Recycled Genius

RecycleI'll be live tweeting the New Hampshire caucus tonight!

Such is the hilarity that is flowing out of my mind today! No, New Hampshire is not voting today — much less tonight. And no, it is not a caucus. But I just couldn't get this "joke" out of my head. I do apologize.

"I think the field of Economics is largely intellectually bankrupt, a field specializing in mathematical formulas that tell us almost nothing about human behavior, a field serving as intellectual hacks for free-market global capitalism that provides justification for the exploitation of the world's workers without actually caring about those workers, a field that [is] intellectually uncurious and that is only comfortable with policy-making from 30,000 feet, yet a field that has an enormously inflated view of its own importance to the world, often looking down on other academic disciplines." —Erik Loomis

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Concerns About Sanders' General Election Chances

Bernie Sanders' General Election ChancesThe other night, my friend Will told me, "You've really been coming out strong for Bernie Sanders recently!" That surprised me because I feel more and more stuck in the middle. I have substantive problems with Clinton on policy. And I have real concerns about Bernie Sanders' general election chances. This isn't, of course, a brand new thing. I've been grappling with the question for some time. Back in September, I wrote, What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth? I wrote then, "If I think that Hillary Clinton has a 55% chance of winning the general election and Bernie Sanders has a 45% chance, then there is no question: I'll go with Bernie. If Bernie has a 10% chance, I'll go with Hillary."

The funny thing is, at the last Democratic debate, I got a sense that Sanders himself is a little concerned that he might win the primary. All throughout this campaign, I've thought that Sanders was the real deal — that he wasn't an issue candidate, but someone who really thought he could win the presidency. Now I don't know. But it could be that I'm projecting. If Bernie is a real threat to Hillary, I need to get very serious about both of their general election chances.

But let's not kid ourselves. Playing the electability game is foolish. In 2004, as a party, we chose Kerry over Dean because he was more electable. But knowing what I now know about political science, Dean was clearly our best chance of winning the presidency. The only way that we could have won that election was by making it about the Iraq War, and that was something that Kerry just couldn't do. I do think that under normal circumstances, Clinton has the better general election chances. But if the economy starts to crumble, Sanders will likely be the only chance the Democrats have.

Bernie Sanders' General Election Chances

One concern about Sanders that I've had for some time now is that if the economy continues to improve, the Republicans might be smart and make the election about foreign policy and terrorism. Now, as was fully on display at Saturday's GOP debate: the Republicans have the problem of not actually wanting to do anything different than the Democrats; they just want to talk tough. But that could be enough to convince the electorate. In the end, it is all about perceptions anyway. But the Republicans couldn't do that if Clinton were the candidate. So I tend to think that even a major domestic terrorist attack would benefit Clinton.

If true, that makes Bernie Sanders' general election chances more like the 10% case than the 45% case. And that frightens me.

Last week, Max Fisher wrote a very good article, Why I'm Not Writing Off Bernie Sanders on Foreign Policy. Basically, he said that foreign policy was really all a game. There are certain advisers that presidents have, and this is how foreign policy is determined. The media are caught up in Sanders going through a certain political theater where he shows that he understands foreign policy and he knows who the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan is. Sanders is instead focused on the economy, which is why I love him. But it also hurts his general election chances.

My second concern comes from an article by Jeff Stein, We Asked 6 Political Scientists if Bernie Sanders Would Have a Shot in a General Election. It's an actual article genre at Vox, with articles like, "We Asked 6 Zoologists What the Giraffe's Most Distinctive Feature Is." But they are useful. And the consensus was that Bernie could win under the right circumstances. Much of it is just conventional wisdom and I don't buy into it. I continue to wonder about one bit of political science that no one seems to understand: why does the electorate get more liberal when a conservative is in the White House and vise versa. And if that's the case, why do most presidents win re-election?

But Seth Masket said something that concerned me. He said that Sanders' more liberal positions would probably cost him 2 to 3 percentage points in the general election. Now, maybe I'm just letting my natural affinity for math sway me — he used numbers! But he put it into a context that I know very well and believe in very strongly, "It's not as big an effect as flipping a growing economy to one in recession. It's more like flipping a growing economy to a stalled one." Ouch.

If true, that makes Bernie Sanders' general election chances more like the 10% case than the 45% case. And that frightens me. A Republican president would be a catastrophe. I keep thinking, "The electorate has to wake up eventually! They can't keep voting for the same failed promises and utter incompetence!" But all evidence says that they can.

Meanwhile, I will continue to accumulate information about Bernie Sanders' general election chances.


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Democratic Primary to Be as Debased as GOP's?

Hillary Clinton Democratic PrimaryI wish politics were more kind and honest. But I hardly expect it. What I would hope is that at least the "liberal" party could have a presidential primary in which we didn't get lost in fantasy. I'm not talking about Sanders' proposals, which are fantastic to one degree or another. I'm talking about pretending to be outraged because you've chosen to read a bit of data in a way that will allow you to be outraged. I am, of course, talking about what Washington Blade reported over the weekend, Clinton Surrogates Pounce on Sanders Over '82 Marriage Resolution. Is this what the Democratic primary has come to?

I am trying to be very even-handed in this Democratic primary, and this afternoon, you will see an article I've written that is very critical of Sanders' chances in a general election. But this story is just ridiculous. Back in 1982, while Sanders was mayor of Burlington, he signed a document for "We Believe in Marriage Week." The third part of it says that marriage "should be viewed as a lifelong commitment between husband and wife filled with mutual respect and open, honest communications." Aha, say the Clinton surrogates! Christine Quinn tweeted, "@BernieSanders says he pure on #lgbt.Cites 80's Pride March-omits yr before as Mayor he signed reso affirming marriage ONLY btw man/woman??"

Really?! I don't read it that way. This sounds so much like most of what you find in So You've Been Publicly Shamed? When I wrote about that book (and elsewhere), I noted that most of the cases of outrage were just people insisting upon seeing a statement or tweet in the worst possible light. In those cases, it is just people who so want to feel superior and love the rush that outrage brings with it. Here it is just a political game.

Attack Bernie SandersNote that same sex marriage was not always a gay rights issue. There was a strong contingent of the LGBT community that was distinctly uninterested in the matter. But regardless, does anyone anywhere think that such a milquetoast resolution in 1982 would have explicitly included same sex marriage? The first state to allow same sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2003. And regardless, not explicitly including same sex marriage is not the same as excluding it. Quinn's statement is factually wrong. You could say that it "only affirmed marriage," but you can't say it the other way around. And that is the point: to make it sound like Sanders signed something like DOMA.

Does This Help Clinton in Democratic Primary?!

In addition to all of this, I really wonder how this all helps Clinton in the Democratic primary. After all, it is Clinton who is worse on this issue. It was her husband who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. (And who is, right on cue, doing his crazy husband act.) Sanders voted against it. Clinton was still in favor of it in 2000 when she ran for Senate. She didn't come out in favor of same sex marriage until 2013, which is, let me see now, after my 80 year old father did. And for the record, I was ranting rather loudly back in the early 1990s about the lack of same sex marriage being an explicit form of government oppression. Still, I don't care one way or another about when either of these candidates came around.

Let's face it: they both exist in different political environments. Sanders has been in a smaller league where it was easier to be bold. But he didn't have to be bold, and he should be given credit. Clinton has been in the major league for decades, and her positions indicate that: from the Iraq War to same sex marriage. But I think she too needs to be given credit, because if she had acted as Sanders, she wouldn't have been a player; she would have been like Eleanor Roosevelt: beloved by liberals, but sidelined.

Just the same, this attack on Sanders is nonsense. This is exactly the kind of thing that I did not want to see in this Democratic primary. It's not even submental. It's too practiced for that. It's demagoguery of the most facile kind.


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Anniversary Post: Germaine Tailleferre of Les Six

Germaine TailleferreGermaine Tailleferre was the only female member of Les Six. It's actually kind of amazing that there was even one woman in the group. Classical music has been just as sexist as any other field of human endeavor. There have been great female composers, of course. For example, there was Barbara Strozzi. But they've generally been pushed to the side because men were the taste makers.

And don't fool yourself. Antonio Salieri was one of the great Classical period composers. But he was basically never performed until the movie Amadeus. Similarly, Antonio Vivaldi was all but forgotten until Fritz Kreisler's fraud. Both those composers were hugely popular in their own time. Who is considered worthy of our attention is almost completely a question of fashion. And that's even more true when you throw sexism into the mix.

Germaine Tailleferre is technically brilliant. Of Les Six, she is the one who most expands upon Ravel, even while rebelling against his brilliant excesses. It's always interesting to listen to classical composers as they age. In the teens, her work sounded very much like Ravel. She later became friends with him, even as her own work became more distinct. And her work continued to evolve throughout her long life.

I'm going to feature something she wrote at the age of 60, Concertino for Flute, Piano and String Orchestra. This is just the fourth movement of the piece. One constant problem with Les Six composers is that they are not recorded as much as I think they deserve. And that means there isn't as much of their work around on YouTube. Regardless, I would normally present something from the 1920s, which is considered her most important period. But that music is also a bit more difficult. And this piece is so charming that I feel certain you will enjoy it.


Filed under Morning Music

Anniversary Post: Orangeburg Massacre

Orangeburg MassacreOn this day in 1968, three African American student protesters were killed by police at the Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina. In addition, 28 others were injured — most of them shot in the back while they were fleeing.

It was part of a protest of racial segregation at the local All Star Bowling Lane. After it happened, Governor Robert McNair said it was one of the "saddest days" in South Carolina history and blamed the deaths on Black Power agitators. As is usually the case, the local authorities did nothing to the police. So the feds stepped in and prosecuted. But all of the police officers were found not guilty. They used a defense that will sound oddly familiar: they felt threatened. I am now calling this the "I Was Vewy Vewy Afwaid" defense.

Again I ask, since police work is thought to be so dangerous, you would think that we would hire brave men to do the job. But instead, we hire cowards who are, in far too many cases, simple psychopaths.

There was one conviction that came out of the Orangeburg Massacre: in 1970, the state of South Carolina found civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers guilty of rioting. He spent seven month in jail for it. So justice was done! Three students killed, many others shot in the back, and the state sends a man to jail for supposedly rioting two days earlier. Go team!

People who think that racism isn't a defining feature of our society are crazy. And what we saw back then is exactly what we continue to see today. But we elected a black president, so racism is over! Or so the conservatives say. Of course, those same conservatives said racism was over before Obama. And they said it during Jim Crow. Just ask William Buckley: he told the world of 1960 that Jim Crow wasn't about racism but just African Americans hadn't reached the grand civilized heights of the whites who were lynching them.

But I guess things like the Orangeburg Massacre are the price we have to pay for making sure that no police officer is ever afraid. Such delicate flowers they are!

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How Betting Lines Work — Super Bowl Example

Betting LinesIf you are like me, you are not watching the Super Bowl. If you are like me, you are only vaguely aware of it. I had to be reminded yesterday at 4:00 that it was even happening. And it was only today that I learned that it is taking place here in the Bay Area. It's not that I don't follow the news. But when talk turns to sports — most especially football — I just tune out. But I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about how betting lines work.

This all started because I was talking to Will and he told me that 70% of the action was supposedly on the Panthers. I already knew that the line was Panthers -6. That's a points line and it means that if you bet on the Panthers, they need to win by more than 6 points. That also means that if you bet on the Broncos, you get 6 extra points. So if they lose by only 5 points, you would win your bet. But when Will told me about all the action on the Panthers, I asked what the line was originally. He told me: Panthers -6. That didn't make any sense.

When betting lines first come out, they are based upon the work of sports nerds: analysts who crunch numbers to determine how the teams will perform against each other. It will probably not surprise you, given my colorful life, that I used to be one of those guys. (I didn't do it for sports books, of course; I wrote commercial software that did these kinds of calculations for sports bettors.) So that's fine. But betting lines don't stay where they start. They move based upon how the betting is going.

The thing that non-betting people don't understand (and I assume that describes most Frankly Curious readers) is that the sports books are not at all interested in who wins. When you bet, there is a vigorish or "vig." That means you bet a dollar, but if you win, you are paid something less, like 90¢. That would be a 10% vig. That's all the books care about. So they want to have as much money bet on one team as is bet on the other. That's what the betting lines are all about. Then the books pay the winners with the losers' money, and keep the vig. It's a simple and beautiful system.

Why Betting Lines Move

The initial lines that the sports nerds come up with are not always right. But even if they are, it isn't a question of how the teams stack up; it is a question of how the bettors think they stack up. So if there is too much money bet on one team, the sports book will move the line in the opposite direction. This is why I asked Will what the starting line was. If 70% of the action was on the Panthers, then the line should have gone up — to Panthers -6.5 or higher still — whatever it took to equalize the amounts bet.

Given that the betting lines didn't move except maybe at some small books, I have to assume that the 70% number has to do with the number of bets. The books don't care about that. They aren't going to change the betting lines over that. What must be happening is that the little bettors are going strong for the Panthers and that the bigger bettors are going for the Broncos. (This doesn't mean they think the Broncos will win, of course; just that they won't lose by more than 6.) But if I were a betting man (And I'm not!) I would go with the Broncos, just because I have more confidence in people who are putting big money on the game.

Of course, I don't know that this is what's going on. Maybe the big money is on the Panthers, it is just that there is a lot of medium money on Broncos. As I understand it, there are a lot of middle class white folk who don't like that uppity colored quarterback. And with that, I have gotten as close to the Super Bowl as I care to get.

Update (7 February 2016 3:36 pm)

I just got email from Will that the line actually did start at Panthers -3. So there has been excessive money bet on the Panthers to move the line to -6. I'm not going to change any of the above, because it is all still valid for discussion's sake. The fact that the line did move, however, greatly complicates how the books have to manage their bets. This is why they hire really smart people, hoping to get it right to start.

Update (7 February 2016 3:43 pm)

That makes my "middle class white racist" theory invalid.


Filed under Science & Data, Sports and Games

Hale Stewart Should Stop Writing About Economics

Hale StewartAs most of you know, I have a PhD in physics. And I know a lot of stuff about arcane topics. But I did not major in economics. I didn't even minor in economics. I just took one stupid course! I really enjoyed it. The subject was fascinating and I had a great teacher. Still, I write about economics. But I probably shouldn't. After all, according to Hale Stewart, "Econ isn't something you can teach yourself."

If this is the case, why should anyone read about economics from writers like, oh, I don't know, Hale Stewart? I mean, if econ isn't something you can teach yourself, what is the point? If a stack of good books on the subject isn't going to help you, how are some articles at Business Insider written by lawyer?

It amazes me how elites can be so cavalier about what's going on with less educated workers. But it is hardly new. The argument that Stewart is implicitly making is the skills gap: these people just don't have the skills for the modern economy!

This is all a response to an article at The Bonddad Blog, where Hale Stewart recently wrote, Ed Morrissey Should Really Stop Writing About Economics. According to him, having some kind of formal education is very important. (For the record, my self-study of physics before I became a formal student was probably the best part of my education. But that's just physics, not a real subject like economics!)

Don't get me wrong, I'm with Hale Stewart: Ed Morrissey really should stop writing about economics. But Stewart's argument is elitist nonsense. I would have let it go if it hadn't been for the second part of his article.

Hale Stewart Should Stop Writing About Labor Force Participation

Stewart complained that Morrissey is constantly talking about labor force participation. This is a very interesting issue. You see, since about 2000, the fraction of people in the labor force (employed or seeking employment) has dropped — precipitously. And that has many people concerned. Stewart does a good job of going over the demographic factors that explain most of this: retiring baby boomers and fewer students working. But that still leaves us with a problem.

If we look at prime age workers (people between the ages of 25 to 54), these demographic factors don't apply. And Hale Stewart grudgingly admits, "There is a percentage of people ages 24-54 (the prime working age) that have left the labor force." That's actually a highly deceptive statement. It implies that there is 1% or one percentage point. Instead, if we look at civilian employment, it is well over two percentage points since the financial crisis, and well over three since the high tech boom of the late 1990s.

But not to worry! Hale Stewart wipes that all a way with a wave of his callous and elitist hand:

Most of them are people with a high school or less educational level who used to work in blue collar industries who have been left behind due to globalization and automation.

Oh, well! Why didn't he just say that to start with! There's a reason these people are unemployed, so we can just abandon these people. But there's one little problem with this theory. Globalization didn't suddenly get worse after the financial crisis. There are very real reasons for not being impressed with the current economy, as discussed by Kevin Cashman, Prime-Age Workers Left the Labor Force During the Recession And the Recovery.

It amazes me how elites like Hale Stewart can be so cavalier about what's going on with less educated workers. But it is hardly new. The argument that Stewart is implicitly making is the skills gap: these people just don't have the skills for the modern economy! That's an easy argument to make when you don't hang out with those blue collar workers who are having a rough time of it.

I would prefer that Ed Morrissey go away too. He's a hack, as I discussed in, Conservatives Will Never Get Over Obamacare. But his problem is not that he didn't minor in economics. And on the labor force participation rate, he's right. The big problem with him is that if there were a Republican in the White House, he wouldn't be making this argument. Instead, he'd be making Hale Stewart's argument: low skilled workers are out of a job; so what?!


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Morning Music: Les Six and Francis Poulenc

Francis PoulencLet's make a big change for the Morning Music posts this week. Probably my favorite period of classical music (and I'm sure you can find places where I've said differently) is that wonderful period in France around 1920. It's the generation that was building on Debussy and Ravel. It's a sweet spot when music was coming off the rails but hadn't quite — when the music was exotic yet hummable. Most of all, it was a period when music was still fairly integrated. What really marks postmodern art of all kinds is that it has shattered into a million pieces. And that's great in its way; but it's also nice to have continuity. Thus, this week, we will be listening to Les Six.

Les Six was a group of six French composers: Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre. One thing that's interesting about them, however, is that there were in a technical sense, all very different. But what binds them together is the overall feel of the music. They represent sort of what the Classic period was in relation to the late Baroque. As much as I love Debussey and Ravel, it had gotten a little out of hand. Particularly with Ravel, most of the time it is hard to make out what one might consider a melody. (The Boléro is totally unlike anything else Ravel ever did.)

Francis Poulenc

Today, we are going to feature Francis Poulenc. As always, I would like to go with the Flute Sonata, which he wrote for Jean-Pierre Rampal, and which the two performed for the first time together. I recommend listening to the version by Jean-Pierre Rampal and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. It's still the best after all these years, although there are other version I admire.

So we are going to listen to some extracts from a ballet that he wrote in 1923, Les Biches. Francis Poulenc was a protégé of Erik Satie. And you can really hear it in Poulenc's early work. But by Les Biches, the influences are quite a bit more diverse. And this is a wonderful example of his range.

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Anniversary Post: Pluto Gets Closer Than Neptune

PlutoOn this day, and for the first time since they were discovered, Pluto slipped inside the orbit of Neptune. It stayed closer to the sun until 11 February 1999. But you might wonder, given that Pluto is such a puny object compared to Neptune (or even the Earth), why the larger planet hasn't "cleared" it (basically: crashed into it). Well, there are a few reasons for that.

Right now, it would be impossible for Pluto to crash into Neptune because the dwarf planet orbits in a plane that is at quite an angle from that of the other planets — including Neptune. And when it is at the same axial distance to the sun as Neptune, it is way off the plane. And I do mean way off the plane: along the axis of the solar system, it gets as far as 8 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun (AU).

Pluto OrbitBut that wouldn't save Pluto forever. Orbits precess (this explains part of the Earth's ice age cycle). So there have been and will be times again when it will be on the plane at the right time. But again, Pluto is not in danger. Obviously, if it were in danger, Neptune would have long ago swallowed it up and we never would have had to have this argument about whether Pluto is a planet or not.

The two planets are in a 2-to-3 orbital resonance. This means that for every two times Neptune goes around the sun, Pluto goes around it three times. And they end up right back where they started. This sounds amazing, but there are lots of examples of this kind of thing in our solar system. Thus, they will not run into each other, because their precessions are locked together.

But Pluto Is Doomed Anyway!

Pluto is so small and so far away from the sun that it is chaotic. I mean that in a strict mathematical sense. Models of its future are highly constrained because very minor perturbations can have huge nonlinear effects on its orbit. But thus far, it really is the little planet that could. It has defied the odds and maintained its independence — to a large extent due to its having a powerful friend in Neptune. But it's okay that Pluto is doom because so is everything. And it is going to last a whole lot longer than humanity.


Filed under Anniversaries, Science & Data

Conservative Emails Everyone She Knows!

Conservatives, Zombies, WhateverDo you get this? Conservatives you know put you on their mailing list and send you out every ridiculous thing that comes along? Today I got, "Bernie Sanders, the Bum Who Wants Your Money" — by those bastions of elite thought, the editors at Investor's Business Daily. It came with the headline, "MUST READ scoop on Bernie...." It's not what you are probably thinking: an article about how his policies would result in more wealth redistribution. No. It's an attack on Sanders' character, talking about how he didn't get a "steady paycheck" until he was 40 — and you know what that was: a government paycheck! (For the record: Sanders, like many people in the years after college, had many jobs; that's what they mean by him not having a "steady paycheck.")

But I'm not here to respond to the article. It is idiotic — that why I'm not even linking to it. But I got the link from someone I'm in business with — a once hippy, now Tea Party Republican who is addicted to hate radio. She is convinced (despite the fact that he has less than a year left in office) that Obama is going to start a race war. Blah, blah, blah. As I've said many times: I don't mind if you disagree with me, but please don't bore me to death by repeating the same talking points I hear everywhere.

Interestingly enough, the word "pravda" ("Правда") means "true" or "the truth." And that is what the conservative media echo chamber has brought us: a bunch of propagandized ignoramuses who are certain that they know The Truth™.

It's particularly bad because we have a professional relationship. She sends the email out through her business website address. It's the same address she sends out announcements about conferences and other business related material. And given her business, I assume most of the people on the list are liberal like me. She certainly knows that I'm at least a liberal. Yet I constantly get my mail box filled with this kind of garbage — much of it conspiracy oriented.

Conservatives Are Attacking!

This is not the only such person in my life. It's always the same: it's always conservatives. I don't have liberals constantly forwarding stuff to me. And you would think I would! After all, I write about it. But these conservatives are not sending stuff out to me; they are sending it out to everyone they know! That's the main thing: liberals don't seem to be in the habit of creating mailing lists and then thinking that their divisive opinions are something all the world needs to know about.

I think it shows the distinct immaturity of the conservative mind. I've especially run into this with libertarians, who believe that if I just read this one thing and had this one thought experiment, I would be a convert! What these people find, usually very starkly, is that I've thought about the issue in much greater depth than they have. Conservatives make the mistake of thinking that liberalism has no intellectual basis because most liberals aren't intellectuals. That is, in fact, true. Most liberals I know have not thought through liberal policy very deeply. However, as Matt Bruenig has pointed out, just because most liberals are mistaken about why the minimum wage is a good idea, does not mean they are wrong about the fact that it is a good idea.

I believe the reason there are so many conservatives around forwarding all of this nonsense is because of hate radio and the related conservative infrastructure. People listen to Rush Limbaugh and think that they are getting educated. I've seen this especially with Fox News viewers who are convinced that since they watch a lot of political "news," they are informed. This is like someone in Moscow in 1970 who read Pravda every day and thought they were well informed.

Interestingly enough, the word "pravda" ("Правда") means "true" or "the truth." And that is what the conservative media echo chamber has brought us: a bunch of propagandized ignoramuses who are certain that they know The Truth™. And so I get placed on email lists with links to really vile things rather than actually cool things like Henri: the Existential Cat.


Filed under Politics, Social

Income Inequality and the Marco Rubio Tax Plan

Dividends TaxationPaul Krugman provided this fine pie chart that shows who exactly is paying taxes on long term capital gains. The reason it is important is because Marco Rubio wants to eliminate this tax. Up until now, this idea has been extreme even for Republicans. And you can see why: over half of benefits from Marco Rubio's tax cut would go to the top 0.1% — the people in the top 1/1000th of the income distribution. And if you look at the whole of the top 1%, that's almost 80% of where all the benefits go.

Still, I find the graph a tad bit deceptive, because people tend to assume that "everyone else" is somewhat equitable. I'm not suggesting that Krugman means to imply this. He's making a different point anyway. I just know how non-mathematical people think about this kind of stuff. Something that Krugman has written about over the years is that inequality is kind of like a fractal. (Actually, I believe that's my analogy, not his.) It doesn't matter where you are in the income scale, the people above you are a lot more rich than you are. It's such that people barely in the top 1% often think of themselves as poor because they are around people who are so much more wealthy. And so on until you get to Bill Gates, who when asked if he was rich said only, "Well, I'm certainly not middle class." (Or something like that.)

Marco RubioThe data for this graph comes from the Tax Policy Center. And if you look at the top 5%, you get 92.3%. The top 10%? 95.4%. And the top 20% — the upper class? 97.5%. So 97.5% of Marco Rubio's tax cut on long term capital gains would go to the upper class and only the upper class. Pretty amazing, huh?

So let's talk about what these high incomes mean. In order to just make it into the top 10%, you would be making over $115,000 per year. To just make it into the top 1%, you need to be making more than $400,000. I can't find data on the top 0.1%, but we are talking millions per year. So these are not people who are struggling. They are not the people who need helping and they are not the "job creators" who will start hiring if only they had just a bit more money.

But it's worse than even that. There's 2.5% left over for the bottom 80%. Is it shared even somewhat equally? Of course not!

The upper middle class gets most of the remaining: 1.9%. The middle class gets almost all of the rest: 0.6%. The lower-middle class get the final 0.1%. The lower class — those in the bottom 20% — get nothing at all. Of course, you can depend upon the Republicans finding some middle class person who gets all their income from long-term capital gains and dividends, and making a commercial where they talk about how much better their lives will be. Meanwhile, millions more children will go to bed each night hungry. But that won't be mentioned.

Income inequality is a virus that is killing our democracy. And it does those who have excessive money no good. As Henry George noted long ago, "Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied." I don't think this is a natural state, but rather the result of a civilization that has no values beyond that of commerce. And people like Marco Rubio think this is just great. The next time he mentions God, remember what he really worships.


Filed under Politics

Morning Music: Slumber Party's I'm Not Sad

Psychedelicate - Slumber PartyToday we are going to listen to yet another band that is kinda sorta sadcore: Slumber Party. To be honest, what they sound most like to me is an all female version of the Velvet Underground — but really, with better musicianship — at least compared to the early albums. And even though Wikipedia says the band is still together, I find no real evidence of this fact. Their last album was Musik in 2006.

Thank God we are at the end of our sadcore week. I'm not saying that because the music is bad. I've loved all this music. But it's frustrating. To begin with, it is, as I've discussed, an ill defined term. But it's also the case that there just aren't as many sadcore bands as I had thought. And that is itself sad. You would think there would be. There are a lot of depressed musicians out there.

The reason there probably aren't more people doing this kind of music is because it's a lot harder than it seems. One of the things that ties these bands together is their control of the mood of the songs. Other kinds of bands can just do whatever it is that they like. But even when American Music Club was being funny, they did it in their usual "Eeyore makes a joke" way.

Is Slumber Party Really Sadcore?

Today, we are going to listen to Slumber Party's song "I'm Not Sad" off their 2001 album, Psychedelicate. Maybe it is more correct to call it slowcore rather than sadcore. It's an uplifting song in a way. A relationship is over, but the guy was alright when they were together. And that's why she's not sad. Except that she starts the song by noting that she is sad. So it seems more one of those things where you try to convince yourself intellectually that you don't feel the way you clearly do. It's a beautiful song:


Filed under Morning Music

Women's Suffrage and the Slow March of Progress

Women's SuffrageThis was an important day for women's suffrage in 1918, UK women over the age of 30 got the right to vote. Even then, certain property requirements applied. It took until the end of that same year for women to be given the right to serve in parliament. But it took a whole decade for women to get voting parity with men. The Representation of the People Act 1928 allowed everyone over the age of 21 to vote. It's nice to look back and be happy that women finally got the right to vote. But how frustrating it must have been for women of that time, even if the original Representation of the People Act 1918 was a huge victory.

This has some resonance in the Democratic primary for president. But not as much as I think people might believe. The truth is that you need the Clintons and the Sanderses. But they are not examples of these poles, because both of them are of the marginal change varieties. What we need are more radicals who say, "Change now! We've already waited far too long!" In other words, we need people who terrify the establishment. We need Thomas Paine and Malcolm X. The fact that Sanders terrifies the establishment is an indication of just how far our society has gone off the rails.

I can wait. I don't like conflict and I hate violence. But my life is good. I don't have to worry that I'll be killed by a police officer just because I don't do exactly what I'm told to. I don't have to worry about much of anything at all. Given my inclinations and idiosyncracies, if I weren't a straight white male, I'd probably be doing 25 to life in some prison somewhere.

So I respect those who are impatient. And we all should. They are critical to our development, whether it is in the fight for women's suffrage, racial equality, or economic fairness.


Filed under Anniversaries, Politics