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The Morning Grumpy – 10/24/12

24 Oct

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


1. How the rich get richer. As we approach the election, this article serves as a reminder as to how the Presidential candidates differ on economic policy and what it means for you. 

For 80% of us, the answer is: almost all of it comes from ordinary wages and salaries. We get a grand total of 0.7% of our income from dividends and capital gains.

For the top 0.1%, it’s flipped around. They get less than 20% of their income from ordinary wages and more than half from dividends and capital gains. So when Republicans eagerly insist on reducing or eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains, this chart shows you who benefits. Most of us get nada, but the very rich benefit handsomely.

When a publicly traded company launches large-scale staff reductions as a means to increase margin so dividends can be paid, the employees get “f’d in the a” while investors profit. Don’t worry, I’m sure those former employees can catch on at a reduced salary at another company.

Overall, America’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, increased by 0.057 points between 1996 and 2006. Of that increase, most comes from dividends and capital gains, which became a higher percentage of the pay of the rich, and taxes, which went down a lot for rich people.

We’ll just wait for the economic benefits to trickle down.

2. The death of noblesse oblige and the rise of the plantation aristocracy of the south. And what it means for American politics.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don’t like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

I’ll leave you with the task of reading about the basis of southern aristocracy…enjoy!

3. The shift of the Republican Party away from the center and to the rightward ideological fringe in recent years is unprecedented in American history. No party has ever made such a tectonic shift.  

The chart below comes by way of the is.R blog and shows the average ideology of the members of the United State House of Representatives within the Republican (red) and Democratic (blue) parties. (Other parties are shown in green.) The chart is shown as a time series, from the first US congress in 1789, to the most recent full congress (the 111th, from 2010).

This has been the Republican strategy since the 1970’s and is the underlying cause of our political gridlock. If one party is on the ideological fringe and unwilling to compromise or govern, what are we to do?

4. Andrew Sullivan asks a question about Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith that should have already been asked by someone in this election season.

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had never attended Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and had decided to attend services, and proselytize for, a black separatist, nationalist church that refused to allow whites to participate in crucial religious services because white people had been condemned by God for their iniquity in the ancient past and had been for ever marked white so black Americans would know instantly to keep their distance. In fact, the definition of white in this black supremacist church was just one drop of white blood in a black person. It was Nazi-like in its racist precision and exclusion. Whites were denied the rites that made a person a full member of the church. Even blacks with a tiny strain of white DNA were kept from full participation.

Imagine further that backing this racist church was not a youthful folly on Obama’s part, but a profound commitment – that he went on a mission abroad to convert Christians to a new religion based on black racial supremacy, and has often said that the most important thing in his entire life to this day is a church whose sacred scripture declares white people to be cursed by God for their past sins – and the sign of this curse is their white skin.

A simple question: Do you think this issue would not come up in a general election or a primary?

While Tim Russert asked in 2008, shouldn’t this be an issue in 2012? If Obama’s faith (or lack thereof) is a constant campaign issue from the lunatic fringe over at Fox, shouldn’t Romney’s?  Instead, Republicans and Christian faith leaders are hiding their concerns over Romney’s faith, like when Billy Graham removed from his website accusations that Mormonism is a cult.

5. We keep hearing about the KeystoneXL Pipeline in this year’s election and I wonder how many of us know a thing about it. The Republicans have made it a centerpiece in their argument that President Obama is anti-oil, anti-jobs, and anti-America. Last month, Esquire published a fantastic article about the Alberta Tar Sands and the KeystoneXL Pipeline and addressed those criticisms about the President. You should read it. You should also click on this infographic to embiggen and see that President Obama approved significant expansion of the pipeline.


Fact Of The Day: Just let corporations have free reign, they’ll regulate themselves and do the right thing. Right? On January 14, 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class-action lawsuit against Energy Brands’ parent company in the Northern District of California Court. The suit alleges that the marketing of the drink as a “healthful alternative” to soda is deceptive and in violation of Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The consumer group states that “according to CSPI nutritionists, the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of Vitaminwater do more to promote obesity, diabetes and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles”. Coca-Cola dismissed the suit as “ridiculous,” on the grounds that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage” and an attempt by the group to increase its readership

Quote Of The Day: “Convictions are more dangerous enemies to truth than lies.” – Nietzsche

Video Of The Day: Bill Burr, “Ah, Fuck You With Your Magic” On Steve Jobs and why you’re horrible

Song Of The Day: This band is gonna be a thing, bank it. “Southern Man” – Gold Magnolias

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