Scenes from the class war

Scenes from the class war April 30, 2013

“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) just released a ranking of developed countries by the percent of children who live in poverty, and the U.S. clocks in at number 34 out of 35, only beating out Romania.”

Welcome back to the 19th Century, my friends.”

“And when they start bringing back the child chimneysweeps — and wouldn’t that make just the most adorable must-have conversation piece for the plutocrat who has everything? — please kill me quickly.”

“Average income rose just $59 from 1966 to 2011 for the bottom 90 percent once those incomes were adjusted for inflation.”

“Income inequality in the US has increased in recent decades, and this increase is of a permanent nature.”

“Workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year, according to new data published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“America is largely designed to keep poor people poor, and ridiculously rich people ridiculously rich.”

“According to the projections in Obama’s new budget, America won’t return to full employment until about 2018.”

“If you lived on a diet of Beltway pundits, you’d have no idea that we’re facing a crisis of joblessness, with terrible implications for our long-term economic health, to say nothing of those immediately affected.”

“Right now companies could use the cash they are sitting on to hire every unemployed person at $395,000 a year, and have cash left over.”

“In April 2010 the number of people ages 20-24 who were unemployed for more than six months had reached an all-time high of 967,000 people. We estimate that these young Americans will lose a total of $21.4 billion in earnings over the next 10 years.”

“Furthermore, the doctrinal emphases we discover ‘naturally’ when we look at the Bible are shaped by the true objects of our worship in capitalism, such as the total depravity of the other, which is the raison d’tre of suburbia and an atonement theory defined by God’s obedience to the fundamental principle of the market: that no debt can go unpaid.”

“Regressives sincerely believe the rich will work harder if they have even more, and the poor will work harder if they have even less.”

“Your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families, not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That, too, is unacceptable.”

“The problem with America now is, apparently, that the officially disabled have it too good.”

“Our food stamp rolls are eye popping, but they’re not the problem. Poverty is.”

“Credit-rating firm Equifax said $3.5 billion in government and private student loans went bad in the first three months of 2013, the most since the company began keeping track.”

“Now, for the first time in at least 10 years, 30-year-olds with no history of student loans are more likely to have home-secured debt than those with a history of student loans.”

“The countries that subsidize fossil fuels most heavily are the United States ($502 billion per year), China ($279 billion per year), and Russia ($116 billion).”

“The United States has some of the best medical professionals, health care facilities, and medical technology, but the health care system itself was a dangerous fiasco — which is precisely why so many Americans have demanded changes for so long. The system itself cost too much, covered too few, and was the only system in the industrialized world that allowed families to go broke when a loved one got sick.”

“Socioeconomic factors such as the percentage of a country’s population with a college education and the rate of children living in poverty had equally strong or stronger relationships to fluctuations in mortality rates.”

Immediate citizenship would provide the largest economic boost, adding $1.4 trillion to economic growth, a $791 billion increase to Americans’ personal incomes, and 203,000 jobs over the next decade. It would also boost incomes of undocumented workers by $691 billion over the next decade, adding $184 billion in tax revenues to state and federal coffers.”


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  • Rhubarbarian82

    I’ve always disliked the mortgage interest deduction and that graph now gives me a good shorthand as to why. The MID always read to me as, “you have enough money to buy a house? That’s great! Have some money!”

    If there was an equivalent deduction for renters it wouldn’t bother me so much. I get why it was created, but given how our current housing market prices out so many, I think it either needs to be heavily revised or done away with entirely.

  • Holden Pattern

    The theory (and I stress that it’s a theory) is that landlords get a mortgage interest deduction as part of their business expenses, so the relevant deduction is baked into the rent levels.

    Rent levels are basically set by the market, of course.

    Here’s the problem with the MID: it’s a relic — the only personal interest deduction left over from the old tax code when personal interest deductions were common, kept in by the American home ownership fetish (helped along by the lack of regulations on landlord behavior) and the diligent efforts of the various residential real estate lobbies. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist (nor would various stupid corporate debt service cost equivalents)

    But people buy houses based on annual / monthly cost, not the lump sum price of the house itself, so that means that the MID is baked into housing prices. If you were to kill the MID now, you’d basically be deflating housing prices (the primary asset owned by most people). So it would be another viciously deflationary attack on household wealth.

  • “The countries that subsidize fossil fuels most heavily are the United States ($502 billion per year), China ($279 billion per year), and Russia ($116 billion).”

    -There’s something the U.S. government can readily cut!

  • Kesh Meshi

    Do they though? I thought landlords only get the deduction if they lived in their rental for a period, six months maybe? And I would imagine landlords get tons of other business-related deductions.

  • And yet again, if the members of the predator class work as hard as us serfs, they should make as much.

  • Finally! Something we can agree on. $6/gallon gasoline would not be a lot of fun, however.

  • I once got into an argument with a libertarian friend-of-a-friend on Facebook about the cost-effectiveness of public transportation (there was a referendum up for vote in our state, the outcome of which would have an effect on public transit funding.) He was claiming it was immoral of me to want his money to go to subsidize my transportation (I have never owned a car.)

    I wish he knew how much of my money was also subsidizing his transportation.

  • Carstonio

    A system that benefits the few at the expense of the many is not only fundamentally unjust but also unsustainable over the long run. It’s a recipe for economic and social decline, vulnerability to either outside domination or internal revolution. We’ve become 1787 France.

  • Speaking of sequestration..

    The US’s labor force participation rate is now right back where it was in the 1970s. Sequestration will only keep pushing that number down as the economic recovery becomes more anemic.

  • Canada doesn’t have an equivalent deduction, and people still roll right on in and buy houses.

  • “Income inequality in the US has increased in recent decades, and this increase is of a permanent nature.”

    And so begins a widespread acknowledgement that the USA is freezing out along feudal lines.

  • The way I’ve heard it, if you back out all the military spending used by the USA to keep the Saudis pumping oil and price it in at the pump instead gas would work out to about that price, yeah.

    The trick is, Americans are basically splitting the true price they pay at the pump into a visible ($3.99 a gallon, etc) and an invisible (through taxation) part, and this doesn’t register psychologically.

    A rather handy trick, that.

  • P J Evans

    Actually, the pump price in the US usually *includes* the taxes.

  • One thing I think that is unintentionally helping this along:

    I’ve just started reading James KA Smith’s new book Imagining the Kingdom. Smith’s basic argument is that our actions are not really based on conscious rational choices but rather on how ritual behaviors have caused us to imagine the world around us.

    I think the USA has acculturated some aspects of this; looking down upon the poor, the mantra that tax cuts for rich people will somehow bring back prosperity, and that government spending is the root of all problems in society – these are all pieces of a worldview that contains aspects of ritual.

    By now I think we’ve all noticed that Republicans in particular pretty much read from the same set of notes and cheat off each other for debate points. None of the solutions offered are substantive or effective, but all the same, repeating the empty phrases can carry with this repetition a kind of comfort and and sense of stability.

    It is, I think, akin to the way in which people might repeat certain catch phrases to themselves as motivator-statements. The difference is, such self-spoken statements don’t have broader societal implications.

    But these empty Republican ritualistic condemnations do.

  • Yes, gas tax and sales tax.

    The income and other taxes paid to foot the military bill aren’t.

  • smrnda

    I wonder where this guy lived. In most big cities, if mass transit isn’t running, the city shuts down, and with large urban areas shutting down that could easily be detrimental to every town, village and hamlet.

    Plus, the streets are already too congested – to each their own automobile would put NYC or Chicago at a total standstill.

  • Crusader Kings III: Stars and Stripes. Eh, I’d buy that game.

  • HyperSpiral

    There’s just something…unnatural about how many people rush to defend their terrible bosses. Doesn’t everyone hate their boss? I can understand the motivation behind hating “welfare queens” or Solyndra. What I can’t understand how those people seem to say, “The bailout was wrong, but if you even suggest they do not spent every single cent on hookers, blow and bribes, you are Hitler. Otherwise, how will we incentivize the NEXT generation of Wall St bankers to rob you blind?” Not only that, but that freaking terrible message won the biggest midterms ever!

    It freaks me out, but I honestly think the only way America will ever pass another good law is to utterly crush the Republican party in every state, at every level of government. Seeing as Democrats country-wide decided after 2008, “Lets just stop messaging during non-election years, and also let’s not even bother finding candidates to oppose unpopular governors in once-blue states who are mostly just punishing their own constituents'” that’ll be a long way off. 2014 is not looking good.

  • Chris Young

    Pretty much everybody else in the developed world gets by with it,more or less. Maybe suburban Americans would start demanding buses. Now there’s a thought.

  • $6? Luxury! Unleaded petrol in the UK is £6.13/gallon (about $9.53) quite a bit of which is tax. For one gallon of fuel £2.63 fuel duty, 0.49 VAT on the actual price of fuel and 0.53 VAT on the Fuel duty. It may just be me but I sort of think taxing tax is a little cheeky. (of course US gallons are smaller than UK ones which means that the price differential may be less than it seems).

  • reynard61

    Please tell that @$$hole for me that unless he walks, takes the bus or rides a bicycle *everywhere* he goes (like I do) to STFU. People with cars have *no* cause to complain about the supposed “immorality” of those of us who either volunteer or (more likely) may be forced by circumstances beyond their control to use more limited means of transportation.

  • AnonaMiss

    I think the point isn’t that no one would buy houses if there was no MID, but rather that everyone who already bought a house would see an increase in their effective interest rate. Which would be OK in a good economy, but not great right now.

  • I would play the crap out of that game.

  • Chris Young

    The late, great Donald Westlake had a plutocratic villain advocating for a business based feudalism in one of his Dortmunder books, nearly twenty years ago. A person of vision, methinks.

  • The_L1985

    Hypothesis. A theory is something that’s been proven. :)

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but in some large-ish cities, like Birmingham, AL, public transit is not well-publicized, and very few bus routes go outside the official city limits. The “Birmingham area,” meanwhile, includes pretty much all of Jefferson County and parts of Shelby and St. Clair Counties–none of which have bus routes. Once you leave city limits, there aren’t any sidewalks or bike lanes, either.

    Meanwhile, all of Broward, Miami-Dade, and West Palm Beach counties are connected by bus and train routes. I cannot think of anywhere I’ve driven in any of these counties that didn’t have a bus stop every couple of blocks. Traffic, among other things, is a LOT better, even though Miami and Ft. Lauderdale make up a much larger urban area than Birmingham.

  • “There’s just something…unnatural about how many people rush to defend their terrible bosses.”

    I see it as the automatic belly-showing of the most submissive dog in the pack.

    It takes confidence and a place to go to stand up to bullying. If you feel no one has your back, that you will starve if you stand up to “bosses,” then you become a reflexive behind-kisser.

  • johnm55

    Every time I read about the American Healthcare system I am more and more grateful that I live in the United Kingdom where we have (at least for the time being)* The National Health Service. My wife is currently being treated for ovarian cancer. The treatment she has received is, in my opinion, as good as she would have received anywhere in the world. While everything is going well and the outlook is good, the final out come is unfortunately still not certain, however I do know this, at the end of it all we will not have to declare ourselves bankrupt.

    *I say at least for the time being, because our current government appears to think that the American model would bring the best of all possible worlds

  • Orclove

    Not sure the categories of “officially disabled” and “actually disabled” are coextant. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I got to know a LOT of super-right-wing people who’d been on mysteriously undefined ‘disability’ for 20, 25, 30 years. Some on SSI, others collecting police or military pensions after retiring at like 45.

    Look, I hate Fox as much as the next sandalwearer. But NPR is running pretty much the same story:

    My own theory is that we won in November because a lot of polling stations didn’t have ramps and hence the Tea Partiers couldn’t get inside on their Medicaid-paid Rascal scooters.

  • Frankly, not surprised. With the aging of the US population comes the aging of peoples’ bodies in a way that exposes them to more frailties. The thing that really boggles me is how people with government jobs can be right-wing Tea Party types.

  • Wednesday

    Your theory is, um, problematic. If Tea Partiers are getting disability checks via fraud in large enough numbers that people using mobility devices are disproportionately Tea Party to a point that this could actually change an election… then there’s no reason a polling place with poor accessibility would actually prevent them from voting.

  • Orclove

    Y’know, it might just be that I wasn’t being totally serious with my hypothesis.

    I think you should get to know the Sarcasm Family next door. They’re nice people. Bring them some banana bread or something.

  • > how people with government jobs can be right-wing Tea Party types.

    It doesn’t surprise me any more than that people on government-subsidized disability or welfare plans can be. I don’t claim to understand all the reasons for it, but I’ve come to expect it.

  • Foreigner

    I remember that scene … was it in Good Behavior? Man, I miss Don Westlake. A seriously underrated writer.

  • Carstonio

    I’m not boggled. They’re hostile to government only when it benefits people not like themselves or undermines the entitlement of people like themselves. Depending on the age, the lingering resentment could be over school desegregation, school busing, lifting of tax-exempt status for segregated religious schools, Title IX, workplace policies against discrimination and sexual harassment, having to work for nonwhite and/for female supervisors, or even rules against smoking in workplaces and restaurants.

  • smrnda

    I don’t think most of these people are thinking deeply enough to realize the inconsistency of their position. The ‘bad people’ are the welfare queens, not them, and they’re simply responding in a very primitive level towards the party which best expresses their hostility towards the other. In the town where I lived, a man wrote a letter to the paper condemning both runaway government spending, and complaining about his insufficient government pension.

  • Carstonio

    There probably are believers in a just world who really define justice as “just us,” but I haven’t encountered any.

  • There’s just something…unnatural about how many people rush to defend their terrible bosses.

    “The dark side of the Market Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”

    -CEO Palpatine

  • The thing that really boggles me is how people with government jobs can be right-wing Tea Party types.

    Quoth Bob Altemeyer:

    As I said earlier, authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another. It’s as if each idea is stored in a file that can be called up and used when the authoritarian wishes, even though another of his ideas–stored in a different file–basically contradicts it. We all have some inconsistencies in our thinking, but authoritarians can stupify you with the inconsistency of their ideas. Thus they may say they are proud to live in a country that guarantees freedom of speech, but another file holds, “My country, love it or leave it.” The ideas were copied from trusted sources, often as sayings, but the authoritarian has never “merged files” to see how well they all fit together.

    It’s easy to find authoritarians endorsing inconsistent ideas. Just present slogans and appeals to homey values, and then present slogans and bromides that invoke opposite values. The yea-saying authoritarian follower is likely to agree with all of them. Thus I asked both students and their parents to respond to, “When it comes to love, men and women with opposite points of view are attracted to each other.” Soon afterwards, in the same booklet, I pitched “Birds of a feather flock together when it comes to love.” High RWAs typically agreed with both statements, even though theyresponded to the two items within a minute of each other.

    But that’s the point: they don’t seem to scan for self-consistency as much as most people do. Similarly they tended to agree with “A government should allow total freedom of expression, even it if threatens law and order” and “A government should only allow freedom of expression so long as it does not threaten law and order.” And “Parents should first of all be gentle and tender with their children,” and “Parents should first of all be firm and uncompromising with their children; spare the rod andspoil the child.”

  • stardreamer42

    It’s called “doublethink”; the modern-language equivalent is “compartmentalization”. Basically, the “my job” thoughts and the “anti-government” stuff never come into the consciousness at the same time, so the inherent self-contradiction is functionally invisible.

  • Buck Eschaton

    The “market” is rigged. Healthcare is robbery. It’s looking really bad. How long can the Fed keep the “market” pumped up? There’s going to be a lot of changes in the next 20 years. We must start thinking new thoughts, imagining something other than neo-liberalism and subsidizing the rich. If we don’t start rebuilding the current structures of society, there’s going to be war, a big war, that will be the only way the rich will believe that they can keep the kleptocracy going, the only way they believe that they will be able to hold on to their loot. They will demand sacrifice from us. They demand austerity of us now, pretty soon, as things continue to deteriorate, they will start demanding our very lives, our children’s lives, to sacrifice our lives, and give up our children for them.

  • smrnda

    If more people thought like you, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. A problem is too many people have been taught, and believe, that questioning whether the rich have a right to control resource allocation is just wrong.

    Now, notice how I phrased that. I said they control resource allocation, not they ‘earned more money’ or ‘worked their way to the top.’ I’m calling what they do by its proper name, but people have been taught to think that a guy who makes a fortune from having other people manage a company under his ‘leadership’ earns his pay the same way as someone working in a field. Proponents of the plutocracy are very good at making it sound like the plutocrats actually *do something*

  • Orclove

    There may be something in what you say.

    Although on the other hand, if you read the last 2 books by the late Tony Judt (viz. “Ill Fares the Land” and “Thinking the 20th Century”), it sort of gets you thinking that all dreams of socio-economically rewinding to 1945 or 1965 or 1972 are just that: Dreams. And specifically that the “big programs” (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security in the U.S., NHS in Britain, etc.) were much more products of WWII, society-wide militarization than they were of enlightened shareholder capitalism/citizenship.

    It’s like we’re just never going to be that *organized* again. Not so much that we’ve lost the skill of organization (although there’s been a bit of that too; like the way the U.S. military pretty much forgot it had written a manual from the 1940s on understanding Iraqi culture).

    But more that the entire relationship of citizens-to-governments and citizens-to-other-citizens has been changed in the past 70 years or so. And to say “neo-liberalism” or “Christian conservatism” caused it is barely one side of the coin. We are–perhaps very justifiably and wisely–much more skeptical of government statements, power, history, military power, “Great Men”, “Great Books” and similar than we were 60-70 years ago.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But we are not skeptical of concentrations of economic power. And we need to be.