Notes from the new Gilded Age

Erik Loomis argues that America is “Headed Back to the Robber-Baron Era,” writing that “We are recreating the Gilded Age, a period when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions and engaging in open corruption.”

The donors at Mitt Romney’s Hampton’s fundraiser sure seemed to agree with Loomis — excepting, of course, that they think a return to the Gilded Age would be a good thing. A new Gilded Age might spare them the tyrannical horror of a potential 4.6 percent increase for taxes on income above $400,000.

And while Romney and Republican governors beat the drum for laying off more firefighters, insurance companies now employ private firefighters to protect the property of their high-end clients.

Then, in keeping with the Age of the Robber Barons theme, we learn that Florida is now facing “what the Centers for Disease Control describe as the worst tuberculosis outbreak in the United States in 20 years.”

Actually, it’s not accurate to say that Florida is “facing” this outbreak. Republican Gov. Rick Scott is doing everything he can not to face this outbreak. He even closed the state’s primary hospital for treating tuberculosis cases.

And to add to our Bring Back the 19th Century theme, here’s news that black lung disease is making a comeback. It seems “the system for monitoring miners’ exposure to the dust that causes black lung allows companies to cheat or exploit loopholes” and “even when companies get caught, they have little to fear.”

But on the positive side, we’ve got at least one Alabama judge ruling against county debtors prisons and explicitly stating that abusive pro-corporate robber-baron policies from the 1800s are “disgraceful.”

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Hub Harrington:

… shut down what he called a “debtors prison” run by Harpersville Municipal Court and a private probation company that he said amounted to a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” court records show.

Circuit Judge Hub Harrington took control of all cases in Harpersville involving people jailed for failing to pay court fines and fees. He also ordered the city’s mayor and all council members to attend an Aug. 20 injunction hearing and future court hearings in the case.

Harrington filed the order Wednesday afternoon on a lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of Dana Burdette, contending that Harpersville Municipal Court routinely violated defendants’ Constitutional rights. If they were unable to immediately pay court-imposed fines and fees, defendants often were trapped by the system into paying several times that amount, the judge found.

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  • By the one percent I assume you mean DC. Thats the #1 richest area of the country. That certainly includes the contractors who work for your precious Pentagon.

    More specifically, that area is the counties of Fairfax and Loudoun (where I work and live, respectively).  I have no doubt that government contractors, lobbyists, and others connected to the political machine account for much of that wealth, but I suspect that the massive technology sector plays a very strong part as well.

    AT&T, Verizon, Cisco, Level 3, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Juniper, IBM, the moribund – but still profitable – Aol, and a host of other lesser-known, private sector companies with annual profits in the billions, all have major operational presences here, and they employ a lot of highly-paid people.  Some of them do, in fact, have lucrative government contracts, but in many cases, that accounts for only a very small percentage of their overall profits.

    At my company (which makes the majority of its money selling services to individuals), within my functional organization, there is a Senior Vice President with five VPs reporting to him.  That’s undoubtedly a fairly significant concentration of wealth right there, and then you have to consider that there are another two hundred full-time employees in the organization, the lowest-paid of which is earning at least $50,000 a year.

    And that’s just one organization within the company – there are, that I know of, three other functional organizations with similar (or higher) levels of staffing.

    Beyond that – and again, this is within only one company – there are the highly-paid contractors and consultants, who may receive less in the way of total benefits, but who generally have a much higher level of take-home pay than full-time employees.  Contracting and consulting companies in the area also take in massive annual profits thanks to the tech sector.

    So the point is that assuming that the concentration of wealth in the DC metro area is solely in the hands government fatcats demonstrates a failure to take into account the role of the private sector in the area.


    “Together with fifth-place Howard County, Md., which has annual median household income of $103,273, the economies of the nation’s five richest counties are all greatly dependent on federal government spending.”

    lliira- “This is the same stuff that goes into any harassment.”

    I see. So even though it would appear on the surface that I’m a bit of a victim of harassment with the swearing and shoving of things where sun doesn’t shine in a way which would cause me extreme amounts of pain, I’m actually the harasser.

    “I would post something nasty about more people being able to get health care on a blog which I know supports universal health care”

    harassment = disagreeing with people in a thread on the internet.

    sgt peppers-“You don’t hate war.”

    bashing the Pentagon in every thread is my way of supporting wars.

  • JustoneK

    internet lolbertarian martyr says what

  • bashing the Pentagon in every thread is my way of supporting war, that’s right.

    No, it’s your idiotic, know-nothing kneejerk way of bashing the government. It’s got nothing to do with opposing war. It’s barely got anything to do with the actual corruption in government contracts and the awarding thereof, because that would involve looking into the issue deeper than just shouting “BAD!” whenever someone mentions the government.

  • Alex

    Yeah, definitely Hesh.

  • To be fair, Lori, someone did say “I hope your house burns down. I hope you lose everything. “ to Chris Hadrick.

  • JayemGriffin

    Do you actually know why we call it the Gilded Age? It’s not just a pretty-sounding catchphrase. Mark Twain coined it in the actual era to describe how society looked shiny and pretty from the outside, but was rotting away underneath. All was well and good for the top 1%, but everyone else was either screwed or damn near about to be. It’s a metaphor.

  • Tricksterson

    Why 1871?

  • PJ Evans

    Why 1871?
    You got me. She was claiming that was when the government was taken over by corporations, or something off-the-wall like that.

  • Lori


    To be fair, Lori, someone did say “I hope your house burns down. I hope you lose everything. ” to Chris Hadrick.  

    Yup. And that is not “die in a fire”. If Chris had complained about what was actually said I would have let it go. Instead he had to try to make himself seem more of a victim.

  • Lori
  • PJ Evans

     It sure is CT.
    As I read it (IANAL) the corporations would be things like a national bank; there’s no mention of individuals being owned by one, never mind being owned by government.

  • Tricksterson

    Anyone else find hat as icoherent as I id?

  • Tricksterson

    as incoheent as I did.  Sorry.

  • Tricksterson


  • Lori

    Yes. In addition to not being true it also makes no real sense. IOW, pretty much par for the course for a conspiracy theory.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Although judging from the fact that you just tried to argue that the Gilded Age was awesome because they had bigger Ferris wheels than today,

    Yes, rich people were really rich and they had fancy stuff in the Gilded Age.  That’s why it was called ‘gilded’.

    Per capita income doesn’t actually tell us shit. If there’s ten people in the economy and a gross domestic product of a thousand dollars, per capita income is a hundred dollars. The fact that nine of those people have ten dollars each and the tenth has $910 is irrelevant.

    It can be helpful, in that it lets you assess the proportionate wealth of the group as a whole.  If one ‘economy’ has 10 people and PCGDP of $100, and a second 25 people and a PCGDP of $60, we know that *something* is making the first group more prosperous – even though the second has more total income. 

    In practice, though, PCGDP paired with GINI is a lot more helpful, both in getting a picture of conditions in the country and predicting future performance.  If Economy A with its $100 has a GINI of .81, and Economy B a GINI of, say, .23 over its $60 were to be compared, you’d probably have a good idea what each society looks like, and be able to guess that B would likely be more successful in the future (assuming you pay attention to reality – .23 is a little extreme, but even most Libertarians would be hard pressed to argue that .81 is a healthy economy.)

    Yeah that’s why I’m opposed to the military industrial complex, not because i hate war but because it’s a sneaky way to get rid of firefighters. I’m a pyromaniac!

    So the solution is to make sure that Scranton now has to raise its own army?  Or hell, that individual citizens have to provide for their own defense?  Please explain how that is in any way a better option.  You still need some way to defend yourself – pacifism is an end, but not a particularly effective means.

    Shockingly, not many people here are likely to be enthusiastic supporters of the whole military-industrial complex thing.  But just because the defense budget is bloated does not lead into ‘therefore, all government is bad’.

    By the one percent I assume you mean DC. Thats the #1 richest area of the country. That certainly includes the contractors who work for your precious Pentagon. 

    It’s almost as if the rich are disproportionately represented!

    Yeah that’s why my posts are ten times as long as everyone elses.

    No they aren’t.  They’re longer than most because you’re responding to multiple people, but they aren’t ‘ten times longer’.  In any case, you seem quite adamant in not actually absorbing any information imparted, as though you’re simply responding according to formula without actually understanding…

    You’re not by any chance a Chinese man in a closed room?


    You’re not by any chance a Chinese man in a closed room?

    If they were, presumably the scripts implemented by the room would not include any sort of reference to the fact. Asking them if they were a room full of English-language texts plus a Chinese man might get a more relevant answer, though it’s hard to see how.

    (shakes head) Don’t mind me. Searle has given me a low-grade toothache for about thirty years.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Just FYI, I live in Colorado.  If not for the firefighters putting their lives on the line last month, half of the state would currently be on fire, and the other half would have already burned out.

    You do an amazing job of demonstrating the “Got Mine, Fuck Y’All” worldview.  That is not praise.