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Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 04:19 PM PST

The Power of Myth

by cigale

     Much ink and many pixels have been devoted to deciphering why so many working-class Americans vote for Republican politicians who espouse and enact policies that damage the economic interests of these same working-class Americans. This phenomenon was noted a decade ago in Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas". I believe part of the answer is in the fact that Republicans have devised a way to misdirect the sense of iniquity that many working people rightly feel away from those who are perpetrating the iniquity.
      I live in a state (Oregon) that not only re-elected all its congressional Democrats but also increased the Democratic majority in the state legislature in 2014. Despite the blue nature of the population we have no shortage of right-wing talk radio. There is one community supported FM station in Portland, the venerable KBOO, that provides left-wing talk, but AM talk radio is a mixture of sports, religion, and conservative opinion. As I drive home from work, I sometimes tune in to one of these stations following the counsel of Sun Tzu who stated that knowledge of one's adversary is key in attaining victory. The host I hear is syndicated from Houston, Texas and is an overt racist.
       This person posits a society where black people overwhelmingly are idle, violent, and irresponsible parents. In this imagined world the men loaf on the corner drinking beer all day and by night sire children with multiple women that they refuse to support. These men are able to do this because they receive welfare taken from the wages of the hard-working listener. Despite the fact that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, as the name implies, is not available for single men and is temporary and requires participants to work, the host maintains this fiction with a straight face.
      I believe part of the problem is that in most cities one can see people not at work during traditional daytime working hours and assume they are idlers. Also, during a trip to the grocery store one will sometimes observe another customer paying with an EBT card. These are observations in the daily life of a working person. What is not seen is the corporate welfare  that dwarfs what is going to individuals. Working people know that they are not getting the benefits of increased productivity but they are being told to blame the wrong people. Pickpockets use a distraction to divert the mark's attention while they steal. The Republicans in office and their media allies are using the same tactics. Here's George Carlin explaining it for us.


Sun May 04, 2014 at 02:26 PM PDT

Get the Banks out of our Food

by cigale

    I've started a petition on to limit commodities futures trading to only the producers and users of said commodity. The intent is to get financial institutions such as investment banks and hedge funds, among others, out of the business of speculating on the prices of things like food crops and gasoline, to the detriment of consumers.  
     Speculation in oil has been estimated to cost consumers up to $.80 per gallon of gasoline.
     Anyone who eats food is likely paying a tribute to Goldman Sachs and other huge financial institutions.
      The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has the authority to regulate commodity trading. This does not need an act of Congress to limit the influence the big banks have in the daily lives of everyone who eats.
      If this petition gets 100.000 signatures by June 3, the White House is supposed to respond. Please help spread the word. Go to to sign.


Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:27 AM PST

a posssible remedy to income inequality

by cigale


    This diary is in response to Laura Clawson's review of  “The Betrayal of the American Dream” by Bartlett and Steele. I confess I have not read the book and am relying on her synopsis but I trust she has described  the book well and her judgment that the book does not provide solutions to the problem of wealth disparity is accurate.
    What struck me in the review and many of the comments is the non discussion of the elephant tap dancing across the room. The chart at the top of the review clearly shows that the divergence of income took off in the 1980's. Perhaps I am older than most of those here but I turned 30 in the 1980's and remember them. When Ronald Reagan took office the top marginal tax rate was 70% and capital gains and dividends were taxed at the same rate as earned income. Since then, the marginal rate has varied between 28% and 39.6% and capital gains are taxed at a far lower rate. Thus, we see the middle class struggling while the wealthy acquire more. This is not just post hoc reasoning. The Congressional Research Service report concludes that marginal tax rates have little to do with economic growth but do contribute to income inequality.
    Therefore, a return to the marginal tax rate of 70% and eliminating the difference between capital gains and earned income would lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth. There would be more incentive among business to invest in research and workers as the CEO's would be less inclined to siphon off profits in excess salaries. In addition, the financial speculations responsible for the current recession would be less likely simply because they would be less profitable. While I would also like to see a financial transaction tax and a restriction on commodity futures trading to those entities that either produce or consume the commodities in question, I believe that greed is the root cause of much of our current problems. We should then, at least make greed less profitable.
    The Occupy movement has been successful in highlighting the problem of income inequality but has been criticized for not advocating policy positions that can be enacted through legislation. I propose an increase in the marginal tax rate to 70% on incomes over $1,000,000 per year, with all income taxed equally. I have no illusion that such a change will be politically easy, witness the recent resistance to even a small increase in the marginal rate. I am certain, however, that such a change can only come about with massive grassroots support. It is necessary to begin a national conversation on the advantages of returning to tax policy that favors the middle class. After all, the marginal tax rate during the Eisenhower years was 91% and the American economy did very well in the 1950's and 1960's.

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