Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, looks at how the 1% aren't just destroying the middle class, they are planting (and tending, and harvesting) the seeds of their own end.
...what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.We tend to forget just how young our system of corporate capitalism really is. This economy we all sail in is a fragile, leaky ship prone to sudden failures and often in need of course correction. It's time for a big turn, a big turn if we're going to stay off the rocks.
The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But... virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.
That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.
Even as the winner-take-all economy has enriched those at the very top, their tax burden has lightened. Tolerance for high executive compensation has increased, even as the legal powers of unions have been weakened and an intellectual case against them has been relentlessly advanced by plutocrat-financed think tanks. In the 1950s, the marginal income tax rate for those at the top of the distribution soared above 90 percent, a figure that today makes even Democrats flinch. Meanwhile, of the 400 richest taxpayers in 2009, 6 paid no federal income tax at all, and 27 paid 10 percent or less. None paid more than 35 percent.Nicholas Carnes notes that while we may argue over whose policies are most slanted toward the 1%, all too often our only choices are candidates who are in the 1%.
Elections are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.It's certainly possible for someone who is wealthy to champion the downtrodden (witness Teddy Kennedy), but in a representative democracy, where we so rightly worry that our government doesn't align with the distribution of race and gender among the public, why are we so willing to accept a government sharply unrepresentative when it comes to class?
In most elections, however, we don’t get a say in something important: whether we’re governed by the rich. By Election Day, that choice has usually been made for us. Would you like to be represented by a millionaire lawyer or a millionaire businessman? Even in our great democracy, we rarely have the option to put someone in office who isn’t part of the elite.
If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up roughly 3 percent of American families, but it would have a super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House. If working-class Americans were a political party, that party would have made up more than half the country since the start of the 20th century. But legislators from that party (those who last worked in blue-collar jobs before entering politics) would never have held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress.That disparity has huge consequences. It's very hard to have a government that isn't for the rich, when that government is both of and by the rich.
Frank Bruni shows that, if you ever had any doubt, Michelle Bachmann doesn't care who she hurts.
Helen was at Michele’s wedding to Marcus Bachmann and got to know him. And Michele got to know Nia, the woman who has been Helen’s partner for almost 25 years.Helen wrote her stepsister about her shock over the things Bachmann was saying, and the political steps she was taking. Bachmann did not reply.
Helen never had a conversation about her sexual orientation with Michele and knew that Michele’s evangelical Christianity was deeply felt. Still she couldn’t believe it when, about a decade ago, Michele began to use her position as a state senator in Minnesota to call out gays and lesbians as sick and evil and to push for an amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would prohibit same-sex marriage: precisely the kind of amendment that Minnesotans will vote on in a referendum on Election Day.
“It felt so divorced from having known me, from having known somebody who’s gay,” said Helen, a soft-spoken woman with a gentle air. “I was just stunned.”
When Michele spoke at a State Senate hearing in 2006 about her desire for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, Helen showed up...
“I wasn’t looking to make a public statement,” she told me. “I just thought: I’m going to go there and sit there so she has to look at me. So she has to look at Nia. I wanted her to see: this is who you’re doing this to. It’s not some anonymous group of people. It’s not scary people. It’s me. It’s Nia.” She paused, because she’d begun to sob.
Kathleen Parker didn't like Joe Biden's smile and assumes, because she clearly read no polls, that everyone else hated it too.
George Will has a title that almost makes me think his column could be worth reading. I am not falling for it.
Jules Witcover wonders if last week's debate could be a preview of 2016.
As Biden approaches his 70th birthday in November, one hears talk — certainly not discouraged by him — of a third presidential try in 2016. At 73, he would be one of the oldest Americans to seek his country’s highest office, surpassing Reagan’s 69 in 1980 and equaling Reagan’s age at reelection.Biden vs. Clinton for the Democratic nod in 2016? That would be a fun match up.
Most people would argue that there should be few limits on free speech, and Daily Kos has long supported the idea that the ability to post anonymously is an important part of maintaining a free flow of ideas online. In my own time on DK, I know that I expressed ideas that might have been costly to myself and my family when posting under a pseudonym, and since deciding to "out" myself, I've also self-censored to a degree that makes me more than a little ashamed. I was braver, on topics that really matter, when I faced less chance of personal consequence. But should there be limits on what you can say anonymously? Gawker has outed one of the most notorious users of Reddit, a man who many regarded as a friend and mentor, but who also started a group for praising Hitler and another group dedicated to posting images of dead teenage girls. Is there a point where anonymity becomes a weapon?
If you didn't watch last week's Vi Hart video, you missed out. Don't miss this one.