Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, May 10, 2015 5:37 pm

Odds and ends for May 10

Hidy. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Your brain is your brain. Chuck Norris is your brain on drugs.

So good to see that the Baltimore officers implicated in Freddy Gray’s death were all the kind of stable individual to whom you want to give the power of life and death.

I had about given up on anyone doing anything to stop the NSA’s blatantly unconstitutional hoovering of Americans’ data. This isn’t a fix, but it’s a start.

Good to see that job creation is back on track. We’re still far from where we need to be, though, and farther still on wage growth.

Saturday, May 10, 2014 8:37 pm

Actually, only PART of the 1% is the problem. But we don’t know which part.

OK, strictly speaking, it’s the top 8%: CNBC commissioned a poll of U.S. households with $1 million or more of investable assets. And to a significant (and, to me, surprising) extent, they think a lot like you and I think on the economy:

  • 51% believe income inequality is a “major problem” for the country.
  • 64% support higher taxes for the wealthy.
  • 63% support increasing the minimum wage.

Now, they don’t think exactly like us; they’re likely to overestimate the effect of a good education and hard work (America tops only the U.K. in social mobility among the 20 wealthiest nations), and they tend to underestimate the effect of inherited wealth and luck.

But the fact remains that close to two-thirds of millionaires think they, themselves, should be paying more taxes and that the minimum wage should be higher. Just thought you should know we have some support among their ranks.



Thursday, March 27, 2014 8:53 pm

Thought for the day, rugged-individualism edition …

… from Helaine Olen at Reuters:

To presume home-buyers put into predatory loans by mortgage brokers working for outfits like Countrywide Financial could have stopped the housing market implosion if they knew a bit more about balancing their checkbook is absurd. Just as absurd as thinking a high school class in money management could help someone two decades later decipher a 100-page, single-spaced mortgage origination document loaded with “gotcha” clauses.

But our self-help culture doesn’t allow us to admit we might not be able to overcome greater economic woes on our own. In fact, it often makes our individual situations worse when things don’t work out.

Thomas Scheff, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently published a paper in the journalCultural Sociology claiming that in highly individualistic cultures like the United States, where people are encouraged to “go it alone,” shame is the price we pay for not achieving success.

Viewed through this prism, you can think of the constant simmering anger in our culture as the road rage of self-help culture. Fearing the humiliation of failure, we aggressively lash out at others who prove the self-help nostrums a lie.

This could be the reason that many, including Republican members of Congress, blame the long-term jobless for their own plight, and cut off their unemployment checks. We say those who fell prey to predatory lending weren’t misled, but were greedy.

According to the tenets of self-help, the victims of the American economic collapse need not a helping hand, but a kick in the pants.

True, self-help advice is not always fully useless. Saving money, for starters, is certainly more likely to lead to a prosperous life than not putting anything aside at all. Yet all too often, knowledge and individual action are not enough.

Self-help causes us to take the political and economic problem of increasing income inequality and make it personal. That’s both morally wrong and financially ineffective.

That we fall for it only makes it worse.

I would add that the fact that we fall for it is no surprise when you watch how much and how deeply American media of all political stripes (or none at all — movies produced purely for entertainment, for example, often include this theme) drill this message home. As we are bombarded by and marinated in those messages, the notion that many if not most great things we’ve accomplished could only have been accomplished by teams, groups, companies, communities, or the states or the federal government becomes the dog that didn’t bark: We’re so used to, and have so absorbed, this self-reliance tenet that we fail to note its all-too-frequent systemic failures.

We’re all in this together, folks. And before we can act like it, we — or most of us, anyway — have to think like it.

(h/t: Fec)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:04 pm

You really didn’t build that.

Not by yourself, anyway, says John Scalzi:

I am financially successful now; I pay a lot of taxes. I don’t mind because I know how taxes helped me to get to the fortunate position I am in today. I hope the taxes I pay will help some military wife give birth, a mother who needs help feed her child, help another child learn and fall in love with the written word, and help still another get through college. Likewise, I am in a socially advantageous position now, where I can help promote the work of others here and in other places. I do it because I can, because I think I should and because I remember those who helped me. It honors them and it sets the example for those I help to help those who follow them.

I know what I have been given and what I have taken. I know to whom I owe. I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it. I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.

So much of how their lives will be depends on them, of course, just as so much of how my life is has depended on my own actions. We all have to be the primary actors in our own lives. But so much of their lives will depend on others, too, people near and far. We all have to ask ourselves what role we play in the lives of others — in the lives of loved ones, in the lives of our community, in the life of our nation and in the life of our world. I know my own answer for this. It echoes the answer of those before me, who helped to get me where I am.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 8:26 pm

What John Cole gets that the Tea Party and Scott Walker and Mitt Romney do not

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:26 pm
Tags: , , ,


I was in Kroger (our chain grocery store) the other day buying a couple things of crab meat to make crab cakes for the party at Walt’s, and in front of me was a young woman with a baby in a stroller, and she was checking out, and she used food stamps, and then had to spend about five minutes counting coins to have enough to pay for her purchases (which, contrary to Republican beliefs, were not 40’s and steaks, but diapers, milk, oatmeal, and vegetables), and I remember thinking, as she was rushing and making counting mistakes, that poor girl is just humiliated and embarrassed she has to go through this. I genuinely felt bad for her. And then she turned around, looked at me and the people behind me, and apologized- “Sorry, it’s the 31st and I just have to have this stuff, and payday and everything isn’t until tomorrow.”

It was a heart-wrenching experience, and then I looked down at my purchases — crab meat, panko, buffalo mozzarella, green onions, dijon mustard, a couple bottles of wine, and some peel and eat shrimp, and I felt like the biggest most entitled [jerk] ever as I was rung up and handed the lady my debit card and then declined a receipt because “I just do my banking online and I’ll deal with it next week.” At which point I realized how debased and out of touch I am. Here is a woman buying what she can to keep her kid alive, and I’m buying luxury foods, for a party, for other people, and I’m not even worried about the price. However ashamed that young woman ahead of me was, I am sure I felt more ashamed as I understood what I had just said.

But if you ask the modern GOP, I pay too much in taxes, and we do too much for the girl in line in front of me. …  We’re just a seriously [messed]-up nation. I’m not one of those making over 250k, but by any metric in the world I am rich beyond the wildest dreams of historical standards (although, admittedly, it takes a lot less to be “rich” in WV). Please, please, please, politicians. Raise my taxes. Spend it on food stamps, job training, road and bridge construction. Spend it on child care, nursery school, and child development. Anything but more god damned wars and tax cuts for Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 6:09 pm

America: Land of opportunity?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 6:09 pm
Tags: , , ,

Well, if, by “opportunity,” you mean, “scraping by and desperately hoping not to get sick”:

That’s right, folks: We’ve got a higher percentage of our work force working for less than two-thirds our median wage than any other industrialized democracy, and yet one major party insists that the answer to all our economic problems is more tax cuts for the wealthy and the other major party refuses to call this policy out for the batshit insanity that it is.

And you wonder why people are marching in the streets.

Monday, April 23, 2012 6:35 am

Why does income inequality matter?

Because it’s a matter of life and death:

If the recent trend of growing inequality in life expectancy continues through the next three decades,
then workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution can anticipate substantial reductions in the
expected length of retirement if the normal retirement age is increased in accordance with this
schedule. A male worker born in 1973 retiring at age 70 can expect to live 13.8 years in retirement, a full year less than the expected length of retirement for a worker born in 1912 …

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