Workers of the World, Rebrand!

In his State of the Union address and subsequent appearances, President Obama has been focusing on the lack of “opportunity” for working people instead of using the phrase “income inequality,” and this shift has officially become A Thing:

In Talk of Economy, Obama Turns to ‘Opportunity’ Over ‘Inequality’

Has America grown weary of talking about income inequality?

Robert Reich: Obama needs to worry about income inequality, not semantics

Some of the arguments against the shift make sense on the surface. “Opportunity” sounds great, but “income inequality” is measurable in a way that “opportunity” isn’t. That’s why the Republicans are happy to talk “opportunity” but squeal “class war” when “income inequality” comes up.

Not being a politician myself, if I were to give the SOTU speech, I’d repeat these four outrageous facts for the entire hour:

The six members of the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 41% of Americans (127,000,000+ people).*

The bottom half of the world’s population (about 3.5 billion people) owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.**

Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.**

In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95% of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90% became poorer.**

Obama’s speech was pretty strong, but he definitely did talk a lot more about “opportunity” than “inequality,” which I initially found disappointing, if understandable given the political realities and the absurd hysteria of the wealthy and powerful (see Perkins, Tom).

However, I think — for once! — William Saletan over at Slate had it right:

The conventional view of Obama, repeated in last night’s Republican response by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), is that he “talks a lot about income inequality.” But as a description of Obama’s speech, that isn’t quite right. Obama used the words equal, equality, and inequality just eight times. He used opportunity and opportunities 14 times. He used work, workers, working, workforce, and hard-working more than 60 times. Thirty-six of those references were directly about economic labor.

The distinction is important. Most people think income inequality is fine—in fact, it’s proper—when one person works harder than another. Obama’s argument isn’t just that the economy has left incomes unequal. It’s that the economy is failing to honor work.

That’s a damn good point. When Republicans obsess over welfare benefits, we’re quick to attribute it to racism, and we’re not wrong to do so: Wingnut politicians have been flogging deliberately racist tropes about welfare since a holy fusion of semolina flour, eggs, olive oil and milk formed the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Big Bowl.

But there’s a “fairness” component too — a sense of aggrieved justice among working class people who labor for substandard wages in unregulated industries and get screwed by banks and creditors. Obviously, these folks would be better off directing their ire at the true culprits rather than others who are also downtrodden, but the GOP has made a living off pitting groups that share common interests against each other.

Possibly the shift to “opportunity” is part of a larger attempt to call the Republicans’ bluff on the notion that Joe Sixpack Jr. and Tagg Romney both get a fair shake in America. If that’s the case, and if the word “opportunity” gets through in a way “inequality” does not, I’m all for the switch.

*Oxfam briefing (links to PDF)

**US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as verified by PolitiFact hacks

86 replies
  1. 1
    ruemara says:

    Jesus Christ. We’re looking at the semantics, rather than practical policy? Fuck this noise. Debating this is what’s going to take the focus on income inequality and economic opportunity. Two sides, same coin.

  2. 2
    jibeaux says:

    Plus, if we talk about “inequality”, they talk about “redistribution.” That’s a very easy pivot for them. If the president is talking about unequal OPPORTUNITIES, it’s pretty fucking hard to make that talking point make any goddam sense.

  3. 3
    Mnemosyne says:

    @jibeaux:

    If the president is talking about unequal OPPORTUNITIES, it’s pretty fucking hard to make that talking point make any goddam sense.

    They might be able to shout, “Forced bussing!” but I’m not sure that retort would make sense to anyone under 50, which is their problem right now anyway.

  4. 4
    Belafon says:

    Fairness is why, when I argue about raising the minimum wage, I mention two things:
    1. If the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be nearly $15.
    2. If the minimum wage kept up with productivity, it would be nearly $18. Why aren’t we paying people who do twice as much as people did 30 years ago twice the salary?

  5. 5
    Elizabelle says:

    1) Am glad this issue has come to the forefront, whatever PBO and his critics call it.

    2) I prefer “income inequality” because it ties to class warfare — and if and as soon as a listener makes the jump (“well, yeah, there is class warfare, and it would seem the rich won”), they comprehend. A system cannot work if the wealthy have hoovered up way more than their share.

    3) “Opportunity” works, though. Speaks to the need for affordable education, a well regulated financial system that actually lends to small business too, a job, healthcare so that you can work the job or (horrors) follow your bliss.

    PS: Republicans: for a lot of people, following one’s bliss includes working in a meaningful occupation, whether remunerative or not.

    Not all of us are oxen that have to be harnessed. Although that seems to be your view of the common man.

  6. 6
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    I can’t believe Polifact didn’t add that Sanders’ claim was accurate but distasteful so it is only “partly true”.

  7. 7
    Betty Cracker says:

    @ruemara: I agree that it’s two sides of the same coin, but the semantics matter. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. I think that’s why Obama switched emphasis.

  8. 8
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Leave it to Democrats to fuck around with a premise that America understands – INCOME INEQUALITY – and about a 70% polling majority wants something done about.

    Republicans would already be winning the midterms decrying DEATH WAGES.

  9. 9
    chopper says:

    speaking of workers, ‘diamond’ joe biden addressed the UAW the other day…

    Biden said “one overwhelming reason not to run for President” in 2016 is the chance to drive the new Corvette Z06 that can go from “zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds.”

    “You tack that sucker up to six grand and this comes out of the hole like a bullet, man,” Biden told the cheering members of the United Autoworkers Union.

  10. 10
    Fuzzy says:

    @chopper: The hardcore lefties must shudder when Joe wants to burn all that rubber and fuel. Stomp on it man.

  11. 11
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    @Belafon:

    If the minimum wage kept up with productivity, it would be nearly $18. Why aren’t we paying people who do twice as much as people did 30 years ago twice the salary?

    This…. it’s worth repeating…

    And on the other side of that divide…

    Since 1978, CEO pay at American firms has risen 725 percent, more than 127 times faster than worker pay over the same time period, according to new data from the Economic Policy Institute…

    SEVEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE PERCENT? Are you kidding me?

    I know some people work harder than others, but 725% harder? What’s that old joke about lawyers billing for enough hours to equal 300 years?

  12. 12
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: I disagree. Opportunity sounds less clinical and more immediate and visceral than income inequality. Plus using the word “opportunity makes it harder for the repubs. to change the subject.

  13. 13
    SatanicPanic says:

    Let’s just stick with income inequality. “1%” works because we stuck with it.

  14. 14
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Obama got put in the White House by the votes of the rest of us, and a disproportionate share of the least of us, but his campaign was funded by life’s winners.

    There’s the reason for ‘opportunity’ — it’s a conscience-salving shout-out to life’s winners — replacing ‘inequality’.

  15. 15
    flukebucket says:

    The idea that 6 members of the Walton family “work harder” than 127,000,000 other people is so silly that I cannot believe people even attempt to convince others that hard work is the answer to wealth or getting wealthy. It falls right in line with the “lower taxes creates jobs” bullshit. How much longer are people going to listen to that nonsense without pointing and laughing?

  16. 16
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    Why don’t people just admit that inequality is the intent and result of capitalism. If you want capitalism then you have to accept the depression that will result when inequality becomes too large. You have to accept the degradation of the environment and the eventual extinction of the species. Capitalism is unsustainable. Get over it.

  17. 17
    SatanicPanic says:

    @pamelabrown53: They’ll just say there are opportunities, peope are just lazy and aren’t looking for them.

  18. 18
    Suffern ACE says:

    The problem I have from a policy discussion perspective is that while we’ve talked about the value of work since at least Clinton (if you work and play by the rules, etc.) the focus of the discussion is still on non-workers when it comes to talking about Democratic policies for support of “working families.” A lot of those “evil regulations that are destroying business” are in place to protect workers. If we want to discuss opportunity, we need to emphasize things that we are planning to do to make that happen for laborers right now, while they are working, not just when they are retired.

  19. 19
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity: You could claw back all the excess growth of executive compensation and turn it into income for median-income workers, and it wouldn’t change the workers’ standard of living much.

    Disparities of wealth, not income, are part of the problem – and there just aren’t enough high-income executives for salary haircuts to make a big difference.

  20. 20
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Can we talk about the fact that I have spent the last 40 years making other mf’ers rich? That I was OK with that as long as I got my fair share of the pie? That in fact, over my entire working life (first job in ’74) I have been producing more and more and getting paid less and less?

    And so have all you all.

  21. 21
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @SatanicPanic: Denigrating hard working Americans is NOT a winning strategy. Please proceed, republicans.

  22. 22
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  23. 23

    Why not use both, inequality of wealth and income results in the inequality of opportunity. Why must Democrats always be so defensive.

  24. 24
    PST says:

    True levelers are rare. Almost everyone has something to protect and fears losing it, so they can be frightened by terms like redistribution. Making “inequality” the key buzzword when arguing for fairer laws that would reduce inequality plays into the hands of those who prey on such fears. The fact is, almost everyone believes in inequality of wealth and income to a degree, but they underestimate how unequal these are, both today and in the past, and their opinions about the fair and proper level of inequality form early in life. What has to be communicated is the radical nature of the shift since the ’70s and ’80s, We should be the ones appealing to the conservative instinct to restore the balance embodied in memories (if only false memories) of better times when the rich and poor were less far apart and most of us occupied a comfortable middle in our own estimation. Let Republicans defend the radicalism of exponential growth of wealth and income only for a small class of Randian übermenschen.

  25. 25
    burnspbesq says:

    @flukebucket:

    The idea that 6 members of the Walton family “work harder” than 127,000,000 other people is so silly

    Who is saying that? Got a link?

    Do you really not understand what capital is and what it does? Or do you deny its existence or its importance?

  26. 26
    burnspbesq says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Disparities of wealth, not income, are part of the problem

    And under our current constitution, the Takings Clause implicitly puts a ceiling on the estate tax at some number less than 100 percent. So where are you?

  27. 27
    Kay says:

    I have to admit, this does nothing for me. Taking what was a real emotional connection to something simple and real like wages, like “Fight for 15” or Moral Mondays with their social justice argument and turning it into another policy roundtable is to me a mistake.

    You know what this turns into in a stump speech? Job training. The Democratic campaign standby. I don’t know, maybe there are enough people who are too young to remember the Clinton job training mantra which they pulled out in response to every question, so this will sound new and responsive to what’s actually going on. They better hope so.

    I’m sort of amused that Robert Reich objects to this. He practically invented it. I recall him as the king of job training. We were all supposed to “retrain” from manufacturing to health care, I believe, and that was in response to Clinton abandoning manufacturing :)

    I don’t think this connects. I’m afraid it turns into job training(!) as a practical, immediate matter and people (here, anyway) will just roll their eyes. To me, it’s “all head, no heart”.

  28. 28
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @burnspbesq:

    *Oxfam briefing (links to PDF)

    It’s at the bottom of the original post. Reading is fundamental.

  29. 29
    flukebucket says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Do you really not understand what capital is and what it does?

    I’m listening…..

  30. 30

    Obama’s argument isn’t just that the economy has left incomes unequal. It’s that the economy is failing to honor work.

    This reminds me of a really nice tweet I saw recently:

    I never felt privileged; I worked hard for each reward I got. But I see now: being in a position to work hard & get rewards IS a privilege.
    –Shay Pierce

  31. 31
    dollared says:

    @burnspbesq: 50% above $3M, 80% above $100M. You got a problem with that?

  32. 32
    Kay says:

    Maybe we could at least have a balanced conversation? Because there’s two parts to this, there’s US workers and US companies. Let’s have a roundtable on how US companies could do a better job training workers and investing in this country. Maybe the much-maligned workers who are apparently wholly responsible for the decline of the middle class could offer THEM some advice. Let’s retrain our CEO’s for the 21st century. Why is this so one-sided? That doesn’t even make any sense. Surely workers didn’t get us here all by themselves.

  33. 33

    @Kay: It is no secret that the last 30 or so years have seen policies that favor capital over labor. There are many PhDs out there who are underemployed this is not just a problem facing workers at the lower end of the scale.

  34. 34
    dollared says:

    @Kay: Training really doesn’t matter, Kay, if the goal is to reestablish the middle class. There aren’t enough jobs where training will make a difference. If every worker is at the mercy of a CEO who literally gets paid to make them poor, training is just a tactic to keep somebody above $7.25 /hr but never above $15.00/hour.

  35. 35
    jeffreyw says:

    Those CEOs? They gave themselves raises out of YOUR PAYCHECKS.

  36. 36
    RSA says:

    @pamelabrown53:

    Opportunity sounds less clinical and more immediate and visceral than income inequality.

    I would make it even more earthy: “The rich have gotten richer; the rest of us have gotten poorer. What can we do about it?”

  37. 37
    C.V. Danes says:

    This is just more smoke.

    If you want to sort out what the proper “value of work” is, then pass legislation that supports and protects collective bargaining so that the workers can have more power at the negotiating table.

  38. 38
    Mandalay says:

    @flukebucket:

    The idea that 6 members of the Walton family “work harder” than 127,000,000 other people is so silly

    Of course. And if Sam Walton hadn’t created WalMart what would they have?

    And then there’s this: “Forbes says that 30 percent of the Forbes 400 members inherited their wealth”.

  39. 39
    Kay says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It is no secret that the last 30 or so years have seen policies that favor capital over labor. There are many PhDs out there who are underemployed this is not just a problem facing workers at the lower end of the scale.

    Oh, I’m sure! I agree. So why are we only discussing one side? It just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t even like the phrasing of the minimum wage issue. I don’t like how its being presented as a gift to workers. Wages aren’t gifts, and that isn’t the whole of what they’re asking for. They want to be recognized as contributing to the success of these companies. They shouldn’t be treated as somehow a drag on earnings that we wearily and reluctantly (or, worse, CHARITABLY) have to accomodate. They ARE the earnings. The Pizza Hut CEO’s giant paycheck isn’t appearing out of thin air.

  40. 40
    Paul in KY says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: We are lame when it comes to short & sweet messaging!

  41. 41
    Cassidy says:

    @Kay: Training has been outsourced.

  42. 42
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kay:

    Maybe we could at least have a balanced conversation?

    I’d love to. Unfortunately, all those CEOs are attending a conference on the French Riviera/Bahamas/Canary Islands/Swiss ski chalet/Aspen/Park City/etc etc. so I guess we’ll just have to yell at each other…. ;-)

  43. 43
    Paul in KY says:

    @Davis X. Machina: I disagree. If you took back all that money & used it to give raises to all the employees of the firms of the CEOs you liberated it from, everyone (the employees) would get a $15,000 a year raise. At the lower end, that would absolutely change people’s lives & opportunities.

    I know you are an heir to the Machina fortune, but come on…

  44. 44
    Cacti says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Who is saying that?

    Ummm…

    “The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”

    If only we could all pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and be a self-made success, like Paris Hilton or George W. Bush.

  45. 45
    EZSmirkzz says:

    @Betty Cracker: You’re absolutely right on this being about semantics, but I think if we wish to frame the issue in a negative light then inequality is the correct term to use, while the positive light is opportunity and one in which the President is constrained, by position, to engage in.

    The thing is, to me, whether we want to win the debates and loose the elections, or win the elections and win the debates. In that sense I’ll be glad when John quits looking around inside his head and start looking around outside of it again.

  46. 46
    Kay says:

    @dollared:

    I’m not talking about “training” in some abstract, global sense. Specifically, if US companies want better trained workers then US companies could make an investment and take a risk on those workers. That’s an option. Two employers do it here. One is a Japanese company, a Honda supplier, and the other is US, they make commercial furnishings. I suppose they could sit around and whine that US workers don’t have the very specific skills they need, but instead they spend some money and train them and shoulder the risk, rather than passing it to workers. Now, that money could have gone to executive bonuses, but these are choices, and workers aren’t the only factor in an economy.

  47. 47

    @Kay: Even as an Obot, I have to say that I am not a fan of how he discusses economic issues, he sounds defensive, the pivot in 2010 to austerity was not a good move either.

  48. 48
    Cacti says:

    Since I can’t edit, the quote in 44 was from billionaire Sam Zell.

  49. 49
    Paul in KY says:

    @Kay: ‘Retraining’ doesn’t work if the new job is still paid crappy wages like the old job.

  50. 50
    boatboy_srq says:

    @jibeaux: It’s very easy to talk about redistributed opportunities. That’s why we can’t have a rational debate on immigration reform: the Reichwing is convinced that “illegals” are taking all the “opportunities” and forgetting that it’s their business and households who won’t pay a decent wage that keeps the flow of said “illegals” coming. The two get combined if we talk about redistributed opportunities – redistributed to more of Those people who POTUS keeps wanting to give “amnesty” to so they can keep coming in and getting redistributed to.

    Mind you, that isn’t any prettier than GOTea talk about “takers” or the 47% or anything, but it’s a perfectly practical pivot.

  51. 51
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    OT: The coal industry has a gift for the other Virginia because they were feeling left out.82,000 tons of coal sludge spilling for days into NC river threatens Virginia drinking water

  52. 52
    Paul in KY says:

    @Kay: The whole problem is that they (the owners/CEOs) don’t give out hardly any raises anymore (because they feel they don’t have to).

    That’s how people (the vast majority) get more money: They get a raise.

    They need to understand that giving out these raises can help them & whole country in short/long term.

  53. 53
    C.V. Danes says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It is no secret that the last 30 or so years have seen policies that favor capital over labor.

    I would say this has been going on for much greater that 30 years. Historically speaking, this has been the rule and not the exception. The real exception was the creation of a viable middle class after WW2. What we’ve been seeing the last 30 years is the oligarchs/aristocrats grabbing their power back.

  54. 54
    Cacti says:

    @burnspbesq:

    And under our current constitution, the Takings Clause implicitly puts a ceiling on the estate tax at some number less than 100 percent.

    The SCOTUS disagrees with your creative interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, counselor.

    To wit:

    So far as the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment is relied upon, it suffices to say that there is no basis for such reliance, since it is equally well settled that such clause is not a limitation upon the taxing power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution; in other words, that the Constitution does not conflict with itself by conferring, upon the one hand, a taxing power, and taking the same power away, on the other, by the limitations of the due process clause

    Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R. 240 U.S. 1 (1916)

  55. 55
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Cacti: I would like to see Sam Zell work as hard as I did every day as a union carpenter for just one hour. True story: A famous football player’s son and a college player in his own right showed up on the job to work for the summer (his father knew the company owner). My foreman gave him to me and said, “Show him the ropes.” He worked with me all day slinging 106 lb sheets of 5/8’s firecode (at 5-8 I weighed 150, he was easily 6-0, 220). He never came back. Somehow or other I don’t think Sam Zell could handle it either.

  56. 56
    kindness says:

    ‘Fairness’ is not in the Republican value system. It might be in their lexicon, but if it is it is only used in a truthiness sense.

  57. 57
    Cacti says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I would like to see Sam Zell work as hard as I did every day as a union carpenter for just one hour.

    I’d love to see any “harder-working” 1-percenter type put on roofing or lay pipe for an hour on a Phoenix summer day.

  58. 58
    Mandalay says:

    @Paul in KY:

    That’s how people (the vast majority) get more money: They get a raise.

    I haven’t read it anywhere, but I suspect the housing boom/slump a few years ago has reduced the mobility of labor, which has indirectly allowed the one percenters to reduce pay raises. If I am a widget manager in Arizona, and I don’t like my salary, then in theory I can just apply for a job as a widget manager anywhere else in the country. But if I am $200k underwater on my home, then I am not really free to move. So I can still apply for other widget manager jobs, but they have to be within driving distance of my home. And the rich people who pay me will know this of course.

    I would accuse the rich of carefully planning the housing meltdown if their naked greed wasn’t matched by their raw stupidity.

  59. 59
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Cacti: Heh, it’s hard enough walking to the AC’ed car on a Phoenix summer day.

  60. 60
    Kay says:

    @Paul in KY:

    They need to understand that giving out these raises can help them & whole country in short/long term.

    I was actually surprised by what I heard as very one-sided (a lot of exhortation to workers and little to employers) because Obama is usually good at that sort of rhetorical balance, “workers have to do X, but employers have to do Y” construction. It’s so much a part of how he speaks. I was disappointed it wasn’t there. I heard a whole bunch about what “we” have to do, but there were some glaring omissions in what constitutes “we” :)

  61. 61
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mandalay: Excellent point on lack of mobility, due to not being able to sell big assets (your home).

    Back in old days, when the widget company had a banner year & the owner bought a new vacation home & teak paneled the swimming pool, he/she would also give all the hard working widget workers a raise. Spread the good times & ensure your skilled workforce stays motivated, etc. etc.

    They don’t seem to do that anymore.

  62. 62
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Paul in KY:

    We are lame when it comes to short & sweet messaging!

    I look at it as an opportunity.

  63. 63
    Paul in KY says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: I hear Frank Luntz is looking for work ;-)

  64. 64

    Obama’s argument isn’t just that the economy has left incomes unequal. It’s that the economy is failing to honor work.

    Let me add to that an argument I’ve made quite a bit, which is that the economy is failing to honor people. It’s the general “devaluing” of everything — work, humans, etc. I’ve quoted this before but I’ll do so again because even though the book is old it still resonates:

    From Natural Capitalism: Creating The Next Industrial Revolution, Chapter Three, “Waste Not”:

    People are often spoken of as being a resource — every large business has a “human resource” department — but apparently they are not a valuable one.[…]

    In a world where a billion workers cannot find a decent job or any employment at all, it bears stating the obvious: We cannot by any means — monetarily, governmentally or charitably — create a sense of value and dignity in people’s lives when we are simultaneously creating a society that clearly has no need for them.

    But that’s OK I’ve read another book that says the global population is gonna crash in about 100 years and we can get back to being valued again. Until we forget the lesson learned and do it all again, that is.

  65. 65
    Elizabelle says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    OT back atcha: reading your link on the sludge spill now.

    At least this has not happened to John Cole yet.

    The 73-year-old Hingham woman said she felt an animal jump onto her bed and reached out to pet what she expected to be her cat, reported the Patriot Ledger.

  66. 66
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @burnspbesq: Estate taxes. Swingeing estate taxes.

  67. 67
    Paul in KY says:

    @Southern Beale: The CEOs value people when they:

    A) Don’t have to pay them any money.

    B) Vote the way the CEOs want them to vote.

  68. 68
    Paul in KY says:

    @Kay: I wish he’d emphasized those themes too. Good points.

  69. 69
    Chris says:

    The distinction is important. Most people think income inequality is fine—in fact, it’s proper—when one person works harder than another. Obama’s argument isn’t just that the economy has left incomes unequal. It’s that the economy is failing to honor work.

    The argument in bold is missing the elephant in the room, which is that you really can’t have income inequality past a certain point (and most of the time in history, including now, inequality levels have been past that certain point) unless the economy is failing to honor work. It’s a common and fairly obvious (or it should be – it certainly used to be) symptom.

    There are only 24 hours in a day. There’s only so much an individual can work no matter how full of good intentions he is. There’s only so much that one individual can contribute “more” to the economy than the person next to him. There is no amount of “one person works harder than the other” that can explain the discrepancy between one man having eight mansions and another one being homeless. If you’ve got that kind of inequality, then your economy isn’t rewarding work. Period.

    (And this is just if you stick to the mathematical approach of “the more one contributes, the more they should get paid.” It ignores the myriad other ways in which the game is rigged in favor of the rich. For instance, it ignores the fact that a ton of people right now – the unemployed – are contributing absolutely nothing to society, because all the avenues through which they could contribute are being shut in their face by the state of the economy. And the state of the economy, in turn, is the way it is because the rich have made it that way).

  70. 70
    burnspbesq says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    That’s nice. But it doesn’t answer my question (which wasn’t directed at you).

  71. 71
    burnspbesq says:

    @dollared:

    50% above $3M, 80% above $100M. You got a problem with that?

    Why not 70 percent over $50 million? Rates and bracket edges are pretty arbitrary. In the case of the estate and gift taxes, where you put them depends on what you’re trying to accomplish (raising revenue efficiently vs. breaking up concentrations of wealth).

    If you were designing a tax system from scratch, you might not have an estate tax. You might choose to tax unrealized appreciation at death, and if that creates a liquidity problem for the heirs, too fucking bad. But we’re stuck with having an estate tax because early Supreme Court cases said the 16th amendment had a realization requirement.

  72. 72
    dollared says:

    @Kay: Kay, I’m really not understanding your point, and I fear you’re being a good Clinton Democrat here. If I may interpret you, you are saying that companies should see the upside of investing in their workers.

    I would have to say that thinking is very outdated, and it presumes good faith on the part of the MBA overlord class. They have none, anymore. The Boeing cramdown is a great example. Boeing has record profits and a a record backorder. Boeing machinists are highly skilled – they outperform every outsourced workforce that has been thrown at them – for example, as Boeing has set up nonunion assembly lines in SC, the product then is shipped to the union shop in Everett, WA to be fixed. But Boeing essentially tore up the existing union contract, terminated the pension plan, and said “take it or leave it.” And after much thrashing, the union took the bad deal. And the money went directly into the pockets of a CEO whose pension today would pay $276,000/month, never mind his $10M salary and $100M in stock.

    There is no good faith any more. There is just an MBA class taking all the assets that build the success of a company – the region that supports it, the workers, the suppliers – and turning those things into financial assets they can steal.

    Until you stop that – nothing will work.

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:

    @Cacti:

    If you want to go after me for things I actually believe, bring it on. Ascribing to me beliefs that I do not hold is kinda pointless.

  74. 74
    dollared says:

    @burnspbesq: Still, it’s an essential taxing mechanism to collect the benefits of living in a complex society, which rich people collect in a disproportionate way, and to make sure the wealth created is reinvested in public goods that support the virtuous cycle.

    And of course, it makes it harder for the Waltons and the Kochs to turn our society into government by the rich.

  75. 75
    burnspbesq says:

    @dollared:

    WADR, you got the wrong guys (and gals). As long as you have a system of corporation law that says directors and management owe fiduciary obligations only to shareholders, you’re going to get shareholder-value-maximizing behavior, whether your CFO has an MBA or a GED.

  76. 76
    burnspbesq says:

    @Cacti:

    Brushaber is an income tax case. Says nothing about transfer taxes.

    Thanks for coming. Bring some game next time.

  77. 77
    Kay says:

    @Paul in KY:

    And for God’s sake if we’re going to talk about job training, at least give that to Perez at Labor. I don’t think I can bear another Arne Duncan initiative. I really shudder at the thought of Arne Duncan delivering a patronizing, finger-wagging lecture on “excellence” to manufacturing workers.

  78. 78
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @Paul in KY:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: We are lame when it comes to short & sweet messaging!

    maybe, but this sounds pretty good to me:

    @jeffreyw:

    Those CEOs? They gave themselves raises out of YOUR PAYCHECKS.

  79. 79
    dollared says:

    @burnspbesq: What’s WADR? And how is it that we had the same corporation law for the last 150 years, and only in the last 30 has “shareholder value maximization” been the only goal?

    And what happen to the conflict of interest laws concerning CEO pay? And why didn’t we put Steve Jobs in jail when he backdated those option agreements?

    You’re right that the corporation law is a problem. But it’s also the laws that exist but are not enforced that are equally the problem.

  80. 80
    Paul in KY says:

    @Jebediah, RBG: I do like the ‘CEOs give themselves raises from your paychecks!’

  81. 81
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @Paul in KY:
    Yeah, its short, punchy, and makes it plain where their vast wealth really comes from – not some magical “hard work” fairy. Good job, jeffreyw!

  82. 82
    Cacti says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Brushaber is an income tax case. Says nothing about transfer taxes.

    Nice rhetorical fig leaf. Meanwhile, in the real world there is zero black letter law that supports your theory of taxation as a taking under the Fifth Amendment.

    I’d also ask where the Constitution enshrines a right to inheritance.

  83. 83
    Kay says:

    Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan 3h
    We need more programs and schools to prepare students for high-wage, high-skill jobs in advanced manufacturing

    Oh, God, we’re doomed. He’s moving into “job training”. Why can’t this be the labor department? Whatever happened to the labor department, anyway?

  84. 84
    burnspbesq says:

    @dollared:

    WADR = with all due respect.

  85. 85
    Tone In DC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    This is fucking ridiculous.
    These Galtians are as bad as Exxon/Mobil and BP. And they all have the legislature believing that the EPA is the ultimate evil, as is all regulation.

  86. 86
    les says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Brushaber is an income tax case. Says nothing about transfer taxes.

    And the constitution distinguishes between them how, now? Dog, but you’re lame when you climb your “I’m the only expert horse.”

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