It Was Nice While It Lasted

The Financial Times performs a post-mortem on the American middle class:

The slow economic strangulation of the Freemans and millions of other middle-class Americans started long before the Great Recession, which merely exacerbated the “personal recession” that ordinary Americans had been suffering for years. Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the ­multiple is above 300.

The trend has only been getting stronger. Most economists see the Great Stagnation as a structural problem – meaning it is immune to the business cycle. In the last expansion, which started in January 2002 and ended in December 2007, the median US household income dropped by $2,000 – the first ever instance where most Americans were worse off at the end of a cycle than at the start. Worse is that the long era of stagnating incomes has been accompanied by something profoundly un-American: declining income mobility.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

I don’t see anything changing any time soon. And you really need to click the link and read the whole piece.

(via memeorandum)






113 replies
  1. 1
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    I’ve got nothing to say, except for, “America! Fuck yeah!” Why would we want to be like some commie soshulist hell hole European country? We’re the shining city on the hill, except the walls are crumbling and the shine is from The Others being burnt at the stake.

  2. 2
    Napoleon says:

    In the last couple of weeks I really have lost all hope that this country is not headed straight to hell in a hand basket and I do not see any way of avoiding it short of dramatic social upheaval, maybe even a revolution. Our elites are complete failures at governing and don’t give a fuck about 99% of the country.

  3. 3
    wilfred says:

    Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy

    It might be worth revisiting Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech. I’ve always felt that that was the beginning of the perception that the political economy was cracking. He didn’t say it in so many words but people were already feeling it.

    The hope that Reagan brought was that capitalism still could work. Then we all got credit cards.

    The bills came due.

  4. 4
    harlana peppper says:

    I tried to read the whole article, but had to stop. I just don’t want to start crying today.

  5. 5
    PurpleGirl says:

    I have a bachelor’s degree and tried for one advanced degree and one or two certificates, and I’ve tried several times to be self-employed. (Sometimes you can’t find a way to make things work. Plans go pear-shaped.)

    I will not make more in salary and benefits than my union-member father did. This is my second round of long-term unemployment. I’m not living an American Dream.

  6. 6
    beltane says:

    It looks as though the United States is well on its way towards becoming just like all the other countries of the Western Hemisphere (with the exception of Canada). Now, I am no longer surprised that my two oldest sons talk about moving to Europe as soon as they get the chance. They’re just not feeling that US as the “land of opportunity” thing any more.

  7. 7
    demo woman says:

    Fair Tax, Death Tax, hell yeah.
    What amazes me how many middle class folks believe this crap?

  8. 8
    Emma says:

    I’ll read it tomorrow. It’s Sunday and I didn’t need to go to work. I’m too damn happy and relaxed at the moment to sour it with reality.

  9. 9
    PurpleGirl says:

    @harlana peppper: I know what you mean. I may read it later this evening. It’s too early in the day for me to become depressed. (A friend is taking me to lunch and to see Despicable Me today.)

  10. 10
    Alwhite says:

    But that super smart Ben Stain was on Sunday Morning just a few minutes ago & he explains everything. I’m sure that this stagnation is all the failings of the workers, since God has blessed the wealthy the stagnation verifies that it is the moral failings of the weak and worthless that caused it.

  11. 11
    Catsmeat says:

    But, Chelsea got married!
    We still have our princesses and their royal weddings to keep our little minds off those mundane statistics. And those CEOs getting paid 300 time the median? Well, royalty has always been better off than the surfs.

  12. 12

    Oh, this is just silly pooh poohing because if Obama would just borrow a trillion or so from the Chinese, middle class jobs would sprout like mushrooms from cow pies, and the job ponies would fill middle class pastures,

    Paul Krugman tells us so. Don’t give me no nambly pamby critical thinking on the big picture.

  13. 13
    Maude says:

    This is typical doom. To turn around the Reagan Revolution takes time. It was entrenched in large companies and one of my favorites, Wall Street. The financial regulation bill is a large step in reversing the power the financial sector had.
    We aren’t Britian. We aren’t subjects of a queen. It is different here than the Financial Times understands. We know the economy sucks and that the big boys have been robbing us blind. We know there’s high unemployment.
    The attitude of Obama has failed me today is an excuse not to do anything, but keep whining.
    The HCR will help free people from jobs they hate and be able to innovate. it doen’t happen in the blink of an eye.
    If McCain had won, we wouldn’t be complaining about what we are now. For that, I’m grateful.

  14. 14
    mcd410x says:

    Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama.

    I think it’s too late: I think we already lost this one.

    ETA: Corporate personhood was the last nail. When corporations can run their own candidates (well, moreso) and fund them entirely … good luck.

  15. 15
    harlana peppper says:

    @PurpleGirl: Yup, I am also college-educated and unemployed (1 1/2 years) and trying to retrain since no one wants to hire me in my chosen field for which I have over 18 years of experience.

    If I am REALLY, REALLY lucky, after all this is over, I will be able to get a job paying half what I used to make (with benefits), but will have medical benefits which I desperately need. A $1,500 deductible with a $20 copay while making half what I used to earn, is now officially my new American Dream.

  16. 16

    The trend has only been getting stronger. Most economists see the Great Stagnation as a structural problem – meaning it is immune to the business cycle.

    I said about the same thing a few threads ago and got labeled a republican by the progressive tribal police.

    @Maude:

    The attitude of Obama has failed me today is an excuse not to do anything, but keep whining.

    What it is, is a political ad suitable for gooper use to get back power and finish fucking the country up. Did people really think Obama would fix this 30 year clusterfuck in 2, 4 or even 8 years. It is a long term project not unlike the period it took to create it, and if the wingers get back at it, with help from the diasppointed left, it will never get fixed.

  17. 17
    demo woman says:

    The article is depressing and it paints a picture of hopelessness. A former poster Mom from GA painted a picture similar to the families portrayed in the article. Hopefully she and her family are doing okay.
    Steve Colbert was right, it’s not the trickle down theory, it’s the piss on you theory.

  18. 18
    eemom says:

    @Napoleon:

    this. And we do need a revolution, I’m convinced.

    “There is a way, when the rich are too rich.” From The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck’s classic novel of pre-revolutionary China.

    But considering how infinitely the 99% in this country excel at being duped and lied to, I can’t imagine what it would take to start one. Maybe a Category 6 hurricane in the Gulf that would spew that oil clean to Tennessee?

  19. 19
    eemom says:

    @General Stuck:

    the progressive tribal police

    Tee hee. I am so stealing that.

  20. 20
    Jody says:

    Clearly this is the fault of illegal immigrants.

  21. 21
    Sapient says:

    @General Stuck: “It is a long term project not unlike the period it took to create it, and if the wingers get back at it, with help from the diasppointed left, it will never get fixed.”

    Thank you. The left’s problem is this: They’re always “disappointed” in their elected officials not doing “enough”. Since they can’t maintain enthusiasm for more than one or two election cycles, Democrats lose power, and it’s one step forward, two steps back. This is why cheering and clapping (yes, Atrios, clapping) for Obama is absolutely necessary.

  22. 22
    mcd410x says:

    Of course, there’s always a shill, like Stuck in this case, around to turn microfractures into chasms while the 1 percent rob us fucking blind: and that, ladies and gentlemen, is American politics in a nutshell. And it works (for the rich)!

  23. 23
    PTirebiter says:

    @Maude: Bless you.
    I was blending myself a Drano Smoothie and waiting for a Tom Waits playlist to load when I glanced up and read your comment. You’re right, it’s been 30 years of steady voodoo rhythms and the new tune isn’t all that easy to dance to at the moment.

  24. 24
    demo woman says:

    @Jody: What is not realized is that the illegals are consumers. Without their spending at this time our economy would tank. In GA their are many lawns taken care of with cheap labor. If that cheap labor disappeared, they would not be replaced with more expensive labor. It just would not happen.

  25. 25
    Anoniminous says:

    This is manifestly unpossible due to the well known Trickle-Down Effect and the Lauffer Curve — the two main underpinnings of the RayGun’s Revolution. As predicted by these, over the last 30 years the economy has gotten stronger, the middle and below classes have gotten ever richer and the government has become deficit free from all the taxes flowing into the coffers.

    The final impetus to creating a vibrant economy was the dismantling of financial regulation – Glass-Steagall being the poster child. Undoing of these restrictions enabled the banking and financial sectors of the economy to innovate new products and services establishing the basis for the upward jump in economic activity we’ve noticed over the past 10 years.

    All of this was made possible by the basic premise of Neo-Classical Economics, the ruling economic theory, that everyone, at all times, has complete and perfect knowledge of the state of the economy at all times and they act on that knowledge rationally fully understanding the causes and consequences of their actions.

    Thus, the housing bubble did not happen, banks did not lend vast sums of money to people who had no hope of paying it back, people did not use their residences as a credit card, TARP was unnecessary, it’s easy to find a job if you’d get out there and look, and the middle class are a bunch of WATB.

  26. 26
    harlana peppper says:

    I reserve my God-given right to whine

  27. 27

    @mcd410x:

    Of course, there’s always a shill, like Stuck in this case, around to turn microfractures into chasms

    WTF does this even mean? Shill for what? to keep dems in power long enough to change the deep clusterfucks in this country. If you are going to disagree please make sense.

    @Sapient:

    Since they can’t maintain enthusiasm for more than one or two election cycles, Democrats lose power, and it’s one step forward, two steps back. This is why cheering and clapping (yes, Atrios, clapping) for Obama is absolutely necessary.

    Absolutely correct. Dem support for a dem POTUS matters, more than just shilling. It is directly proportion to his perceived power by his opponents in congress, as well as his waffling supporters there, who are the only ones who create new laws. Knee jerk whining works cross current to this fact.

  28. 28
    roshan says:

    So where do we go from here? How do we put the unemployed to work and make the American Dream more real again? Is there a way or we are just going to be stuck in reverse?
    Paul Krugman makes a lot of sense over at the Times, why isn’t anyone listening to him? Does ideology trump reality? You can’t fill empty stomachs with that.

  29. 29
    Woodrowfan says:

    @demo woman:

    This could be good. Then we have a bunch of overweight racist reactionaries trying to mow their own laws. The heart attack rate skyrockets. The repuks lose a huge part of their base. The left finally starts winning elections. this could work….

  30. 30
    Brachiator says:

    @mcd410x:

    Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. I think it’s too late: I think we already lost this one.

    Bull crap. As Maude pointed out, one of the benefits offered by health care reform is that it might help people who leave jobs they don’t like, freed from the worry that they will lose their health care coverage. This makes labor more mobile, giving people a significant advantage compared with the past.

    And strangely enough, the desire of younger people to move to Europe or Canada makes sense as well. This is not the best of all worlds, but when China surpasses Japan in terms of economic productivity, you have the beginnings of a huge seismic shift in the global economy (here, one ironically underwritten by Americans who with typical shortsightedness spend billions on cheap Chinese made goods even though the inevitable result is the loss of jobs in America).

    It was inevitable that the rest of the world would catch up. And now, Americans will have to look deep inside themselves and see if they really want to be competitive, or otherwise hunker down into becoming a permanent underclass of WATB.

    The corporate elites are very comfortable with the idea of America as an oligarchy. And the plain, cold hard fact is that there are many countries, from Mexico to Venezuela to Russia to Saudi Arabia that get along fine with a wealthy elite, a thin veneer of a middle class, and the bulk of the population crushed underfoot.

    The US benefitted from a mix of great productivity, a strong union movement and corporate leaders who, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes kicking and screaming, were led to some sense of social responsibility and understood that paying good wages to workers was to everyone’s benefit.

    But when you have effectively outsourced jobs and economic productivity, now you got a problem.

    This said, which might add to the doom and gloom, I have some hope that the Obama Administration will make use of innovative thinkers and business people (e.g., the google boys and girls) who might see new solutions. Here, I think that the Republicans and Democrats are different. The Republicans ran out of ideas a long time ago, and chase out of the party anyone who isn’t on board with the rigid mantra of “deregulation and tax cuts.”

  31. 31

    what you do in the face of a structurally screwed economy is concentrate on the safety net and resource it as much as possible and go to work on fixing the structural problems, many of which will be self correcting in time.

  32. 32
    demo woman says:

    Letting the Bush Tax cuts expire for the wealthy would be one step although a small one. The middle class needs a lesson in progressive taxation and the rise of the middle class. My disappointment is that the democrats seem to run away from issues that help the middle class during elections. They let the MSM and repubs define the topic.
    The topic this election is scary brown people and whether or not those scary brown people are racist.

  33. 33
    demo woman says:

    @Woodrowfan: You are definitely an optimist.

  34. 34
    jcricket says:

    But you know, there are 47% of people who PAY NO TAXES! So how can this be? Plus, America’s #1. QED.

    But seriously, whodathunk that 30+ years of economic policy tilted entirely towards enriching corporations and making the rich richer, while gutting the services and safety net used across society, would have an impact.

    I for one, am shocked by this turn of events. Just shocked.

  35. 35
    El Cid says:

    @General Stuck:

    and go to work on fixing the structural problems, many of which will be self correcting in time

    One can always hope, but it’s not sensible to assume this, or that it would be in a time span helpful to those actually living.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    G and I were talking last night about the possibility of us having to take custody of his niece, which would probably mean moving back to Chicago and trying to find jobs in the middle of a depression. So, yeah, probably not gonna happen even if we wanted to. We just saw his friend’s marriage break up when they moved closer to his parents and his wife couldn’t find a job even though she’s a nurse practitioner.

  37. 37
    Chad N Freude says:

    @roshan:

    Does ideology trump reality?

    Yes. Extremely SATSQ.

  38. 38

    And kudos to you John Cole, for posting another side of this debate. A debate where neither side is completely correct on what to do, but one in which the best elements of both can be hashed out and the rest let go.

  39. 39

    I read that article this morning and found it absolutely crushing. Last week I was chatting with a friend who I used to travel with quite a bit during the late 1990s and early 2000s, just as the credit bubble was getting started. It was the time when extravagant strip malls and chain stores were starting to proliferate in every corner of middle class America. It always seemed so fake and wrong – all the over-the-top themed restaurants, Bass Pro Shops and Disney Stores urging everyone to consume, consume consume. Turns out it was. I’ve not given up on the American dream but that’s about as optimistic as I can get these days.

  40. 40

    @El Cid: Fixing stuff takes what it takes time wise, and legislation wise. There is no way around this. And is why I said that the safety net needs to be made strong as possible in the interim. So people don’t fall off a cliff.

    And yes, I am all for borrowing money for that safety net expansion, which is also too stimulus because the money will immediately be spent and injected into the economy.

  41. 41
    Alwhite says:

    @roshan:

    Where do we go from here? Well there will be an increase in the number of unhinged, unintelligent teabaggers demanding something be done NOW!. When the Republicans fail again, and in fact make things worse, they will turn increasingly to more and more unhinged demagogues. Glenn Beck will start to be the ‘sane one’ of the bunch. They will cause a collapse of governable society that they will exploit to gain complete control. See: Germany 1929-1936.

  42. 42
    Chad N Freude says:

    @demo woman: They are consumers only because the live on welfare and take jobs from American citizens. If it were not for both factors of the cognitive dissonance, they would have no money to spend.

  43. 43
    jcricket says:

    @demo woman: I chuckle b/c I agree, but this is the underlying problem, ultimately.

    50% of this situation is caused by Republicans who tell people taxes are evil, government regulation is never part of the solution, but, you can have all the services you want, regardless.

    But 50% is the Democrats fault for failing to mount and articulate an affirmative case for the alternative (progressive taxation, proactive regulation). We have to hammer home, time and again that EVERYTHING people want comes from taxes, that taxes are too low on the rich + corporations (esp. the latter) and that raising them will in fact increase economic growth and make their lives better. That’s what’s happened under Clinton, but we for some reason shy away from this (I see it happening in WA State right now, with everyone running as far from the word “taxes” as they can, despite our Democratic majority).

    People respect strength, even when you’re wrong (see the Republicans). So we should have an easier time, in theory, except for the 30 years of government/tax demonization we have to get over.

    But if we keep running from our side of the problem, why wouldn’t people continue to believe that either the Republican rhetoric is right, or the parties are the same so who cares who I vote for.

  44. 44
    Myles SG says:

    But social mobility is a fairly awful trade-off as well. One of the things about high social mobility in Canada is that, given the difficulty of preserving intergenerational social position, being at the top pretty much sucks compared to being at the top in the U.S. Most of the people at the top are neurotic, anal-retentive, humorless, polyester-suited former undergrad business majors (since lawyers don’t make that much money in Canada), who make a mockery of the whole idea of the upper class.

    This is the part of the social mobility that works by making the top of the pyramid seem like sh*t rather than gold. Or, it’s not leveling up so much as it is leveling down.

  45. 45
    wasabi gasp says:

    Things could be worse, so treat today like it’s the best day of the rest of your life.

  46. 46
    Myles SG says:

    And perhaps ironically, it makes people even less tolerant of wealth. Why should you tolerate a bunch of pigs making a whole lot more money than you do when these pigs show no indication of being on a higher plane than you? That they are just bigger, fatter, and less considerate pigs, rather than you know, a higher species?

    Rich people gain favors when they give their wealth away to schools, charities, hospitals, and making relatively liberal pronouncement. Yet because of the vaunted social mobility of Canada, to be rich in Canada is not a secure proposition, and thus the very things which make people tolerate great, concentrated wealth, the munificence and charitability of the wealthy, are prevented.

    Quite a nice anti-wealth cycle you’ve got working there, isn’t it?

  47. 47
    demo woman says:

    Steven Pearstein had a column about jobs in America. It was mentioned the other day on this blog and it needs to be mentioned again.
    This paragraph was highlighted
    The only surprise is that anyone is surprised by the lack of private-sector hiring. It is only in the world of Chamber of Commerce propaganda that businesses exist to create jobs. In the real world, businesses exist to create profits for shareholders, not jobs for workers. That’s why they call it capitalism, not job-ism. There’s no reason to beat up on business owners and executives simply because they’re doing what the system encourages them to do.

    It’s the last paragraph that I liked.
    There was a time, not long ago, when real business leaders encouraged these kind of public-private partnerships. If the Chamber of Commerce were as interested in creating jobs as it is in promoting its free-market ideology, it would hang a new message on its columned facade for the president to see: T-H-A-N-K-S.

  48. 48
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Chad N Freude: My job was not taken by an illegal alien, I was not replaced. When donations to a non-profit go down, jobs get lost. After I was let go, they got rid of 4 other long-term employees. I was at that organization for close to 16 years, in three positions over time.

    Only some job loss may be traced to illegals. and even then, I really blame the people who hire them. If they weren’t hired they wouldn’t come into the country. That’s a side issue and of only low relevancy to the structural changes brought about by technological advances, which have changed the structure of jobs and work. These structural changes need to be accounted for. We need a stronger safety net to aid those people caught up in bad situations.

  49. 49
    Brachiator says:

    @General Stuck:

    what you do in the face of a structurally screwed economy is concentrate on the safety net and resource it as much as possible and go to work on fixing the structural problems, many of which will be self correcting in time.

    This is not working so far. For example, in California, unless the state politicians come up with a herculean effort and deliver an innovative budget, there will be a new, large round of layoffs and reductions in state and local services beginning in December. The effect of this will ripple throughout the state and national economy. I imagine that other states will have similar problems as well.

    The big problem here is that when the US was relatively prosperous, the safety net largely was focused on the poor. Now we are increasingly approaching Depression era problems, where any safety net must also include substantial portions of the middle class. This can not only get tremendously expensive, but can also risk increasing economic stagnation.

    Whether there are self-correcting mechanisms, well, I don’t know. I don’t have much faith in the invisible hand, especially when you have corporate interests and lobbyists in the background gaming the system for their own interests.

    @demo woman:

    Letting the Bush Tax cuts expire for the wealthy would be one step although a small one. The middle class needs a lesson in progressive taxation and the rise of the middle class.

    No. The middle class need tax relief. It’s not enough to just let the old tax cuts expire, or to teach people lessons. People want jobs, not instruction.

    The government needs to get innovative. Cut taxes for single people. Increase the Social Security tax for the wealthy. Consider eliminating Roth IRAs. Tighten credit card rules to reduce the number of credit cards, but force a decrease in interest rates. Nationalize unemployment compensation to make it easier for people to move out of states where there are no jobs. Give more tax breaks for ongoing businesses and reduce the tax incentive when people sell off successful businesses.

  50. 50

    @Brachiator: California is a special case, as they have created some of their problems with direct referendums. If there are deep structural problems in the national economy, and it should be obvious there are, then they need to be corrected and you can’t wish it away, that more stimulus will correct them. That is not what stimulus, or government spending is meant for.

    It may well be we are royally fucked and it will all collapse no matter what is done, but we might as well try anyways. And again, safety net money is stimulus the same as any other. But putting the expectation of any stimulus, at this point, creating a bunch of permanent middle class jobs, with an economy that has been built of faulty winger ideology for thirty years, is a setup for more cries of democratic fail. That is my point.

  51. 51
    demo woman says:

    @Brachiator: Simplify taxes. What’s interesting is Steve Forbes was not far off with a flat tax and one deduction. The deduction needs to be high enough so it does not hurt the middle class. Because of capital gains taxes and other deductions, progressive taxation has disappeared in this country.
    In a perfect world the deduction would be 40,000 for singles and 80,000 for families. Yeah that would work. Can you imagine John McCain only getting an 80,000 deduction?

  52. 52
    PurpleGirl says:

    Harlana Peppper: I hope things work out for you. I hope the training helps.

  53. 53
    Nylund says:

    Executives see all the revenue coming in and they have two choices: 1. keep it for themselves and the 1% of Americans who own 50% of the stocks, or put that money back into the company. Back in the day, the gov’t would demand huge chunks of anything kept for themselves and the option to reinvest back into workers seems pretty good. Now, you get to keep about 84% of it, making it much more likely that this 1% that owns 50% of stocks will just skim the cream off the top for themselves.

    But even without this, investing back into the company no longer means building a plant in Pennsylvania, it means building one in India or China. Currency manipulations by countries like China and the fact that the dollar is kept high by its status as the world’s reserve currency will continue to make manufacturing and investing abroad the more profitable option for what money the 1% doesn’t line their pockets with.

    Tax rates, exchange rates, and open financial and trade borders have simply made it so that bypassing the middle class is the best way to maximize profits for the 1% that owns 50% of all US stocks.

    The richest 400 Americans (who make on average $380 Million a year) have an effective tax rate of 16%. Don’t you wish you did?

    The fact that its becoming more and more ridiculously expensive to keep Americans healthy and educated doesn’t help matters either.

    Fixing the bad incentives of our tax structure would help, but ultimately, there is not much we can do. International pressure for China to value their currency honestly will help (and I applaud Krugman for bringing this up quite a bit), but the power players in America don’t have any incentive to destroy their own profit machine. The rest just has to do with the fact that open financial and trade borders means much more is decided by international markets that no single country, even one as economically huge as the US can really effect.

    I’m not sure strengthening unions will help in a time when sending work abroad is so easy. Its a good tactic for increasing domestic wages when domestic workers are so key, but they’re not anymore. Right now, I fear it just increases the incentive to ship work to foreign countries as it only increases the benefits of their cheap labor. For service jobs (or other jobs) that can’t be shipped though, strong unions would be good and I think a richer middle class will ultimately be in the best interest of companies selling to domestic markets.

  54. 54
    Anoniminous says:

    @General Stuck:

    go to work on fixing the structural problems, many of which will be self correcting in time.

    Two things:

    First, to fix the structural problems requires a willingness to acknowledge there are structural problems to fix. The GOP, functionally if not actually, rejects any such conclusion.

    Second, microeconomic activity will, eventually, adjust to the macroeconomic environment in a new dynamic equilibrium. That’s what is going on right now, after all – as predicted by Complexity Theory. Unfortunately, Complexity Theory also predicts that a positive feedback loop in the negative direction resolves itself in the negative direction, creating a “lower” dynamic equilibrium resulting from the lower state and condition values in the respective and internal variables as mediated through the static variables and constants stream(s) of input from the Fitness Landscape (macroeconomic environment, kinda.) What this means is the emergent attributes and properties of the new dynamic equilibrium within the Fitness Landscape brought about by and through “self correction” may not be one that any of us would care to experience. We could be talking 1997; we could be talking 1940; we could be talking 1931. (Just to pick some dates of previous dynamic equilibriums out of the air.)

  55. 55

    @Anoniminous:

    First, to fix the structural problems requires a willingness to acknowledge there are structural problems to fix. The GOP, functionally if not actually, rejects any such conclusion.

    Absolutely true. This is the great contest. The dems counter effort in this cause is somewhat due to their own complicity in creating and maintaining it, but they are a distinct minority amongst all dems imo, and all the activism should be directed at them. If you believe a former committed community organizer is on their side, then I disagree, at least in large part. Obama is working in an environment where some dems resist change and every single gooper certainly does. Less than ideal legislation is the byproduct, but that legislation does contain progress, and in some areas, like a consumer protection agency is but one example. IOW’s progressives should direct their fire at those holding up the show, not all on Obama.

    As for the rest of your analysis, it is compete Greek to me. I am a trained biologist, we didn’t get much in depth economics:-)

  56. 56
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Anoniminous: And we need an improved safety net to aid those who get caught without jobs, people who need income of some amount so that they can eat and pay for housing, etc. Otherwise, what do they do when their own resources run out…. kill themselves.

    (Hoping the movie improves my mood.)

  57. 57
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I don’t think these problems are impossible to solve. I just think that they won’t get solved until millions of gullible, selfish, awful people get old and incapacitated enough not to vote anymore. In 30 years, American politics will probably be normal again, and President Rodriguez will preside over a new golden age.

  58. 58
    Cacti says:

    If you want to see how your wages have done vs. inflation, try this AIER calculator. It does inflation values all the way back to 1913.

  59. 59
    Anoniminous says:

    @General Stuck:

    LOL. (I get carried away, sometimes.)

    Actually the same sort of process occurs when an Ecology is under stress by excess predation versus prey reproduction. Eventually the prey population crashes forcing a predator population crash until some kind of balance (new dynamic equilibrium) between ’em is established.

    Now think of a situation when this going on in an embrittled environment where the crash of the prey sets-off a wave of extinction across the ecology.

    Eventually the ecology restores itself but with fewer species and interactions across the ecology providing fewer available niches for the introduction of new species.

    Obviously there is a major difference in that we, as a species, have a great deal to do with “building” the environment, the interactions, and the structure.

  60. 60
    jcricket says:

    keep it for themselves and the 1% of Americans who own 50% of the stocks

    I know you were making a general point, but it’s even worse than this. I read recently that 1% of Americans own like 83% of the stocks. Ah yes, here we are.

    Basically as bad as I always think it is, reality proves its worse.

  61. 61
    adamchaz2000@yahoo.com says:

    For a family of four what is the gross income necessary to be comfortable in your city?

    I’m 27 live in Chicago and I think if my wife and I made a combined 175K we could live comfortable in the city(not suburb).

    As a frame of reference a non distressed 2br condo where i live sells for about $350,000.

  62. 62

    @Anoniminous:

    Eventually the ecology restores itself but with fewer species and interactions across the ecology providing fewer available niches for the introduction of new species.

    Both have a matrix of cause and effect. In nature that is mostly pre ordained, minus the effects of our mucking around with the planet. In economics, we create the whole show, giving us more power to change it, at least in theory of a world without wingnuts.

  63. 63
    Anoniminous says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    Absolutely.

    But to get there we need to be able to utter the words “The Public Good” without being immediately subjected to cheap sarcasm, half-witted scorn, and immediate dismissal.

  64. 64
    adamchaz2000@yahoo.com says:

    Milton Friedman father of Chicago school of economics once consider a negative income tax. I think we might need to revisit that.

  65. 65
    Brachiator says:

    @demo woman:

    Simplify taxes. What’s interesting is Steve Forbes was not far off with a flat tax and one deduction. The deduction needs to be high enough so it does not hurt the middle class. Because of capital gains taxes and other deductions, progressive taxation has disappeared in this country.

    Steve Forbes is a moran, and the flat tax is a dumb idea which is always easy to push because it is easy to explain. It’s easy to compare a flat tax to biblical tithing.

    That progressive taxation is some kind of magical fix is also easy for liberals and progressives to latch onto, because it is an easy idea to explain. But it is also simplistic. The tax system is progressive. However, taxes are kinda “after the fact.” What you do with taxes does not fix the economy, does not create jobs, does not create wage growth.

    Also, too, people misunderstand capital gains rate and think that it applies only to the rich. Do you really want to take away capital gains, which allows people to sell their personal residences at a profit and get taxed at lower rates on amounts greater than $250,000? And what about the step up in basis for inherited property?

    In a perfect world the deduction would be 40,000 for singles and 80,000 for families. Yeah that would work.

    Really? How would this impact people married filing separate, or head of household? And does this deduction eliminate the personal exemptions for dependents? Has anyone run numbers on this to see what the impact on total income tax revenues would be? The last is a rhetorical question, because the obvious answer is no.

    Can you imagine John McCain only getting an 80,000 deduction?

    The bulk of the McCain family income comes from his wife’s family trust. I don’t think that this would be much affected by your informal proposal here.

    There are some provocative ideas here, but you gotta know a little more about the tax system or at least be able to run calculations to see if the net impact of your proposals are revenue neutral or increase or decrease tax revenues before you can declare anything about the certainty of your proposed solutions.

  66. 66
    Anoniminous says:

    @General Stuck:

    Good point.

  67. 67
    Indie Tarheel says:

    @roshan:

    Paul Krugman makes a lot of sense over at the Times, why isn’t anyone listening to him?

    They’re all waiting for the pay-per-view.

  68. 68
    demo woman says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t like Steve Forbes but my point stands on how progressive our tax system is. The government could still have three tax rates and do away with deductions by having one deduction or at least a max that you could deduct.
    A 250,000 profit on a house is something few people will see. The average person might own stocks but the capital gains taxes don’t apply to them because their stocks are in IRA’s.
    Estates should pay the appropriate taxes, imo. Sorry family farms but that’s how I feel.
    I’ve seen number run at various econ sites and the flat tax would be in the low twenties but that was years ago.

  69. 69
    Brachiator says:

    @General Stuck:

    California is a special case, as they have created some of their problems with direct referendums. If there are deep structural problems in the national economy, and it should be obvious there are, then they need to be corrected and you can’t wish it away, that more stimulus will correct them. That is not what stimulus, or government spending is meant for.

    I think you mean the ballot initiative, not direct referendums, which was originally a progressive tool to fight entrenched interests, which has ironically been hijacked by the latest generation of special interest groups. Part of the problem, but not as major as some people think.

    And California is a special case because its economy was strong and diverse and did not react to the same degree as the states with older traditional economies. California continued to grow even as auto, steel, and aerospace industries in the state shrank or moved away.

    But the glory days are over, and if California, with a greater GDP than many nations, collapses, then it will have a huge impact on the rest of the nation.

    And that appears to be happening.

    It may well be we are royally fucked and it will all collapse no matter what is done, but we might as well try anyways.

    But the point is that the government has already tried with the first stimulus. It had some impact, but they need to have a better second act. And the problem with belief in self-correcting is that there is no way that you can schedule a correction.

    And again, safety net money is stimulus the same as any other. But putting the expectation of any stimulus, at this point, creating a bunch of permanent middle class jobs, with an economy that has been built of faulty winger ideology for thirty years, is a setup for more cries of democratic fail. That is my point.

    I agree that the government cannot magically create middle class jobs. But they are going to have to do something more to either jumpstart the economy or to get out of the way of job creation. What they’ve done so far is to react to old problems, rather than to come up with new solutions. They may still fail. Still, the ball is still in their court.

  70. 70
    b-psycho says:

    @Anoniminous: You get scorn & sarcasm from “the public good” because the people saying it are generally politicians (read: inherent selfish lying assholes). “The public” has to act on its own to get anything, and if the rules we live under led to this then, well, fuck the rules.

    By now people should be thinking organized sabotage. At the LEAST.

  71. 71
    eemom says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    Then we have a bunch of overweight racist reactionaries trying to mow their own laws. The heart attack rate skyrockets. The repuks lose a huge part of their base. The left finally starts winning elections. this could work….

    absolutely it could! Sir/Madam, you are a genius!

    I’d pay $$ to watch Limbaugh mow one of his zillion acre lawns.

  72. 72
    Chad N Freude says:

    @PurpleGirl: I think you missed my point, which was stated in the language of sarcasm. The argument against illegal aliens is based on two conflicting premises: (1) they freeload on welfare, and (2) they take jobs away from workers. The the anti-immigrant position asserts both of these, hence cognitive dissonance.

  73. 73
    Mike G says:

    something profoundly un-American: declining income mobility.

    Oh, I’d say income mobility has increased in the last few years – if your income is moving in a downward direction, that is.

  74. 74
    Anoniminous says:

    @b-psycho:

    I’ve tried for four decades to get my fellow citizens to stop being sheep and stand up for themselves with a lamentable lack of success. To get this population of politically inert lackguts to run a non-violent “organized sabotage” operation would, I submit, be impossible. Running a violent one is not only morally wrong it’s following the IWW and WeatherUnderground down the rat hole of futility.

  75. 75
    Tecumseh says:

    Sadly, this is why the “cut taxes” pledge is appealing to middle class and poor people, because if people’s incomes aren’t growing, tax cuts seem like the only way they can have more money for themselves. The fact that most of the tax cuts are not actually aimed at them or increase the deficit doesn’t resonate because it’s sort of counter-intuitive and nobody– the MSM, economists, the Democrats do a good job explaining it. The idea too that if they pay higher taxes (or at least the rich do) to increase services so things that people pay for will be lower (health care, day care, education) also falls into that category.

    @PurpleGirl: I’ve been nailed a few times with long term unemployment due to economic bad times and other things and I’ve gone through whatever sort of nest egg and retirement fund I could and should have had over the years. I have no idea if I’ll be able to retire or how to pay for things if I have children or even if I can buy a house. If the American Dream is going down, I feel like I’m in one of the increasingly growing subset of people who are going down with it.

  76. 76
    Brachiator says:

    @demo woman:

    I don’t like Steve Forbes but my point stands on how progressive our tax system is.

    Again, this is less an issue than some people make it out to be. And the progressivity of the tax system is secondary to the problems of a stagnant economy.

    The government could still have three tax rates and do away with deductions by having one deduction or at least a max that you could deduct.

    Again, when people ran the numbers on the Forbes’ plan, it really didn’t stand up to scrutiny. The idea of one big deduction is nice, but who knows whether it will get you the result that you think it will. There’s a lot more that you are not considering.

    A 250,000 profit on a house is something few people will see. The average person might own stocks but the capital gains taxes don’t apply to them because their stocks are in IRA’s.

    Sigh. I review thousands of tax returns for a living. You are just flat out wrong here. Also, you don’t consider whether you would have to give up the Section 121 exclusion in order to have your Big Deduction, or whether o not you would have to increase it in order to deal with any proposed elimination of capital gains taxes.

    Also, there are many people who have mutual funds and stocks outside of IRAs who benefit from capital gains.

    Again, you have some good ideas, but you need to know a little more about the tax system.

    Estates should pay the appropriate taxes, imo. Sorry family farms but that’s how I feel.

    It’s just a big lie that family farms have been greatly affected by estate taxes.

    I’ve seen number run at various econ sites and the flat tax would be in the low twenties but that was years ago.

    Most of this stuff always ignore Social Security and sales taxes, which tend to be regressive or try to sneak in national sales taxes or other variations of value added taxes.

    The tax system is a mess, but there are other things that could be done to make it more fair. Still, a lot of what happens in the tax system would be secondary if the economy were stronger.

  77. 77
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @b-psycho:

    By now people should be thinking organized sabotage. At the LEAST

    The public is sure to be sympathetic to people who destroy property as a political statement! Utopia, here we come!

  78. 78
    Ruckus says:

    @Anoniminous:
    Not only morally but as the police state is much stronger and better equipped/organized and along with the use of military forces on american soil, any organized violent forces would face a much tougher prospect of even getting off the ground. And it doesn’t sound to me like enough progressives would be for it anyway. Well until enough of them get to the starving, living under a bridge stage. And then how violent could one get?

    Came in late to the thread but a lot of great comments this morning. Do I sense a more cohesive tone today?

  79. 79
    Cain says:

    @Napoleon:

    In the last couple of weeks I really have lost all hope that this country is not headed straight to hell in a hand basket and I do not see any way of avoiding it short of dramatic social upheaval, maybe even a revolution. Our elites are complete failures at governing and don’t give a fuck about 99% of the country

    Why do you need a revolution? You already have all the power, just vote the right people. A revolution? We can’t even convince people to vote their interests? If they all picked up they’ll probably just go after us urban liberals instead. Cuz you know the guy plowing corn in Arkanasas is a real american, not the engineer sitting in the west coast.

    cain

  80. 80
    ruemara says:

    No thanks, I already live this.

  81. 81
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Chad N Freude: My default language is sarcasm and I missed your point.

  82. 82
    Cain says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Why can’t you bring G’s niece to where you live?

    cain

  83. 83
    Jennifer says:

    The problems outlined in the FT article all come down to this: wealth inequality.

    This can be addressed in one of two ways, or by a combination of both: raise taxes on the wealthy, not by a measly 3% but more like 10% – 15%. Secondly, raise minimum wages by at least 25%.

    The reason none of us have any money is because we aren’t getting paid fairly for our work. The guys who own the capital get a higher return than the guys who give every working day of their lives to make the capital investment profitable. That’s seriously f***ed. Raising taxes by a hefty amount would at least give the government resources to pay for the things we can’t pay for because we aren’t getting paid. Raising wages would also help correct this imbalance. Or try something creative – tax the profits of corporations who pay shitty wages higher than the profits of corporations who pay decent wages. And so on and so forth.

    These “structural problems” really would not be so difficult to wrestle around if our political class would just get over the idea that “being rich” = “you should get a free ride.” It doesn’t hurt that they are paid very well to continue to believe that.

    Which is why neither of these approaches will be taken.

    This thing will only get solved with guillotines, and who knows what will come after that?

  84. 84
    Cain says:

    @Brachiator:

    No. The middle class need tax relief. It’s not enough to just let the old tax cuts expire, or to teach people lessons. People want jobs, not instruction.

    Wasn’t there a bill that did just that in the House and it got defeated? We can’t seem to even pass anything due to politics. I don’t know how to deal with the malfeasance of the Republican minority. Who are using their minority status to somehow poison the well so they are in the majority again. Once they do, their only ideas seem to be war and tax cuts.

    cain

  85. 85
    Brachiator says:

    By the way, an interesting story about the possible sale of a family farm business after 378 years. Some of the reasons behind the potential sale are ironic. Link here:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/201.....amily_farm

    But the growth of supermarket chains, the emergence of the local food movement — New Hampshire has more than 80 farmers markets — and the grueling routine took a toll.

    Kind of an unexpected impact of the local food movement.

  86. 86
    demo woman says:

    @Brachiator: The tax system is a mess, but there are other things that could be done to make it more fair. Still, a lot of what happens in the tax system would be secondary if the economy were stronger.
    Definitely true. The Fair Tax is anything but fair. My idea stems from the fact that income taxation has never been explained clearly. Most people do not understand the difference between effective and marginal rates and part of the reason for this is talk radio. The other reason is because the tax code is complicated. A strong progressive taxation has helped maintain the middle class. The family farm was sarcasm on my part.

  87. 87
    Woodrowfan says:

    @eemom:

    I think the video would go viral……

  88. 88
    Alwhite says:

    @PurpleGirl: my previous job was with the second largest discount retailer in the country. I was ‘allowed’ to train my replacements in India – a country were there are no outlets for that company.

    Those people are fools – they take jobs away from Americans & create wealth in a country where they can not capture a share of it. But they enrich themselves on the short-term gain. Blaming the immigrants is just part of the smoke and mirrors that keep the morans from seeing what is being done to them

  89. 89
    Woodrowfan says:

    one of the reasons why a Progressive income tax was popular was that it shifted the tax burden upwards. before 1913 the Feds used excise taxes (alcohol) and tariffs, which fell heaviest on the working classes and middle class. By cutting tariff rates in 1913 and replacing the lost income with a Progressive income tax it shifted the tax burden to those who could afford it and off of those who were struggling to get by.

    I confess that I wish capital gains taxes on small amounts would be lifted. my wife and I own a small amount of stocks and I’d love to cash some in, but it’s not worth it financially.

  90. 90
    Nick says:

    I’ll say what I said in the other thread.

    There will be no revolution because the American middle class bent over and took it up the ass from the dildo of the rich and they loved it, for the same reason pledges let themselves get hazed to get into a fraternity or sorority. For the same reason freshman let Seniors pick on them, because one day, they think they will get to strap on the dildo and do the same thing.

  91. 91
    tkogrumpy says:

    Surely the current state of affairs can’t come as a surprise to any one paying attention. Arab oil embargo anyone? In 1973 I left my job inspecting Boston Whaler boats. When the price of materials quadrupled due to the aforementioned embargo, I incorrectly assumed that the fiberglass boat business was history, sold my house and moved to Maine to escape the inevitable collapse. The collapse took a lot longer than I thought but come it has. The election of Reagan sealed the deal through magical thinking. And please will some one please tell me what the fuck this “American dream” everyone keeps mentioning consists of?

  92. 92
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Brachiator: There is no ” message” here. People get old, run out of steam, and say screw it. Your certainly correct that the inheritance tax has no effect on family farms.

  93. 93
    Brachiator says:

    @demo woman:
    RE: The tax system is a mess, but there are other things that could be done to make it more fair. Still, a lot of what happens in the tax system would be secondary if the economy were stronger.

    Definitely true. The Fair Tax is anything but fair. My idea stems from the fact that income taxation has never been explained clearly. Most people do not understand the difference between effective and marginal rates and part of the reason for this is talk radio.

    I agree with you here. About 99.9999% of what you hear about taxes on talk radio, especially right wing talk radio is nonsense.

    Robert Kruhlwich, who used to be on one of the networks and who was on NPR the last time I saw him, is one of the few correspondents who have the rare ability to communicate economics issues clearly.

    But the Democrats have been strangely inarticulate. They just can’t get the message out clearly. President Obama is generally better than the other Democrats, but he can’t do all the heavy lifting himself.

    And I miss Ross Perot, who was crazy and who oversimplified, but his oversimplifications got closer to the key issues than most politicians ever could do.

    The other reason is because the tax code is complicated. A strong progressive taxation has helped maintain the middle class.

    This is a strange new conventional wisdom which I have seen a lot recently. It is absolutely wrong. I have never seen anything that supports this idea. Progressive taxation may be necessary to maintain an effective federal government with social programs deemed necessary to help promote the general welfare. But this is not quite the same thing as helping maintain the middle class.

    @Woodrowfan:

    one of the reasons why a Progressive income tax was popular was that it shifted the tax burden upwards. before 1913 the Feds used excise taxes (alcohol) and tariffs, which fell heaviest on the working classes and middle class.

    You make a good point here. Basic tariff rates were reduced from about 40 percent to around 25 percent. And there is this from the Wiki:

    The 1913 Act established the lowest rates since the Walker Tariff of 1857…. The duty on woolens went from 56% to 18.5%. Steel rails, raw wool, iron ore, and agricultural implements had zero rates.

    Ironically, as Dan Okrent points out in Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, moving away from high excise taxes on alcohol made it easier for the busybodies to call for banning liquor sales, since the government now depended more on income taxes than on excise taxes.

    I confess that I wish capital gains taxes on small amounts would be lifted. my wife and I own a small amount of stocks and I’d love to cash some in, but it’s not worth it financially.

    I don’t understand what you mean here. The capital gains rate is pretty damn low, and is still effectively zero for certain tax brackets. You should perhaps confer with someone on this. A good CPA or better an Enrolled Agent (who focus on taxation as opposed to accounting and who must pass a federal test) may be able to help you with this. You can easily find an EA by looking up your area EA societies on the Web.

  94. 94

    @Nick:

    There will be no revolution because the American middle class bent over and took it up the ass from the dildo of the rich and they loved it, for the same reason pledges let themselves get hazed to get into a fraternity or sorority. For the same reason freshman let Seniors pick on them, because one day, they think they will get to strap on the dildo and do the same thing.

    Project much do you. Look Nick, have you ever seriously considered suicide? You’re really depressed and from what I can discern from your posts consider yourself to be an impotent total failure, so why not kill yourself? You’ve acknowledged that you accomplished nothing with your life and that your efforts to change anything were futile, so you could end it all with good conscience. And if you did no one on Balloon Juice would miss you, so if you’re holding on out of consideration for our feelings consider yourself freed of that obligation.

  95. 95

    @General Stuck:

    Progressive tribal police here. I have to write you a ticket for being insufficiently pure in thought and deed and failing to realize that there is no difference between Obama and Bush or Obama and McCain and that in times like this it makes perfect sense to hop into bed with Grover Norquist. Sorry, I don’t make the progressive purity laws, Peter Doau and Jane Hamsher do, I just enforce them.

  96. 96
    Alwhite says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    my your just a sweetie aren’t you?

  97. 97

    @Cain:

    I think that what we need to do is start letting those engineers on the West Coast know just how much they’re being fucked by the Alabama corn plower. If I had the money I’d be running ads in California and Washington in the senatorial races attacking the Republican candidates and saying “Look, if you vote for these guys you’re not voting for a senator for California or Washington, you’re voting for another senator for South Carolina and Alabama, states that consume more in federal taxes than they contribute. [Carly Fiorina | Dino Rossi]] wants to take the money of hard working [Californians|Washintononians] and give it to lazy, good for nothing, racist freeloaders from states that never contributed anything good or great to America.

    Nothing pisses people off more than being mooched on by freeloaders, this is why the immigration issue has such traction. I think it’s time to use this basic fact of human nature to start beating on conservatives. I’d start attacking white southern conservatives as being lazy, useless, good for nothing welfare queens. Just keep hammering on the statistics that show that red states take more than they give and that blue states are paying the bills.

  98. 98

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    And if you did no one on Balloon Juice would miss you,

    I would, and even if I wouldn’t, I object to snuff blogging. Sometimes you go over the line Wily. and this is one of them. If it were my blog, I would ban your ass for life, in an instant, for this comment. But your lucky day it isn’t my blog.

    edit – why not use the metaphorically approved internet tradition of DIAF.

  99. 99

    @Alwhite:

    No! I also hate people who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, a contraction of “you are” and think that anyone who doesn’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s”, “there”, “their” and “they’re” or who uses apostrophes incorrectly when referring to plural items or who doesn’t use them when indicating possessives should be stripped of their franchise.

  100. 100

    […] for the power elites when the middle class gets angry August 1, 2010 — Richard Gayle It Was Nice While It Lasted[Via Balloon […]

  101. 101
    Nick says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    Look Nick, have you ever seriously considered suicide?

    Actually, yeah, spent some time in a hospital when I was 22 because of it.

  102. 102
    Alwhite says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:
    so you’re saying you’re an asshole, I see. Heaven forfend I typed quickly & didn’t edit. My point is the same poor grammar or not

  103. 103
    b-psycho says:

    @Anoniminous: Seriously? You’re equating the IWW to the Weather Underground? When did the wobblies initiate force?

  104. 104
    Woodrowfan says:

    I don’t understand what you mean here. The capital gains rate is pretty damn low, and is still effectively zero for certain tax brackets. You should perhaps confer with someone on this. A good CPA or better an Enrolled Agent (who focus on taxation as opposed to accounting and who must pass a federal test) may be able to help you with this. You can easily find an EA by looking up your area EA societies on the Web.

    I will, thanks.

  105. 105

    @General Stuck:

    edit – why not use the metaphorically approved internet tradition of DIAF.

    Eat my shit Stuck. Seriously, eat my shit you hypocritical fuck. I know that you think that DIAF is really cute and everything, but having spent some time as a patient in a burn ward I have to say that I don’t see any difference between telling someone to kill themselves or telling them to die in a fire.

    Oh, and snuff-blogging? WTF? Over.

  106. 106
    Ruckus says:

    @harlana peppper:
    The old american dream was having the opportunity to work hard and make something of yourself. With sweat, with education or both. To have a paid for house to retire in at 65 and enjoy an occasional trip to see the kids.
    The new american dream is live to 65, becoming eligible for medicare and thereby getting health care again, to find a nice cardboard box to live in under that bridge that hopefully won’t fall on you and getting ss benefits after losing your job and house. And to learn to like catfood.

    And of course there’s no time like the present to start living the dream.

  107. 107

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    Like I said, it ain’t my blog. So carry on with the pathos dude.

  108. 108
    Kobie says:

    @Wile E. Quixote: Not fucking cool.

  109. 109
    Judas Escargot says:

    Why should you tolerate a bunch of pigs making a whole lot more money than you do when these pigs show no indication of being on a higher plane than you?

    Damned good question. Though you didn’t mean it…

    …why should we, exactly?

  110. 110
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Wile E. Quixote: This, even though there are no actual corn plowers in Arkansas or anywhere else for that matter.

  111. 111
    liberal says:

    @Brachiator:

    Do you really want to take away capital gains, which allows people to sell their personal residences at a profit and get taxed at lower rates on amounts greater than $250,000?

    Absolutely. Appreciation in real property is 100% pure economic rent. As such, it can be taxed at high rates with no deadweight loss. Furthermore, punitive taxation on land is equitable, since the landowner didn’t create the gain but merely captured it.

  112. 112
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    Glad to see Steve Forbes absolutely moronic economic ideas are still floating around.

    Flat taxes are a scam to get middle income people to pay more taxes, while allowing the super rich to find more loopholes to avoid even paying 23% tax (which is a huge tax cut), thanks to their lawyers and offshore companies that allow for the free-flow of wealth.

    (also, the 23% tax rate is a bit of an obfuscation as well. Someone decided that you need .31 for/of every dollar spent. Therefore, $.31/$1.31 = 23%. The wording is important- if they really did mean FOR every dollar, then 23% is correct, if they mean OF every dollar, than 31% is correct. I’ve never seen the justification behind either number.)

  113. 113
    Kered (formerly Derek) says:

    @Myles SG:

    What the FUCK is wrong with you?

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