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  There is a huge debate in this country, being fought on territory defined by conservatives since the days of Ronald Reagan. Nicholas D. Kristof weighs in on the results of their long experiment in remaking the United States from the perspective of someone who was without power for 12 days - his third extended outage in the past 4 years.

   There's nothing that cuts through the conventional wisdom like sitting around in the cold and dark waiting for someone - anyone! - to get the lights back on. It's been a reality check for a lot of people, though for some more than others.

More below the Orange Omnilepticon.

    Kristof has had demonstrated in a very personal and graphic way the consequences of a nation pretending that increasing levels of inequality and the exaltation of the private over the public are a good thing.

So Generac, a Wisconsin company that dominates the generator market, says it is running three shifts to meet surging demand. About 3 percent of stand-alone homes worth more than $100,000 in the country now have standby generators installed.

“Demand for generators has been overwhelming, and we are increasing our production levels,” Art Aiello, a spokesman for Generac, told me.

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.

It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.

But our political system is dysfunctional: in addressing income inequality, in confronting climate change and in maintaining national infrastructure.

emphasis added

     The Fiscal Cliff debate currently being stage managed in Washington seems to be driven by an implicit desire to keep the status quo intact with tweaks rather than admit rising inequality is destroying the country. Kristof again:

So time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.

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.

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!

Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a private tennis club!

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; increasingly, I see it in our country. The disregard for public goods was epitomized by Mitt Romney’s call to end financing of public broadcasting.

emphasis added

       Kristof is a rare breath of fresh air on this; too much of the chattering class is still invested in the myth of job creators and the idea that government is not the answer - more money to gazillionaires will fix the problem. To recycle some info from a diary yesterday, the corporate media is still giving too much weight to the people who got us here, CBS especially.

...CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley is especially egregious - they actually asked the head of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein what we should know about the fiscal cliff!!! They turned to the CEO of Honeywell for his expertise; Must address Medicare-medicaid! The BS in CBS might as well stand for Bowles and Simpson. The C is a tossup between Corporate, CEO, or Capitalist.
     You know that the 'debate' on the Fiscal Cliff Fandango is being driven by the wealthy when all the problems that are considered critical all have to do with money. Fights over tax rates, fights over how to cut back Social Security and Medicare - Medicaid, fights about cutting back spending by the government. Where's the talk about jobs? Where's the talk about how many people are still struggling to have a secure retirement or get adequate health care? Where's the talk about our collapsing obsolete infrastructure? Where's the talk about dealing with climate change? (And be ready for the arguments about why we have to leave the Northeast wrecked by Sandy, unless we cut money from somewhere else in the government to pay for it.)

    The one entitlement that should be on the table is the conviction by the rich and powerful that they're entitled to still more, that their needs must be served before everyone else. Their hysteria over the deficit is about two things: it's disaster capitalism by the rich to shove through the changes in society they want, and it's all about protecting their wealth from the consequences of their starvation of the public sector and evisceration of the middle class. Kevin Drum points out that the deficit is actually going down - and that this is the wrong time for it to do so!

     Also, just about anything by Paul Krugman.

      The real fiscal cliff we've gone over is the one where the rich have been rigging our government and our economy for decades. The accumulation of more wealth by those at the top does not constitute success for society as a whole. A massive collection of decades of research shows that even in a developed country where the poor are relatively well off, things work better for everyone when the economic distance between the top and the bottom decreases.

     Kristof's last question in the piece (read the whole thing) is a question that should have been asked a long time ago:

This question of public goods hovers in the backdrop as we confront the “fiscal cliff” and seek to reach a deal based on a mix of higher revenues and reduced benefits. It’s true that we have a problem with rising entitlement spending, especially in health care. But I also wonder if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.
emphasis added

     Let's hope the End IS Near - we can't take much more of this.

8:28 AM PT: UPDATE: I see teacherken is already on this; for his take,


Kristof's column:

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| 98 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (30+ / 0-)

    Hope everyone is enjoying today and has something to give thanks for - but also knowing we have a long ways to go to make that hope a reality.

    Thanks to all those who have given so much to help people recover from the disasters of this year, both natural and man made.

    Thanks that the election is over, and we stand a chance to keep moving forward despite all the forces pushing back.

    Thanks for being able to give thanks.

    "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 08:11:05 AM PST

  •  Here's another absolute must-read, (8+ / 0-)

         Borosage in The Nation, ☛ The Grand Betrayal ?

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 08:20:17 AM PST

  •  They've Got No Stake in the Welfare of the Nation. (9+ / 0-)

    They've become Braveheart's nobles, with enough interests elsewhere that they don't need a functional country here. They're developing what they've been intending, so while it's dysfunctional for us, it's entirely functional for them.

    And they're far from finished.

    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 08:44:24 AM PST

  •  Let's Fix The Economy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, a2nite, bontemps2012, ladypockt

    First step is to tax capital gains at the same rate as any other income, remove the "carried interest" exemptions, and then invest a whole shit-load of our national capital in infrastructure, new energy and education.  Let's look at improving pay scales by immediately instituting a rational minimum wage structure and capping CEO's salaries at no more than 30X average worker salary.  Let's remove the currency control from the banks by nationalizing the Federal Reserve system, re-regulate the financial sector by taking away all Bank's ability to speculate with depositor's money, require a reasonable capital reserve in investment companies, do away with derivatives and other forms of legalized financial sector gambling, ban the practice of "short-selling" for real.  Once the dust settles, and   everyone adjusts to the new reality, we can see what else we can do, such as instituting a single-payer universal health care system and reforming the drug companies, medical equipment and supply companies and hospitals charges structures.  Then we significantly reduce the Military budget and reform the force-structure to reflect the idea that we are no longer going to accept the financial, social and personal costs burden of policing the World.  After that we are going to tackle reducing the total carbon footprint of the US and taking the lead in developing new and financially lucrative energy production, distributing and storage technologies.  Lastly, we are going to encourage our private sector to expand into space and create colonies and industries in orbit and on the Moon.  OK!  Let's get to it...we will see the benefits immediately and our children will see us as the wise and enlightened people we can truly be!

    •  Roughly from about the day the Capital Gains (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, winkk, ladypockt

      Tax was cut, the economy began to slowly circle the drain.

      Also, "carry interest" in any form is bribery-covered theft. A concept that no one would have accepted 50 years ago.

      •  It changed the whole game (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bontemps2012, ladypockt

        The low rate on capital gains has had the effect of distorting the whole economy. When the highest returns come from playing games with money, it creates a disconnect with the real world.

        No one has an interest in creating and growing a company when the real money comes from stripping it of assets, ripping off employee pensions, handing out bonuses to execs and dividends to investors, maxing out the company credit line to inflate 'value' on the books - then selling off the remains and walking away.

        This is what low capital gains and carried interest incentivize.

        "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 03:54:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Saw this mentioned on twitter, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, bontemps2012

    was impressed that Kristof is (finally) admitting that there are problems in the US as worthy of his attention as problems elsewhere in the (usually dark/3rd) world.

    Somehow my faith in the world (and the NYTimes) is restored, now that I see that Kristof's attention is due to his personal circumstances.

  •  Boo! Socialism! (5+ / 0-)

    The forbidden word within an expanding corporate subculture. If you don't want the nation to talk about ensuring the general welfare, great. Release the meme that all socialism is bad, that even a few nods toward living by the Preamble is the same as plastering the Capitol Dome with the likeness of Karl Marx.

    That's the plan?

    If you ever have a question about the motives of others that don't seem completely obvious, choose the Protection Theory as your fallback perspective.

    In this case, the Corporate Establishment is collapsing into Protection Mode by screaming socialism/communism when any movement begins the intent of which is to provide for the less fortunate.

    Do you want better education? You're for government indoctrination.

    Do you want universal health care? You're for 1950s Soviet-style bureaucracy.

    Do you want a decent opportunity for you or your kids to get a comfortable wage or salary? You're for destroying the capitalist system.

    Do you want a more level playing field? You're for class warfare.

    It's easy. But the fact is, the more the Corporate Establishment cries foul with screams of "Socialism", the more attractive it sounds.

    •  Strange anomalies in the international foreign (0+ / 0-)

      exchange markets are worth consideration.

      -- A 35-year old high school graduate here makes roughly $15 an hour. A skosh more.

      -- In China the same person makes $1.50 an hour.

      Two factors apply: China has several hundred million citizens in the hustings who are essentially outside the international financial system. These people have been converted to "commuters" who work as manufacturing slaves -- often hundreds of miles from home and living in P.O.W.-style barracks. Labor costs are very low.

      The market for foreign good is more closed than not. They sell anything and everything. They buy next to nothing.

      Sound familiar ???

      China and Germany are doing mercantilism. It works.

      The effects on other economies range from heightened unemployment to loan-based intimidation.

  •  Truly being thankful means (3+ / 0-)

    taking serious accountability of what the Earth has so generously given to us (and what we have so brazenly devoured.  To do any less makes a sham out of Thanksgiving.

  •  I have one of those generators, but I'm not rich. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, bontemps2012

    The main reason I've got one is medical: 24/7/365 oxygen patient with sleep apnea as well. Constant electricity is a must, especially since the emergency backup tank only lasts for 24 hours & my supplier is an hour away.

    Now, as to taxing the wealthy & ending the ridiculous loopholes they use to dodge paying taxes, I hope that happens & it would be about f'ing time. When in the heck did tax evasion become a patriotic thing among the RW? Our ancestors thought supporting the nation was patriotic & paid willingly...I hope that becomes patriotic again.

    "Now is not the time to build fences around our freedom, but to emancipate our culture from the fear of losing it" Keith Olbermann, 2010

    by NightOwl40 on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 11:59:31 AM PST

    •  We've got one too. (0+ / 0-)

      The kind of weather that knocks out power here is too often weather that we really need working sump pumps to handle.

      "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 03:56:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure I get his point (0+ / 0-)

    Other than the generic taxes are too low for the top earners. Is there some causation (or even correlation) between marginal tax rates and the power failures of the Long Island Port Authority?

    Otherwise he is just sort of ranting about the power going out.

    •  The point is this (0+ / 0-)

      Our economy has been increasingly rigged to extract wealth and concentrate it for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

      The public sector has been starved of investment that we really need - and the private sector increasingly operates on the Bain model of harvesting companies for short term profit instead of building them for the long haul. Marginal tax rates are not the only factor in this - but they are a key element.

      The fact that it takes weeks to recover from a storm in what is supposed to be a leading developed country is an indicator of where our policies are taking us - as is also the ability of the Long Island Power Authority to send bills to people who are still waiting for the lights to come back on weeks after Sandy hit.

      The wealthy are doing just fine - while turning America into a 3rd world style nation.

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

      by xaxnar on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:09:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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