Obama’s small steps won’t fix inequality

By Helaine Olen
January 30, 2014

President Barack Obama is taking on the challenge of increasing the United States’ all but stagnant economic mobility.

He wants, he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, to both “strengthen the middle class” and “build new ladders of opportunity” into it. His modest plan — modest so that it does not need the congressional approval he’s unlikely to receive — includes raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers and offering workers a new workplace retirement savings account option.

It’s a nice start. But nowhere near enough.

The United States’ sluggish economic mobility is not new. According to a paper recently published by academics at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, it has been mediocre for those born in the 1970s, and it is just as bad for those born 20 years later.

So what’s different now? Two things. First, the fast-growing rate of income inequality has left the rungs on the mobility ladder further apart than ever before. The top 1 percent of earners, as Paul Krugman recently noted, saw their incomes increase by 182 percent between 1979 and 2012. The next 4 percent saw a gain of just under 52 percent.

The ever greater amounts of money earned by the highest tier allows them to buy privileges that all but ensure their children can remain at the top. Upper-income families inhabit a world where private schools charge annual tuition totaling only a few thousand dollars less than the median household income, and pricy tutors, extracurricular activities and private college counselors ensure their children will retain their privileged status. Even the best and most exclusive suburban public high schools can’t offer these advantages.

Yet the era of easy credit and the real estate bubble of the aughts shaded this reality for years — effectively allowing people to temporarily borrow their way out of America’s inequality and mobility problems. Your salary might not be keeping up, but if you used your home equity from the house you bought with 5 percent down, you could purchase the same $10,000 sub-zero refrigerator as anyone else.

When the housing bubble and resulting credit explosion collapsed, the truth about our unequal economy could no longer be denied. Numbers came fast and furious. According to Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley, 95 percent of the income earned by households between 2008 and 2102 went to the top 1 percent.

At the other end of the income spectrum, more and more Americans identify as lower class — something all but unheard of in the home of Horatio Alger.

Pew Research Center has been tracking this — and the results are not pretty. In 2008, 25 percent of those surveyed claimed such economic status. In 2012, it was 32 percent. By 2014, after the Standard and Poor’s 500 had soared by roughly 30 percent in one year, the number identifying as lower class or lower middle class had risen to 40 percent. Almost the same number — 38 percent — told Pew “hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people.” Our perception that we were doing well has collapsed in the face of economic reality.

We can see the practical results all around. The part of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits companies from offering better coverage to high-ranking employees, the one supposed to begin at the end of 2010? Still not enforced. More members of Congress are millionaires than not. In San Francisco, the middle-class masses still take public transit, while those lucky or skilled enough to get jobs with Silicon Valley behemoths like Google, get ferried to work on private luxury buses.

For the wealthy, the combination of isolation and privileged affluence leads to an increasing social cluelessness and entitlement. The smallest criticism is viewed as a personal affront — as venture capitalist Tom Perkins revealed when he compared criticism of wealthy people such as himself to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo put it:

“There’s a slice of the population, whether it’s the top 1 percent or .01 percent or whatever, that doesn’t just have more stuff and money. The sheer scale of the difference means they live what is simply a qualitatively different kind of existence. That gulf creates estrangement and alienation…”

As for the rest of us? We live with a sense that the fix is in, that there is one set of lenient rules for the plutocracy, and a harsher set for everyone else. That explains the gallows humor about private profits and socialized risk, and the fury average Americans feel when demonized for buying homes they could not afford while the banks and mortgage companies that lent out all that mortgage money have escaped with little more than slap-on-the-wrist fines.

It’s corrosive, this sort of divide. It feeds on itself. People who believe they are permanently destined to look through glass windows at their financial betters are volatile. So too are the people on the other side of the divide — scared that every waspish comment about $4 slices of toast means Robespierre is around the corner.

Bad things can happen in this sort of environment. Obama needs to take it on. If he can’t get Congress to take action, he needs to explain to the American public the consequences of inaction.

Small steps are unlikely to be enough.


PHOTO: At least 20 private jet aircraft sit parked at the Friedman Memorial Airport during the Allen & Co. Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

PHOTO: A realtor and bank-owned sign is displayed near a house for sale in Phoenix, Arizona, January 4, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

PHOTO: Saidov Wane and his two-year-old daughter Khady protest against home foreclosures in the East Price Hill neighborhood during a Occupy Cincinnati march in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 24, 2012. REUTERS/John Sommers II



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The author misquotes the statement by Emmanuel Saez. The statement “According to Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley, 95 percent of the income earned by households between 2008 and 2102 went to the top 1 percent.” should read that “95 percent of income GAINS between 2008 and 2012 went to the top 1 percent.” A very different matter.

Posted by details61 | Report as abusive

Obama take action? Hell, he and his policies are the cause of the continuation of this!

Posted by artvet2 | Report as abusive

Obama’s goal has nothing to do with Inequality. It’s merely an election platform. Turn off the speeches. Follow his actions and accomplishments.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive

middle class in America frys hamburgers for a living. read the clinton tapes. President Obama is busy cleaning up what the last Democrats left. yet he has written 640 plus memos toward what i would guess he would like to get to at some point. Economy? war last 20 years. Where did our industry go?. According to packaging and labels we are rich someone else does it for us. maybe vote this next time. i am.

Posted by LOVEFROEVER | Report as abusive

The establishment is the establishment….Obama is part of it. But the author is right. There is a lot of anger out there. The intriguing and possibly worrying question is who will capitalise on it.

Posted by nickir | Report as abusive

Small steps or big steps, a President has never done anything to “fix” inequality. It’s not a matter of politics or President’s or law, its a matter of people. And that is something much more involved and complicated.

Posted by learntoforget | Report as abusive

Where to start?

Housing crisis – The result of Democratic policies to make home ownership available to more lower income people be forcing banks to relax lending standards.

Wealth building – 1) Government policies, mostly promoted by Democrats, that make it harder for lower income people to accumulate wealth in any measure.

- Why not allow anyone to start a health savings account without tying it to a high deductible insurance plan? This way people can begin saving when they are young and healthy for the medical expenses they will incur during old age.

- Leave retirement accounts alone. Keep the provision to allow passing ROTH IRA funds to heirs at the owners death tax free.

- Anyone can contribute to these programs regardless of income. For those that think the lower income individuals can’t I was discussing saving and investing with a lower income individual some years back. He couldn’t even spare $25 a paycheck for an investment account but he wouldn’t give up spending $25 a paycheck on lottery tickets. It’s all a matter of priorities.

‘The fix is in’ mentality – In other words the entitlement mentality. The government owes me something. I personally don’t resent wealthy individuals. I strive to become one of them and I work towards that goal. Even if I don’t make it I will be better off than if I hadn’t tried. I do greatly resent the mentality that an individual is owed something just because they exist and without any effort on their part.

The author is right, Obama’s proposals won’t fix inequality. Only the individual can do that. This was to provide talking points for the next election.

Posted by libertas | Report as abusive

It is a crappy job market for those who do not have a marketable skill.

However, to expect that the government is the answer in an open market economy is ridiculous.

And blaming banks for giving loans to people whom they knew were unlikely to repay is simple ignorance. The federal government – then AND now – threatens lending institutions who take too close a look at the ability of certain groups or individuals to repay home loans. These threats are overt and repeated regularly.

Posted by charliethompto | Report as abusive

To fix inequality, Obama would have to reverse ALL the tax, trade and banking legislation passed into law since 1980 when the wealthy class began their rise to power again.

You would think that we would learn that it is the wealthy class that is responsible for ALL of the economic decline in the US today, since it has happened so many times before, but you would be wrong.

The unwashed masses are totally oblivious to what the wealthy are doing, content with their “bread and arena entertainment” provided by the media.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

I hope I’m around when the electorate wakes up realizes what the last five administrations have done to them. It will be better than any Super Bowl halftime show.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

We shouldn’t automatically assume the middle class is doing poorly. 45+ years of household income compiled by the US Census shows an increase in upper income households and a decrease in middle income households and a slight decrease in lower income households.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

In 2008, we had a golden opportunity to break down the institutions that perpetrate this pattern, because their decadence had brought them to their needs. With real leadership, we could have truly reset this cycle and begun real change. But of course, we don’t have real leadership, just slaves to power that would never dare to suggest that anyone needs to sacrifice anything to solve a problem.

So the two main presidential candidates stood together and said we have to give hundreds of billions to the 1% so they can continue business as usual, because the 99% can’t survive without them. Then, hundreds of millions of the 99% lined up to vote for one of them. Subsequently, the rich keep getting richer and we have president who walks around complaining about it. When he does, people cheer, rather than wonder if they’ve entered a parallel universe.

Not that any other president would be any different, as they are all just reflections of ourselves. So, if you don’t like how things are, you have the right to complain, but the few thoughtful among us will observe the lunacy with nervousness and continue to stockpile more beans.

Posted by russdward357 | Report as abusive

re: libertas

no tax deductions or access to tax privileged accounts for anyone that makes >$500,000 and a flat tax of 25% of total income for them. (we will join those ranks soon, so don’t be screaming class warfare, yet)
Reinstitute estate taxes and make median wealth of the entire population the cut-off. Passing it on to individuals or organisations or trusts should be treated the same way. Reignite the entrepreneurial engine, give everyone reasonably the same starting point (at least narrow the starting point gap)

Look up my previous taxation proposal to tie tax rates to minimum wage multiples.

Rambling rant over…

Posted by juggernaut | Report as abusive

There are things that can be done to make the economy work better so that the private sector, which has been the main reason why the U.S. has had the most successful economy in the world historically, can do what it has done so well once again. Both parties need to reform the federal government’s fiscal accounts, to provide greater stability and predictability. The tax code needs to be changed so that it funds the federal government but also encourages private investment. U.S. citizens should not be fooled into thinking that they must wait on government to provide for their every need. They have become very spoiled. Lastly, it would be extremely refreshing to hear a national-level political leader admit that one of the main causes of poverty is sloth — as someone who has been in the work force for 38 years I can testify that this is true!

Posted by ExDemocrat | Report as abusive

Bad things can happen indeed, we have the most well armed workforce in human history, and they are starting to get angry.

Posted by wildcat27 | Report as abusive

You are correct, of course in stating what you did about the problems the US is experiencing today is due SOLELY to the rising wealthy class. And, obviously, “bad things can happen in this sort of environment. Obama needs to take it on. If he can’t get Congress to take action, he needs to explain to the American public the consequences of inaction. Small steps are unlikely to be enough.”


I have a problem with the ending of your article in that, having set up a prima facie case for strong immediate action by the American people you argue that the president should take his case directly to the American people, explaining clearly and concisely why this nation is in serious trouble. Unfortunately, most of whom haven’t a clue as to what is really going on or why.

What we are seemingly lacking is a president who has the capacity to do what you are asking.

He was elected and reelected by a coalition of minority groups, including primarily Blacks, Hispanics and young voters by making vague promises that could in reality never be met (e.g. “change we can believe in”). He never tried to reach the white voters in any way whatsoever, thus further dividing an already divided nation.

Since then, he has ignored his political base, continued to alienate white voters with changes that were highly controversial (e.g. Obamacare, and championing increased immigration). Worse yet he has fashioned an administration that caters mainly to the whims and desires of the wealthy class, even though many of them openly despise him, both personally and as president. For example, his council of economic advisers are composed of some of the wealthiest people in this country.

It is indeed difficult for Obama to convince the rest of the nation that he has the best interests of the whole nation at heart, which is why his ratings are plummeting.

Yes, I agree, that bad things can happen in this environment, but Obama is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

There’s nothing like an op-ed that spotlights the truth, something we can’t take for granted anymore (if we ever could.) Ms Olen and President Obama are right to focus on wealth disparity and income inequality. It is the defining issue of our time.

The single biggest reason that we’re continuing on this course, with no change in sight, is revealed in the comments that people have posted on this thread. Some people actually are blaming the policies that have been supported by the Democrats (naturally) or, in at least one comment, a lack of leadership on Obama’s part. In a word, we are uninformed, if not misinformed.

For those who are blaming the Democrats, first ask yourselves approximately when did Middle Class income growth begin leveling off. You’ll find a direct correlation between when the wealthy began paying much less in income taxes and when the influence of the labor unions began to wane. The most marked change came during the Reagan Presidency.

Another important development around that time was the organization of business into groups such as the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce, which had been around for some time, but was beginning to flex its influential muscle. They began pressuring our legislators to lower their taxes and to cut regulations. It’s been the Republican mantra ever sense.

These were all consistent with conservative ideology, what has sometimes been referred to as the Reagan revolution, or trickle-down economics. The idea is to do everything for the rich and big business and, in turn, that will benefit all. We’ve been experiencing the results for a few decades now. If you like the results, support the Republicans and their policies.

The Democrats, on the other hand, had their turn at guiding US economic policy when FDR took the White House in the 1930s during the Great Depression, what is sometimes referred to as the Greatest Generation, on through the 1960s. Taxes on the highest income earners was at least 90%; labor unions had unprecedented influence in the US; the American Middle Class had never been stronger; government wasn’t afraid to invest in the American people; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid came into existence. These were policies designed and promoted by the Roosevelt Administration and the people like it, liked it enough to elect FDR to the Presidency 4 times. It was a time when the American people came first.

So we really can compare economic policies espoused by the Republicans and those by the Democrats. We have clear examples of both. However, it’s not just a matter of choosing liberal or conservative economic policies. Today no policy can be made into law that does much to help the American people because the American people no longer hold sway with our government. Our government is controlled by the big money folks. If legislation doesn’t benefit one of the big money industries, it doesn’t get passed. They’ve fine-tuned our economy in a way the best maximizes their profits, and far too often at the expense of the American people. For example, keeping wages stagnant while increasing costs. That benefits these titans of industry but is killing the once great American Middle Class. But we can’t do anything about it because we don’t have representation.

We saw this dynamic with the making of the Affordable Care Act. If the American people were truly being represented, the ACA would have included a public option. The biggest problem with the ACA is the lack of any mechanisms to significantly lower insurance costs. That would have been a good way to achieve lower insurance rates, which is why the insurance industry worked so hard at making sure the public option wasn’t part of the ACA.

Nothing much is going to change until we return control of our government to the people. That will be difficult because not only do our elected officials depend on the money from these plutocrats who have stolen our government from us, but the Republicans have convinced a significant number of their supporters that the status quo is good and any attempt to change it would amount to a socialist takeover, when all it would really mean is a return of our government to the people.

So the decision is ours. We either organize in such a way that enables us to force our government to adopt serious campaign finance reform, end the revolving door syndrome, and to put a stop to the influence of lobbyists (those representatives of industry who now write our nation’s laws) or we continue to accept the status quo. We have to get past the divisions of politics and race, and return America to where we once again have a representative democracy. Until then, let’s stop pretending that we have “freedom” and embrace “democracy,” because neither is the case.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

The Chinese commies have figured out an Achilles heel of capitalism: greed; and they have used it to its full potential. I don’t think that Obama, or anyone else, can change human nature or the competitive essence of capitalism in eight years.
Speaking in practical terms, most formerly successful corporations went under, in part, because they were not able to adequately adapt their corporate culture.
Hence, USA Inc.

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

The glass of the rich is full. Instead of drinking they order another bigger one and another much bigger one and so on … But they will never drink, because they refuse to pay their invoice. You should think not only about a minimum wage, but also about a maximum wealth. Otherwise not only Robbespierre will knock at the door, but also Sanson.

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

Are all these planes on the photo of President Obama? Guess he could mess with Goodluck, Jonathan.

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

In Switzerland an Germany we’ve had a discussion about a relation between the lowest and the highest salary in a corporation like 1:12 or 1:20. However, it’s helpless since the people are kept so stupid, that even their emotions are easily controllable. :)

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, President Obama (or any other president) can not single-handedly change things.

When the people in the country keep electing and re-electing brain dead idiots and sycophants to Congress, they get exactly the result they deserve.

Posted by Twain | Report as abusive

The consequence of inaction is HOPE. That’s easy to explain even for a president who bets the faith of his country on the direction of the wind.

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

… or probably the response is climate change. No one buys hope anymore.

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

“Small steps are unlikely to be enough.”
You make me sick…not enough…please don’t encourage or cheer on the monster…hasn’t he done enough damage already…

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

Yikes!!! You are part of the problem too…

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

You voted…twice…

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

He promised this and more…he hates America…it is unfair & racist…tick tock…

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

What I find funny as a foreigner is you are all totally brainwashed. The author of the article as well as all commenters. Helaine Olsen as well as @EconCassandra nail the problem but cannot NAME it. You are so brainwashed that you are not able to use one simple word, taboo word: CORRUPTION.
United States is the most politically corrupt of all developed major countries. Political corruption is embedded in US system.
The only solution is to give lobbyist activities the same status they have in all other developed countries: felony prosecuted by federal law.
US political class needs about 7 billion US dollars for political campaigns at federal level in every 4 years cycle (3 billion for Presidential every 4 years plus 2 billion for Congress every 2 years). That means US politicians need about 2 billion every year, and majority of that money is simply bribes (you call it lobbying and donations) from organized groups representing particular narrow interests. This 2 billion USD make life miserable for 300+ million people in 16000 billion dollars US economy. That is the cancer that is destroying your country.
US political system, with majority voting system that ensures that Democrats and Republicans will rule you forever only solidifies this corruption (You have 100% more democracy than China, Kuba and North Korea: they have 1 party, you have 2 parties, I call it achievement!)

Posted by Wantunbiasednew | Report as abusive

@ Crash866 –

I told the truth.

How, exactly, does that make me part of the problem too?

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@ Wantunbiasednew–

On the contrary, I have no trouble naming the problem, which is CORRUPTION, as you pointed out.

What you don’t understand is that the word corruption simply doesn’t carry the same political connotation in this country.

I used the term “wealthy class” because it is far worse to accuse someone of being wealthy, or that we are engaged in class warfare.

This country lives on the fiction of the US being a “classless” society, and to state otherwise makes people angry and uncomfortable because it challenges the ideological basis of the US being a democratic society, which implies that everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

To question the validity of that ideology goes to the core of everything that people in this country (rich and poor alike tend to believe to one degree or another).

Hope this explanation helps you better understand this nation and its motives.

Otherwise, I agree TOTALLY with everything you say about this nation, its people and our political system.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@ Wantunbiasednew –

Let me add something to my comment above.

My impression is that foreigners are typically puzzeled by the American people, their attitudes and government.

The US society is relatively easy to understand if you keep in mind that it is based on three “pillars” which essentially form every aspect of our culture.

These are (1) the Protestant Work Ethic, (2) Manifest Destiny and (3) Social Darwinism.

These are not mutually exclusive ideas, but come together to form a cohesive whole under which this nation operates in terms of both its domestic and foreign policy.

What is ironic is that, although these values are what lies beneath our society, most Americans either have no idea they exist, or would deny vehemently that they do.


Because it runs totally contrary to the popular notions of freedom and democracy that most Americans subscribe to as the basis of our culture.

If you can understand that total dichotomy of the American psyche, you can understand what we do as a nation and why.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

1. You know: “wealthy class”, “class warfare” are elusive terms. They smell leftist, Marxist, communist. Nobody really understands their meaning and anybody understands their meaning differently. (Btw, I understand political connotations of your country, but crimes like corruption, stealing or burglary have universal meaning).
Corruption is a precise, LEGAL term.
Political corruption at federal level: What your elected members of Congress and US President routinely do is a crime of corruption in a lot of countries.
2. United States politics is build on one, fundamental rule: the winner takes it all electoral system. Plus a lot of gerrymandering.
The effect is nobody outside Democratic or Republican party was elected to US Congress for 150 years. Each developed country in the world that calls itself “democratic” had some representatives from the third, minor party in parliament during the last 20 years. For US it is at least 150 years without any 3rd party in Congress!
In my opinion US system is on fast-track to becoming Oligarchy/Plutocracy in Roman Empire or pre WWII Japan style.
3. I think that till government will guarantee food (food stamps) and shelter for 95%+ of US citizens nothing will happen. US is a harsh police state for lower 90%. The problem will come when the food and shelter for low class (that is at present about 25% of society) will become too much a burden for federal government. First choice would be external enemy (this time not Jews but I think Chinese). And US has the most capable military.

Posted by Wantunbiasednew | Report as abusive

It is really scary, I mean: (1) the Protestant Work Ethic, (2) Manifest Destiny and (3) Social Darwinism.
It is the exact mixture that (with economic crisis) led to Nazi Germany development. (1) Germans have Protestant work ethic (2) Lebensraum, space, resources for exceptional German race, (3) weak should die (Jews, Slavic Nations, Gypsy).
You think that one day US can start a world war, even with nuclear consequences because Americans will believe it is the best choice, value-based choice ?

Posted by Wantunbiasednew | Report as abusive

When the then Speaker of the House figuratively “sat in the lap of President Bush” encouraging the massive bail out of those very rich financial institutuions and their executives at the very same time – that was the end of my picture of a Democrat. Nancy Pelosi, took care of her own pension plans in California. If Bush had begun regulation of the financial and housing markets during his term it would have brought an abrupt end to a “spigot of tax revenue” that kept the Iraq war going (by reducing even more borrowing). The finance leadership ran to Bush just before his term was over for their pay back – insurance that they knew would not have come so easily from the Democrats as a whole. Nancy Pelosi knew this and President Obama wasn’t given any choice with a House that could have overrident any veto. This is the way history will sum up this disaster.

Posted by ThomasShaf | Report as abusive

The two big fixes to the problem would be: One the highest possible estate taxes. Two: low and or free tuition for US citizens only at plentiful good public universes in the professions or business. The combination would to use high estate tax to support the second. There is a trend to by faculty and business to use them for desperate non-american students. They may be good but they close a social ladder for Americans.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

In addition to above comment. It is important that our popular culture give children the right idea about what may give them status and opportunity. Which means redefining pornography as fiction showing people getting ahead without work or study, or scalars stupider than they are. Non-fiction showing the above is not objectionable because we must live in reality.

But children whose parents do not know how to advance other than crime ect. cannot teach the children. If our popular culture shows dysfunctional paths as real and common, a lot will try those paths. Expect pulpits to tell them either gold is evil or extensive time and money spent on religion is the way.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

Guess, everybody here knows, that small steps creates nothing else but bums.

Posted by seafloor | Report as abusive

@ Wantanunbiasednew –

I’m disappointed you fail to understand why the distinction of the wealthy class versus simply being corrupt are so essential to understanding the average US citizen.

It is a matter of perception, not legality.

As to my explanation of the pillars of US society, you should not try to compare them against any other society, past or present, because they have specific, unique meaning in terms of US policy, both domestic and foreign.

If you cannot understand what I have explained to you, then you will never understand the US, or the American people, because that is the essence of what we are.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@ Wantunbiasednew –

If you want to pursue this — or anyone else who is interested in trying to understand why this nation makes the seemingly irrational decisions it does — you might want to look up a speech given by Vladimir Putin made directly to the American people, which was published as an open letter in American newspapers.

In this speech, he quite deftly explains to the American people why we as a nation cannot continue as we have in the past.

It was clear to me that Putin thoroughly understood the so-called “pillars” of American society.

Otherwise, try doing some research on your own. There is quite a bit on these subjects freely available.

This is NOT going to be an easy thing to understand, if that is what you are thinking.

American culture is quite complex, regardless of how superficial it appears to be. Perhaps this is the result of attempting to mix cultures for over 200 years. What you get is quite a strange hybrid that is highly unstable.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@ Wanunbiasednew –

This is the letter to which I was referring. Putin made a direct challenge to Obama’s speech to the American people in which Obama used the phrase “American exceptionalism” as a reason to attack Syria. “American exceptionalism is another name for Manifest Destiny. It is an extremely hawkish position for a US president to take, and Putin felt he had to respond to prevent the spread of war in the Middle East.

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

I doubt that few Americans either knew what Putin was talking about, or cared at all. The American people are totally oblivious to what we really stand for as a culture.

That is not about to change.

Here are a couple of links you can start with, if you want to understand the US, or (arguably) how close we came to war in the Middle East last year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_ex ceptionalism

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinio n/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on- syria.html?_r=0

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@ Wanunbiasednew –

If you think Manifest Destiny is no longer applicable, here is a link to a recent book on the subject.

Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America, William Pfaff (2007)

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives  /2007/feb/15/manifest-destiny-a-new-dir ection-for-america/

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

Most people do badly, because they’re dumb and lazy. I spent most of last year trying to job out product parts to other US vendors… Most never even answered a quote request at all. Out of all of them, one took the work on, only for us to find out later that he was a drug addict, and screwed all the work up.

I know people that got laid off, and then purposely passed up jobs for the next year plus… instead, choosing to take advantage of all the perks they could get, like extended unemployment, severance and other gov freebies. One guy I know passed up numerous jobs and basically took a one year vacation… bought new cars and other stuff, all the while on government handouts. This is why government assistance doesn’t work in America.

I grew my business over the last 10 years. How? Hard work, busting my butt… with NO help from the government or banks. Most people I come across in business spend more time whinging than working. Occupy movement? Kind of hard to find work when you’re camped out on the lawn of city hall 24/7.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

@ dd606 –

Thanks for providing me with the classic example of “American exceptionalism” to illustrate the point I was attempting to make above.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

Ms. Olen is part of the problem. Instead of promoting solutions, such as implementing policies that create jobs and reward success, she promotes this progressive concept of attacking the wealthy. It’s the political aristocracy in Washington that is killing America. They sell their souls and their votes for the next campaign contribution–while at the same time (for the sake of self-promotion) attack those same contributors.

If one wants to diminish the inequality between the wealthy and the poor, the simplest way is to promote work and hiring in this country. You do not do that by increasing the minimum wage.R rather you do it by incentivizing workers and job creators, primarily by allowing them to keep more of what they make. You also remove regulatory barriers and complicated tax regimes that make it difficult for businesses to reinvest.

Read the article (yesterday) about the employees at Lincoln Electric receiving annual profit-sharing of $33,000. While that is a great model for every business in the country, one must also realize that their take home will be about 50% (or less) of that amount. Their “silent partners”is government–who reaps the wealth they create with no regard for the worker. Just think what those employees could do if the tax burden was less! Think about the impact on their local community if more of that wealth stayed closer to home, rather than the financial “black hole” of government.

This “progressive” nonsense of demonizing and penalizing success needs to come to halt. Per the comments above, when in the hell did a poor person create a job? If one wants to create wealth for the middle and lower class, then the logical solution is to allow those who work to keep more of what they make–not income redistribution.

But that is very difficult to do in “progressive” states where the state taxes, when combined with federal taxes, reduce the opportunity to invest in oneself (including his/her children’s education).

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