Friday, April 18, 2014

Princeton Study: American Democracy Is Dead Already

I loved the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life. Economic opportunity for ex-pats now?

This is not surprising. A study just released shows that our democracy has died and is already being replaced by oligarchy. Who knew? Most voters don't, yet.

The most interesting -- or obvious -- fact is that it isn't a result of Citizens United or McCutcheon decisions, since the current situation has roots back to the beginning of the eighties.

I recall reading toward the end of the Reagan administration that 80% of the wealth created under his watch has gone to the wealthy, that a rising tide was not lifting all boats as had happened in previous expansions. I was angry with that, especially since I was in my thirties and felt that my opportunities were squeezed, and I had had to be quite crafty to get by. It turns out it wasn't just me. The money was even then not flowing to the middle class.

What was my reaction? I left for a few years in Japan, where they threw money at me. When I came home, I had, if not a fortune, at least enough money to have options. By the way, while I was in Japan, I met ex-pats from all over the English-speaking world (I spent most, but not all, of my time working in an English language school for Japanese), and all of them were there for very much the same reasons I had come: in search of opportunity that had eluded them at home. We were quite the crew, and some of my best memories are of my days in Japan.

That was just before the real-estate bubble popped in Japan, from which they have yet to truly emerge.

So, as I often do, I've personalized my take of what's happening in our culture. We're shaped by our experiences. So, if I had advice to the young today -- who've seen their opportunity shrink to very paltry levels -- it wouldn't be to go abroad in search of opportunity. It's quite sucky everywhere, at least in the young-adult employment area.

Sorry, kids. Stay home and fight the oligarchy. It's an uphill battle, and we'll need all the bodies -- and minds -- we can find.

Link to the Princeton study here.

I found more than economic opportunity in Tokyo... Wish I could recommend it now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Reality of Inequality

Paul Krugman participated in a panel discussion after a talk by Thomas Piketty at the CUNY Graduate Center (Piketty is of late quite famous for his Capital in the 21st Century). Krugman's notes on it in his blog are tantalizing and enlightening. Here's a taste:
This brings me to my second point about Piketty, which is that his work greatly reinforces the notion that we may face a political-economy spiral of inequality, in which great wealth brings great power, which is used to reinforce the concentration of wealth. That was a concern even when we thought we were facing a one-generation dispersion of economic success. But it becomes much more of a concern when one realizes that we’re talking about creating an environment favorable to “patrimonial capitalism”, of sustained dominance by family dynasties.
And let me say that while the core of Piketty’s work is his economic analysis, his discussion of the political economy of dynastic wealth is a major additional highlight. I was especially struck by the somewhat paradoxical contrast between Belle Epoque France and Gilded Age America: a notionally egalitarian society in which anything that might challenge the privileges of inherited wealth was beyond the pale, versus a society that celebrated financial success but in which it was considered reasonable and respectable to advocate high taxation for the explicit purpose of reducing inequality. It seems to me that we want some real scholarship — from political scientists, not (or not just) economists — to figure out that contrast, and learn lessons that might help us break the cycle of rising dynastic power we face today.
When the vastly wealthy can control the political dynamics, it's game over for the masses. And that division -- between capital and labor -- is just another of the divisions that rive our society today.

Note. I've had a bit of an epiphany about division in our society and its implications and multiple iterations. It will be a theme of mine for some time to come. Piketty's explication of income inequality will be a powerful part of what I've discovered -- or believe to have discovered. Stay tuned.

Speaking of tuned, you will be able to tune in to the Piketty talk when the CUNY Graduate Center posts its YouTube of it. You'll find a link to it in the upper right corner of this page. I'll be watching and waiting and then watching, too. (As of now, it's not there yet...)

OKLA's Mary Fallin: Hell No You Can't Raise the Minimum Wage in My State!

Gov. Mary Fallin: No more money or benefits to low-wage workers on my watch!

Atrios noticed an Alex Pareene article on Susana Martinez that basically showed that she, like many governors, are just the state-level asshole we the people tend to elect based on the notion that, yeah, maybe they're jerks but they'll kick asses -- especially the asses of the unclean, undeserving that mess with Your Tax Dollars®.

That got me thinking of the asshole governors around the country, yeah, from my perspective mostly Republican governors, but New York's Andrew Cuomo is the Democratic asshole that proves the rule. And Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin shouldn't be allowed to pass under our radar. Don't know much about her, but this recent move in signing a bill that outlaws raising the minimum wage anywhere in Oklahoma on the local or municipal level. I guess on the state level is Oklahoma OK!, but that's not going to happen on her watch! The bill also limits increases in benefits, sick days, and vacations. Well, that makes sense. Don't want OKLA cities going all random and improving workers' lives.

Municipalities have independently raised minimum wage levels, by the way. An example out where I live is San Francisco, which has a higher minimum wage than that mandated by both the state and the federal governments. Also, it has had a citywide healthcare plan with better benefits than surrounding cities. This makes a lot of sense because the cost of living is higher in SF than in other cities and regions in California.

In any event, Mary Fallin and her Republican legislature proves what we can call either the Atrios rule or the Alex Pareene rule: She may be an asshole, but she's our asshole! Good on ya, Oklahomans, for reminding me why I'm glad I live in blue California, where we don't fuck each other over, at least to the extent you do in the Sooner state.

Oh what a beautiful morning without an increase in the minimum wage!

Update. Just found Charles Blow's latest op-ed in the NY Times. It's about the minimum wage and Oklahoma's new move. Worth a read.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Does the Federal Government Manage Any Western Land?

I haven't thought about it much, not until Cliven Bundy, rancher and Federal Government Denier®, started wagging his crafty little tongue. So I found this at Daily Kos:

(click image to make even bigger)

A lot of Nevada is managed by the federal government and its jack-booted thugs at the Bureau of Land Management. BTW, the BLM is an offshoot of the General Land Office, established back in 1812 (as in "1812 Overture," that far back). Most of our Founding Fathers were still alive then, BTW, so you patriots who think this is some new Obama "lawlessness" better think again, assuming you can think beyond this comment I found on a random web thread:
Re: Clive Bundy: moocher, taker, law breaker, welfare cowboy

In my opinion in a LAND dispute.   States have rights over Federal Govt.  
The States are the owners of the land.  The Federal Govt should not be buying land because we are the taxpayers. The Federal Govt should only be allowed to lease land from the states.
If Nevada gives up it's land rights to the Federal Govt than it's actually not a state.
The Federal Govt is not real so it should even be able to purchase land in our states only lease or rent.
Why would the states have border rights?  The Federal Govt is an agency to protect our borders from enemy's not purchase and manage land in other states.

Wow. You see what we're dealing with here?

Patriots Who Hate Their Country Are Not Patriots

Cliven Bundy: Sucking on the federal teat and
proud of it. Where is the conservative outrage?

Krystal Ball makes a clear, concise statement about patriotism:

(h/t Daily Kos)

The tag "Welfare Cowboy" is apt for Cliven Bundy. He's a patriot. Of what country, I don't know. He doesn't recognize the federal government.

Here's the #BundyRanch twitter thread.

Here's the Inagist #BundyRanch thread.

BTW, remember David Koresh? Timothy McVeigh? Why does this happen in Democratic presidential terms? I'm not paranoid, just askin'.

Fun fact: Koresh and McVeigh both died at 33. I wonder why Sean Hannity hasn't speculated about the federal government rounding up all 33-year-old men. Hannity may yet. After all, he's a patriot.

(h/t Crooks&Liars)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of Secession

Scott Walker: not ready to go there, but his party is.

The Wisconsin Republican Party’s Resolutions Committee endorsed a proposal reaffirming Wisconsin's right to secede from the Union. A vote is pending at the state GOP convention in May.

The word patriot -- in the American context -- is taking a beating lately, and Republicans, conservatives, and right-wing extremists aren't spending much time improving their patriotic cred, in fact quite the opposite.

Liberals talk of change. Conservatives talk of secession. Why is that?

Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Goes to....Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden: when a criminal is actually a hero.

Actually, no. But the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service has gone to the Washington Post and the Guardian for its reportage on the Edward Snowden leaks. The two papers were the chosen beneficiaries of the leak, with Barton Gellman at the Post and Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian.

On top of the Polk Awards just given to Greenwald, Gellman, Laura Poitras, and Ewan MacAskill for their NSA/Snowden coverage, the Pulitzers bring into stark relief the difference between the U.S. government's view of Snowden's actions and the view of the larger world, or even that slice of it called American journalism.

Congrats to all concerned, and special kudos to the reporters with guts and brains that gave us this gift of information that keeps on giving.

Poitras, Greenwald, and Gellman: reason to smile.