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In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.
.   So begin this New York Times op ed by Nicholas Kristof.  He starts with this imagery, explaining why increasingly those well-off are turning to such generators after a series of failures of our aging electric grid.  Such systems can cost over $10,000, but he is a bit less critical after his family lost power for 12 days after Sandy.  More than 3% of homes worth more than $100,000 now have such generators.

But this image serves as an exemplar, or perhaps a metaphor, for how those with means are responding the real failure.  The main producer of such systems has seen business boom, to which Kristof responds:

That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.
 Rather than the wealthy each having such a system it would be more efficient to simply fix the electrical grid to make it more stable.  Or, as Kristof puts it more directly:
But our political system is dysfunctional: in addressing income inequality, in confronting climate change and in maintaining national infrastructure.

Kristof provides evidence of the persistence of this pattern, for example, that the World Economic Forum has downgraded its rating of our infrastructure from 8th in the world (which I might note is, given our wealth, itself an embarrassment) in 2003-2004 to a current rating of 25th.

Kristof provides multiple examples of how the decline of public services sees an accompanying rise of parallel private workarounds for those who can afford them.  Thus

Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to a gated community with private security guards!

Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces for a mere $40,000 per child per year.

There are several more examples.

Kristof makes a comparison that should shock the national conscience -  such discrepancies between the public sector and what the wealthy can afford is something he expects to see in developing countries with their armed private compounds, and ties the attitude that leads to this pattern to Mitt Romney's disregard for PBS.

We see this pattern clearly in education.

We see it in the rise of privatized prisons, in the explosion of private security guard services.

And as Kristof notes, we certainly confront it as we face how we will address the so-called "fiscal cliff" with some wanting to cut the social safety net and even more public services in order to retain or even lower tax rates, but he wonders

if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.
Kristof will remind you of how much tax rates have been cut - on the wealthy, on corporations, on capital gains.   This data is familiar to anyone who regularly reads what is posted on this site. Those who do will already know that we did far better financially as a nation when the rates were higher, and thus we were able to provide services, to finance the public good, the Commons as it were.

We now have the disparity in tax rates which leads to the idea of the Buffett rule, that a millionaire should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.  that we should recognize that our experiment in cutting taxes has lead to a devastating increase in the concentration of wealth in the hands of the already wealthy very few.

Let me stray from Kristof for a few moments.

What has been happening economically, with the loss of public services that follows the starving of governments of the revenue necessary to operate, with the unfair tax code allowing some to accrue needless wealth at the expense of the many and then to complain about people who do not pay income taxes -  when these seem wealthy seek to depress wages and cut the safety net that enables people to stay out of or rise from poverty  - threatens the very existence of our democratic public.

I now teach in a school of very much at risk children, in the poorest part of the District of Columbia. The schools cannot make up for how far behind these children start, in large part because of the economic disparity in our nation.

I have volunteered in free medical and dental clinics in the Appalachian Mountains, where people have low income, often no jobs, and rarely regular health and dental care.

At the same time I have to hear the likes of the Republican Presidential candidate, who has never in his life known want, complain about taxes not paid by the poor, describe the receiving of government benefits as "gifts" and justify his paying an effective tax rate lower than that of our household, and even, if one includes all taxation -  payroll and sales taxes, for example - of some of those he effectively considers freeloaders.  

The fact is the corporate elite are the real freeloaders.  They use their wealth and power to shape policy and politics.  We hear John Schnatter complaining about 11-14 cents per pizza at Papa John's, we see Walmart cut employee hours below 30 so that they do not have to provide health insurance.  Then they complain about those in the poverty they are responsible for maintaining and increasing by closing off those mechanisms of support that could make difference.  They don't want to live near "those people" or have their offspring attend school with "those children."  Often that means people of color.  It also includes those demeaned as 'hillbillies" who oh by the way happen to be Caucasian, but they are not "dissed" directly because the elite depend on being able to foment their hatred and fear of people of color - and often of education and culture - in order to maintain political control.  Lest you dismiss the fear and hatred of education and culture, remember Rick Santorum dismissing President Obama's desire to enable every child to attend college as "elitist."  

Some of our problems began under Democratic administrations -  remember that the deregulation of airlines was the brainchild of Alfred Kahn of Cornell University, who served under Jimmy Carter.  And even before Reagan assumed the presidency we had been hearing argument against the progressivity of the tax system and that taxing corporate profits and inherited wealth represented an unfair double taxation.  Simultaneously the same voices would argue for treating their income and their 'expenses" in more favorable ways than those available to the ordinary folks who make up the vast majority of our population.  Our pattern of again and again lowering tax rates at the top end dates back at least to the 1960s.

We can now look at more than 5 decades of a policy agenda that has lead to the increasing economic disparities with which we now live, the crumbling infrastructure we have not maintained, the dismantling of parts of the social safety net, and the concomitant reduction of justice and democracy as the wealth concentrated in ever fewer hands, human and corporate, distort our politics as well as our economics.

Instead we have those who can afford it hiring private security guards to provide protection police cannot offer many of the rest of us, building private clubs in lieu of public recreation facilities so they do not have to concern themselves with the well-being of those "other people."  

And yes, rather than insist on functioning infrastructure buying whole house generators.

This has been the experiment of the past few decades.

I will let Kristof finish the thought, as he finishes his column:

Not even the hum of the most powerful private generator can disguise the failure of that long experiment.

Originally posted to teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 04:09 AM PST.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 04:09:14 AM PST

  •  Standby Generators don't have to be 10k either (37+ / 0-)

    For most normal sized homes a $2000 10,000 watt system would do the trick. For basic uses even a $400 portable running on gas would be more than sufficient.

  •  Nothing like having no electricity (42+ / 0-)

    for two weeks to focus the mind.  The US had 11 $billion+ disasters in 2011 and how many more in 2012?  Sooner or later it will dawn on the collective "us" that it's going to be far more expensive to deny/delay the aging infrastructure and climate change than to actually start implementing a new fossil free state.  

    •  failure (31+ / 0-)

      The American Dream--its exceptionalism--has always been a failure.  Socially, we've never come together as one people.  Economically, we had abundant resources, no enemies, yet oppressed people.  Infrastructure doesn't win many votes, so, except for Eisenhower and FDR,is  never pushed by government.
      Our democracy is akin to our capitalism--and akin to rich kid's schools-- comes with success built in.  Capitalism demands profits, not ethics.  Democracy here demands votes, not ethics.  It's style over substance.  Romney did get almost half the voters to choose him.  Americans shop the stores that abuse workers and buy goods from abusive manufacturers.
      Stop the world, I want to get off.  It's a sad commentary when Europe has better social safety nets and better infrastructure.  We're a country that has squandered all its advantages to satisfy the elites.

      Apres Bush, le deluge.

      by melvynny on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:52:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it is more than just exceptionalism (21+ / 0-)

        we had the idea of the frontier, that one could go to and recreate yourself.  Frederick Jackson Turner argued that it disappeared in 1890, except we kept finding new frontiers, some economic through new technologies.

        we had a myth of inexhaustible resources.  I can remember being taught in elementary school in the 1950s that the bounty of the sea was inexhaustible.  Perhaps it could have been prior to drift nets and destroying tons of "trash" fish that turned out to be essential to the ecosystem.

        We should have known better from our own history.  After all, we had so destroyed the original forests that we had to set aside large tracts as national forests in order to have a reliable supply of wood -  remember, the national forests are part of the Dept. of Agriculture, because trees are crops.

        Pure free-market capitalism has never existed in this country, except on very small scale in remote locations.  The mere existence of patents and copyrights restricts entry into markets, and the ability of some corporations to protect their interests by predatory pricing and restrictive tariffs has never served to benefit the large mass of consumers.

        The idea of the invisible hand of the market presumes perfect information by all players, and trade secrets and the doctrine of Caveat emptor is contrary to such perfect information.

        Regulated capitalism, social democracy, progressive taxation - these lead to healthier economies, less boom and bust, and happier populations.

        Too bad we have not in our American arrogance learned that.

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:00:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And here I go bringing race into it again - (14+ / 0-)

        in the comment section to the Kristoff piece, a reader talks about Switzerland and how it's high taxes are accepted as the price and benefits of citizenship - great schools and infrastructure, clean environment, etc.  I couldn't help but think that in a homogeneous society, people are more willing to spread the wealth and resources of the society.  Here in the US, diversity is both a blessing and curse.  People here do not necessarily want to spread the benefits to those who look different than they do.  I believe this to be at the root of many of our issues of inequality.

        •  no other reason (7+ / 0-)

          Racism is the Southern strategy--without which the Republicans would need to be sane.

          Apres Bush, le deluge.

          by melvynny on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:39:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Switzerland isn't that homogeneous (6+ / 0-)

          The Helvetic Confederation has multiple official languages, reflecting its population.  A majority speaks German.  Many in the west (the Geneva area) speak French.  In the southern Alps, Italian is spoken.  And a few villages speak their own language, Romansch.  The country is a crossroads of international commerce and they respect foreigners.  So everybody speaks multiple languages, often including English.

          Now when you leave the Geneva airport in the other direction (it straddles the French border), you speak French or else...

        •  Greed, selfishness, racism. (4+ / 0-)

          The GOP gravitational force a.k.a and disguised by the deceptive moniker 'conservatism'.

          The bottom line strategy: We have to make people embarrassed to be associated with the modern Republican Party and conservatism in general.

          They did it effectively to the Democratic Party by giving liberalism a bad reputation and making people embarrassed to call themselves liberal for the past 30 years and compatitively speaking, since they've had their way, they've managed to completely wreck the country.

          Now it's our turn and we have plenty of factual examples of how the republicans hiding behind the conservative cloak have failed miserably to the point of putting us all in danger on mutliple fronts.

          They've corrupted government so as to drive billions and billions of dollars into their own pockets while at the same time cut taxes on themselves and tried everything they could to divert what money the government could scrounge from going to help the poorest among us becuase of their complexion.

          We have to coldly recognize their motivations and call them on it each and every time.

          Vote Tea Party Taliban! Bring the Burqa to America.

          by Pescadero Bill on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 09:58:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Regardless, a society can stratify even if (0+ / 0-)

          everybody is of the same race.  For example, England pre-industrial.

  •  Hoarding money is not a taxable enterprise. (34+ / 0-)

    So, I, for one, am not certain that raising or lowering the rate of taxes on money that isn't taxed is going to effect anything.
    Also, fact is, if every household had enough money to pey for all necessary goods and services, it wouldn't be necessary to provide supplements. Surely, employers who pay less than subsistence wages know that. They also know that they owe no tax on money paid out in wages. So, why do they stint their workers? The answer is simple. People in power, or people who lust for power, rightly perceive an inverse relationship between power and pay. The more they have to pay a person for his/her labor, the less power they have over that person and, conversely, the more pay an individual can exact, the more power that person has. People have fallen into the habit of accumulating and hoarding money because they are convinced it makes them powerful.
    That is why when, for example, thousands of poor people who have had taxes withheld from their pay and are entitled to a refund but don't bother to file and collect it, are an almost insufferable insult to our moneyed elite. How can they be so disdainful of money when it is the very essence of a person's significance? How dare OWS give food away for free, right there I'm the heart of Wall Street? How dare people thumb their nose at a bigger paycheck and teach a bunch of ragamuffins for next to nothing?

    We are in the mess we are because we have allowed people who find their significance in accumulating dollars decide how the country should be run. Might as well leave the planting of oaks to squirrels. The acorns may sprout in a stash, but they won't thrive and grow into trees.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 04:35:14 AM PST

      •  What we need is to educate people to the fact (9+ / 0-)

        that money is worthless, a measuring tool and a tangible symbol of our transactions. As a tangible symbol, the dollar differs little from the marks the inventors of writing cut into stone or traced on papyrus with inks. While it may seem that, if money is worthless, nobody would be wanting to hoard it, we should remember that reading and writing skills were also reserved to a select population at one time -- the scribes. Then, only a century and a half ago, there was a legal prohibition against teaching some people to read and write and even today, 30% of American adults are illiterate.
        Why would that be tolerated? Because ignorant people are easier to control than people who know what's up and who's trying to trick them out of what.
        Although most humans are able to share and provide mutual support through trade and exchange, some are restricted to the predatory or parasitic mode. These latter survive by taking what they need to survive and more, as long as they can get away with it. Of course, when we call a halt to the thievery and put them away in prisons, the incompetents do end up being sustained for life. Perhaps it would be less trouble to look out for the incompetents from the get-go and save us the trouble of dealing with thievery after the fact.

        We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:23:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  while I agree.. (0+ / 0-)

          with your statement that money is worthless; just a measuring tool and is only worth the value of the paper with marks on it, the thought "Well just send me all your worthless paper with marks on it then". is a hard thought to dismiss.  
          I'll be playing the Powerball lottery this weekend.

          •  money is a commodity (0+ / 0-)

            albeit of a special kind; & i think usually it bears some relationship to the value of the commodities it can be exchanged for, although it can lose that relationship, too. i don't think the mere existence of money as such is the problem, since as long as commodities will need to be exchanged in some form more complex than barter, we will need something like money.

            i'd say the existence of money doesn't explain its unequal concentration and distribution.

            Human reason is beautiful and invincible --Milosz, Incantation

            by juancito on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:05:49 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  But isn't poverty like winning the lottery? (21+ / 0-)

    Don't the poor get all those 'gifts' Rmoney was talking about? And, although god loves poor people, see how many he's created, the rich love them even more... to clean their houses, trim their grass, and to stimulate the businesses that allow the rich to create buffers to insulate themselves from the debris of society.
    Let them eat cake, they all have tv's and refrigerators, and criminal records and no hope of ever being a part of the American dream. I guess that's what makes the rich think of themselves as god-like, their stinginess is the basis for ever more poor, impoverished, and hopelessness that they can then wall off from their own lives.

  •  and there's the nasty income inequality .... (35+ / 0-)
    ...Viewed comparatively, U.S. income inequality is even worse than you might expect. Perfect comparisons across the world's hundred-plus economies would be impossible -- standards of living, the price of staples, social services, and other variables all mean that relative poverty feels very different from one country to another. But, in absolute terms, the gulf between rich and poor is still telling. Income inequality can be measured and compared using something called the Gini coefficient, a century-old formula that measures national economies on a scale from 0.00 to 0.50, with 0.50 being the most unequal. The Gini coefficient is reliable enough that the CIA world factbook uses it......
    ...The U.S., in purple with a Gini coefficient of 0.450, ranks near the extreme end of the inequality scale. Looking for the other countries marked in purple gives you a quick sense of countries with comparable income inequality, and it's an unflattering list: Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Ecuador. A number are currently embroiled in or just emerging from deeply destabilizing conflicts, some of them linked to income inequality: Mexico, Côte d'Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Serbia.....
    https://www.cia.gov/...

    http://www.theatlantic.com/...

    we can't allow the GOP to win on revenue - Bush tax cuts for rich must go

  •  you know it's funny (30+ / 0-)

    but not in a 'ha ha' way because I've been in both worlds. My family is middle class, I come from a family of cops and my mom never even went to college. Thanks to the sacerfices of my parents, I'm college educated and thanks to some luck, hard work and a helping attended one of the best high schools in my city. I also attended a really good college not ivy league but top 50 in the US.  And maybe one day if I continue in industry I will almost certainly make more then my parents do and far sooner.

    To achieve this I've worked since I was 14 either at school or in min wage jobs. I've been around the wealthy (but not uber wealthy) and been around the poorest of the poor.

    I can't really understand many of the rich people I've been around. It just seems like they simply can't understand. I get taxes are not fun but they're a shared sacrifice. And maybe that's the problem, too many rich people have no idea or concept of sacrifice. I've known at least one kid that went though 3 SUVs in high school in under a year and kept getting a new one.

    I am not really shy or tactful and have had more then one conversion with several of my friends who well I'm not sure how 'rich' they are but they're far better off then I am and more then once I've told them 'give me a million dollars even just once and I have no problem giving half of it to the government'.

    Anyways I don't know and I'm rambling a bit, it's just so frustrating

    •  "shared sacrifice" drives me crazy... (19+ / 0-)
      I get taxes are not fun but they're a shared sacrifice. And maybe that's the problem, too many rich people have no idea or concept of sacrifice.
      I agree with most of what you say, but the term "shared sacrifice" is not a helpful meme, and Democrats ought to stop using it.

      Nobody should think of taxes as a sacrifice.
      They are an INVESTMENT.

      We have seen what has happened to this country in the last 30+ years as revenue has been purposefully decreased...we are desperate for increased investment in human capital, infrastructure, climate change issues, etc.

      Calling increased taxes a sacrifice appeals to an altruism that doesn't exist in Republican policymakers. It implies choice. If someone owes something, it is not a sacrifice -- it is a debt to be paid.

      Taxes are our dues, to be paid on a sliding scale, like many organizations organize their revenue collection. They should be paid willingly because they make our nation stronger, and better.

      If you would not trade places with the person who has less than you, who is struggling, who is suffering from physical, mental, emotional conditions or limitations -- the "moocher" you decry -- then you should never begrudge the small amount our government wants to take from you to give to that person.

      It won't make that person rich like you -- but it might fill his belly, keep him warm, help him learn, give him hope.

      "I think in America, the opposite of poverty is justice." Bryan Stevenson

      by gfre on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:18:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Understanding economics, politics and law (27+ / 0-)

    The real world problems described in this diary and the original article by Kristoff, these problems, or issues, are interconnected.  Given the totally inadequate treatment of reality from the corporate media, our "citizens" have a great difficulty understanding what is going on and what to do about it.

    I am recommending a book for a general reader that should be a must read for citizens.

     The author is an emeritus professor of government with a Ph. D. in classics. This book provides a way for the general reader to understand the economic system; it is a book on political economics. Its strength and uniqueness is through the use of government statistics to provide the data for the policy argument. It is the first time that I have understood the economy. The slightly technical material is covered in the insightful Appendix. The book agent said that it is the best book she has read in 35 years.

    My hunch is that if citizens knew what is in this book, they could actually understand enough of the economy and government policies to be enraged that the 1% and the corporations have taken over the government. This requires a citizen uprising strong enough to stand up to the power elite. Since both parties have rigged the numbers, it would be hard for some organizations, say labor unions, to endorse a book like this because they have to keep their place at the table with the Democratic Party.

    I have a dream about the book being used in a wide spread grass roots educational effort. After people understood the book, they would be ready for more advanced studies like yours. As the author points out, democracy is about power, not freedom.

    In the words of the author:
     

    "Americans have been kept in the dark about the real state of the economy. The government has rigged its economic statistics to hide declining wages, high unemployment, high inflation, and near zero GDP growth. By making loans cheap during the Clinton and Bush presidencies, Americans were able to borrow to keep their heads above water. The era of easy credit ended with the financial collapse of 2008. Since then, Americans have discovered how bad things have really become.
    How could our leaders let this happen? They did so knowingly, but for what they believed was a greater purpose. Since Truman, presidents have sacrificed our economy first to win the Cold War and then, after the fall of the Soviet Union, to prop up a military empire. Our presidents have slept peacefully as Americans suffered, for they believed they acted for a higher purpose.
    The solution for this mess is not radical. It is a return to policies that worked in the past. By reviving the 1944 tax code, and bringing back the protectionist trade policies that made our workers the highest paid in the world, we can return to prosperity."

    The author of the book is Keith Qunicy. "Worse Than You Think: The Real Economy Hidden Beneath Washington's Rigged Statistics, And where To Go From Here." The book is available from amazon.com at about $15 or in a Kindle edition for 99 cents because the author wants to get the word out.

    The book is easy to read but profound because it covers areas clearly that have never been laid out this way before.

    •  Sounds good. (6+ / 0-)

      The author sounds interesting as well.
      I think this is something all of us have suspected, when two workers brought in what one did before, our kids schools were much worse off than when we attended, and when the government began to say 'inflation is low "excluding the volatile food and energy markets"'.
      I had a friend who was a prominent banker and member of the fed who told me, when I asked about this, that computers and electronic appliances were getting ever cheaper, so things balanced out. Obviously he equated technology with dinner. However, a lot of us can't eat iPads and we're going hungry.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:49:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  law not being used to reign in fraud (16+ / 0-)

        laws have been changed so the banksters who brought down the world economy in 2008 are out and doing the same stuff. The laws have been changed so even the 1980's seem like ancient history.

        William K. Black thinks President Obama didn't acknowledge a key component in the financial crisis that the bills before Congress won't address — fraud. A former regulator who helped crack down on massive fraud during the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s, Black tells Bill Moyers on THE JOURNAL that, despite evidence of fraud at the top banks, prosecutions seem far away. "If you go back to the savings and loan debacle, we got more than a thousand felony convictions of the elite. These are not, you know, tellers or something. We today have zero convictions, zero indictments, zero arrests of any of the elite, non-prime lenders that, through their fraud, drove this crisis."
        link to Bill Moyers piece

        http://www.pbs.org/...

        The book "Worse Than You Think" contains many other areas where the numbers were rigged so we thought things were better than they are. One needs a framework of the whole economic system to understand and better know what actions to take.

        •  It's "REIN in" (0+ / 0-)

          Not "Reign in" -- You use the reins to stop the galloping horse,   or metaphorically fraud.

          To quote Milton: "I'd rather reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

          Reign means "to rule over" and while you might put a stop to things by doing so, it does not mean what "rein in" means.

    •  "Protectionism" gets a bad rap (7+ / 0-)

      The Financial Elites deride it as "inefficient" and economically irrational, among other things. It is the fig leaf behind which they hid their disdain for owning and taking sufficient responsibility for the impact of various externalities on every government entity that they might otherwise be subject to.

      And yet it is exactly what drives most of the TEAactivists with whom I come into regular contact: they want their existence "as is" unconditionally protected and they measure that by how bad off those they deem "undeserving are." And the Financial Elites happy enlist their short-sightedness as political storm troopers. As Jay Gould infamously quipped back in a previous Guilded Age, "I can hire one-half the working class to kill the other half." Actually, he overestimated the expense. I suspect as few as 1% - a different, far less moneyed 1% - of us can hold the rest of us effectively hostage in that regard.

      Admittedly my perspective is limited, but from what I've seen from observing "my sample universe" up close and the track record their like-minded fellows have put up over the last few years, it seems to hold water. Something I was told  very early on in my political consciousness seems to hold true: reactionary conservatives, whatever label they desire to wear, tend to believe that "rights" are very scarce, if not absolutely finite. Allowing legislation such as the "DREAM" Act to draw from that "limited pool of rights" automatically curtails and diminishes their rights.

      Or something.

      Of course, the current fad of legislation conferring "rights" to the unborn seems to be counter-intuitive to such a belief. But logic consistency has never been a touchstone of anyone's politics, mine admittedly included.

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:35:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  bingo (12+ / 0-)

      I have, for years, tried to get through to people here at dkos and anywhere that trade policy is a key factor in the decline of job numbers and job quality in the US.  For 20 years, media and politicians and their vast array of pundits have drilled into peoples' head that 'free trade' is 'good' and other nonsense.

      Here are 55 reasons why it is not a good thing (and never has been):

      http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/...

      But the masses have been deluded by economic propaganda that is pervasive and going on for over 20 years.  I get shit for even mentioning something that used to be common knowledge about trade policy that balanced trade policy is the only viable policy (most commonly the ad hominem attacks are with zero valid arguments ... a tell tale sign of brainwashing) .

      " It's not what you don't know that kills you, it's what you know for sure that ain't true." - Mark Twain

      "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance." -James Madison

      by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:39:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nixon import tarriffs amazing economy improvement (5+ / 0-)

        US was always a protectionist nation until Roosevelt loosened up tariffs.

        Nixon slapped a tariff on imports, 10%. It gave our trading partners a sour sip of their own medicine. Suddenly Germany sold 30% less to America. Germany lost jobs. So did other European nations. They were selling much less to America.  

        Our tired economy perked up. Export sales jumped 10%. The next year they were up 33%. The GDP growth went from 3.2% to 7.3% in only 6 months. In another three months it was closer to 10%. Less than a year later, it was almost 11%. Nixon had turned things around. Or so it seemed.

        page 224 to 225 "Worse Than You Think" by Keith Quincy.

        Then Nixon's troubles began and he abandoned this approach.

        US is the only empire in history to give away their markets to maintain their position. Foreigners now own 20% of our country and their percentage is growing. Some will see the good news in their investment, but then corporate profits go outside the country. Another financial game rather than running good companies and having good jobs.

    •  Downloaded to kindle (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leap Year, teacherken

      Thank you.

      Quote referenced in the book:

      The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the necessary effect, so it is the natural symptom of increasing national wealth. The scanty maintenance of the labouring poor, on the other hand, is the natural symptom that things are at a stand, and their starving condition that they are going fast backwards.
      Adam Smith ~ An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations ~ Book 1, Chapter 8
      Of the Wages of Labour

      Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

      by Just Bob on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:42:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for this! (0+ / 0-)

      I just downloaded the Kindle edition.

  •  The same people who pay for those $10,000 (14+ / 0-)

    generators and $40,000 private schools and private security guards etc.. are unwilling to pay a bit more in taxes which would eliminate the necessity for those other expenses.

    I can see Canada from my house. No, really, I can.

    by DuzT on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:12:30 AM PST

    •  We bought a generator last year (18+ / 0-)

      ....after the October blizzard of 2011 lost us power for 10 days.  It was the 6th power outage in our neighborhood that year, and we saw the writing on the wall.

      A friend of mine who lives on Cape Cod (definitely middle/working class, by the way) said, "You mean you don't have a generator?  There's only one power line that runs to the outer Cape.  We have to have them here."

      Two of our neighbors in the same boat all got together, priced generators, and approached a company with the goal of getting a 'bulk' deal - they could install three whole home generators in one day if they gave us a sweet enough deal.  Thus we were able to purchase and install one for $7500.

      It was a Godsend during Sandy...our neighborhood was the last in town to get power restored 12 days later.

      We live on the edge of some woods.  In our town, which was hit hard during Sandy, all the power lines are above ground and entangled with trees.  It's a bad plan...moving the powerlines underground would be a huge improvement.  

      Back during the Bush years, I worked with a man who did security consulting for Capitol Hill.  He introduced me to some people who were at the forefront of the infrastructure issue, which was being looked at critically for the first time after 911.  Basically, it was a mess, and it would take very little for a terrorist organization to shut down portions of it and disable huge swaths of the US.  This was around 2002.

      Apparently it hasn't improved much since then.

      "The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion." - Bodhidharma

      by hopesprings on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:44:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What happens..... (24+ / 0-)

    ....when the fuel that these generators  run on doesn't get delivered on the crappy roads that we haven't been fixing for the last 30 years of tax fantasies?

    Here in Michigan, the Republicans under Gov. Engler diverted fuel taxes to pay for tax cuts for the rich.  We now have most rural and suburban secondary roads in third world condition.  Idiots.

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:22:40 AM PST

    •  A serious question (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ed in Montana, Egalitare, defluxion10

      I looked into generators not just as backup, but for permanent use at my place in the mountains due to the general unreliability of grid power up there and the costs of dealing with Code for a small retreat.  One of the things that eventually made me get hooked up to the grid anyway was consideration for long-term sustainability of ANY electric system I could put in.  Batteries for solar systems have to be maintained and have a maximum lifetime of five years.  Generators have to be fed, and that would mean fuel storage.  For remote areas with decaying infrastructure, the only sustainable energy systems are those that don't depend on road maintenance, and when they decide to stop maintaining roads in my neighborhood, we'll be down to mule teams within a month.

      •  Nickel–iron batteries might last 100 years (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        defluxion10

        Recently someone collected as many of Edison's original batteries as he could find. The average age was 85 years. Some were still in use when he found them. He re-conditioned those batteries and they worked with some allowance for aging.

        There are some caveats. You should consider properly sizing your battery stack. Although Ni-Fe batteries will withstand deep discharge, it affects battery life. With a 20% discharge cycle they're rated for 23 years. At a 100% discharge cycle they might not last for 3 years.

        They do require an electrolyte replacement at 7 to 10 year intervals depending on depth of discharge. The good news is that the potassium electrolyte is nontoxic and can be recycled as fertilizer.

        http://www.battcon.com/...

        Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

        by Just Bob on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:40:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for this (0+ / 0-)

          I just checked my comment stream and saw  your reply -- sorry I'm too late to rec it.  Info I had read on currently-used batteries had convinced me that the gel-pack type were the only practical kind for solar applications, but I'm definitely going to read this article all the way through.  The durability of these things is impressive!

      •  Go solar! No fuel needed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW
        Generators have to be fed, and that would mean fuel storage.  For remote areas with decaying infrastructure, the only sustainable energy systems are those that don't depend on road maintenance....

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 05:32:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm with you Ken (11+ / 0-)

    but i will say this; I've lived in central NJ for the past 50 years; never have i required a generator. Until the two big winters of 09-10 and 11-12, the latter of which threatened a catastrophic ice storm after a run of impossible blizzards. We did not need the generator that winter and it sat on my back porch,,,until Irene, Power out for days. No problem I told my kids, both my own and my students ( i am now doing direct counseling as opposed to paperwork ) these storms are rare. And then in October of the same year, a freak snowstorm brought down more trees, and I had to break out the generator yet again. This time even more power outages resulted. It then did not snow for the rest of the winter, maintaining a freakish 50 degree winter, with dandelions blooming in Feb. But I didn't need the generator and put it back in the shed, where it collected dust and mouse droppings. A month ago or so, i decided to fire it up to see if it still worked. What's the chances i'd need it again? And then Sandy, another freak Hurricane, one that wasn't supposed to happen, a storm that defied the odds; the hurricane equivalent of the California big one; the storm that just may propel the vile Chris Christie to the White House ( but i digress ) because he cried when the Boss gave him a hug, but whatever. A week later, we had another freak snowstorm, with Freehold NJ getting 13 inches. Think about it. Baltimore with two impossible back to back blizzards in 2010, parts of the area had some 50 inches onthe ground. More like Anchorage than Baltimore, which averages what, 17 inches in a normal year?. And a hurricane phasing with a cold front, blocked from moving out to sea by an offshore rex block and a kink in the jet stream? The facts before us are obvious; something is going on with the climate. And I am looking at spending the bucks for a back up generator that runs on natural gas. What's next? An earthquake?Oh, wait a minute....anyway, you can convert a standard gasoline generator to natural gas rather easily if you are the least bit mechanical, and there are kits available online. Happy Thanksgiving, and in NJ many of us are happy to have a home still standing because just minutes from me people in Staten Island and Union Beach NJ have no place to go.

    •  I measured 48" during Snowmageddon (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ed in Montana, MKinTN, StrayCat, Just Bob

      which means it was more, because when you get wetter snow - and this was wet - it compresses fairly quickly.

      In most snowfalls, I can keep the public sidewalks along both sides of our property clear by going out and shovelling ever few hours.  Not this time.

      Fortunately one person in the neighborhood has a snow rake which we passed around, or we might have had some collapsed roofs.   The main part of my house has a fairly steep pitch on the roof, so I knew snow would slide off pretty much by itself, but the annex where I am sitting has a shallow slope, and I had to rake off 4 feet of snow to keep it from collapsing.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:10:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And at the time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat

        meteorologists said you shouldn't get back to back blizzards; that the atmosphere should relax a bit, lie a rubber band that has been stretched and snapped. The reason the first blizzard on Feb 6 2010 dumped so much in the mid Atlantic was that it could not move north like most storms, due to an offshore polar vortex,a block. Sound familiar? As a result theonly part of NYC that got snow was the south shore of Staten island, which got around 7 inches.As you moved down the NJ turnpike the snow increased until you got to Camden,which had two feet...it was the first time Philly and NYC had such wide divergence in a big storm, with Manhattan getting nothing. We got the other storm 3 days later, and the "Snowicaine" which spared the mid Atlantic, and perversely, New England, which got flooding rains while we got snow....another anomaly. Two weks later brought a rainswept noreaster that downed trees all over the place. There's a pattern here of anomalous storms...also weather geeks have pointed out that we don't get average winters anymore; we either get dumped on or we get nothing. They've got the stats to back that up. By the way I meant winter of 10-11 not 11-12.

    •  . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftangler, maryabein, Just Bob

      I just want to mention the possibility that since so much de-industrialization of the US has occurred and shifted to China and asia in general (where corporations are free to pollute as much as they want), that the jet stream has probably shifted and can be causing all the changed weather patterns and freakishness.   I know people (US persons) who worked in China for a few years and had to quit their jobs finding work back in the US with another employer JUST so they could protect the health of their families.  They couldn't take it anymore.

      "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance." -James Madison

      by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:49:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The northern jet stream (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Just Bob

        has probably been more affected by the arctic ice melt than moving manufacturing to China.  However the air quality there is quite bad, esp. in the cities.  My daughter and her family lived two years in Beijing and said just living there was the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes daily.  

        •  That's right. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JeffW
          Enhanced warming of the Arctic affects the jet stream by slowing its west-to-east winds and by promoting larger north-south meanders in the flow. Predicting those meanders and where the weather associated with them will be located in any given year, however, remains a challenge.
          Read more here:  http://thinkprogress.org/...

          Renewable energy brings national global security.     

          by Calamity Jean on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 06:36:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Well written TK (19+ / 0-)

    Rachel Maddow has often mention this trend as well, especially as it applies to infrastructure funding. Rachel showed that roughly every 15 years in the Untied States since the Great Depression, the country would mount a major effort to rebuild and revitalize our nation's  infrastructure, from roads and schools to parks.  Until the 1980s, when Ronnie Raygun derailed such efforts with tax cuts for the wealthy and pronouncements that "government was the problem" and not the solution.

    Americans have forgotten how we used to maintain and enhance basic services throughout our country as a matter of course and not accept a decaying infrastructure as the new normal.

    "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

    by Ed in Montana on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:50:50 AM PST

  •  Feature Not Bug (13+ / 0-)

    Ownership sees the same math we do. They looked ahead long ago at the looming bottlenecks and decided the only way they could get through them in style was to make sure the rest of us could not. Their policies and behaviors these last decades are more consistent with survivalism than mere greed.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:57:12 AM PST

  •  Major problem with this (0+ / 0-)

    The electric infrastructure is entirely private. The lack of govermental support (which is a problem for roads) is not why the electric grid is getting out of date. Rather, the problem has more to do with people actively and aggressively preventing utilities from building more high voltage transmission lines.

    Science attempts to answer WHAT. Religion contemplates WHY. Politics settles for WHO CARES.

    by nuketeacher on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:05:57 AM PST

    •  actually it's not entirely private (6+ / 0-)

      there are some municipal systems and some of the others are cooperative, which means they function quite differently than do private for-profit

      but we used to have a mentality that public utilities needed to be heavily regulated since they were natural monopolies -  only one set of wires or pipes running to your house.  Now there may be one set but the provider of the power or gas might not be the one who owns the infrastructure, so there is still a monopoly on much of the infrastructure, thus lacking a competitive market strict regulation should be applied.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:14:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just watch out if you live in a Sandy area. (5+ / 0-)

        I guarantee you your electrical utilities will be hitting you up for rate increases to improve "reliability" once the smoke clears.

        And little of the extra money they get will actually go to improve reliability.

        Show us your tax returns !!!!!!

        by Bush Bites on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:26:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  We have a for-profit electrical system in Chicago. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pelagicray, lostinamerica

        And they're all crooks.

        I can see why the infrastructure is so bad.....you can't trust the private utilities to actually invest their money into the system, so you wind up fighting every rate increase.

        Rahm is trying to set up a system where the city will buy electricity on the market, but we'll still have to go through the same privately owned infrastructure.

        Selling the utilities to private companies is the root of the problem.

        Show us your tax returns !!!!!!

        by Bush Bites on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:33:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  In my area the delivery systems were shorted (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        juancito

        while executive pay was the opposite. The delivery system was being starved in favor of dividends for investors and executive perks and pay. Deregulation of the delivery system was a disaster as they are as compulsory monopolies as cats are compulsory predators. Dozens of companies cannot run feed lines to every house. While one could "buy power" from anywhere the delivery system was fixed and the old local utility did not keep up with near explosive growth or normal wear and tear.

        Within a few years of deregulation I began seeing power go out on perfectly clear, windless days. We would have failures, sometimes less than a minute but enough to require clock resetting and damage equipment, about weekly. I began commenting that I knew second world countries with better reliability.

        The power company had gone from reliability to scam. I began noticing our local utility began advertising in its billing whole home automatic generators. Talk about conflict of interest! "We won't deliver your power as expected so buy this $7,000 system" was the message. At every failure where there was a public outcry they blamed "the trees." Some independent experts noted that there were repeated points of failure due to aging systems, overloaded systems and failure to mitigate risks to the system all related to cost cutting while profits and pay were not.

        Meanwhile the weak regulators granted rate increases to "pay for improvements" that should have been part of normal operations. The utilities shorted maintenance for years diverting funding into pockets. Now they get paid to make up? Time to start penalizing politicians for rate commission appointments or, if elected, the commissions themselves. Time to start penalizing the companies. No system is perfect so you get some free failures. Repeated failures and maybe customers get two weeks prorated free service for every day they are out--and by the way that comes out of profits and executive pay packages.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

        by pelagicray on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:56:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Most Utilities are Still Heavily Regulated (0+ / 0-)

        Yes, a very small part of the electric industry is municipally owned.  But the private electric industry and the cooperatives and even the municipal utilities are heavily pressured to NOT build more infrastructure that would improve reliability because of NIMBY idiots. To play the NIMBY role and then complain when the lights go out is the epitomy of hypocrisy.

        The point of Kristoff's Op-Ed is that tax cutting has lead to electric unreliability. There is NO connection between the two: NONE!!  Small municipally owned utilities basically pay their own way when it comes to electrical costs.  The only thing that comes even close are the coops that are a part of rural electrification.  

        The problem is a heavy disincentive to work around all the obstacles that the NIMBY crowd keep putting in the way. Utilities just patch the old system over and over again and keep getting by.  Eventually that method will fail but they (all of them - private, municiple and cooperative) are  constantly forced to back down every time they try to fix system problems.

        Science attempts to answer WHAT. Religion contemplates WHY. Politics settles for WHO CARES.

        by nuketeacher on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:11:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I live in a city (4+ / 0-)

        in MA with a population of about 45,000. We have municipal power.

        I can't remember the last time our power went out.

        Sandy didn't really effect us--we're too far north--but there have been plenty of other times where plenty of the surrounding areas--mostly served by National Grid--have lost power for hours or days, and we haven't lost it for a minute. Since I live on a city line, there have been times that the people across the street lose power and we don't! Plus, our electricity is even cheaper.

        So, yeah, far more reliable power and for less money--that's what we get for having a municipal power department. It's non-profit; and, furthermore, the people that run our power company are elected officials. No hiding in their mansions far from the problems if the lights don't get turned back on. It's such a huge difference, even when compared against surrounding, similar-sized cities that face the same weather conditions.

        "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

        by ChurchofBruce on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 11:12:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  We have hardly any high tension lines (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, tardis10, pelagicray

      in our countryside. The people here get spitting mad when it's even suggested. Our population has increased much as it has in the States and our power grid is largely in private hands. Nonetheless, we have something the U.S. doesn't. It's called regulation.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:16:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, you know.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pelagicray, StrayCat

      ...the private utilities claim they need to raise rates for this or that infrastructure improvement.....then they raise rates and they don't improve anything....they just give more money to their executives and shareholders.

      So, they're not trustworthy.......

      In fact, Axelrod ran an astro-turf operation for the electrical utility in northern Illinois called "citizens in favor of reliable electricity....." or something.

      Got a rate increase through the state house, then came back the next year and said they needed more money for the same thing they said they needed the original money for.

      Show us your tax returns !!!!!!

      by Bush Bites on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:21:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lack of transmission corridors (4+ / 0-)

      doesn't explain the general lack of maintenance, the refusal to build new power plants (they'd have to meet current EPA guidelines instead of being grandfathered), and stripping the workforce down to where it can't possibly cope with major weather events.  Those relate simply to profit.

      More lines could be built in existing corridors, but the companies are tireless in agitating for the right to "take" more private property for their own profit via eminent domain proceedings while rendering nearby areas unfit for habitation or use of any living thing.  This despite the fact that they have quashed research results detailing the increased risks of cancer and immunological breakdown from exposure to high-level electromagnetic fields (or even from the herbicides they use to maintain the sanitary corridors under their lines).

      Don't blame it on property owners who don't want their land stolen and their homes made worthless.  If the lines are actually necessary, they should be worth paying for by PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT corporations.  The opposition merely demonstrates that the benefit does not outweigh the costs.

      •  Consider How Utilities Get Paid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        misslegalbeagle

        If they keep the power on 99% of the time while spending x dollars they make a lot less money than if they spend half of x and keep the lights on only 95% of the time.  Where is their incentive to spend x?

        They get paid to deliver MW most of the time.  There is no significant incentive to deliver the power reliably.

        And again, this has NOTHING to do with cutting taxes and governmental spending.  NOTHING!!

        Science attempts to answer WHAT. Religion contemplates WHY. Politics settles for WHO CARES.

        by nuketeacher on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 09:47:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  How the rich view the world. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UTvoter, Egalitare, StrayCat, defluxion10

    In Athens, about 2500 years ago, the rich called themselves the agathoi. They called the poor kakoi. Agathoi means "the good people," kakoi means "the bad people".

    We must never forget: We are the kakoi.

  •  We looked at one of those. (5+ / 0-)

    We lose power so often, that a generator, which we don't have at all, it becoming as much a necessity as a washing machine and clothes dryer.    I'd be glad to pay more taxes instead; but we can't seem to get either party to make the hard decision to invest in this country.

    If money is speech, then speech must be money.

    by dkmich on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:12:13 AM PST

  •  wonderful diary....sums up so much of what is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, tardis10, nicolemm

    Wrong....

    "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." final words of R Holbrooke

    by UTvoter on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:23:43 AM PST

  •  The cost of the failed experiment has been huge (7+ / 0-)

    A large part of our debt is due to this experiment, and we'll be paying it back, with interest, for decades. It of course is only fair that the rich, who received all of the benefits, should shoulder a good share of the burden.

    The main tenets of the experiment don't even make sense. Companies don't hire people unless they have to. The main component in this equation is demand. Tax rates, unless they reach confiscatory levels, are a very weak influence.

    To stimulate hiring, Keynesian "pump priming" works. The GOP-derided stimulus together with the bailouts worked very well in turning around a catastrophic plunge in just a few months, even though the way it ended up being constructed made it far less efficient than it could be, and it was not large enough to produce full recovery, as Krugman and many others predicted.

    The key to a robust economy is to get the middle class healthy again, and let it reap the rewards of its own increases in productivity, rather than handing them along to the upper 1%.

    The President knows all of this. The American People (excepting Fox Nooze fans) know all of this.  We are on the right (correct) side of this argument, and this time, it is the Republicans with their failed experiment, who either need to back down, or we need to back them down.

    We have sunk enough trillions of dollars into this abject failure of an experiment. Time to stop putting good money in after bad.

    "The only thing we have to fear - is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by orrg1 on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 06:44:01 AM PST

  •  Um (0+ / 0-)

    We're not wealthy but we have a gas generator that

    flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.  
    We tried to get a smaller version, but because of the wiring in our house, we had to get the more expensive one.  It's the best investment we've made in the past 10 years (we did not pay $10,000 for it.)  I'd love a reliable grid, but it isn't going to happen where we live, not in the foreseeable future.  To me it isn't a way to avoid the problem of a better electrical grid, it's a way to solve the problem of living through days of power failure when the weather is below freezing.  Pretty much everyone around here has some kind of generator, and we certainly aren't the only ones with the automatic kind.
  •  This reminds me (5+ / 0-)

    of the situation during the decline of the Roman Empire.  As urban areas grew congested and full of poor people, foreign merchants, and slaves, the wealthy spent more time at their private country-homes.  Decades of civil unrest, warring would-be emperors, and then barbarian invasions intensified this trend.  Cities were strategic targets and inviting to would-be looters; country villas were less concentrated and therefore stood a better chance of avoiding attack.  Cities were prone to food shortages and riots when transport was temporarily cut off; country homes had their own fields and gardens.  Cities were breeding grounds for plagues, country homes avoided transmissible infections.  The rich retreated from the cities, built their country homes into fortresses, and slowly accumulated all the niceties they needed to maintain civilization: skilled tradesmen to perform repairs, complete stocks of agricultural equipment, limekilns, potteries, smithies and woodshops; planted the forests and orchards that take a lifetime to grow.  Then gradually they moved into their villas permanently and left the cities to rot.

    When public services are falling apart, individuals are forced to make shift for themselves.  Once they have done so, they have little incentive to assist in maintaining public services.  So the spiral continues.

  •  They live in denial. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, Just Bob

    The wealthy here were having private wells drilled in the middle of the city to counter the mandatory water restrictions just so they could keep their grass green during the extended drought.


    Happy Thanksgiving!


    by jayden on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:11:04 AM PST

  •  Haiti (5+ / 0-)

    The scenario Kristof describes is very similar to what happens in Haiti.  Those with money have generators to power their homes; walls, steel fences, dogs and private guards to keep people out; and Land Rovers that they replace the suspension on every 6 months or so.

    Deye mon, gen mon (Beyond mountains there are mountains - Haitian proverb)

    by ekeithj on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:20:08 AM PST

  •  With smart grids, solar, and wind, we can (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, nicolemm, StrayCat, melo

    remove fossil fuels from our power supply in 20-25 years.

    If we have the will as Americans to do it.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:34:48 AM PST

    •  Will of Americans? We are the greatest!! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, teacherken, a2nite, StrayCat

      understand science and climate change - no i want to watch another reality show

      go to the polls and vote and discharge duty as a citizen - well the least bad candidate won

      here is something to hold our feet to the fire

      Being a citizen is harder than being the president.

      This is from the 90 year old dean of political philosophers, Sheldon Wolin in his extremely important book "Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism"

      Our culture celebrates our ignorance!

      A totally massive educational effort in citizenship and engagement is required to overcome the two factions of the political parties.

  •  last year (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    defluxion10

    we had an ice storm that took out power for 6 days and stressed our old dog out so much he died.  I know why the power went out for so long and it is because the utility companies don't bother keeping tree limbs trimmed back from power lines in any regular and organized fashion (its not 'cost-effective' is likely their excuse).  This is what happens when government 'leaves it to the 'free market' or private sector to maintain the integrity and reliability of critical infrastructure.  Dennis Kucinich tried to fight private interests that wanted to take over the utilities in Cleveland in the 70's and Kucinich was fighting them.  The banking interest that defaulted on Cleveland's debt and was trying to force Cleveland to sell the utility was later found to be have a financial interest in the entity that was looking to take it over.

    http://www.nndb.com/...

    In an ironic twist of the republican meme that government is the problem, I happen to agree ... but for completely different reasons.  Government refuses to do its job to control the private sector and its lust for profit ... all under the common meme between the parties that free markets (doesn't exist in the real world) and the private sector is the answer to society's problems.  Its not and the dismal state of affairs in the US today are a direct result of this reality.  The future will make this self evident for those who haven't figured out yet ... as if what has occurred over the last 10 to 15 years is not enough proof already.

    "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance." -James Madison

    by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:38:39 AM PST

  •  Not yet drowned in the bathtub, but gurgling. (5+ / 0-)

    This is not the byproduct, but the intended outcome of Grover Norquist's quite literally perverted quest to so starve government of resources that it becomes completely unable to provide the critical services Americans who don't have dressage horses and car elevators need.

  •  Out in the woods (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Just Bob

    I used a genrator to power my well pump when the power went out. I also had propane everything  stove, hot water, dryer, refer, and freezer.

    The power was often out for weeks in the winter. I barely noticed.

    My generator was wired into a relay that flipped on when the power went out. It cost me $900 all told and was worth every cent.

    Here we have nothing but public utilities collectively we pay the mortgage on Bonneville power which we will soon own. Our power companies are amazing in thier attention to upgrading and solving delivery problems.

    A tmy current location I have lost power once for 5 minutes in 10 years during an ice storm. The lines have mostly been buried to protect them. amazing what can be done when all the profit goes back into the company ............

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:10:06 AM PST

  •  In the article there is a longer list: (3+ / 0-)
    Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own books and magazines!

    Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!

    This is precisely what some of my deep south politicians said when I lived there a time (won't visit there now) and complained about "third world" infrastructure that included those two items. That was the polite version. The impolite one dealt more with "you want to pay so those people can use them?" and we all knew who "those people" referred to in that context. This was actually a town and county level government designed and reorganized a decade and a half previously to limit individual office holders' liability in the event of federal action for civil rights abuses.

    This could have come from my mouth with different countries mentioned:

    I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with shards of glass . . .

    The GOP agenda's logical conclusion is the U.S. in a comparable state to what we used to describe as second or even third world. They have taken us damn far down that path! I hope, somewhat dimly most of the time, that this last election will mark a U turn but that is going to require hard claw back due to the damage done over the last decades.

    So, don't be absent in local elections and turn out in 2014!

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:14:06 AM PST

    •  Libraries, parks, transportation, education-- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pelagicray

      lots of things have been privatized in my lifetime, leaving the less well off to do without or with inferior amenities/services.  Even public parks are now forced to charge higher and higher entrance fees to cover maintenance and management costs.

      •  It is a sure sign of "less than developed" nations (0+ / 0-)

        and cultures and a sharp divide between haves and have nots. The more egalitarian societies have rich public facilities and spaces. Those we have previously regarded as backward do not.

        A little example was the reaction of a visitor from a relatively well off developing country when I took them to a library and checked out some items for them to enjoy. They offered to pay my cost and it took some explaining that this was a public facility, funded with all our taxes and services were almost all free to the public. Alien concept that I am not sure got across.

        To be very blunt, my brief time in one of our poorer deep southern states was closer to life in the better off countries in South America than what I considered U.S. norm or European standard with regard to such public facilities. My branch library before I left and after my return from that period was larger than the entire system in that place. I won't even get into parks!

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

        by pelagicray on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 04:40:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We are by no means wealthy (3+ / 0-)

    and when my husband was idle due to no work, we invested what little we had and continue to invest whatever pennies we can save to get off the grid.  Fortunately, my husband self-taught himself how to hook up solar and wind.  For two years, we have added panels and we could afford them and have looked for deals for a forklift battery, inverters on sale, etc.  We do not want to be controlled by our failing infrastructure.  I know we are not the norm and that many out there do not have the advantage we do.  But for a not quite middle class couple, we are making it happen.

    being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:14:20 AM PST

  •  Just posted my take on Kristof (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, nicolemm

    Here, FWIW.

    It's surreal to be writing about this while the Macy Parade is on in the background...

    Wasn't that city jus brought to its knees by Mother Nature a few weeks ago? So much conspicuous consumption on display...

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:27:30 AM PST

  •  U.S., Britain place last in child welfare survey (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Just Bob
    The United States and Britain ranked at the bottom of a U.N. [UNICEF] survey of child welfare in 21 wealthy countries that assessed subjects from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:28:02 AM PST

  •  Thanks, I didn't know that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, nicolemm

    Reagan's ludicrous war on air traffic controllers (what!!! so you want the people who make the skies safe to become over worked and poorly compensated??.......) started with Jimmy Carter.
    How stupid is that?

    The uber wealthy benefit most from the infrastructure that government taxes pay for.
    e.g. those nice little runways for the private jets.
    e.g. those lovely highways for the million dollar mobile homes.
    e.g. those fine streets and subway lines to take worker bees to work for their highly paid CEOs
    poor people don't have cars or airplanes.

    not that there's anything wrong with someone making a few bucks, but for goodness sake, stop being in denial of the theft some of you are trying to perpetrate on those less fortunate than you

    Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

    by eve on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 09:41:54 AM PST

  •  Excellent Diary. Thank You. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nicolemm, StrayCat

    Perhaps it's time for the poor to create their own economies, outside of the one that favors the rich. I know people bring it up all the time, and it is often dismissed as unrealistic, but is it?

    If we stick together, the poor, the working poor, and the blue collar, we have the numbers to achieve amazing things.

  •  The experiment has actually (0+ / 0-)

    been a great success ... for the "One Percent", and why they will continue to fight tooth and nail to retain it, and buy however many politicians, judges, and government officials necessary to sustain it.

    A militarized "Nation" of corporate feudal kingdoms - replete with plenty of desperate workers, and soldiers eager to work, fight and die to defend their version of utopia.

    With those at the top forming the corporate boardroom "politburo". since these corporations are the "people" now ...

    Norquist's goal of "drowning government in the bathtub" ... is more than just late night fodder - these people are true believers.

    If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

    by RUNDOWN on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 11:40:29 AM PST

  •  Powerful Statement. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, StrayCat
    Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.

    Streichholzschächtelchen

    by otto on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 01:26:02 PM PST

  •  Just a question --- (3+ / 0-)

    why the flyin' fuck don't we just fix things? I reckon a good part of the money that goes to needless wars, tax breaks for off-shoring, and hidden in the Cayman Is, Bermuda or some other UK sponsored "shelter" could be more than enough to fix up things. Shameless.

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 01:29:46 PM PST

    •  not only would it fix things (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Just Bob

      it would greatly lower unemployment were we to address are unmet infrastructure needs- maintenance, upgrading, expanding capacity

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 03:20:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm learning to just tune them out (0+ / 0-)

    We need to tune them out and leave them behind to live in self-congratulatory denial as their idiot offspring squander the fortunes that they stole/amassed while the rest of us rebuild the world they destroyed and make them irrelevant. Despite the GOP holding onto the house, the south and many statehouses, conservatism is clearly dying and progressivism is on the rise, and I think it's here to stay.

    What built this country will rebuild it again.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 01:37:15 PM PST

  •  In Europe, power lines are ALL underground. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nicolemm
  •  I wish a happy Thanksgiving (0+ / 0-)

    even to the asshole elite. May they be haunted soon by the ghosts of Christmas.

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by notrouble on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 05:31:02 PM PST

  •  If you live in ME, you'll find a lot of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Just Bob, Calamity Jean

    non-elite folks who have generators. WHen it's 10 degrees outside and the windchill make sit feel like 10 below.  You don't want to be without heat and electricity. Lots of people have turnrd to kerosene and propane stoves instead of oil (too expensive) or natural gas ( srveral times every winter there are house that blow up). What might be soemthing  that's a fad for upper middle class types is a necessity for ordinary people in northern climes.

    I was lucky we never lost heat when I lived there. But I've had friends who were without power for 3 weeks--and reliid on their generator for ele tricity and a Franklin stove to warm the house.  They brought sleeping bags down to the living room where the stove was.A genertor is allt hat may stand between you and noa bility to cook or have lights in the NE> WHen we move back. I wasnt one. At 63, I don't much care for being without power and heat.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:52:02 PM PST

  •  Tom Barton to Sec. Chu was the worst example (0+ / 0-)

    I have seen of this arrogance and ignorance. It must be stopped. We need to stop these assholes.

    Listen to Netroots Radio or to our pods on Stitcher. "We are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place" <- Me

    by yuriwho on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 03:07:56 AM PST

  •  Wow Kristoff and Ken hitting another home run (0+ / 0-)

    People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism. gottavote.org

    by democracy is coming on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 05:19:12 AM PST

  •  This reminds me of India (0+ / 0-)

    Because the power infrastructure is so bad, most businesses (and lots of homes) have their own generators.  One of my worst memories of a summer-time trip is walking down a sidewalk, avoiding the generators sitting outside the closed doors of air-conditioned stores, inhaling the fumes coming out of the generators.

    "Why is it that if you're rich and take advantage of a government program you're a smart business man, but if you're poor you're a moocher?"

    by DemFromPit on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:12:45 AM PST

  •  We keep watching for Galt to run away ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... but he has already gone.  He has bought his way out of the social compact.   He only lives among us in the geographic sense.  

    Galt didn't really have to go anywhere.  

  •  You said it (0+ / 0-)
    The schools cannot make up for how far behind these children start, in large part because of the economic disparity in our nation.
    That sums it up.   I wish we could shout it from the White House with a megaphone that could be heard across the land, every time they start up the War On Teachers.   And, it's not just about how far behind they start.  It's about the enormous disadvantages that weigh them down every single day.

    Our schools do have a lot of programs that help struggling families, and they do make a difference.  They are pretty ham-handed sometimes, though.    A friend of my daughter was recently approached by her school, who wanted her to start attending a "hardship" class.   They may as well have offered to sew a scarlet "P" on her shirt for "Poor Kid".   Besides, they were going to take her out of class for this privilege, but were still going to expect her to keep up with her work and her grades, so it was just extra work for her.   It's almost as humiliating as getting "The Sandwich" when you can't pay at the lunch line.

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