The political clout of the superrich

By Chrystia Freeland
March 1, 2013

Louis D. Brandeis, the American jurist, famously warned: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Brandeis’s cri de coeur was inspired by an indignant observation of the shenanigans of America’s robber barons during the Gilded Age. Today, we live in a data-driven age, and some careful students of the connection between money and politics have now amassed a powerful body of evidence to support Brandeis’s moral claim. A lot of it is assembled in a report by the progressive research organization Demos, published this week.

One of the most striking findings is the extent to which economic power translates into political power.

Institutionally, this is an era of unprecedented democracy – one of the triumphs of the 20th century has been the extension of voting rights to all adults in a lot of the world.

But even in the United States, the country that thinks of itself as being the world’s leading democracy, it turns out that those rights do not translate into much actual political power. David Callahan, co-author of “Stacked Deck,” the Demos report, describes the super-rich as “supercitizens, with an outsized footprint in the public square.”

“I think most Americans believe in the idea of political equality,” Callahan told me. “That idea is obviously corrupted when in 2012, one guy, Sheldon Adelson, can make more political donations than the residents of 12 states put together.”

The Demos study draws in part on the quantitative research of Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton University and author of “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” Gilens, who focused on the divide between the top 10 percent and everyone else, found a high degree of what he calls political inequality.

“I looked at lots of survey data that indicated what people at different income levels wanted the government to do, and then I looked at what the government did,” Gilens explained.

“For people at the top 10 percent, you could predict what the government would do based on their preferences,” he said. “But when the preferences of people at lower income levels diverged from the affluent, that had no impact at all on the policies that were adopted. That was true not only for the poor but for the middle class as well.”

Gilens is a social scientist who is careful to stick to his data. But he told me he was “definitely surprised by the extent of the inequality.”

“If you value democracy, if you value the ability of people at all levels of income to shape government, which is what it means to be a democracy, then, yes, you should be very worried,” he said.

One reason this “political inequality” is significant is that it turns out the rich and the rest have different political preferences. These do not split easily along traditional partisan lines – in fact, one of Gilens’s findings is that political inequality persists whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge. And in certain areas, like defense policy, there is no class divide.

But on an important set of economic issues – deficit reduction, the minimum wage, free trade, regulation and progressive taxation – the affluent are more conservative than everyone else.

“None of this might matter if the wealthy and the rest of the public had the same public policy preferences,” Callahan said. “But as we document, the wealthy do have very different policy preferences, particularly in the sphere of economic and fiscal policy and on trade and globalization. You see this on issues like taxation, or the minimum wage, or the general role of the government in society.”

This gap in policy preferences, the Demos report argues, is the explanation for one of the most puzzling and worrying consequences of rising income inequality – its correlation with falling social mobility. Alan B. Krueger, the head of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, calls this the Great Gatsby Curve, and it is the most compelling reason to be worried about the growing chasm between the top and everyone else.

That link, which has best been documented by the Canadian economist Miles Corak, is mysterious. After all, a lot of today’s rising inequality has been driven by benign forces like the technology revolution and, as a result, today’s plutocrats are more likely to be self-made than they were three decades ago.

But once they become rich supercitizens, the Demos report argues, those at the top of the economic heap use their power to support policies that diminish social mobility. This is not because of malign intent – there is no cabal of fat cats in top hats smoking cigars and plotting how to keep the proletariat down. Indeed, education, a key to social mobility, is a stated priority for the affluent.

The catch comes when there is a choice between personal self-interest, often in the form of lower taxes, and the expensive institutions of greater social mobility. And that is when the supercitizens opt to pull up the opportunity ladder behind them.

Beyond the campus green, Americans can be squeamish about viewing policy choices through the prism of economic self-interest. It is much more comforting to imagine the country is engaged in a high-minded and technocratic debate about what works best to serve the common good.

But that’s not what’s happening. The supercitizens are very effectively pursuing their own self-interest. Social opportunity, and even democracy, are under threat as a result.

 

53 comments

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Thank you for an exceptionally well done article on the effects of the wealthy elite.

The problem we have in the US is as you point out that “Americans can be squeamish about viewing policy choices through the prism of economic self-interest. It is much more comforting to imagine the country is engaged in a high-minded and technocratic debate about what works best to serve the common good.

But that’s not what’s happening. The supercitizens are very effectively pursuing their own self-interest. Social opportunity, and even democracy, are under threat as a result.”

Unless and until we can come to grips with that reality — which runs deeply counter to American instincts and present beliefs — this country cannot hope to survive much longer.

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” … didn’t Warren Buffett say it all?

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

So, have the One Percenters already won the class war, or are we just on the extreme swing of the pendulum?

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

It’s interesting how comments on Freeland’s articles are almost always blocked.

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

I suppose it is obvious that wealth will not want to damage the hands or channels that feed it? And that is exactly what so many wealthy say: that they want to preserve the ability of private people to become wealthy.

It is claimed that is the guarantee of representative government.

China seem to have a hybrid system now, where the state is supposed to represent the wishes of all the Chinese but does so on the thinnest of theoretical footings (to western liberal democracy’s way of thinking). It is always making decisions that are sometimes unfair to the greatest numbers. But that can also be the definition of a good “democratically” controlled process too. And it can be the disadvantage of democratically elected governments that they are seduced by short-term interest over long term plans.

The Chinese seem intent on raising the living standards of everyone. They even seem to be growing a wealthy class like they do everything else; by central fiat and seem to be state sponsoring the many heads to rival a, still unclear, modified future central authority. It’s a country that always valued a strong, almost untouchable, central authority and the government was despised when it became too corrupted by the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else. It was invested with religious responsibility just as old world western societies regarded their kings, courts and the clergy.

Wealth in the more capitalist grounded western economies (especially while the country was wide open to exploitation) has always had the attitude that life is a game and it demands broken losers, the bodies of which would frequently litter the “playing field” while the wealthy were free to purchase their existence with their own money. This could appear as baldly as the practice of rich men buying an enlistee for the Union Army during the conscription of the Civil War (there were a lot of Irish immigrants looking for work and short on cash and prevented from working due to prejudice) or less obnoxiously, having the best rooms in a crowded hospital or the private car on a crowded train or in a hotel. We tend to accept that because the “best “ tends to cost more here. It would cross ethical red lines with many, including the hospitals, if wealth could extend the life of people in need of expensive organ transplants at the expense of all others. The profit based US healthcare system, before the days of universal insurance coverage, was used to providing higher personal care in private rooms with the better doctors for the well healed. Medical ethics, otherwise, seemed more or less; above compromise and even organ transplants were not necessarily something money could buy. But China, at the peak of its totalitarian sway, was able to harvest organs both among domestic capital punishment victims and overseas for cash and it was never clear who actually got the organs or how they were awarded or, for that matter, where they were coming from. They don’t seem to have an affordable health care system any more than the west does.

It will be a living nightmare for many if wealth can purchase, or actively undermine another person’s life, simply because they are not wealthy. Isn’t the problem that wealth has a way of tinting one’s outlook on life? The ”glasses” of old wealth, dynastic wealth, may loose some of the rosey tint after a time but the wealthy man can sway millions of less affluent voters, with freshly minted rose colored glasses, and they may not have the advantage of educations, of world wide exposure or the leisure to pursue either, and will vote in reaction to the bribe and forget that they could also be selling their own long term self interest, to agree with the shorter term gains of a wealthy class that may only temporarily feed them until it gets what it wants for the money. Wealth can breed it’s own dependencies and night terrors.

The Bible might have called that selling one’s birthright for a mess of potage.”

Big wealth knows that power is all and money is only a symptom of that power. A liberal society tries to ensure that a loss of wealth, prestige and power does not necessarily mean one is tossed to the dogs and a life of squalor..

Isn’t the question we should ask: how much power wealth deserves for being wealthy? The short-term interest of wealth can be as damaging to the life of a society as the short-term interest of poverty. Wealth does not necessarily translate into, what people used to call, “nobility” of character and not of pedigree, but it’s the pedigree that’s easier to see and invest in. And it’s pedigree preservation that is outlawed by the Constitution. The old Mrs. Astor made a reputation on culling the herd for the best pedigrees: her devoted “400 hundred”. The old 400 hundred were actually scandalized by the new mega wealth of industrial society. They knew they were being out spent and would soon loose their dominance in the country. They were also those most active in supporting social legislation to improve the living conditions of the lowest income people.

The United States was a country, I thought, that could live with massive wealth in private hands, because it’s wide open prairies and untapped resources made it, at least, theoretically possible for the little man to become a big one. That doesn’t seem quite as promising anymore and the US, in many ways, is as regimented as China, we just style the control to our own taste. Which are more frightening, massive housing complexes without much imagination in planning layouts, Chinese style, or traffic congestion in LA or NYC rush hour and massive suburban subdivisions? Is there really much difference between the old Leavitt town models of rapid urban development and the types of projects featured today in the Reuters photo blog on Chinese urban development?

For the last 70 years we created a dominant middle class and China seems determined to elevate as many as possible to, at least, the middle class, while this country and Western Europe are faintly nostalgic for the Middle Ages, or the wild west (what the real middle ages in Europe actually was in many ways) when the lords could have the droit de seigneur to just about everything, and the middle class is becoming a trapped serf class under the weight of their mortgages and consumer loans. And we are not necessarily getting the nobility of character that income inequality should breed, if it doesn’t want the “masses” to revolt. Many wealthy people are setting up legacy funds Carnegie style and Gates style – I understand. But as an old communist lecture series of posters I once found in a trash bin in NYC depicted: it can also be that the rich man is feeding the dog his own tail.

I guess the life of a serf or peasant isn’t as “revolting” as it used to be? I know mine isn’t, but I never ask wealthy persons what they think of my lifestyle choices or income. I don’t even ask my neighbors. But they have their opinions, I’m sure and I’d rather not know about them.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

What a great piece, Ms Freeland. Our nation needs to be discussing this topic. The news organizations need to be reporting on this. Our democracy is moribund. If another country threatened our democracy, we’d be pulling out our guns and hitting the streets. If an individual or political party tried to overthrow our government and set up authoritarian rule, it would be the one thing on everyone’s mind. Yet, what we are experiencing has the same result as these more overt threats to our democracy, and we do absolutely nothing about it. Nothing.

We don’t hardly even discuss it. Oftentimes when someone brings up economic inequality, someone else invariably responds with “class warfare” or “communism”. We came close to electing someone President who stated that this topic should not be discussed in public and should be reserved for “quiet rooms”. (Which sounds about as awkward as “severely conservative”. Thank God we dodged that bullet.)

As we saw with Mitt Romney, there seems to be this rather entrenched belief that the wealthy are entitled to our government, that the US government is there to vicariously exercise the will of the affluent, as if wealth should determine one’s right to formulating the policies that govern our nation. There are even people, primarily conservatives, who aren’t wealthy, but have been convinced that the rich should rule this country.

This is so dangerous, because as this op-ed points out, the wealthy have our government put into place policies that help them maintain and increase their wealth at the expense of the vast majority. We have less upward mobility than most developed nations. Sadly, this would be much harder if there weren’t so many on the right who have allowed themselves to believe whatever the plutocrats feed them. It’s been easy and consistent. They believe whatever they’re told, and little proof is necessary.

Consider how consistent the masses on the right believe the positions advocated by our major industries, in some cases against world opinion and scientific evidence. Consider the fossil fuel industries’ position on global warming. Until recently, global warming was a myth. Most people on the right also believed global warming was a myth. But since there’s such an indisputable amount of evidence that clearly shows the earth warming, the fossil fuel industries now say that, although the earth is getting warmer, it has nothing to do with anything man is doing. The rightwing masses are currently caught somewhere in between opinions. Some still say that global warming is a myth, while others have bought the new line, there’s not man-made global warming.

It’s the same dynamic with healthcare. By any measure the US healthcare system is as broken as it is absurd. It’s the most inefficient system in the world. No other country would operate such a stupid healthcare system. Yet our healthcare industry says it’s the best in the world. And (surprise, surprise), so do the rightwing masses. How can they support the positions of their party leaders, not to change anything in our healthcare system? It’s insane.

It’s the same story with guns, national defense, taxes, trade policies, etc. It just doesn’t seem to dawn on them that the positions they’ve been taught to believe, happen to be making a few plutocrats that are running these industries rich beyond their wildest dreams. The rightwing masses are being used. They’re dupes. If this dynamic doesn’t change soon, this country will suffer some very dire consequences. I just wish we didn’t have so many naive people.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

When most people have a hard time getting food due to the crop losses from the coming drought, the Republican Party can point out that at least they don’t have to pay a carbon tax.

It might not be the most effective argument.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

The top of America’s economic pyramid have some common cause with those on the bottom. Inflation takes far more dollars in purchasing power from their wealth that is “in dollars” than poor people.

Yes, the poor may “feel it” more when their food stamps, wages, Social Security check, etc. can’t cover the rent, transportation, utilities, food, taxes, and medical expenses. But those “at the top” are quick to notice when their dollars are decreasing in purchasing power and their property or business or inventory “investments” are not increasing in value proportionally.

We all “have skin in the game” whenever the shells are reshuffled. Rich or poor, there is increasing discomfort with increasing unpredictability and instability. There is “common cause” against it.

To such extent as the “dice are loaded” towards the wealthy, has it not always been so under ANY system of government? Why am I not surprised? These United States remain a “work in progress”.

So while dollars can buy lots of television time, and while lies repeated enough without truth to contradict them may be believed to be the truth, the media in this country is a far cry from that of Nazi Germany. Pure “truth” shines so bright that it is all but impossible to cover up with half-truths and lies.

“Supercitizens” have but one vote each. Yes, they can influence more; but they can”t make “black into white”. Leaders worthy of the name are not killed in this country as in some.

So when “we, the people” decide we’re being “gamed” we can and will stop that process at the ballot box. We must understand what’s “at stake” and why. So far, we don’t; and we haven’t. Whose fault is that?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

The top of America’s economic pyramid have some common cause with those on the bottom. Inflation takes far more dollars in purchasing power from their wealth that is “in dollars” than poor people.

Yes, the poor may “feel it” more when their food stamps, wages, Social Security check, etc. can’t cover the rent, transportation, utilities, food, taxes, and medical expenses. But those “at the top” are quick to notice when their dollars are decreasing in purchasing power and their property or business or inventory “investments” are not increasing in value proportionally.

We all “have skin in the game” whenever the shells are reshuffled. Rich or poor, there is increasing discomfort with increasing unpredictability and instability. There is “common cause” against it.

To such extent as the “dice are loaded” towards the wealthy, has it not always been so under ANY system of government? Why am I not surprised? These United States remain a “work in progress”.

So while dollars can buy lots of television time, and while lies repeated enough without truth to contradict them may be believed to be the truth, the media in this country is a far cry from that of Nazi Germany. Pure “truth” shines so bright that it is all but impossible to cover up with half-truths and lies.

“Supercitizens” have but one vote each. Yes, they can influence more; but they can”t make “black into white”. Leaders worthy of the name are not killed in this country as in some.

So when “we, the people” decide we’re being “gamed” we can and will stop that process at the ballot box. We must understand what’s “at stake” and why. So far, we don’t; and we haven’t. Whose fault is that?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

I’m 39 years old and I’m tired. Correction, I’m sick and tired off all of it.

I’m highly educated and under-employed to such a degree that when I read these articles I think that I no longer care. I no longer care about “america” (I would never, never, ever go to war for this country under any circumstance … ever). I don’t care about the democracy.

I voted twice for Obama, wait let me correct that I voted ONCE for Obama and once against Mitt Romney but I’m resolved the system doesn’t work. It may never have and except for a brief period when FDR fought for the middle-class (to ward off extremism – Communism & Fascism); a short moment in the sun. However, without the threat of Communism or Fascism (really histamine reactions to capitalism – aka neo-feudalism), the “rich” have no interest in “social justice” or equality or well frankly anyone or anything other than themselves.

Sociopaths all of them.

These “head-cases” would sit in Hell happy to watch everyone burn so long as they had all the air-conditioning.

They exist without empathy and emotion (except for themselves). Simply put, they’re not human. They’re other, something else; and as such they can’t be reasoned with. Only threatened. When they fear, then things change and usually for the worse. They are the Habsburgs.

Without this fear, they’ve run amok. Are running amok. A ship to Mars? A copy of the Titanic? Insane. They broke America. They broke the government. They broke the economy. They broke the dream and they did this all to “break the people.”

OK. Fine. Broken. But now I no longer care. I don’t care about them. I don’t care about you and I don’t even care about myself anymore. I just want to see it all burn.

I mean everything. Not just the country or the system or whatever … everything. Homo sapiens no more. We as a species need to pass beyond the veil, we are evil; more like a macro-virus, we need to go extinct.

So let the “super-rich” (nothing super about them except their level of aggression) have it all. Cut ALL the taxes. No taxes. Let them fund the military at 1000% over GDP – whatever they want. No social programs – I can’t get them, they don’t work and they’re non-existent pretty much anyway.

Head-Start? Give me a break. Those kids are dumber after coming out of the program. Food-Stamps? A middle-class (former) can’t get them but druggies are on / have been on the teat forever.

The only program I can think of that works a bit is Social Security and let’s face it without it, the society collapses.

Perhaps it’s about time?

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive

This issue is known to many people, even a foreigner like me. However I want to know the viable solution to this social inequality particularly in a democratic country. Is there any?

Posted by Kailim | Report as abusive

I’d focus on particular group (mindset) of these supercitizens, I’ll call them superenslavers… see if you can recognize one in the economic theater near you

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive

We are not the world’s leading democracy. Our citizens are less well educated than many other countries. Tens of millions of citizens go to bed at night hungry, homeless, or both. Our rights are constantly being eroded in the name of anti-terrorism. We have more murders per capita than dozens of western nations combined. We do not have universal health care. We systematically destroy our environment with little care for the ramifications. The middle class continues to fall behind in income. Jobs that once paid 11 or 12 bucks now pay 8 or 9. Jobs that used to pay $70-$80 thousand now pay $40-50 thousand. Our citizens are rude to one another and we are lucky if 50% of our eligible voters go to the polls. Our elected representatives callously refuse to raise the minimum wage while receiving regular increases. Our schools are second rate with no standardized curriculum or expectations for learning. Two percent of the population with the wealth to throw around control all the major decisions. Billionaires pay few, if any, taxes due to “carried interest.” The idea that you can, as a hedge fund manager, make a billion or more betting against America and not pay any taxes makes a mockery of our tax code. We, as a nation, are great only due to our massive military power. That’s it. Face the facts. When we stop beating our chests long enough to take a look at this nation in the cold, clear light of day we will realize that a revolution will come. No doubt about it. It is a matter of when and what the nature of the revolution will be.

Posted by propensity | Report as abusive

My theory is, and I admit I have absolutely no facts to back it up, that eventually people will wake up. I have always believed that ‘people’ are not as stupid as they pretend to be, or as most other people think they are. One of these days they’ll get tired of playing dumb and do something about their lives sliding into serfdom to the men behind the curtains. What really does worry me though is that it might get bloody. There’s already a huge level of violence in our society, perhaps caused by the general perception of the unfairness of it all.

Posted by thinkb4its2late | Report as abusive

The Chinese can control their rich. We cannot. We will lose.
The Chines very wisely watched the United States use capitalism to defeat the socialist soviets quite handily. Being a wise people, they learned from others mistakes. They have adapted and created “state sponsored capitalism”. I don’t think this is intended to destroy the US, or anyone else. As other commenters have eluded to, the Chinese are doing what democracy was intended to do and raising people out of poverty, and providing what the people need, not what they want.
I do not believe that a democracy in its pure form works any longer. Societies are far to large and diverse for that. Throughout history elite, small groups have controlled the masses. Since we are where we are today, that seems to work. We should learn to adapt very similar to the way the Chinese have. Just remember that the Khmer rouge also thought their wealth class was the enemy. It is not, we just need to re-engineer our wealthy class.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

@ OneOfTheSheep –

Please read the article “Can diplomacy prevail with Iran”, since I have posted comments that directly relate to your reply to this article above.

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/20 13/03/01/can-diplomacy-prevail-with-iran  /

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive

Some refuse to let go of the concept of the “American Dream”; that anyone can become wealthy, and for a handful of Americans, that remains true. Gone are the days when an American could pull themselves up by their bootstraps by getting a good education and putting it to work, or pulling a wagon and selling ice from the back of it, and now, of course, only the wealthy can become President. The dream is now at best just a romantic notion, and at worst Republican pandering.

We’re arguing, ad nauseum, what went wrong in this country. We know what’s wrong – or at least we know where it starts – unbridled corporate and individual greed.

Not too long ago in our nation’s short history, politicians learned a few things: the average person is profoundly lazy, basically uneducated, and content to let the politicians decide their fate and rich people/corporations/lobbyists pay them to vote their way. They have cover of the American citizens’ lack of awareness, and the laser glare of the wealthy.

But like Foxdrake_360, I’m getting tired of this. It’s become obvious, and moot, and yet here we all are coughing up another hairball of opinion.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: You exemplify one of the major reasons why we can’t solve, or even confront, the problem of inequality. You seem to be dismissing the hardships faced by most working people by saying, hey, we’re all in this together, the rich are suffering, too. Well guess what? The rich aren’t suffering. How can you even suggest such an absurd proposition?

The reason inflation doesn’t affect the supercitizens like everyone else is because their wealth increases, when no one elses does. This is an essential fact that you should swallow and wholly digest. How can you possibly suggest that some millionaire or billionaire is suffering when his or her income is increasing by, say 12% annually while inflation is rising at, say, 3% a year? Compare that to someone who makes $30,000 a year, whose income is not rising, and is trying to raise a family. There comes a point when there’s no more room to compensate. And that’s not even factoring in if the car breaks down or someone in the family has a serious accident or illness. What is it in a billionaire’s experience with inflation that allows you to draw any kind of parallel whatsoever?

This is why Obama and the Democrats are right in demanding that the wealthy should pay more in taxes and that the entitlement loopholes for the corporate rich should be closed, rather than make more cuts from programs that help the poor and middle class. After all, Obama is also offering spending cuts. That’s balanced. The Republicans are willing to sacrifice the US economy to protect the wealth of a relatively few individuals.

And to add insult to injury, you dismiss the lopsided, undemocratic, injustice in the supercitizen’s control of our government by saying, “…has it not always been so under ANY system of government?”

Actually, there are varying degrees of influence that the wealthy have had, both here and abroad, now and throughout history. Things were not as bad in the past here in the US as they are now, or else FDR would not have been elected President 4 times. A work in progress? Yes, but we’re regressing, rather than moving forward. The idea of having a work in progress is to improve and move forward.

There are European countries where the rich do not have much more influence in governing than everyone else, unlike the US. One reason for this is that the US has the greatest gap in wealth distribution among all developed nations. And when you have that, yes, the wealthy will take full advantage and use the wealth to control governing in ways that benefit them. And that’s what Ms Freeland has written about here far more eloquently than I could ever do.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

@Foxdrake,

You’re 39 and consider America/society without hope? “We as a species need to pass beyond the veil, we are evil; more like a macro-virus, we need to go extinct.”

Perhaps true if we are honest. But some of us have enjoyed our “ride” on earth and will not quietly go into the dark without attempting to share our experience(s) with those who follow. If their “way” be easier perhaps resources of time and money thus conserved may permit “progress” further and more rapid. These United States remain a “work in progress”.

I guess you’re the natural product of recent generations. As children you’re fed fairy tales where all endings are happy ones with no problems remaining. The “typical” American’s life is one of relative plenty, having acquaintance with “want” but never “need” from the cradle forward.

Raised from an early age in front of the TV, where all problems are solved within hour episodes is it any wonder that school and life itself becomes unacceptably boring. The excitement of incessant shallow and meaningless tweets and other social contacts from moment to moment on our electronic devices wherever we may be reduce the dull, plodding reality of school, work and life in general to boredom. It is ironic that you expect perfection in an obviously imperfect society, yet you would rather “drop out” than do anything to make it better yourself.

This world, if not this country, has far more humans infesting it than it can support if “life” is to be other than short, brutal and nasty. There are both infinite exits and infinite possibilities for those who search for either. Look up “Glass half full versus glass half empty”.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@PseudoTurtle, paintcan

You don’t have the excuse of the relative youth of Foxdrake (see my previous comment) behind your constant spewing of personal disillusionment and dissatisfaction. I’m surprised the sheer volume of poison within each of you has not made you slash your wrists.

You MUST know your own unhappiness and personal frustrations will never convince anyone else to slash theirs no matter how often you post. At some point dogmatic diatribes without end become too boring to read.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

We have no democracy in the US.
We have a type of slavery to the rich and a pretense of democracy.
Our food, our energy, our universities, our police, our courts, our media, and all of our politicians are totally controlled by the wealthy.
Not to worry, the movement to overthrow the wealthy masters and regain freedom is spreading around the world like wildfire and it will make its way to the US.
We are going to witness the greatest revolution in the history of the world and finally world peace, help for humanity, and freedom for all peoples.
When was the last time a poor man started a world war?

Posted by americanguy | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: You exemplify one of the major reasons why we can’t solve, or even confront, the problem of inequality. There are just too many people who willingly submit to the belief that that’s just the way things are, as if we don’t have the power to influence our own destinies. You seem to be dismissing the hardships faced by most working people by saying, hey, we’re all in this together, the rich are suffering, too. Well guess what? The rich aren’t suffering. How can you even suggest such an absurd proposition?

The reason inflation doesn’t affect the supercitizens like everyone else is because their wealth increases, when no one elses does. This is an essential fact that you should swallow and wholly digest. How can you possibly suggest that some millionaire or billionaire is suffering when his or her income is increasing by, say 12% annually while inflation is rising at, say, 3% a year? Compare that to someone who makes $30,000 a year, whose income is not rising, and is trying to raise a family. There comes a point when there’s no more room to compensate. And that’s not even factoring in if the car breaks down or someone in the family has a serious accident or illness. What is it in a billionaire’s experience with inflation that allows you to draw any kind of parallel whatsoever?

This is why Obama and the Democrats are right in demanding that the wealthy should pay more in taxes and that the entitlement loopholes for the corporate rich should be closed, rather than make more cuts from programs that help the poor and middle class. After all, Obama is also offering spending cuts. That’s balanced. The Republicans are willing to sacrifice the US economy to protect the wealth of a relatively few individuals.

And to add insult to injury, you dismiss the lopsided, undemocratic, injustice in the supercitizen’s control of our government by saying, “…has it not always been so under ANY system of government?”

Actually, there are varying degrees of influence that the wealthy have had, both here and abroad, now and throughout history. Things were not as bad in the past here in the US as they are now, or else FDR would not have been elected President 4 times. A work in progress? Yes, but we’re regressing, rather than moving forward. The idea of having a work in progress is to improve and move forward.

There are European countries where the rich do not have much more influence in governing than everyone else, unlike the US. One reason for this is that the US has the greatest gap in wealth distribution among all developed nations. And when you have that, yes, the wealthy will take full advantage and use the wealth to control governing in ways that benefit them. And that’s what Ms Freeland has written about here far more eloquently than I could ever do.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

But for the largesse of Congress, these uber-rich would never have become uber-rich, and yet they think they owe nothing to this country. They continue to accept our tax money to fatten their wallets as they blithely ignore what’s happening to everyone else. They remind me of the Exxon happy warrior, oblivious to everything but increasing their wealth.

Posted by palmer1619 | Report as abusive

The components that contributed to the United States Democracy: education, technology, business, etc., has inflated the price of said Democracy. The sum of the parts are now greater than the whole. The parts are driving the system now. Its a hollow Democracy.

Understand, this is less having to do with cynicism and more having to do with practical realism: A University professor from Princeton is “surprised” by something, historically speaking, seems to be quite consistent? I feel a giddy sense of relief that idealism still permeates the halls of academia.

Cynically speaking, now, this what the goal of Democracy tried to address. My heart shares the frustration; though my mind understands more, not less.

Thanks for ruining my Sunday morning. But, thanks, again, for the illuminating commentary.

Posted by ChrisHagelstein | Report as abusive

So let’s bring back the French Revolution and cut off the heads of the rich and the powerful. Then we can let the middle class rule. If I remember right that didn’t work out to well.

It’s always concerning to see progressives solutions to problems. They always seem to have force and manipulation of those they deem to be evil.

Posted by Bxcpeder | Report as abusive

and the labor unions have no political clout????

Posted by MitchS | Report as abusive

Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister in England in 1896, was reported to have expressed discomfort with democratic processes that allowed the common English folks challenge the Patricians, of which group he belonged. Before him, the old Roman Empire struggled with the agitations of the Plebeians. My point is that the super rich have always fought, even, if unjustly, for their interests, and have lost to the common good in each of the countries that have succeeded.

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

I smell a little “agenda” in this article. I’d be interested in reading the study itself and looking at the data. Open with a picture of Romney. Why not Al Gore? No mention of George Soros at all? No mention of the presidents new super-pac? NEWSFLASH: Romney lost the election. His wealth wasn’t enough was it? Nor that of his contributors. Which candidate spent more?
People who have power will always act to preserve that power. Warren Buffet is the exception that proves the rule. He realizes that he has full and plenty and always will. Up until a few years ago I always did my own taxes. Then I sold a house I had bought for rental income. I had to figure out Capital Gains taxes. (I’m not one of those Satanic Onepercenters either. I ran out of fixer-up money and sold at a loss. Not cryin’ my choice, my bad.) To get back on track, take a look at the tax code. If you stacked it all in one pile it would be as high as your typical ten year old kid. Its got to be that way so all these senator’s contributors get a break. That adds a few lines. Then you have to add a couple paragraphs to take that break away from the competitors of the favorite. I’d like to see a flat tax myself. This would end this avenue of favoritism for the rich and influential. I would even be willing to accept a free ride for about 10 percent of the lowest income people if their government benefits were counted as income and if someone could come up with a path from the tenth percentile to the eleventh percentile.
As far as keeping money out of elections, I don’t think anyone can do it. My only idea there is some sort of pool. For every dollar I give to candidate A, I must give a dollar to this pool. In the NEXT election this money is distributed to each and every political party except the winning party of THIS election. I’m not sure how you put value on a unions canvassing efforts or an Al Gore or Jesse Helms buying a media outlet to push a viewpoint. (I’ll leave LBJ out of the previous sentence. You younger progressive might want to research his FCC connections and their results though.) Not trying to pick on any one side of this debate. Its just that the “Holier than Thou” routine from the current administration has really got on my nerves. They all come from Chicago for Christs sake. Mary O’Leary’s two brothers are still voting early and voting often. Ever hear this joke about the founding of Chicago? Seems that once upon a time there were a bunch of New Yorkers sitting around. One of them said: “Gee, I really like all the crime and all this corruption but it’s just not COLD ENOUGH in the winter.”
Beyond the influence of money into politics. I worry more that the press isn’t doing a very good job. No matter who spends what on TV spots, if a voter can pick up the paper and read about an issue he/she can put a lot of spin in the dumpster. TV news anymore is a joke. They all do 45 second segments about a topic. Nobody digs into the story and presents facts to us. Pay attention to how many times a so called expert is cut off by the moderator. “Sorry to interrupt here but I’ve got to go” This last presidential election cycle we got stories about Romney’s dog in a car carrier and the President possibly having eaten dog. Who cares? Does that mean he can’t govern? I’d rather have seen a little information on his inner circle: those he surrounds himself with. Did any of them make millions from being involved in HUD contracts? Did any of them grow up working for their parents in some hardware store on the south side?
The Fast and Furious scandal is a hot button for me. How many little Mexican kids have been killed by those weapons? Just because they’re not on our side of the border doesn’t mean they don’t count. I’ll bet it is a bigger number than the elementary school in Connecticut. Didn’t hear much about it though did you? The powerful get a pass a lot of times if the press is lazy or willing to look the other way.
All that being said. The good old USA is still the best system. We have all the mechanisms in place here to level out the playing field and these mechanisms are understood to be necessary and permanent. I never worried for a second about Norman Schwarzkopf becoming “president for life”. The USA is in some ways unique in human history. Not perfect for sure. I don’t like it that Mr. Obama’s skin color was so important and was made into such an issue. It shouldn’t have been a factor but I guess we aren’t to that point yet. We’re getting there though. I don’t think anyone at this point would worry about JFK being Catholic. Hey, he won his election! How about his picture at the head of the article!

Posted by pawn2nd | Report as abusive

propensity: Great summary of our nation’s current reality. Kudos. It’s sad and frustrating. Perhaps what worries me most is that I see so little hope on the horizon. We seem to function at only 2 speeds: speeding toward our demise or going toward it at just a steady pace. The election of Obama over Romney slowed our collapse, but it certainly hasn’t put on the brakes. As far as I’m concerned there are only two paths forward that hold any promise for a better future: Serious, comprehensive, effective campaign finance reform, or revolution, neither of which are being advanced.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

@flashrooster,

I emphatically disagree. To “…solve, or even confront…” any problem there is a process. First, is the “problem” something new or just the the way things have pretty much always been? If the first, we can jump right in with both feet and good intentions. “Problems” that have existed for thousands of years in all types of societies are likely the result of “human nature”. That is not overcome or changed easily.

But I do believe we have the power, if at the right place at the right time with the right idea(s). Anyone that believes one can’t make a difference has never had a mosquito in their shower. “Dismissing hardships” from your perspective is understanding reality from mine. If I could wave my hand and make things better, I would. But I can’t. Neither can you.

The rich do suffer, just in different ways and their “pain” is more abstract than real. But it is sufficient to cause them to take notice and make adjustments to how they spend and invest. As to who “controls” our government, I’d much rather have such “control” limited to those of sufficient success to pay taxes rather than cede control of the circus to unqualified monkeys.

If their ability to increase their returns and pay less taxes on those is greater because their consultants find inconsistencies in our laws and regulations to exploit, that is perfectly legal. Any “remedy” is not in lecturing them on their morals, but through changing and motivating “our” elected representatives. Just because that’s “the way it is” does not mean I’m satisfied. That’s why I speak out here on Reuters probably more than most.

I state repeatedly that our present Bozos in Washington AND the “platforms” of both major parties are most of the problem. I agree we need solutions, but they must be realistic in the here and now. You seem to favor “solutions” that require bigger and bigger government. Such is your right,, but from my perspective people like you are the problem, not the solution.

I favor solutions that goo beyond the present Sequester, which merely slows the growth of our government, but actually CUTS the beast down to such size as America’s present productivity and economic activity can sustain. Those who would “solve problems” of spending more than we “earn” by spending even more are delusional.

I don’t want to “protect anyone’s “wealth”, but I DO want to preserve the financial motivations in our society that harness self-improvement and self-interest to make the bigger economic pie. That bigger pie goes “further” if and when divided responsibly. It isn’t “responsible” for our government to make life “comfortable” for those who don’t take public schooling seriously enough to prepare them to be employable and productive citizens.

More and more that seems to be the “thrust” of an increasingly “entitlement-based” society. I don’t think it responsible for someone “earning” $30,000 a year to feel “entitled” to “raise” a large family by tapping the earnings of others, but America does this. I believe people entitled to the opportunity to succeed in a productive society proportionally to the skills, capital and sweat in some combination they invest, but for there to be “winners” in life there must also be “losers”. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy in real life.

I most emphatically do NOT believe anyone lucky enough to be in America is “entitled” to a certain level of income, comforts and options. Every society that has tried that path has quickly disappeared.

I do think that elder citizens who have been in the economy as taxpayers until advancing age, obsolescence of skills or retirement renders them unemployed, should be able to live out the remainder of their existence with some measure of financial dignity even if they could not “put something back” separately for their “golden years”.

The “European countries” you would have America emulate are already teetering on insolvency because they, too, shovel out more in benefits than their economies can support in the long term. They will either bring that back into balance or the EU and the Euro will fail. Persopnally, I think that’s already inevitable.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

But @0okkm9ijn, it is a cycle. People in a Society create wealth, making themselves wealthy and advancing the society. The wealthy continue to get wealthier as society progresses. Eventually the society begins resenting the wealthy people and usually end up either killing or exiling them. The society then consumes the wealth and stagnates. Until another person decides to create wealth. This has gone on now for as long as we have recorded history to some extent or another. The wealthy have historically used warfare to divert the anger away from themselves. Unfortunately it is much harder for them to do that now, ask G.W. Bush.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

@OneOfTheSheep

*** “some of us have enjoyed our “ride” on earth and will not quietly go into the dark without attempting to share our experience(s) with those who follow”

Exactly.

You and your ilk (I’m assuming based on your comment) have “enjoyed the ride” and will continue to “enjoy the ride” at the expense of everyone else.

The 1% to 10% will continue to “live the dream;” heck, they will have their dreams not met but probably exceeded. While everyone else is SHUT OUT of the ride, yet still expected to support the upkeep of the amusement park.

***”These United States remain a ‘work in progress’.”

These platitudes no longer mean anything. Nazi Germany was a “work in progress” right up until Hitler shot himself in the head.

***”I guess you’re the natural product of recent generations. As children you’re fed fairy tales where all endings are happy ones with no problems remaining.”

And I guess your some 65-85 year old coot, still living in the 1950s – 1960s seeing this country through rose colored glasses of some Walt Disney like fantasy that has long since evaporated.

Let me dispel your illusions.

In 1994 I graduated High School.
In 1996 I graduated with a AA in the Social Science Magna Cum Laude.
1n 1998 I graduated with a BA/MA in History, minor Biology with Honors.
In 2004 I graduated with a JD (that’s right Juris Doctorate) – tier two.
In 2011 I graduate with a MLIS (Masters in Library & Information Science).

In 2012 I got a job working for a “security company” making $15 an hour as that was the best job I could find.

In 2013 I returned to school to get a second BA in Biology and I’m going to take the MCAT and a shot at Med School. I’m hoping there’s a “real” job in that sector.

The “American Dream” has been a NIGHTMARE.

Deceived I was. LIED TO. I was told if I worked hard, studied hard, was never convicted of a felony, went to school and tried to “make something of myself” I would be valued, appreciated and respected by the society.

I am not.

In fact, I’d be better off if I went to trucking school after high school, and didn’t waste my time or money believing this was … “the land of opportunity.”

What a fu*cking joke.

TV fantasy? Right. Except well, you have NO fu*king clue. I didn’t expect “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” (no that’s what the SOCIOPATHS want). I expected the system would translate to gainful employment at a reasonable wage and at least a middle-middle-class life style.

A new Ford every six to 8 years not a new yacht.

That’s where your delusion of “capitalism” collapses.

And toward that end, I wish you’d just “shut the fu*k up.”

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive

@Bxcpeder

***”So let’s bring back the French Revolution and cut off the heads of the rich and the powerful. Then we can let the middle class rule. If I remember right that didn’t work out to well.”

I’m willing to give it a try. Seriously, what do I have to lose? Second times the charm, anyway.

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive

Until education in the U.S. is much more widely acquired, there is probably little prospect of significant change for the better in the U.S. We often hear how shameful it is that voter turnout is so small, but hearing about how some voters made up their minds may make a thoughtful person feel glad most of the non-voters stayed away, certainly if it is assumed those persons were uninformed or, worse, that the issues and candidate positions were beyond their understanding.

Posted by bcrawf | Report as abusive

Democracy is just the worlds latest Utopian dream that asks for your faith and falls short of its delivery. Its just another false god like Humanity or Mankind. Democracy just makes the Master a ghost(nameless, constantly changing Lord) to the slave. You’re not born a peasant today in name, you now elect the master that tells you to take pride in being the modern day equivalent of a peasant, a citizen.

Human nature isn’t any more pretty than a pack of wild dogs, each living for its own self interest. No political system will ever change that, nor will any amount of education. To the victor go the spoils, to the rich go the power and rights will always be determined by might.

Posted by LysanderTucker | Report as abusive

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM IS ETERNAL VIGILANCE.

Posted by turtledove | Report as abusive

Sticky gloom in some of the comments… although Freeland seems reluctant to acknowledge, there should certainly be some concern about illusive danger behind ‘unanswered questions’ and possible last ditch effort from 12 monkeys to preserve their precious. Apart from that, there’s nothing but good that will come out of this…

Yesterday, Swiss government allowed voters to decide on ‘Fat cat initiative’, there are many perspectives to look at that development (which directly addresses the question of inequality), and seeing it as preemptive move of sensible and concerned administrators is as valid as many.

Of course, there are parts of the world where corrupted system failed to such extent that it has no means of self-preservation, in sense that it can’t find ways to assure very basic freedom from want, in such places we’ll see more violent correction.

Point being, while you can’t prevent the inevitable, in most cases you can direct it… this commentary, along with the vehicle of its deployment is one of such…, sensible efforts.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive

Why not talk about the political clout of seniors who are burdening younger generations with the bill for entitlement benefits they didn’t pay for and how that lobby continuously votes for “leaders” like Obama who are content to “kick the can”…

Posted by jaham | Report as abusive

Democracy depends on a well educated electorate. The US no longer has that. As a result we have the Beltway gang that love$ foreign “influence” and is voted into office by the uninformed. Heaven help the informed.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

@tmc. That’s exactly what the super rich wants us to believe–that they create wealth, but that’s not correct. They may re-organize or merely tap into the systemic structure of the society to expand their reach, but hardly add to what existed in the society. Sam Walton, for example, organized the mode of distribution, but does not add anything to what society produces. Computers and technology have increased the reach of man, but have not added anything to man’ basic instincts. The fight between the super rich and the ordinary folk is not a fight to take from the super rich, but a fight to deny the ordinary folk his basic dignity–the attempt on the part of the super rich to define the parameters for the ordinary folk, and convert himself to god.

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

OneoftheSheep: If I was advocating an entitlement society funded by the rich, your response may make some sense. But since that’s not at all what my post says, it leaves you arguing with a non-existent stick man. I’m not advocating that we tax the rich so the majority can sit around doing nothing. You don’t insult me by posting something so absurd; you insult yourself.

My hope is not for bigger government; it’s for a better, more efficient government. That means figuring out where government can help and where government only gets in the way. Part of that equation is that the wealthy, who are reaping the most benefits from the way our economy is currently structured because they are the ones who structured it that way, they should be paying a greater PERCENTAGE of their income for that privilege. After all, they are the ones keeping wages low, while raising the costs of their goods and services, as well as, increasing their personal wealth. It makes perfect sense.
They’ll still be rich, and a lot more Americans can live without worrying whether they’ll be able to pay the mortgage or send their kids to college. We’ve been there before. I can be done. But it requires some bold change.

I really get tire of hearing so called conservatives criticize changing anything, never offering any solutions of their own to our growing problems, except for measures that only help the rich get richer, and ultimately hurt the majority. Criticizing Obamacare doesn’t address the bonecrushingly serious problems we have with our healthcare system. That’s because the plutocrats who shaped are system are acquiring mountains of wealth because of the way they designed our system. But it’s become a very serious problem for the American people and our government. Your attitude seems to be a combination of, hey, that’s capitalism, and hey, it’s always been that way. That’s no answer. But it IS what healthcare executives pay our politicians to parrot. And some, like yourself, actually believe it.

What I’m saying is we can do better. Saying that it’s always been that way is a perfectly meaningless statement. You can say that about how man has held women back throughout history. Oh well, let’s do nothing about that because that’s the way it’s always been. No, that’s shirking our responsibility to make things better.

I came across the following article today. I see these quite often, but our government and the press have a kind of “quiet rooms” attitude toward the subject, the same subject that Ms Freeland has written about here. Read the following paragraph carefully. This is a fact that you choose to ignore and I feel can’t be ignored:

“Rich Americans have seen their personal wealth grow since the financial crisis and Great Recession ended. Central banks’ cheap-money campaigns to revive growth and support the financial system have allowed corporate profits and world stock markets to recover, while productivity-obsessed and risk-averse corporate leaders resist hiring and investing too aggressively. As companies continue to hoard cash, wages have stagnated to the point that labor income as a proportion of company earnings is near an all-time low.”
http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-tic ker/why-u-economy-friendliest-rich-16173 7804.html

Perhaps what bothers me the most about your position is that you’re okay with seeing so many Americans suffer just so that a few can become filthy rich and that nothing should be done to change that dynamic. Why is it okay with you to allow entitlements for those who need them least but are so vehemently opposed to government helping those who need it most? I don’t think anyone should ever advocate for smaller government without saying specifically what they’d cut and how that’s supposed to make things better. If it DOES make things better for more people, then I’m for it. If it makes things worse, but simply makes conservatives feel better about things, then that’s not good enough. Leave it alone.

Well, throughout history when enough people are suffering and come to realize that they’re being used by a privileged oligarchy, they take measures into their own hands. Personally, I think we could make that a much smoother transition today than the form it will take if we do little or nothing now except cut government. The less power our government has, the more power for the plutocrats. Government is the only entity big enough to keep plutocrats and their industries in check. That’s why they’ve bought our government out from under us and now want to shrink it small enough to drown in a bathtub. People on the right sell it as, the less power government has, the more the people have. And that’s not true. When our government works the way it’s supposed to work, it gives the people power. But as it is now, it’s owned by the rich who you want to protect.

The single biggest thing we could do right now to start moving in the right direction is to adopt a system of publicly financed elections. Then our government officials won’t have to spend all of their time raising campaign dollars and they can start serving us instead of the highest bidder.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

OneoftheSheep: Here’s a short video about wealth distribution in the US. Watch this and see if you still think raising taxes and closing loopholes on the wealthiest is really an irrational and unfair thing to do, and if your really think the rich are suffering anything remotely like the poor: http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-amer icans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mi nd-blowing-fact-2?g=3&c=fea

How can you watch this and not believe that increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and spending more on schools, job training, infrastructure building, and scientific research would not be good for our country?

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

@Foxdrake,

Fascinating. You’ve been in school all your life except for a year’s stint as a Security Guard? I’ll admit that few “professional students” have much “meaningful life experience” to temper the absolutist style of judgment academia engenders. A lecturer once asked: “Do you know the difference between a can of Alpo and a recent college graduate”? The answer was: “The can of Alpo has content.”

So you’re envious of all who have succeeded with less education where you have not? You’re angry because people have deceived you over the years? There are lessons there. 1. Life isn’t fair. 2. All are not equal. 3. Don’t accept everything at “face value”. 4. 90-99% of people AREN’T “SHUT OUT”. 5. So far, by any measure, you haven’t “measured up”. (Hint-you are the only person that can “fix” that.)

Somewhere, somehow most exclude themselves. The person with tattoos and/or “in your face” body piercings finds it difficult to find employment with opportunity for advancement. Hello? Most such opportunities require “people skills”. I live in a place where even the college-educated affect an ignorant demeanor and accent. Would I hire one of those? Only if I had no other choice.

Do people find you “mentally quick”? If they’re looking for someone “up and coming”, that’s what they want. If they’re looking for an order taker, stock puller or someone to mow their yard or clean their pool, the “mentally quick” are “overqualified” and will leave in a heartbeat as soon as they get a better offer. So employers don’t hire and train people poorly suited to their immediate need.

I wish you well in the medical field. Social Science and History are not areas of endeavor that typically pay well. Library and Information Science would seem an area of knowledge front and center for the internet and Google to obsolete. As to the Juris Doctorate were you unable to pass the Bar Exam? See:

THIRD TIER REALITY: Open Letter to the Graduating JD Class of 2011

As to “my delusion” of capitalism, look around you. Haven’t a majority around your age found some measure of “success”? I see malls full of shoppers, grocery stores with ever-bigger “ready-to-eat” sections and upscale fish, beef and other options that seem to find a ready market before their “must sell” date. Apple stores are mobbed at all hours, and their customers aren’t us “old coots between 65 and 85” in age. A majority of cars on the road are bigger and more luxurious than my 1999 Chevy Metro 3-door hatchback (which I LOVE).

I advise you to build relationships with those whose opinions you respect because you obviously need help figuring out what you’re doing so consistently wrong. If I exhibit generational blindness or insensivitivity, my apologies.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@pawn2nd,

That was as thoughtful a post as I’ve seen recently.

You express frustration with patience and grace, and seem to have an infinitely better grasp on reality than many. I’m sure I don’t share many of your beliefs, but you seem to actually think before pounding the keyboard.

I look forward to reading more from you.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

jahan wrote:

“Why not talk about the political clout of seniors who are burdening younger generations with the bill for entitlement benefits they didn’t pay for and how that lobby continuously votes for “leaders” like Obama who are content to “kick the can”…”

Excuse me? The seniors get entitlements they didn’t pay for, and are burdening you? Who do you think has been paying income taxes and taxes into SS, Medicare and Medicaid for the last three or four decades?

Those seniors, I’m pretty sure, are wishing they’d never given birth to the pack of wild dogs you exemplify, who chew off the legs of those who raised them.

You remind me of why some lower species eat their young.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

The answer is very simple, too simple to be believed.

We can reverse this suicidal income inequality simply by outlawing all PAC’s and Lobbyists who only represent the very rich and who have bought out our government.
Public funded elections is the only way out.

Has anyone here ever wondered why a special interest group, such as the pro-Israel lobby, is spending more on lobbying than any other group ? ? ?

Why has Goldman Sachs weekly visits to the White House, for decades ?

Why is it that “Goldman Sachs Controls the World” has become a de facto cliche on Wall Street ?

Why have the Rothschilds & Goldman Sachs been operating in China since the early 1980′s ?

Who is hiding behind this corporate monster ?

Posted by EthicsIntl | Report as abusive

@OneOfTheSheep

I’m not going to respond to your comments individually, I tire of you and your BS.

Suffice to say this isn’t about me.

That’s the lie. I’m educated, smart, and way under-employed. AND I’M NOT ALONE!

This is your problem too. Why?

I’m not making the salary I should, sure, F-Me? Right? Well F-You too.

I’m not paying taxes. I’m not paying back the student loans. I’m consuming and the PYRAMID base can not support the weight at the top.

As to the BAR. I passed it. Closed Guild system. No entry except for the connect (THE RICH and THEIR KIDS), No work, too many lawyers – that said, I’d take a job as an executive in HR; they’d KILL to hire a guy with a JD (good school – TOP TIER 2 a-hole not 3) – but the companies won’t hire…they out-source to China and India and over-work those they can’t out-source.

The SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK. It doesn’t work for me and if ENOUGH of me are there, there will be REVOLUTION.

Idle hands make the DEVIL’S work.

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive

Oh, and as for the 1 year working security, NO. I’ve been employed full-time my whole life (since age 18), while putting myself through school. I’ve NEVER not had a job – except for 2008-2011 (the DARK years).

Your propaganda does not hold water.

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive

@Foxdrake,

When you get as specific as you have (“I’m educated, smart, and way under-employed…ad infinitum), it’s about YOU. It comes down to your attitude and expectations…how you present yourself to land a position, any position.

Your educational history shows successive but unrelated academic pursuits changing with the frequency of a hooker’s escorts. I see little evidence of anuy ability to focus or plan in the long term. Do you suffer from adult ADHD (Google it).

A relative of mine completed an advanced degree in Petroleum Engineering. Upon graduation he was offered a starting position with the university’s Petroleum Engineering Department as an instructor, but noooo, that was not what he had slaved all his life for.

He wanted the “big bucks” right off, working for an oil company. Any corporate offers tendered must have been deemed “beneath consideration”. Failure to launch.

So over recent decades he has worked as a free-lance web site designer, delivering pizzas, and as a security guard. NEVER employed “in his field”. But over lunch (you pay) he will lecture anyone and everyone about the “end days” and the Illuminati, the quintessential example of an idiot educated beyond his quota of common sense.

He is the perfect example that if you start with an idiot and educate him, the result is an educated idiot. Our society seems to have way too many of these already, particularly in government employ.

When you say “I’m not making the salary I should…” I cannot help but wonder as to your interview expectations and attitude. It’s hard to hide on a resume when someone with advanced degrees does not accept SOME work “in their field” within a year or two of graduation.

Interviews become short, unproductive and and increasingly rare. Soon they don’t HAVE a “field” in which their skills are considered “current”.

“…too many lawyers…”. What position were you after, Perry Mason? How many grunt working Public Defenders have been hired by municipalities all across this great nation since you passed the bar? How much pro bono work did you take on to demonstrate your ability in a courtroom?

If you were to look up your male JD classmates graduating back in 2004, I’ll bet 75% or more are today earning their beans in the legal field and making more than you are, and a majority are actively practicing attorneys. Persistence and ability are “required” to succeed in EVERY field.

“…I’d take a job as an executive in HR…”. Here’s a little secret. They don’t hire inexperienced people as “executives”.

You find a need and fill it to the best of your ability and, if you impress someone, anyone in authority, you get offered something better. And don’t expect to not be “over-worked.

I’m not writing propaganda. I’m writing FACTS. I’ve been on the hiring end and the firing end. You may not be alone, but you’re definitely not typical in your “failure to launch” after such a long and expensive education.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

OOTS – You never rise to more than a catechism class in chamber of commerce truisms.

I’ll bet your favorite artist is Norman Rockwell?

To anyone else who still thinks above the immediate concerns of his retirement benefits and portfolio:

There is an interesting series on Hulu I watched last night. It was looking at the way wealthy people ate during various periods of British history. I can’t say much for the food I saw, some of it was turning the hosts stomachs, but it was, overall, a vivid and even damning indictment of the excess of wealth and how blind and corrupt a wealth dominated society can be. The hosts weren’t trying to make that point. I never saw anything that made it more obvious why Europe became a socialist society. All I saw was a program about people who were blind and gluttonous and wouldn’t stop eating the meals but ate everything they could to get those gargantuan, and mostly wested, foodstuffs. It’s a pity , I really like period costume and reading social history, but this program turned the pages of that somehow. I know to my bones I would have wanted the social welfare legislation of the early 20th century and the state we have now. I think my father is too optimistic about the future. He thinks we will live in a close encounters like future – the big wise sticks surrounded by and all the pretty babies of humanity. He forgets that the big sticks tend to be cannibals and like to eat pretty babies. The big sticks know they have some pretty disgusting appetites. So to the pretty babies. And I’m not necessarily talking about sex.

In entire country was turned from something more cooperative and even fair, with a certain amount of social wellfare built in, to the degrading and exploitive work house of the 19th century. Now that I see their menus I can see why Veblen wrote his books. I always thought he was talking about the buildings and furniture. It’s was heir eating habits. I spend 30 years building an elaborate model of an 18th century palace with all trimmings and now I want to repent the error of my ways. The only thing that saves me from doing that is I look at the buildings, furniture, and works of art of that period that wasn’t wasted and actually retained it’s value to some extent.

Were the stones that went into building the great pyramid wasted?

The great cruise ships could have crossed the Atlantic without the upper class. They got the best decor but steerage and the lower decks were paying for the physical ship. Was the taste or wisdom of the upper classes so superior to all others that they deserved the clouds and the rest deserved the bilge?

The hosts of that show were very conscious of their own health, and it was obvious that all that waste and the grossly excessive calories was actually killing the upper classes. But the starvation of the bottom tiers of society was killing them too. There was hardly any middle ground to speak of. And now some like the Tea Party want to back to that?

What we need now is a series of programs that look at the actual worth to society of people with vast net worth. OOTS never has a kind word to say for the bottom feeders. He always figures they deserve their lot and they aren’t worth anything. I would be an eager viewer of a series that examined the issues of massive top heavy wealth accumulation in the hands of a small percentage of the population. Not a dry debate but a real propaganda fest.

It’s obvious there is nothing logical about politics or even economics. The showiest show wins the argument. I’d really like to see it as a debate between the right and the left with two or more well respected voices for either side. They could each take 1/2 for each discussion in a series that examines all the aspects of unequal wealth distribution.

I’m 62 years old and not much of a fan of any economic system now. Maybe in this situation – losers can be choosers?

BTW – OOTS – I have attempted suicide. I have a very brutal emotional life. It’s merciless and it can even convince itself that suicide is the right thing to do. I could easily make it a gift to the right wing so they had one less mouths to feed on the fruits of those difficult and labor intensive lives they claim to lead. They didn’t look like that when I was there.

You never admit that being wealthy is a lot of fun and gets you more chances to have everything you wanted. You also never admit that poverty shrinks a person, body and soul. It is such a terrible and all pervasive situation that people will kill rather than fall from the state of economic grace and will do the same to get out of the fall from it.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

One other thing about the way I write: in structural engineering there is a principal that all forces acting on a building must equal zero, or it is unstable and could even collapse.

If I wrote my propaganda series, pro and con, I would construct it such that all arguments equaled zero. If there is any change or progress forward, it has to come from outside the “system”, but it is more likely that one can count on mistaken calculations, or something barely noticed and overlooked. That can bring disaster too. You can do everything right and still lose and the roof can cave in.

Haven’t you noticed that any argument can have it’s opposite? I do it all the time. I learn a lot that way.

Is bipolar oscillation something human beings have to live with as a social rule? History is bipolar and so is the economic life of the world.

Or maybe it’s more like the action of the lungs?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

@paintcan,

Any life fundamentally ruled by emotion will be merciless and brutal at times. Those who instead are able to think and act from a basis of logic are more likely to find life an “easier” set of experiences. For me logic is the “main course” with emotion added here and there as a “spice”. An “honest choice” wouldn’t you agree?

You and I have long debated the importance of “truth and facts”. Your “zero sum” structural engineering description appears an honest attempt to illustrate why “truth and facts” don’t matter. The incovenient reality is that there are few, if any “zero sum” situations in real life.

The effects of mass and gravity can be calculated and considered as dampening forces to mitigate some of the gust or earthquake forces of comparatively short duration that might act on a structure. Today the effects of fire on a structure, and how to best prevent or postpone structural collapse in such case must be considered.

Components for a land structure in a seismicly active area would be both different and more expensive than for the same structure in a geologically stable area. There would be differences as to “additional” support necessary if built on a rock or a sand “base”. A floating structure, such as a ship, might have more equal forces to consider from all directions.

So the “effective design zero” point is never an arbitrary mid-point between theoretical extremes but must be determined giving due consideration to all pertinent “truth and facts” to find the “best economic compromise”. Even aircraft structures are not designed to resist EQUAL potentially destructive forces from all directions. The end product is the result of many significant considerations and compromises.

Our logical conclusion is that “Truth and facts” are absolutely essential to any proper structural design process. It seems to me any writing that offers NO facts and NO truth, intentionally without discernible goal or lasting significance, can offer NO merit, satisfaction or reward to either author or reader.

I have read some poetry that is like this.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@OneOfTheSheep

Talking with you is like talking with one of the indoctrinated. You are so locked into you’re world view you can not see reality.

***”Your educational history shows successive but unrelated academic pursuits changing with the frequency of a hooker’s escorts.”

Social Science, History, Law and Library (law library) all perfectly related – It’s just not there; unless your a Senator’s son. This is particularly true for a “new one” off the assembly line. The old ones can’t retire and there are too many (with experience) taking all the entry level jobs. There’s NO WORK.

NONE. It’s all a lie.

***”A relative of mine completed an advanced degree in Petroleum Engineering. … but noooo, … he wanted the “big bucks” right off,”

He’s an idiot. Graduating lawyers can’t even get doc-review jobs as even those are outsourced to India.

Also, the only industry growing is BIG OIL; at the expense of everyone else. I heard manufacturing is coming back to the US. Jobs for GE making water heaters at $30 an hour are now returning from China at $9 an hour, with no benefits. It’s a RAPE but I’d do it but I hate the fact I’m being raped; you don’t…you call that “business” – you and your ilk are SOCIOPATHS.

***” if you start with an idiot and educate him, the result is an educated idiot***

Right. ‘Nuff said. We must all be idiots. We’re NOT human right? We’re sub-human. There’s winners and LOSERS! and we’re just “the losers.” Correct? The idiots. Idiots deserve it. You’re just WINNING! Right? Like Charlie Sheen?

Even seen “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy? You must really think you’re indestructible? That this can never happen to you. Or your son? Or daughter? You really don’t see other people around you as “human-beings?” Do you?

May you acquire empathy though life before you transcend.

***”Here’s a little secret. They don’t hire inexperienced people as “executives”.”

No they only hire WINNERS; just like you; and that’s why it’s all turning to SH*T.

I don’t have to argue with you. I don’t have to play your game. I don’t have to lift a finger. You may be in 1st class and me in steerage but when this ship fails; you’ll be pooping in the same red bio-hazard bags. If anything, I might just pity you; I’ll pass first – but I sure as hell won’t want to live / linger on in your coming MAD MAX world.

Cheers!

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive