Promises Were Broken

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245 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    The anti-war rallies felt like they were filled with folks who believed that “Peace was the something something”. Heck, even the tea party rallies felt like the folks who showed up believed something.

    I get the feeling from occupy wall street that each of these kids could be bought off with a 42k/year job with a mediocre medical plan.Report

    • David Cheatham in reply to Jaybird says:

      Damn, you figured out the secret, how to get rid of the unhappiness in this country.

      Now all the superrich have to do is make sure everyone has a job at 42k a year with a medical plan, and the protest will amount to nothing!Report

      • Jaybird in reply to David Cheatham says:

        That’s two people (a household) making a little over 10 bucks an hour each.

        I was able to make 8 bucks an hour right out of college in 1996 and married someone who made a little over 6 at the bookstore.

        According to “The Inflation Calculator”: What cost $30000 in 1996 would cost $41255.61 in 2010.

        Health Care for my family, I remember, was 300 bucks a paycheck, or $150 every two weeks according to the plan my company offered me. We found private insurance for a third of that.Report

        • Mike in reply to Jaybird says:

          Good luck even finding insurance today. I’ve looked. Private insurance for anywhere close to employer-based costs DOES. NOT. EXIST.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Mike says:

            and 20% of those applying for private insurance are denied.
            1 in 5. Not a viable strategy…Report

            • Mike in reply to Kimmi says:

              Oh, it’s worse than that. Most of the time, the insurance agents will “do you a favor” by taking a look at your application and then telling you “I can do two things here: I can shred this and we pretend you never applied, or you can pay the application fee, get turned down, AND have the record that you were turned down which will make it so no other insurance company takes you either and they jack up the time your preexisting condition isn’t covered at your next workplace.”

              If you run the real numbers, close to 20% of official applicants either get “denied”, but over 50% of the people looking for insurance get the “well we’ll do you a favor” deal and still can’t find anyplace to even take their application!Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to David Cheatham says:

        Now all the superrich have to do is make sure everyone has a job at 42k a year with a medical plan, and the protest will amount to nothing!

        Seems to be heading that way on its own.Report

        • wardsmith in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Just how much do the super rich have? Let’s say there are 115M working Americans. Let’s give them all 42K. That’s $4.83 x 10^12 if my calculator is right. That would be 4.83 Trillion.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to wardsmith says:

            I meant the “amount to nothing” part.Report

          • Mike in reply to wardsmith says:

            Average CEO pay to average worker pay, ratio by country:

            Japan 11:1
            Germany 12:1
            France 15:1
            Italy 20:1
            Canada 20:1
            South Africa 21:1
            Britain 22:1
            Mexico 47:1
            Venezuela 50:1
            USA: 475:1

            You tell me. From where I stand, it looks like the CEO class in the US are bunch of greedy fucking assholes who regularly destroy workers’ lives, and deserve to be first against the wall…Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Mike says:

              It’s the degree of collusion and the ability of CEOs to migrate from one failing company to another that worries me. It’s unnatural, anti-market, and frankly uncapitalistic. The pay issue is bad, but it is ultimately fallout from other decisions.

              The People In Charge suck.Report

              • Mike in reply to Kimmi says:

                Part of the larger part is the pattern over the last 30 years of “economic deregulation” from the Republican side, however – that’s what has allowed for a lot of the fraud, the golden parachutes, and the rise of the “loot the company, screw the employees, I’m getting rich off stock options” CEO asshattery.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike says:

                I blame Reagan’s ponzi scheme of inflating the stock market, personally. People used to only invest if they were smart and rich enough to be able to afford it.
                Now anything that gets classed as a growth industry becomes Cancer.Report

            • wardsmith in reply to Mike says:

              Mike, part of the problem with your stats is how they are gathered. In the US (because of the SEC) TOTAL COMPENSATION of the CEO is accounted for as pay plus bonuses plus stock option value (at granting but not including exercise costs – which can be substantial).

              Unfortunately statisticians can be very lazy about going back and double checking on whether those options were ever exercised at a profit. Indeed the numbers on that are sobering. You’ll recall I hope the massive debacle over back-dated options and how some (including dear Apple) were found to have participated in same. By the time the dust settled (and companies ruined) the amounts in question were pennies or negative numbers. Such is the rough edge of our justice system and our stock markets.

              The Nikkei, Bourse, et al do not account for pay other than actual paychecks. Therefore the deltas are not as extravagant as you show. Furthermore there are folks who are CEO’s who have actually built up companies from the ground. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Larry Ellison and dozens of others show up in your stats.

              Are they entitled to the fruits of their labors? If not, why bother working the hours, putting up with the grief and continuing to support their empire when they could be off fishing (in both senses of the term)?

              It is easy as long as you never plan on participating in the game to criticize all the players. It takes tremendous effort to be successful and even more to stay that way. I certainly agree that there are definitely CEO’s who aren’t worth their salt – almost invariably they are “guns for hire” who were placed in that position by the board and large shareholders.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

                ya. takes much effort to do evil, it is true. You are too nice a person to be a highly paid CEO.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Kimmi says:

                Highly paid, no. Highly compensated, yes. Of course the people we sold it to managed to drive it down the drain. I wouldn’t say they were evil, just not sufficiently competent. Well, maybe a little evil…Report

              • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

                Have you heard of the lifecycle of restaurants?
                I’ve heard it has applicability to corporations too…Report

              • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

                problem still remains: do you think American CEOs deserve to be paid double what a german ceo is paid?

                Also, I think you overthink — figure you’d find Costco and Aldis and Lidl’s CEOs getting paid about the same.

                Greed isn’t every corporation’s guiding light.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird says:

      Exactly, or the very least an admission that 42k/year with benefits now IS the American Dream.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’m curious, JB. Why do you use the phrase “bought off with a 42k/year job with a mediocre medical plan?” I may be misreading, but it seems like you’re saying the thought that people want to be able to provide for themselves makes this dissatisfaction somehow contemptible. Am I reading that right?

      If so, why?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        No, not contemptable. More power to them.

        I’m merely making a distinction between this rally and the previous ones.Report

        • RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

          Got it.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

          Couldn’t the anti-war protesters been “bought off” by taking away the thing they were protesting against? Ending the Iraq War? That wouldn’t have pleased the tangential protestors (those using the opportunity to draw attention to racism or rape or whatever), but enough to cut the guts out of the movement and force the hangers-on somewhere else.

          That strikes me as very similar to what these people want: Jobs. And the solution, as with the above, taking the issue off the table.

          It seems to me that the Tea Party is the outlier. The “make government smaller” being rather non-specific in nature (and contradictory, to the extent that there was seriousness about keeping off Medicare and so on). It’s the one thing that I can’t think of any way to satisfy, really, except (and this perhaps gets to the guts of it) by electing conservative-types.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

            Well, apparently the anti-war folks were bought off by having Obama do the same things as Bush.

            If a Republican wins and acts like Obama, we’ll likely see that the Tea Party has a similar price.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

              It seemed to me that a lot of the protests started dying off after the 2004 election.

              The TP/OWS partisan angle point is a good one, though.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                The thing that surprises me about OWS is that it’s happening before an election year when the party that these guys are most likely to identify with are already against the ropes.

                It vaguely reminds me of 1968 for some reason.Report

              • George T in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m doubting this is like 1968.

                The OWS websites were set up months ago by one of George Soros’s foundations. The land they’re occupying is owned in part by Joe Biden’s son and Mayor Bloomberg’s wife. They released a list of complaints written by Bill Ayers, Obama’s close political contact.

                It would be like having a 2003 anti-war rally organized by the Koch brothers, on property owned by Cheney, with talking points provided by Karl Rove.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to George T says:

                I’m glad that that didn’t happen. The Democrats might have made a big deal out of Dumbya’s Vietnam record and decided to nominate a real, live, decorated Vietnam Vet in response.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to George T says:

                Soros gets what out of this, again?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kimmi says:

                Probably the same thing Robert Murdoch got out of putting all those Fox News cameras on the Tea Party when they were small.

                Anti-existential power. Tearing down civilization. Something like that.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                Geez, Koch gets nuclear plants, Murdoch gets tax cuts, it isn’t that hard to understand.

                Parity is not achievable when the goals are different…

                (If you want, you can make the argument that OWS blows off steam, etc… Or that it might prevent some aspects of Dodd’s bill… good luck).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                Wait, we’re against nuclear plants now?

                When did this happen?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                We’re against private industry stealing public resources, up to and including nuclear plants, via generating a false sense of “Oh My GaWD we’re broke” and getting their tame govnor to sell off assets at pennies on the dollar.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                Can we still have them if we start crying alligator tears about warming?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                YooHoo. I’m over here, on the side of pro-nuclear plants.

                Not on the side of corporations stealing public land or goods, via manufacturing a false sense of urgency, and buying governors who sell at undermarket prices.Report

              • North in reply to Kimmi says:

                Jay I believe she’s referring to the WI GOP allegedly privatizing and selling public nuclear power plants to private supporters for pennies on the dollar. I don’t believe asserting any slight against the plants or the tech itself.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                Oh, that’s bad then. I was hoping that it meant more nuclear plants.Report

              • North in reply to Kimmi says:

                You and me both.Report

              • Jim P. in reply to Jaybird says:

                It sounds like your baiting. I think what’s so “surprising” about them doing it now is that they feel their issues are not being properly addressed. Not so much their “most likely to identify with party” is against the ropes.

                If you feel like this protest does not have the same legitimacy as the tea party then you’re honestly being disingenuous. These people are obviously just upset with the state of economy and certain economic justice issues. The tea party just wanted smaller government and to give the constitution a handie…and your a revisionist if you believe that it didn’t take bloody forever trying to figure out what exactly the TR was about.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jim P. says:

                “If you feel like this protest does not have the same legitimacy as the tea party then you’re honestly being disingenuous.”

                There are 15 ways to read this.

                I see this as folks exercising peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, and assorted other “sticking it to the man”s and, as such, it has my full support. It’s completely legitimate on that level.

                The level where they have a message and that message is something political? I suppose that the message strikes me as vague where it is not incoherent. In this it may share similar “legitimacy” issues with the tea parties.Report

              • George T in reply to Jim P. says:

                No, I’m serious. It’s already been established that George Soros called for the protests earlier this year and is promoting them through the Tides Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and of course MoveOn.Org.

                He is Wallstreet, and is probably having these tools protest to pressure Congress into changing some legislation that will net him several billion dollars by a combination of shorting and currency trades. And he doesn’t have to pay the hippies a dime. ^_^

                Van Jones and other prominent leaders of the movement are major Obama donors, advisors or czars. Is it any wonder that the protesters keep getting handed signs that echo Obama’s talking points?

                It’s a manufactured protest where you just have to invite the usual suspects to show up, which is why when the press would ask 10 protesters why they were protesting, they’d get 10 unrelated answers.Report

              • greginak in reply to George T says:

                But how is the Tri Lateral Commission involved? Inquiring minds want to know.Report

              • George T in reply to George T says:

                The trilateral commision is uninvolved, or perhaps tied up with the collapse of the Euro.

                The amuzing thing about leftists is that they see conspiracies everywhere on the right but are led around like sheep by multi-millionaires without even needing to hide a conspiracy. They’re that stupid, as interviews with the OWS crowd have made plain. Most don’t even assume they know why they are there, and the few that do can’t agree on it. It’s like they were summoned by the Bat signal.

                What’s even more interesting is that the media hasn’t drawn a single parallel between this and other left-wing protests to bring down capitalism that spawned the French terror and put the Nazis, Fascists, and Lenin in to power. Beware masses of idiots who don’t know what they need, only that they need to break something. Treat them like the children they are instead of feeding millions of people to the wolves.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George T says:

                The trilateral commision is uninvolved

                You need to look deeper.Report

              • Mike in reply to George T says:

                Oh for fuck’s sake.

                Peter King, this weekend:
                “[W]e have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” he warned. “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy… We can’t allow that to happen.”

                Those “1960s protests” he refers to were things like the Birmingham protests and Mississippi Freedom Summer, which resulted in things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Selma marches which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

                But it’s nice to know racist assholes like you see this and the OWS as something that “can’t be allowed to get legitimacy.”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to George T says:

                Huh. My first thoughts were thoughts of the 1968 Democratic Convention.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to George T says:

                @Mike, you can tell George T. is a racist because of his avatar? But I was thinking that about you because of /your/ avatar! I’m not getting this whole secret-signalling thing.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

            Not “a” job– a sweet job, one worth selling out for. As for the Tea Party, balancing the budget long-term is a pretty concrete objective. I’m not quite following the above comments as reflective of reality.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              The possibility exists that the Republicans can wrest the Senate and White House from the Democrats come 2012.

              If this happens, we can watch to see what happens to the Tea Party… and what is reflected by what.Report

            • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Well some of the TP also wanted the gov to get out of their medicare. That is pretty darn concrete also.Report

            • Fair enough. I forget about the balancing of the budget tidbit when raising taxes is off the table and eyes towards Medicare are considered Death Panels.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                Only raising taxes on the middle class could make a dent, WillT. You know that. The rich aren’t numerous enough.

                As for Medicare, I’m not sure you’re being fair here. The Ryan Plan at least makes a play for long-term stability, which is the goal.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Come now Tom, “long-term stability?”

                The program does more cutting than cost curve bending. The idea of making program X sustainable should be reserved for policies that do with with only a modicum of change to the costs/benefits.

                As for taxing the middle class, kind of hard to do since they don’t exist. Marginal taxes up for everyone over $75 would be easy enough though, and I think it, along with cutting defense, would more than bring the fiscal balance sheet into sound footing.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                Mr. Gach, unlike the Ryan Plan, yours does not exist: no numbers to parse. Rhetoric cannot be scored.

                The point anyway was that the “Tea Party” does indeed have a goal and a way to get there. Whether it’s the best way is not at issue here.

                Your use of the passive voice in the title, “Promises Were Broken” shows the problem of trying to make sense of the insensible in the first place. You made some good points, though, hard as that is with no real foundation.Report

              • Jim P. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                The only reason the TPers have a plan is because some in the republican party were opportunistic and adopted their name and “principles.” Yet. exactly how long did it take for use to figure out what the bloody hell the TP was about? How long did it take for there to be a TP plan on these issues? forever…like that scene from the sandlot.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yup. The goal involves nuclear power plants.

                … what? Astroturf movement has astroturf goals.Report

              • James K in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                As for taxing the middle class, kind of hard to do since they don’t exist.

                That’s a hard statement to support.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to James K says:

                To begin doing so, we’d probably have to have an agreed upon definition of “middle class.”

                By middle class I mean something like %50ish of the population enjoys an income level, the limits at either end of which are within 50k annual of one another, and who frequent the same social/communal institutions: same book clubs, same churches, same schools, etc.Report

              • James K in reply to James K says:

                The phrase came up with regards to using the middle class as a revenue source, so I’m working with a purely income-based definition for this context.

                And this graph doesn’t show a disappearing middle class, it shows a small group of rich people pulling away, while everybody else just carries on. You can certainly argue that those lines are growing fast enough, but at worst the middle class is stagnant, not disappearing.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James K says:

                Wallmart woiuld argue differently — that the middle class is indeed disappearing. After all, if they could afford to pay for middle class things, they wouldn’t be shopping at FamilyDollar and Goodwill.Report

              • Only raising taxes on the middle class could make a dent, WillT. You know that.

                Sure. I wasn’t referring to “soak the rich.” Perhaps out of earshot of you, but I’ve long been making the case that we’re not going to balance the budget by taxing the rich.

                But the notion that it’s an imperative that we balance the budget, but that taxes should be off the table, demonstrates an unseriousness, in my view. Not quite as much as balancing the budget by taxing the rich, but still.

                The Ryan Plan at least makes a play for long-term stability, which is the goal.

                Am I wrong in remembering that they killed that pretty quickly? It’s tough to talk about lowering Medicare when you just got finished accusing the other side of killing grandma. But maybe I’m not being fair here.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                Depends on who “they” is, WillT. The Tea Party is not only unhappy with Democrats, but about half the GOP as well. Unlike the #Occupiers, they aim to do something about it electorally.Report

              • Jim P. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Good thing they get a whole republican debate in their name so republicans can address their issues.

                How did they start again?…oh yeah…small protests across the country.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Oh, I’d pay to see the #Occupy Democrat Debate. Behold, and be appalled:


              • E.C. Gach in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I agree, the repetition sounds creepy. On the other hand, the point of the assembly is suppose to be to put “listening” first.

                But the primary reason is that microphones aren’t allowed in the park, so in order to have the “assembly” involve everyone present, the speakers have their statements repeated so everyone on the periphery can hear.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                John Lewis could have spoken in the time it took not to let him. Yes, the repetition was bizarre, but the “process” was even more so.

                Lewis must have been thinking, I’ve met some damn crazy white people in my time, but these are the weirdest yet.

                Thx for following the link, EC.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I really think that’s what the Congressman is saying to his aide(?) at about 53-54 sec inReport

              • Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                nah. started with Koch and Company. Seems questionable strategy to me, but who am I to say something..?Report

              • Jib in reply to Will Truman says:

                Again this straw man that we will balance the whole debt by taxing the rich. No one argues that except people who dont want to raise taxes on the rich.

                Every segment of the economy has to pay. The top 1% of the households make 20% of all the income, the top 20% of house holds make 50% of all the income.

                1/2 of all the tax money raise must come from that top 20%. If you cut $1 dollar in spending for each tax dollar you raise then you ONLY have to raise taxes on the top 20% of households.

                Top 20% is not rich, households making $90,000 or more but the top 1% is households making over $300,000 and 40% of the tax increases should come from this group.

                You would not need to raise tax rates as much as you think to get this done. You can do a lot of this by taxing all income at the same level, i.e. getting rid of capital gains tax breaks. That would significantly raise the amount of tax income collected from the very top. Eliminate the income cap on paying payroll taxes would raise a bunch.

                There are $1 trillion in tax breaks in the budget. (I dont know if that counts capital gains as a break or not). Many are for the middle class but eliminating them all would basically solve the deficit problem. Each 1% drop in unemployment reduces the deficit by $180 billion (increases tax revenue and reduces govt payouts – unemployment, food stamps). Eliminate all the tax deductions and drop the unemployment rate to 7% and you will have a balanced budget.

                (and yes, there are OWS people who are calling for the elimination of all tax breaks.)

                Not that any of this is going to happen ……Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Jib says:

                I don’t need a straw man when I have President Obama, who refuses to acknowledge that any tax rate hikes are required for anyone making under $250k a year. (You can argue about how irresponsible the conservatives are on the issue, but my original comment was criticizing the Tea Party for just that.)Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jib says:

                Except you don’t have that Obama. At least not one that does what Jib says you need a straw man to do, namely provide a claim that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes on income below $250,000. It’s true that the real Obama doesn’t propose that, but it’s also the case that he doesn’t have a plan that projects a balanced budget. He just makes the deficit reduction proposals he makes; they don’t include raising taxes on income below $250,000, and as a result they go only as far as they go, not all the way to surplus.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Jib says:

                At least not one that does what Jib says you need a straw man to do, namely provide a claim that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes on income below $250,000.

                Fair enough. I can live with “Obama is not serious about a remotely balanced budget” and the implication that raising taxes on the wealthy has more to do with easy targets than serious budgetary reform.

                In any event, this was all rather tangential to my main point, which was pointing out the disingenuousness of the other side.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jib says:

                ‘Remotely’ is another question besides.

                And actually so is ‘serious.’ People who are serious about balancing the budget focus their energies on economic growth. If we don’t get growth going, a balanced budget itself is essentially not a serious proposition. And if we do, it’s not entirely unserious to think that it’s possible that raising taxes on the wealthy alone could be enough to get us over the top (though the bulk of the work would be done by increased revenues from increased economic activity).

                Further, to repeat, the failure to propose increasing taxes on the middle class is not a claim that even a ‘remotely’ balanced budget can be achieved without doing that; and it’s not proof that Obama is not serious about putting us on a path to do that. What it is certain to be, however, is a value statement about holding firm to an insistence that the rich be fimrly required to pay their fair share before sacrifice from middle-income earners are requested, on pain of taking a tax-revenue contribution to deficit reduction off the table if that condition isn’t met. This could (should) include the elimination of the capital gains tax category as well as other tax advantages that the wealth have over middle earners. That isn’t remotely a foreswearing of there ever being a proposal for middle-income tax increases, nor a claim that either a fully nor a remotely balanced budget can be achieved without them (although, again, economic growth): it’s merely a rigid ordering of priorities on the question of how to structure a tax approach to deficit reduction. It’s exactly the not-pre-emptively-conceding approach to negotiations that liberal critics of the president say he’s unable to execute. If you saw Republicans come to the table with an offer to raise taxes on rich people in exchange for raising them on the middle class, I think you’d see the president’s approach change (though not until after the election – and likely Congressional Dems would be a different story).

                And I appreciate what your initial point was (essentially what I just finished up with toward the end there). Nevertheless, the substance of what you’ve been saying more recently was to me worth engaging on.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Jib says:

                What it is certain to be, however, is a value statement about holding firm to an insistence that the rich be fimrly required to pay their fair share before sacrifice from middle-income earners are requested, on pain of taking a tax-revenue contribution to deficit reduction off the table if that condition isn’t met.

                This right here is partly what I was getting at. It’s not “proof” of a lack of commitment to something resembling a balanced budget, but it’s demonstrative. At least, to me it is, that this is all more about “fairness” in taxation rather than addressing the core problems. I understand that you and others view it differently.

                (I put “fairness” in quotes not due to skepticism, but rather because fairness is a subjective thing on such matters. For the record, I have no opposition to and mild support for a more progressive form of taxation, depending on how it’s done.)Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jib says:

                Oh no, I don’t disagree that the proposal to raise taxes on high earners absolutely is about fairness and does not not in itself demonstrate a real commitment to deficit reduction via more taxation: I think that’s exactly what I said above. it’s a value commitment about what must happen within such a plan. And my point from the start was that Obama himself does not claim that it emonstrates such a commitment – it’s not what he’s trying to do with the proposal.

                But it’s also not dispositive of Obama’s seriousness about addressing the budget over the long term. He could very much be serious about that, provided that those terms are met, or at least dealt with in negotiations. We’d have to give hi another term to find out (for now he is on very solid ground not being serious about the deficit, even the long term deficit, given the state of the economy, though I think you’d have to admit he demonstrated the spending cutting chops to be able to ward off charges of terminal nonseriousness over the summer as well).

                In other words my quibble is with whether you say: “Obama’s current tax proposal does not demonstrate any seriousness on balancing the budget,” which is absolutely true, but also not a claim he makes (he merely claims we can’t balance the budget fairly without top-end tax hikes – unless I have missded it, and I invite you to direct me to whatever I have missed), or whether you say “Obama’s current tax proposal demonstrates that he is not serious about balancing the budget,” which is not true unless you insist that only his intentions for what he can get passed more or less in this session of Congress (or at least in this Congress) can amount to seriousness, and that a lack of a current policy position that demonstrates seriousness over that political timeframe (one year, essentially), whatever intentions he may about addressing the issue over the longer term if given the chance, is completely dispositive of seriousness as a categorical matter. If that’s the case, then I’m perfectly happy to concede that he is not serious about balancing the budget by your definition of seriousness, inasmuch as he absolutely should not be serious about it by that definition. The only thing he ought to be serious about over that timeframe (and indeed as long as is necessary) is restoring demand in the economy, which a focus on deficits, even long term deficits, works against as a matter of policy.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jib says:

                (Reprint in correct location:) Will, I thought you might find this interesting:


              • Jib in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Technically true but misleading. The top 1% of the US households (roughly income over $300,000) get 20% of the US income. 20% of US income is $3 trillion dollars. Currently the top 1% pay around 18% of income in taxes or $540 million. Double that effective tax rate (and it has to be actual collected tax rate, not what the tax rate on the last dollar is but the total income paid in taxes) and you would raise $540 million. Raise the same amount in the other 80% of the households, and cut another $540 million and you got a balanced budget.

                Or if you like tax the rich and cut spending by a trillion and you got a balanced budget. Cant be done all on the rich but a high tax rate on the rich will do a lot to reduce the deficit.Report

  2. Robert Cheeks says:

    “Eat the rich,” is kinda like “tax the rich,” you soon find out there’s not enough of ’em.Report

  3. Which takes us back to the humanizing purpose of the movement. As large global and impersonal economic forces degrade individual agency, calls to Occupy Wall Street serve a social function. Even if the movement fails to empower individuals, the democratic act itself can lead to genuine human interaction and meaning community.

    I think I agree. I tend to be very hostile to the “we are the 99%” formulation, especially because I think that same formulation neglects the extent to which we are also the 1%.

    But I have looked over one page of the (one of the?) “we are the 99%” websites, and it is at least sobering to read people’s accounts of their frustrations and struggles and, implicit therein, their hopes and dreams. It is one thing for someone like me to know that there are other people worse off than these folks, and to believe that there’s an inherent danger to claiming, more by implication and by metaphor, that a small cabal is responsible for the ills of society. It is quite another to see it humanized in even one example.Report

  4. Tod Kelly says:

    Another great post, E.C. I’ve been having the issues you have with the media reaction to the protesters, at least on an emotional level. As if the spirit that has brought them out is something worth mocking, and wouldn’t it be more grown up if they went home and watched American Idol like they’re supposed to.

    I think you’ve just said a lot of what I’ve been trying to figure out how to voice.Report

  5. Koz says:

    “And no matter what neoliberals say, there are structural problems underlying our weak economy.”

    There are structural problems in the economy. Sometimes, there are also solutions to those problems or at least ways around them. Reject the libs, vote Republican.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Koz says:

      Shorter Koz: “One, Two, Ten!”Report

      • Koz in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Ok, it’s not that bad. For the entire period of 2002 till 2008, unemployment was below 7.5% except for like two quarters in 1991 where it was 7.8% or something, and basically the same for growth.

        Those numbers mask a lot of problems, for good and ill both. Just when overall unemployment is fairly low, there is still arbitrariness unequal distribution, and a lot economic pain in general out there. But also, if we had high growth and low unemployment, we’d also have the raw material to alleviate those problems as well that we don’t currently have.

        Therefore, it is imperative to reject the Left. They can’t solve anything, but they can put the things we do have in grave risk.Report

        • North in reply to Koz says:

          Indeed and those damn libruls in control of the various arms of government during that 2000 to 2008 period didn’t pay down the country’s debts during this period of relative economic productivity. No, instead they racked up larger deficits through expanded domestic spending, military adventures and large revenue slashing tax cuts all paid for through debt financing. This left the country in a fine pickle when the economy went south.
          Pity the wrong side was in charge then Koz or your narrative might actually work.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Koz says:

      … So, dear heart, how do you propose to solve the fucking dot com boom.
      Numbers or it didn’t happen.Report

      • North in reply to Kimmi says:

        Fishing my dear Kimmi. Lets keep it fishing.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to North says:

          nah. I prefer Anglo-Saxon, myself.
          My dad always said I could do whatever a boy could do — I never did like spittin’ or smokin’ but I can swear a mean blue streak. 😉Report

          • North in reply to Kimmi says:

            Hrm, well just be careful. Round these parts it makes people take your opinions less seriously and puts you in danger of being limmericked.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

              I got an idea. How about you don’t be all cutesy-wootsey dancing around the term, all “fishing (winky)”. If you want to say the word, then fucking say it. Otherwise say a different word.

              Because, y’know, if you’re talking about being taken less seriously, then somebody who wants the energy brought by pithy vulgarity but just dassn’t soil their lips with foul language…that hardly seems like someone who should be taken seriously.Report

              • Curse words flag Internet filters. “Fishing” does not.Report

              • North in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I was just trying to help a fellow lib out. I like the fishing meme myself though. Commentariats where vulgarities are used in place of thought or wit are as common as dirt. The League’s a little better than that.Report

              • greginak in reply to North says:

                If you give a person a cuss word you keep the thread going for a day; teach him to cuss and the Internet will be full of pointless shrieking forever.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

                On the other hand, sometimes fishing just won’t do.

                Still, it’s a better default. It says, “If we were standing in a bar in grownup land, I would swear at you.”

                Using the Anglo-Saxon says, “If were were standing in a park filled with grandparents and small children, I would still swear at you.”

                Sometimes, you need to swear at somebody to get your point across. However, usually you should consider the Internet a park filled with grandparents and small children, instead of a bar.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Maybe the better thing to do is not swear. I don’t understand why that’s such a hard proposition to agree to.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Duck, you live in a world without much gray in it.Report

              • I have been trying to keep from swearing for the most part.

                If I can do it, anyone can do it.

                Though, I admit, there have been many times where “fishing” made me say “I’d rather do without the adjective entirely”.

                Maybe we should go Latinate…

                “Fornicating” gets the idea across and makes you think about it for a second first. “Dung” works the same way.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I could be down with the fornicatin’.

                I try to stay away from swearing, myself. Same thing on the edit: switching to “fishing” often makes me cut the adjective out entirely. It has the upside of making me look like a more reasoned fellow, but a downside of removing a lot of emphasis.

                I still break sometimes.Report

              • Maybe just shorten it to forn. Like fish, it’s four letters and starts with F!

                (I don’t curse much either, though when I substitute-cuss, it’s more typically done with with words like heck, darn, and so on. Dunno why, but I do enjoy using the words I was (sometimes) allowed to use as a kid.)Report

              • North in reply to greginak says:

                Exactly Greg. With so many people sowing wind on the internets I’d like it if our humble corner didn’t devolve to just another whirlwind reaping field.Report

  6. E.C. Gach says:

    I should add, before the conversation needlessly goes down that path, everything I’ve written here about the OWS movement I think applies equally well to the Tea Party folks.

    While different in ideology, demographic make up, and social identity, I think both movements are appealing to a genuine break down of communal ties and social institutions.

    Though they point to different culprits, the Tea Part blames government overreach and statist dependency, and the OWS people blame out of control capital, despite fundamental, principled differences, I think there’s a genuine middle ground of broad decentralization that could potentially appeal to both sides.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      I agree. They’re coming from very similar places, which tends to be overlooked when we focus on demographics.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I disagree. I think the unwashed OWS crew are facilitating a social breakdown. What they can not, apparently understand, is that as socialist/Marxist/commies of one stripe or another they are social parasites and thus require a host. The dummies think if they kill off the capitalist host they’ll create a ‘people’s paradise’ rather than end up dining on rotting corpses in the streets (see French Revolution).
        The TP seeks to abandon the statistist efforts that placed the nation in jeopardy with a renewal of ancient republican principles. I think Cicero said something along the lines of supporting such a renewal. There’s really nothing new in history.Report

        • steve in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          They just want jobs. That is Marxist? They are pissed that the people who ruined the economy, the bankers, were made nearly whole while they pay the price. That is Marxist? I dont think that word means what you think it means.


          • Robert Cheeks in reply to steve says:

            Thanks Steve, as has been mentioned I still have to actually read Marx. RE: who ruined the country, I’m still fascinated with the idea of a free house for everyone and don’t worry about paying for it. That’s why the commie-dems are always electable, they give us stuff.Report

            • Mike in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Oh for the love of…

              Look, I’m going to say this once: GROW THE FUCK UP.

              There are no “evil commie-dems out to control us” involved in this discussion. There is no “uppity nigger from kenya” problem, no “oh my god the government controls too much” problem.

              There IS a problem wherein for the past 30 years the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class have been whittled away.

              Today, 400 people control more wealth than the bottom 50% of the US in total. Think about that for a moment. 400 people at the “very top” control more wealth than the poorest 155,900,000 people. THINK about that, if you have brain matter capable of even comprehending the numbers.

              The top 1% control 42% of the financial wealth in the country.
              The top 5%? Yeah, 67% of the financial wealth.
              The bottom 80%? They control LESS THAN 7% of the financial wealth.

              The last time there was an economic disparity like this in the world, you know what happened? The vast majority of Europe got busy beheading or liquidating their monarchies and throwing them out of power.

              The economic disasters of the 2000’s, WITHOUT exception, stem not from too much government control but a LACK of government regulation. Enron, MCI, the BP oil spill, the housing market, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the infection of various “securities” into the stock market – it was all a LACK of government regulation that caused the problem.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              … so bush is now a commie-dem? His ownership society is something you still remember, right?

              I’m starting to become convinced you’re on LSD or catnip.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Kibbutzniks Live off who again?
          You really should pull the stick out of your bum, it appears to have hit your neural tissue and be affecting your thought processes.Report

  7. Matty says:

    Even if the movement fails to empower individuals, the democratic act itself can lead to genuine human interaction and meaning community

    I’ll say it again (mainly because can’t locate my other comment) when people get together for a reason what matters is less the hope that one day things could be better and more the certainty that just by being together right here, right now things are better.Report

  8. Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t understand the first chart on the post linked to with the words global hollowing out. How can the employment share of the middle-paying third of jobs be anything other than one-third?Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The deviation among that 1/3 has shifted. As he notes at the end, this means many people have gone on to make lots more money, but many others have gone on to make much less.Report

  9. A Teacher says:

    Point one: If the OWS people want to be taken seriously then they need to stop complaining/ protesting using their $400 iPhones to send out data (at %70/month) to Twitter and Facebook. And they need to get the people who have that kind of discretionary income OUT of the spotlight.

    We’re in the mess we’re in, yes because of WS but also because of insanely accessible credit on Main Street, coupled with a society of consume on credit.

    I’ve studied history. I “Get” the idea of conspicuous consumption, of man’s (and woman’s) need to have that $200k car (or $14k shoes) to show that they’re ~able~ to spend $200k on a car (or $14k on shoes). And we all did it. We all bought far more than we can afford. We dove lock stock and barrel down the rabbit whole of consumerism and bought ourselves gadgets, games and gizmos, and we all did it on a store credit card for just $50/ month.

    I dunno… I believe that there’s something to rage about but I can’t get into the rage when it’s just ~rage~. Heck until Adams, Jefferson et al got together and wrote down their ideas, we didn’t have a revolution: We had armed mobs.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to A Teacher says:

      We’ve had this discussion in a different thread. The conclusion is that anyone who dares complain about the material possessions of the OWS crew is a heartless bastard who lacks empathy and is intentionally unwilling to understand the troubles of 99% of America.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to A Teacher says:

      we didn’t all do it. I didn’t, at any rate.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kimmi says:

        Kimmi, the plural of anecdote is not data.

        Most Americans overspend.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          … what’s your definition of overspending?Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kimmi says:

            Nowadays I would say if you are putting less than 20% of your income in savings*, and you are taking on any sort of revolving debt that you are not able to remove from your books before a finance charge hits you, you are overspending. If you don’t have at least three month’s salary (six is better) in liquid assets so that you can survive without employment, you are further in trouble.

            It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

            * savings includes retirement and non-encumbered short term liquid savings, like CDs or 1 year financial instruments.

            Currently, the savings rate is well under 10%, IIRC. The last time I remember seeing a number, it was 6-something.Report

  10. Rufus F. says:

    I think the simplest response I have to all of this is as follows: the way economic matters were handled at all levels in the US over the decade leading up to the crash simply did not work, does not work, and will not work heading into the future. Thus a Plan B is needed. If the protesters had a Plan B, that would be revolutionary, but as they don’t, there’s only so far their rage is going to get us.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

      As someone noted already I think, the “Plan B” is suppose to be the job of policy makers.

      Simply pointing out an injustice/imbalance that needs to be addressed is enough, at least while there still isn’t consensus on the failures your noting Rufus.

      Would it have made sense to tell Civil Right’s activists to go home until they had a detailed plan for desegregating communities and institutions?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Actually, a good deal of why the Civil Rights movement worked, imo, was that it was pretty easily to both articulate and implement (the low hanging fruit) of the changes the Movement wanted. “Do not discriminate on the basis of race” is a fairly easy thing to conceptualize, particularly when one is looking at pictures of side by side water fountains with peculiar signage.

        And I would also say the Civil Rights movement, as a movement, rather suddenly and irrevocably deflated when the easy pickings of, for instance, removing signs from water fountains was done, and the work of, for instance, figuring out how busing plans should go started.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Well, I never told anyone to go home anyway. But, if we’re going to wait for ‘policy makers’ to find a better way to address the problems than they have thus far, we’re probably doomed. The good news is the US has long had one of the most flexible economies in the world and can shift gear fairly easily. The bad news is its political system has seemingly ground to a complete halt. The choices offered by the political powers seem to be between different sets of totally outdated ideas designed for the economic situations of decades past. Their failure of imagination has been stunning and a bit terrifying. If the protesters are waiting for their political elites to show them the way out of the forest, they’re betting on a long shot. Besides, that attitude would seem to go against the democratic tone of their protests thus far. We the 99% demand that you up there tell us what to do??Report

        • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Not “tell us what to do.”

          But the way representative democracy is most likely to work in a highly technocratic, globalized age, is that masses of people articulate certain principles and certain desired results, and then policy elites offer up plans to achieve those results while not straying too far outside the original principles.

          The purpose of any movement, or protest more generally, is usually to draw attention to the fact that either, a.) certain principles have been trampled on, or b.) certain results have not been achieved, or their opposite has come to pass.

          Charging a legislative body like Congress or that of any state, with simply making into law whatever proposals were democratically supported, would beg the question, why not just implement them via state-wide or country-wide vote.

          So I’m not sure it’s such a leap to suggest that protesters provide both a generally desired outcome and the consequences for elected officials if that outcome doesn’t come to pass, without having to specify how exactly said outcome must/can be achieved.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

            Okay, well I agree with that in terms of setting down a general direction that they’d like to see the federal government heading. I think what people are getting at here, and at least where I’m going, is that the problems that these people are protesting are a lot larger than public policy solutions. If working people can’t stay afloat and have health insurance, or people can’t repay their college loan debt with the jobs they get with a degree- if there are various reasons that the “American way of life” for the last seventy years or so is no longer feasible for a large chunk of the population, than maybe it’s time to seriously reconsider what a good life consists of and why so many of us buy into elements of the old way of life that are unobtainable. It’s really necessary for the culture to shift course and not just the government. In fact, usually when the culture shifts, the government eventually follows suit.Report

            • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

              Here I definitely agree Rufus. Freddie gets at something similar:


            • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

              Rufus, I think we’re talking about order and disorder here. Disorder, I think, can be very unpleasant.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

              if there are various reasons that the “American way of life” for the last seventy years or so is no longer feasible for a large chunk of the population, than maybe it’s time to seriously reconsider what a good life consists of and why so many of us buy into elements of the old way of life that are unobtainable.

              Under this re-alignment, would we be able to look at person X today and say “he’s in poverty” and, tomorrow, say “he’s not in poverty” without *ANY* change on his part whatsoever?Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                There already was a realignment- from middle class with a decent standard of living, albeit with more debt than any other generation had ever taken on- to “in poverty”. Were my grandparents, who had a modest standard of living and never any debt “in poverty”? At least they could retire. My father will work until he dies.

                Look, there are reasons that I’m pessimistic here, and I used to talk about them on my old blog, where people would say, “Ah, you shouldn’t be so pessimistic. Things’ll get better” and I would say, “Okay, how?” and they’d say, “That’s not my department. But trust me- things’ll get better because Americans are smart”.

                Here’s the thing- for about a decade or more before this crash, I listened to economists talking about a “shift in the American economy away” from manufacturing and towards a service economy. I’m sure someone will say that America still produces a lot of stuff, but that radical left-wing newspaper the Economist said back in 2005 that the US had already reached the point that less than 10% of American workers were employed in manufacturing for the first time since the country industrialized. It hasn’t gotten better as far as I can see. Moreover, this shift was uncontroversial and, it was said at the time, was a big deal and a good thing.

                But part of the argument was always that moving to a service economy worked– the numbers were supposed to add up, even though I kept asking people, How can you go from having a significant chunk of the populace working a factory job to working, say, at the mall and expect that there isn’t going to be a serious change in their way of living? Oh, nobody could explain it, but when you looked around most people were living the same way as before- more or less. It was working. Nobody quite knew how it was working, but it was working.

                Then came the crash. And, as far as I can tell, the numbers were “adding up” all that time because of really easy credit inflating people’s standards of living. And inflating everything in the economy really. People now seem, as far as I can tell, to want desperately to get back to the situation a few months before the crash when easy credit made the economy seem a hell of a lot healthier than it was. I don’t see how that’s supposed to happen, or really why we shouldn’t expect another crash in a few years time. Nobody’s much interested in the fundamentals of the economy, which seem to be in worse shape than before, back when they weren’t really working. But, hey, I’m a pessimist.

                So, yeah, I think Americans need to start from scratch with rethinking everything about their economy and their way of life. I’m still pessimistic that politicians will be the ones to do that. They’re too invested in the status quo. Hell, as far as I can tell, the protesters are too invested in the status quo. Maybe it’ll take another generation to come down the pike and point out how fished things really are.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I’m not an economist, so I could be getting the picture wrong here, especially since it seems pretty simple/clear at first glance.

                But the decline in manufacturing jobs coupled with massive rises in productivity and automation seem to imply that capital and not labor is what has become more productive, and thus capitalists have seen gains from the recent economy, while displaced labor hasn’t.

                That seems to be the only explanation for why the economy has grown overall, and we’re producing more things more cheaply, but why that’s not apparently raising the median household and below’s standard of living.

                Obviously, consumer products are getting a lot cheaper, but the bulk of consumer spending is still going toward sectors that haven’t seen gains in productivity and keep getting more expensive, despite remaining necessary: health care, education, housing, and transportation.

                Doesn’t matter if you have cable, a refridgerator, and a microwave if you can’t afford health care for your kids and have to choose between healthy foods or a public transpo pass each month.

                And the main reason why you’re right Rufus, and values/behaviors need to be transformed, is that if the lower/middle class save, spend less on consumer goods, and make the “right” choices with respect to health care for the kids, proper lunches, etc. aggregate demand would continue to fall and put the economy as a whole at even higher unemployment.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Rufus F. says:

                FIRE in the hole, and everyone keeps sinking…

                Service industry isn’t the end of everything (FIRE and Cancer are, however…)… but real income’s been going down for the last ten years.

                It’s about time for a revolution.

                Last time it was rural electrification.

                I vote green energy, myself. But either we break our current mold, and create new markets and new things to buy on a massive scale, or America dies.

                Our advantage, as simple as it may seem, is that we do science better than anyone.

                We MUST make new things — cause the Germans and Japanese can lick us on the minitiarization. They’re good improversReport

              • David Cheatham in reply to Rufus F. says:

                That is pretty much exactly what I’ve been saying happened.

                Economies rely on a circle of goods and services, and this circle must include every good and service. It is a closed loop, it is the modern version of the ‘circle of liiiiiife’. (Or, if you’re of a sci-fi bent, it’s the ‘Great River’ of the Ferengi.)

                This loop can get very complicated at time, but there’s a fundamental problem with off-shoring: What are we providing them? Well, money, obviously, but then what are we providing to get the money back?

                Well, nothing, because it’s not actually the off-shore workers getting the money, it’s the corporations and corporate leaders, both here and there. It is not being returned to American worker pockets. The rich mostly sit on their money, or trade it amongst themselves.

                …and because of that our circle of life has a gap in it, our great river drains into some cave system somewhere. There is money actually _disappearing_ from the actual economy, that is, the people who work and purchase stuff with the money they make from the work. (No, the stock market is not the ‘economy’.)

                But, no fear. Sure, money’s vanishing out of the economy but there’s an easy solution: People in the economy can just borrow money from all those corporations that ended up with it. (Or, rather, from the banks that are holding the money.) <futurama>Thus solving the problem ONCE AND FOR ALL</futurama>

                The gap between the rich and the poor isn’t ‘really’ the problem. Offshoring is not ‘really’ the problem. The fact that the rich’s money is not participating in the economy, and has not done so for decades, and all the money is collecting there like a clogged pipe, is the problem.

                Or maybe a better analogy there is like a clotted blood vessel…and we just had a stroke to the rest of our money-starved brain as a result. The solution of cutting taxes to the ‘job creators’ is like saying ‘We just need to put more blood behind that clot. Perhaps some of it will squeeze past! And the rest of the brain won’t be too dead by then, probably.’

                Or, you know, we could do things to try to break up the clot, stop letting blood pool there in the first place.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to David Cheatham says:

                nice paraphrase of Adam Smith. He had some choice words to say about ’em too. Funny how everyone seems to treat him like he was a conservative, ain’t it?Report

  11. Scott says:

    Whose promise to whom? There are no promises or guarntees of sucess in life. I’ll bet most of these OWS are liberal arts majors that now find that their silly degrees can’t get them jobs. I guess they they should majored in science or math. Not to mention, these folks should be protesting Barry’s failed economic policies at the White House.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

      That is, majored in computer science, and guessed to specialize in stuff that’s useful for social networking, not studied something useless like chemical engineering.Report

      • Scott in reply to Mike Schilling says:


        You and Kimmi can BS all you want but it doesn’t change the facts that a sci/math grad is more employable than some women’s studies grad from Vassar.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Scott says:

          … says someone who’s not tried to get a job as a physics grad, I’m betting. women’s studies will at least teach you how to create arguments and communicate. science and math? not so much.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Scott says:

      There are no more engineering jobs in America (ya, i’m exaggerating. gottaproblemwitdat?). Detroit won’t hire em, and people are fleeing to other countries, like Australia.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:

        There are tons of STEM jobs in the US, as a matter of fact, most large companies actively recruit from around the world & pay money to get foreign nationals their work visas. We are not even close to training enough STEM professionals to meet the needs of the country.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          doesnt’ change the fact that the braindrain is reversing itself, and that Americans can’tget jobs in many career fields.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Kimmi says:

            Still more people coming into the country for jobs than leaving the country for jobs. I don’t see that changing any time soon, even if the disparity will be less than it once was.

            If we’re really that concerned about it, we can cut back on visas and see how many imports we really need.

            Things still seem pretty good in my field (IT). But a lot of that depends on where in the country you are. There’s an allocation problem, at least in some fields. In other fields, of course, there is just a jobs problem.Report

          • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:



            • wardsmith in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              In Kimmi’s inimitable fashion she’s wording things just obscurely enough to make it difficult to parse out her meaning. The braindrain is slowing down for a number of reasons (not the least of which is over reaching by homeland security). “Reversing” is a bridge too far.

              She has a wonderful career ahead of her as a prophetess should she so desire. In hindsight one could claim almost any prior meaning if the original statement were obfuscatios enough.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

                ya. but see, you’re also part of the problem. My friend-of-a-friend who moved to Australia did so because Americans can’t be arsed to listen to arguments about global warming.Report

        • Mike in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          That’s because they pay the foreign nationals 40% les because they can hold them completely hostage (as in, you can’t be poached by a headhunter) for their visa.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to Mike says:

            Mike, I start ChemE’s at $85K per year. My last two have been H1B visas because not one US citizen even applied. To get (and keep) the visa (already costing us $5K plus legal fees) at further expense we have to advertize nationally. Not our fault we aren’t Dow Chemical but there are only so many CE’s minted per year and it is competitive. To make your statement true, you’d have to prove to me that they are making $142K per year elsewhere. Or you’re just shoveling shite.Report

          • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike says:

            Yeah, all of the H1B visa holders I know get paid the same as me, and can still be poached.Report

            • wardsmith in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              MRS, yup we lost one recently after we’d helped him get his green card. I’d voted against it with my partners but they outvoted me so the corp spent the majority of the cost.

              We needed a material with specific chemical properties. I had him contact Dow (and others) to buy it and they said it didn’t exist and couldn’t be done. We called BS and we showed two methods to them. Next thing I know they’ve poached my CE and I needed a new one. The good news is we’ll get our “unobtanium” from them, hopefully at a good price and our ex-employee is still a shareholder in us so will help out from time to time on special projects.

              Capitalism can be nice when it has a chance to work right.Report

  12. DensityDuck says:

    “[I]t’s an attempt by alienated individuals to do something meaningful.”

    So was kristallnacht.Report

  13. Kimmi says:

    Oh, no! Everything is Trainwreck!
    I can give you ten ways to fix the problems we’ve got (starting out with creating a system of taxation that removes money from the “landed rich” and getting it into entrepreneurs’ hands).
    Or maybe you’re just not seeing the tunnel, and thinking we’re going to crash into a mountain.Report

  14. Mike says:

    Number of people in jail for protesting Wall Street: numerous.

    Number of Wall Street assholes in jail for the numerous crimes and accounting fraud counts that crashed the economy: ZERO.

    Anyone else see how fundamental a problem this is?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Mike says:

      Yarly. Extralegal action will be taken if legal action fails. Sadly, the amount of time necessary for extralegal action to work is longer, and requires more frustration on teh part of everyone involved.Report

    • North in reply to Mike says:

      I’m sympathetic to the sentiment but my understanding of the crash is that one of the most frustrating parts of it was that very few of the actors involved did anything illegal; ill advised, yes, stupid possibly, risky very much so but illegal or fraudulent? Not so far. So far there hasn’t been much in the way of concrete charges let alone ones that’ve stuck.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to North says:

        Treason would be a good start. Holding the World economy hostage for a few bucks is not exactly legal behavior. If the president is allowed to break strikes for national security, he should be allowed to do something about economic terrorism.Report

      • BSK in reply to North says:

        That is in part due to the fact that incredible amounts of lobbying and money went into making the behavior legal. So, yes, they didn’t break the laws, but only because they were smart enough to change all the laws in the first place.Report

      • 62across in reply to North says:

        North –

        You can see that no one broke the law as an indication that there was no wrong done OR you can see it as an indication that the legal system is neutered to protect people who do wrong.Report

        • North in reply to 62across says:

          Absolutely, I’m familiar with this assertion 62, I’ve followed the opinions on the subject with some interest. Do you have any actions by given actors in this meltdown that stand out in your mind as examples of things you think should have been illegal but weren’t due to lobbying?Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

            The CDS market.Report

            • North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              The whole thing should have been illegal or just regulated?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

                IMO? Illegal. Transfer of risk should be completely straightforward. Dicing up an investment and repackaging it with bits of other diced up investments is (in my opinion) clearly an attempt to hide risk.

                If you want to sell a loan, sell the loan. There’s a market for that. If you want to hold onto the loan, and take insurance out against the chance that the borrower might default, there’s a market for that too.

                Obviously, if you’re doing something else, you don’t really want to do either of those two things; what you’re trying to do is, “those things, but making more money off it it”.

                There is no reason to make this a legitimate market. It adds no wealth.Report

              • North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Wasn’t it a form of hedging?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Proper hedging is taking out insurance on the loan.

                Like I said, there already was a market for this. Well understood, no less. Gobs of actuarial tables and everything.

                There is no reason to diversify an investment, really. Why do you need to cut up a loan and sell it to 40 different investors in a package with 20 other cut up loans?Report

              • DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t know that I’d go that far, as I think there are some perfectly good reasons to diversify investment risk, particularly in the housing market, but leaving the CDO market completely unregulated was an unforced error of historic proportion.

                Even so, Wall Street, the Fed, and Treasury were all asleep at the switch while the system go so vastly over-leveraged that an epic meltdown was inevitable.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG says:

                Yes, Darren, but you can diversify your investment risk by taking out an insurance policy on the capital you dumped into whatever the investment was.

                And while I’m *a little bit* tempted to agree that there are special cases where, say, someone wants to borrow $700,000 (see Ward: Jumbo loans below), and Freddie/Fannie wouldn’t buy loans that big, and thus if you were going to *make* that sort of a loan, you were now carrying a $700,000 note, and out $700,000 in liquid capital.

                And mortgage companies typically don’t carry their loans any more: they make the loan and sell it to somebody else for a portion of the future value.

                Still, typically these things were chopped up and sold to people who were buying more than $700,000 worth of these things.

                “Just let them buy the loan and insure it.” was an existing market, with existing solutions.Report

              • DarrenG in reply to DarrenG says:

                Diversification and insurance serve different, and distinct, functions.

                One of the main valid reasons for desiring diversification in housing investments is to reduce exposure to geographic risk, something insurance isn’t very well-structured to handle.

                I’m not arguing for a minute that the CDO market *wasn’t* completely sporked, just that insurance isn’t always sufficient for hedging risk.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG says:

                Fair ’nuff.

                One of the problems with having too much (relative) money in finance is that you’re going to find enough people to make something to solve a problem, though.

                Sometimes, that problem ought to be there for a reason 🙂Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Pat, you’re conflating CDO’s and CDS’. See my post below.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Sorry, Ward, I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

                Blame it on my age.Report

              • North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                My thanks to all three of you for the info.Report

            • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              It is important to understand what a CDS is and isn’t.

              CDO’s were the bigger fish in the ‘fished up’ system. CDS’ were just the chum in the water attracting the sharks like Soros to the party.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Oh, sure. That was just the example that popped right off of my head.

                I can think of lots of other things that should be illegal that aren’t.

                Of course, I don’t see any reason why, if the Fed exists, anyone should get preferential treatment from it. If Bank of America can borrow money at 2.5%, so should anybody else. Why does the American public with a good credit rating have to pay a half-point vig?

                *Every* mortgage company charges at least a half-point vig.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Its a bit more complex than that. At one time I had something written up on this on wordpress, but the whole thing is gone now for reasons unknown. CDO’s were private industry’s answer to what Fannie and Freddie were effectively doing by themselves but couldn’t for the entire market. Since they were constrained by gov’t fiat from making loans at “jumbo” levels yet were setting the table on mortgage rates that everyone else had to follow.

                BTW, BofA is borrowing for much less than 2.5% right now. 🙂Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Yeah, well, that was part of the problem.

                Although I understand that Freddie/Fannie’s fiat wasn’t exactly adjusted for inflation, they weren’t supposed to be providing loans for over 10x the average income to begin with; Freddie and Fannie were supposed to add liquidity to the private mortgage market for the middle class.

                Nobody thinks far enough ahead…Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                The very success of the CRA became the rest of the economy’s undoing. Once they “got away with it” they expanded on the theme (CDO’s in their current incarnation were a response to the perceived threat of CRA defaults).

                With a relatively low default rate and the actuarial mechanism of blending together mortgages from across the country (thereby avoiding local minima problems such as a plant closing), CDO’s were heaven-sent, on paper at least. The problem came home to roost when the devil in the details handed the statisticians something they’d never anticipated, a nationwide meltdown in prices. I really wish I still had my article on this, would save me a lot of retyping.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Too bad you don’t have it, I’d like to read it.

                Check the Internet Wayback machine?Report

              • DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                The jumbo loan cutoff was indeed adjusted for inflation (not sure if this was automatic or required congressional or regulatory action, though).

                And I find Ward’s argument that the CRA caused the problems with CDOs to be problematic since the CRA was enacted in 1977, and nothing resembling the modern CDO market existed prior to the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1987, and didn’t really get rolling until the last decade

                Sub-prime loans (which most CRA loans weren’t, by the way) were substantially less than 1% of the market in 1986, and peaked at over 20% of the market in 2007.

                There were many factors that led to the housing crisis, and the CRA probably doesn’t crack the top 20 causative agents.

                The size of the crisis was entirely due to the ridiculous amount of leverage that was allowed to build up within the system, not because we made it marginally easier for poor people to get mortgages in the 70s.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                There was also the small matter of 75 to 80% of subprime loans being made by lenders who weren’t governed by the CRA.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Brilliant idea! Unfortunately it only got crawled once and my content wasn’t there. I suspect I upset someone with power there, probably because of CRA connections at a time that debates were going on about this article. As you can see there was some prescience to the author’s statements in 2000 to what eventually transpired in 2008.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                @ Darren

                To clarify: the jumbo loan problem may have been indexed to inflation, but it probably wasn’t (I’m guessing) indexed to the mean housing price. When housing prices went crazy, there was serious upwards pressure on lenders to lend more money in excess of what the system was currently set up to allow easily.Report

          • BSK in reply to North says:


            I’d recommend reading “Griftopia” by Matt Taibbi. He outlines not only what was actually going on during the downturn, but how the situation came to be in the first place. In all honesty, I didn’t fully understand all of it, but that is because I am an admitted ignoramus on how these financial sectors tend to work. Still, I understood a hell of a lot more than before I read it and it offered a much more macro perspective on what happened.

            Taibbi certainly has a perspective on the matter, though it is pretty easy to parse out what is commentary/opinion and what is reporting/fact.Report

            • North in reply to BSK says:

              Thanks BSK, I’ll have to look into it.Report

              • BSK in reply to North says:

                I’d offer to lend you my copy. Then I realized we don’t ACTUALLY know each other. But do check it out. Taibbi, in general, is a fun read. Again, he’s clearly got a perspective and he doesn’t hide that. But that’s okay, as far as I’m concerned. His writing is fun and he does a good job of making the technical approachable. He is often far from an expert on the subject matter itself, so you learn along with him rather than being taught from above.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to North says:

                DailyKos had a few Sunday posts on it too… They’ve got good info from wall street insiders there.Report

          • 62across in reply to North says:

            North –

            My point wasn’t the lobbying one, but rather the neutered legal system.

            Google “Dick Fuld SRU” or “Lehman Repo 105” to start.Report

            • North in reply to 62across says:

              Ah okay 62, I guess in my mind neutered legal system and lobbying to keep something from being regulated/made illegal is the same thing.Report

              • 62across in reply to North says:

                I could be parsing.

                I just think it is difficult to point to something that should be illegal and isn’t specifically because of lobbying. It’s part of what makes it all so pernicious; it’s hard to see the fingerprints.

                On the other hand, it is pretty easy to see how the SEC is structured in a way to make prevention of bad acts nearly impossible. The SEC is staffed by ex-finance folks – they’re the only ones who understand the complex financial instruments they are supposed to regulate. And new complexity is being cooked up all the time, so new laws are necessarily going to be reactive. Once the global economic collapse horse is out of the barn, it is a little late to close the door.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to 62across says:

                and this would be a great argument if you coudln’t demonstrate that the SEC used to do its fucking job under Clinton, and now is demonstrably not preventing illegal actions.Report

              • 62across in reply to Kimmi says:

                Kimmi –

                This would be a good counter-argument if the SEC was kicking ass and taking names under Clinton, but you’d need to cite some examples. However, when I look at the history of the Clinton years, I see derivatives taking off and Enron was already cooking their books before Bush took over. The neutering of the regulators started a long time ago and it’s only getting worse.

                Look, I attribute the fact that all the malefactors from the financial collapse have escaped scot-free to both lobbyists writing the rules to favor the banksters AND the increasing ineffectiveness of the regulators, so I don’t think you’ve got an argument with me.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to North says:

            yup. a friend’s out of work because of it.Report

    • Joecitizen in reply to Mike says:

      It gets better, bench warrants are issued by judges on working tax payers for debts.

      Not only are the tax payers paying the judges for issueing the warrants… Tax dollars were used to bail out the rich so they can continue to submit the data to send the taxpayer to jail. Paying off debt in jail should take no time at all right?

      Who will pay for building bigger prisons, and hiring more police to pick up the debtors? You would think freedom was a better protected commodity in this country.

      I say make Soylent Green of the lot.

      Its no wonder in failed states the populations use there oppressors for target practiceReport

  15. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    A college degree is supposed to lead to a quality job. Instead, for this young mother, it leads to debt. </quote)

    Ummmm, no. A college degree does not lead to a job, never has. A college degree merely indicates the completion of a course of study, and presumably the holder of a degree has earned an education.

    A lot of the problem we have in this country is that the ease of student loans and the explosion of for-profit schools has created a lot of people who are the first in the family to get a college education. This group that is striving to advance to the educated middle class is being fleeced by shady schools that are little more than degree mills. High school guidance counselors are supposed to helping these kids make good choices, but they can only help those who are going to college right out of High School. Aside from that, there is very little out there to help prospective students figure out which schools are a good value, and which are a rip-off.

    We have a whole generation of educated workers who possess worthless educations, thanks to government programs that promote easy money and deny the ability to discharge education debts through bankruptcy.Report

    • wardsmith in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      M.R.S. I couldn’t agree more. We shouldn’t be surprised we have crap colleges, we’ve had crap K-12 for generations. The problem is those who conflate “degree” with “educated”.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

        Also on the other end: those who conflate the un-“degree”d with “unfit for the general workforce”.

        The college degree bit is bad signaling in lots of ways.Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          Very true! A degree can be a useful signal, but lately it has become the signal used to weed out candidates.

          The sad bit is, employers know which schools are crap, but that information is not being spread around fast enough. And crap schools are very, very good at keeping the mark on the hook.

          I’ve been that mark, and I was lucky to get out of the deal after only losing $2K (in the early 90’s), and that was only by chance. When I told the school I was leaving, they pushed me hard to stay, until I told them I’d joined the Navy & was shipping out.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to wardsmith says:

        Here’s the problem:

        In a world of competition for public school kids, what do you think the HIGHEST rubric used to judge schools is, once you get past graduation rate?

        Percent of kids going on to college.

        Don’t blame schools for trying to do what they’re told they’ll be judged on…Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to A Teacher says:

          Touche’, that is not necessarily the best bellweather of a schools quality. My HS was a small, rural one in WI, and a lot of my classmates did not go to college right out of HS. Many went a few years later, after they’d gone into the military, or saved up money for tuition, or any number of valid reasons to wait.Report

        • wardsmith in reply to A Teacher says:

          @Teach, Where pray tell is there “competition for public school kids”? I keep hearing that it’s a monopoly. Not being sarcastic here, I went to private schools so don’t really know from personal experience. As I recall, you went to the public high school that was your “district”. Going to the better school across town was verboten. I have friends who purposely moved to a house across town to get into the better school district for their kid (although he’d gone to Catholic schools too, he was aghast at the idea of sending his daughter to one). I always thought there was a Pygmalion element to that school district. Better quality parents sent their better quality kids to the “better quality” district where they had better quality results.

          Is this the competition for kids? Moving to another district?Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

            School choice is pretty common now, Ward.

            I can’t speak for any particular school district other than the one my kids are in, but here you have a neighborhood school (where you’re “in” if you want to go) and you also have the ability to pick other schools (where you get in based upon when you put yourself on the list, assuming that there is space). That’s at the elementary level.

            I imagine most school districts that are large enough to have more than one high school have some sort of choice program available nowadays. That’s a guess, though.Report

            • greginak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              The SD i’m has several charter schools, a couple specialized SD run elem schools you can enter a lottery to get into, three alternative high schools aside from the standard ones in each area. School choice is pretty common these days.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to greginak says:

                Thanks for the updated info. What I’ve read concerns multiple jurisdictions across the country (usually in the pro-school-choice WSJ) and their concern that charters aren’t being allowed in the first place or are getting shut down by teacher’s unions.

                I went to a college preparatory school so naturally we were preparing for college. Even then, roughly 10% of my class skipped out on going to college. There used to be a big manufacturing plant in town and getting on there right out of high school meant you were living large on union scale wages.

                I remember barely scraping by in college while old classmates were driving brand new Corvettes. Just like in The Game of Life whether you took the college path or went right to work determined future earnings. Eventually I passed those guys with the vettes, but there were certainly years of envy as I drove a $500 (or less) car that would constantly break down.

                Not easy to pick up girls when you’re driving a beater, and you certainly didn’t meet any in my math and computer science classes (percentage women=0%). I also got to envy the guys with the “easy A” majors and all the chicks in their classes. Unfortunately upon graduation they were less than living large with their Poly Sci and Communications degrees. But this was all 30+ yrs ago, surely things have changed by now, or have they?Report

            • A Teacher in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              Schools are competeting for all kinds of things beyond kids. Grants are awarded to note worthy districts. Better admins flock to districts with notariety. And in my area we have county-wide “School of Choice” which is VERY close to a voucher system except that you have to go to a ~public~ school for it to work. Go to a private school and you’re on your own.

              For the last 14 years I’ve been in education there has been one consistent Drum Beat: College. College. College. Newsweek ranks schools on… College Admission and Number of Kids taking AP classes. College. College. Time ranks schools on College Preparation Rates. Why prepare if you’re not going? It doesn’t matter what you love, just get into a good college and LOVE it.

              And here’s what we have. A generation of kids who financed college entirely on easy to get loans, loans that they can’t escape from through bankrupcy but have degrees that have no practical purpose because the jobs they might have gotten them actually have degree programs for them now. A degree in Literature might have gotten you a job in Detroit as a Technical Writer, only … colleges now have Technical Writing degrees.

              I got lucky. I got out with a Degree in Math Education at a time when they needed Math Teachers. And good ones. And I”m good. I’m so good I can teach with half my face (the other half is recovering from Bells Palsy).

              But I do believe that there is some good blame for the people (Politicians, Media, and pundits) who insisted that college was the rubric we’d use to judge success in education.

              Just like the insistance that more people own a home humped our housing industry and massively drove the mortage crisis, the repeated mantra of College College College has lead to billions in Student Loan debt and kids no better prepared to do anything but protest.

              Now imagine telling those kids “hey there are jobs picking Veggi’s in Alabama….” Who wants do that when they have a degree in Social Philosophy?Report

  16. Joecitizen says:

    The mantra of the government for the past two decades is to re train the work force for higher paying technology jobs.

    This is political code speak for: “we don’t have any good tangible job for you right now, try again in 4 years maybe something will have opened up”

    as opposed to employer code speak: “wow your resume and experience are great, but we think you are over qualified for the position”

    which traslates to: “we have found a foreigner with the same degree and are going to under cut your submitted wage by 20%”Report