I’m not ashamed to come and plead to you baby

We’re getting very close….let’s see if we can make our 75K goal over the next couple days.

Goal Thermometer

Bow down before the one you serve

I get confused sometimes about whether these guys are our hardworking Galtian overlord geniuses or the regular folks from my local Chamber:

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

I know I hit the fuck-all-the-big-papers button as hard as anyone sometimes, but when we think about a world without the New York Times, we need to think about a world where all this shit stays secret. I don’t know how these Times reporters found this stuff out, but I do know that no one at Politico ever would have written this story.

Juan in Doubt, Double Down

I’d like to see Erik’s response to this:

Yesterday NPR fired me for telling the truth. The truth is that I worry when I am getting on an airplane and see people dressed in garb that identifies them first and foremost as Muslims.

This is not a bigoted statement. It is a statement of my feelings, my fears after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by radical Muslims.

It’s both, you moran.

He’s not trying to bridge any divides (as he goes on to claim), he’s trying to justify his fear and bigotry. And now he will be paid handsomely at Fox to continue to attempt to justify his bigotry.

Are People Wrong to be Pissed About TARP?

The news that TARP earned a 8.25% rate of return is good, and a lot of the emotion over TARP is irrational, but I don’t think it’s entirely wrong to still be upset about TARP. If a private investor were taking on the kind of risk, they’d want a rate of return far in excess of the average corporate bond return (which is now about 6%), because at the time the TARP investment was made, it was far riskier than the average corporate bond.

Open Thread: “Recession? What Recession?”

Another not-so-respectful note, from Tim Heffernan at Esquire, to our Galtian masters of the financial universe:

Just a brief observation: as I write, the Dow is up one hundred fifty-plus points on the day, to something over 11,100. It is up more than 4,500 points since its recessional low point — 6626.94 on March 9, 2009 — or nearly 70 percent in less than two years. I am just guessing here, but I would bet that it has never achieved that much growth in that short a time in its history.
In any other climate, investment banks would be crowing over their profits, and politicians would be stampeding to the microphones to claim their share of credit. But this is a recession (okay, officially it no longer is one, but as with obscenity…), and there is no advantage to bankers or politicians in pointing out the blindingly obvious: that the economic health of this country can no longer be gauged by the height of the Dow. Bragging about massive profits and fat returns at this point would be vulgar, if not outright suicidal.
Still, it bears pointing out that Wall Street has figured out how to make money — megatons of it — in the midst of an economic disaster, and that the method does not involve job creation. Remember, too, that the Dow measures expected future value, and it is signaling that the future value of American corporations is skyrocketing at a time when 17.1 percent of eligible Americans are out of work or working reduced hours. The unemployed who are pinning their hopes to the GOP and its corporatist platform might want to ponder that for minute or two, and ask whether — to update the old saw — what’s good for Goldman is good for America.

Please Just Make Sullivan Stop Writing About This

And yet another round about the “successful” from Sully:

Doug J – with his snarl at the rich – proves my point. As a moral matter, I see no reason why people who work hard shouldn’t keep as much of their earnings as possible, and the only reason to tax them is to provide a safety net for the unlucky and sick and poor, and to fund essential functions of government (defense, law and order, public works, education, basic scientific research, etc). But my real point was about making the case for the necessary evil of such taxation in a civil and constructive way. James Joyner gets this right:

    The reason people like Andrew and myself wish the basic fact that most high earners got there through the dint of their own efforts acknowledged in the debate is that it’s crucial to a civil society.

We need a lot of money to fund a lot of public projects. That would be true even if we just funded the ones that 85 percent of Americans agreed absolutely had to be funded. And people with money are, by definition, going to have to pony up most of it. But to confiscate it from the successful without acknowledgment of the sacrifice this entails is to court resentment.

Amen. In turn, James gets attacked for using the term “confiscate” in the passage above.

First things first. Long time readers know that I love James Joyner and think OTB is a great website. I have lots of respect for James, and can’t say the same for many other conservatives out there. But as someone who also had my education paid for in part by the taxpayers via the GI Bill, listening to people who received a premium, many hundred thousand dollar education at West Point go on about the “confiscatory” nature of taxes makes me want to throw up from the chutzpah. Seriously. Should we require all Service Academy graduates like James to write thank you notes to our Galtian producers for their education now? I mean, we are super concerned with the feelings of the rich these days, it appears. And by the way, because of his premium taxpayer funded education, James is INSTANTLY better off than 95-99% of the rest of the nation.

Second, what Sullivan continues to keep missing is that the “snarl” from DougJ wasn’t unprovoked. It was started by Sullivan’s initial nonsense:

Why are so many on the left incapable of acknowledging that many people who are rich – but, of course by no means all of them – earned it the hard way? Until more liberals internalize this, they will fail to persuade America of the occasional need for government because people will rightly suspect that what they are really about is penalizing or diminishing hard work. By the way, I favor an inheritance tax. But I also favor allowing those who work hard to keep as much of their own money as possible.

I’ve already discussed in detail why this statement was so annoying, but let’s go through it again. First off, it is just one ginormous damned strawman. Who “on the left” won’t acknowledge many rich work hard? Name names. Show me some poll data. You’re just making shit up, otherwise. Second, why should liberals have to internalize this? Third, why do you assume you are any different from liberals in regards to people keeping as much of their money as possible. Everyone thinks this.

Sullivan’s problem is he just can’t come to grips with what has happened in this country the last few decades. Not only can he not come to grips with what is going on, but he has it ass-backwards. He thinks there is class warfare going on, and “the left,” liberals, and poor people are the ones waging it. The exact opposite is going on- it is the rich, both individuals and corporations, who are waging class warfare and have been for decades. And they are winning. Let’s look at a few charts. First, income inequality:

Wage stagnation (good piece here, too):

All the while, look what has been happening to income tax rates:

Like I said, Sullivan is right- there is class warfare going on. He just has no clue who is waging it and who is winning it. Over the last three decades, the rich and super-rich have been paying lower and lower taxes (in all areas- capital gains, marginal rates, etc.), getting a bigger and bigger piece of the pie and amassing more wealth concentrated in the fewest hands since the Gilded age, and what really bothers Sullivan is that we aren’t spending enough time fellating the rich for paying their taxes. The horror of it all.

And this doesn’t even go into the greatest heist perpetrated in modern times- the Bush tax cuts (which Sullivan and I both supported). A direct transfer payment to the most well off in the country, and now we are going to have to figure out how to pay for them since the Republicans sure as hell didn’t. And guess what the solution is- gutting social security and other social programs. Dontcha just love it? Give tax breaks to millionaires funded with social security payroll taxes for a decade, and then when the rich don’t want their marginal rates to go up after that ten year period, bend over social security recipients (who paid into the program) for another rogering. Because that is what happened, and it is all the more delicious when you realize that through it all, social security payroll taxes are capped from 80-100+ thousand over the ten year period. It’s as direct a transfer payment to the rich as is humanly possible. The only way it could be more transparent is if we put Tim Geithner signing checks in the Russian Tea Room and then handing them to millionaires.

Even in the latest downturn, when trillions of dollars in wealth were lost due to the greed and incompetence of our betters, guess who made out? Rich bankers caused this financial mess, and who did Republicans spend all their energy trying to destroy? Union autoworkers and ACORN.

And Sullivan is upset because “the Balloon Juice gang” won’t give our “successful betters” like Donald Trump and that whiny professor from Chicago a sloppy blowjob for bearing the horrifying burden of being rich. According to Andrew, unknown numbers of liberals refuse to internalize some bullshit he made up, when he can’t even see what is going on before his very eyes. The fact that the wealthiest in society have managed to convince Sully, the teahadists, and middle and low income Republicans that it is the poor waging class warfare is a greater feat for the Wurlitzer than even the Devil’s greatest trick.

*** Update ***

More here from Robert Reich.

Late Night Open Thread: The New Medici

Jacob Weisberg at Slate is horrified by “Hyper-libertarian Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel’s appalling plan to pay students to quit college“:

… To describe Peter Thiel as simply a libertarian wildly understates the case… In a personal statement produced last year for the Cato Institute, Thiel announced: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” The public, he says, doesn’t support unregulated, winner-take-all capitalism and so he doesn’t support the public making decisions… Thiel says that the Roaring 20s were the last period when it was possible for supporters of freedom like him to be optimistic about politics. “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron,” he writes.
… Thiel, who is openly gay, wants to flee the mob, not rally it… Having given up hope for American democracy, he writes that he has decided to focus “my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom.” Both his entrepreneurship and his philanthropy have been animated by techno-utopianism. In founding PayPal, which made his first fortune when he sold it to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, Thiel sought to create a global currency beyond the reach of taxation or central bank policy. He likewise sees Facebook as a way to form voluntary supra-national communities.
Offline, Thiel is the lead backer of Seasteading, a movement to create law-free floating communes based on voluntary association. Led by Milton Friedman’s pajama-wearing grandson, this may be the most elaborate effort ever devised by a group of computer nerds to get invited to an orgy. (Let’s build our own Deepwater Horizon with legal prostitution!) Thiel is also an investor in space exploration, with the avowed aim of creating new political structures even farther offshore. That could take some time, but Thiel—who loves robots and science fiction—has a plan for that, too. He has given millions to the Methuselah Foundation, which does research into life-extension based on the premise that humans can live to be 1,000 years old. At PayPal, he proposed making cryogenic storage an employee perk.
It should be noted that Thiel has also supported some genuinely good and useful causes, like the Committee to Protect Journalists. But Thiel’s latest crusade is his worst yet… The Thiel Fellowship will pay would-be entrepreneurs under 20 $100,000 in cash to drop out of school. In announcing the program, Thiel made clear his contempt for American universities which, like governments, he believes, cost more than they’re worth and hinder what really matters in life, namely starting tech companies. His scholarships are meant as an escape hatch from these insufficiently capitalist institutions of higher learning.
Where to start with this nasty idea? A basic feature of the venture capitalist’s worldview is its narcissism, and with that comes the desire to clone oneself—perhaps literally in Thiel’s case. Thus Thiel fellows will have the opportunity to emulate their sponsor by halting their intellectual development around the onset of adulthood, maintaining a narrow-minded focus on getting rich as young as possible, and thereby avoid the siren lure of helping others or contributing to the advances in basic science that have made the great tech fortunes possible…

Thiel sounds like half the guys in my own geek-dominated college social circle, only with the money to implement his narcissistic fantasies. His financial success may have more to do with getting lucky picking the right technerds at the right time than his actual Galtian ubermenschen talents, but this ‘Fellowship’ scheme seems to me like a ploy for getting lucky in the old-fashioned sense. For a mere $100k — tax deductible! — a pop,Thiel has engineered himself the opportunity to wine and dine many a hot young man about his brilliant entrepreneurial ideas, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Sure, some people may have sniggered about Malcolm Forbes’ “publishing empire”, but it was a lot less socially embarrassing for Mal to introduce yet another associate editor or assistant design manager at the club than to pretend he couldn’t keep a secretary for more than a few weeks. Who knows, one or another of those “entrepreneurs” might even turn out to be another Zuckerberg — and at the very least, it’s a lot cheaper than serial alimony.

As for the young men themselves… it’s not as though dropping out of college, however dramatically, barred anyone from going back again once their sponsor got bored fellowship contract expired. And Weisberg can stop worrying about the lads “halting their intellectual development around the onset of adulthood”… quite a few of us can attest that one outgrows one’s college fads and foibles, whether Marxism, lesbian separatism, cosplay, fanfiction, or Aqua Buddah.