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Tilting at Windmills

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September 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OWES YOU $20,000....The Democratic Strategist has a roundtable discussion in its September issue that pretty neatly encapsulates my own inability to figure out what economic message will work for liberals. To start, the authors of the main article make an excellent point:

Part of the problem is that Democrats have been misled about the state of the middle class. Progressive economists typically peg median household income at about $45,000. But that includes households headed by 22-year olds (who are on their way up) and 76-year olds (who live on fixed incomes that may be small but are often comfortable since they have no dependents and limited work related expenses).

Among households headed by prime age Americans adults between the ages of 26 and 59 the median household income is about $63,000.

This is a badly underappreciated point: America is a very rich country. People still have economic worries, but the plain fact is that the vast majority of Americans are well enough off that their financial status is not the overwhelmingly most powerful fact of their lives. Like it or not, this means that for about 70-80% of the population, raw appeals to economic populism just don't have much salience.

But here's the problem: the two rebuttals that have been posted so far also make sense. John Halpin says: "The problem lies with a Democratic Party establishment that is unwilling or unable to call it like it is in a larger sense....explaining to Americans how the GOP-controlled system is rigged against the middle class on everything from taxation and social spending to corporate welfare and military service."

Hear hear. And Elizabeth Warren writes: "Today, a fully-employed, median-earning male makes about $800 less than his counterpart made back in 1972. But costs for many of the basics housing, health insurance, transportation, college educations-continued to rise."

Halpin and Warren are right: Republicans have rigged the system to overwhelmingly favor the rich and the result has been stagnation and increasing insecurity for the middle class. But the reason Republicans been able to get away with this is that stagnation at a household income of $63,000 isn't all that bad.

So how do we get this point across? Here's the basic message:

  1. In 1970, the median income for workers age 35-44 was $29,000 (in today's dollars).

  2. Today, the median income for the same worker is $32,000.

  3. During that time, total income (adjusted for population) has increased by about 80%. If that growth had been spread evenly instead of going predominantly to the already rich, the median income of a middle-aged worker today would be $52,000. That's a difference of 20 grand. (And no, counting healthcare benefits doesn't change this calculation very much.)

I dunno. Is that enough to get people pissed? If middle-class income had merely kept pace with economic growth, your $32,000 job would instead be paying you $52,000. But it's not. And the reason is that virtually all of the economic growth of the past three decades has been funneled into the pockets of the well-off, the rich, and the super-rich.

And yet, that $52,000 number is just airy theorizing. And $32,000 isn't so bad. And the Steelers are playing this weekend. So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

Kevin Drum 2:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (176)

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Comments

stagnation at a household income of $63,000 isn't all that bad.

so, what's the problem ?

Posted by: cleek on September 1, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

We have another Depression.

Posted by: craigie on September 1, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's hard, because the guy making $32,000 has a wife that is making $26,000. But they never see each other during the week, and everyone's exhausted all the time.

How about this idea: that the Republican party isn't just stealing your money and giving it to the already rich, they've stolen your life, and your family?

Because if you were making what you should be making, you wouldn't need the overtime and the child care and your wife (or you) could stay home and raise the kids.

Posted by: Jim 7 on September 1, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good post, Kev. I've been beating up on you recently, but this is a good one. Still, there's something else to add, which doesn't help us Dems much. Talking about the lack of improvement in average workers' income since 1970 doesn't have the impact you might expect because in 1970 average worker's income and average household income were pretty close--not too many two-income families out there. Today, of course, there are millions of two-income families, and their combined income encourages them to believe that they would be better off if the government would just "leave them alone" -- that is, lower their taxes and increase their benefits. Rich and selfish! No wonder they vote Republican!

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on September 1, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the Steelers played last night ;)

Posted by: cln on September 1, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

Send their children to Iraq to fight in Bush's war.

Posted by: Hostile on September 1, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

About the $32000/$52000 number: I've thought that something of that order was going on and it's nice to see in numbers. It's pretty clear-cut to me, but I'm a math geek. Mention numbers to my wife, even important stuff like this, and her eyes glaze over. Figuring she's representative of a significant portion of the populace, how do you describe it in simpler terms?

Well, I don't know if any of you have seen Washington Mutual's new advertising campaign pitting rich Trading Places-style plutocrat types against Bob (or whatever his name is), the average guy that works for a bank not run by total bastards. This message has resonance for a lot of people--that the rich are somehow screwing us over. Hell, it's paranoia coming from the same place that Republicans have used very successfully, to talk about imaginary "coastal liberal enclaves" where anti-Americanism is practiced to the fullest. "Us vs. Them" is a very tribal thing, and it's how you push people apart.

Um. But I'm blabbing. Put what Kevin said in plain English--how, exactly, I don't know--and you'll sow the seeds of a new workers-vs.-management struggle. Not that either side should "win" in the end (at one extreme lies classic statist Fascism, the other Communism), mind you, but power has been systematically removed from workers (union-busting, "right-to-work" laws, flex time vs. vacation days, loosening of overtime rules, and so on) for the past four-plus decades, so we're about ripe for one.

Posted by: JB on September 1, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin asked "So how do we get people to pay attention to this?"

Answer: We don't.

If people don't feel the economic issues--that is, if their economic troubles have to be explained to them--then we lose them.

At least as far as near-term electoral issues are concerned. If you're talking about a decades-long strategy (such as that successfully employed by conservatives over the past several decades to convince Americans that gov't is "the problem"), then it may be viable.

But that would take the sort of idelogical unanimity and concerted purpose that has not been a Dem calling card since the mid-1960s.

Posted by: Jim on September 1, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Today, a fully-employed, median-earning male makes about $800 less than his counterpart made back in 1972. But costs for many of the basics-housing, health insurance, transportation, college educations-continued to rise."

I'm guessing that this quote is based on the inflation adjusted income, which is the correct metric. However, to claim that a flat, or slightly declining real income is bad because basic costs continue to rise is ludicrous because they're rising...due to inflation! Those inflation adjusted costs are constant, by definition (since you're using an inflation adjusted income and the thing that makes nominal costs rise is inflation). Now one can fairly argue that a flat real income is bad, especially when the rich are raking it in. But this particular argument (in the above quote) is inane.

Posted by: ramster on September 1, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

ramster: this particular argument (in the above quote) is inane

I didn't like the article either, because of its lack of precision. However, her argument isn't necessarily inane. It could be that the cost of the basics is rising relative to the cost of luxuries. The cost of electronic toys is down, but the cost of housing is up. This would mean that the typical person has about the same standard of living, but less "margin for error". If in the past housing was less but toys cost more, then an income drop could be easily compensated for by buying fewer toys. If almost all your money is going to necessities though, it's harder to deal with a drop in income.

Posted by: alex on September 1, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

$32,000 isn't so bad? Where the hell is that statement operative? Maybe if you're renting a shack in Mississippi, have no kids, no car and eat beans & weenies out of the can you'd be doing OK. That's $15.38 an hour. You won't save anything, never take an extended vacation, skip any dental or medical procedure unless it's needed to save your life, wear shoes and clothes until laundering them has worn them threadbare, fix everything you own 6 times before buying new and end up in bankruptcy the 1st major financial calamity that comes your way. Somebody gets by on that kind of money when they live with 2-3 other people in the same residence kicking the same sum into a common pot. They're all still poor but they at least have someone to share their misery with.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 1, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

ramster, you're right, so the truer way to measure is to check on fixed expenditures like housing, food, and utility costs as a percentage of income. If that's rised significantly while wages have stayed stagnant by inflationary standards, then problem solved.

Also worth factoring in is the constant 30-year rise of median income from immediately postwar until about '73 or so, then the sudden (and dramatic) flattening of that curve.

Posted by: JB on September 1, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

"so, what's the problem ?"

The problem, as Kevin states, people need to be pissed about something. Afterall, the Dems can't gain, unless people are in pain.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Rised". Sheesh, that's what I get for not previewing.

Posted by: JB on September 1, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I dunno. Is that enough to get people pissed?"

Probably not, but my suggestion would be to keep reading the NYT or liberal blogs. There's enough manufacture outrage to be pissed off about for a long time.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Because if you were making what you should be making, you wouldn't need the overtime and the child care and your wife (or you) could stay home and raise the kids."

How much should you be making? And would you be making that much if the Dems are in power?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Figure out the cost of buying a house. The price of our house has tripled in five years. Nice for us, but if we hadn't bought when we did, there's no way we could afford it today.

Posted by: catherineD on September 1, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Go, Steelers!

And ignore the fact that your 401(k) rocketed up under Clinton, and has stagnated under Bush.

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on September 1, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

When the decade-long continent-wide megadroughts caused by anthropgenic global warming kick in, and there are near-total crop failures all over the world year after year, and food becomes not only extremely expensive but is in short supply at any price, people will have worse things to pay attention to. Like starvation.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

$32,000 isn't bad?

That depends on where you live. In Nebraska or Idaho it certainly is not that bad but here in Los Angeles it's not much considering you cannot buy or even rent the average home that costs $400-500,000.

Posted by: SweettP2063 on September 1, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Afterall, the Dems can't gain, unless people are in pain.

says the champion of the OMGOMG! BE AFRAID!!!! party.

Posted by: cleek on September 1, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, as one of those 20 somethings on his way up, this breakdown struck me. I'm not doing as well as I had originally thought.

I suspect that the mere reporting of figures like the $40,000 median income makes people in this $63,000 group feel rich. It makes them want to vote for lower taxes, because after all taxes are redistributed to "poor" people, not those making above the average.

It makes them think, hey, wages have stagnated for those 40K people, but I'm above average. It doesn't matter that my health care plan is becoming more expensive - I'm above average. If the democrats win, they'll raise my taxes, because I'm above average.

Interesting.

Posted by: tomboy on September 1, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Among households headed by prime age Americans adults between the ages of 26 and 59 the median household income is about $63,000.

And even that may be understating. How many of those households are Hispanic immigrants (or their children) who are making less, but happy to be in America rather than a country where they'd be making A LOT less.

What if you exclude Black households (who are voting for Democrats anyway, so don't have to be convinced.) Prime age American households may be making $63K, but what about median White households? (The ones whose votes they are trying to keep from hemmoraging to the GOP)? Probably even higher.

Posted by: Rich on September 1, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, in what parallel universe is $32K a year not bad? Take out the FICA and other taxes and you're left with barely enough to live.

I think people are too busy making ends meat to realize how pissed they really are.

Including, perhaps you.

Posted by: Underpaid on September 1, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

If money is what you want, I'm sure the GOP can satisfy you. I can't remember whose proposal this was, but in the recent past someone argued that given the current revenue stream going to the federal government each year, you could give every American citizen something like 20-50K a year by eliminating all the federal departments, employees and programs, outside of the four that were created when the country was founded. Those four deparments were State, Treasury, Justice and War.

Just think of it, no more poor people existing in this country. But since this would destroy the last power base that the Left and Dems have, government employees and those dependent on government services, it will never happen.

Posted by: Chicounsel on September 1, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Another difficulty with "the message" is the variable cost of living around the country. $32,000 per year may be perfectly decent in Toledo, Ohio where my kin live. But I live in Austin, Texas, and that's at most lower middle-class here. I can imagine what 32 grand gets you in San Francisco or Washington, D.C.

And that's a problem, because many of the voters that Democrats need to pull back into the fold live in rural or semi-rural areas with relatively low cost of living. My kin in rural East Texas would love to make $32,000 per year, they'd be living very well on that, homeowners with new cars. So it's an obstacle of perception.

Posted by: Constance Reader on September 1, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

32,000 isn't bad?

That depends on where you live. In Nebraska or Idaho it certainly is not that bad but here in Los Angeles it's not much

Of course, the median income is not the same in Nebraska and Los Angeles. It is likely much higher than 32K in and around high-cost cities.

And yet, that $52,000 number is just airy theorizing.

And also not the likeliest counterfactual. While of course no one truly believes in "trickle down" economics, it is most likely that, were the system in place to ensure that economic growth was perfectly even across all strata, it likely would have been much lower.

Posted by: Rich on September 1, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

You have to keep the message simple....throwing around statistics and "adjusted for inflation" jargon isn't going to cut it. Good sales people avoid talking too much about the features of a particular product or service. Instead, they emphasize how a person will benefit from it.

For this message, I would put it this way:

"....you could be earning $20,000 more per year if you got to play by the same rules the Republicans created for America's wealthiest citizens."

Posted by: Patrick lane on September 1, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

and those dependent on government services,

You mean like Haliburton? Farmers? Ranchers? Agriculture? Lockheed? Universities? Big Pharma? WalMart?

Are those the spongers you mean?

Posted by: craigie on September 1, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think people are too busy making ends meat to realize how pissed they really are.

ah the blissful ignorance that comes with sausage-making.

Posted by: cleek on September 1, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

"When the decade-long continent-wide megadroughts caused by anthropgenic global warming kick in, and there are near-total crop failures all over the world year after year, and food becomes not only extremely expensive but is in short supply at any price, people will have worse things to pay attention to. Like starvation."

The hunger scare is so 70s. Now that food is so abundant, that obesity is a bigger concern than hunger. Try a more up to date scare tactic.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Did yall incomes drop by $20,000 when Bush took office? Explain why it's the Repukes who owe you $20,000.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Umm, in what parallel universe is $32K a year not bad? Take out the FICA and other taxes and you're left with barely enough to live."

You lefties always want to emulate the EU model, and yet at $32k, that's better than what most Euros make. So what are you complaining about?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on September 1, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Fun with statistics

Posted by: PaulQ on September 1, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

my own inability to figure out what economic message will work for liberals.

Health care research, and public health generally, are liberal ideas. I'd say a good liberal message is: "Increase health care research, because it always pays well for the poor and middle classes. this is shown by, among other things, decreasing costs for cancer and antiretroviral therapies."

See my numerous other examples. When measured by lives saved, or years of live enabled, health care is cheaper than ever before, as a result of research.

Conservatives like to make much of the fact that the first smallpox vaccine and first polio vaccine were privately funded. However, the vaccines actually in widespread use, and the massive public health efforts that have eliminated smallpox, and nearly eliminated polio, were tax-funded.

Aggregate health care costs have gone up because more treatments (that are actually effective) are available, and everyone wants them.

Consider another example: bone marrow transplantation has a very low success rate, around 10%. If it didn't work at all the aggregate cost of using it would be negligible because practically nobody would want it. As research progresses, it will almost certainly become more effective and cheaper. So eventually the aggregate cost of using it will increase, due to increased demand, but the cost per cure (which is what you would be paying for) will decline dramatically.

Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Boskin! Boskin! Boskin!

Posted by: yep on September 1, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

The one piece of information not addressed here is a thing called human nature. It's impossible to get across to a low end earner that he's better off paying taxes. Low enders are just as inticed by tax cuts as high enders. "Tax cuts for the rich" fall on deaf ears when it means as little as a $10 bill in the immediate pocket that is empty. Saying it means millions to the rich is meaningless to them because of their condition, they are not qualified for welfare and don't earn enough buy what they want.

Welfare is a sore point with the low end earner and perhaps more so than the rich. The GOP has played this tune to an audience of screamers like a big name rock star. Taxes must be addressed and the same or better position taken by the Democrats or any gains this fall will be short lived.

I would suggest two things. First make taxes nil for anyone earning less than a living wage and make that float with inflation. Second, restore dedictions for things like auto loans and credit card interest as well as other deductions removed by the "plugging up loopholes" done during Regan's tax reform that amounted to tax increases for many low enders.

Taxes are an albatross around the neck of the Democratic party. The time is now to take it off and throw it overboard.

No one owns real estate, their homes in the USA except religions. The rest of us so-called home owners only rent from the government. Don't pay the rent, real estate taxes and get evicted. The Democratic party could take that case to the people. Allowing religion to operate, tax free, tax deductible violates the first amentment, "no law shall establish religion..." Fear of religious back lash is being blunted by an archaeological find that proves beyond a reasolable shadow of a doubt that the Bible is a hoax. Details at http://www.hoax-buster.org

There's a lot the Democratic party could bring to the country. Clean air, water, saving species going extinct, and the like are not much to offer any more. They may be distracting the party from the real needs of the people.

Posted by: BG on September 1, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

How do we get people to pay attention? Health care. College tuition. Job security.

These three are gross manifestations of the gradual destruction of the middle class.

Posted by: Boronx on September 1, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

...and food becomes not only extremely expensive but is in short supply at any price, people will have worse things to pay attention to. Like starvation.
Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK


Ammunition is currently cheap, and has a long shelf-life. I suggest you stock up, because I doubt you'll be as open to cannibalism as I will.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

It is factoids like this which illustrate the failure of the Democratic party to build an agenda around economic issues.

Fact #1 is that Republican economic and regulatory policies have been hurting lower and middle class families for years.

Fact #2 is that the Democratic party has been unable to hang this around the necks of the Republican party, and as a result has seen millions of lower and middle income voters who have been hurt by Republican policies nevertheless defect to the Republican Party and cast their vote based on social issues ahead of economic ones.

Posted by: mfw13 on September 1, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

But that includes households headed by 22-year olds (who are on their way up) and 76-year olds (who live on fixed incomes that may be small but are often comfortable since they have no dependents and limited work related expenses).

Besides, the youngsters have to buy houses but the oldsters already own them. Increases in housing prices increase the net wealth of the people who own them.

Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

When the anthropgenic global warming induced melting of the earth's crust begins, people will have worse things to pay attention to. Like sinking, screaming into the warm, glowing glow the the magma.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm so tired of this DLC-inspired Democrats-don't-do-anything-for-the-middle-class BS. If you look at family income growth since the mid-60s, only the top 5% of the income distribution saw their incomes grow faster in the Reagan-Bush I years (1981-1993) compared to the Clinton years. Only the top 20% did better in the Reagan-Bush I years than in the last years of the New Deal coalition in the late 60s and 1970s.

As Alan Abramovitz pointed out on Ruy Teixiera's blog awhile back:

. . . the vast majority of Americans, probably all except the very, very wealthy, benefit from Democratic economic policies. This can be seen by comparing the performance of the economy under Democratic and Republican presidents over the past 60+ years. By almost every conceivable economic measure--real GDP growth, unemployment, real disposable income, and even the performance of the stock market--the economy does better, in fact substantially better, under Democratic leadership than under Republican leadership. . . .

The facts demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans are better off when Democrats are in power than when Republicans are in power. The major problem that Democrats fact today is driving this point home as forcefully as possible--something that both Al Gore and John Kerry unfortunately failed to do.


Posted by: Tom Geraghty on September 1, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter, when are you going to grow past tribal strawman arguments and reach the point you can actually analyze things?

Posted by: Reality Man on September 1, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

From OsamaBeenForgotten: Ammunition is currently cheap, and has a long shelf-life. I suggest you stock up, because I doubt you'll be as open to cannibalism as I will.

True, and I myself will also be largely cannibal-proof since my enviro-friendly diet of lawn clippings and house dust, with my walking to work 20 miles each day, has left me mostly bone and gristle.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

And the reason is that virtually all of the economic growth of the past three decades has been funneled into the pockets of the well-off, the rich, and the super-rich.

Yes, and eight years of one of those decades had someone who is widely perceived to be a Democrat in the White House.

Posted by: expatjourno on September 1, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Yes, and eight years of one of those decades had someone who is widely perceived to be a Democrat in the White House."

You're not supposed to notice that, or that the trends everybody's bitching about date back to the early 1970s.

Posted by: hammer on September 1, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Can this be true? Overheard on c-span: 28% of American insurance exposure is in Florida.

Floridians are really the last people who can afford to be saying we need smaller government.

Posted by: cld on September 1, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Re; "...virtually all of the economic growth of the past three decades has been funneled into the pockets of the well-off, the rich, and the super-rich."

Use of the words "funneled into" implies that the wealth was created somewhere other than where it is now. What proof do you have that this is the case? Show me, for example, the police reports of the criminal activity is which all of that wealth was forcibly removed from the lower and middle class.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. Personally, I think its you who wants to do the funneling.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, it's Republicans in Congress who claim that rolling back future tax cuts amounts to a tax increase. The denial of an unrealized gain is a tax increase.

Same applies here. But for the tax policies of the GOP, middle class workers would have another $20 G a year in their pockets. Tax increase!

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 1, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, most people still don't go to college so how is excluding people who've been working fulltime for 6 years sensible? And 59 is ten years before retirement. Talk about your cherry pickers.

Posted by: Rob on September 1, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

And 59 is ten years before retirement.

Is this true any more? It seems to me that, unless you are on the board of directors, you don't get to work much past 59 these days. Except as a greeter at WalMart, of course.

But regular people retaining their jobs past 60? Boring! Get rid of them! Hire some 20-somethings who work for less, don't get sick, don't have families, don't need a pension or insurance or time off, and who look much better hanging around the water cooler.

Ice floes! We need ice floes as an economic policy!

Posted by: craigie on September 1, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

You are right - the average middle class family is getting by OK, and isn't severely pissed about how much they make. What worries and angers them is how insecure their perch is. A job loss means no health insurance, which means it could all go down the drain in a few months. And this isn't theoretical - most people know folks this has happened to.

The other area that I think people can relate to is the fact that we are working so hard and not keeping up. If we are lucky enough to have health insurance it goes up every year, and has higher copays and deductables. College costs go up way faster than inflation or our earnings. People feel like hamsters on those little wheel, not quite keeping up.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on September 1, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

and yet at $32k, that's better than what most Euros make. So what are you complaining about?

don't forget to subtract the cost of health care, and all other services European govts typically provide, from that $32K!

Posted by: cleek on September 1, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Overheard on c-span: the people of Florida pay more for insurance than they do in taxes. Yet an insurance company feels no responsibility to its policy holders, but to its profit margin.

Why should we remain enthralled to a system whose interest is so exploitative and parasitic? A corporations idea of social policy is to create a privileged impression of the kind of personality and character that can best serve its parastic intention. This is the real reason characters and plots in Hollywood movies and TV are so crass and selfish.

Posted by: cld on September 1, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

EmmaAnne,

You're absolutely right that it is a lack of security that has people on edge. But it makes me think - is that entirely a bad thing? Imagine a totally secure society. Who would work? Who would save? Who would buy insurance? Who would bother to develop networks of family and friends? The truth is that insecurity is what drives us. There should be a safety net, certainly - but not so much of a net that we start to feel completely secure. That is the path to disaster.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

During that time, total income (adjusted for population) has increased by about 80%.

Don't you have to adjust for the total number of workers, rather than the population? If you didn't do that, then your numbers are completely bogus.

Posted by: MattJ on September 1, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Trippi owes me $50.

Posted by: Hostile on September 1, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

But costs for many of the basics-housing, health insurance, transportation, college educations-continued to rise

the cost for a health insurance policy with exactly the same coverage as was available in 1970 has gone down. Health insurance is only more expensive if you want to be covered for new medical options that were not available then.

Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

mhr wrote: You intend to start a class war ...

No, you intend to start spewing incoherent puerile bullshit, which is all that right-wingers are capable of.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have mentioned this several times, and it is mentioned above (and ignored by folks focused on raw numbers) households have more or less kept pace with inflation since 1973 by increasing the number of hours worked. They have done that by sending mom to work. Now the kids come home to an empty house. Mom and Dad come home hours later too tired to fix meals. Even if Dad is a good father and helps, parents are often too exausted from the normal chores associated with running a household to spend as much quality time as they would like with their children.

Those electronic toys we talk about have become childcare providers, and not very good ones.

Because rightly parents don't want them out of the house while they are still at work, kids are playing video games instead of riding bikes. They have developed fat asses, and are going suffer from all the health problems that engenders later in life.

In short the Republican redistribution of wealth has weakened American families. It has taken you and your spouse away from your kids. It has deprived them of the parental involvement they need.

The Republican redistribution of wealth is not an economic issue, it is the ultimate family values issue.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 1, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

"If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote Democrat." - Harry S Truman, 1948.

Posted by: Bubbles on September 1, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

When will people finally get pissed off by their deteriorating economic positions? Simple. When some large industry, like airlines, banks, large retailer, or real estate development falters and asks the government for a bail-out.

There will be rioting in the streets.

Posted by: CT on September 1, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hey dammit I am pissed...people pay attention to this as their standard of living slides and the hollow lies and shallow values of this administration become transparent. It amazes me that there is any support left this Grand Old Party. Calling GOP, are you doing better than you were 6 years ago?

Posted by: American Idiot on September 1, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

There's no class war here, and there never will be. That's kind of the point of the article. Yes, there are a few hot heads who overdosed on Marx, but the average American understands that work, study, and family ethics are nearly always enough to get one into the middle class. And that our rich (yes, I said "our" rich) are more often a benefit then a detriment to the rest of us. So the "hate the rich" talk just gives us the same feeling as someone singing off key in church. We ignore it because we don't like to be impolite, but we're not going to start singing off key too just to make them feel better.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with making economic comparisons with the early 70s and blaming it on the Republicans is that it won't stick. Republicans will simply point to two different Democrat presidents and to periods where Democrats ruled the House and the Senate and blame it on those Democrats.

Posted by: mitch on September 1, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Feh. I figger it's more like 800k that's owed. 20,000/year x 40 years of working.

Posted by: bo on September 1, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

"the average American understands that work, study, and family ethics are nearly always enough to get one into the middle class"

Talk about rich...

Posted by: olds88 on September 1, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Randy wrote: And that our rich (yes, I said "our" rich) are more often a benefit then a detriment to the rest of us.

Please explain exactly how that is true.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Old88,

The truth is that the rich are irrelevant. The feasible goal is to move the poor into the middle class. And the middle class knows that it isn't that difficult to be middle class. Work, study, family - and the avoidance of stupid behaviors. If this seems to you like too much to ask, then you're not middle class.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist,

Not to be flippant, but I don't think it will be possible to convince you, and probably not worth the effort. I just get the impression that you a more of an idealist than a pragmatist, and that you are likely to dismiss pragmatic concepts such as the value and necessity of the entrepreneur out of hand. If I'm wrong, then perhaps we can continue. But if I'm wrong, you wouldn't have asked the question - because the answer would have been obvious to you.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

mhr, you mention class like it's a bad thing. I remember when GWB put his first tax cuts up and his goons in congress hollered "class warfare" to humiliate democrats into going along with the cuts. To this day I don't know why the Dems. didn't respond with "of course it's class warfare, schmucks. The greedy rich bastards have been getting away with every tax break and unfair corporate welfare handout they can for too long. It's time to help out the people who actually need to work to provide for their families." But none of them did it. I reckon that they were too worried about losing campaign money from those same greedy bastards. Or being painted as hypocrites if they're already rich (see: John Kerry, etc).
It didn't stop FDR, though. If anyone, he should have been a friend of the rich elites, which he absolutely wasn't. Kennedy was a rich kid too, and he was quite clear on his idea of government as a force for good. That's something that's been missing from the debate for too long. Instead of forcing a false choice between helping the poor or the middle class, try putting out the role of government as guardian of the people against the powerful. It's working great for Eliot Spitzer in New York. (and it would work better if Bush hadn't fucked up New Orleans worse than anyone could have imagined) Considering Enron, Halliburton, WorldCom, etc., I would think it easy to say "these guys stole your money. and Bush not only let it happen, he HELPED THEM DO IT. let us stop him from stealing more from you".
just some thoughts.

Posted by: jonathan on September 1, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Our national fiscal deficits are such that every child born today will hold a $27,000 debt, most of it courtesy of our fiscally-resposible Republican Party.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 1, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

SHORTER KEVIN DRUM:

Americans don't care about the economy and republicans undermining the middle class because they're really making $80k/yr, but they should be pissed because if they imagined they made $32K they should really be making $52k.

Kevin, this has to be one of the stooopidest posts you ever did.

Posted by: yowzer on September 1, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

"The problem with making economic comparisons with the early 70s and blaming it on the Republicans is that it won't stick. Republicans will simply point to two different Democrat presidents and to periods where Democrats ruled the House and the Senate and blame it on those Democrats."

Um, were you asleep for the 90's? You might not like Clinton's taste in women but you better give him props for an incredibly successful financial program. When he left office, government was running in the black.
And I reckon you don't remember the 70's very well if you're gonna blame it all on Carter, considering he was president for a whopping 4 years. This is how Nixon ran the economy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis
http://www.buyandhold.com/bh/en/education/history/2002/arab.html
http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/oilshock.shtml
What is it with Republican presidents being total bitches for middle eastern oil producing countries, anyway?

Posted by: jonathan on September 1, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

I reckon that they were too worried about losing campaign money from those same greedy bastards. Or being painted as hypocrites if they're already rich (see: John Kerry, etc).

bingo.

Now this becomes a discussion about why only wealthy elites or folks with backing from wealthy elites can get elected, whether they're from one side of the aisle or the other.

Work, study, family - and the avoidance of stupid behaviors. If this seems to you like too much to ask, then you're not middle class.
Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Work: if you can get it (or if that work provides a meaningful income).
Study: if you can get it (or if that degree pays off - ask the tens of thousands of computer science majors who got shafted when they tried to enter the workforce after 2000, and were told to retrain because Indians will work for 1/10th the cost).
Family: Now here's the key. If you're born into a wealthy family, studies have shown over and over that you are far more likely to get the above two.

It's not about having a good protestant work ethic. It's about whether our society provides equal opportunities. America does provide better opportunities across the board, than many other nations in the world. But compared to industrialized nations, America has fallen behind, and continues to fall behind. And that action tends to accelerate under Republican policies.

Entepreneurs are fine and dandy. But I see no reason to give any of them a free ride. Especially those to whom enterpreneurship is no risk. Bush is a scion of wealth. Every attempt at posing as an enterpreneur has failed miserably. Maybe it's because he didn't have a real stake in matters, and the fallout from failure was meaningless. Or maybe it's because he really is the complete idiot he seems. In either case - enterpreneurs of his caliber are routinely given a free ride, while the rest of us have to work our asses off. And frankly - no enterpreneur can succeed without an unnambitious, plain, old hard worker to execute on the enterprise. It's time the hard workers stop getting the shaft, and start getting the pay they EARNED by putting in hours and making sacrifices, and taking REAL risks, day after day.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

On top of the number cited above is the several thousand dollar share every American has in the national debt.

Posted by: Chris Andersen on September 1, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic Strategist says that if you cherry-pick the data, you get a much better looking picture- for Republicans. Who apparently are hard to distinguish from Democratic strategists.

Because the fact is, you don't get to choose whether you join the cherry-picked high earners. And if cherry-picking really raises the "average" for the luckiest people, it does so by revealing a sharp drop-off for the less lucky. Pensioners living on $800 a month with $400 in medical and drug costs. Young people making $10 an hour in a city where an apartment costs $800 a month. That's the nature of averages- good news at one end means bad news at the other.

Even if you make that $32k/year, it doesn't go very far when a cup of coffee costs $4, a gallon of gas costs $3, and a trip to the ER costs $1500.

Of course you can avoid that medical expense by living in the country, where we are too poor to have clinics or emergency rooms.

So here's the real basic message- life has gotten worse for 30 years, except for the increased regulation of industry that's made us a lot safer. But in general, things are more crowded, noisier, and less pleasant than they were. You might feel better personally about this if you were getting the $20,000 increase in your productivity over that time, but that money has been siphoned off by the very richest people, who never feel that they have enough.

And if this nation continues to be a losing proposition economically for most of the people, it ain't gonna last forever.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 1, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

What is it with Republican presidents being total bitches for middle eastern oil producing countries, anyway?
Posted by: jonathan on September 1, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

They are investment partners with wealthy Saudi and UAE princes, who covertly fund terrorism to:
A - redirect the ire of religious fundamentalists to other convenient targets rather than the source of the economic misery of the people: Conservative economic policies, and tyrants and dictators.
B - drive the oil speculators batshit crazy with fear, so that oil prices are artificially high, bringing a windfall of profit for those who are "in the know" and have lead-time on these events.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but you didn't count the non-wage benefits like healthcare, 401ks...oh wait, I've said this like a BAZILLION times in the comments area. Just ignore me now.

Posted by: GOP on September 1, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

When will people finally get pissed off by their deteriorating economic positions? Simple. When some large industry, like airlines, banks, large retailer, or real estate development falters and asks the government for a bail-out.
There will be rioting in the streets.
Posted by: CT on September 1, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

You're kidding right?

In October 2001, the government gave a few hundred million to UAL and AMR, because those airlines were too incompetent to keep terrorists with knives off of their planes.

Then the government handed out money and land-rights to the poor oil companies, who had a bad quarter due to less jet fuel being sold.

Then the government gave them bankruptcy protection.

Then the government let them default on the PROMISES they made to workers to adequately fund pensions that the workers thought were being saved over 20 years of hard work.

Then the government gave Enron bankruptcy protection, even after the massive institutionalized corruption and fraud.

Then the government spent $300 BILLION (excuse me, more like $1 TRILLION when you count the interest, because this money is BORROWED) in a lame effort to funnel government money to a few well-connected defense contractors, and manipulate world oil markets through fear caused by instability in the Middle East.

So when are people going to get mad about Corporate Welfare again?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

the cost for a health insurance policy with exactly the same coverage as was available in 1970 has gone down. Health insurance is only more expensive if you want to be covered for new medical options that were not available then.
Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Just - wow.

Please cite - because that's the most insane, out of touch with reality, psychotic klanging documented in feces on the walls of a rubber room I've ever read.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Randy wrote: And that our rich (yes, I said "our" rich) are more often a benefit then a detriment to the rest of us.

I replied: Please explain exactly how that is true.

Randy replied: Not to be flippant, but I don't think it will be possible to convince you, and probably not worth the effort. I just get the impression that you a more of an idealist than a pragmatist, and that you are likely to dismiss pragmatic concepts such as the value and necessity of the entrepreneur out of hand.

You didn't say anything about "entrepreneurs" nor did I ask about "entrepreneurs".

You wrote that the "rich [not "entrepreneurs"] are more often a benefit then a detriment to the rest of us."

Please explain exactly how that is true.

If you want to argue that "the rich" are all, or even mostly, "entrepreneurs", or that "the rich" have all, or mostly, become rich by virtue of their "entrepreneurship" (as opposed to, for example, becoming rich by inheriting wealth that they did not earn), then present evidence that that is the case.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 1, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, that thing about healthcare costs is just brilliant. Try applying it to your car- "Cars today are really cheaper than they were, because in the past they didn't come with seatbelts".

In fact, you can apply it to almost anything- New! Improved! Cheaper now because it wasn't like this in the past!

In fact, health care costs should have dropped. Surgeries that had you in the hospital for two weeks are now one or two-day affairs. Medical conditions we hospitalized people for are now managed at home. The doctors office uses computers instead of triple-carbon copies, and they check your blood sugar or oxygenation with a hand-held meter in the office, intead of sending you to a lab to have your blood drawn.

But strange to say, costs have gone up, even though most of the people working there are making less in real dollars than they would have 30 years ago.

Gee, I wonder where that money can be going....

Posted by: serial catowner on September 1, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Genius (Author)

DId it ever accor to you the total income you cite did not go predomanently to the "already rich" but to the government?

Two facts about the lower tax rates of the 1980's

1. More people became "rich" who were middle class
2. THe government has had an increase in revenues. (Don't let the fact that they spend it faster than it comes in fool you)

SO there for you theory is B.S. just like most liberal class warfare theories are. Look at Daddy governement to see why everyone is working harder

Posted by: Jeffeck on September 1, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK
Part of the problem is that Democrats have been misled about the state of the middle class. Progressive economists typically peg median household income at about $45,000. But that includes households headed by 22-year olds (who are on their way up) and 76-year olds (who live on fixed incomes that may be small but are often comfortable since they have no dependents and limited work related expenses).

Among households headed by prime age Americans adults between the ages of 26 and 59 the median household income is about $63,000.

So? First, this is a distortion. "Progressive" economists aren't the only ones who use an inclusive median. Most economists do, if they say the median income of american households, they refer to the whole pool, not a particular age band.

Second, what makes this "prime age" the critical age band? People 26-59 are likely often still on the "way up", so the exclusion of people below 26, but the inclusion of the 26-59 range, on that basis (if it would be a valid basis for exclusion in the first place, which I don't see—should we only care about the condition of citizens who have plateaud in their career?) is misguided. People over 59 are often not retired and not on a fixed income, so the exclusion of people older than that on that basis is suspect. Where's the justification?

Its like the age band was cherry picked not because it had any particular meaning, but because it superficially appealing justifications could be made for it by making excuses for exclusions on both ends (though they don't stand up under even slight consideration) and would create the impression (though not a real argument) that "progressive economists" were somehow "misguided".

I suppose if one was cynically focussed on winning votes, the right analysis would be a median weighted by demographic factors linked to propensity to vote, but this isn't that, either.

I just don't see a moral, practical, or other justification for this age band. Now, you might say, that in the whole article, this is mostly just a throwaway piece: but its the one concrete fact they cite, and its completely meaningless as presented.

If that's representative of the analytical skill that went into framing their recommendations, I'll pass.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 1, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan,

To clarify: I'm not blaming Democrats, I'm well aware of the 90's success under Clinton. I just don't think it's persuasive enough to the general public to simply say "30 years ago things were better; it's all the Republicans fault!", when the Republicans could simply obfuscate the argument by pointing out Democrats have been in control of various levels of government during that time as well. And especially if half of the middle class age group were teenagers or younger during the 70s (i.e., what the hell do they know about what it was like back then?).

Now, comparing the Clinton economic era to Bush's economic era, that would be much more persuasive. Or maybe showing the same median income numbers pre-Bush vs. post-Bush.

Posted by: mitch on September 1, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

If you look at a graph of resource consumption vs some measure of life quality, like self-assessed happiness or the Human Development Index, HDI at first rises directly with resource consumption, but then plateaus. This makes sense: if you're starving, more food will make you happier, but if you've pretty much got your basic needs met, consuming more won't necessarily satisfy you. Americans are, in general, way past that plateau, and I don't see why they should be handed even more money. OTOH, I don't see why the rich need or deserve this capital either. I can think of two basic places it could go.

First, it could go into allowing Americans to work less. This has a lot to be said for it, as a lot of people's dissatisfaction stems from how little family or leisure time they get. It might help revitalize our political process as well.

Second, there are plenty of places in the world in which a little capital could go a long way toward improving people's lives. However, what is the vehicle for getting that money where it's needed and into useful projects? That's a stumper, at least for me.

Posted by: thump on September 1, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

cld,perhaps the reason Floridians pay more for insurance (you didn't say what kind) is because they should.First off,if it weren't for A/C,Florida wouldn't have half the year-round population it does. Florida is regularly visited by hurricanes not to mention the almost every summer afternoon thunderstorms.Losses drive premiums and losses increase when houses are built in high risk areas.
Florida is chock full of apparently driverless cars as dowagers,who have shrunk with age,peer under the steering wheel of the Buicks,Caddies and Lincolns they drive. Not very safe,not at all.
You also realize that Florida,the state,is the secondary insurer for property,particularly coastal because after the last few hurricane seasons,insurers capped the policy imit while also raising the premiums.
I,too,think insurance companies are heartless bastards but it's really just a cash management issue for them.The longer they take to pay,the more they earn on their investment portfolio.

Posted by: TJM on September 1, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

...I can think of two basic places it could go.

First, it could go into allowing Americans to work less. This has a lot to be said for it, as a lot of people's dissatisfaction stems from how little family or leisure time they get. It might help revitalize our political process as well.

Second, there are plenty of places in the world in which a little capital could go a long way toward improving people's lives. However, what is the vehicle for getting that money where it's needed and into useful projects? That's a stumper, at least for me.
Posted by: thump on September 1, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as long as we're taking a trip through fantasy land, and we imagine there's some way, technically, to get "our" hands on that money (there is not) - there are a few things I would spend it on, instead:

Birth Control - the technology, and worldwide police force that would be necessary to enforce it; to limit families to two children each, until we can get the world population to a manageable, sustainable level. (approximately 1-2 billion?).

Renewable Energy Resources - enough clean energy to run a sustainable, stable economy that allows the earth's 2 billion human inhabitants to live lives of comfort and leisure, without "shitting in their own bed" like we're currently doing.

Earth Environmental mediation/moderation - whether this means reversing anthropogenic, or natural global warming, is an academic circle-jerk. We've got to deal with it somehow. We should plan for our existence on this planet for an indefinate period. Yes - eventually the sun will burn out, yes, eventually geological processes will shut down the earth's magnetic field and the earth's atmosphere will be eroded by the solar wind. But there are problems we CAN do something about - and the sooner we start, the better.

Space Colonization - a 200-year plan of new technology development to permit humankind to build permanent colonies on other bodies in space (Moon, Mars, maybe Titan, maybe L5?) - as well as eventually, worlds circling other stars. Assume that the problem of faster-than-light travel may never be solved. If it does get solved, then goody for us.

Genetic Engineering programs - to master our own health and well being, eliminate disease and suffering. Can we live forever? That's not the question (though that would impact the first item; population control). The question is - can we live long, fulfilling lives, not slaves to the legalized drug cartels? Diseases need cures. Not treatments. Every disease has a cure. That's a sane, valid, rational, baseline assumption to begin with. Diseases should be cured. Not exploited for corporate profit.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the dollars.

It's the amount of time one needs to dedicate to somebody else's business so one can pay for one's own business.

For example: in 1982, it took me about 54 hours to get enough lucre to pay for a 2-bedroom apartment. Today, it takes about 42 hours to get enough lucre to pay for a 5-bedroom home (and I've got a pretty-low monthly mortgage payment).

Make the comparison in hours and time!

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on September 1, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Losses drive premiums and losses increase when houses are built in high risk areas.

So - you're saying that the purpose of insurance is not to spread risk?

Florida is chock full of apparently driverless cars as dowagers,who have shrunk with age,peer under the steering wheel of the Buicks,Caddies and Lincolns they drive. Not very safe,not at all.

Solution:
Tougher driver's license standards.

Not everybody should have the privilege of driving. For those that do not, public transportation.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Please cite - because that's the most insane, out of touch with reality, psychotic klanging documented in feces on the walls of a rubber room I've ever read.

many of the treatmens that now exist did not exist back then, my favorites being taxol and prozac. If you agree to forego all medical procedures that you could not have been insured for in 1970, you can get a very nice cheap deal.

Insurance is more expensive now because it delivers more than it did.

As to medical costs, another example. For breast cancer, the cost for each additional year of life is less than it was then. Or each additional "QALY" (quality-addjusted life year.)

Near the library in my small town is a free clinic where poor mothers can have their children vaccinated for free. Middle class mothers have to pay small amounts for these vaccinations, as do rich mothers. For most of the major causes of death throughout human history, America's poor are as well protected as America's rich.

HIV/AIDS is a new threat. Over the last 20 years, $20,000 has gradually been able to buy more and more QALYs; each additional year of healthy life to an AIDS vicitm has become cheaper and cheaper. If you are at the median income, and acquire HIV, you can afford to stay symptom-free for decades into the future (at least as long as you become less promiscuous and do not expose yourself to multi-drug resistant HIV.) A median income literally buys more years of future life in this population than it did even 5 years ago.

Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Insurance is more expensive now because it delivers more than it did.

Bullshit.

Prozac and Taxol are a LOT cheaper treatments than for Depression and Cancer in 1970. Insurance is delivering LESS now. Their costs are less, but instead of passing that savings to the customer, they've INCREASED their premiums.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

> So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

What would Republicans do? Spout dry statistics? Or would they personalize it?

"Here's Dave and Betty, Dave drives an 18 wheeler and Betty works at the bank.

(video of Dave and Betty painting their own house)

They are the backbone of America. In 1970, couples like Dave and Betty made about $29,000. Today, they make an about $32,000". That's 10% more after 35 years.

(queue evil music)

Here's Bucky Enron, a VP at a BIG OIL company. In 1970, he made $80,000. Today, he's bringing home $485,000. That's 600% more."

and so on...

Posted by: Buzz on September 1, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, I remember when you were all into that Valerie Plame case, because it was such strong evidence of Bush's perfidy. I haven't heard much about that lately. How'd things turn out?

Posted by: Keith on September 1, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist,

Re; "...present evidence that that is the case."

You know, that is an interesting thought, that the rich must prove they deserve their wealth in order to keep it - because I have in the past made exactly the opposite argument, that the "progressives" must prove that the rich do not deserve their wealth in order to take it.

My evidence is that somebody (or a great many somebodies) paid to the rich (or perhaps to a prior generation) the money they now possess in return for having received something of value. I can site numerous examples of this. What evidence do you have to the contrary? Not cultural prejudice, but evidence. To be more specific, I'm looking for evidence that the wealth was obtained by illegal means.

Here's a link to 100 of the wealthiest people in the world;

http://money.cnn.com/2001/06/22/news/wealthiest/list.htm

Which of these can you prove should be in jail?

P.S. And while we're on the subject, why do you suppose that the law includes provisions for private property? It seems obvious that such provisions will inevitably result in inequality. Why then do such provisions exist? Answer; Because our predecessors understood that it works. Because private property and the incentive it creates produces wealth, and because the alternative to private property is constant conflict.

Posted by: Randy on September 1, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

shorter gop:

yer all a bunch of whiners!
now back to work!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 1, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Randy: You know, that is an interesting thought, that the rich must prove they deserve their wealth in order to keep it

Interesting thought, but not one that SA expressed. He asked you (sarcastically) for evidence that most wealthy people acquired their money through entrepreneurship, not whether they deserved it.

Of course you knew that.

Congratulations, you're a TROLL! (we've got so many already though, go somewhere else).

Posted by: alex on September 1, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I'm making just about $32,000 a year right now, and I don't feel bad about it at all. On the contrary, possibly almost giddy that I actually might make enough to increase the savings account now.

But then, I'm in that annoying below-26 no kids and no major obligations category, so this may not apply across the board.

Posted by: Chris O. on September 1, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - if you really want people to start taking you seriously, start acting like an adult.

Yelling and screaming everday makes you Dems look like over-emotional teenage idiots.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on September 1, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

there is one item of health care that has gotten more expensive since 1990, and since 1950. That is the last year of life. A person under medical care who is about to die summons forth (if rich or insured) an amazing array of resources: people, tests, interventions. It is really common for more money to be spent on the medical care of the last year of life than on the medical care of all the preceding years.

Posted by: republicrat on September 1, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly we should be executing people in their second-to-last year of life. Savings all around! Drinks on the house!

Posted by: craigie on September 1, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

No drinks for the soon-to-be-executed, though. More savings!

Posted by: shortstop on September 1, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Republicans have rigged the system to overwhelmingly favor the rich and the result has been stagnation and increasing insecurity for the middle class...So how do we get this point across?"

Alerting cognitive-dissonant voters to their own gullibility backfires like a lit fart. We have to present the economic data as if it is already understood by middle America, and ask "did Republicans really think we couldn't figure this out?"

Posted by: ergonaut on September 1, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, I remember when you were all into that Valerie Plame case, because it was such strong evidence of Bush's perfidy. I haven't heard much about that lately. How'd things turn out?

Posted by: Keith

Just like anybody but a rabid lefty would expect. Rove did not get frog-marched anywhere and a Bush opponent on the war is the guilty party. I love it!

Posted by: press1forenglish on September 1, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

If most people are comfortable with their incomes then feel free to try and convince them they are really poor. It should be interesting when they don't believe you. Just like they did not buy the lefty argument about how pitiful the economy is doing.

Trot out some more of these arguments for the mid-terms and the left will have losses instead of gains. I love it!

Posted by: press1forenglish on September 1, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Hey GOP--Did you catch my post at 6:50pm preemptively satirizing you? Fish in a barrel, dude!

Posted by: GOP's Subconscious on September 1, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

And the Steelers are playing this weekend. So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

Elizabeth Warren might provide a clue in the statistics she quotes about debt, which appears to be a primary source of worry. How to properly frame it isn't clear, but it's something that might get people's attention--some people's anyway. Which is another point: this isn't necessarily a single message, but maybe a number of focused messages with a common underlying theme.

Posted by: has407 on September 1, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

They'll pay us off in charter school vouchers and discount tokens for their encircling toll roads.

Posted by: ferd on September 1, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why is median income being used to make this point?

Let's say you have five people with five different annual incomes: $10,000, $20,000, $30,000, $90,000 and $1 million. The median income is $30,000. Now let's give our daddy warbucks a big, fat raise to boost his personal gross to $200 million/year. What's the median salary now? Still $30,000.

In other words, everyone to the right of that median can have their incomes zoom to the stratosphere. You can throw in massive tax cuts and windfalls like the repeal of the "death tax" and it still won't affect the median income.

Posted by: Chopper on September 1, 2006 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Uhm, nobody is going to pay attention as long as the repigs distract moron americans with the "wahhhhhhhhhh they want gay marriage" or "waahhhhhhhhh they want to kill little innocent babies."

Posted by: beezle on September 2, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

more hypotheticals:

http://www.onlyrepublican.com/orinsf/2006/08/a_simple_way_to.html

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

For a video flow-chart look at the distribution of income, see the first part of "Social Security" at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tts2uTWt6e8

and see Chap. 2 of "Tax Cuts" at:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=SA1f2MefsMM

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on September 2, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

craigie: Clearly we should be executing people in their second-to-last year of life. Savings all around! Drinks on the house!

More money, shorter lives. that isn't "savings all around". My posts have been about how longer lives and healthier lives constitute greater wealth. Most treatments that provide that get cheaper decade-on-decade.

However, there are people who advocate putting an end to what they call "futile care". The APACHE score, which is very good at predicting when individual life expectancy is less than a year, is overwhelmingly ignored.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

An alternative slogan is "we Democrats will give all of you in the lower 90% $ 2,000 while balancing the budget." Something like that is easily possible without really huge tax rates on the rich. An advantage is that pundits screaming "class war" would publicize the proposal. Another advantage is that a policy proposal so brief that it fits on a bumper sticker "refundable credit of $2,000 financed by raising tax on income over $ 150,000 to 49%" say has no room for favors for special interests.

The National Rhutabega Institute might ask for a loophole for the 5 super rich Rhutabega agribusinesses but the Dems would have to say "Sorry won't fit on the bumper sticker".

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on September 2, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

craigie: Clearly we should be executing people in their second-to-last year of life. Savings all around! Drinks on the house!

One of the ways that other nations make better use of their medical care money (lower total costs, equal longevity) is that they provide much less of what is called "futile care".

Plus they spend a lot less on orthodonture.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

GOP: "Employment compensation as a share of GDP has fallen by as much as 2% over the past 30 years. It's an outrage, I tell ya, an outrage!" ... Think that'll get some traction?

No. Then again, your eye for the capillary doesn't cut it. I'd suggest something more like:

Income has been declining at rate of almost 2% per year since Bush took office. If current trends continue, that will represent a loss of over $10,000 for the typical household in the US through 2008 since the GOP took control of the White House and the Congress.
That might get some traction. (Technically correct? Yes. Cherry picing? Yes. The truth? Ha! Caveat: the $10,000 is an eyeball number.)

Posted by: has407 on September 2, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

When does Kevin Drum admit he was had by Joe Wilson?

Kevin's silence is deafening.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on September 2, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

GOP: So in other words, you propose to just flat out lie. ... Your claim isn't even "technically correct," let alone "true" in any other sense.

No. It is technically correct (I choose the data and the analysis). And I declaimed that it was "true" by any measure other as defined by me. Is that a lie? No. Is it stretching? Yes. You have a problem with that? Take it up with the GOP.

Posted by: has407 on September 2, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Don't worry about terroism; follow me as I do these complex math equations to show how you've been had."

The Republicans are weak going into 2006, but the Democrats are dumb and blind (when not insane - like many of the nutty left who dwell in these comments). If Democrats can't come up with a message that resonants on terrorism (or, for that matter, any other issue), politics are going to keep being stagnant for some time.

Posted by: Frank J. on September 2, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Alex,

Re; "He asked you (sarcastically) for evidence that most wealthy people acquired their money through entrepreneurship, not whether they deserved it."

You're right, I simply assumed that SA's statement implied a distintinction between earned and unearned, deserved and undeserved, I gave him the benefit of a doubt. Further, I provided a list of the 100 wealthiest people in the world and challenged him to provide evidence that any one of them did not earn or deserve their wealth - specifically, evidence that the wealth was obtained illegaly. Because certainly, without evidence to the contrary, we must assume that the wealth was legally earned.

Re; "Congratulations, you're a TROLL!"

You give up too easily. C'mon, you seem to believe that the wealthy don't deserve their wealth. I'm just asking you to prove it.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

Alex and SA,

Let me just lay it out for you;

1. In any value for value transaction which is freely entered into both parties benefit. They may not benefit equally, but they both benefit, or the transaction would not take place. Therefore, there is no such thing as a "bad" free value for value transaction. And because free value for value transactions are always good, it is to the benefit of individuals to participate in as many such transactions as possible, and to the benefit of society as a whole to promote as many such transactions as possible.

2. Wealth created in a free value for value transaction is earned wealth. The desire to create or possess earned wealth is always good. Therefore, there is no such thing as excessive earned wealth. Therefore, definitions of the word "greed" are invalid if they include the concept of earned wealth as bad. Which leaves us with a definition of greed as the desire to possess unearned wealth.

So you all are absolutely on the right track in questioning whether or not the wealth was earned - that is, whether or not it was created in free value for value transactions. But you are off track in assuming that the very existance of said wealth is evidence that it was not earned. Because again, though both parties to a free value for value transaction benefit,they do not necessarily benefit equally. This means only that they do not bring equal value to the transaction, not that the transaction was unfair or bad in any sense.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 6:34 AM | PERMALINK

There's a real simple issue that works on everyone and therefore it works on liberals too. It's called taxes. What might the Democrats propose to do?

Raise the kickin for paying any taxes at all to what is determined to be a living income. A living income varies from one part of the country to other parts so calculate the living income based upon zip code. Make up for lost revenue by raising the high end rate. In simple terms give the bulk of the tax payers a tax cut above what the Repugs have done and remove the ones given high enders.

Then there's tax deductions. Restore the deduction of interst paid on loans to buy autos, credit cards etc taken away by Regan in the first big "give to the rich" tax reform program. Make up for that by removing the deduction for "gifts to God" money donated to ministeries that all too often end up being used politically. Pat Robertson is a stellar example of that. The first amendment forbids laws that establish religion which the tax laws clearly violate.

Then there's local taxes, real estate taxes which are the greatest cost item for landlords. Again the constitution is ignored by exempting churches from paying RE tax. By upholding the constitution RE taxes could be lowered a great deal, exactly how much needs to be calculated. Only religion owns real estate as the rest of us poor dumb bastards must rent ours from the government.

If you have a problem with taxing religion then have a look at this, http://www.hoax-buster.org It should change your mind about that.

Posted by: BG on September 2, 2006 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

I think the "middle-class squeeze" meme, mixed with a bit of "insecurity," remains the Dem's best choice for a politically winning economic policy.

Even if you accept the idea that families headed by middle-aged, employed persons are doing OK in income, that improvement often comes largely as a result of 2-earner households. If it takes 2 sets of earnings to buy the American dream, family income security is at much higher risk.

The "middle class is OK" meme also doesn't take into account the decline in worker benefits (especially pensions and health insurance) and the rising cost of education. If you are a parent, the 2 most important things to you, besides housing and feeding your family, are taking care of them when they are sick and providing enrichment and advancement opportunties of a good education.

Posted by: rdb on September 2, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

What impresses me about the 20K figure is how very large it is with respect to lifestyle choices and how very much it would represent a powerful incentive to better performance -- if it were ever offered to workers in the middle.

One of the most common arguments that the rich "deserve" their huge increment in income is that they occupy positions where the difference between a good performer and a poor performer makes a major impact on the success of a business. And the notion is suggested that the additional monies don't really make a big dent on the operating expenses of the business, so that it's always "worth it" to offer them larger amounts of money.

But I have always asked the question, why not make the same argument for workers lower on the scale? Surely it makes a LOT of difference whether they do their jobs well or poorly, as a class, in terms of business success. Indeed, I don't know how one would plausibly make out a convincing case that the performance of executives is MORE important -- in many ways it's a matter more of subjective speculation than anything else who's doing the more important job; their relative contributions are really, for all practical purposes, incommensurate.

Which brings us back to the 20K, and the amount of incentive that would offer in selecting better workers at the middle ranks of a corporation. Why did this money NOT get applied in such a way, to increase the performance of the corporation at large?

My surmise: that the money went instead to the executive class for no better reason than that they think they are better and more important than everyone else, and they are the ones who "deserve" the money, and, of course, because they get to make the decisions about who the money goes to, so their biases win.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 2, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Just to follow up on my previous post, I wonder if anybody in economics has really pursued the issue of "incommensurability" in economic decisions, particularly as applied to labor.

The idea here is that it may be relatively easy to make judgments of relative contributions WITHIN a certain class of worker, but not ACROSS classes of workers. This incommensurability allow one class to enjoy vastly greater rewards than another in a way wholly unsupported by anything approaching rational grounds; it's nothing but bias and perception at bottom.

This is my account of the huge increase in income inequalities.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 2, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me that if average total compensation per worker in the US is in fact lower than it was in the early 70s, this is due primarily to one or all of the following;

a. Improvements in communications and transportation technology have increased the ability of business and labor to compete on a global scale.

b. Product technology such as washers, dryers, microwave ovens, dishwashers, perma-press fabrics, automobiles, etc., has improved such that the opportunity cost of women staying home has increased, thus causing more women to choose to work outside the home. This would have two effects on wages. First, it would increase the supply of labor, and second, it would decrease the pressure on the single provider to bring home a sizeable income.

c. Life is just plain good - never better, in fact. At the margins, people are simply choosing to devote more of their lives to education, hobbies, retirement, etc., and less to the job.

So please tell me again how any of these are the Republican's fault? - or how electing a Democrat will change any of them? How exactly will higher taxes bring any improvement to the lives of the middle class? Because it seems likely to me that it will do exactly the opposite, by driving even more jobs overseas, and by increasing the numbers of those who choose hobbies or retirement over work.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Frankly0,

What is often forgotten about CEO pay is that someone is paying the CEO. It isn't up to you and me, or anyone else to decide what a CEO is worth, as the transaction occurs only between the buyer and seller of CEO services. Did the CEO earn what he or she was paid? Yes, absolutely. We know this because he or she was in fact paid. Is it possible that the employer of the CEO was a fool - or a group of fools? Yes, of course. But there are a lot of employers who feel that way from time to time. That doesn't mean that we can assume that the employee did not earn his or her salary. It means only that the employer should consider being a better negotiator the next time the contract is up for review.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Can we finally revise the image of the 1970s?

Despite stagflation and double-digit unemployment, a wide swath of the middle class was still earning 1950s-esque real incomes (relative to prices) and benefits with a single breadwinner, and yet women were finally free to enter the workforce.

Posted by: Linus on September 2, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Those numbers are bogus. In 1973 I made $19.65/hr plus excellent benefits as a union laborer. That same amount in 2005 dollars would be $77.80 using the Consumer Price Index (see http://eh.net/hmit/compare/). That's nearly $162,000 per year, Kevin. The difference between $162K and $32K -- $130,000, not a mere $20,000 -- is the actual amount Reagan-nuts picked from the pockets of working stiffs when they broke the unions.

And no, $32,000/year isn't not bad. It sucks ... unless you live with mom and dad. It sure as hell won't buy a house in a blue state, or pay for health care, or cover the gasoline bill.

Posted by: Chainsaw on September 2, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Thomas1:

Relevance?

Posted by: Chainsaw on September 2, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I know I'm coming way late to this party, but I've got to add two things.
1. A majority of Americans are likely to always be doing OK. The problem that this whole thread has just driven by is the idea that people vote in their economic self-interest. They do not. People vote for a bunch of social-psychic-emotional reasons.

When I was a kid, the news always talked about the average income of Americans and how it was going up. People were expected to care not only how they were doing, but how their friends and neighbors were doing. (In fact, they still do care, but our media elites have transmitted the Republicans' permission to act like such caring-for-others is foolish. Thank you Ronald Reagan.)

We need to help Americans feel good about caring about how others are doing. The acceptance by our society of our efforts on the Guld Coast is a good example of what has to stop.

2. People do not need to be convinced they aren't doing well. If we're right (and I think we are), then the voters already know exactly how they're doing. What we need to do is to help them see that with a change in direction, they could be doing much better -- an assertion which is true except for the richest Americans (and even then -- 15,000 on the Dow, anyone?)

Posted by: Jim Pharo on September 2, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

"They are the backbone of America. In 1970, couples like Dave and Betty made about $29,000. Today, they make an about $32,000". That's 10% more after 35 years(queue evil music)
Here's Bucky Enron, a VP at a BIG OIL company. In 1970, he made $80,000. Today, he's bringing home $485,000. That's 600% more.
""

Whether or not I would pick these exact personifications, I dunno, but the idea sounds good. I would add, for an tv or other video ad, a graphic representation - not a graph, a happy special effects demo, where the nice couple literally grow 10% larger (proportionately), and then you watch the other person balloon over them, enormously enlarged and inevitably threatening . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on September 2, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Jim Pharo: with a change in direction, they could be doing much better

When I hear and read the proposals from Democrats, I do not think that those changes would help us to do much better. Weighing the goods and bads of both parties, I thought that Bush had the better case than Kerry. Here in California I think that the Democratic party is gradually making things worse than they could be, not better.

Texas, which has oil and Republican majorities, is adapting more rapidly to the impending loss of oil than is California, with much less oil and Democratic majorities. California could benefit from becoming more like Texas, and Texas would suffer (mildly) from becoming more like California.

recent contributors here have enlarged the discussion to include factors other than incomes. My main thrust has been to point to ways that purchasing power has increased, to supplement the discussion of how purchasing power has decreased. Any discussion of what the Democrats need to do to win more of the swing voters (like me) has to include the good with the bad. As a class, median income earners have healthier children now than 2 and 4 decades ago, and they have healthier parents. total health expenditures to achieve these improvements are large, but the cost of each life saved, death prevented, or extra year of quality life (QALY - quality adjusted life years) is cheaper than before.

George McGovern tried to win by referring to the fact that median earners ate baloney sandwiches (I believe he pronounced it "balonah" and spelled it bologna) while the fat-cats ate three martini lunches. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. I would guess that most median earners, like me, despite complaints, appreciate their blessings as well as their ongoing challenges.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I just read an article by Joel S. Hirschhorn: 'Wake me from this dream'. He argues that as long as people of all income levels are able to buy stuff that they want (even as it puts them further into debt) that people won't care about the economy.

Consumer zombies.

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=27560&mode=nested&order=0

Posted by: sa rose on September 2, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

from the article link above:

Wait you say what about all that wealth possessed by working- and middle-class Americans in terms of their home ownership. I say: just another delusion, just another piece of economic propaganda from corporate headquarters. Home "ownership" is mostly consumer debt, yet another trick of the boss elites. They were not only smart enough to ensure easy consumerism; they were also smart enough to create delusional prosperity and happiness through home ownership. Why expect class warfare to break out as long as Lower Class Americans are satiated with their consumption and home ownership? My fellow pacified Americans are blind to being screwed by the elites. They gobble up easily available money to borrow what genius to keep interest rates low! Drugged consumers kept working long hours and multiple jobs, so tired and so stressed out that they remain disengaged politically choosing not to vote at all, or falling victim to right (conservative) or left (liberal) propaganda and voting for Republicans or Democrats not comprehending that both major parties are run by the same group of rich and powerful elitists. Is this a terrific game or what?

Posted by: sa rose on September 2, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Really no point in debating who gets the gold mine and who gets the shaft, one doesn't have to study the economic data to get the answer to that one. The rat race is over and the rats won. So instead I offer a website for all the redreck liberals of which I am one. Check out www.musicrowdemocrats.com. You'll find a bunch of songs with a definite C&W sound that'll never make it to mainstream radio. It's nice to know that there's some erosion in that solid republican base. Maybe working class folk understand the economy better than Bush and co think they do.

Posted by: sparky on September 2, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"You lefties always want to emulate the EU model, and yet at $32k, that's better than what most Euros make. So what are you complaining about?"

Well, maybe that the Euros get health insurance included?

Take out $1,000 per month for health insurance and you're left with $20K. How does that compare to the EU?

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 2, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1:

Apples and oranges. No, not even that close. Apples and hand grenades.

Posted by: Chainsaw on September 2, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

off-topic: Democrats who don't pay minimum wage.

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/007960.php

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the logic of Kevin's post. People aren't pissed because prime workers are making $62,000. But if $62,000 is the important number, why did Kevin go back to the $32,000. It seems to me that the people like Kevin should be explaining to the person that's making $62,000 that he isn't making shit. But people like Kevin talk about $32,000 and about those people should be making $52,000.

But the people actually humping to make a dollar are making $62,000. I can't believe why economic populism executed in this manner doesn't work(sarcasm).

Posted by: Chad on September 2, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, maybe that the Euros get health insurance included?

a half-truth: they get health insurance premiums deducted from their salaries. It's basic health insurance. In Germany and Switzerland they have the option of buying additional health insurance at additional cost.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

He argues that as long as people of all income levels are able to buy stuff that they want

Those who see themselves as improving, decade-on-decade or generation-on-generation will not be hostile to the current economic conditions. If, as a Democrat, you propose something better, they will look at the cost of the proposal, and probably not back you.

Naturally, this varies from state-to-state. But nationally, it looks like median earners slightly prefer Republicans to Democrats, and slightly preferred Bush to Kerry in 2004.

Some of the median earners whom I know are farriers, and they have a variety of economic opinions. One thing they have in common is that they view the wealth of rich people as an opportunity for themselves to make a living. Threaten to reduce the wealth of the wealthy, and you threaten to reduce their own ability to promote their own livelihoods. Lots of median earners are like that: auto garage owners, independent electricians, independent architects, immigrant farm and equestrian laborers. Plenty of people look to the wealth of the wealthy and see their own opportunities for advancement. Some of these median earners have worked their way up from the lower classes; they do not want economic changes that impede such upward mobility.

I generally don't hope to persuade anybody of anything. This is like a game of ping-pong with ongoing point counter-point. I do hope that I have persuaded somebody of the economic diversity within the group of people whose earnings are about at the median, as mine are.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

? If your employer is deducting $1,000 per month from your pay check for health insurance you need to look for a new job. He's fleecing you. Even for family coverage, the typical employee-paid premium is only a small fraction of that figure.

GOP, you and I seem to be pretty much allied politically, but frequently I have to question your assertions. I do not know anywhere that a "typical" employee-paid premium for "family coverage" is a "small" fraction of $1,000 per month. you have to give up a lot just to get total premiums down to $6,000 per month.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

A commenter earlier had an interesting post about median incomes. I can do a similar analysis.

Let's say you have 5 people. Their incomes are

1 - $20,000
2 - $40,000
3- $60,000
4 - $80,000
5 - $100,000

Your median income is $60,000.

Now, let's say everybody in this population gets $10,000 richer, but two people immigrate to our great country, and make very low wages, $10,000.

Now, your income distribution is:

1 - $10,000
2 - $10,000
3 - $30,000
4 - $50,000
5- $70,000
6 - $90,000
7 - $110,000

Yoru new median income is $50,000.

Statitistically, your median income went down, even though every native worker got richer. It's just that you have more poor immigrants in the population, and that lowers the median. But even those immigrants are better off than they were back in their own country.

In short, I'd be more convinved if somebody showed me the change in median incomes for 3rd generation Americans over the last 30 years.

Posted by: Keith on September 2, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Republicrat,

It really is difficult to get through. These folks start with the assumption that inequality is a "problem". It is their raison dtre.

The problem for them is that inequality is a fact. Perhaps, from some subjective perspective, it can also be seen as a problem. But if so, it is not a solveable problem. The choice, therefore, is not between equality and inequality, but between inequality in a free society or inequality in a controlled society. Cancel inequality from both sides of the equation and its a simple matter of choosing freedom.

P.S. And what does it matter to me whether or not the government controls the rich. It isn't the rich who are stealing my wages. If you're one of those who believe that I am not voting in my own best interests, take a look at your own paycheck. That top line is what you agreed to - no theft there. Its those bottom lines under the deductions for government where the force is applied, where the theft occurs.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Keith - excellent illustration.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

from a weblog called "cafehayek":

But I ask: would you prefer to live in 1967 with todays real median household income ($46,326) or live today with 1967s real median household income ($35,379)? (These figures are expressed in 2005 dollars, by the way.)

He and I agree that today is better than 1967.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, those graphs show people whose companies pay the larger share of the health insurance premiums. I doubt that that is "typical".

If your employer is deducting $1,000 per month from your pay check for health insurance you need to look for a new job.

certainly everybody is seeking employers who pay a larger percentage of the premium, but I think that he word "typical" is more appropriate for those median income earners who pay all or almost all of their own health insurance.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me that the median wage means only the wage that most people have agreed to work for. We cannot assume that it is unfair because it was agreed to, and agreement is the standard by which fairness is determined. Why would we agree to them? There are many factors to weigh, and weigh them we did. But the bottom line still is that we did agree.

Posted by: Randy on September 2, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

an item on the increased affordability of housing. Note that the original is the NYTimes:

http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2005/12/affordability_o.html

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I just dug up a few numbers on wages between 2002-2005 for native-born workers, adjusted for inflation, and broke our across racial groups.

Whites and hispanic native born workers have seen their real median wages stay the same between 2002-2005.

Black native-born workers saw a fall of 5% during 2002-2005.

Asian native-born workers have seen an increase of 9% in real wages.

Given that Asian workers are gaining and whites aren't, it's hard for me to blame racism or politics for recent wage movements.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, Asians are more likely to have the skills in the areas that are seeing wage growth.

Posted by: Keith on September 2, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

tjm, far above,

It wasn't that Floridians pay more for insurance, it's that insurance companies have that much greater liability in the state, 28% of their total for the entire country.

Posted by: cld on September 2, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: These are the averages for all U.S. employers that provide health plans.

Well, I was writing about "typical" (near to median) workers; you provide "averages" for employer health plans. many near median earners work for companies that provide no health care plans. A sample of health care plans is itself a sample that emphasizes the upper end of the income distribution.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

If your employer is deducting $1,000 per month from your pay check for health insurance you need to look for a new job.

Mine is ($950, actually) and I am.

Posted by: craigie on September 2, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't you ever worked for a company that provides health insurance and looked at the premium it deducts from your paycheck each month?

I suggest you visit the websites of a few health insurance companies, and convince yourself that $40/month for healthcare is a fantasy. I've just been all through this, and believe me, you have to give up a lot to insure a family for less than $500/month. Divide by 2 for individuals.

Posted by: craigie on September 2, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

GOP wrote: You seriously expect us to believe that you made around 8 times the median income as a laborer, do you?

Er, yes. You see -- this is why you dopes have been so easily led down the "conservative" primrose path. You don't know what you're talking about. And you have no historical perspective. Although I'll grant you have a pretty hysterical perspective.

I'm not going to post my tax return. But here's a government website (http://www.cdc.gov/elcosh/docs/d0100/d000038/sect23.html) that confirms what American construction workers were earning in 1973.

Morons, the whole lot of you. Fucked hard and not a jar of Vaseline in sight.


Posted by: Chainsaw on September 2, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

A 2002 survey of private health insurance showed an average monthly premium of $334/mo for family and $173/mo for individual; it's gone up significantly since.

Posted by: has407 on September 2, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Clarification to previous post: "individual private health insurance" (non-employer non-government).

Posted by: has407 on September 2, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

Sorry ... I pasted in the wrong data. I only earned $9.65 in 1973, not $19.65. Which comes to a mere $42.45 in 2005 USDs using the Consumer Price Index. So I guess you dopes only owe me $56K and change. My mistake. Hopefully you hadn't posted the check yet.

Posted by: Chainsaw on September 2, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Mine is ($950, actually) and I am.

You and me against GOP? whodathunkit?

Anyway, it looks to me as though the surveys quoted by GOP are leaving out a lot of people whom I know.

GOP: We're talking about the employee contribution to the monthly premium for employer-provided health care plans, not the average total monthly premium for private health insurance.

That might be what you are talking about. I am talking about the average monthly premium for employees whose employers DO NOT provide health care plans. This is a non-neglibigle fraction of the work force. For them to get monthly payments below $400 they have to give up lots of coverage.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

You and me against GOP? whodathunkit?

You know, despite the fact that I hate Bush with the intensity of a thousand suns, I think I'm basically pretty moderate. it's just that conservatism has gone completely bananas in the past 15 or so years.

Posted by: craigie on September 2, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, by now, hating Bush with the intensity of a thousand suns is the moderate position.

Posted by: craigie on September 2, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: certainly everybody is seeking employers who pay a larger percentage of the premium, but I think that he word "typical" is more appropriate for those median income earners who pay all or almost all of their own health insurance

You're probably not too far off the mark there. Excluding the Federal Government, about 60% of employees are covered by employer health benefits. The remaining 40% are not covered by the employer because the employers don't offer coverage, the employee isn't eligible, or the employee declines coverage.

However, as usual, there is the lie of the average. Firms with a higher proportion of lower wage or part-time employees have a lower percentage of eligible employees, a higher percentage of non-participation, and a higher percentage of those firms don't offer health benefits. That is also reflected in what firms think they or their employees can afford to pay.

It's hard to tell where median earners are in the spectrum, but I wouldn't be surprised if many are in a situation where they either buy individual insurance, or (if they have access to it) use government-funded health care programs, or go without. That information should be available in the detailed census data.

Posted by: has407 on September 2, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

60% of U.S. employers provide health insurance benefits to their employees.

For some of those, the employees pay considerably higher contributions than the mean contribution cited in the graphs that you provided. So it still looks like a "typical" person, a person more or less in the middle of the income distribution, still has to pay more than the averages in your graphs, either due to having a company plan that is worse than aberage, or to having no company plan at all.

Most of my posts have been about how conditions are actually better than they seem, once you look at the goods and services that are actually bought with the money.

Posted by: republicrat on September 2, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: sdfs on September 2, 2006 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: For some of those, the employees pay considerably higher contributions than the mean contribution cited in the graphs that you provided

That's an understatement. There has also been significant growth in "high deductible health plans" (HDHP) in an attempt to reduce costs. I have (speaking with my management hat on) looked at a few of those as an option with some form of company reimbursement to try and reduce costs and still maintain reasonable coverage for employees--which is mandatory for us in order to acquire and retain people.

Jeez... I only wish I could devote as much time to our core business as dealing with this crap. For a relatively small business it's a ball-buster. Health benefits and costs seem to be the top agenda item at more and more management meetings, and consume an ever-increasing amount of cycles, whether in hiring negotiations for new employees, considerations for retention of existing employees, or hours of head-scratching trying to figure out how to keep it from killing our profitability.

I have no end of sympathy for individal's who have to deal with this nightmare, but believe me, the nightmares are no less for those of us trying to run a business.

Posted by: has407 on September 3, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

I just realised the title of this post is wrong.

It should be

"THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OWES YOU $20,000"

Republicans believe in less government regulation, higher inequality as a result of the market, low taxes etc. And on that they have been delivering.

The Democrats are supposed to believe in fairness. They have been AWOL out pimping for Corporate America and signing off on the Republican agenda for 20 years. That's why that $20k is missing.

Posted by: still working it out on September 3, 2006 at 6:46 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 联通铃声下载 on September 3, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

the GOP-controlled system is rigged against the middle class on everything from taxation and social spending to corporate welfare and military service.

I think that the majority of the middle class see the present system as having substantial opportunity for them to increase their own wealth (in all ways that wealth matters to them) on their own initiative, talent, and effort. I think that they perceive Democratic alternatives as reducing their opportunities, or the return on their work, or both.

Proving to this majority that they are wrong, that the system is stacked against them, they perceive as trying to make excuses for those who don't do so well, and as trying to elicit their own self-pity. The fact that liberals, Democrats, and "social scientists" have evidence that the system is stacked against the middle class is simply evidence to the middle class that the "evidence" of "social scientists" is biased and misleading.

Thus I would judge, that the majority of the middle class do not agree that there is anything "Wrong with Kansas".

The fact that some people succeed better than others is not by itself evidence that the "system" is biased.

The biggest bias in the system is inherited wealth, and I support high inheritance taxes. The Democrats could go a long way with a sustained effort to preserve/increase taxes on large inheritances, if they would do so without trying to raise all taxes along with the inheritance taxes. Inheritance taxes should be presented as the "least bad" and "least unfair" and "most progressive" of all taxes. furthermore, Democrats need a catchy name to oppose the name "death tax" -- after all, the dead man or woman who makes the bequeath has already has his or her fortune taxed at 100% It could be called the "spoiled rich kid tax". "spoiled" because if the rich kid has done anything to earn a portion, he has done so by working for pay in the company/farm/whatever, and has paid income taxes on the pay. Hence, the inheritance tax only taxes the unearned part of the inheritance.

Posted by: republicrat on September 3, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Following along with this topic, you might be interested by an item I posted on JABBS.

Essentially, CNN's John Roberts provided a nice forum for Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to spin lackluster job- and wage-growth numbers during the Bush years.

Remember when journalists actually did some homework before setting up an interview with someone from the government?

Posted by: david r. mark on September 4, 2006 at 3:51 AM | PERMALINK

And the Steelers are playing this weekend. So how do we get people to pay attention to this?

By not patronizing them?

Posted by: sammler on September 4, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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