Get ready to sacrifice, proles

There’s nothing Villagers enjoy more than telling people in flyover country that they need to sacrifice. I’m not sure why people who live in Georgetown and eat at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse should be telling people in Macomb County that they need to take fewer trips to the Applebee’s salad bar, but I’m sure if I read Big Russ or the The Greatest Generation, it would all become clear to me.

Look for the “sacrifice” meme to become even stronger now that we’re in a recession (after all, everyone knows that if consumers would just stop buying stuff, the economy would be fine). Digby catches Andrea Mitchell telling people that they need to give up health care and Social Security:

And certainly, if he is serious about what he told the Washington Post last week, that he wants to take on entitlement reform, there will be greater sacrifice required from a nation already suffering from economic crisis — to ask people to take a look at their health care and their other entitlements and realize that for the long term health and vitality of the country we’re going to have to give up something that we already enjoy.

David Brooks has a more pompous, capital-letter-laden take on all of this: we need to get over the Great Disruption that began in the 1960s, strike a new Grand Bargain, and start living the kind of Purpose Driven Lives everyone led before the hippies fucked everything up. Needless, to say the Grand Bargain will “require joint sacrifice — like reducing deficits, fixing Medicare and Social Security and reforming health care.”

Let’s go back to 1960 and see what might have been different then. Here’s a little chart I’ve culled from various sources. A lot of the data begins a little later than 1960 and ends earlier than 2008 but it should be a pretty good approximation:

Increase in median salary, 1970-1999: 10%
Increase in salary of top tenth of one percent, 1970-1999: 395%
(link, all figures in constant 1998 dollars)

Top marginal tax rate, 1960: 91%
Top marginal tax rate today: 35%
(link)

“The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.”
(link — David Cay Johnston)

Graph of annual income (link):

(Note: the scale is slightly off on this graph — the vertical axis should start at 0, not at 100K (h/t Kirk).)

Damn those hippies and damn the middle class for refusing to sacrifice enough.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit






38 replies
  1. 1
    4tehlulz says:

    I would be willing to sacrifice the New York Times to help our nation get through this crisis.

  2. 2
    John S. says:

    Why should the super-rich have to give up their vacation homes or yachts? All that wealth will eventually trickle down to the other 99% of Americans…we just need to give it a few more decades to happen. I promise.

  3. 3
    Kirk Spencer says:

    You’re chart is in error. From your source, the "everyone else" line should run from about $32,000 to about $35,000. We all WISH it was over $100,000 as you show.

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    @Kirk

    Thanks. If I can get into the source code for it, I’ll fix it.

  5. 5
    Ruth says:

    Business interests just love to claim that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate of any country, always fail to mention that it has the smallest proportion of corporate contribution to total payments, since there are infinite numbers of loopholes — such as offshore corporate hqs.

  6. 6
    sparky says:

    today’s theme will be responsibility, sez the nyt.
    not a good sign, if true since responsibility is for thee, not mee [sic].

    oh well…

    alsome post, though. always good to watch the new steamroller of the overclass run us over.

  7. 7
    amorphous says:

    But we do need to sacrifice when it comes to energy usage. We need to use smaller, more efficient cars. We need to turn the temperature down a little in the winter and up a little in the summer. We need to be willing to take public transportation if it is built. We need to accept a carbon tax levied at the point of extraction. I see nothing wrong with any of those sacrifices. Those are justifiable requests of our citizens.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    But we do need to sacrifice when it comes to energy usage. We need to use smaller, more efficient cars. We need to turn the temperature down a little in the winter and up a little in the summer. We need to be willing to take public transportation if it is built. We need to accept a carbon tax levied at the point of extraction. I see nothing wrong with any of those sacrifices.

    Aside from the stuff about temperature, which of those things is a real sacrifice? (Replacing other forms of revenue with a carbon tax is not a sacrifice, for example.)

  9. 9
    Visceral says:

    As if cutting all those nasty entitlements and government spending won’t make things worse by eliminating all the economic activity they help pay for, as well as forcing people to cut back and save even more than they already are.

    It’s true what they say, that people care more about their position in an institution than the health of that institution; the ruling class would rather be medieval aristocrats playing with a Fourth World shithole, than live in the greatest country on Earth where they’re no-one special.

  10. 10
    Keith says:

    Sounds a lot like the Great Bargain is "adopt the GOP platform even though the GOP lost mightily".

  11. 11
    gypsy howell says:

    They want to make sure we can’t afford the pitchforks. Let alone the torches.

  12. 12
    magisterludi says:

    Andrea Greenspan needs to STFU.

  13. 13
    DougJ says:

    Andrea Greenspan needs to STFU.

    Amen. And damn you and your glass bead game!

  14. 14
    John Cole says:

    I like the NY Times, and while some of the op-ed pieces are horrid, I don’t know what I would do without it. And while I trashed it as a wingnut, I always read it, and have read it almost every day since 1988.

    The NY Times is the crown jewel of our newspapers and it pisses me off to hear liberals shit on it like right-wingers. If this country loses the NY Times, we are just fucked.

  15. 15
    Rick Taylor says:

    Republicans are shameless. Spend huge amounts of money on wars and tax cuts, balloon the deficit, then sit back when the Democrats win and righteously pontificate about the need for sacrifice and fiscal responsibility, especially as regards frivolous matters like health care and peoples’ retirement. They did it to Clinton, and now they’re pulling it on Obama. Leave behind huge budget deficits, call on the Democrat to raise payroll taxes and reduce the deficit, once that’s done, say hey, now we have money to rescind the estate tax, reduce capital gains taxes, and to start a war with a country that isn’t even threatening us! Lather, rinse, repeat. After being screwed over twice, I have absolutely no interest in playing the patsy Democrat listening to their calls to be fiscally responsible.

  16. 16
    amorphous says:

    @DougJ: Your comment is contingent on Americans understanding more than just the superficial level of a policy. Considering 60 million people (just a guess, don’t hold me to this) voted for McCain/Palin, I’m going to call that a stretch. Even if it is revenue neutral, people see the word "TAX" and freak, Republicans go on sanctimonious patrol, and public opinion is probably going to be skewed towards the "absolutely not" side. See: "Drill here, drill now!" and "Drill, baby, drill!" retardation.

    As for car size and public transportation, I am pretty sure most people would view both of these as major sacrifices. The perception of a birthright to your own, huge car (any perceived birthright) is a difficult one to overcome.

  17. 17
    dbrown says:

    What of cutting a vast defense buget that is bigger than all the top eight economic/military powers combined? We have fourteen active carrier battle groups, more subs and fighters, tanks and so forth to fight two world wide wars at the same time. Yet we are only fighting a tiny band of poorly armed terrorist hidding in caves and we need to spend more to fight these tiny fish? Insane.

  18. 18
    DougJ says:

    @JC

    Personally, I think the opinion page should be much better, but other than that and some other quibbles, it’s a treasure. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

    It’s really a shame they ever gave Howell Raines the run of the place. But the paper should not judged according to those years.

  19. 19
    The Moar You Know says:

    Shorter Andrea Mitchell: Work and die for my amusement, poor man.

  20. 20
    Rick Taylor says:

    But we do need to sacrifice when it comes to energy usage. We need to use smaller, more efficient cars. We need to turn the temperature down a little in the winter and up a little in the summer. We need to be willing to take public transportation if it is built. We need to accept a carbon tax levied at the point of extraction. I see nothing wrong with any of those sacrifices.

    Yes we do. But with conservatives it seems to come down to sacrificing things like social security and health care. Alan Greenspan persuaded Clinton to raise the payroll tax (a regressive tax) and to put liberal programs on the back burner in favor of balancing the budget. Clinton did that, and Bush used the spoils to give massive tax cuts to the rich and to start an unprovoked war in Iraq. Fool me once, shame on you. . .

  21. 21
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    As Atrios would say, the Villagers haaaaaaaaate Social Security. I don’t know why.

  22. 22
    Dan Parker says:

    As ‘n furriner you Americans really deserves to be serfs to the top 0.0001 % . I Remember when the shit really hit the fan in the Nordic countries in the early 90’s of course directly caused by deregulation in the ’80s which rapidly inflated a bubble, there wasn’t any talk of cutting back the Welfare State, and they have ones with capital letters… Yes there was sacrifice the government literally subtracted money directly from paychecks with special taxes to pay for the bailouts and the massive stimulus’s that was required. People "sacrificed" that new car or hi-fi they was planning to buy, nobody was denied health care and no granny on a state pension had to eat cat food… unbelievable.

  23. 23
    Shinobi says:

    Re: Huge Cars

    As a big person I resent the assumption that I should somehow manage to cram myself into a tiny car. My 6′ self, my 6’4" boyfriend and our 90lb dog just do not fit in a corolla. We could take 2 cars, but isn’t that just as wasteful?

    I’m just saying, some people drive trucks and SUVs for good reason. Some people haul things, some people need lots of legroom, some people prefer the safety of a larger vehicle.

    I’d be more than happy to drive a more fuel efficient vehicle. But I’d need a year of yoga to get my ass into a "SmartCar", and then we’d still probably have to take out all of the seats.

    So can we focus on fuel efficiency over size of car? If they make a fuel efficient SUV for a reasonable price I will buy the hell out of it. (My 4wd Explorer is still more fuel efficient than the hybrid Escalade. WTF Cadillac?)

  24. 24
    Paul L. says:

    The NY Times is the crown jewel of our newspapers and it pisses me off to hear liberals shit on it like right-wingers. If this country loses the NY Times, we are just fucked.

    And the NY Times never deserves being crapped on.
    Duff Wilson is a National Treasure.

    There’s nothing Villagers enjoy more than telling people in flyover country that they need to sacrifice.

    Does that mean less trips to Brazil for Glenn Greenwald and Ezra Klein?

  25. 25

    I share your concern Doug and encourage you to look at this and make comparisons. And then reflect upon the fact that Clinton’s inauguration contributions were capped at $100. Obama’s contributions were capped at $50,000. I think we may be econobuddies.

  26. 26
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    My 6’ self, my 6’4" boyfriend and our 90lb dog just do not fit in a corolla.

    I’m 6’4" too and I could fit comfortably into the 1984 Honda Accord I used to have. Just sayin’.

    Whoops, gotta hit the mute button, Rick Warren is on.

  27. 27
    Comrade Dread says:

    I never thought I would turn into a liberal, but thanks largely to George Bush and his shittastic presidency, here I am.

    You want sacrifice? Go to the people who still have some goddamned money and ask them to sacrifice first. Then you can come to the rest of us.

    Until then, sod off, you fucking wankers.

  28. 28
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    You want sacrifice? Go to the people who still have some goddamned money and ask them to sacrifice first.

    Indeed. I’d be glad to sacrifice something if I had anything to sacrifice. Reminds me of the Christ Tucker joke "I’m so broke, that if someone robse me now he’s just practicin’".

  29. 29
    Church Lady says:

    DougJ-

    While not arguing that the rich haven’t gotten richer – they have – as you talk about marginal rates in 1960, look at the income required to hit that top marginal rate. In 1960, the 91% rate was assessed against taxable income in excess of $400K. In 2007 dollars, that $400K is $2,771,570.48, according to the inflation calculator. In 2007, the top marginal rate of 35% kicked in at taxable income over $349,700, which was approximately $50,500 in 1960 dollars. While a very healthy income in 1960, that figure would not have put one anywhere near the top marginal rate.

    What is kind of interesting is that someone having $400K in taxable income would probably have only a bit more left, after taxes, then someone earning $50K. How strange is that?

  30. 30
    Caladan says:

    Andria Mitchel needs to stop listening to her rich ass husband Alan Greenspan. Greenspan ‘s policies led to the tech bubble/bush and to the Housing bubble/bust.

  31. 31
    TenguPhule says:

    I am willing to sacrifice Mitchell and Brook’s hearts on a stone alter.

    Hey, it worked for the Aztecs for a couple thousand years.

  32. 32
    fledermaus says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    I never thought I would turn into a liberal, but thanks largely to George Bush and his shittastic presidency, here I am.

    Heh. I started out as a moderate democrat but their feckless performance, cowering before a law breaking, morally suspect, war criminal president, has turned me into a Chomsky-quoting anarchist. I expected Bush to be this evil (if not quite this incompetent), but the dems were either a bunch of dupes or dishonest hacks who knew exactly what they were doing.

  33. 33
    Nicole says:

    My dad retired on the recommendation of his financial guy (earlier than he’d planned, but he worked for the state and had he waited to retire his health benefits would have changed and been for crap). He’s been middle-class his entire life (see: working for the state) and very thrifty. His financial adviser told him where to put his retirement funds so he could have some income from dividends and of course he got hammered in the stock crash in September. Thank goodness Social Security started for him this year or he and my stepmom would have been in pretty dire straits. It’s not good now, but it’s their… wait for it.. safety net. Like it was meant to be.

    I can’t begin to articulate how angry I get when conservatives start up with cutting Social Security. Yes, it’s a big chunk of my paycheck. But it’s a lot less than me having to support my dad and stepmom because they did everything they were told to and still got pummeled by the economy.

    (I like mass transit because I like to read on my way to work and that is generally frowned on while one is driving, I hear.)

  34. 34
    ricky says:

    I look for NBC to give up Mitchell, Matthews, and Luke Russert.

  35. 35

    […] DougJ at Balloon Juice punctures Andrea Mitchell and other gilded Beltway types who are dutifully informing us that “sacrifice” means some people are going to have to keep going on without healthcare while the wealthy continue to see how high one can stack cash. […]

  36. 36
    blogreeder says:

    DougJ, you realize that the top earners in 1960 aren’t the same people in 1999?

  37. 37
  38. 38

    […] rage that must be stigmatized and suppressed.  Instead, what is needed — as Digby and DougJ noted weeks ago would be the prevailing message from our media class — is a further reduction […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] rage that must be stigmatized and suppressed.  Instead, what is needed — as Digby and DougJ noted weeks ago would be the prevailing message from our media class — is a further reduction […]

  2. […] DougJ at Balloon Juice punctures Andrea Mitchell and other gilded Beltway types who are dutifully informing us that “sacrifice” means some people are going to have to keep going on without healthcare while the wealthy continue to see how high one can stack cash. […]

Comments are closed.