Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Will Stand Up to the Super Rich?

[photo above left for the slow, lazy, or just plain dumb, as my daughter used to say.]

America has been busy “building a bridge to the 19th century” — that is, to a new Gilded Age. – Frank Rich

Well, I may just have to start lookin to git my shoe out again. Shall we just take a l'il moment to read Frank Rich's latest effort in the NY Times: Who Will Stand up to the Super Rich?

Apparently I'm not the only one with whom his words resonated if you check the comments section. People there are surely pissed about OBlimey's incipient cave to the Repubs on the extension of the Bush tax cuts (which should never have made it past the gavel in the first place, had the Dems not been the mute, dumb wusses that they are). So someone tell me why this guy ran for president in the first place if he didn't have a functional acquaintance with the power of the veto, his single greatest bludgeoning tool for congressional hubris?

I am disgusted. And so is any other thinking human being. IF YOU VOTE in American elections, you must read Mr. Rich's piece, and then decide what, responsible citizen that you are, you aim to do about it...

Here are some chewy tidbits from Frank's piece.

* Obama was already wobbling toward another “compromise” in which he does most of the compromising. It’s a measure of how far he’s off his game now that a leader who once had the audacity to speak at length on the red-hot subject of race doesn’t even make the most forceful case for his own long-held position on an issue where most Americans still agree with him. (Only 40 percent of those in the Nov. 2 exit poll approved of an extension of all Bush tax cuts.)

*Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.

*...ample empirical evidence ... proves that America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.

*The book deflates much of the conventional wisdom. Hacker and Pierson date the dawn of the collusion between the political system and the superrich not to the Reagan revolution, but to the preceding Carter presidency and its Democratic Congress. They also write that contrary to the popular perception, America’s superhigh earners are not mostly “superstars and celebrities in the arts, entertainment and sports” or the stars of law, medicine and real estate. They are instead corporate executives and managers — increasingly (and less surprisingly) financial company executives and managers, including those who escaped with outrageous fortunes as their companies imploded during the housing bubble.

*... only 2 percentof all Americans reporting small-business income, regardless of tax bracket, would see tax increases if Obama fulfilled his pledge to let the Bush tax cuts lapse for the top earners. The economist Dean Baker calculated that the yearly tax increase at the lower end of that bracket, for those with earnings between $200,000 and $500,000, would amount to $700 — which “isn’t enough to hire anyone.”

*.. the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ranks the extension of any Bush tax cuts, let alone those to the wealthiest Americans, as the least effective of 11 possible policy options for increasing employment.

*Nor are the superrich helping to further the traditional American business culture that inspires and encourages those with big ideas and drive to believe they can climb to the top. Robert Frank, the writer who chronicled the superrich in the book “Richistan,” recently analyzed the new Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans for The Wall Street Journal and found a “hardening of the plutocracy” and scant mobility.

And then there's this, from commenter number 56 who nails it rather neatly:

"The consequences of "winner take all politics" and our nation's incredibly skewed income distribution are all the more impressive and scary after one reads "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger" by two eminent English medical epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. They demonstrate that all forms of social morbidity from mental illness to homicides to teenage births to infant mortality to obesity to life expectancy to imprisonment rates to alcoholism to educational performance and so forth are strongly correlated in wealthy countries (and among US states) to the level of income inequality and not at all to average per capita income or wealth.In most cases our country is the leader (and often an outlier)in measures of income inequality as well as social problems. It seems real health reform will require our taking our government back from the the plutocracy and creating a national commonwealth."

Like I am totally buying that book and reading it today. hmmm..

My frinz (channelling LBJ here), it is time we get the money out of politics. And the only way to do that, given the posh aspirations and naval gazing, pubie on a coke can obsessions of the current majority Supremes (how DO the others put up with them?), is to hold 3 month long election cycles on the public dime, like every other intelligent nation does. Yes, the public dime, and force the media (who are using OUR airwaves remember, they belong to us, we RENT them out, they are part of the "commonwealth") to do the whole shebang for nothin, a series of national and state debates wherein the only requirement for participation is to manage to get a certain percentage of the vote in that district. And give the debate decisions BACK to the League of Women Voters. Ralph had it right all along. It's time we took his advice as a nation and put an end to all this crazy $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ nonsense. It's polluted the environment. The romans would be mortified.

Now where did I put that shoe......??

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