Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE GOP ECONOMY....The chart on the right shows it in a nutshell. Here are Greg Ip and John McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal:

Even before Republicans' November defeat at the polls, some administration allies were warning that economic insecurity was eroding Republican support. A business coalition hired pollster David Winston to figure out why voters remained so dissatisfied with the economy. His focus groups of middle-income voters in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh found voters going deeper into debt to keep up with rising costs of health care and energy. Executive compensation "is getting to the point where it's obscene," said one focus-group participant.

The more politicians talked about how good the economy was, the worse these voters felt. "It's almost as if these folks are floating around in the ocean, watching the yachts and speedboats go by, thinking, 'Hey, I'm here, someone notice me,'" says Dirk Van Dongen, a co-chairman of the coalition and president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Mr. Winston advised Republicans: "Our message should be that while the economy is getting back on track, we need to do more to help people with the cost of living."

This is, perhaps, more reliable data than a single sign in a burger joint in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood, no?

In any case, if you read the entire article you'll notice the distinct lack of any Republicans who treat this as anything other than a messaging issue. It needs to be addressed because it's becoming a political liability, but not by actually doing anything to raise middle class wages. What's needed, apparently, is simply a better brand of spin. The yokels have started cottoning on to the old stuff.

Kevin Drum 2:41 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (83)

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"We need to do more to help" is a April Fool's joke isn't it.

Posted by: R.L. on April 1, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Winston advised Republicans: "Our message should be that while the economy is getting back on track, we need to do more to help people with the cost of living."

Just leave it at the message stage, though -- no policy is needed.

Posted by: Steppen on April 1, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mickey Kaus is, as usual, an uninformed dickhead. Anyone that pays attention knows that In & Out has ALWAYS paid significantly higher wages than other fast food outlets.

Posted by: SteveK on April 1, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Kaus made the economic equivalent of all those right-wingers who post photos of someplace where it has recently snowed to their blogs as "evidence" of the falsity of global warming.

Posted by: Jaquandor on April 1, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

The little graph states: the median wage has lagged behind overall economic growth since the expansion began.

The graph doesn't show this, though. A lag would show wages rising, but lower, slower, or somewhat delayed. Instead, median wages are dead, totally disconnected from the expansion in GDP.

Posted by: Wapiti on April 1, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't actually a surprise to anymore who doesn't have his or her head stuck in the ground.

Middle class wages have been stagnant for years, and eventually all those people are going to realize that economic issues are more important than social issues and start voting Democratic.

Posted by: mfw13 on April 1, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Time has come for all corporations to fire their current employees and give them a severance package that includes the unprecedent privilege of the permission to apply for the same job ten weeks later at 50% of their wages at the time of dismissal.

That will do wonders for the economy.
(ht Best Buy)

Posted by: gregor on April 1, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't mention the record deficits. Or the record surpluses that BushCo inherited.

Letting the Chinese pump half-a-trillion dollar into the economy every year is good for CEO's pay.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on April 1, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

[Comments by American Hawk are automatically deleted. There is no appeals process, if registration were implemented he would be banned for life. He adds nothing productive. His commentary is not amusing and will not be entertained.]

Posted by: American Hawk on April 1, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

This article is one more piece of evidence that Republicans are delusional. For example,things keep getting worse in Iraq, and that geriatric old fool John McCain thinks things are getting better. This decrepit old fart is too senile to be president, for God’s sake!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 1, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I've been sayin it for years...

The current administration and the GOP (greedy obsolete people) believe in:

A government for the rich and nothing but the rich so help us god.

We are supposed to be afraid of terrons, but what about the 10s of millions of ever increasingly desperate average wage-earning americans?

The growing gap between those with money and the rest of us WILL hurt our nation's security.

You can't wish yuppie-ville everywhere, affordable housing has to be a national priority.

I fear that the spike in violent crime in many of our large cities is a hint of what's to come, resentment is building.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 1, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

"...if you read the entire article you'll notice the distinct lack of any Republicans who treat this as anything other than a messaging issue...."

That's because we republicans aren't kool-aid drinkers Kevin.

We are busy trying to win a war in Iraq against terrorists and those who support them in America.

By the way: Things are getting better over there. Americans can walk through parts of Baghdad these days without fear of their lives.

Posted by: John McCain on April 1, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

So, the question is: Where did all that money go? Who got it? If median wages are flat after such growth in GDP, who got all that new wealth?

Posted by: Linder on April 1, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't link to Mickey Kaus without warning. You have spoiled my record of not looking at anything written by him since before the last presidential election.

Posted by: Tom Parmenter on April 1, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Gregor's comment at 3:12 - I believe the reference should be to Circuit City, not Best Buy (although it's sometimes hard to believe that they are different entities.)

Posted by: The Sophist on April 1, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

There is also the not so little problem of jobs being shipped overseas constantly, and its not just the manufacturing sector any longer, nor just the IT and Services sectors. Lowest bidder come hither, its a race to the bottom. So who cares if the price of these goods and services are lower than ever? The population can't afford anything anyway because they are unemployed or stuck in downward spiral in a country that doesn't look out for its own any longer.

Corporations and their leaders have become so increasingly non-american in their production focus and tax base that they don't have to feel the pain any longer, nor are they really subject to legislative consequences. This has been a trend for many decades now, but the recent incarnation of the Republican party isn't just aiding and abetting it, they are openly a part of the problem itself.

Posted by: Ten in Tenn on April 1, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I prefer to see after-tax income +- transfers as a better measure than wages but,

can anyone identify productivity and population growth over this time period?

It would be interesting to see how much of the total GDP increase was the result of population growth which would not lead to a wage rise.

Productivity increase data could lead to an analysis of where the income, not wage, gains went. I can guess (the upper .5 percent based on wealth) but real numbers would be great.

I'll become a rabid capitalist when I have a sufficient amount of capital to provide the income that I need. Till then I'll be a laborer no matter how high my bill rate.

Thanks.

Posted by: racersave on April 1, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The erosion begins around 1973 and continues except a few minor blip in the 90's - the really startling thing though is the acceleration of this trend and the vast accumulation of wealth at the top of the scale. It's 1928 all over again...


"A free market produces results that favor the health of society as a whole, because an essential balance is maintained. But in a coercive market, the balance is destroyed, the earning power of work and the standard of living of workers declines, and society as a whole is devastated while those with economic power gain an ever more unbalanced share of the nation's economic wealth." - Charles Reich, Opposing the System

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 1, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Poor old Kaus, he been reduced to chating over at the the corner. Kaus and Jonah Goldberg have about the same low IQ so Kaus fits in with crowd just fine.

Frankly, I don't know why Slate hasn't dispatched Kaus to the nether regions of “slow on the uptake” taking points corner. If Slate could only decent blogger.

Posted by: Cheryl on April 1, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Echoing SteveK, In & Out has long paid much higher than minimum--the one that sticks with me was in Carlsbad, CA, August 2001. The sign then and there read $8.50/hr.

Posted by: JB on April 1, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

In&Out Burger also requires employees to have a minimum of 1 year prior experience working in fast food. They are a family owned business, without any franchising, and they take care of the employees.

Posted by: Dana on April 1, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

[Comments by American Hawk are automatically deleted. There is no appeals process, if registration were implemented he would be banned for life. He adds nothing productive. His commentary is not amusing and will not be entertained.]


[Comment deleted. American Hawk has no life to speak of, so he childishly spoofed the handle of a regular.]

Posted by: American Hawk on April 1, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I know what will correct the wealth imbalance--raise all taxes on everybody of above average income to Swedish levels! Or maybe we should just band together in little gangs and try kidnapping rich people, like is the rage in Mexico.

Or we could try educating the poor so that they can participate in the knowledge economy. I was a part of that effort in a number of low-income areas and saw a lot of money thrown at the problem without producing any students who would attend school regularly and all the way to the end, would study two hours a night, and would cram for tests.

Freedom and the habits which make for intellectual success may be relatively incompatible. People need to have a certain value system going first. Historically, it was the province of religion to instill that. The Protestant or Puritan work ethics were built on convincing people in every way not to be content or smug about momentary material success, but always to fear God and complete catastrophe at any moment, always to maintain ascetic self-discipline, and always to scorn fools who want you to keep company with them in short-sighted, excessively indulgent pleasure seeking.

I sometimes like the idea of a powerful central direction of the whole economy. There were aspects of the Soviet command economy that produced some remarkable products. None of those were for consumers, but still everyone was employed and they had single payer health care.

It gives me pause, however, to envision what a command economy dominated by Green Religion Zealots would be like. Whether intentionally or not, I expect that the major feature of such a socio-economic authority would be no social mobility whatsoever. A Confucian bureaucracy trained in all green dogma would constrain our lifestyles in detail.

This dreary prospect is not cheering to my soul. Hopefully God will soon provide us with economical access to the riches of our solar system and the larger universe, along with life-support techniques to make venturing out more comfortable and healthy.

Posted by: mike cook on April 1, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

The key quote is this one:

Top White House economic officials still don't consider today's inequality -- the growing share of income going to those at the top -- an inherently bad thing; they believe it simply reflects the rising rewards accruing to society's most skilled and productive members. Nor do they see merit in various Democratic proposals to reduce inequality, such as ending Mr. Bush's tax cuts on the highest-earners, raising the minimum wage, making it easier to form unions and including labor standards in trade agreements.

They don't see working hard, and being paid 4000% more than the other workers as being an adequate reward any more; they must get 90000% more than the other workers. Of course, it's hard to justify that "more skilled" or "more productive" tag - since board level people don't actually produce anything (any gains must be created by rest of the staff effecting them - but it's not a team game when it comes to compensation though)!

Posted by: royalblue_tom on April 1, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

One would want more data before reaching any political conclusions. Here are a few of the many reasons. Notice that those are inflation-adjusted figures.

1. A few million people enter the job market every year, and most of those enter at "entry level" wages. Throughout the years, most people who are alert and motivated earn salary incrases. Thus, it is possible to have a healthy economy in which all employed people receive salary increases but the median salary (or wages) remains constant.

2. When there are productivity increases, there are reductions in the price of goods of equal quality. Thus, over time, the fixed median income can buy more and more of what the economy produces. Thus, a fixed median can be associated with greater wealth.

3. What is hard to account for in statistical summaries is the regular appearance of new goods and services that are both more valuable and more costly than before. Consider, for example, a medicine that would cure liver cancer. Such a medicine does not now exist. Suppose that someone came up with a medicine that cures liver cancer but costs $100,000 per year for three years. Someone who subsequently gets liver cancer is not actually poorer than a liver cancer patient of before the invention, since the effect of non-treatment (or treatment with taxol) is the same as before and has the same cost. Such a person may feel poorer than before, because not really rich people with liver cancer can live longer. Lots of medical developments are like this. Nobody in the U.S. is going to die of polio, smallpox, or measles, but a healthy person may feel poorer knowing that only a rich person can afford reconstructive cosmetic surgery after an auto accident.

This argument reminds me of when I went canoing in the St. Lawrence river with my son. We could not afford a real boat, and we ended up surrounded by expensive real boats of all kinds and sizes. I suppose that I ought to have felt bad because I could not afford one of those rich boats (which have become even costlier now, even as the cost of canoes relative to the median wage has declined), and I suppose I ought to have switched to the Democratic party after listening to some rhetoric about how bad it is to work building boats for rich people.

I know that's a stupid analogy, but someone else raised the analogy of rich people with their yachts. I don't care, and I think that nobody should care, that rich people can afford costlier yachts this year. The median wage earner of today is a richer person than the median wage earner of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, ... years ago.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 1, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a chart like this for, say, the last 30 years?

racersave: I think population growth, even with immigration, is nowhere near enough to explain the 4%/year growth in GDP (the population would have to be about 325 million, or 8% higher than it actually is, in order for population growth alone to account for this - this is, of course, a crude back-of-the-envelope calculation by me, a theoretical physicist so a real economist is probably a better bet). Productivity on the other hand probably explains much of the gap...but productivity rise seems like a cop out concocted just to keep the extra wealth from spreading.

Posted by: reader on April 1, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

The median wage earner of today is a richer person than the median wage earner of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, ... years ago.

Demonstrating, yet again, that Repukeliscum morons are stupider than ever.

Hey, Butthead, ever consider that mebbe the cost of living is higher than years ago?

What a buttfucking stupid comment. Never get a Repukeliscum to try to understand economics. People with C averages can't figure anything out.

Posted by: POed Lib on April 1, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans are regressive, wages have and still are going down. Circuit City is laying off 3400 people and offers to hire them back for less wages for the same old jobs, just about 10 weeks down the line.

How stupid are the people who still support the Republicans?

No social progress with them. More uninsured people, less wages, higher inflation(add food and energy to the index), less consumer protection, weakened labor laws.

There is no progress with republicans.

And we have not mentioned the stupid, stupid foreign policies. What a mess they made.

Posted by: Renate on April 1, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

But MatthewRMarler, that kind of thinking is the road to the feudalisation of our country and the argument you are making is just a political one asking people to stop complaining. You're just saying: people at the median, sure our country as a whole has generated a whole lot of extra wealth but you should ignore the fact that none of it is coming back to you (who played a big part in generating that extra wealth). That is a recipe for social instability and it is completely contrary to (what I thought was) our national goal of creating the world's great meritocracy. When the high end of the income distribution is avalanching away from the median, that part of the population will become a de facto aristocracy that the rest of the people can never even hope to aspire to - the classes will become so rigidly set apart that the majority of the people in this country will stop buying into even the possibility that our country is one in which real social mobility is possible.

I am a little optimistic about this because this is the kind of problem democracy should solve better than any other system, but it's the kind of thing that, if not dealt with rationally before the problem completely spirals out of control, can end societies.

Posted by: reader on April 1, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

You look at the glass half empty, I look at it as half full.

Your graf shows that median income has not declined during the Bush administration. In effect, median wages have kept pace with inflation, and workers have not lost ground.

Not only that, but technologolical advance has ensured that the mix of products available for those workers to buy are better than that from 5 years ago.

The system is working and people have never lived better. That's a good news story.

Posted by: egbert on April 1, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Aw hell, Mr. Drum. Couldn't you have warned your readers that you were linking to that irrelevant fuckwit Kaus?

Posted by: sglover on April 1, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Many republicans in our area know they voted against their own economic interests in electing
the Bushies twice. Constant reminders are health care, the price of gas, stagnant wages, and the fact that just one in six workers has a pension plan now--companies have been able to eliminate pension plans!
It IS income inequity, as oil company profits and oil futures are obscenely high. Republican scandals have hurt them--Enron is not forgotten nor forgiven.

The ugliest part of this article--beside the degrading, bizarre habit Dubya has of kissing and patting the heads of bald men, are these comments:

"But Republican strategists largely ignored the findings. Led by Karl Rove, they wanted to avoid blunting one of their few advantages in the 2006 campaign -- the economy's broad strength. One adviser adds that Iraq would have overshadowed any new economic proposals. Mr. Rove notes the president did talk about health care, college and other pocketbook issues during the campaign."

Don't expect the American voter to get fooled again.
This administration was even against raising the minimum wage.
Obama and Edwards are generating excitement across the board, and Al Gore might just step in the race in the fall.

Posted by: consider wisely on April 1, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Can anybody add ceo pay to that graph? Then people might find out where the money they are not getting, is going.

Posted by: missouri democrat on April 1, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

This chart shows pretty much exactly why so much contemporary economics is a crock.

Following their prescriptions for economic growth, we are indeed doing better by the one metric they seem capable of understanding and affecting: GDP. But it has failed utterly to produce that which makes for a better, happier society: one in which all boats are lifted in the tide.

In fact, by any utilitarian calculation, we are in a LESS happy situation than we were some years ago, because for the vast majority of people, their absolute economic circumstances have NOT improved, yet they see others whose circumstances have dramatically improved, despite nothing different in what either party has contributed.

Heckuva job, there, economists.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 1, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Many republicans in our area know they voted against their own economic interests in electing
the Bushies twice.

The most salient fact of American politics, the one everyone ignores at their peril, is that there is are good 50 million Americans who will volunteer to live in cardboard boxes under an overpass somewhere, cooking sparrows on the end of an old curtain rod, provided that they are guaranteed that the colored-gay-immigrant-Muslim fella in the next box over doesn't even get a curtain rod.

That is enough, under the right circumstances, to form a governing coalition and/or elect a president.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 1, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Worse than stagnant wages is economic insecurity. The safety net for Americans has all but disappeared.We need to do a few things on the macro scale to put us back on course:

1. Stem the offshore flow of industries and jobs by de-valuing the dollar. It amazes me that exchange rates get almost no play in the press.

2. Universal health insurance. Use the French model that is mostly public, but allows some private health care.

3. Make the income tax more progessive. Raise or remove the cap on the payroll (social security) tax.

4. Pension portability.

5. Make it easeir for people to form labor unions.

6. End foreign adventurism. Military action only with UN sanction.

Posted by: bob on April 1, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

I would be willing to bet that the GDP rises like this without regard to who has the political power in this country and only flattens out when affected by things that are generally beyond the control of American government. Median wages only flatten out like this when the GOP has the steering wheel long enough to drive the middle class into a ditch. Then they say shit like low inflation is the enemy of our economy and must be guarded against no matter what the consequences are for the majority of the people. The economy in this country goes flat when half the middle class has no cash and the other half is afraid to spend what they have. Then all these genius cut rich peoples taxes to stimulate the economy.

Republican economic policy = we've got ours, so fuck you.

Posted by: FitterDon on April 1, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

MatthewRMarler-

I take issue with your arguments.
"Thus, it is possible to have a healthy economy in which all employed people receive salary increases but the median salary (or wages) remains constant." No, the only way, mathematically, that median could stay constant while all employed workers are getting raises is if the incoming entry level workers greatly outnumber the existing workers. This is simply not the case, the American workforce is aging.

"...there are reductions in the price of goods of equal quality. Thus, over time, the fixed median income can buy more and more of what the economy produces. Thus, a fixed median can be associated with greater wealth."
I see two problems here- one, has it really been your (or anyone elses) experiencet there has been a reduction in the cost of goods of equal quality- I will assume for the sake of argument that a box of Frosted Flakes cereal produced today is about the same quality as produced 30 years ago- it is not cheaper by any measure. Second, fixed income could be associated with greater wealth ONLY in a recession.

The liver treatment analogy addresses subjective feelings of wealth/inequality- which does not invalidate the statistics of median wage and GDP. It is kind of like a "let them eat cake" argument.

As for the canoe on the river- you only stated that you should have felt bad..you never expressed your feelings- maybe you were embarrased for your son, maybe you were proud that you have not given up certain personal principas in order to maintain a lifestyle that allowed you the flexibility to go boating with your son...

Finally, I think that you are missing the point- I am not offended that there are poor people- I am offended that people who are hard-working, smart, are getting poorer while the money changers get richer. Purely and simply. Yeah, I know where the argument goes if you take it out to its extreme.

Posted by: Out on Bond on April 1, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Missouri Democrat: I'm in midtown KCMO - you anywhere near me?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C) on April 1, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

I really get tired of the meme, articulated above by MatthewRMarler, that median wages can buy more toys, like computers and peripherals, and other electronic toys, so therefore people are better off than ever before.

Trouble is, Matthew, as someone else pointed out, the cost of food, housing, clothing, medicines, gas, etc., HAS gone up. In other words, the necessities of life. While wages have remained level. So most people are having to stretch scarce dollars further and not always succeeding.

The toys may cost less, and it's true that people are still buying them, but another thing you don't seem to have considered is that said toys are one-time purchases. Whereas food, gas, housing, prescription meds, are ongoing costs. Moreover, toys are discretionary purchases. Food, housing, gas, and prescription meds are not, and for people with growing children, clothing expenses are also ongoing and nondiscretionary. And even adults have to replace worn-out clothing.

Your argument is pure sophistry. And most people on Political Animal aren't buying it.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on April 1, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Why the cheap shot at Mickey Kaus? I've been begging him to come out of the closet for months and admit he's a Repub, but he says he can't give up the party of The New Republic. Nevertheless, I'd be inclined to agree with your critique of the Repub position if the Dem position wasn't even more bizarre -- when you get serious about a border fence and taking on the ACLU on a national ID, I'll listen to your tales of concern about the American worker being ripped off by the system.

Posted by: minion on April 1, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is clear that, just as additional troops will turn the tide in Iraq and bring peace and prosperity to that country, what we need here is another round of tax cuts. Tax cuts will bring economic prosperity to one and all, lifting all boats against the rising tide of glacial melt.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit by the window and wait for the pigs to come flying by.

Posted by: josef on April 1, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

It is nonsensical to blame Bush for the "high" price of gasolene. The only reason that Americans have enjoyed cheap gas for so long is because there is still some competition among marketers and oil producing nations. Elect algore and see what happens--he'll let gas go to six bucks a gallon and then preach to you it's for the good of the planet!


Limosine liberals can pay $10 a gallon and feel ecologically pure at the same time. It is the working class guy like myself who actually uses his pickup to haul real stuff who gets shafted.

Stop pretending like the Democrat Party is the champion of the workers. The Democrats in Washington state have done nothing but dump on and screw rural working-class people, making high wage jobs in the resource-based sectors we used to enjoy as rare as snowflakes in hell. Which brings up the weather here today. We are in danger of getting snowed on tonight and that isn't an April Fool joke.

And here a foreign policy twist: would you rather be a working-poor person in Kirkuk, Iraq, or Havana, Cuba? In Basra, Iraq, or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam? Do a little research before you ansower. . .

BTW, right now I think I'd rather be a true middle class person in Baghdad than in Mexico City. Baghdad will get the lights on 24/7 one of these days and their civil war is winding down. The boom times will roll.

Mexico City, on the other hand, is a social powder keg and the armored limosine capital of the world. Worse yet, it's in the shadow of a real volcano and a world-class earthquake zone.
If algore is right about global warming causing more drought, Mexico is in a tight and dry spot already. No drought here, though. Lots of rain and lots of snowpack.

Posted by: mike cook on April 1, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

FINALLY. Now, can we get the same for egbert, Al, and Norman? This is a liberal blog, not a conservative one. We have a right to enforce speech codes.
Posted by: Disputo on April 1, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

******************************************

Here's another instance of the professional troll AH stealing my handle.

Mods, please delete, and consider blocking the IP address of anyone who indulges in this kind of abuse.

-- the real Disputo

Posted by: Disputo on April 1, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

[Comments by American Hawk are automatically deleted. There is no appeals process, if registration were implemented he would be banned for life. He adds nothing productive. His commentary is not amusing and will not be entertained.]

about time--just keep an eye out for the inevitable troll who will attempt to take its disruptive place.

Posted by: haha on April 1, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK
It's 1928 all over again...MsNThrope at 3:53 PM
1837, 1873, 1907, 1928, 2007. What comes around as tragedy for workers comes around as tragedy again and again. The corporations have an endless supply of money and political power to buy the government and destroy worker unions, and they use it.
... maybe we should just band together in little gangs.... mike kook on April 1, 2007 at 4:26 PM
I'm glad to see someone else believes in arming the poor and eating the rich. However, it should be obvious even to you that the wealthiest are not taxed sufficiently.
...when you get serious about a border fence and taking on the ACLU on a national ID.... minion at 6:17 PM
Those are your bread-and-butter issues? When the Republicans get serious about going after employers who hire illegal, people won't be coming for jobs: They won't be able to get them. National ID card? What are we, France?
Yada yada yada..... mike kook at 6:53 PM

It's funny that during Clinton's last year, when gas prices were going up, Republicans were claiming that George W. Bush, the best friend of the Saudi's would keep gas cheap. When the prices rose higher during Bush's term, not a peep out of any Republican. 'Limousine' people are generally Republican, you know, those corporate execs who are driven to their private jets in private limos. Sure high gas prices screw the poor, but I hope they become the doom of those ugly SUV behemoths on the streets.

You need to stop pretending that your Republican allies care one whit about working people. And if you were middle class in Baghdad, you would be paying ransom to retrieve a family member or hightailing it out to live in Syria or Jordan were it was safe. The light at the end of the tunnel when you've got your gullible head up your arse is your open neck into which the RNC is pouring Kool-Aid.

If Al Gore had been permitted to take the office he won, there would be no Iraq war, no huge deficits, and economic growth would have been more equitable.

Posted by: Mike on April 1, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Mike

If you read the complete sentence without Dowdifying it, you would see that I am ADMITTING the Repubs are very vulnerable on this issue - I just wish the Dems would be a loyal and intellectually coherent opposition to give us an alternative... The biggest single drag on improving the lot of the lower 2/5ths of the income scale in this country [maybe after healthcare] is our laissez faire immigration policy. It is something Mickey Kaus has focused on as the best single way for Dems to show thier concern for boosting the standard of living of their core constituency, and it is something Kevin Drum and his readers avoid like Dracula and the crucifix.

Posted by: minion on April 1, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Stop pretending like the Democrat Party is the champion of the workers.

No one on the left is even pretending the "Democrat Party" exists. If you want anyone on the left to take you seriously, you probably shouldn't, either.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 1, 2007 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

but, but, Larry Kudlow assures us this is the "Goldilocks" economy, the "greatest story never told." What an absolute putz.

Posted by: Jim on April 1, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Progressive Dems would do just as bad.

Posted by: Matt on April 1, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Some of that graph could be explained by a greying workforce who are generally in their earning prime combined with their employers paying out a lot more in health insurance premiums for workers whose health is understandably deteriorating due to age-both of those would tend to stagnate wages. That certainly seems to be the case where I work. However, the out-of-pocket share of health care has increased on workers as well, and that really needs to get factored in... I still think it would look bad and possibly worse... I wonder about what is causing that lurching about in the last two years- any ideas? Employment "churning"?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 1, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Doc the Radar hit on something.

The greying of which he speaks are the 40-60 year olds who have been dis-incentivized to work because social security is so badly mis-managed.

Look no further than kevin, me, and most of the posters on this blog; most of whom have semi-retired because the social security system has this big discontinuity at 65, rather than the smoothe payout-payin curve that a normal retirement bond system would have.

Posted by: Matt on April 1, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Ha ha. American Hawk eats it! Later, chunderwagon!

Posted by: Pinko Punko on April 1, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

I was a part of that effort in a number of low-income areas and saw a lot of money thrown at the problem without producing any students who would attend school regularly and all the way to the end, would study two hours a night, and would cram for tests.

You could say exactly the same thing about the public high school I went to, but because we were all upper-middle-class and mostly white, we all went to college anyway. Or haven't you ever heard of grade inflation?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 1, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny that during Clinton's last year, when gas prices were going up, Republicans were claiming that George W. Bush, the best friend of the Saudi's would keep gas cheap.

Not as funny as Dead-Eye Dick's 2000 campaign trail mantra to the troops: "Hold on. We're coming!"

Posted by: ThresherK on April 1, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

to elaborate the liver example a little, suppose that, in line with national statistics, you have lots of associates with occasional depression, and very few friends with liver cancer. Over the last 10 years the optimal drug treatment for depression has gotten cheaper, whereas the lack of treatment for liver cancer has stayed the same. OH, you can get liver treatment, you just can't get well thereby. So your friends with depression have a little more cash than before (say $70-$150 per month, depending whether they started with two on-patent medications 10+ years ago). Has their improvement in spending power (and increased wealth) made your friends with liver cancer poorer? No.

Now say that next year there is a new drug for liver cancer that actually works, but it costs $100,000 per year for 2 years. Has that invention made your friends with liver cancer poorer, if they can not afford the treatment? No, they were going to die of liver cancer, and they are still going to die of liver cancer over the same time spans. They are not poorer, though they may be more envious.

FDR was so rich he could buy his own vacation resort with a year-round swimming pool. but he would have given it up, and more, to be free of paralytic polio, something no one in the U.S. has gotten for years, or is likely to get in the future. Are you poorer than FDR because you can't afford your own vacation resort, or richer because you and your children will not get polio? I think we are richer.

My point was that the tiny amount of information in the graph is insufficient to defend any policy recommendation. My supplement is also not by itself sufficient.

In what year, out of 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992, ..., would you really rather be living on a median income? The answer is that this year, the median earners are the richest median earners in American history, probably all of history, in all the things that count, health and material.

The fact that the top 1% of wage earners own more and bigger yachts and airplanes (c.f. John Travolta) is irrelevant to discussion of the wealth of median earners this year, compared to median earners of years past.


It is, paradoxically perhaps, true that asthma rates are going up. I can't say how many people would choose paralytic polio, tetanus, pertussis, smallpox, or rubella over asthma, given the choice. Once informed how many people died, lost hearing, or lost sight, or lost mental acuity from measles, my guess is that most people with asthma would keep the asthma instead of trading the asthma for measles. Asthma is less costly than the diseases of the past (or of the rest of the world).

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 1, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

reader; But MatthewRMarler, that kind of thinking is the road to the feudalisation of our country and the argument you are making is just a political one asking people to stop complaining.

I disagree that any path toward feudalism is implied. Decreasing death rates for all people is not a march toward feudalism, nor is the ongoing reduction of the price of extant medical treatments and the ongoing introduction of new medical treatments. Based on what I know of the pharmaceutical industry, I expect a drug to treat liver cancer effectively to be delivered within the next decade. It will be expensive, and there will be gradual price reductions until even median wage earners can afford the treatment. Recently, it has been shown that adult marrow stem cells surgically implanted in liver can lead to regrowth of healthy liver tissue in people who have had surgery to remove cancerous liver tissue, but the treatment is expensive, experimental, and the actual success rate is not yet well established.

So, in what year would you rather be living and earning a median wage? If the purchase of medical care for your self and family, and I mean effective medical care, is your primary measure, then now is for sure the best time to be earning a median wage. Cure rates for breast cancer and choldhood leukemia have never been higher, and costs compared to median wages have never been lower.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 1, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Out on Bond, that is a pretty good nom de web, or whatever we call it nowadays.

Finally, I think that you are missing the point- I am not offended that there are poor people- I am offended that people who are hard-working, smart, are getting poorer while the money changers get richer.

If you look at ages 40, 45, 50, 55, etc., and look at the medical costs necessary and effective (though imperfect) to live the next 5 years, the cost of the next 5 years of healthy living, age-adjusted, is going down, relative to the median wage. In this and other ways, people who are smart and hard-working are getting richer, not poorer.

The richest earners pay the highest tax rates, and the most total tax. In the aggregate, about 20% of taxpayers pay about 80% of tax, and hence about 80% of federally funded research. Because the healthy results of the research are eventually available to everyone (e.g., the Sabine polio vaccine, the measles vaccine), this represents a substantial transfer of wealth from the upper classes to everyone else. The most valuable thing that you can give median wage earners who have children is healthy children. Today's median wage earners who have children in the U.S. have the healthiest children of all median wage earners in U.S. history.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 1, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

Would you rather be living in 1850, when the odds of being run into by some bozo in an SUV yakking on his cell phone were vanishingly small, or in 2006, when it happened to me?

The answer is 1850. Hey, thanks, MRM, this is a fun game!

Posted by: josef on April 1, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Today's median wage earners who have children in the U.S. have the healthiest children of all median wage earners in U.S. history.

Unless there's another flu epidemic (a la 1918), shouldn't this be the norm?

And are we worried that some countries are gaining on us in economic statistics (e.g. per capita GDP) and not childrens' health statistics?

Posted by: ThresherK on April 1, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

josef: Would you rather be living in 1850, when the odds of being run into by some bozo in an SUV yakking on his cell phone were vanishingly small, or in 2006, when it happened to me?

considering how much work has gone into changing us from a horse culture to a motor culture, probably most people prefer the motor culture. You might join us after reading up on the statistics of death and incapacitiation due to horse-related accidents, much higher than contemporary accidents involving motor vehicles.

Unless there's another flu epidemic (a la 1918), shouldn't this be the norm?

Whether it should or should not be the norm, I am pointing out that it has occurred, and in consequence median earners are in fact richer than median earners of previous eras. It isn't the only way that median earners are richer. Compared to 10 years ago, and even accounting for the increase in fuel costs, the aggregate costs of driving 100,000 miles in vehicles purchased for $17,000 each are smaller now (whether you do or do not adjust for the changing purchase power of the dollar.) Safety features reduce the overall accident rate, and reduce the likelihood of death and dismemberment in accidents.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 1, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is 1850. Hey, thanks, MRM, this is a fun game!

Another health note. In 1850, in the U.S., median wage earners could expect 1/3rd of their children to die before age 16. I have forgotten whether that includes all stillbirths, or if it applies to those children who lived to 1 year. but either way it was bad.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 2, 2007 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

The average CEO of a Standard & Poor’s 500 company made $13.51 million in total compensation in 2005, according to an analysis by The Corporate Library.
http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/

13.51 Million / 52 weeks = $259, 615.40 /wk

259, 615.40/60 hr =$4326.92/hr

Posted by: owlbear1 on April 2, 2007 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

I haven’t read through all the comments, so if someone has already mentioned this, my apologies.

In-N-Out is not a typical hamburger place, at least not in relation to how they compensate their employees. In 1983 I worked there as a high school junior. The minimum wage at the time was $3.35/hour, they were paying me $5, I also got a week’s vacation and a turkey at thanksgiving.

Posted by: polonius19 on April 2, 2007 at 5:04 AM | PERMALINK

I don't care, and I think that nobody should care, that rich people can afford costlier yachts this year.

At what point do you care about income and wealth inequality, if ever? Do you agree that economic insecurity on the part of the middle and working classes is bad for the country, or is cheap labor (viz. Circuit City layoffs) good for stock holders and therefore good for the people who matter? Does it concern you at all that the CEO of a health insurance company is awarded $1.8 Billion in stock options (illegally backdated at that), or is there simply no limit to the free-market fiction that the rewards of productivity go to the productive? And, given the enormous rise in income and wealth inequality, what is your justification for making the disparity even wider by a hugely regressive tax cut for those who have reaped the most benefit, and increasing future tax burdens on those who haven't, among other things?

The median wage earner of today is a richer person than the median wage earner of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, ... years ago.

This really isn't true (and to use the word "richer" in this context is laughably disingenuous), unless of course you're going to pull that "# of color TV sets=wealth" and "a postal worker of today lives better than Cornelius Vanderbilt" BS. (Oh wait, you just did, and I see it continues.)

You're equating technological improvements in daily living, formerly known as progress, with real income; cheaper long distance and lower air fares and medical discoveries do not mitigate income inequality and stagnating wages. and conflating technological improvements with "wealth" is really a tiresome bit of crapola.

The same poor family that owns a color TV now probably owned a black and white one in the fifties. So fucking what? They also had indoor plumbing, once the province of only the wealthy, and penicillin. The value, and cost of things change with the times. But I'd bet that the 50's family wasn't spending more than half their household income on rent and Dad didn't work more than 40 hours a week.

If progress=equals wealth—because the toys are cheaper and you can buy more of them you are now "richer"—then I tell you what: I have 100 shares of stock that you could have purchased five years ago for $1000. I'll gladly sell you 200 of these shares for the same $1000 right now. According to you, this doubles your wealth.

Or better yet, how much is technological progress worth to you? As long as you have your brand new liver medicine and cheap long distance and color LCD screens, will you take a 50% pay cut? Too much? Okay, how about 40%, 30%, whatever? And surely, if progress is such a large part of one's real income and the wonderfulness of life that makes one feel richer, the CEO with his $1.8 billion stock options would easily sacrifice hundreds of millions for the joys of a new iPod and a GPS system.

Posted by: R.Porrofatto on April 2, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Hopefully God will soon provide us with economical access to the riches of our solar system and the larger universe, along with life-support techniques to make venturing out more comfortable and healthy.
Posted by: mike cook

As I've said before, the one thing which might conceivably argue for some intelligent creator is that this hypothetical being was sensible enough to quarantine this little experiment with malignantly destructive sapient apes bent on destroying the only known planet capable of supporting life a safe distance from the rest of the universe.

' The nearest star is four light years away, and so we see it as it was in 2003. The center of the Milky Way is 25,000 light years away, and the nearest large galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.2 million light years away, and this immense distance takes us no further than our local neighbourhood.' - http://acrosstheuniverse.blogs.nytimes.com/
Chris Lintott, Brian May, Sir Patrick Moore

Mr. Cook obviously has no comprehension as to the distances involved. He adds this to his already impressive body of willful ignorance.

"Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 2, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that the top 1% of wage earners own more and bigger yachts and airplanes (c.f. John Travolta) is irrelevant to discussion of the wealth of median earners this year, compared to median earners of years past.

No, its not. Much as you might want to believe that absolute condition, and particularly (apparently) absolute condition in terms of childhood diseases, is the "important" thing and what "matters", there is considerable empirical evidence that what matters most in determining experienced utility is not absolute measures, but perceived relative condition, both relative to other visible cues in society and relative to one's own past experience. Even before systematic empirical study of the effects of absolute vs. relative deprivation had confirmed this, a number of astute observers had recognized it, notably Adam Smith.

Your own fantasy that the highly visible and increasing inequalities in wealth in our own present society don't matter because, e.g., polio was largely eradicated in the US over 40 years ago is, if it truly represents what actually drives your own experienced utility, a look into what matters to you, but it certainly has no broader relevance.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 2, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Decreasing death rates for all people is not a march toward feudalism, nor is the ongoing reduction of the price of extant medical treatments and the ongoing introduction of new medical treatments.

Clearly, you don't understand what "feudalism" means. Feudalism is not a set of absolute wealth conditions, but a set of relations between different people and different classes of people. Neither of the things you mention here are even relevant to the issue of whether there is a "march toward feudalism". Certainly, those things are not in themselves a march toward feudalism, but neither are they, as you imply by presenting them as your rebuttal to that claim, in any way counterevidence to such a march. They are simply an irrelevancy and distraction.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 2, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK
Now say that next year there is a new drug for liver cancer that actually works, but it costs $100,000 per year for 2 years. Has that invention made your friends with liver cancer poorer, if they can not afford the treatment?

Yes. Poverty is, most importantly, relative.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 2, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

You are right, of course. I am just a poor farm boy from Montana without a clue as to all the things you smart folks know. There will never be FTL drives or ways of suspending the human metabolism so that we can make trips that take decades or centuries.

BTW, some reports suggest that people are returning to Baghdad from Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait. The in-flow now exceeds the out-flow.
Most of the Shia are too poor to go anywhere, so those who left temporarily are probably Sunni, who now return because the Americans seem to have persuaded the Shia militants to give the surge a chance. . .

Posted by: mike cook on April 2, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I get easily lost in the dismal science. All I know is, as an hourly contract technical writer, I have had one $5 dollar raise in 7 years, despite excellent performance and increasing responsibilities. When I started this position in 2000, living was comfortable--I could pay the mortgage, buy the groceries, maintain the car, pay utilities, etc. and still save some money for the very occasional vacation (always a hardship, because contractors get no paid vacations as a rule). Now I tremble when the mortgage and a large bill, for instance houme insurance, come due in the same pay period. I had to use my credit card, something I hate to do, when my cat lost an eye in a fight, because I can no longer afford to pay it off in full every month. Groceries that used to cost me $80 a week now routinely top $120. Savings? Long gone. And please, don't tell me to find other work--most tech writer jobs these days are contract. So I guess I'm not feeling that rising tide of GDP and productivity and all that happy hoohah lifting my boat.

Posted by: Dano on April 2, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Dano

Your situation sounds familiar. Noone has had a merit pay increase for seven years (since the dotcom bust)where I work-just enough to keep up about 2/3 with inflation. Meanwhile work has increased greatly in complexity and they just stack more responsibility onto the remaining people when somebody quits or goes on medical, etc. They rarely hire at all. Everybody is getting older and burned out and they have cut benefits every year for the last seven years. If it wasn't for defense $$ our jobs wouldn't even exist.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 2, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I did not read the source article, but it is likely that the median income already incorporates quality changes that Marler mentions. Inflation measures based on the Consumer Price Index CPI-U-RS do take into consideration quality improvements. Cars, for example, are adjusted for differences in quality when moving to a newer model. Adjustments are also made for products ranging from apparel to TVs to, of course, computers. Interestingly, these adjustments have only made a difference of about 0.3 percent per year.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EUB/is_1_13/ai_78166945/pg_2

Posted by: mcdruid on April 2, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"I am just a poor farm boy from Montana without a clue as to all the things you smart folks know."

That much is evident, given the idiocy of your statements here.

"BTW, some reports suggest that people are returning to Baghdad from Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait. The in-flow now exceeds the out-flow."

Too bad there's no credible evidence actually supporting that assertion. Guess we'll have to take it on faith, along with your other silly assertions about FTL drives and the like.

Posted by: PaulB on April 2, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Much as you might want to believe that absolute condition, and particularly (apparently) absolute condition in terms of childhood diseases, is the "important" thing and what "matters", there is considerable empirical evidence that what matters most in determining experienced utility is not absolute measures, but perceived relative condition, both relative to other visible cues in society and relative to one's own past experience.

there is no single definition, or measure, of perceived utility. if you can not perceive the utility of measles vaccines compared to the wealth of John Roebling, Alice Roosevelt (TR's first wife) and FDR, then that's your problem. You need to review the relevant concept of envy.

Anyway, in terms of relative wealth, the wealth of a median earner in the U.S. in 2007 compares very favorably to the wealth of a median earner in the U.S. in 2002, 1997, 1992, etc.

Last example: for a median earner aged 45 who has a heart attack, the cost of treatment and recovery is a smaller fraction of median income now than in 2002; literally, the total cost of the next 5 years of life of 45 year old median income heart attack victims is less now than 5 years ago. This is not negligible, but although heart attack rates are low at this age, the age cohort is so large that this is in fact approximately the modal age of heart attack victims in the U.S.

The comments about feudalism are absurd. The writer did not choose the word feudalism because of its precise denotative definition; and we are not moving that way anyway.

OK, I can't stop anyone here from feeling poor and put-upon. I think you're crazy to ignore the actual increase in wealth of the median wage earners in the U.S. over the last 20 decades.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 2, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Not only can you not stop it, but by pretending that the debate is about the quality of healthcare available to the median worker you ensure that everyone will treat you like the idiot you appear to be.

It's quite simple Matthew, those at the top of the income ladder are neither working harder nor are they more brilliant than those who preceded them. The increases in per-capita wealth are not being distributed according to anything but an arbitrary system that funnels an ever-increasing percentage to those at the top. No rational person sees this and says "that seems fair to me."

What you are doing is the "look over there" strategy of the OJ Dream Team (c.f. Chewbacca Defense). People who wanted to believe in that fantasy were stunned when the rest of us saw it for what it was. And you are no different. You are selling a line of patent bullshit about healthcare that has nothing to do with income inequity. The pie is getting bigger and those who already have more than their share are the ones reaping the rewards. This is the heart of feudalism.

Posted by: heavy on April 2, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK
there is no single definition, or measure, of perceived utility.

Really? What alternative definitions are there? There certainly isn't a single operationalization, or a single way of comparing or combining individual utilities, though the latter isn't relevant to this discussion, and there aren't, that I'm aware of, relevant differences in the latter as far as the significance of relative deprivation is concerned.

if you can not perceive the utility of measles vaccines compared to the wealth of John Roebling, Alice Roosevelt (TR's first wife) and FDR, then that's your problem.

Who said I couldn't? What I'm saying is that the actual empirical research on what produces satisfaction or dissatisfaction in actual real human beings (which is what "utility" refers to) suggest that relative conditions play an overwhelming role, and absolute conditions are far, far less important. And the relative conditions that matter are mostly the individuals condition relative to (1) other visible current reference points in their own society (including media), and (2) the conditions in their own personal past experience.

You need to review the relevant concept of envy.

Review it for what, exactly? If you are trying to suggest, without actually making the argument, that we should disregard the evidence that relative conditions are the overwhelming determinant of experienced utility simply because you have some ideological belief that that should not be the case, well, that's too damn bad. Deal with reality.

Anyway, in terms of relative wealth, the wealth of a median earner in the U.S. in 2007 compares very favorably to the wealth of a median earner in the U.S. in 2002, 1997, 1992, etc.

An interesting assertion, though both irrelevant and unsupported.

Last example: for a median earner aged 45 who has a heart attack, the cost of treatment and recovery is a smaller fraction of median income now than in 2002

So? Even if that were true, for which you provide no evidence, that's hardly relevant unless you assume that the share of that cost that median wage earner would pick up is identical; given the increase in the percentage of the population uninsured, the way that slice has spread up the wealth distribution, and the decreasing coverage many people experience who remain insured, I suspect its less, not more, likely that that median wage earner has an insurance plan which is going to cover 100%, or nearly so, of the cost of that hospitalization and treatment than in 2002. In 2002, I had an insurance plan that would have covered virtually everything in that case, and now have one which, even after meeting the deductible, would leave a substantial fraction of the costs uncovered.

Then again, I personally only make a little more than the national median household income, as does my wife: I'm sure people who are at the individual median are covered much better. No, wait, I'm not so sure of that.

The comments about feudalism are absurd.

Ridicule without support is not counterargument.

The writer did not choose the word feudalism because of its precise denotative definition;

Merely asserting that the person whose argument you object to didn't really mean what they said is also not counterargument.

and we are not moving that way anyway.

And, finally, contradiction without support is still not counterargument.

OK, I can't stop anyone here from feeling poor and put-upon.

Oooh, impressive, a general, nonspecific insult tossed in the general direction of the opposition. No one here, Marler, is "feeling poor and put upon". Realizing that the poor, and the center of the distribution, are being shat upon by policies designed to serve the ultra-rich mega-capitalists is not the same as feeling personally shat upon. Though, as noted above, I've felt directly some negative effects of the recent direction of the economy, mostly I'm doing great: but then, I'm lucky: I came from a family in the top half of the income distribution, had the educational opportunities that come from that and placing in the top fraction of a percent in every standardized test I ever took. It doesn't hurt that I married someone smart and well-educated in a field with strong demand in the present economy, as well.

OTOH, I don't like what happens when the elite pulls away from the mass of society in ever widening gulf, and the majority of society perceives themselves (and rightly so) as receiving little if any benefit from the aggregate progress of society.

Your repeated arguments that the people in the middle of the income distribution ought to feel happy with the results of the present economy despite the soaring gulf between the rich and poor and stagnant median wages (even adjusted for inflation via the CPI, which includes "hedonic adjustments" for the kind of qualitative improvements that you point to as evidence of the improved overall condition of the median wage earner) is utterly detached from reality.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 2, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

First I will speak to cmdicely's notions, then MsNThrope's. The Bible has a word for "perceived relative condition." It's called covetousness. If you really have enough to get by but it somehow bothers you that Bill Gates, George Soros, and all those others have way too much, you are suffering from the sin of envy and it is the MOST personal of problems.

I've got a destitute mother-in-law who really has worked only about three years full time in her whole life and not much more than that part time. She raised five kids, most of them in a ramshackle trailer home after her husband ran off. She's never had any savings. Social security is her only income.

She does own a car. The heater works, the A/C works. It starts good, has air bags, and will outlast her. Her house, in South Dakota, was worth $20,000 five years ago but has a good furnace, good shingles, good paint, and is well insulated. She has a color TV. She has a plump sofa and a recliner/rocker. She has indoor plumbing and hot water. She has a dog and a cat. She has a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher, an electric range and two microwave ovens. She has a refrigerator and freezer.

Some of her children have helped her financially from time to time and others have run up her credit cards, so that is about a wash. When air fare was really cheap, she was able to afford two trips to England and Scandinavia, where a lot of very distant relatives got visits and geneological records were updated back to the Middle Ages, which made her very proud.

This woman, by cmdicely standards, has never had anything. She is happy. She will tell you she has had it all. Some of her children are a bit worthless, but none of them have gone to jail. None turned out mean. Two are college graduates.

Now, MsNThrope. There is such a thing as progress. God wants us to explore the universe, if for no other reason but that we will drag a lot of other Earth species with us, from microbes to speckled trout to elephants, when we find or create suitable worlds. It is not a disgrace to be human and we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Somebody sure pumped you full of a lot of negativism. Whether you want progress, change, and a whole lot of new understandings to come along on a bunch of technical matters that will unimaginably expand human horizons and limits, they are going to come.


Posted by: mike cook on April 2, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Cook, unable to defend the fact that those who do the work get a smaller slice of the pie is reduced to silly attacks on the posters.

Here's a hint Mike, the posters have already explained that they are talking about the real world - not individual anecdotes like the one you provide, but real world scenarios that demonstrate the human beings are, as a whole, likely to gauge their worth by comparing with those around them rather than some historical person in their same class.

Providing counter examples does nothing to undermine their argument because a general rule isn't an absolute - if cmdicely had said "everyone looks at their relative wealth" then your counter-example would have some weight, but cmdicely is quite aware that all absolute statements are wrong and will never make that mistake.

So, once we remove the personal attacks and the argument by irrelevant anecdote we are left with an empty post from Mike Cook where he completely avoids talking about the diminishing slice of the pie given to those whose work makes that GDP increase possible.

Posted by: heavy on April 2, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Bible has a word for "perceived relative condition." It's called covetousness. If you really have enough to get by but it somehow bothers you that Bill Gates, George Soros, and all those others have way too much, you are suffering from the sin of envy and it is the MOST personal of problems.

The Bible also has something to say about the fiscal philosophy of the Republican Party, otherwise known as "avarice" or "love of mammon."

When Ananias and Sapphira refused to give up all of their wealth so that it could be shared among the early Apostolic Community, God struck them dead.

Please do elucidate how God's actions in this matter correlate with the Republican record of cutting spending on programs to aid the poor while giving tax breaks to the rich and awarding Halliburton multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts even after they have defrauded the taxpayers time and again.

Posted by: trex on April 2, 2007 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Any genuine LA guy would know that In-N-Out pays considerably more than the going rate for food service labor.

Kaus is a poser in more ways than one.

Posted by: Sherman Oaks on April 3, 2007 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

I would be proud to work for Halliburton because those no-bid contracts you are talking about are done in some of the most difficult places in the world. Some projects work out better than others but that often isn't the fault of those taking the contract, but whether the project specified was a good idea in the first place.

Your libelous comments about Halliburton continually defrauding the taxpayers would have to be proved in court looking at the terms of the contracts awarded, with both sides having a chance to explain what happened. Your making of accusations doesn't cut it with me.

And speaking of defrauding the taxpayer, we could bring up almost every liberal social welfare program ever conceived. I once taught in a rural, low income school where I was profoundly struck by the waste involved in federal education programs as compared to our penurious local school board. The locals squeezed dimes into dollars. The feds threw money around in a way drunken sailors would be amazed to behold.

Now I work in criminal justice, where yesterday I watched free methadone doses being distributed to jail inmates. The health staff estimates that each dose (in liquid form) costs over $300 to produce and distribute in tightly controlled fashion. Inmates tell me that a similar effect from heroin purchased on the street would cost $40, which illustrates how much more efficient the free market is at anything.

Posted by: mike cook on April 3, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK
The Bible has a word for "perceived relative condition." It's called covetousness.

Yeah, so what? As I said to Marler who waved his hand in the direction of the similar term "envy" in place of making an argument: "If you are trying to suggest, without actually making the argument, that we should disregard the evidence that relative conditions are the overwhelming determinant of experienced utility simply because you have some ideological belief that that should not be the case, well, that's too damn bad. Deal with reality."

This woman, by cmdicely standards, has never had anything.

Er, no. Nowhere have I articulated any "standards" under which that claim would be defensible. I understand that in absence of any actual argument, you need to invent cute anecdotal stories and make emotional appeals, but please try to do so without lying about other people's positions in the process.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 3, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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