Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Not A Carnival, Just A Sideshow

My google-fu is so weak I can’t even find the post from a few months ago when the Koch brothers were looking to hire “motivated young people” for a “temporary acting gig”. So I’m not sure whether that ad was related to Dave Weigel’s tale of “A Confusing Attempt to Denounce Obamacare”:

The young couple holding hands outside the entrance to “Creepy Carenival” held on the National Mall July 23rd were rather baffled by it. “I think it’s something about Obamacare?” the woman said. “I think they’re going to talk about it?” They had happened upon it on a walk; they weren’t sure if the message would be for or against.

The event had been put on by Generation Opportunity, a lobby group of free-market minded youngsters who mostly advocate on millennial issues like youth unemployment and student debt. Obamacare, their spokesman informed me, was their first foray into healthcare. In case there’s any confusion, they’re against it: they say that it increases health premiums for those 27 and under who wish to buy healthcare through the federally mandated program….

I chatted with a few performers and blue-shirted young men from Talk of the Town, the entertainment whose games were hired out for the festivities. Their employers, it appears, did not provide health insurance: The young acrobat was still on her parents’— she says will think about what to do once she turns 26 (but “her views are her own and do not represent those of Generation Opportunity”). Another, older carnival worker said he bought his direct through the insurance company. A third young man, running the high striker, had been instructed to give a flimsy hammer to anyone under 27, and an actual sledgehammer to anyone older. I read aloud a placard at his station, which said that women under 27 would on average see their premiums rise by 44 percent, and men by 91 percent. “You’re the first person all day to read that,” he informed me. When I asked him about the meaning of the trick versus real hammers, he shrugged. Some staffers quickly swooped in to explain—something about the game being rigged against you—but the exact gist remained a bit opaque…

Here’s SourceWatch’s description of “Generation Opportunity”:

Generation Opportunity (GenOp) is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization based in Arlington, Virginia funded by Freedom Partners, a multimillion dollar Koch-tied funding vehicle. On the group’s website, its describes itself as “a free-thinking, liberty-loving, national organization of young people promoting the best of Being American: opportunity, creativity and freedom.”[1] According to OpenSecrets, “[i]n the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits…

So, just another Kochsucker scam — but at least this one entertained a few Mall walkers during the Silly Season. If only all the money the Kochs lavished on politics were wasted so harmlessly.








Open Thread: “An Idiot’s Guide to Inequality”

Nick Kristoff, earnest well-meaning NYTimes Conventional Wisdomneer, has a nice short forwardable piece that reads, to me, like another straw in the progressive wind:

The rush to purchase Piketty’s book suggested that Americans must have wanted to understand inequality. The apparent rush to put it down suggests that, well, we’re human.

So let me satisfy this demand with my own “Idiot’s Guide to Inequality.” Here are five points:

First, economic inequality has worsened significantly in the United States and some other countries. The richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Oxfam estimates that the richest 85 people in the world own half of all wealth…

Second, inequality in America is destabilizing. Some inequality is essential to create incentives, but we seem to have reached the point where inequality actually becomes an impediment to economic growth…

Inequality causes problems by creating fissures in societies, leaving those at the bottom feeling marginalized or disenfranchised. That has been a classic problem in “banana republic” countries in Latin America, and the United States now has a Gini coefficient (a standard measure of inequality) approaching some traditionally poor and dysfunctional Latin countries.

Third, disparities reflect not just the invisible hand of the market but also manipulation of markets. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote a terrific book two years ago, “The Price of Inequality,” which is a shorter and easier read than Piketty’s book. In it, he notes: “Much of America’s inequality is the result of market distortions, with incentives directed not at creating new wealth but at taking it from others.”…

Which reminded me: I have a copy of The Price of Inequality, but I haven’t read it yet. Reviews by people who know more about math than I do have convinced me that Picketty is well above my pay grade, but Stiglitz is generally much more accessible to the nonspecialist. Anybody here who has read it want to offer an opinion whether The Price of Inequality might be worth doing as a “Book Chat” here?








The Sun Also Sets (Open Thread)

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Hanging out at my sister’s lake house watching the night sky. What are you up to this evening?








Saturday Afternoon Open Thread

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Okay, it’s a funny-once, but sometimes that’s enough…

I need to go mow the weeds lawn. What weekend excitement is on the agenda in your more urbane areas?








Open Thread: “The End of the Cringe”

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(Jeff Danziger’s website)

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“Democratic political strategist” Doug Sosnik has a piece in Politico explaining “How the left took over the Democratic Party“. I dearly, dearly hope Professor Krugman’s review is correct:

For a long time, it wasn’t just Republicans who believed that history was on their side; a lot of Democrats seemed to feel the same…

But things have changed, for the reasons Sosnik describes and more. Democrats have, after all, won the popular presidential vote in five of the past six elections. Despite all the craziness & challenges, they have made big progress on their generations-long quest for universal health insurance. They have a network of think tanks that is a lot less lavishly funded than the right-wing tanks that is a lot less lavishly funded than the right-wing apparatus, but intellectually runs rings around its opponents.

And as Sosnik says more or less clearly, the craziness of the right in some ways empowers the moderate left…

How it all turns out is anyone’s guess — maybe we eventually see a California scenario on a national basis, with the growing diversity of the electorate and the evident madness of the right delivering an overwhelming Democratic majority; maybe we see some exogenous event tip the balance back to the GOP despite what looks like a trend the other way. But what I don’t think we’ll see, even if there’s a Clinton in the White House, is another Clinton era in which liberalism is afraid to take a stand.

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And as we all work towards that glorious day, what’s on the agenda for the day?