Let’s do something about this

This video seems to be everywhere. It needs to be everywhere.

If you’re wondering about the validity of the numbers cited — if the situation is as massively skewed as the video portrays, then let me assure you the numbers check out. The facts are factual. The video is true.

This viral video is right,” Ezra Klein writes, giving it the Wonk Seal of Approval. “We need to worry about wealth inequality,” Klein says.

Well, yes, we need to “worry” about this. But worry isn’t really a substantial response, and a substantial response is what is needed here.

Just consider all the breath and ink and time wasted fretting over budget deficits and the clumsy, crude responses to deficit-panic, like “sequestration.” Then watch that video again, or look at the graph below. The massive concentration of wealth they illustrate tells you all you need to know about those deficits — that most of the wealth is piling up beyond the reach of taxation. More and more of our allegedly “runaway spending” is flowing to the 1 percent,  while less and less of our revenue is being supplied by the 1 percent.

That’s an unsustainable situation and an unsustainable trend. It calls for a response.

It requires a policy response — steps that citizens must demand and elected officials must implement. It also calls for a moral response — this is something that prophets, preachers and pundits need to be condemning. And it calls for a cultural response — from storytellers, artists, songwriters, jesters and clowns.

We’ll return to this later, but here let’s just make this an open thread to discuss potential responses — “if … then” responses. Consider that video above to be the “whereas” of our resolution. Given what that “whereas” clause tells us, what should be included in the “therefore be it resolved” section of our resolution?

Worry is appropriate but inadequate. What should we try to do about this? What can be done?

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  • Carstonio

    I hadn’t thought about the contributions they could make. What about a supervised public works program where they put those skills to use? That could be problematic, with Henry Hill continuing to commit credit card fraud while under witness protection.

  • EllieMurasaki

    “If” it was triggering? Didn’t I just tell you in so many words that yes it is fucking triggering? Fortunately for me, I’m in good mental health this month and I wasn’t triggered. I have been triggered by similar things before.

  • AnonymousSam

    They do have one insane party. My attention was called to it when a member of said party campaigned to make taking pictures of your own children in a public place a felony because it would be possible that a pedophile would get their hands on said pictures and treat them as child porn.

    Not sure if they have the same issues with passing a budget, but I don’t think they have the same allowance for unlimited filibuster as we do.

  • Just to be clear, a consequence of this would be that you wouldn’t be able to pass your house to your children.

  • Beroli


    This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so
    employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees.

    And what would you suggest on Planet Earth, where most employers could perfectly well afford to pay their employees more than they do, but prefer to pocket as much of the profits as they can, and will respond to not being required to pay their workers as much by pocketing more than they currently are, not by hiring more people for the same net wages?

  • There is no need for studies here-there are often too many variables in economics for studies to be of any use in many situations. In any case, some empirical evidence does suggest that a state minimum wage higher than the Federal one does increase teen umemployment: http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/02/i-get-empirical-on-minimum-wage.html

  • EllieMurasaki

    Who gives a fuck about TEEN unemployment? I am perfectly fine with paying TEENS (whose income is not supplementing the household income) less than the minimum wage applicable to eighteen-pluses. It’s adults trying to support themselves on the minimum wage, or, worse, adults trying to support *families* on the minimum wage, that concern me.

  •  I thought

    Sadly, even at the minimum wage we have now, it is difficult or impossible to meet living expenses even working full-time. (FearlessSon)

    -It would certainly help an entrepreneur to make cheaper goods&services for the minimum-wage-employee demographic. Lowering the minimum wage will, all things being equal, lower the cost of goods and services for the minimum-wage-employee demographic. Thus, in this case, an expanding supply of goods&services would create its own demand.

  • Figs

     I agree with most of what you said, but how would term limits with the option of a popular vote supermajority to override possibly be workable? If the incumbent doesn’t get 60% of the vote, then what, the other guy just wins?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have a hundred widgets. Doesn’t matter what they are except that you don’t want one and couldn’t afford one if you did. Buy one?


    Now I have two hundred such widgets. Buy one?

    But the expanding supply creates its own demand, right? BUY ONE.

    …nope, can’t imagine why that isn’t working.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Say term limit twelve years for US Senate. A senator therefore cannot run for a third Senate term, unless a supermajority (of the registered voters, not of the people who vote) say she can in a special election occurring sometime in the declare-candidacy period for the election for that third term.

  •  If employers could get even higher profits by selling cheaper goods or services by hiring more people to produce these goods or services, they would gladly do so.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hiring more people = money goes out.

    Making same number of people do the work of more people = money comes in.

  •  I’m talking about goods & services that are actually in demand. See my responses to Shay Guy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Producing more food still doesn’t increase demand for food, even among hungry people, if nobody can AFFORD THE FUCKING FOOD.

  • I’m not sure if it would have to go to a run off or what. But actually, just letting the other guy win might be the best solution. It would make it risky to try and hang onto office without really solid backing of your constituents. And that guy would either have to step up and win over the people or be booted next time around. Or what if the ballot was a two question deal. First question being whether you want the person currently in office to remain in office. Second question if the person in office is not re-elected with a super-majority, which of the following candidates get your vote. It would create a situation where one party might have both an encumbant and a challenger on the ticket. But again, it would encourage those without the support to get out.

    I haven’t thought it through completely, but the weakness of term limits is that they can have the effect of forcing effective people with valuable experience out of office. And they can also encourage very short term thinking – “let’s do as much as we can, while we can.” So, I think that the combination of term limits with a way for someone who is really doing a solid job to stay on longer is a good idea. It seems like we should be able to figure out the logistics with a little thought.

  • With respect, the vehemence of your response was both unexpected and triggering to me (I would have put a tag if I did expect it.)  I will not share the thoughts that went through my head at that time for being another triggering issue, suffice to say that they were self-destructive in a manner that worries my family and my roommates.  

    Fortunately I too am in good enough mental health to keep it under wraps without hurting myself.  I hope we can agree that I spoke carelessly and that I apologize for doing so.  I pray you can accept that apology.  

  • Figs

     I think there is a problem with the advantages of incumbency and name recognition, but I’m against term limits because if a population wants to vote somebody in for another term because they think they’re doing a good job, I see no reason why they should be disallowed from doing so.

    The problem with a sort of confidence vote, like you propose, would be turnout, which is notoriously low at any point that isn’t in November, and in a year that’s divisible by four.

    I guess I just have a hard time painting with such a broad brush as term limits do. At least this tries to mitigate that, but it seems like it’d be a very easily gamed half-solution (and are these rolling supermajorities, so that it gets harder to run for every successive term?).

  • EllieMurasaki

    Shit. Sorry. And your apology is accepted.

  • P J Evans

     WTF kind of ‘logic’ is that?
    Do you really, serious, expect people to work for less money than they need to live on, so that the guys at the top can maintain their lifestyles?
    Do you even understand that minimum wage is less than poverty level?

  • P J Evans

     Raising the minimum wage might even increase employment levels. Because people would have money to spend, instead of having to decide which bills they can pay this month.

  • If wages drop to market rates, money can, in some cases, actually come in (relative to the arrangement under the minimum wage) by hiring more people.

  • Everyone votes. Not voting isn’t something that even seems to occur to people down here. We all go and vote, and most of us pay a great deal of attention to whom we’re voting for.

  • Runnadaroad

    Runaway government spending?  Government spending which has gone down as a portion of GNP over the last 10 years?  Which in the US runs about 22% of GNP where other civilized nations tend to run up to 40%?  How about the fact that the top 1% has taken for themselves 12o some % of the increase of the productivity of labor over the past decade…while impoverishing the workers themselves–driving wages down?

    Do you find nothing to be concerned about when the Walton family (who inherited & did not build the company) reap billions in profits from the largest and most profitable business while their AVERAGE (not their lowest paid but the AVERAGE) Walmart employee typically feeds her family on Food Stamps and if her child gets sick can only take him for treatment with Medicaid’s assistance?  Do you really find nothing to be concerned about?

  • No, we don’t have a two-party system. You know why? Because when you have preferential voting, two-party systems don’t keep happening so much.

    Seriously, guys – change to a preferential, compulsory voting system, and a lot of your electoral problems would slowly fade away…

  •  Doubtful. Though the minimum wage certainly has an effect on the purchasing power of particular employees, I don’t see how it can increase the purchasing power of the employee class as a whole.

  • Greater supply=lower price.
    (all things being equal)

  • Wingedwyrm

    Your position assumes that employers want to, by nature, hire more than the minimum necessary number of employees.  This completely ignores the motivation behind hiring.  If more people have money, but all of them have signifigantly less money, that’s still people without enough money per person to be worth the investment to get to.  So, you stick to hiring enough people and keeping prices to the rate that will be the max-profit.

    Part of the reason that we are where we are is that prices aren’t set by the poorest or even necessarily by the middle class, but by what the wealthy are willing to pay.  And, they tend to be willing to pay more than people who, by reason of limited income, need to maintain low standards.

    Raising minimum wage would mean that more people have more money with which to purchase.  Thus, they would be able to purchase, thus giving business owners not only more income (good for struggling businesses) but also more *motivation* to hire.

    This, by the way, is backed up with an experiment known as The New Deal.

  • Interestingly enough, the employee class tends to be made up of employees. Affect enough employees, and the employee class will be affected.

  • Lori


    This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so
    employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees.   

    Yes, employment is low because employers can’t afford more employees. The fact that corporate profits are at an all-time high is not part of this equation at all.

    We get it. You don’t know anything about how the economy actually functions. No need to continue to demonstrate.

  • …Are you seriously pulling out Say’s law? Dude, that was debunked before my parents were alive.

  • Uh, because lots of people work live on minimum wage?

  • AnonymousSam

    Employers are moving operations overseas where they can pay slaves a nickle a day to assemble electronics that they turn around and sell for hundreds of dollars here. What part of this benefits the slaves? What makes you think they don’t fully understand what kind of life they’re subjecting people to, and simply don’t care as long as it makes them more money?

    You’re banking on the goodness of their heart leading them to repay us for our generosity in laying down and letting them bury us.

    I’m looking at the fact that they employ slaves as all the argument I need for this to be bullshit and you to be full of the same.

  • EllieMurasaki


  •  Most of the New Deal made the Depression worse. The bank holiday did prepare conditions for an economic recovery (whether sustainable or not), but I see no evidence that the minimum wage of the 1930s helped lead to recovery.

  • Yes; it could also drive some employees out of the labor force. 

  •  “Slaves”? [citation needed]. I’m not banking on “the goodness of their heart”; I’m banking on their rational self-interest.

  •  Or we could fix the underlying problems first, and then it wouldn’t matter whether or not we had a compulsory voting system.

  • The_L1985

     Wages need to DROP?  When the average Wal-Mart employee is already paid so little money that half of their income comes from welfare, so that they can actually survive, your solution is to LOWER wages?

    That is the most horrifyingly cruel and disgusting thing I’ve ever read, and I’ve read the fanfics My Immortal and HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  We’re trying to solve problems here, not actively try to make them worse.

  •  In the case of something as basic as food, lower price probably does =increased demand.

  • AnonymousSam
  • EllieMurasaki

    You keep on telling yourself that. Meanwhile, wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that less expensive food, while good for those who have money for food, is a wash for those who don’t–and with slashed minimum wage or none at all, ‘those who don’t’ will be a whole hell of a lot more people than now. And it’s far too many now.

  • The_L1985

     Inheritance taxes have already existed in this country, and weren’t abolished until the GWB administration.

  • The_L1985

    TEEN unemployment.  As in, the kind that doesn’t generally cause people to starve to death.

    I do not give a rat’s ass about whether or not a suburban 17-year-old can get a part-time job to pay for plastic jewelry or pop music or whatever it is that kids spend their money on these days.  I care far more for the 18-to-65-year-old unemployed people, and for the already-employed people who can’t afford to eat.

    Besides, 14-to-16-year-olds don’t have to be paid minimum wage, and 16-to-18-year-olds aren’t allowed to work during school hours, so it’s not like you can really argue that this is a vital need for the sake of the economy or something.

  • Wingedwyrm

    You see no evidence that a wider number of people with the funds to purchase provided any boost in hiring from people that now have reason to hire more people necessary to target a larger number of people capable of purchasing?

    I think that says pretty much everything about your economic philosophy.

  • The_L1985

     Do you live on the same planet Earth as the rest of us?  We already get cheaper goods than were available 30 years ago, in both the costs-less sense and the made-poorly-and-easily-broken sense.  Food also costs less than it ever has at any point in human history.

    The reason non-food goods are so fucking inexpensive is because we outsourced almost ALL of our manufacturing to China, where people work 16-hour days for maybe $2 a day.  We’re saving money by using what basically amounts to slave labor, but since we don’t have to actually see the slaves day in, day out, we are that much more blind to the horrible, horrible thing we are doing.

    I spend half of my monthly income on rent.  This is not an amount of money that would decrease if goods and services were less expensive.

    I spend $250 per year on my car registration.  This is not an amount of money that would decrease if goods and services were less expensive.

    And food in your supermarket already is as inexpensive as it can possibly GET.

  • The_L1985

     No they wouldn’t. We know this because if it were true, employers would already be hiring more people.

    Corporations are extremely short-sighted.  The CEOs of the world do not view their employees as people anymore, but as an expense to be cut as far as possible.  Hiring more people costs them money.  Duh.

  • The_L1985

    That’s because you know absolutely nothing about economics.

    …You’re 15 years old, aren’t you?  That’s the only reason I can think of for you to be so naively trusting of corporate CEOs and so concerned with unemployment rates among teenagers.

  • The_L1985

     Corporate self-interest IS NOT RATIONAL.  It literally does not extend beyond the next month or so.  This is a large part of the problem.

  • Thank you, I appreciate that.  I am genuinely sorry for triggering.  I have a lot of shame on my shoulders whether rightly or wrongly.  So when I realize I have done something shameful, well, the results are often upsetting to the people who care about me.  I do not want to inflict that on anyone else, so I regret the lapse in mindfulness.