessly anywhere in the world, thanks to the set of laws created and enforced by the 1%, yet labor is artificially constrained from moving across borders.

    Further, prior to globalism, workers competed with other workers, but were able to cooperate on the laws and structures that set the table, such as environmental laws and workplace protection laws, even when they didn’t belong to a union.

    Chinese workers and American workers could cooperate on a set of environmental and workplace protection laws to safeguard each other’s welfare- except this is prohibited by national sovereignty. Yet capital and business interest freely cooperate across state boundaries.

    The game is rigged to favor capital, and against labor.

  163. wr says:

    @jukeboxgrad: “Conservatives should be asked this question: how extreme do those numbers need to be before you wake up?”

    I think the real question is: How extreme do these numbers need to be before people start picking up pitchforks?

    The truly smug like our HL are so certain that they deserve everything they’ve got and more that they can’t conceive that a truly desperate underclass might not see things the same way. HL thinks poor people will be better off if we kill Medicaid and food stamps. Apparently it never occurs to him that if enough people have to watch their children die of diseases that can be easily cured with proper medical care or waste away from hunger, not all of them will decide it’s time to apply to Harvard law school. Some are going to decide that the system is fundamentally rigged against the vast majority by a tiny minority. And once enough people decide that there is no just basis for government… watch out.

  164. jukeboxgrad says:

    Some statements in this thread struck me as especially important. I decided to leave out the names of the authors. Hopefully that was the right choice.

    To combat income equality, a Republican candidate would have to repudiate practically every Republican policy of the past 30 years.

    I’m willing to bet $10,000 that the “plan to lift people out of poverty” involves cutting taxes on the rich.

    In the end he will turn out not to have a plan. There is no way to get from A to Z that does not involve some disadvantage to the 1%, and neither Romney nor his party is remotely capable of such evolution.

    If you claim to care about poverty and your only solutions are ones that are guaranteed to bring benefits to the rich … then no matter how much you believe you care about poverty, you simply don’t. … When Romney’s care about poverty leads him to suggest a solution that in any way inconveniences people like him, give us a call. Until then, he’s just another pious fraud.

    Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why when there is a corrupt union official or even a corrupt union, it’s evidence that all unions are useless parasites and should be disbanded or at least ignored… but when there is a corrupt businessman or a corrupt business, it’s just one bad apple and no kind of indictment of capitalism at all?

    America created lots of policies to successfully lift millions out of poverty in the mid-20th century. There were unions, and George Romney paid way more taxes than Mitt, and that money paid poor people like my dad and granddad to build roads, and become middle class. Me, I’m college-educated (STEM) and now work in a big box store making $10 hr and no bennies. And Mitt’s buddies who own this big box store like it that way.

    The future has fewer people holding down regular jobs. If you want a job 20 years from now you need to either be smarter than a machine or cheaper than a machine. … In order to manage the transition from human to machine labor … we need some mechanism for the non-millionaire to have a say. Republicans … have ensured that the working class has very little pull in politics … The Democrats are only better by contrast. If Republicans are the high-class escorts of big business, offering the full enthusiastic “girlfriend experience,” the Democrats are the street whores offering back alley quickies. Neither party has the stomach or the will for a fight with their Goldman-Sachs masters. … Change is coming, in fact it is here, it’s going to get a lot worse, and the system we have in place is utterly incapable of managing the adjustment so long as the only voices that matter belong to the 1%.

    Is the list of things machines do growing faster than the list of things humans do? Clearly. … I doubt humans can ever be made fully redundant, but very substantial numbers of us will be. In the end the wealth created by the work machines do, will have to be shared among humans. Allowing it to concentrate in the .1% is the path to violent revolution and civilizational collapse. People on the right need to accept the fact that their ideology is deader than Catharism. The future is redistributionist. … redistribution of wealth is coming because in the end it’s the only choice that provides any sort of stability. Which means the entire Republican Party, and the entire Libertarian Party, are talking absolute rot and are already intellectually dead, buried, and not smelling great.

  165. jukeboxgrad says:

    Liberal With Attitude:

    Chinese workers and American workers could cooperate on a set of environmental and workplace protection laws to safeguard each other’s welfare- except this is prohibited by national sovereignty. Yet capital and business interest freely cooperate across state boundaries.

    And business no longer has loyalty to a nation.

    According to current conservative dogma, government is the problem. If we make government small, this will enable the ‘free market’ to rise up and generate prosperity, lifting us all.

    This fable is deceptive because it fails to take certain major problems into account. Here’s one key problem it ignores: business used to be patriotic, but it isn’t anymore. And here’s another key problem it ignores: a society with a strong middle class is not the natural state of mankind. These two problems are closely related.

    To understand the first problem, read National Review, and you will learn that CEOs used to care about more than just maximizing profits. That important and overlooked article talks about “the robust public-spiritedness and patriotism that helped define corporate America in the mid 20th century,” and how maybe it would be a good idea “for corporate America to recover its former patriotism.”

    And this is related to something else you can read at National Review:

    I have been using the term “corporate America,” but this moniker is something of a misnomer in an age when executives are increasingly “post-American” and major businesses almost always identify themselves as global ventures. Not untypical are comments from the vice president of Coca-Cola, who said in a speech in 2005, “We are not an American company,” and from a top Colgate-Palmolive executive, who in 1989 said, “There is no mindset [at Colgate] that puts this country [the United States] first.”

    Speaking to Atlantic reporter Chrystia Freeland in 2011, a U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds described an internal debate at his company. One of his senior colleagues had suggested that the “hollowing out of the American middle class didn’t really matter,” the CEO told Freeland, adding: “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and [that] meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade.” Almost a decade ago, Samuel Huntington identified this trend as the “de-nationalization” of American corporate elites. The new “economic transnationals,” he said, are the “nucleus of an emerging global superclass.”

    The destruction of the middle class and the rise of extreme income inequality are essentially two different names for the same phenomenon. The many conservatives who say ‘inequality does not matter’ (which happens to be the exact title of an article by Kevin Williamson) are essentially defending the executive who said the “hollowing out of the American middle class didn’t really matter.”

    And this process of destroying the middle class, which has been underway for about thirty years and which is accelerating, is simply a reversion to the natural state. The natural state of humankind is a two-class society, where there are rich and poor, and no one in between.

    The GOP call for ‘small government’ is an effort to undo the government policies that gave us the strong middle class we used to have. Thirty years of Reaganism have returned us to the Gilded Age. The difference is that now we have globalization, which means that this time the Gilded Ones are a “global superclass” with no national identity or loyalty. The American middle class is an inconvenience to them, and they will continue to crush it. Government is also an inconvenience to them, because government is the only force powerful enough to constrain them. It’s true that they buy government and then take advantage of government power, but they prefer government to be powerless.

    By the way, Republicans used to understand this. Remember that great Marxist Teddy Roosevelt? He is known for “arguing that the rise of industrial capitalism had rendered limited government obsolete.” And it was the greatest Republican of all who said this, in 1837:

    These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people

    If you are outside the 1% and calling for ‘small government’ you are cutting your own throat.

    My apologies to those who already saw this when we discussed this subject previously.

  166. Liberal With Attitude says:

    My favorite TR quote:

    “Corporation cunning has developed faster than the law of nation or state. Corporations have found ways to steal long before we have found that they were susceptible to punishment for theft. But sooner or later, unless there is a season of readjustment, there will come a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement.”

    Imagine the pants-wetting and pearl-clutching by the Beltway media, were a politician to speak so honestly today.

  167. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The Tea Party and the Occupy folks are 180 degrees apart from one another with respect to WHAT they believe, but they’re mirror images with regard to the fervor with which they believe it (and the disdain they show towards anyone who questions them or their dogma in the slightest way.) To an extent, we’re both hostage to the rantings of our True Believers.

    How much influence does the Tea Party have on Republican politics?
    How much influence do the Occupy folks have on Democratic politics?
    If you think those two enslave the politics of their side to even remotely the same degree I have a unicorn ranch to sell you. You’ll make millions, no billions, off their rainbows.

  168. jukeboxgrad says:

    Love that TR quote, thank you. I will be using that.

    He said it in 1903. Quoted in a newspaper in 1909:

    The time is coming in this country for a readjustment between the wage earner and the drawer of dividends. The radicals are almost half right. Corporation cunning has developed faster than the law of the nation or state. It is undoubtedly true that corporations have found ways to steal long before we have found that they were susceptible of punishment for theft.

    But sooner or later, unless there is a season of readjustment, there will come a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement. It is true that some great fortunes are being accumulated lawfully but dishonestly. It is true that other fortunes are being accumulated honestly but illegally. There must come, in the proper growth of this nation, a readjustment. If it is not to come by sword and powder and blood it must come by peaceful compromise. These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can’t! I would like to be elected President of the United States to be the buffer between their foolishness and the wrath that is surely to come–unless they sober up.

  169. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you can get Americans to stop eating veal out of a tender concern for baby cows, you can get them to stop buying goods produced by ethically contemptible means.

    If you can have dolphin safe tuna, you should be able to have person safe socks etc. It is amazing that dolphins have better PR people than the virtual and sometimes actual slaves that produce our chocolate, jewelry, textiles and electronics. Maybe we need a better label than fair trade, perhaps something like this, but with a happy family instead of a frolicking cetacean.

  170. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Back in 1959, we had right at 40 million people living below the poverty line. In 2013, we had 48.2 million, and that number would be a great deal higher without the transfer payments.

    It’s been pointed out before, but poverty in 1959 looked a hell of a lot different than poverty in 2013. Can you really not see that or are you so wedded to your argument that you won’t see it?

  171. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92: People are taking a brief period, in which we had a captive market and could sell everything we could produce to a world incapable (due to the destruction of their own industries by war) of producing it for themselves, as being the normal and typical state of affairs. You’ll always make a killing when you have the only hot dog stand on the block.

    The problem with this is that it would have been sufficient to explain wage stagnation only if productivity and growth in the US had slowed down significantly in the last 40 years. They haven’t and what changed instead was the social distribution of the proceeds of productivity and growth. Now, that surely has something to do with globalization: basically,more labor coming online and competing with American labor. However, this is not the whole story. Decline in unionization, the structure of our immigration policy, the tax environment, and a myriad other decisions, all weighed in favor of the elites, surely have paid a role in this process.

  172. wr says:

    @Grewgills: “If you can have dolphin safe tuna, you should be able to have person safe socks etc. It is amazing that dolphins have better PR people than the virtual and sometimes actual slaves that produce our chocolate, jewelry, textiles and electronics. ”

    Because even the HL92s of the world would be a little embarassed to pretend that dolphins who are sucked up and destroyed by forces so large and powerful they can barely perceive — let alone understand — them get what they deserve because they made bad choices, although they have no qualms about making the same claims about human beings.

    Of course, if it cost him a penny in taxes to protect the dolphins, I suspect he’d quicky discover that they are lazy, irresponsible, and entirely responsible for ending up in a can of tuna. ‘Because he’s a man of the left, you know…

  173. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Yup, heroin pushers are in no way responsible for more junkies. You have an airtight case there and have placed yourself in an enviable moral position in that analogy. To paraphrase you, “it’s probably a lot closer to the mark than you’d like to admit.”

  174. humanoid.panda says:

    “The questions of “why did you major in an utterly unmarketable field?” and “why did you do so at one of the most expensive colleges in the country when you clearly couldn’t afford it” just made her angry. Despite her intellect and her achievements, the one thing she either couldn’t or wouldn’t do was accept responsibility for her own choices. The folks to blame were folks like me – who gave her money and had the temerity to think that she’d honor her promise to repay it. In the face of something that irrational, I just disengaged. There was nothing more to say. She’d gotten in over her head and expected that someone else was responsible for shouldering the pain of her willfully committed mistakes. Sadly, she is indicative of the norm in America these days.”

    As a guy with Wall Street connections, you must recognize the deep truth hidden in the old joke aboutdebt: if you owe 10,000$ to the bank, it’s your problem ,but if you owe 1,000,000, it’s the bank’s problem (heck, that joke is a one line explanation for the entirety of the 2008 financial crisis).

    Now, think about it this way: if one person makes a string of bad life choices in a political-economical order in which most everyone else are doing well, then it’s definitely she has has a problem.

    When there is more than one trillion outstanding college debt, young people are delaying family formation and consumption, and the average income of young college graduates crater, as their tution grows higher and their chances of getting decent employment without a degree are declining, society has a problem.

    Look at it this way: even in the Great Depression, about 70% of all people worked, which meant that each and everyone of the 30% who were unemployed made some mistake somewhere that they could have avoided. Does this mean they had no moral case to make against society? That society did not have both moral and pragmatic reasons to make sure that what happened would not repeat itself?

  175. Liberal With Attitude says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    “Her attitude was simply that she could not meet her student loan obligations, therefore someone should eliminate them. ”

    You sure you weren’t speaking to a Wall Street banker?

  176. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    This kid decides he wants to go to NYU Stern, does his homework and figures out that he can do two years here at Westchester Community College (for peanuts), transfer to Stern on an articulation agreement and save himself 120 grand, minimum, which he plans to invest instead of blowing it on tuition when he doesn’t have to.

    What stops these kids from doing that?

    Was that a serious question? What stops kids from going to CC so they can invest $120K to set up their post college life? In case you actually can’t see the answer, most kids don’t have the options you were able to buy your children. You are making Romney look positively in touch with working families on this thread.

  177. humanoid.panda says:

    The days of the single earner household are over. Gone. Period, never to return. We absolutely can do things to mitigate the fallout from that, but turning the US into the next Scandinavian country, which is what it feels like many of these folks want to do, might be a bit much.

    What’s wrong with that? Seriously, it’s not like there are no major corporations there, innovation is doing ok, and rich people don’t seem to be fleeing Scandinavia en-masse.

  178. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    You do realize that women’s studies majors from prestigious private universities that are currently unemployed or underemployed is an infinitesimally small segment of our population don’t you? Focusing on this tiny segment of the problem to the exclusion of poor children that were lucky to get a degree from their local CC when talking about the what the real problem with poverty is is either mind bogglingly ignorant and out of touch or is a deliberate obfuscation. I don’t believe you are ignorant.

  179. wr says:

    @Grewgills: “It’s been pointed out before, but poverty in 1959 looked a hell of a lot different than poverty in 2013.”

    What HL also neglects to mention in pointing out that we’ve gone from 40 million below the poverty line in 1959 to 48 million in 2013 is that in 1959, the population of the US was around 178 million while in 2013 it was around 318 million. So population has almost doubled, while the number of poor people went up around 20%.

    And if people like HL didn’t keep trying to eliminate programs that lift people out of poverty — “Hey, let’s take away their food and medical care… that will improve their lives!!!” — it would probably be lower.

  180. MBunge says:

    I’d just like to point out a rhetorical technique/ideological blindness being displayed here.

    Harvard has absolutely no problem generalizing from one whiny women’s studies major to the population as a whole. But whenever he’s asked to consider the generalized problems of that population as a whole, he always retreats to talking about that one individual case.

    I’m not sure if it’s sophistry or just myopic Randianism.

    Mike

  181. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: So what are you actually arguing? That since it’s difficult for her, she should just be allowed to walk away?

    I may be wrong but I don’t think anyone has even suggested that. Again, if you’re always going to avoid thinking about the broader issues by retreating to one individual case as though it is all that exists, it’s hard for the discussion to go anywhere productive.

    Mike

  182. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Read through your entire posting again, and tell me if you don’t come away with the conclusion that you’re asserting that people are largely both helpless and free from any responsibility for their own lives.

    You present it as one extreme or another, as total lack of free-will or total freedom of action and I don’t think either is the case.

    I have no problem with helping people, but selling them the concept that they have to be helped because they are incapable of helping themselves, which is what your comment conveys, is something that I see as insidious.

    Individuals are constrained by the system in ways the system is not constrained by the individual, as we, by definition, must act within it. You know this to be true, as you would never argue a woman in the deep south made bad decisions and so was born into slavery, or that a French peasant chose to be poor, or that someone graduating the year after a massive demand shock and now can’t find work in their field chose badly.

    It’s one of the things that annoys me about the left – this paternalistic, condescending view that people have to be rescued and nobody can do it but you.

    No one is making this argument and I don’t think you really believe they are.

    Sure, there is no real macroeconomic change in the diversion, but you do give people pride (or more aptly stated, you give them the means with which to find a sense of pride for themselves) and, hey, you get some bridges repaired in the bargain.

    How will depriving citizens of health care and food give them pride? This appears a moral, or nominal, argument not an economic one. If however, you are suggesting the key to ending poverty and gross inequality lay in employment rathee than welfare then I agree with you. This is why I support a national Jobs Guarantee which offers to purchase the labor of anyone unable to find paid work in the private sector. This will divert national income from profits to wages and compress incomes over time.

  183. Turgid Jacobian says:

    How can you blame HarvardLaw92 for poor argumentation at a time like this, people? I mean, his feelings are hurt because he has to pay taxes even when people don’t say “thank you:”

  184. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Harvard has absolutely no problem generalizing from one whiny women’s studies major to the population as a whole. But whenever he’s asked to consider the generalized problems of that population as a whole, he always retreats to talking about that one individual case.”

    I do wonder what he would say about law school graduates — apparently intelligent people who made exactly the same choice he did — who graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt (because law school is insanely more expensive than it was in ’92) and discover that there is a glut of lawyers and the only law jobs open are the ones that literally pay zero, but offer “opportunity.”

    The only difference between these two people — aside, of course, from his preening moral superiority — is that they made the same choice as him but graduated into a world where the opportunities had mostly gone away.

    Were they stupid like the (presumably fictional) women’t studies major? Should they have done some simple math? And if HL was wise to make this choice, and these unemployed lawers were foolish to make the same choice simply because the world had changed over the course of twenty years, will HL actually admit that much of his success came about because he was lucky enough to follow his chosen course at a time the market was willing to reward it?

    Or is he just better than everyone else?

  185. Mikey says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    If however, you are suggesting the key to ending poverty and gross inequality lay in employment rathee than welfare then I agree with you. This is why I support a national Jobs Guarantee which offers to purchase the labor of anyone unable to find paid work in the private sector.

    That’s what I took from his statement–he wants to eliminate Medicaid and welfare and replace them by paying the former recipients to work on the necessary infrastructure improvements.

  186. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: Plenty of kids could do the same thing. In fact, they should. Whether they have wealthy parents who set up education savings plans is irrelevant–well, actually not: such students would benefit far more.

    In my home state of Virginia, a degree from most public community colleges is immediately transferable to a public state university. Two years at a CC, low cost, live at home, get the general studies out of the way, then transfer to finish the BS/BA. The opportunity is there, but so many kids don’t take it. It’s puzzling to me, actually.

  187. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: There are huge network and social effects to be had from going to the University of Virginia, William and Mary, or Virginia Tech that don’t accrue to those who transfer in at 20 after two years in juco. And that’s to say nothing of probably getting an inferior education those two years.

  188. Mikey says:

    @Mikey:

    Whether they have wealthy parents who set up education savings plans is irrelevant–well, actually not: such students would benefit far more.

    UGH, this is unclear. What I mean to say is students who DON’T have wealthy parents would benefit more by doing the two years of community college and then transferring.

  189. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    There are huge network and social effects to be had from going to the University of Virginia, William and Mary, or Virginia Tech that don’t accrue to those who transfer in at 20 after two years in juco.

    I don’t doubt that, but there comes a point at which you have to think of what’s do-able financially and how much debt you want to carry after graduation, especially these days. Those of us living in NoVA with all the money have options people in Stickleyville don’t.

  190. Pharoah Narim says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Fair points. Americans are ignorant to debt and even when educated….don’t alter behavior. Case in point, over the course of your standard 30 year Mortgage you’ve bought yourself a house–and one for the Banker. You’d think that would cause people to go for less house on a 15-year or save for 10 years and finance the balance with a 15 year to keep more of their money to themselves. Nope… you’re average Joe wants as much house as he can get for X payment with the minimum down.

    I’ve got little patience for the extreme librul do-gooders myself….because I know in many cases they are harming the people the want to help. They don’t understand the mentality of the poor. There are a percentage of disadvantaged people who can capitalize off money, programs, etc. There is a far larger percentage that can not. Being underprivileged is to be in a constant state of stress and people develop coping mechanisms that get them by from day-to-day, month-to-month ,etc. These people aren’t going to set a plan for how they will capitalize off opportunity to improve there income potential. More likely is that they’ll model for their children attitudes and behaviors that, once adopted, will keep them in the same mental box as their parents.

    At any rate, I like the unique perspective you bring to the board. Sorry about the jerk quip.

  191. grumpy realist says:

    @Pharoah Narim: A lot of that 30-year stuff is being pushed by the banks. When I started looking around for a place to buy rather than rent, I had two hard and fast rules:

    Being able (if I needed to) to pay it off from the income stream from my investments rather from salary just in case I lost my job (that took me down $100,000 from my original guesstimate.)

    Not getting anything longer than a 15-year mortgage. Oh, and I had to be able to understand whatever mortgage they were trying to sell me.

    Let’s put it this way: I ended up with a 15-year fixed (later refinanced to a 10-year fixed) because none of the explanations I got from the bank for anything else made any sense. But boy did they dangle in front of me the concept of buying “more house.”

  192. Pharoah Narim says:

    @grumpy realist: No question. It’s an awesome deal for the bank. They get to loan other people’s money…that they pay virtually nothing for….and in return extract 100% profit (albeit over 30 years). Nice work if you can get it. 15 years is the way to go but if one must do 30….at least do enough principle reduction to pay off in 20. Anything longer and you’re flushing money down the scrapper just for the instant gratification of having it now.

  193. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    No argument, but at what cost? For the student tasked with taking on debt to finance 4 years of, say William & Mary, is that networking worth the price of graduating with massive debt that could have been avoided.

    A student entering W&M in 2014 will face costs of $28,000 per year (in state), and that figure includes only tuition, fees and room/board. Assuming the student graduates in 4 years, he/she is facing a potential debt of at least $112,000.

    As for the “inferior education” quip, I’m paging through the faculty bios here at Westchester, where my son will be attending.

    PHD Psychology / Brown University
    ME Industrial Engineering / New York University
    PHD Economics / Virginia Polytechnic Institute
    PHD Mathematics / Cornell University
    PHD Biological Sciences / Fordham University
    PHD Philosophy / Teachers College, Columbia University
    PHD Biology & Anatomy / New York Medical College
    MA Architecture / Columbia University
    PHD History / Columbia University
    PHD International History / London School of Economics
    PHD Geological Sciences / Northwestern University
    PHD Earth & Planetary Sciences / Harvard University

    That’s through the G’s, but I think you get the point.

    Seeing a trend there?

  194. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    That’s what I took from his statement–he wants to eliminate Medicaid and welfare and replace them by paying the former recipients to work on the necessary infrastructure improvements.

    Correct. Apparently, judging from some of the garment rending and vitriol that followed, that’s akin to saying “I despise poor people”.

  195. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    aside, of course, from his preening moral superiority

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the staggering degree of irony inherent in that statement, coming as it does from quite possibly most sanctimonious commenter that I’ve ever read. You’ve put words into my mouth, called me a liar and accused me of some pretty ugly beliefs, all because I had the temerity to question your dogma. LOL, how dare I …

    You don’t like me, and I assure you that the feeling is quite mutual. Let’s leave it at that.

  196. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    What’s wrong with that? Seriously, it’s not like there are no major corporations there, innovation is doing ok, and rich people don’t seem to be fleeing Scandinavia en-masse.

    Nothing is per se “wrong” with it. I just hypothesized that the same folks here in the US who idolize it would lose their collective minds once the tax bills required to pay for it showed up in their mailboxes.

    Take Denmark, just as an example. Everybody who earns wages, regardless of how little, pays a minimum 8% of gross in taxes. That’s the first step.

    Then, the first 42,800 DKK (about $7,600) is exempt from income taxes. Anything above that amount, up to 421,000 DKK (about $74,700) is taxed at 5.83%. Anything above 421,000 DKK gets taxed an additional 15%.

    Then you have municipal income tax, which averages 24.09%, on the amount over 42,800 DKK.

    Then you have an additional 8% health tax on the amount over 42,800 DKK.

    Then you have the thrill of paying 25% NON-DEDUCTIBLE VAT on everything that you buy (foodstuffs included …).

    So, let’s analyze that for a worker earning the equivalent of $65,000 (366,050 DKK rounded).

    Gross tax at 8% on all earnings = 29,284 DKK

    Additional Income tax at 5.83% on the excess of 323,250 DKK = 18,845 DKK

    Average municipal income tax at 24.09% on the excess of 323,250 DKK = 77,871 DKK

    Additional health tax at 8% on the excess of 323,250 DKK = 25,860 DKK

    For a grand total of 151,860 DKK in income taxation, or a real tax rate of 41.49%.

    On the 214,190 he has left over, he’ll pay an additional 25% of every post income tax krone that he spends in VAT. Since that figure will be variable, we’ll leave it at that point.

    Think middle class America, or for that matter the farthest left of the left, is willing to fork over roughly 42% of gross (plus VAT) in return for having the Nordic system here in the US?

  197. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Grewgills:

    Was that a serious question? What stops kids from going to CC so they can invest $120K to set up their post college life? In case you actually can’t see the answer, most kids don’t have the options you were able to buy your children. You are making Romney look positively in touch with working families on this thread.

    Yes, it was a serious question, but you read it incorrectly. It wasn’t “What stops kids from going to CC so they can invest $120K to set up their post college life?”.

    It was instead “What stops kids from doing the first two years of their college education at a community college, so they can effectively cut the cost of their degrees roughly in half and avoid much of the student loan debt that they are so up in arms about?”

    So far, I haven’t gotten an answer to that question.

  198. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Liberal With Attitude:

    Yes, I’m quite sure. While not excusing some of the insanity those banks engaged in, between direct repayments of TARP funding, dividend payments on the preferred shares that Treasury received in exchange for capital injections, and the subsequent sale / repurchase of those shares at a profit, Treasury has earned a net profit on the bailout money extended to Wall Street.

    Overall, Treasury posted a net profit of $15.3 billion on TARP, with banks repaying 109% of $250 billion, Fannie / Freddie repaying 103% of $187 billion, and AIG repaying 115% of $152 billion.

    The only money losing portions of the bailouts? The auto industry, at repayment of 83% of $80 billion, and HARP (i.e. relief for homeowners), at repayment of 78% of $29 billion.

  199. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    A lot of them do. I have advised many of them to do so unless they get near to a full ride to their college of choice. That doesn’t do much to change how the rest of your argument came across. Most of what you wrote reads like poor people are poor because of moral failings and rich people are rich because they earned it. It is the typical rationalization of the wealthy. As much as you may not like the attitudes of some people judging you for your wealth and the way you made it, I can assure you that people that won’t see in a year what you make in a day find your condescending attitude every bit as irksome.
    If you toned down the smug condescension people might not be quite so quick to have a go at you.

  200. Rafer Janders says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Yes, it was a serious question, but you read it incorrectly. It wasn’t “What stops kids from going to CC so they can invest $120K to set up their post college life?”.

    No, you wrote it incorrectly.

    It’s a poor writer who blames his audience.

  201. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    When the audience is being pedantic, in the face of a clear inference, what more can be done?

    It should have been evidently clear, to any but the most petty of readers, that the basic point of the statement wasn’t the extra funds he will have left over, but instead the money that he will NOT be spending.

    To imply that I remotely suggested everybody could bump up their trust residual is being, well, it’s petty. But, point taken – given the petty nature of the audience, a greater degree of exactitude is called for in the future.

  202. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Grewgills:

    Most of what you wrote reads like poor people are poor because of moral failings and rich people are rich because they earned it.

    Much of what I wrote is being viewed through the lens of the various biases of the readers. My premise, from the outset, is that choices have consequences, and I’m increasingly seeing what looks like a viewpoint which asserts that consequences are bad.

    It’s like the ludicrous trend in schools where every kid gets a trophy for participating. A friend recently related to me the sad story of how every child in his daughter’s elementary school class received an Honor Student award so “no child feels left out”. Seriously …

    Kids are taught from an early age now that everybody is (and is entitled to be) a winner, and they come out of that gauntlet possessed of a disturbing (in my opinion) degree of narcissism. That is what i saw, and what so offended me, about the folks that I spoke to – despite all of them having made (to varying degrees) a series of poor choices, none of it was their fault and holding them accountable was, in their words, “oppressing them.”

    God forbid that kids learn early on that life isn’t fair, and to win one both has to compete and to plan. I assure you that I’m not trying to be condescending. If anything, I’m trying to be calm in response to what I see as sanctimony. At what point and to what degree are any of these people responsible for the consequences of their own bad choices? I’m not arguing 100%, not even remotely, but the impression I’m getting from some of these commenters is that anything other than “not at all” is tantamount to heresy.

    I bet they like trophies for participation too …

  203. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mikey:

    That’s what I took from his statement–he wants to eliminate Medicaid and welfare and replace them by paying the former recipients to work on the necessary infrastructure improvements.

    The problem I have with this lay in the presumed method of execution. Let’s look at it in real terms by asking what is being consumed by medicaid and the SNAP program: food, obviously, and medical services. Cutting consumption of those things won’t increase our ability to build bridges. Instead we’re conditioned to think in virtual terms of money, so we focus on balance sheets instead of real resources. This gives rise to the false dichotomy of “to spend on this we must spend less on that” as though the things we have are literally composed of the electrons and photons in our bank accounts.

  204. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    So far, I haven’t gotten an answer to that question.

    At this point it’s probably a mix of tradition and “holy crap I’m 18 and I can finally get out of the house please please please send me to college…”

    I do have to say, when my daughter was preparing to graduate high school, we didn’t even really consider the possibility of keeping her in the local community college for the first two years. We were fortunate because she’s brilliant and got a full-ride scholarship to her primary choice, but even if she hadn’t, we’d have paid for all four years (somehow).

    When my son reaches that point, we’ll more seriously consider having him do his first two years here. He’s 17 years behind his big sister and I can only have nightmares about how much more college will cost for him.

  205. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    While not excusing some of the insanity those banks engaged in, between direct repayments of TARP funding, dividend payments on the preferred shares that Treasury received in exchange for capital injections, and the subsequent sale / repurchase of those shares at a profit, Treasury has earned a net profit on the bailout money extended to Wall Street.

    This isn’t really true. Government balance sheet operations don’t leave it with more than it “spent”, as the surplus financial assets are destroyed in the act of collection. All that can happen is that government removes more financial assets from the private sector than were injected over the course of the relief program. In other words TARP collections can’t provide a net financial benefit to society because the private sector can’t create net financial assets. At the aggregate level the private sector is worse off.

  206. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Correct. Apparently, judging from some of the garment rending and vitriol that followed, that’s akin to saying “I despise poor people”.”

    It is.

  207. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “I’m trying to wrap my head around the staggering degree of irony inherent in that statement, coming as it does from quite possibly most sanctimonious commenter that I’ve ever read.”

    Pot kettle black.

  208. Mikey says:

    @Ben Wolf: Well, it’s probably a bit of a reach, but we could assert that spending on food and medical services won’t change, just the way they are paid for will.

    This gives rise to the false dichotomy of “to spend on this we must spend less on that”

    Given that you are not prone to making nonsensical statements, I must be missing some context in this one, because this certainly isn’t a false dichotomy in my life, or the lives of anyone I know.

  209. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “I assure you that I’m not trying to be condescending”

    Try harder.

  210. wr says:

    @Mikey: I believe the false dichotomy Mr. Wolf referred to was that if we want to spend more money on, say, infrastructure repairs which would give jobs to unemployed people we have to slash Medicaid and food stamps and other programs that benefit the same set of people.

    Of course there are many other ways to pay for such a program. We could stop buying unnecesessary military hardware. We could stop giving tax breaks to multinational oil companies. We could levy a small transaction fee on stock sales. We could eliminate the carried interest deduction so that investment bankers paid the same rate of income tax as waitresses. We could raffle off Alaska.

    The false dichotomy comes from the assumption that there’s only a tiny, separate pool of money available to help “those people,” and the rest of the gargantuan federal budget must be used for the important things.

  211. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    You’re being disingenuous. What gives you the impression that said persons, being paid as they are to perform useful work, aren’t going to spend their wages on the same food that they were previously given? What gives you the idea that, absent having medical services handed to them, they’re incapable of seeking out and purchasing those services for themselves with the wages that they would now be paid, especially with the nifty new PPACA subsidies that they’ll undoubtedly qualify for?

    That is the paternalism that I was referring to earlier. This attitude that, absent having those things doled out to them in humiliating and debilitating fashion, they’re incapable of obtaining them for themselves.

    I see it just the opposite – I prefer to believe that most of these people would prefer to work and earn wages, given the opportunity, and would place much more value on those things that they obtain when they can view them through the sense of pride inherent in having obtained them for themselves.

    So,we have two scenarios – dole out $458 billion, with essentially nothing tangible in return to show for it while debilitating the recipients, or spend $458 billion putting people to work, get tangible improvements to badly deteriorated infrastructure while uplifting the recipients and creating a situation where they lose nothing they previously had.

    Now, you can say it makes me mean spirited to prefer the latter, but which one of us would really be helping those people in the long run?

  212. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Barry:

    I want to pay them wages and give them an opportunity to find a sense of pride and accomplishment in having done something to better their own lives instead of handing out checks in what can only be viewed as a paternalistic fashion that, for a good sized chunk of them, can be permanently debilitating and create a cycle of dependency which is perpetuated in their kids (and their kids’ kids, and so on ad infinitum).

    You guys want to effectively keep them locked in that cycle of dependency.

    So which one of us really despises poor people?

  213. Mikey says:

    @wr: I’m not sure he’s saying we “have to” slash one to pay for the other, I think he’s asserting the money would be better spent paying people to do the necessary infrastructure improvements rather than just doling it out as transfer payments.

    In his scenario, we would see two positive results: more people working and fewer crumbling bridges.

  214. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92: No, I don’t think so, because path dependency exists. The sad thing of course is that if you tabulate the “private market” expenses that are subsumed under taxes in Denmark- health care and tuition and the need to maintain two cars, and so on, you will find that the average American is no less cash-strapped, and much less secure, than the average Dane. Path dependence is a thing, and you will not convince a Dane to become an American, nor an American to become a Dane, but if I (and I think you) had to make a Rawlsian choice about which model to pick, the Danish one would win out, easily.

  215. HarvardLaw92 says:

    We could stop buying unnecesessary military hardware.

    Ok, you’ve just put a large swath of rather highly paid production workers – the folks who make that hardware here in the US – out of work. Good job …

    We could stop giving tax breaks to multinational oil companies.

    We give them tax breaks on the cost of exploration & production. Get rid of them and you’ll see less domestic production, primarily because it costs a lot more to find oil here than it does, in say, the Middle East (the cheapest place to find and produce petroleum, by a long shot).

    Nevermind the fallacy you guys are in love with repeating that oil companies do not pay taxes. ExxonMobil, for example, in a recent year paid $27.3 billion in taxes on $41 billion in net income, for an effective tax rate of 41%. Chevron? $17.4 billion on net income of $26.9 billion, for an effective tax rate of 43.3%. ConocoPhillips? $10.6 billion on net income of $22.4 billion, for en effective tax rate of 45.6%. Seeing a trend here?

    We could levy a small transaction fee on stock sales.

    You’ll impose an outsized impact on those middle class folks trading all those stocks in their 401(k)s.

    We could eliminate the carried interest deduction so that investment bankers paid the same rate of income tax as waitresses

    No argument that it should be closed – today – but it’ll yield you about $11 billion to $13 billion in additional tax revenue. It’s not the bonanza that you think it’ll be.

    The rest of the federal budget? It’s in a deficit – a rather large one – so any additional money that you propose to spend on helping these people will have to be borrowed from China.

    This is the attitude that I spoke about earlier – the myriad of wonderful things that you can come up with to do with other people’s money, of which you seem convinced that there is an unlimited supply of which to spend.

    Ring ring – that would be reality calling, with your wake-up call.

  216. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Correct. Apparently, judging from some of the garment rending and vitriol that followed, that’s akin to saying “I despise poor people”.

    So, who will cover Medicaid patients’ health insurance? What will happen to the huge majority of people on Medicaid who are either disabled, mentally ill, or old? If you are saying: let’s get a jobs guarantee for all able bodied adults,and in exchange make them ineligible to Medicaid, and keep the program for people who can’t work, that’s one thing. To just cancel the program and throw the money at infrastracture projects that might not hire those people, and will provide no more than a couple of years of employment, is a totally different game.

  217. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You’ll impose an outsized impact on those middle class folks trading all those stocks in their 401(k)s.

    This would be a huge benefit to society, as index funds and buy and hold policy beats every other stock market strategy by a mile- any policy that nudges people who manage 401K in that direction will produce better markets, and higher retirement accounts. (Toobin, the guy who conceived of that tax, thought of it not a device to raise revenue, as much as a means to discourage bubbles and over-reliance of short-term speculation).

    Also of note: people who have 401Ks don’t actually trade their stocks- their managers do. Now, it is true that most managers would push the tax on consumers in form of higher fees. However, it will create a wonderful market opportuninty for managers willing to eat the tax, and compensate for it by a larger market share, and conducting fewer transactions. Again, a win-win for everyone, besides the beneficiaries of the current model of 401K: the managers.

  218. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92: But the only reason that those funds could be repaid is that in the first place, is that the government decided that despite the crazy stuff bankers did, society needed to provide them a second chance that the markets denied them. In other words no TARP=no banks=no profits= no repayment.

    In the same sense, you could make the argument that maybe even if some proportion of the people who are in student debt are silly Smith students, the vast scope of the problem, and the fact that it has crucial effects on the macro-economy (slow household formation) mean that some policy measures should be taken to tackle the problem of student debt? On the most basic level, if those debts could be shedded in bankruptcy, or pro-rated as share on income, or refinanced at a lower rate like Warren proposed, at least some of the people struggling with debt now will do things that benefit society they can’t do now, just like the banks did in 2009.

  219. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    So, who will cover Medicaid patients’ health insurance?

    The ones who are capable of working? They’ll cover their own health insurance, out of the nitfy wages they’ll be receiving.

    What will happen to the huge majority of people on Medicaid who are either disabled, mentally ill, or old?

    Medicare

    If you are saying: let’s get a jobs guarantee for all able bodied adults,and in exchange make them ineligible to Medicaid, and keep the program for people who can’t work, that’s one thing.

    I’m saying that those who can work probably want to work, we have a limited amount of funding (despite seeming belief to the contrary from some on here), and we might as well kill two birds with one stone. Medicaid is wildly inefficient in comparison to Medicare, with 50 little bureaucracies doling out varying degrees of service across wildly varying segments of their respective populations. Get rid of it, shift those people truly incapable of working to Medicare, and be done with the mess.

    To just cancel the program and throw the money at infrastracture projects that might not hire those people, and will provide no more than a couple of years of employment, is a totally different game.

    They’d be required to hire those people as a condition of getting the contract. As to a couple of years, we have some 66.500 bridges alone here in the US deemed to be structurally deficient. We won’t even get into the dams, and the airports, and the levees, and the drinking water systems, and so on. We’re looking at an ongoing and sustained campaign which could conceivably reach into the decades, and best of all, you never really stop. By the time that you’re done, you have to start over. It’s essentially perpetual.

  220. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Ok, you’ve just put a large swath of rather highly paid production workers – the folks who make that hardware here in the US – out of work. Good job …

    Using military procurement as a de facto jobs program is probably the least efficient use of tax money imaginable (short of giving more tax cuts to billionaires).

    Are you really in favor of spending billions of dollars on ineffective weapons that the military has repeatedly said they don’t want and don’t need just to create make-work jobs? Why not take that same money and hire those same people to repair our infrastructure?

  221. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    The managers wouldn’t be paying the tax – the funds, as the registered owners of the shares being traded, would, and you can bet that those added costs will be directly imposed on the value of the fund shares themselves. The managers collect a percentage of value managed, which wouldn’t change. They’d have no incentive to change it in a universe where most 401(k) holders only passively (at best) direct their own investment choices.

    That said, I’m not really opposed to it. I just don’t think it’ll produce the intended outcome. The Street is really, really talented at making adjustments on the fly to protect its own earnings horizon. Risk management, not so much, but earnings? Oh yea …

  222. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “The rest of the federal budget? It’s in a deficit – a rather large one – so any additional money that you propose to spend on helping these people will have to be borrowed from China”

    Or raise taxes.

    Odd how this is so unimaginable to you.

  223. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    I’m not so much in favor of it as I am pointing out that all of these simplistic solutions have unintended consequences. For example, defense materiel is one of the larger US export sectors. It brings positive trade dollars into the US. Cut US defense spending and you could see that balance shift to countries like Russia (for the simple reason that US defense contractors will be behind the tech curve due to reduced R&D money inherent in the reduced military spending).

    Then there’s the immediate impact of lots of rather highly paid defense workers, and the secondary / tertiary recipients of their wages, suddenly not being paid any longer.

    There is no free lunch.

  224. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr: On whom?

    The federal deficit in 2014, for example, was $483 billion, which is about $1 billion less than the entire held wealth of the 10 richest Americans. Even taking it to the entire Forbes 400, you’d obtain enough (assuming you confiscated every single dollar that they hold) to fund 5 years, then what happens?

    Now, while I’m not beating my own drum, as noted I already pay slightly more than 50% of gross (I checked last year’s numbers in the interregnum, and it came to a total of 50.55%). How much more do you propose that I should be expected to pay? 75%? 90%? Give me a rate that you believe I should be paying in taxation; a rate that you believe is fair.

    Do you propose that middle class America should also pay more, given its rather low overall tax burden? If not, then why not?

  225. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    society needed to provide them a second chance that the markets denied them. In other words no TARP=no banks=no profits= no repayment.

    It’s more a case of society had no choice but to intervene in order to avoid a collapse of the entire financial system – which is what would have happened. People generally don’t grasp that we came within several days of smashed ATMs and no bread in the store. That having been said, while they did screw up, on a monumental scale, the investment has proven to have been a good one for the taxpayers.

  226. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “I’m not so much in favor of it as I am pointing out that all of these simplistic solutions have unintended consequences”

    Well, yes.

    Amazing how you believe that only you are capable of understanding this.

    Every action we take or fail to take has unintended consequences.

    Leaving the system exactly as it is, which seems to be your solution to every problem (aside from taking health care and food aid from poor people) also carries unintended consequences.

    So yes, cutting unnecessary military procurement does carry some unintended consequences. Are they better or worse than those carried by continuing to spend billions on weapons systems no one wants? That’s a perfectly valid question.

    But pretending that making a change will have consequences and not making a change will not — and that only you are sophisticated enough to understand this — is just privilege defending a status quo from which it makes a lot of money.

  227. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Much of what I wrote is being viewed through the lens of the various biases of the readers.

    When the entire room is reading you a certain way, consider that it may be you rather than the room. When that includes people that somewhat regularly agree with you on other topics, you might want to take a long hard look at how you have been expressing yourself.

    As to your example, a friend of my much younger sister went to U of Chicago and majored in anthropology and one year out of school was pulling down at or near 6 figures. The firm that hired her is now paying for her grad school If you have a good background and a leg up from the start even choosing an unmarketable major doesn’t necessarily hold you back. I would guess that the young woman from your anecdote is doing fine now. She did have time to go and protest in your office after all.

    More importantly, for some reason you are focusing on the children of middle and upper class kids going to expensive schools and majoring in unmarketable fields as though it is a primary cause of poverty. It is actually a negligible part of poverty. If you can’t see that, then there isn’t much point in talking further. I’m going to assume that with your education you can suss this out. The majority of poverty in the US doesn’t begin with people that start in upper middle class and well to do families that squander the advantages given them with poor choices. The vast majority of poverty comes from lower middle class and below families whose kids struggle to go to or get through CC. They can’t afford not to work full time. It isn’t a choice to pile up student loans. If they get into a state school (in their state) there are a lot of ways for them to get tuition waived, if they know how the financial aid system works. Most don’t. When you grow up poor, poorly nourished, going to poor schools, etc, most of the choices for you to make are bad. Pretending that the poor array of choices they have to make is their fault isn’t honest. Laying the blame for that poor array of choices on them is immoral. Pretending a couple of years of CC before going to college will fix their problems requires blinders so large it would be near impossible to hold up your head.

    The problem is much older than the everyone gets a trophy phenomenon, so I would suggest to you that it isn’t a major causal factor. It is stupid and easy to criticize, but it is equally stupid to lay the problem of poverty at that doorstep. Harping on that as though it is makes you come off sanctimonious and condescending.

  228. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Now, while I’m not beating my own drum, as noted I already pay slightly more than 50% of gross (I checked last year’s numbers in the interregnum, and it came to a total of 50.55%). How much more do you propose that I should be expected to pay? 75%? 90%? Give me a rate that you believe I should be paying in taxation; a rate that you believe is fair.”

    I have no idea how much you make, or even how much you claim to make.

    I’m in favor of a strongly graduated tax rate, with a top rate of 90% on every dollar above ten million. But I’m open to compromise — I could see a top rate of 75% on every dollar over twenty million.

    And just to preempt your next comment and perhaps move you on to a more interesting response, yes, I am completely prepared for the super-rich to flee this country, as long as they are willing to give up their citizenship on their way out the door. It’s true that we might lose the occasional productive soul, but that’s more than made up for by getting rid of the financial parasites who have so completely corrupted our economy.

    And yes, I know this won’t happen, because I know who has the money to purchase congress.

  229. jukeboxgrad says:

    HarvardLaw92:

    Even taking it to the entire Forbes 400

    Your fallacy is transparent. Most rich people are not in the Forbes 400, and most of the wealth held by the rich is not held by the Forbes 400, so it’s stupid to limit the analysis to just the Forbes 400. “It took a minimum net worth of $1.55 billion to make The Forbes 400.” You’re implying that if your net worth is below $1.55B, then you’re not rich enough to be included in this analysis. That’s absurd.

    The aggregate household wealth of the top 1% is $22T. 90% of that is held by people who aren’t rich enough to make the Forbes 400. The net-worth threshold for the top 1% is $8.4 million.

    If you are richer than 99% of the country, then you are rich, by definition. $8.4 million is a reasonable threshold for “rich.” $1.55B is not.

    If we wanted to completely eliminate the deficit and the debt we could, just by raising taxes on the top 1%. 100% of the current deficit would be eliminated if the top 1% resumed paying the effective tax rate they used to pay in the period 1942-1981. Link.

    The Reagan tax cuts for the rich are what’s unsustainable, and that problem will eventually be addressed.

    I already pay slightly more than 50% of gross

    Total average federal rate, top 1%, 2010: 29.4%. Link. So something is wrong with this picture.

  230. jukeboxgrad says:

    wr:

    I’m in favor of a strongly graduated tax rate, with a top rate of 90% on every dollar above ten million.

    And we don’t have to go nearly this far in order to eliminate 100% of the deficit.

    getting rid of the financial parasites who have so completely corrupted our economy

    Exactly. If money means more to you than your American citizenship, then good riddance. This country will be a much better place when it contains fewer people who love money more than they love their country.

    And the rich who leave will take with them only the money that the law allows them to take.

  231. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I agree with a lot of of what you are saying, but note that in financial terms, Medicare is much, much more expensive than Medicaid, and pays for things Medicare won’t pay, like hospice care for disabled adults. You will be surprised how much of the money saved by abolishing Medicaid and rolling over the “hardcore” patient population to Medicare would spent on Medicare. One thing I totally with you about though: an aggressive campaign of infrastructure construction, coupled with strong wage protections, and I’d add, a hike in minimum wage, should slash spending on food stamps drastically.

  232. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I understand it really well, and totally agree on the need for TARP. My argument is that the situation with college debt at the moment has parralels with TARP: no matter how we got here, the pile of undischargeable student debt held by people in their 20s and 30s is a huge structural problem, that needs to be addressed. In that parallel, your Smith girl is like the banker: she might have done things that don’t make sense, but if she gets rescued by policies that are intended to solve a general problem, so be it.

  233. humanoid.panda says:

    @Grewgills:

    The problem is much older than the everyone gets a trophy phenomenon, so I would suggest to you that it isn’t a major causal factor. It is stupid and easy to criticize, but it is equally stupid to lay the problem of poverty at that doorstep. Harping on that as though it is makes you come off sanctimonious and condescending.

    This. To put it crudely, the “Every one gets trophy” phenomenon presumes that the school district in question has the money to produce trophies. In Philadelphia, where I live, school districts cannot afford toilet paper, let alone trophies, mostly because our previous governor made sure gas companies pay zero taxes on the Pennsylvania shale boom..

  234. Mikey says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    In that parallel, your Smith girl is like the banker: she might have done things that don’t make sense, but if she gets rescued by policies that are intended to solve a general problem, so be it.

    I agree, in a narrow sense, with HL92’s view on this–taking on six figures of debt for a degree in a field that offers literally no hope of every paying it off is a bad choice, and in most instances people should have to bear the consequences of their own bad choices.

    But what you’ve written here also makes sense to me. Plenty of students chose to pursue degrees for which there was demand when they started, but the financial crash happened so suddenly, and had such an impact, that they had absolutely no chance to pivot when the demand dried up. The whole mess was entirely out of their control. We may be in a situation where the “general problem” as you put it is bad enough that it warrants a general solution, and if that means some small number of people are insulated, or partially insulated, from consequences, we will just have to accept that as a corollary result to a necessary solution.

    An anecdote just came to mind: a few years back, my co-workers and I went out for a pizza lunch. I had my corporate ID hanging on my Virginia Tech lanyard (my daughter was getting a PhD there) and the guy behind the counter asked, “Are you a Hokie?” I said, “No, my daughter is.” He replied, “Yeah, I just graduated from there this spring.”

    I didn’t ask what his major was, because I was just flabbergasted. If a guy with a Bachelor’s from Tech couldn’t get a job in Virginia at anywhere but a pizza parlor…holy crap, what a mess things must be.

  235. jukeboxgrad says:

    HarvardLaw92:

    we came within several days of smashed ATMs and no bread in the store

    What if the money spent on TARP had been used to fill ATMs with cash and stores with bread?

  236. wr says:

    @jukeboxgrad: “What if the money spent on TARP had been used to fill ATMs with cash and stores with bread?”

    And what if that money had been used to buy and forgive mortgages?

  237. jukeboxgrad says:

    what if that money had been used to buy and forgive mortgages?

    Yes, exactly.

    I personally think that all the bailouts (TARP, GM) should not have happened, but I also believe the government should have been available to help the little people who were going to get crushed when Wall St and Detroit collapsed. We bailed out the wrong people.

    The fact of who we bailed out indicates who is running the show. We don’t have government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

  238. humanoid.panda says:

    I agree, in a narrow sense, with HL92’s view on this–taking on six figures of debt for a degree in a field that offers literally no hope of every paying it off is a bad choice, and in most instances people should have to bear the consequences of their own bad choices

    I also agree with him, in this narrow case, with the important exception that there is no way to know what kind of connections she made in undergrad, or what kind of professional/grad school she went to after she met HL. After all, it’s not like most people who go to, say, Harvard, law school, studied accounting or engineering, practical field, when they were undergrad.

  239. humanoid.panda says:

    @jukeboxgrad: That wouldn’t work. Banks, for better or worse, are the pipeline through which credit flows. You replace that pipeline with a wholly new system in a matter of days.

  240. humanoid.panda says:

    @jukeboxgrad: What you say makes sense as a medium term solution, but the problem policy makers in 2008 faced was a hyper-short range one: insolvent banks, on the verge of a chain reaction set to destroy them one after another, taking out the solven banks next, and then companies that rely on credit, and so on. Setting up a program to buy mortgages would not have ameliorated the crisis, because the moment of crisis was not measured in months, but in hours. Now, not setting up a mortgage repurchase system, or forcing major changes on banking operations after the initial crisis subsided was a huge error..

    As for @jukeboxgrad: what you are proposing would not have worked. Like them or hate them, banks are the pipeline through which credit flows. Replacing that pipeline with a new system in a couple of days is beyond impossible.

  241. humanoid.panda says:

    Administrators: my comments are getting trapped in spam filter. Please send help!

  242. jukeboxgrad says:

    my comments are getting trapped in spam filter.

    That will happen if you address a reply to me. Is that what you’re doing?

  243. humanoid.panda says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Yep! Have you done something to anger the gods?

  244. humanoid.panda says:

    J-B- yes! What did you do to anger the gods?

  245. jukeboxgrad says:

    It’s been going on for years, and it’s a complete mystery.

    Some programmer somewhere decided that if your name is jukeboxgrad, then all your statements are perfect and all replies are superfluous.

    I never use the reply feature.

  246. humanoid.panda says:

    Since my comment included sharp disagreement with your stance on TARP, I guess I got what I deserved from the programmer’s perspective.

  247. Yolo Contendere says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I figured I was way late to the party, but apparently not. You just can’t stop.

    You know, people might not get the idea you have a problem with the poors if you didn’t have an ironclad believe welfare causes dependency in poor people, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BELIEVING YOUR SON TURNED OUT GREAT DESPITE GETTING HIS WELFARE FROM DADDY WALLBUCKS! Tell me, what’s different about your son? His breeding? If anything, being handed a free high-end education, and a free sizable nest egg, is more likely to cause dependency on your precious dollars than a poor person being given some free food and medical care.

    I look forward to your son’s future run for president, so I can listen to his future spouse regale us with the hard times in grad school living in a tiny apartment and having to sell stock to pay bills.

  248. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Yolo Contendere:

    if you didn’t have an ironclad believe welfare causes dependency in poor people,

    By and large, welfare DOES cause varying degrees of dependency in poor people.

    You might want to read this.

    Hopefully Kristof and the New York Times have made your acceptable sources list.

  249. Dean says:

    @wr: Nice false equivalency

  250. Pharoah Narim says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I see these people as making rational decisions based on flawed policy that provide disincentives for responsible behavior. I’ll say it again, people that are perennially poor…DO NOT… formulate long range plans. The environment doesn’t reward it. You need money NOW, you need a place to stay, TODAY, you need food NOW. You need to be aware of personal security CONSTANTLY. Literacy doesn’t solve any on those problems in the timelines they need to be satisfied in.

    If bureaucrats didn’t write stupid rules that force people to act against their own long term interests…these programs would help more people become self sustaining. Welfare policies have discouraged family formation for generations. My Great Grandmother told me how her and my Grandfather had to carry on a sham divorce in order to get help during the Depression.

  251. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I see these people as making rational decisions based on flawed policy that provide disincentives for responsible behavior.

    I guess that’s where we differ – I see these people as gaming the system in order to twist a well-meaning, but ill regulated program in order to get as much as they can get from it. They’re con artists, and they are raising another generation of con artists, who will probably end up raising con artists of their own. More to the point, I UNDERSTAND why they are con artists.

    Sure, their lives are horrible. Point granted, and it’s laudable to want to improve them, but what are we getting in return for the $9 odd billion that we’re dropping on them? What are we really accomplishing in terms of alleviating the actual, causative factors of their poverty.

    In other words, what do we really have to show in exchange for our $9 billion, other than a fresh new crop of con artists?

  252. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “I guess that’s where we differ – I see these people as gaming the system in order to twist a well-meaning, but ill regulated program in order to get as much as they can get from it. They’re con artists, and they are raising another generation of con artists, who will probably end up raising con artists of their own. More to the point, I UNDERSTAND why they are con artists.”

    Excuse me, but didn’t you just brag on that other thread that this is exactly what you do for a living? The difference is you get paid lots of money for it, so you can feel superior to the poors.

  253. Yolo Contendere says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yeah, the NYT is acceptable. A so-so article that I won’t critique here, but you might want to re-read it. This time for comprehension. WELFARE, in and of itself, is not what’s causing dependency. You will note the article is advocating EVEN MORE welfare.

    I see these people as gaming the system in order to twist a well-meaning, but ill regulated program in order to get as much as they can get from it. They’re con artists, and they are raising another generation of con artists, who will probably end up raising con artists of their own.

    No, no hating on the poors here. And no one on WALL STREET would ever twist and game the system to extract as much as they can get from it. They’re too well-bred for that. You yourself admit to paying far more taxes than you are required to, and give freely to charity far more than you’re allowed to admit, in following the social mores of your people.

    In other words, what do we really have to show in exchange for our $9 billion, other than a fresh new crop of con artists?

    I would say we have fewer dead bodies in the streets to show for it. Fewer dead from starvation, malnutrition, easily-treatable diseases, etc.. And frankly, less misery in the world. That may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to some of us.

    Oh, and less crime. You might care about that, Javert. Or do you identify more with Scrooge? Do you find your pocket picked every April the 15th?

  254. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    The difference is you get paid lots of money for it, so you can feel superior to the poors.

    You keep harping on this “feel superior to the poor” thing. The truth is much closer to “really doesn’t notice that they exist.” You’re so desperately trying to suggest active dislike that you are missing overwhelming disinterest. I don’t hate them – to do that I’d have to actively consider them in the first place. Given your Mother Teresa complex, wouldn’t the latter actually be worse in your eyes?

    Oh, the difference that you forgot? Up to 5 years in Marion.

  255. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Yolo Contendere:

    And frankly, less misery in the world. That may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to some of us.

    Then feel free to write a check. Best of luck …

  256. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I can’t decide if you are a cunning troll who is getting tired of not having been found out, or the single most insecure person I’ve ever come across.

    From your constantly changing opinions — two days ago you were shovelling charity to poor people; today they can die under your feet and you won’t notice — I’m thinking troll.

    Also, the alternative is kind of painful to consider. I try to imagine having the life you claim, and feeling so insecure I’d have to post hundreds of messages bragging about my income and my generally superiority to everyone else.

    Maybe it’s because you know that the number you claim will basically get you within a thousand feet of the truly rich people you seem to worship, and hope that everyone here will be impressed with your mighty numbers.

    But I’m going to go with troll. The alternative is too pathetic.

    Y’all have fun here.

  257. Moosebreath says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    “Oh, the difference that you forgot? Up to 5 years in Marion.”

    Yes, it’s amazing how the same rich people who get Congress to pass laws they want in all other areas are able to structure the criminal code to keep their hired help out of jail.

  258. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    Truthfully? TRUTHFULLY?

    This has been an extended sort of game I’ve played over the past few days to test / demonstrate how this place has increasingly become an echo chamber. We’ve got a chorus of True Believers on the left and a peanut gallery opposition on the right, with precious little in the way of moderation to be seen anywhere.

    If I’ve tweaked people, and I indeed have, it was to draw them out from behind the veneer of feigned civility to demonstrate how tribal and one-sided the place is, and perhaps teach a lesson about why nothing much gets accomplished any longer. It’s not much of a reach to discern why, given the commentary I’ve managed to extract with a relatively small push. When you approach one another, or indeed anyone who challenges your dogma, with contempt, what could you really hope to accomplish.

    I’m about as left as any of you, probably more so than a lot. Heck, I’m a Jew, steeped in tikkun olam, who voluntarily pays more in taxes than he has to and generally keeps quiet about it.

    So, with that having been said, the game is over. Back to normalcy, but use the experience to contemplate how you reacted to it, and in doing so ask yourself if you are a part of the solution – or a part of the problem.

    Peace

  259. HarvardLaw92 says:

    And before any of you starts blasting away in reply – are you angry because you feel like you got played, or are you angry because the assertion hits closer to home that you’d like to admit?

    Self-reflection is a virtue. So is self-awareness.

    Have a nice evening.

  260. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Then feel free to write a check. Best of luck …”

    Collective action fallacy. What do they teach you in HLS? What did you learn in the past 24 years of legal practice?

  261. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    “Truthfully? TRUTHFULLY?

    This has been an extended sort of game I’ve played over the past few days to test / demonstrate how this place has increasingly become an echo chamber.”

    Nah, if you were, you’d have used good arguments.