Pity the Rich

This image comes via Matt Yglesias. Apparently, The Wall Street Journal is highlighting the plight of those poor souls with six-figure incomes. Because of the Fiscal Cliff deal, they are paying more in taxes. Here is their infographic:

Note here that the single woman and the single mother are paying 1.3% extra in federal taxes. But people making $35,000 are paying 1.4% extra in federal taxes. But you have to put this information in The Wall Street Journal context: those with six-figure incomes matter.

Pity the rich, for in this world they have no voice. Except, you know, every fucking politician and media figure in America.

The Cult of Personality

FMy mother-in-law despised Martha Stewart, although I never really knew why. Probably something to do with a disagreement over the proper use of little forks. I, on the other hand, don’t care for Oprah Winfrey. I can get past the creative collective that is the Martha Stewart brand, because I can always use clever hints to help me stay at the top of my womanly game. Housekeeping, gardening, home decorating, entertaining, pet care, arts and crafts with found objects, and recipes for foods I can explain to guests; she tells us how to do it all. If I were insecure her spectacular array of skills might make me feel like a failure as a keeper of home and hearth. Instead, I look to Martha for the inspirational guidance that is preparing me for the day I too have servants.

Americans are fascinated by narcissists. We either hate them, mock them, or emulate them. Stephen Colbert is a narcisstic caricature, an egomaniac with titanium balls, who entertains. Bill O’Reilly’s inflated self-worth has made him an arrogant bully. Martha Stewart is a confident and apparently savvy entrepreneur with a fairly benign influence.

Then there’s Oprah. Her ego is as alarming in its breadth as in its effect on others. I think its very mass may even pose a threat to our tidal system. Oprah has taken self-promotion to an outrageous level. Where Martha sells the promise of perfection (and the products to get you there), Oprah sells her thoughts and opinions. Those are the products she hawks to the public. Where people of influence like Martha Stewart and Stephen Colbert have fans, Oprah has followers. If she tells her adoring minions to read this, hate that, eat something else, they’ll hop to as if God had spoken to them. And pity the unfortunate being who pisses her off. She can destroy you.

Rather than being repulsive, Oprah’s confidence seems as infectious as the common cold. How else to explain that she has become the Queen Confessor? Celebrities are granted televised sessions with her and pray they are found worthy. (I’m actually a bit disappointed with Colbert for accepting her permission for an interview).

Take Lance Armstrong. (He now comes in pill form!) His unflagging and very public denial of doping wasn’t worth the attention given it. His final admission of doping was as immaterial as Elton John telling the world he’s gay. Why the need to be interviewed by Oprah? Was finally manning up (or giving up) to announce, through the Oracle of Oprah, that he had lied (something everyone already knew), the act of penance that would absolve him of past deception?

There was a time when celebrities and politicians with Announcements, would only talk to Barbara Walters or another respected journalist. When a talk show host can become the Great and Powerful O, it’s time to tune out.

Conservative “Economists” on Debt Ceiling

Economic ApologeticsThe University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business did a survey of top economists on the issue of the Debt Ceiling. They asked whether those surveyed agreed or disagreed with the following statement, “Because all federal spending must be approved by both houses of Congress and the executive branch, a separate debt ceiling that has to be increased periodically creates unneeded uncertainty and can potentially lead to worse financial outcomes.” Of these people, 84% agreed or strongly agreed.

But you might ask: what about the idiot conservative “top” economists? What about evil conservative “top” economist Glenn Hubbard? I don’t intend to be mean here. It is just that Hubbard’s entire career has been one big money grab. Being rich is far more important to him than doing good work. And he’s right to make this “sacrifice” because he was still Mitt Romney’s top economic guy and he is still asked what he thinks by reporters at the Washington Post.

Case in point, Zachary A. Goldfarb at Wonk Blog ask Hubbard and three other conservative economists what they thought about the whole debt ceiling business. I have very little respect for these men, but even I was surprised at the apologetics that each one of them provided when asked about a government default.

Glenn Hubbard’s answer is telling. It really isn’t about economics at all. Instead, it is just a political attack on the president:

While decidedly not ideal, I believe that 11 of the past 14 permanent increases in the debt ceiling have been accompanied by legislation related to the federal deficit or debt. In a world without rigorous budget rules and with little White House leadership on the budget, I anticipate that the debt ceiling discussion will encompass a deficit/spending restraint discussion. A better model would be for the President to submit the additional tax increases he envisions to finance his spending and for the Republican Congressional leaders to submit specific gradual changes in entitlement programs. Barring that better route, we will likely see a discussion around the debt ceiling, even though there should be no chance that the nation will default on its obligations.

But even while being political, he isn’t accurate. There is no way that the Republicans will name their demands for spending cuts. The president already has stated what tax increases he wants. What’s more, he’s mentioned entitlement cuts. But the Republicans? Nothing.

Whenever I hear the term “conservative economist,” I think of “Nazi science” or “Jewish anthropology.” These aren’t real things. Scientists are scientists. Non-scientists are non-scientists. But in the case of people like Hubbard and Keith Hennessey, we should stop pretending and just call them what they are: conservative apologists.

The Letter F

Fis for Future.

The future is any time that hasn’t happened yet. Unless time is some weird Möbius band, then maybe the future may be time that has already happened but that we, at this point in time, are unaware of. Sounds nuts to me, but then I’m no economist.

Basically the future is a big blank screen onto which we can project all of our hopes, dreams, and debilitating fears. It’s something we try to effectively affect, but mostly just brutally affects us.

“The future looks bleak, but I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!”

Intolerant Theists

God - MichelangeloOver at CNN iReport, the evil blogger TXBlue08 explains, Why I Raise My Children Without God. She does not have to make the case to me. I firmly believe that it is wrong to subject your children to your religious doctrine before they have developed “formal thought” (the ability to think abstractly), which generally occurs by around the time of puberty. Because really: if people got to choose their religion without the propaganda value of having one particular sect crammed down their throats, don’t you think they would pick different religions? The fact that people overwhelming choose their parents’ religion (or one that is closely aligned) does not indicate that one religion is right. Children of Buddhists tend to become Buddhists and children of Catholics tend to become Catholics. They can’t both be the One True Religion!

TXBlue08 gives good reasons for not raising kids to be religious:

  • God is a bad parent and role model.
  • God is not logical.
  • God is not fair.
  • God does not protect the innocent.
  • God is not present.
  • God does not teach children to be good.
  • God teaches narcissism.

That last one is my favorite. Humans display so much hubris. Why do we think that we are so important? The universe was most clearly not developed for us. Want proof: we would instantly die almost every place in the universe. If God has a plan, it ain’t for us!

Go read the article, it is good. But it isn’t why I’m writing this. When I first clicked to the article, a splash screen popped up telling me that the article had been flagged. Did I really want to read this terrible article? Absolutely. But I got a tickle out of the warning. Angry theists were doing what they do best: oppressing the non-believers.

But there is good news. CNN posted a very nice update:

CNN hasn’t flagged this iReport as inappropriate, but some community members have. This is a divisive topic, but it does not violate our Community Guidelines, so we ask people to please stop flagging it. We will continue to review the story as often as possible. -dsashin, CNN iReport producer

So good for CNN and bad for the “believers.” I guess the argument is that believers have the right to raise their children as they wish because, you know, they have God’s ear. This actually brings up an old philosophical idea: in the absence of God, humans must play the role. And most believers play the role perfectly—just as you would expect from a narcissist.

Afterword

I want to head off an objection I might hear to the first paragraph above. Teaching your children that there is no evidence of God is not a religious statement. Even the most hardcore atheists will admit that they don’t know. In fact, that’s the point. But Christians do not tell their children that maybe there is a God. They tell them that there is a God and that He is a very particular God. And that is just teaching kids things you have no right to teach them. It is like his father teaching Calvin that the sun is the size of a quarter. Except not nearly as fun.

More Tea Party Idiocy

Amy KremerIt is pure baloney to say we have to pay the bills for things Congress has already approved. We are drawing the line on future spending, not the debt or obligations to Social Security, Medicare and the military, which can all be met without an immediate rise in the debt ceiling.

—Amy Kremer
Quoted by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post


You may remember my very agitated video from the last time I saw Ms. Kremer:

Debt Ceiling Crashing Down

Debt Ceiling CartoonAs I posted last night, the House voted to fund Hurricane Sandy relief with only 49 Republicans. The Fiscal Cliff deal passed the House with only 85 Republicans. Both of these votes violated the “Hastert Rule,” which says that the Speaker of the House should only bring a vote to the floor if a majority of his caucus is in favor. That should mean that for a vote to come to the floor, there should be at least 122 Republican votes. But twice in one month, this has not been the case.

This is good news, and it makes me kind of hopeful about the Debt Ceiling crisis. It suggests that the Republican leadership is not going to allow its extremist caucus to destroy the United States and thereby the Republican Party. Hopefully. But there really is cause to be hopeful. It isn’t just this recent abandonment of the “let the crazies block all legislation” rule.

The whole Republican Party seems to be splitting in half over the issue. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have said that the Debt Ceiling must be raised. Admittedly, both of these Senators are of the “not quite so crazy” variety of Republican, but it is always the weakest joists in the ceiling that crack first.

The Hill reports that at the Republican retreat that starts today, they will be focusing on how to deal with the Debt Ceiling going forward. They claim they are considering proposals that would raise the Debt Ceiling anywhere from a couple of months to the end of Obama’s presidency. But we’ve seen this kind of thing before. All that’s going to happen is the leadership trying to convince the crazies that crashing the economy will be bad for the party. Regardless, there is no talk about actually crashing the economy and recently, the Republicans have managed to silence the idiots in their caucus who have been going around saying that maybe crashing the economy just a little bit would totally rock.

In addition to the more restrained Republicans, there is a growing chorus of conservative infrastructure calling for a clean bill. Talking Points Memo goes through the main players: the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity; the National Review; the Wall Street Journal; and even Newt Gingrich.

Even down low, it looks very bad. The people really don’t like the idea of crashing the economy. Greg Sargent provides a good analysis of a Washington Post poll that shows that only 36 percent of Republicans are in favor of a government default. (That’s still pretty high; so Republicans can continue to take pride in being a truly crazy party.)

We will see what the next week brings. I suppose it is fanciful to think that this will not come down to the deadline, but it really does look like the rats are abandoning the ship. And you know what I think: rats are very smart.