Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rich Are Less Ethical Than the Unrich

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences indicates that affluent Americans are likelier to break rules, lie, cheat, steal and otherwise behave unethically than less affluent Americans. The reason? Personal gain appears to justify any means that enables that gain. The more a person has gained the more license they feel to get more, by hook or by crook. I read about this in an excellent story written by Susan Perry, who writes for MinnPost here in Minneapolis.

This isn't true of ALL rich people. It's just a tendency, a small tendency really. Rich people are likelier to lie, cheat, steal, take advantage than poor people and average people. But if you asked most people about their judgments about strangers they meet on the street, they'd probably admit they are likelier to assume criminality among poor people than rich people who dress nicely and have expensive haircuts. Which shows how much common sense is worth. There are rich people who steal billions. (Fran Lebowitz once said a person doesn't earn a billion dollars, he steals it.) It's the poor kid taking a pair of shoes or a sixpack of pop who end up in prison. And the rich people who take/appropriate/finagle/chisel/steal billions are likelier to feel justified. The arbitrageur who uses a company's own money to take it over and then loots it, shuts its factories down and fires its workforce and puts their pension fund in his pocket, has no qualms because his personal wealth proves he is a good man. Maybe poor people wind up in prison because they have the honesty to feel guilty.

So wealth tends to confer a sense of license or entitlement. Here's a nifty set of infographics.

That word again. "Entitlement" is one of the dirtiest words among pundits these days. It appears––among the rich anyway–– that "entitlements" are only wrong if they are given to people who need them or have earned them. If you consider that rich people are (according to this research study) likelier to take what isn't due to them, likelier to butt in line, likelier to cut people off, likelier to lie for their own gain, the other side of this coin is worth looking at too, namely that poor people or people of average income are likelier to wait their turn, refuse what isn't due them (or what might not be due them), likelier to yield advantage to others, likelier to concede in a dispute, to compromise, to forgive, likelier to play fair politically and likelier to accept adverse events without complaint, events such as stolen elections, unfairly foreclosed mortgages, stolen trillions on Wall Street, jobs and wages and pensions lost in order to enrich those higher up on the income scale. And yet we tend to judge these people more harshly. We tend to think they aren't as good as someone who's got lots of money.

Dressing well and driving an expensive car and living in a fine house in a fine neighborhood and having wealthy friends sanitizes your behavior, or that is the common belief. And not only among the rich. Those unrich people who yielded when cut off in traffic, who went along with being lied to, who accepted being cheated or stepped on, acquiesced to the wrongdoing. Wealth breeds arrogance, but poverty breeds obedience. It's like they said in the middle ages: "might makes right." What was true then, before democracy made the world fair, is still true. Maybe this fair world we grew up in was only temporary.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jon Stewart arm wrestles Grover Norquist (and wins)

Here's the Jon Stewart interview. (Dontcha wish actual newspeople interviewed this well?)

I have a pledge for you. And I bet it'd work.

"Any congressional district that elects anyone who signs Grover Norquist's pledge shall have its federal funding adjusted to equal its federal taxes paid."

This would affect mostly Republican districts who get more than they pay in. And it would balance the budget almost immediately.

Take it a step further: all congressional districts that elect a Democrat shall not have to pay more in taxes than they receive in federal funding. This would affect most Democratic districts who tend to pay more in taxes than they receive in federal dollars.

Ya see, here's the Big Hypocrisy: the districts that get the most from the federal government are Republican districts. And Republican districts nationwide, on average, get more from the federal government than they pay in.

So we'd be doing them a favor. We'd be helping them be honest, helping them be true to their ideals. No more federal gravy train for Republican districts who signed Grover's pledge (which he thought up when he was twelve–––I'm not making this up, it's on tape.) And Democrat taxpayers would stop being ripped off by the lazy, tax evading Republican parts of the country.

Anyway, Jon Stewart does a pretty fair job of outdebating Norquist. He points out that Reagan raised taxes a dozen or so times. He points out Clinton raised taxes and created a budget surplus and a boom, and Bush cut them and destroyed the global economy and bankrupted the country. Norquist doesn't blink or argue because it's all true.

Stewart does miss one big fat opportunity. When Norquist says we should get rid of public pensions and replace them with 401K's because then everyone knows exactly what they are going to get, Jon should have pointed out that 401K's are the accounts that Wall Street cleaned out over the past four years. The money went away. (Well, it didn't go away as much as it went into Goldman Sachs executive bonuses.)

Retirees under the privatized system have to pray really hard that the economy is up when they retire.

The thing Norquist hates about pensions is they are promises that have to be kept even if the market is being wiped out by pirates. Norquist doesn't like promises made to working people. Only promises made to pirates and CEOs, who are sometimes the same thing.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

OMG––Norquist Wrote His Tax Pledge When He Was 12

From Daily Show reporter Samantha Bee, who is a pretty great interviewer.


I'm not kidding. He says he actually did. Right on camera.

Our entire country is heading toward Greek style default because a 12 year-old in 1968 decided to rebrand the Republican Party around one simple and stupid idea. The idea of holding his breath until he got what he wanted. This may explain the brainpower problem they have.

This also explains why the GOP side of the aisle in the House is full of 8th grade boys.


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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Romney's Vulture Capitalist Presidency

As brilliant a piece of writing as I've read about this election cycle. Walter Kirn analyzes Romney's campaign as Romney himself does, as a business move, the presidency as an acquirable asset whose obligations can be disposed of, as the seemingly friendly takeover of a company for the purposes of taking its assets and selling them, seizing its pension fund to put to "better uses" (better than paying retired people for their life's toil), downsizing, laying off, offloading, scrapping, exporting facilities, all the while paying huge consulting fees to yourself and your chums in the closely held partnership. The gleam in Romney's eye is a microchip.

The presidential candidate as vulture capitalist, who will take over a company and leave not even bones behind, absorbing what's useful to the private firm and its partners, selling what's sellable, and using up or dumping everything else. George W. Bush was the old fashioned preppy boob MBA, the kind that used to sleep through Ivy League and grad school and accept the desk reserved for them on Wall Street, where they were too obtuse to do much harm.

(Calvin Trillin, a few years ago, wrote an excellent explanation of the old safe kind of Wall Street idiot from Andover and Yale.)

Romney is the newer, more cold-blooded kind, the kind that knows what it's doing and exactly how much it's after in billions, greedy rather than lazy, for whom every person is a number, every working person is a liability and a disposable obligation. A dog to put on the roof of the car. I don't think Romney minded much when the old setter ran away while they were in Canada. And notice the pooch didn't find his way back to the Romney home like in the old Disney movie.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

How the GOP is Taking Away Our Right to Vote

During Reagan's rise to power Paul Weyrich made a speech disparaging good government and urging Republicans to make it harder for Americans to vote because the fewer the voters the more Republicans get elected. Paul Weyrich shaped the modern Republican Party around this subversive idea, wrapped it in the flag and went on to found the Heritage Foundation and other antidemocratic groups.

It's still happening. Republicans are attacking voting rights with all the billions of their monied allies. The goal is to reduce our democracy to a plutocracy, in which only the rich can decide policy, in which the rich evade taxes and enact laws to take rights away from workers, suppressing wages as well as voting rights. Imagine a world before Theodore Roosevelt. The bookends of this Republican coup d'etat are voter suppression and billionaires dominating politics via the recent Citizens United decision of the Republican flank of the Supreme Court. Pure politics.

This short video tells the story of an elderly woman's long hard effort to get the GOP-mandated voter ID.

This well-known Tennessee Democrat who left office in 2011 was deleted from the voting rolls in the district he represented for years. If it can happen to him it can happen to anyone.

An 86 year-old veteran found himself barred from voting on Super Tuesday. One of the groups most targeted by Republican voter purges are the elderly.

Who's doing this and how is it being done? It's being done deliberately and concertedly nationwide. The GOP and its corporate allies, notably the multibillionaire Koch brothers and their organization ALEC, which writes voter suppression laws, invites state legislators on junkets to sunny resorts and instructs them how to get their laws enacted. Legislation by remote control.

The actual plan by ALEC to suppress voting state by state, as written by the Koch brothers and their corporate cronies.

A report from Mother Jones magazine

Voter suppression is being prosecuted in a few places, but the effort to hunt down nonexistent "fraudulent voters" is far more aggressive and widespread and it's been legislated and funded by Republicans. But voter fraud is a phony issue, a pretext.

This article is from Washington Monthly.

This is from American Prospect.

How big is this voter fraud boogeyman the Republicans are scaring everybody about? After an expensive investigation in Ohio, it turned out to have happened in fewer than one MILLIONTH of ONE PERCENT of all votes cast. and this is what the Republican Party and ALEC are using to disenfranchise millions of voters. Phantom crimes are useful to right wing politicians. imagined crime frightens people into giving away their rights. And again, there are billions of corporate dollars behind this.

This report from the Brennan Center lays out the pathetic and transparent cynicism behind the GOP's voter purges and voter suppression campaign nationwide. They want power back and don't care whose rights they trample to get there.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Short Film to Share and Talk About

Here's a short film by a friend of mine. Devoted loving couples talking about what makes love and devotion so important to them. Watch it. You have to wonder why anyone could think it's wrong for any of these couples to marry.

Here in Minnesota Republicans have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would forever limit marriage to one man and one woman.

They say that allowing gay people to marry might endanger their own marriages, make their marriages "less special". I don't recall Jesus ever saying something was more blessed because other people couldn't have it, or that it was wrong to love and care for another person. How can you oppose love? Isn't that a kind of hatred?

Put it another way: conservative "Christians" and Republicans seem to think everyone has a God given right to marry a gay person, as long as that person is of the opposite sex. Does that make sense to you? Doesn't that sound like a recipe for thousands of dishonest, unhappy marriages, and millions of lonely lives?

Watch the film. Share it. Talk about it. Let's vote down this hateful amendment.

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