Class Bigots: Finding Themselves On Third Base and Thinking They Hit a Triple

Yves here. I’m featuring this post from Angry Bear because it presents a vivid example of an increasingly common form of economic hatred: that of seeing anyone lower on the income ladder as fully deserving of their lowly status and a potential, if not actual, social parasite.

What I find distressing is the difficulty of addressing class bigots when confronted with them. For instance, I have a relative who regularly presents a socially acceptable version of this world-view: that government safety nets encourage dependence, that people would be forced to become more resourceful and self-reliant without them, and therefore (drumroll) all those taxes are stealing from her. Of course, since she is in the outsourcing business, it goes without saying that seeing those without work as responsible for their fate, as opposed to victims of CEOs and executives that use extreme cost cutting as a way to increase their own bottom lines, is not a line of thinking she’s prepared to entertain. She sincerely believes that everyone should be able to create their own work, as in go into business for themselves. When told that takes resources, such as working capital and connections to do that, her retort (and I am not making this up) is “If you told these people they had to come up with $100,000 to get their child back, they’d find a way to do it.”

When I was young, the more vitriolic expression of economic hatred presented below, and its more sanitized cousins, would have been rejected in polite company. It might not elicit a rebuttal, but it would get the stony silence of disapproval, as if someone had just revealed they were fans of ethnic cleansing. But we are pretty much talking about the same thing, except along class rather than ancestral lines. Not all that long ago, saying you hated the poor was seen as an admission that you were the functional equivalent of poor white trash, so insecure in your own social standing that you saw it not just as reasonable but important to kick those below you so as to assure your clearly precarious economic foothold. I don’t know how to instill a sense of shame in those who attack people who are struggling to survive as signaling that they are not all that successful themselves (otherwise they wouldn’t cavil about their tax bill), but it worked once and it seems a more fruitful course of action than trying to reason with class bigots.

Anyone who has made headway with class bigots or with bystanders to those arguments, please share your strategies!

By run75441. Originally published at Angry Bear

One poster’s complaints to progressives:

– Is it not greedy on YOUR part to demand a piece of what others have earned?

Why can she not learn a more skilled trade?

I have also seen Ph.D.’s doing unskilled labor. They chose to study what they wanted to study, not what would earn them a living. But those who DID study what would earn them a living should be forced to support those who studied what they WANTED instead?

No-one is FORCING them to do anything. They chose the course of their lives. They studied useless things, or perhaps did not study at all. They slacked off in school, perhaps, and so did not take advantage of the education offered to them.

And I don’t know whether you’ve toured the world much, but we don’t exactly have “degrading poverty” in this country. Is there any other country where the primary health problem of the poor is OBESITY? Our “poor” people eat TOO MUCH!!

The UN defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1 per day. How fat can you get on $1 per day?

– ‘[There] is no reason the lady who cleans your rest room should not make as much money for her time as you do for yours… if you had to spend the time cleaning the rest room THAT would be the opportunity cost of the job.”

There is a very good reason she is paid less per hour than I am — just about anyone can clean a bathroom, and very few people can do my job. It takes years of training and experience to be able to do what I do. The training is expensive and less than one-third of those who qualify to start the training finish it.

How much training does it take to clean a bathroom?

Some people’s time really is worth more. Even those who clean bathrooms. If one person does it better and faster than another, shouldn’t the faster and better employee be paid more? Should the computer programmer who is slower and makes more mistakes be paid the same per hour as the one who writes twice as much code with half as many errors? Should the grocery clerk who gets through 30 items per minute be paid the same as the one who does only ten?

If everyone were paid the same hourly wage, why would anyone go through the time, trouble, and expense of getting specialized, difficult training?

– The first problem with the individual income tax is the blatant unfairness of taking more from those who earn more. If one man works 60 hours a week, and two others work 30 hours each at the same hourly wage, our government takes more from the one than from the two. How is that fair?

One man studies hard in school, and another does not. The one gets a good education and a better-paying job than the one who did not. How is it fair to tax the hard-working person at a higher rate?

It is not a matter of taking what I earn, but taking it to give to those who do not earn it. Our public policies punish good choices and reward bad choices.

It is pretty well known there are impediments to being successful in America and upward mobility for those who start in the lowest quintile of income have a greater probability of sliding backwards once they have advanced a quintile or two as opposed to those who are born into that quintile. Add race to the issue and the likelihood of moving upwards is even more unlikely with a greater probability of sliding backwards. “Understanding Mobility in America,” 2006 Thomas Hertz

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    1. optimader

      “The answer to Class Bigotry is communism.”

      Your kidding right?. Class bigotry is hardwired.
      “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

      1. James Levy

        That’s nonsense. It’s cultural. No force of nature makes a man or woman act like a douche towards those below them, any more than those below are preordained to be servile (if we were, history as it exists would make no sense and every weaker person or society would roll over and play dead when confronted with anyone bigger or more powerful than them–in effect, feminism and the civil rights movement could not have existed; all blacks would be Uncle Toms and all women punching bags).

        1. optimader

          “That’s nonsense. It’s cultural.”
          Cultures manifest peoples nature. Identify for me any classless truly egalitarian society.

          “any more than those below are preordained to be servile ”
          False argument, I think pushback is a more likely natural reaction. It is for me anyway,

          1. Min

            False dichotomy. Humans do not have a choice between class bigotry and complete equality. Consider Sitting Bull. He was well respected, but was not a chief. Nobody had to do what he said. Consider the potlatch ceremony. People of influence destroyed or gave away their wealth. Perhaps all societies have high status and low status individuals. That does not mean that they have bigotry.

            Lest you think that I am romanticizing the Native Americans, consider the Natchez indians. The lower half of their society were called Stinkers. Obvious bigotry there.

            1. optimader

              Identify for me any society ( for that matter blog) that is not populated with people that are obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
              To be clear, I agree that people that aggregate others people who are less fortunate as a class to receive their intolerance are repugnant, but the fact remains, our society and every one I am aware of has a class bigotry process running in the background to some level. Consequently, I submit , it is a feature of human nature.
              And yes , clearly it is not a case of societies composed of complete “asset” bigotry vs complete egalitarianism, there are all manner and forms of “class” bigotry.
              Right off hand a form of class bigotry I am guilty of is, fairly or not -assigning cigarette smokers into a class. I am intolerant of the behavior in my presence and I find it repugnant. I don’t hate them personally, but I am surly intolerant of there behavior and consider them in a different light than nonsmokers. fair or not? beats me, but I’m honest abut it. Ethnic organizations/clubs can represent a diverse form of class bigotry in society.

              People GENERALLY are wired to aggregate with similar people, and quite often harbor intolerance of other people. As a middle age white guy, what is the likely hood that I would be enthusiastically welcomed into the Great Lakes Intertribal Council? I’m guessing low.

              1. n

                We can shrug off any depth of depravity by saying, Oh, it’s just a feature of human nature. Anything humans do reflects some such feature. But which features does a culture reward and which does it not? That is something susceptible to influence to some degree.

        2. cwaltz

          Just thinking someone is “below” you strikes a little bit of bigotry and shows how far away we are from a fair system(because I’m fairly certain in the context that you place below that you sympathize with the financially less fortunate.)

          It’s interesting to me that society seems to place values on skill sets in a somewhat backward way. I imagine there are people out there that might argue that a firefighter is “below” a CEO even though in terms of society the firefighter adds more value(but the CEO earns more income for his skill set.). I personally think that is how you attack capitalism as the unfair system that it is- to point out that just like any other flawed system there are areas where it fails to reward people properly for their contributions.

        3. Paul Tioxon

          Mr. Levy,
          No, you’re ignorant and miseducated, and wrong about culture. The biological and cultural interaction is what explains humanity and our behavior. Traits are genetically inherited, but not determinist by themselves. Culture is all enveloping, but not sufficient to explain human behavior by itself. The complex interplay of what we are as we born into this world and the world as it is where and when we are born will produce a Leopold and Loeb on the one hand, two rich, super smart killers from entitled backgrounds and a Bill Cosby, born and raised in poverty into a North Philadelphia high rise project and now, a very rich High IQ celebrity with a PhD, that he actually earned with work and study, along with honorary degrees. Culture did not propel Cosby, a poor Black kid from the ghetto and Leopold and Loeb were natural born killers.

          If you ever did a role play simulation, called Star Power, you find out just how fast people reveal their inner douche bag, under the right cultural situation, simulated in the Star Power game. Google it, if you dare.

          1. proximity1

            On culture’s sources and variations, their powers (of which “class-distinctions” are a feature) and what they can produce as conditions are altered:

            “The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System” (Paperback – July 1, 2014) by David Skarbek

            Related: (from The Atlantic magazine’s site) “How Gangs Took Over Prisons” by Graeme Wood.

            “Among the fundamental questions about prison gangs—known in California-corrections argot as “Security Threat Groups”—is why they arise in the first place. After all, as Skarbek notes, California had prisons for nearly a century before the first documented gang appeared. Some states don’t have prison gangs at all. New York has had street gangs for well over a century, but its first major prison gang didn’t form until the mid-1980s.”

            “The explanation, Skarbek says, can be found in demographics, and in inmate memoirs and interviews. “Before prison gangs showed up,” he says, “you survived in prison by following something called ‘the convict code.’ ” Various recensions of the code exist, but they all reduce to a few short maxims that old-timers would share with first offenders soon after they arrived. “It was pretty simple,” he explains. “You mind your own business, you don’t rat on anyone, and you pretty much just try to avoid bothering or cheating other inmates.”

            “But starting in the 1950s, things changed: The total inmate population rose steeply, and prisons grew bigger, more ethnically and racially mixed, and more unpredictable in their types of inmate. Prisons faced a flood of first offenders, who tended to be young and male—and therefore less receptive to the advice of grizzled jailbirds. The norms that made prison life tolerable disappeared, and the authorities lost control. Prisoners banded together for self-protection—and later, for profit. The result was the first California prison gang.”

            “That moment of gang genesis, Skarbek says, forced an arms race, in which different groups took turns demonstrating a willingness to inflict pain on others. The arms race has barely stopped, although the gangs have waxed and waned in relative power. (The Black Guerrilla Family has been weakened, prison authorities told me, because of leadership squabbles.) The Mexican Mafia was the sole Hispanic gang until 1965, when a group of inmates from Northern California formed Nuestra Familia to counter the influence of Hispanics from the south. Gang elders—called maestros—instruct the youngsters in gang history and keep the enmity alive.”

      2. Vatch

        Yes, there’s plenty of stratification in communist societies. Membership in the Communist Party is not attainable by the majority, and such membership provides status and clear benefits. And there are multiple tiers of status and power within the Party.

        1. OIFVet

          I challenge you to come up with ONE truly communist society. There were countries that pretended to be communist but were not. Yet, for all their shortcomings, they did manage to make a better society for everyone. There were neither the extreme social and economic stratification that defines today’s corporatism, nor the attendant social problems arising from extreme inequality. I always wince by knee jerk reactions such as yours whenever someone mentions communism, this need to denounce communism based on the experiences of countries that were communist in name only. It’s as though people have been conditioned to respond that way, lest communism steals corporatism’s thunder. I can’t possibly count the number of times people who had never set foot in “communist” Eastern Europe expected me to be unequivocally critical of communism and denounce the evils of the lack of homelessness, hunger, 24 month paid maternity leaves, universal child care, and paid vacation time that defined even the flawed “communism” of the former Soviet Block.

            1. OIFVet

              School-to-prison pipeline benefitting the for-profit prison industry, ghetto gulags, universal surveillance, persecution of whistle blowers, duopoly apparatchiks, execution by lack of access to healthcare. STASI called, they are envious. Your apologism is what’s tiresome. Your failure to come up with ONE communist society is duly noted.

              1. Vatch

                Your denial of a truly communist society, followed by your defense of supposedly communist countries is also duly noted.

                The countries that claimed to be communist caused TENS of MILLIONS of deaths during the 20th century. The Molotov – Von Ribbentrop Non Aggression Pact enabled the start of World War II. China’s Great Leap Forward was a humanitarian catastrophe – tens of millions of deaths.

                Pol Pot. Khmer Rouge. Killing fields. Need I say more?

                If you’ve ever bothered to read any of my posts about current America and the West, such as my other comments on the current article, you know that I am disgusted by the way things are. But I’m not going to sugar coat the psychopathic monsters of the 20th century simply because there are also horrors in the 21st century.

                1. OIFVet

                  You are disgusted by the way things are but you discount all the demonstrable gains of the working class in the former Soviet block because of the Stalins? Surely their cruelty somehow makes the demonstrable lack of humanity displayed by the West throughout its history preferable by some perverse logic I am unfamiliar with. How very convenient to focus on the 20th century, thus conveniently discounting the slaughter and enslavement of natives by Western empires throughout history. And yet even in the 20th century, the West was responsible for millions of deaths and untold suffering by its support for vile and oppressive regimes like the Shah’s, the various banana dictators, Suharto, etc. Murder by proxy is still murder, oppression in the name of “freedom” is just base hypocrisy. Yet I am supposed to brainwash myself into believing that life in the former Soviet block was an unending horror? Not gonna happen. We had the makings of something far better there, regardless of the propaganda you grew up with.

                  1. Vatch

                    The communist countries were failed nations. The Soviet Bloc fell apart because of those failures. And many of the leaders of the communist countries joined with some western neoliberals to continue robbing the populace after the fall of Communism, because the same kinds of sociopaths could flourish under either system.

                    Sure there was plenty of horror outside the communist countries. But the death toll was a lot higher in the communist countries.

                    There’s a reason there were repeated rebellions in Eastern Europe — Berlin 1953, Hungary and Poland 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland throughout the 1980s. Was life in the Communist Bloc unending horror? Of course not. But there was plenty that was very bad, and they were not building something better.

                    1. OIFVet

                      Thanks for pointing out that it was the Western neoliberals who taught the aparatchicks how to really steal and destroy. Prior to 1989 the aparatchicks knew better than to keep it all or even most, much less engage in vulgar display of conspicuous consumption. Now, explain to me how the transition from a more equal society and guaranteed necessities to the inequality and insecurity of the neoliberal paradise was a move to better life? The demographic catastrophes facing most of the former Soviet block countries is proof enough of what replaced what. There never was any of the abject poverty there is now, of pensioners going through trash cans to find food. Some fucking better society that horror show is.

                      And I guess that the Civil Rights movement was not a rebellion but a show of mass gratitude for the good life blacks were enjoying… As were the many rebellions in Latin America for that matter.

                    2. Vatch

                      Prior to the fall of European Communism, many of the oligarchs were smart enough to keep a lot of their luxuries private. Just because they didn’t overtly flaunt their wealth, doesn’t mean that they didn’t live like kings, dukes, and barons.

                      There’s something about discussions of the post-Soviet era that’s often ignored. The Soviet Union and its satellites were failing, yet when things became worse after the fall, it’s automatically assumed that the worsening conditions are not the fault of the Communists. I think the Communists deserve a great deal of the blame for many (not all) of the problems that followed their regimes. Communism was a slow motion train wreck that continued long after Communism was officially over. Those pensioners are destitute in part because their countries were bankrupt a generation ago.

                      And I repeat: Gulags, secret police, and mass murders. Some paradise that was.

                    3. OIFVet

                      Oligarchs prior to 1989? Breathtaking ignorance, exemplified. As is your continued insistence on using the “communist” label when communism never did exist. Yes, there was stagnation; it was present in the US too. The difference: the US borrowed massively and stuck the costs to the “middle” class and to the poor. Nice try whitewashing the role of the Western-imposed Shock therapy for the millions of deaths in the former Soviet block. It is rather consistent with your continuing denial of the murderous deeds of the West.

                      And I repeat: ghetto gulags, mass imprisonment, secret laws, stifling of dissent, economic genocide. All in the land of the “free”. But sure, it is all the monsters of the East we can talk about. Because exceptionalism.

                    4. Vatch

                      Pardon me. Instead of “oligarchs” I should have said extremely privileged members of the Power Elite, that is, high ranking members of the Communist Party. In the Communist countries, they amounted to an oligarchy.

                      When have I ever denied “murderous deeds of the west”?? What I have said is that the Communist bloc was significantly more murderous, which is the truth. But both blocs were murderous.

                    5. OIFVet

                      While here we have the extremely privileged members of the Democrat and Republican party and the financial /corporate titans (all of the above comprising the ‘Power Elite’, minus the social and labor security. And this is better how? Oh right, because Stalin was a more proficient murderer than, say, Ike. And because “freedom”.

                    6. Vatch

                      It’s a huge understatement to say that Stalin was a “more proficient murderer” than someone. Stalin (and Mao and Hitler) were orders of magnitude beyond their “competitors”.

                    7. optimader

                      A friend of mine’s Belarusian wife refers to the SU as a 69 yr mistake between Autocracy and Federal Republicanism. Pretty much nails it.

                  2. Jack King

                    “You are disgusted by the way things are but you discount all the demonstrable gains of the working class in the former Soviet block because of the Stalins?”

                    Truly amazing. The refrain of the Soviet worker was, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”

                    I could never imagine an innovation like the Iphone coming from a Communist state.

                    1. OIFVet

                      Remind me of the brand and model in question in “Unsafe at Any Speed”. The US version of Trabant without the cult status… More recently there were some rollover and ignition issues. Maximizing profit by endangering the customer: because this is what a better system does.

                    2. Bart Fargo

                      Why not? Smartphones and the apps and social media they run are a state security spook’s dream. On the contrary, I would argue the iPhone could only reach its full surveillance potential in the hands of an organization like the Stasi, though corporate America and the NSA together are doing a pretty good job too.

                    3. Vatch

                      There have been numerous articles here at NC about the lamentable process of crapification in recent years. Another way to think of this is sovietization. Crapification was the norm in the Soviet Union.

                    4. OIFVet

                      Crapification, AKA engineered obsolesence, is different from bad engineering and is a distinct western innovation. Google it.

                    5. Vatch

                      Planned obsolescence is one form of crapification, and it is certainly a shameful western invention. But the production of crappy products extends far beyond planned obsolescence.

                    6. OIFVet

                      The point was, it is a matter of intent. Crapification is intentional, the crappiness of the Trabant wss not. In any case, you can go to just about any former Soviet block country and find plenty 30-40 year old Ladas in running condition. They were built like tanks in order to last on the rutted roads, and were built simply with an eye on easy repair. The sophisticated, computer filled cars of today offer comfort but not longevity, and cost a lot more to maintain while offering very little improvement in emission control. My ’89 Civic hatchback from my college days was far more economical than my current model Civic. Just saying…

                    7. optimader

                      ““Unsafe at Any Speed”. ”
                      What is “Safe” at any speed?
                      Justifying the Trabant based on some vacuous “safety” comparison (or any metric for that matter) w/ any western automobile post, say Model A Ford, is…. absurd. The Trabant was a horrendously polluting unsafe POS that is now a recycling headache in Germany. It is emblematic for the larger failure of the SU.

                    8. OIFVet

                      Yes Opti, because SUVs are just so safe and environmentally friendly wonders of American corporatism and oil subsidies

                    9. Vatch

                      I disagree that crapification necessarily implies the intent to create a crappy product. Crappiness might be tolerated, because the producer cares more about saving money than producing a good product. This is not the same as intentionally sabotaging the product. The crappiness is a consequence of misplaced priorities.

                      Treating workers badly is another way of unintentionally creating crappy products.

                    10. OIFVet

                      Oh, so the whole phenomenon of the disposable product is just a giant accident for the most part and not a corporate tactic to get you to buy more crap? Man, I wish I could be so innocent as to believe in fairy tales too…

                    11. Bart Fargo

                      Well of course that’s how manufactured goods wind up crapified – no one is going to buy a sabotaged lemon that is prone to catching fire, and besides it probably takes a good deal of money and effort to deliberately sabotage a finished product as opposed to just making it as flimsy as possible. And yet I disagree that the resulting crappiness is an unintentional outcome, since they must have calculated that by lowering standards industry-wide they can sell more cars/refrigerators/laptops year after year due to decreased product lifespan. That is just another element of their priority to make profit by any means possible rather than manufacture products that people can rely on and workers can take pride in having made. Marketing then becomes a way of reassuring consumers they haven’t just been shafted by buying something that will break down or be obsolete in 2 years time.

                    12. John Zelnicker

                      The car that Ralph Nader trashed in “Unsafe at Any Speed” was the Chevrolet Corvair. One of its design features was that it was the same shape from the front and the back.

                2. jrs

                  A lot of people thought the Russian Soviet experience should have gone more anarchist as in decentralized/actual worker ownership and control AND that it started out that way and was overtaken by more totalitarian strains. I’ve certainly read anarchist historical accounts of such. But that’s what could have been possible (or maybe it never could have been at all, anywhere or in that particular society, I don’t know), what actually became was brutal.

                  1. Vatch

                    Yes, Lenin’s New Economic Policy had potential. But it didn’t last. But some things were rotten from the very beginning: the Cheka, for example.

                  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                    Of course, the ultimate conspiracy theory is that the USSR was a false flag operation, along with Hitler.

                    But I think that’s just crazy.

                  3. Robert Dudek

                    The first cold war ended in 1989 and for awile it looked like the US had won. But now it is apparent that the Soviet Union won – the US has been largely Sovietized.

                3. Bart Fargo

                  Like most other bigots, they’re not even worth wasting time on because they need to figure out for themselves how pointlessly counter-productive their attitudes are. Of course that probably won’t happen until the Great American Race to the Bottom blows past their doorsteps and they wake up the next day needing to apply for public benefits. After all, you’re never more than one serious injury or illness away from the poor house in the land of the free.

            2. jkl

              Your uncle tomism is stunnning. There is only 1930s Russia? A Russia that had less secret police than the current system…We don’t have secret police?

          1. optimader

            “I challenge you to come up with ONE truly communist society.”
            I think you make the point, it is a chimera

                1. OIFVet

                  Dunno, at least not with the modern centralized nations. Smaller entities where power is exercised on the local level are far more likely to succeed. It’s one of the reasons why I am quite happy about the separatist movements gaining momentum.

                  1. Ulysses

                    The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a communist Utopia is a hippy farming commune upstate that started in 1967. They live at peace with the outside world without sharing its values.
                    Sort of like non-religious Amish, but more open to modern technology.

              1. Propertius

                How would you know if it has never been tried?

                Which is also the wail of the Ayn Rand cultists whenever anyone questions the ultimate results of their Libertarian utopia – and for pretty much the same reasons. The reason why “communism has never been tried” is because the “vanguard of the proletariat” establishes itself as a self-perpetuating elite, much as the early winners in an unregulated capitalist economy use their initial advantage to thwart competition and impoverish any potential rivals.

                Historically, liberators have exhibited a disturbing tendency to become overlords. There are exceptions to this, of course, but damned few of them.

                1. OIFVet

                  Yet it is the Ayn Rand cultists who are basing their ideology upon the fundamental lie that humans are inherently selfish and logical. They are not. Which is not to say that humans are unfailingly selfless either. I agree with your analysis re the “vanguard of the proletariat”, but all that does is point out that Hedges is misguided and confirm the danger of combining centralized power and large nation-states.

                2. jrs

                  Uh perhaps that’s not the only reason it’s never been tried. The West (especially the U.S.) has a decades long history of destruction of leftist movements of every strain everywhere they are tried. And this is the case even when the leftist movements are far less totalitarian, far more respectful of rights and democracy, that the rightist movements the West supports. Might that have something to do with the lack of sucessful leftists movements? Maybe they don’t die but are murdered.

                  1. pepsi

                    Whenever people say, oh this leftist movement would have succeeded if only they had a speaking stick at meetings, it’s hard for me to not reply “they would have succeeded if only there hadn’t be so many targeted murders by neo fascists and the entire state repression apparatus targeted against them.

                    Capitalism institutionalizes incredibly levels of violence and suffering, if all someone can use against communism is hitler= stalin false equivalency, you know you’re dealing with a lightweight who has no intention of arguing in good faith.

          2. Janie

            I was in Dubrovnik briefly in the ’80s when Tito ran the place. Tourism being so imporntant, English was common and I talked to as many people as I could. My takeaway was that the citizenry were proud of their mixed economy and of their independence. View on the mixed economy: some things government does better, some things require regulation and some things are better left to individuals.

            1. optimader

              Romanian’s were proud of their society under Nicolae Ceaușescu and apparently N Koreans are proud of their’s under Kim Jon-un. That’s not to say there (weren’t /isn’t ) a class hierarchal structures in play..
              I’m sure the same applied in Spades in Yugoslavia under Tito.

              1. Massinissa

                Even though the Ceaucescu government was the only government in the soviet block to be overthrown with violence, polls today show that Romanians prefer Ceaucescu over what they have today.

                The grass looked greener on the capitalist side, but apparently it wasnt.

                1. optimader

                  I would be interested in seeing a link for that poll.

                  This article frames the Romanians psyche in a manner consistent w/ how it was related to me by people that I know that worked there as contractors pre and post overthrow.

                  “For the past twenty-three years, Romanians have been suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The fact that it was not recognized as such made it challenging to properly engage with its causes and deal with its symptoms. Described as a medical condition occurring “after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened” (WebMD), in Romania’s case the PTSD was caused by Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal personal dictatorship. As that took place at national level and made the disorder a social phenomenon, it could be re-labeled in this case as Group Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (GPTSD). Romanians are not, by any means, the first nation to deal with GPTSD, although I am not aware of any other commentators who used a similar term. Postwar Germany and Japan, for instance, dealt with these issues after being defeated …..

                  1. OIFVet

           and also

                    As for PTSD, the author seems to think that shock therapy was a walk in the park for his countrymen and thus had no effects on this collective PTSD. Which is sort of the typical attitude of the “winners” that emerged in the former Soviet block post shock therapy. It is not even a particularly obnoxious attitude in comparison to some others, in BG the “winners” in Sofia think of themselves as “smart and beautiful ” wonders as opposed to the “ugly and toothless” losers from the province. It is a thinly veiled reference to the Randian supermen.

                    1. optimader

                      Like I said, I would be interested in seeing the poll.
                      A guy I grew up w/ spent ~12 months working in Romania coincidental w/ the overthrow. His take away was that it was the most repressive of the Communist regimes relative to minimizing outside contact/awareness. State supplied radio tuners etc,
                      Consequently the people were quite confident that Romania was the epicenter of European envy, only to be horrified, then uniformly depressed at the abysmal state of economic development. Again human nature, everything is relative. If you have the only Trabant in your blockhouse,, things are good!. When as an adult you realize the society you bought into was a fabricated lie, yeah deep,widespread and pernicious depression. Call it PTSD? Good by me, I’m not a psychologist. Randian? That’s your projection

                    2. OIFVet

                      Apparently the western lie is an even bigger whopper, judging from Romanians’ attitudes after a quarter century of “capitalism”. And not just theirs, BTW. I was old enough to witness and remember the hope of those heady days of early 1990. Hope was in the air, much like in 2008 here. Well, we know how it all worked out. Despair not though, the backlash is already forming in parts of the European East, and some parts of the European West. How bloody it will be is up to the international class of financial criminals, the psychopathic dregs of society.

                      And I don’t project anything. The BG “creatives” are not very different from their Silicon Valley counterparts. They have the same inflated sense of self, brought about by reading the same trash and believing the same propaganda. In reality they are nothing more than the house peasants of the global neo-feudal plantation, or white collar middle class if you want to be PC about it. I mingled with the petite bourgeois protesters in Sofia last summer to get the sense of them. The cunts are hopelessly full of themselves, like Yves’ relative, and their signs were printed with funding of Western NGOs, Soros’ ‘Open Society’ being the main one. I took a lot of pleasure in deflating a few overblown egos.

                    3. optimader

                      I respect your right to your perspective, we’re all products of our experience so don’t take this the wrong way, but why live in the US?

                    4. OIFVet

                      Because I had bought the propaganda at one point, and came with my family at 15. My screen name is a reminder to myself to never buy into lies again if I can help it. I tried to swallow them, too, once they became apparent; tried to go with it and convert the UChicago miseducation into fiat currency. Turns out, I my psyche could not handle lying to myself very well. I march to my own drum now, working for myself and finding happiness in that and in my garden. So why live here? Because I think I can make a difference through some of the things that I do here on the South Side. Because my American SO is not yet ready to handle life across the pond for large spells, particularly the one in the mountains that I really want. Because I may hate the system but by and large I do like Americans. It is complicated being an immigrant, particularly one that is simultaneously assimilated and disillusioned, you better believe it.

                    5. Optimader

                      Well by observation of people i know that move to idealized other places because they are unhappy, the move is rarely the cure. That said, if you would prefer to live in the mountains fulltime, the sside is pretty much exactly opposite. Dont know of any good choices that offer an alternative to fiat currency, but best you make a move while you are younger to see if it works for you, no rebate on time mispent.

            2. digi_owl

              Problem is that if you ask 10 people about what should be done by government or private, you get 100 different answers…

            1. Doug Terpstra

              Agreed. Coming late, I was scanning to see if someone would broach that. True Christianity is the essence of communism (small c). Socialism in fact is well to the right philosophically. And it’s interesting to note how completely inverted most American derivatives of Christianity are, and how laughable is the claim that America is a Christian nation. It is as close to its antithesis as almost any country I can imagine. If Christ ever returns to ask an account of most Americans, or the nation as a whole, he would surely say, “depart from me; I never knew you.”

            2. Ulysses

              And, in imitation of the early Church, the spiritual Franciscans of the later Middle Ages. What we know today as the “trust fund” was actually invented by papal bankers, because the spiritual Franciscans (unlike the conventual Franciscans such as St. Bonaventure) refused to take ownership of the property that wealthy merchants and nobles bequeathed to them.

          3. theinhibitor


            As someone whose mother lived in Soviet controlled Czech Republic, I can tell you that there is never going to be true communism. You see, the idealistic communism you hold so dear never CAN EXIST. Same with true capitalism. The why is simple: human beings are animals first and foremost.

            And if you would enlighten me as to what exactly you think the benefits of communism are, please let me know. My mother lived through perhaps the most idealistic form of communism, that which was Czech Republic in the 1950’s 60’s 70’s. The Czech’s were very much FOR communism, but after living through it for barely half-a-decade, began to see the tremendous flaws of such a system. In fact, the polls at the time literally in the span of 5 years, went from 80% for communism to 80% against. You see, most of the populace believed in the ideals of communism, mainly due to the tremendous amount of Soviet propaganda that praised all the idealistic, too-good-to-be-true advantages of communism.

            The famous Czech writer Vaclav Havel described communism as the “a big lie one is forced to believe”. And that pretty much sums it up nicely: it only works if everyone believes in it, and of course those at top, don’t really believe in it. They believe in money and power(as ALWAYS). As such, the propaganda machine grows to keep those in power in power, and since ownership is of the State and only the State, it degenerates rapidly into an instable fascist regime.

            And let me just point out, that you would have to be an IDIOT to repeat something over and over again and expect different results. Communism has been repeated OVER and OVER again and nothing good has EVER come from it. (But of course, you will say, its “never been implemented properly” – the fool’s response)

            1. OIFVet

              Does your screen name refer to a brain inhibitor? The fact is that what your mother lived through was not even an improperly implemented communism. It was state capitalism. Lenin himself said so. Google it. Truly, it is tiresome to have people talk about “communism” and not even know what that is.

        2. Art Eclectic

          Exactly. Humans will always find a way to create hierarchical class structures. Economic systems are just reflection on the underlying class structure. The class structure defines who is allowed to thrive and benefit from the economic system. Our class structure in the USA is set up to reward large holders of capital at the expense of everyone else. A different economic system rewards a different set of players. There is no fair system anywhere, only differing sets of beneficiaries.

          1. Tony

            The real trick is creating a hierarchical class structure that properly incentivizes its maintenance and expansion, not its decay and destruction.

            A system based on pushing people to their breaking point to get an honest days work out of them is a recipe for destruction.

            A system based on coddling people until they feel like doing even a fraction of the heavy lifting is a recipe for decay.

            Please tell me there’s enough wisdom in our species to navigate the gulf between those two extremes.

            1. Art Eclectic

              I fear that our species will always invent a system by which one caste of people is “slave labor” and another caste of people are “the chosen ones”.

              That same dynamic has played out across racial lines, ethic lines, and religious lines. Given any group of people, part of the population will always decide that they should be elevated over some other part of the population based on race or religion. More benevolent societies just enslave the lower caste, more hostile ones resort to cleansing and final solutions.

            2. Gerard Pierce

              Sorry, I can’t resist:

              “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” -Woody Allen

              Or the the continuation in his “Speech to the Graduates:

              I speak, by the way, not with any sense of futility, but with a panicky conviction of the absolute meaninglessness of existence which could easily be misinterpreted as pessimism.

              It is not. It is merely a healthy concern for the predicament of modern man. (Modern man is here defined as any person born after Nietzsche’s edict that “God is dead,” but before the hit recording “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”) This “predicament” can be stated one of two ways, though certain linguistic philosophers prefer to reduce it to a mathematical equation where it can be easily solved and even carried around in the wallet.

              Put in its simplest form, the problem is: How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?

            3. Robert Dudek

              You might want to look at countries that have done precisely that. I’ll use Denmark as an example. They certainly have an enviable welfare state, yet there is a great deal of energy and diversity in the populace. When people feel secure, many will seek creative outlets, so long as individual freedom is repected.

              1. PaulArt

                One of the major fallacies of this ‘we must choose the golden mean between complete indolence on the one hand or a ball and chain slavery on the other’ is that we always assume that 90% of the population will drop out of the workforce if they are given a dole on which they could lead a comfortable existence. This assumption is a pot of crock. It is a fact that the converse of this assumption is true. Given a good opportunity and the chance to pursue something that will keep people engaged, happy, informed and feel good about themselves, 90% of them will always choose it. This is what the nordic nations have proved to the rest of the world. It is only the bottom 5% who will take the dole and be happy for the rest of their lives. If you do not give them the dole, they will be enslaved by the drug peddlers and pimps and the Fagins we always have with us. So we buy a lot of social health by keeping the bottom 5% on the dole. Republican and Right Wing thinking will constantly make the wrong assumption about everyone being a lazy idler because they see everything in terms of money and evaluate everything in terms of money and therefore the question they ask is, why give an idle person money? Productivity is a bullshit term created by the bullshitters in chief. Human progress is never measured by profit.

          2. EmilianoZ

            Proposition: In any form of society reaching a certain degree of complexity, the scum will always manage to rise to the top.

            1. Tony

              Corollary: The pond, therefore, should have a relatively constant degree of circulation (a/k/a social mobility).

      3. hunkerdown

        After hundreds, if not thousands of years, of II Thessalonians 3:10 being the basis for a grand, centuries-long eugenics experiment, your claim that “class bigotry is hardwired” rings as true as sports coaches saying “Boys will be boys”: a throwaway rationalization that you risibly expect us not to treat as directly profiting your own social standing.

        We simply haven’t tried the other experiment yet, where we take bone clubs to the skulls of the ambitious when they don’t share.

          1. trish

            OIFVet: Just wanted to let you know, enjoyed your comments here. tired of people equating Stalin’s totalitarian dictatorship with communism. The propaganda has been so effective.

            1. OIFVet

              Thank you Trish, I was afraid I was too worked up to properly express my real disgust with the matter. Being forced to read propaganda-distorted non-sense about the former Soviet block, to have all that my grandparents’ and my parents’ generations worked so damn hard to build be discounted as a “failure” is just too much. Because in fact they did build something humane and decent, only to have it be destroyed from within and without. They did it not because of Stalin and his ilk but despite them, and my generation born in the 70’s was the one that truly enjoyed security, good education, health care: the trappings of decent and happy childhood. But here is Vatch, having never set foot there, telling me that he knows better than me what life was like. I grew up in a failed country, he says. No, it was failed on purpose, robbed and bankrupted by the corporatist west and their so-called “commie” fifth column flunkies. The pensioners are digging through rubbish bins for food because theirs is a failed country? No, the IMF diktats robbed them and the working class of their savings and their safety net in the period between 1991-1998. That’s the fact. The Washington Consensus van’t stand any semblance of security for its feudal subjects. That could be my grandmother if I weren’t in position to send funds for her care every month, after having her lifetime of work on the collective farm reduced to a “failure”, her pension and savings robbed by apparatchiks following IMF orders and US Chamber of Commerce advice.

              The supreme irony of this is that I look around me on the South Side of Chicago and I see what a failed country really is. Ghettoization as social policy, public schools being even further degraded for private profit, vast food desert and children going hungry, uneducated, and with no prospects for a better life. That’s not the country that I grew up in. This is the country Vatch grew up in. Also failed on purpose, by the same financial criminals whose political flunkies waged war and sabotage on my native land’s attempt to find a humane way of life. Because there is no rent extraction to be had in that, and uppity peasants ought to be brought to heel. That’s how I see it, and the Georgian butcher has fuck-all to do with it. The West is a land of illusions: the illusion of freedom, the illusion of democracy, the illusion of prosperity, the illusion of choice. And the ultimate conceit: the self-claimed mantle of moral supremacy, while a record number of its children grow up in abject poverty and hunger and the Marie-Antoinettes and their apologists tell them to pull themselves by their bootstraps. No, the Soviet block was not close to perfect, but we did not have this cruelty, people being sorted into winners and losers before they were ever born and the “losers” being discarded on the human rubbish pile. I guess bringing up the creepy ghost of the Georgian butcher helps the Vatches rationalize this outrage, but it is a gutless, cowardly cop-out.

              1. Doug Terpstra

                Nice clincher. I too appreciate your vital insights. I came a bit late to offer morale support but enjoyed the volley replay. I’m always amazed at the virulence and tenacity of propaganda by which Americans’ brains have been dry-cleaned, pressed, and vacuum packed. We’re now the most propagandized populace on the planet, completely unaware of it and thus impervious to reason.

                Thanks to nominally “communist” alternatives, the New Deal was an all-too brief respite in an otherwise hideously vicious Darwinian jungle, now once again ascendant. This generation has no idea of the rude awkening, Detroit-style, in store for them as the last vestiges of those minimal constraints on feudal cronyism are swept aside, with special thanks to one Barack Obama.

    2. Anarcissie

      Unfortunately we are a long way and a hard road away from communism. Communism would require a lot of activity among the people, and for the most part the population remains passive, sinking down into the mire with the elites they still seem to worship.

  1. Tony

    Yves Relative: “If you told these people they had to come up with $100,000 to get their child back, they’d find a way to do it.”

    Right! Because “desperation” is the mother of invention. Oh, wait, sorry, that’s “necessity.”

    The difference between “necessity” and “desperation” is crucial.

    Necessity is seeing what someone else needs, and creatively finding a way to fulfill that need – and maybe even bettering your conditions in the process. It’s outward-facing and future oriented. It sees your fellow human as a person who needs help from you, and you see yourself as uniquely qualified or capable of doing so.

    Desperation is the struggle to fulfill your own dire needs – no matter the cost. It’s inward-facing and past oriented, seeking to regain what has been taken (i.e. your relative’s child kidnapping example). It sees your fellow human as an obstacle at best and potential prey at worst. No one else is going to help you (because no one values your child anywhere nearly as highly as you) and you have no resources to help anyone else (because what could possibly be justified as taking precedence over your child).

    Congratulations, “Yves’ Relative.” You’ve just set the stage for the breakdown of society. Every man for himself. No quarter shall be asked, and none given.

    1. katiebird

      Also, LOTS of people can’t find “$100,000 to get their child back” — just look at all the people in prison for lack of a decent lawyer. Do you think their families just shrugged and let them go? All to often, the money just isn’t there.

      They don’t have family money, friends or assets. So, where are they supposed to get that $100,000?

      1. Tony

        The offshorer/outsourcer’s point is that people are strongly motivated to work when pushed hard. This may be true, but you get all of the wrong kinds of work. Zero-sum-game work, specifically (“I get my kid back and the kidnapper loses the kid”). Uneconomical work, specifically (“i.e. I will do anything at any price to get my kid back”). From a purely mathematical standpoint, that kind of society is doomed to failure.

      2. EconCCX

        Even if someone COULD come up with $100K to get his child back, he would not thereby be a going concern, deploying that money at a profit. He’d merely be opting to face the consequences of reneging on a $100K debt rather than risk the loss of a child.

        1. Tony

          Precisely. As I commented below, this kind of incentive structure produces the wrong kind of work. Zero-sum, non-economical, non-growth oriented busywork.

    2. digi_owl

      “Desperation is the struggle to fulfill your own dire needs – no matter the cost.”

      This cost can likely go as far as committing a crimes.

      While the nordic model is far from perfect, as best i can tell the robberies etc are done by addicts desperate for their next fix or outsiders. Without the welfare system, i fear many more crimes would be happening just so people can eat one more meal.

      1. Tony

        The first order of business is survival. No behavior is economically “irrational” when viewed through that prism.

        In my view, it’s probably a good idea to structure a society that provides a high-percentage chance of an outcome superior to “survival” for the overwhelming majority of its participants.

        But, that’s just me.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Ironically, the erstwhile economist for the .01%, Greg Mankiw, describes already rich banksters stealing from their shareholders/bondholders as “rational”. If its “rational” to steal when there is no necessity then what is it when there is necessity? “Hyper-rational”?

          1. Tony

            Not quite. Rationality implies the ability to weigh the costs of one (or more) choice(s) against (each other and) against the potential benefit(s). A rational choice is one where the benefit outweighs the cost. An irrational choice is one where the cost outweighs the benefit.

            When the stakes you are playing for are “win and you get to keep breathing, lose and you don’t,” then no available course of action can be considered “too costly” or “uneconomical.” All choices are “not irrational” because there is no way the cost could exceed the benefit. It’s a benefit “ceiling” placed below all possible costs.

            When the stakes you are playing for are “win and you keep winning, lose with little or no consequence,” then no available course of action can be considered “a waste of resources.” All choices are “rational” because there is no way the benefits could ever be less than the costs. It’s a benefit “floor” placed above all possible costs.

            1. Tony


              It strikes me that I’ve just described the choice matrix of “welfare moochers” and “bankster frauds” in the same “always rational” context.

              Trot that out at your next dinner party and see how it goes.

            2. Tony

              “It’s a benefit “ceiling” placed below all possible costs.”

              Oops. Should have been: “It’s a cost “ceiling” placed below all possible benefits.”

            3. digi_owl

              A reminder that while the words are the same, economists seems to talk a very different language from the rest of humanity…

          2. Min

            A lot of economists regard sociopathy as rational, it seems. Not that it isn’t. But that does not mean that the rest of us are irrational.

    3. jrs

      Well the best idea I could think of to come up with 100k that way is to start a crowd funded charity to please save my child. Since this pushes all the emotional buttons “omg a parent wan’ts their child back and they can have it if only we donate! Save the children!” it might happen. But noone is going to throw 100k at someone with no expectation of return for non-charitable reasons OR to most ADULTS for charitable reasons when there are no children involved. Maybe I should make up a phony story about needing 100k to get my child back to raise capital for my business. That’s the ticket right? Lie and lie and lie some more, like our elite?

      1. Tony

        As, I said above: ” It sees your fellow human as an obstacle at best and potential prey at worst.”

        Crowdfunding has all kinds of potentially predatory opportunities. An attempt to siphon off small amounts of resources from similarly disadvantaged people makes one more parasite than predator, perhaps. On the other hand, needs are going unfilled by society, and people are being as creative as they can in fulfilling them. Crowdfunding does provide a type of saver-spender connection that banking used to perform.

      2. Gerard Pierce

        I’m about to find out. When my wife was seriously ill, I tried crowd-funding (separate from the standard organizations) and got a minuscule result. I’m not a Facebook person and I do not have 10,000 Internet “friends”. Since her death, I still have problems serious enough to hope for help. (It is an honest request and not a con.) I’m optimistic because I need to be.

    4. hunkerdown

      It sees your fellow human as an obstacle at best and potential prey at worst.

      Isn’t that exactly the bourgeoisie’s purpose in the social order? To be obstacles and fight dogs?

      1. Tony

        To designate any subset of humanity as an obstacle or fight dog – even with a cool Marxist title like “bourgeoisie” – is, as history amply demonstrates, uneconomical and self-destructive over the long term.

    5. economicminor

      I was just listening to an NPR story about Detroit’s water and people were offered a chance to set up a payment program. All they had to do was put up 10% of what they owed to get their water turned back on. Can you imagine living with out running water in America? Many people couldn’t come up with that…Your analogy about coming up with $100k relates to the group you associate with and not the masses. The masses in the US now own and control a lower percentage of assets than ever before recorded.

      Unfortunately the system has broken down to the point where many people have no options. No options to improve their lives at all. This very large segment of our society appears to be growing from the charts I see about the wealth inequity and high school graduation rates. There is a saying that we all should worry about. “When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose!” This added to the attitude of our police state in these same areas. If you have never been really poor and lived in a slum, then you probably have never faced this phenomena. The police are not the friends of the poor. There is a huge distrust between many people and the police. In the poor areas the people feel more like being occupied. Believe it or not. Denial isn’t a useful tool. All it does is trap the denier into a false reality.

      When a group has no future and nothing to lose and there are bigoted bullies flaunting their wealth IMO it is a receipt for lots of unrest. It doesn’t matter whether you deserve what you have. If this all blows up, what you had will be meaningless.

      1. Tony


        You and I are in complete agreement. Especially in poor urban areas, this dynamic of necessity vs. desperation is on display. Detroit (as a whole) is no longer capable of serving its population, so the city (employees, creditors) and its citizens (taxpayers, pensioners, welfare recipients) become competitors for resources. When there are fights over who gets clean water, I’d say “societal breakdown” is within shouting distance.

        That $100K quote from “Yves’ Relative” is the sort of argument people who don’t understand poverty make to differentiate themselves from the “poors.”

        “I got the message without being shoved hard! I pulled my nose from the bootgrindstrapstone and had moxie and gumptions without needing to be threatened by direstraity-ness!”

        Because people not born into poverty typically started life with a bootstrap in one hand and grindstone in the other, all that was required for them to succeed was to simply be taught to pull the one and put a nose to the other. They have no concept of NOT being given a bootstrap and a grindstone at birth. They have no concept of other people not having these things. Telling them to imagine life without either one is asking them to believe the sky is green. Telling them that their version of the economics “game” is self-destructive and dooms society to failure simply does not compute.

        Bottom Line: Until people with money understand and ACCEPT that the game is rigged in their favor, incentives will continue to be out of whack.

  2. Jim Elliot

    A very problematic word is “deserve”.
    Another is “earned”.
    I happen to be WHITE, the son of an MD and a college-educated English teacher, I was born with 20/20 vision, perfect hearing, an IQ measured at 135, I’ve never had any significant health issues, I went to excellent puclic schools and took 4 years of Russian Language in high school along with my auto shop classes. I had music lessons and was 1st chair trumpet in bands, orchestras, honor bands. I mostly goofed my way through UC Berkeley with my tuition paid as one of my MD fathers’s perks at Stanford. And yes I’ve worked at a lot of things, but mostly what I chose. I realize I was given virtually everything (at birth) and there is no way that I “deserved” any of it. I assume I was just lucky. Frankly, I have loved “working hard” at many things I’ve chosen to do. The ability and opportunity to “work hard” at what you choose is also an incredible gift that most people don’t enjoy. It galls me to hear those people who have been given so much as a “gift”, blaming those who are not as fortunate.

    1. diptherio

      Good on ‘ya, Jim. I was trying to make this point the other day and wasn’t getting very far. The conversation ended up, somehow, on Nigerian mechanical engineer salaries…as if the fact that African engineers can get decent salaries has any bearing on the fact that no one has ever “earned” their starting position in life.

      1. optimader

        “no one has ever “earned” their starting position in life.”
        You seem more preoccupied with where people start than where they go, Diptherio.
        RE:Nigerians, It ended up there based on your notion that short of pursuing email scams, Nigerians are essentially withheld from the opportunity to achieve reasonable remuneration/lifestyle parity. I merely pointed out there are excellent professional opportunities for Nigerians prepared to pursue them.

    2. craazyman

      Have you considered that your life might have been blighted by the curse of indolence?

      Otherwise, with all your gifts, you might have been more successful than you are, and you wouldn’t waste your time posting comments on message boards. How many people besides me will even read what you write here? Maybe 4 or 5, tops.

      I don’t know how anyone even survives without good luck. It seems incredible. But if you have good luck, sometimes that gets you going and you start working hard. That’s what I’ve noticed anyway. The hard work usually comes after the luck, not before it. But not always, Sometimes the luck produces as much laziness as a human being can endure. Then laziness becomes a weight, after a certain point. And then you need money. That’s when you really need to get lucky because that’s the only way out.

      1. proximity1

        Excuse me– Have you considered the possibility that both “industriousness” and “indolence” as personality traits are also just as much a chance feature of one’s natural endowments as all the other aspects of good fortune which J.E. has only too rightly recognized above?

        You weren’t born with a characteristic inclination to either work assiduously or, conversely, to take the path of least resistance –or to take a course in something in between the extremes? Rather, you somehow instilled one or the other in yourself? or had it impressed on you by parental authority?—through what means and by what inclination which wasn’t in itself also already a part of your personality or the environment which you found a given at birth or shortly later ?

        1. craazyman

          I started out full of ambition and industriousness, but through hard work and grit I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, cultivating a refined and desultory laziness. If I can do it, anybody can! They just need to work at it. I don’t want to hear any excuses.

          1. proximity1

            A wise-guy. How nice!

            …and you wouldn’t waste your time posting comments on message boards. How many people besides me will even read what you write here? Maybe 4 or 5, tops.

            Speaking of wasting time posting comments, really, you should write on that point–and I’ll pass on reading it.
            You and your gifts. Now, I know better. Thanks for the ‘free’ lesson.

          2. optimader

            Craazy, you’ve discovered that once you have the necessities of life covered, all that money is good for is buying your time back to do what you like.

      2. economicminor

        Is success to you only money? Jim sounds very successful to me.. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness! What are we living for if not that? If you can only be happy by lording your wealth over those below you on the economic ladder, I vote you a failure.

    3. run75441


      Not to be snarky; but, we could say you earned it the old fashion way? You were born into it and more than likely you will stay at that economic level of prosperity the same as those born into the lowest level of prosperity will more than likely remain there or slide back to it if they do manage to claw there way out. .

      As you stated, there is a difference between working hard at many things you choose and like as compared to work hard at anything that comes your way whether you like it or not. You state it well. To keep most of the people satisfied there always has to be a scapegoat or someone the next higher level looks down upon. In the 19th century the poor white man would look down at slaves who were economic chattel. Having a scapegoat, a class level lower than the poorest of the white has kept them from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of income and wealth in the US.

      How do you combat those who choose to scapegoat those at the lowest level without getting shot these days?

      1. hunkerdown

        I firmly believe people should bring rotten tomatoes to political rallies and a mouthful of warm saliva to any place where they might pass beige-istas. Using the term “rapist” to describe their economic morality also works well in public places. Perhaps women who like to party but have symapthies with their lower-class sisters ought to spread some false factoid about how managers are 4x more likely to spread herpes or other STIs.

        But yeah. Changing popular attitudes from the ground up through bald lying is how they exercise power. Arguably, bald lying *is* power.

    4. jrs

      I want your childhood. Even most of the middle class which pays high taxes for seemingly almost nothing in this country (still have to pay thousands for health insurance on top of it), works jobs they hate mostly to survive in an uncertain world with no job security, and at best if they are very lucky they can retire someday.

    1. diptherio

      It’s not envy, Krugman is just a d-bag. He’s so incredibly full of himself that it can be hard to read or listen to him. The “I know everything, listen to my proclamations!” attitude is just a little much…especially when he blatantly contradicts himself and remains willfully ignorant about things like macro-economics or the actual functioning of the financial system.

      1. Eclair

        Euuww, diptherio, maybe ‘d-bag’ is a bit harsh :-) I remember falling upon Krugman’s book, ‘The Great Unraveling,’ back in 2003, like a thirst-racked wanderer in the Empty Quarter would fall upon an oasis. It sustained me.

        For years, I was a faithful reader of his NYT columns, then, when I ditched, pretty much, the NYT, I still followed his blog. For the past year, not so much. Such endless discussion about arcane economic theories that are used to buttress the existing capitalist system have become …. well …. irrelevant. Like medieval theologians debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

        I do enjoy your comments here at NC, BTW.

        1. armchair

          Great point about Krugman being an oasis. I remember reading a lot of his stuff in 2000 leading up to the election. That was back when we feared budget surpluses. The internet wasn’t so robust back then, and despite his flaws he still beat CNBC, Matt Miller, David Broder, and any number of media-heads.

    2. Massinissa

      Are you serious? Most of NC has already gotten the memo that Krugman is a nitwit, apparently you missed it somehow.

    3. different clue

      People who understand Krugman’s role in the International Free Trade Conspiracy don’t offer Krugman-snark.
      They offer Krugman-hatred. Are they wrong to do so?

  3. run75441


    Thank you for considering this short post on class bigotry. What is amazing is someone would be so openly vocal and now they ask what are the impediments to upward mobility. By the way, I did recast this post somewhat at Angry Bear.

    Tom Hertz noted (“Understanding Mobility in America,” 2006 Table 1); “of all those born into the lowest quartile of income, 46% had a more likely outcome of remaining there as adults. If black and born into the lowest quartile, the likelihood of remaining there was 63%.” The greater injustice being that clawing your way out of that quintile is no guarantee as the probability of sliding backwards is greater for the newly arrived than those born into that quintile.

    Maybe the contest still exists between those one or two quintiles up from the lowest quintile. Sennett and Cobb (1972) observed that class distinction sets up a contest between upper and lower class with the lower social class always losing and promulgating a perception amongst themselves the educated and upper classes are in a position to judge and draw a conclusion of them being less than equal. The hidden injury is in the regard to the person perceiving himself as a piece of the woodwork or seen as a function such as “George the Porter.” It was not the status or material wealth causing the harsh feelings; but, the feeling of being treated less than equal, having little status, and the resulting shame. The answer for many was violence. Dr. James Gilligan (“Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic”) dwelled on the last two sentences of this paragraph in detailing his book discussing the US prison population and how many arrived there.

    Yet this is not just an occurrence as of late. John Adams had this to say on the subject. “The poor man’s conscience is clear . . . he does not feel guilty and has no reason to . . . yet, he is ashamed. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles unheeded. In the midst of a crowd; at a church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar. He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is not seen . . . To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable.”

    There appears to be a resurgence of this boldness of looking down lately I thought went away in the sixties. Rather than solving the issue, people are attempting to establish their place in the pecking order. I am with you Yves, it is disruptive to openly oppose this blatant type of behavior in an abrupt manner. To present facts (and digby’s toon of the day aptly does such on Angry Bear) does not appear to be enough and is ignored. Angry rebuttals may get yourself shot these days!

  4. mikkel

    While being born on third base is definitely part of the issue, in my experience another common thread is being resentful about their own life “choices” made for extrinsic reasons. I’ve often had people justify their outsized sums of money by arguing that they only went to school/took risks/became workaholics in order to get the rewards and if they hadn’t then society would be poorer off. I always respond that if what they were doing is actually useful to society, then I can guarantee there is a very long line of people who would love to create what they’ve created but for far less. In my opinion, if there aren’t people with the intrinsic motivation to do it without being paid enormously then it is not something that should exist in the first place.

    This is summed up in the above “If everyone were paid the same hourly wage, why would anyone go through the time, trouble, and expense of getting specialized, difficult training?” To them, doing something for love, duty, creativity, amazement or any other non-monetized aspect of humanity is incomprehensible.

    Being born on third base comes into play because it allows them to out compete those “lower” who would be just as good or better at the position but are driven by those non-monetary rewards.

    1. proximity1

      ;^ )
      True. What you describe is also seen in the variation that is known popularly by the (annoying) expression, “Living well (overindulging in material oppulence) is the best revenge.” How often is that phrase still heard among the rich and beautiful and blessed? What a trial it is to bear the burdens of great wealth, so dearly-earned! And so, what other recompense have these people than to “live well”? Poor dears! They have my less-than-sincerest sympathies.

    2. jrs

      I think there’s a lot of things that might be of some social benefit that people may not have intrinsic motivation to do. Cleaning the tiolets, collecting the garbage, being a dental hygenist looking at people’s teeth all day. I think a society that cooperatively shared work without this level of economic hardship and human beings own basic social responsibility would be enough to assure work got done and also that most jobs could be made more intrinsically rewarding, but that’s far from believing there’s no drudge work.

      “Living well is the best revenge” I guess is supposed to be “make those people who hurt yout, envy you”, revenge of the nerds style I guess. But it seldom actually works that way, problems tend to compound in hindering external sucess, and it’s hard to make others envy one for that which is purely internal or countercultural (like compassion).

  5. Vatch

    While looking for something else, I encountered the book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. I haven’t read it, and I don’t know whether I will, since I have so many other things to read, but it looks interesting. From the blurb:

    How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

    This seems to have some relevance to the current topic.

    1. mikkel

      “The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage.”

      I’d love to see the rationale behind this statement. Most measures of inheritance show strong reversion to the mean over three to four generations, suggesting his findings would almost all be due to unwarranted advantage.

      1. Vatch

        Good point. The quote isn’t from a proper review of the book, but from a marketing blurb. I have no idea how accurately it reflects what’s in the book.

      2. proximity1

        Safe to say as a very literally interpreted truism: “…“lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage.” (emphasis added)

        Right. I suppose that any genuinely inherited advantage–the only sort that one obtains through what’s called “begetting”–is, of course, not “unwarranted,” is it? Thus, one is entitled to the advantages with which one is endowed strictly naturally–since these are hardly to be held against the beneficiary, are they, now? “Nothing succeeds like success” does it?! Clever! These Harvard and Cambridge grads!

        But what happens once lineage’s begotten “warranted advantages” are transmorgrified and enhanced by social influences which ensue?

        Finally, I just need a full list of the scholarly texts which this economist has studied from the fields of molecular biology and related genetic sciences. If the answer is, “few to none” then I’m not surprised.

        The cited author’s educational background:
        Harvard University, Ph.D. Economics, 1985.
        Cambridge University, B.A. Economics and Philosophy, 1979.

        Go figure.

  6. Bam_Man

    To paraphrase the Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) character from ‘Unforgiven’, “Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”

  7. ambrit

    My experience with seriously wealthy people, (and I’ve met one or two,) is that, absent a very strong sense of self, they mirror the values they associate with the Class of Seriously Wealthy Persons. Being a mere peasant in the eyes of the class, I could slip in under the radar and view them up close, but never personal. When does the pose become the persona? That’s the dividing line. Or should I say ‘side?’
    The Class of Wealthy is really an attitude towards the world. Such world views are tempered, if at all, by forces outside the control of the wealthy person. F. Scott Fitzgeralds famous story of the financier after the Crash of ’29 comes to mind.
    As an anecdote about this, my experience with one of my dads plumbing customers in the early ’80s is instructive. I asked the man, as I was leaving the master bathroom after effecting a repair, if the painting hanging above his bed was a real Braque. “Why, yes, it is,” he replied. “How did you know that?” I bit my tongue and mumbled something about PBS and left. When I related this to my dad later, he looked at me and said, “Thanks. I know it was humiliating, but we’re only lowly workers as far as they are concerned. And I need the business of that man and his friends right now.”
    So far, my experience has been, have as little to do with these people as possible.

    1. EmilianoZ

      He probably meant no offense by it. It’s just very difficult to distinguish a Braque from a Picasso from the 1911-1914 cubist period. From Wikipedia:

      A decisive time of its development occurred during the summer of 1911, when Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso painted side by side in Céret in the French Pyrenees, each artist producing paintings that are difficult—sometimes virtually impossible—to distinguish from those of the other.

      Of course somebody as learned and discerning as Craazyman could readily distinguish them but I tried a few times and for the life of me I just can’t (not that I’ve studied art or anything).

      1. ambrit

        Agreed on the cubist period. I’ve always considered Braque ‘better’ than Picasso. Don’t ask me why, I don’t have a good answer.

        1. EmilianoZ

          I’ve always preferred Braque too. I couldn’t explain why either. I think Braque was an esthete like many French painters. He wanted to do pretty things. Picasso didn’t care about pretty. About 70% of Picasso looks like charlatanism to me.

          There was a Braque retrospective in Paris last year at the Grand Palais. Also last year, there was a superb Braque exhibition at the Phillips Collection in DC. Maybe the wind is turning and a reevaluation of Braque is underway.

          1. ambrit

            It does take a century for a clear sighted evaluation of a body of work to emerge.
            Along with Braque, I like Juan Gris and the later Cezanne. (Cubism done with colours!)
            It’s true, nothing can beat the actual canvases.

    2. Eric377

      Boy, your dad was humiliated pretty darn easily. Very few people study 20th century art, whether plumber, doctor, mortician, yacht designer. That is a question I could easily imagine this person asking absolutely anyone. And had you said something like you had studied art history in Zurich, he probably would have been very interested in hearing about it. The idea that you needed to downplay your knowledge of Braque and his work or else your dad would suffer seems very implausible, but that you use it to justify your own attitude strikes me as much more revealing.

      1. ambrit

        Sort of an anti elite attitude, as a compensation device for not being included in the most favoured person status? There is that aspect of it, I’ll admit. However, I was trying to get across the feeling of being viewed as a second class citizen. In this society, my experience has been that ones worth is based upon visible wealth. Mayhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve seen it play out that way too many times to dismiss the theory. I’m probably being too hard on the rich. They have to suffer every day from the angst of wealth. Very few people, rich or poor, ask themselves, “Am I living an authentic existence?”
        Anyway, you’ve made me think.

        1. optimader

          I go to bed to sleep, I think the piece of wall above my bed is the least observed space in my house. Maybe you dad knew he hated Braque but it was gift?
          In any case you asked, and his answer seems pretty civilized as related.

          1. ambrit

            Sorry. An attempt at a double pun. “Mustang Sally” the song is scored as music. “Mustang Sally” the game(?) is scored for points. Both are played.
            (As regulars will attest, I have an unfortunate endemic case of ‘Foot In Mouth’ disease.)

  8. CB

    Honestly, we all want to think we’re worthy of our good fortune and just lousy lucked in our bad fortune, no fault of our own, you know. Others, of course, may be not. And I’m not sure most people learn anything from their bad fortunes, which is how history repeats itself. Rhymes, too.

    1. jrs

      No we don’t all want to think that. It’s called attributional style and there are basic psychological studies optimists tend to have that attributional style, pessimists don’t. Whether pessimists want to have that attributional style but don’t, I don’t know, too many knots! But I do know not everyone has that attributional style.

    2. economicminor

      CB, Not true. I am rather anxious about my good fortune. I might believe I deserve it but at the same time, probably because I came from poor working class parents, I know how tenuous my wealth is. All I know is that I do not want to be poor or hungry ever again but also know how possible it is for things to change rather quickly.

  9. Yellowrose

    The problem begins with the idea that we either “deserve” what we have or that it is “luck” or “gift”. The worst is believing it is the result of “praying hard enough” so that it is seen as “blessings from God” – the prosperity gospel. Sometimes it is simply heaping tons of wealth onto people just because they were born into a particular family – as in wildly popular monarchy (Duke & Duchess of Windsor, etc.) – resources that rightly belong to others.

    White privilege is none of those things. It is benefiting unfairly from a system of land ownership, laws and economic resource distribution designed to benefit Euro-white males (and the women attached to them) in a way that CREATES POVERTY for others. There is nothing “lucky” or “blessed” about it, even if the unearned privileges come from land ownership or business ownership (via connections, access to $, etc.) generations back.

    Creating poverty or under privilege allows those who benefit unfairly to feel generous and paternalistic when donating “charity” to alleviate the poverty we’ve created or worse to maintain the privileges that mainly the over privileged enjoy (think philanthropy to elite colleges, museums).

    1. Yellowrose

      Oh – and one of the ways to begin to dismantle our system of over privilege has been mentioned on NC many times: provide everyone with a basic income. Human beings have a right to healthy food, clean water, medical care, safe housing and an education by virtue of being human.

      A basic income would provide this and eliminate most charity and government agencies that try to re-route resources, etc. Those working in the big business of charity and government subsidies could then use their skills in more productive ways.

      1. Eclair

        But, Yellow Rose, if we eliminated charity, how would the super-rich justify all those faaabulous benefit events, complete with new designer gowns that cost more than a year’s wages for a Walmart employee, jewels and fresh, organic, locally-sourced food (passed by servers who can barely afford McDonalds)?

        They would just have to admit that they love conspicuously ostentatious parties that provide them with an opportunity to flaunt their enormous wealth.

        1. jrs

          Even the charity is really an opportunity to flaunt wealth. Now charity can do a lot of good in results, but the motives of super rich people giving to charity are sometimes to express their power and I don’t just mean “the power to do good” or something, they like the lording it over others that can come with having money to give away.

      2. Benedict@Large

        And who supported the idea of a basic income like you describe; one that would provide a certain decency to being alive while removing the wasteful bureaucracy the the paychwork of government programs inevitably begets?

        Milton Friedman. Because he recognized that his efficient capitalism would create losers, and that these losers would then need a level of social provision.

        This is perhaps what infuriates me the most about the poster/whiner above. These types of people are so quick to pick up on the cruelty of systems like Friedman suggests, even as they are equally quick to ignore his recognition of they shortcomings, and his remedies for those. They pose their greediness and intelligence, even as they refuse to listen to those who have studied more and more broadly than they,

    2. economicminor

      Mine is neither deserved nor luck but from years of compounding and hard work. Live below your means and save and invest the balance. Some years this didn’t work but others it worked well. I see that many people are poor because of having to have what they couldn’t yet afford or making decisions that were not founded on facts and good planning. But that doesn’t appear to be the real problem today with so many people having to be in debt just to live. I guess I was somewhat lucky in that my timing was better than theirs but I never put more on the table than I could afford to lose nor bought what I couldn’t afford.

      Fail to plan is planning to fail. But then I went to a real school that taught things I needed to know.

    3. cwaltz

      Enough with the white privilege crap already. My father was an alcoholic and a schizophrenic, his skin color did not protect him one whit, nor did it afford him “privilege.” He was dead before he hit 50 by his own hand. My brother, also white and male, was an alcoholic and bipolar. He was dead by 40. I daresay any of the conditions they experienced were a life a privilege. Instead of dividing people by skin color we should be trying to create a system that acknowledges that stereotyping is unhelpful because each life lived is unique.

  10. Vatch

    I suppose it’s necessary to refute some of the statements in this tirade. For example, concerning obesity by lower income people in America: one of the primary reasons for this is that low quality, high calorie, mass produced junk food is often cheaper than the good stuff. The cruddy food is often more affordable. That people are overweight does not mean that they have enough money.

    Another is the straw man argument against paying everyone the same wage. I know few people who believe that everyone should be paid the same wage. The problem in our society is that the difference in wages and income is so much more extreme than it ought to be. Sure, some inequality is to be expected, and may even be beneficial, since talent and hard work deserves to be rewarded. But there’s no reason whatsoever that Bill Gates or the Koch brothers should have so much more than nearly everyone else. The extreme disparities of wealth in our society are surreal.

    1. hunkerdown

      I disagree. Talent should be tolerated; hard work should be harshly penalized, forcibly if need be. It was, after all, people competing like brown-nosing schoolchildren to clock the most hours without sharing the results that has led to this miserable mess we’re in.

    2. economicminor

      In many poor areas, real food isn’t even available. Mainly GMO and high fructose crap. And this stuff is a lot cheaper than the quality food from Whole Foods.

      I sure don’t believe in same wages but then again when the CEO’s make hundreds of times that of the workers and the stock holders are paid next to nothing on their investments should be criminal.

    3. optimader

      “The problem in our society is that the difference in wages and income is so much more extreme than it ought to be.”
      Some that lament upthread of Stalin’s SU being an unfairly corrupt representation of “true” Communism ironically attribute this phenomena of wage/income (asset) disparity to Capitalism rather than, more accurately, the legislated corruption of Capitalism. The gross wage/ income disparity we observe is a rather recent phenomena, no?

      1. OIFVet

        Whatever that “true” communism is that you speak of. Lenin himself called the Soviet system state capitalism. Google it.

  11. Deaf Smith County

    “Why don’t they eat cake…” ~ Marie Antoinette, Queen of Versailles and famous victim of popular revolution.

  12. James Levy

    I wrote out a long personal anecdote that negates the argument about finding $100,000 to save your kid, but such revelations are inappropriate for this medium. Suffice to say that Yves relative is a small-minded, unimaginative individual who has shockingly little experience of real life as it is lived by millions of people. In my little town we’ve had two examples in the last two months of families that needed community support just to bury a dead relative. In other words, they had no access to the $5000 bucks it takes to put a person in the ground, no less $100,000 bucks; you might as well ask them for 1 million. In another place where the community was not so strong and the families no well known and established, goodness knows they would have been forced to take out a loan they could not repay or not identify the bodies and have them dumped in a pauper’s grave somewhere.

    Last winter a neighbor came by one snowy morning with his chainsaw and started cutting up wood on the lot next to mine. His friend had run out of firewood and he was out there in 25 degrees and snow cutting and hauling wood on a Sunday morning so his friend could have some because he couldn’t afford any (no charge, of course). Such friendship is rare these days, and not everyone has such help. Looking down your nose at people below you, people who show character like some of the people around here, is just ill.

    1. Wendy

      Agreed on the comments about Yves’ relative. Even the figure of $100,000 as a throw-away number is (and was no doubt relayed by Yves to show), that that relative is definitely “out of touch”, to say the least. In my opinion, people like this are so far gone as to be unreachable. It’s a waste of time trying to convert this crowd, this 20% or so that seems semi-psychopathic – they’ll always be there, on any issue. It’s the other 80% we can and have to focus on.
      But I also think there’s a fair amount of this “hit a triple” thinking going on, in many ways, so much so that it might even be human nature? An all too common example is thin people who’ve never had a weight problem telling others how not to be fat. They have never had a weight problem, so by definition they’ve never had to conquer one, yet they are 100% certain that they know how. They believe they they’ve done something (if not everything) right. In reality, they have just inherited the right genes for their environment.
      I’d say it’s the rare person that acknowledges the very large role that luck has played in all of our lives, even those of us who have worked hard and/or played by the rules.

  13. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    So, Yves. You might suggest to your relative that when things start breaking down after the next economic bump, that she “deserves” the rocket bombs lobbed at her mansion by people with nothing left to lose.

    I joke, of course. There is no such thing as “deserves” There are only people, with needs, desires and the will and ability to fulfill them. A man with a rocket launcher is one such. A man with a stock portfolio is another. In the end, both are doing the same thing.

  14. Medici1

    Statements by the nouveau riche element of the third base brigade, as one of the subsets of those delineated above, generate some useful insights.
    Their protestations and self-serving rhetoric mask insecurity about their position, as they attempt to justify their relative social standing.
    Since the noblesse oblige component hasn’t yet taken hold, there is a lack of compassion for those that they recently had as neighbors and classmates.
    Their human development cycle dictates a lengthy period of self absorption prior to any self awareness, and the delays in achieving the latter come after extensive rehab and counseling.

  15. hh

    in my experience, the word “contingency” plays better with these kinds of people than “luck” or “inheritence” or “privelage.” Use the word “contingent.”

    1. jrs

      It’s probably more accurate anyway. One may be priviledged in some ways and not others – say from a rich family that is also abusive. Is that being born priviledged or lucky? Not in any universal sense. HOWEVER, if the riches allow one to get a great education etc.. stuff flows contigently from that (negative stuff also flows contigentaly from the abuse, but it may not be enough to eclipse making good use of some of the advantages etc.).

  16. JohnB

    Yves: The crux of some of the things you posted, is how you frame ‘taxes’ :) MMT’s framing of taxes, obliterates many of those arguments, because with MMT, taxes ‘temper inflation and enforce dominance of government currency’ (simplified), and government spending (welfare and such) is no longer funded by taxes.

    So, when it is framed like that, nobody can ever claim that their tax money is funding dole-scroungers and such, because that would be false.

    It also leads to the very interesting viewpoint, which I think Warren Mosler supports, that income taxes are actually morally wrong, because it makes no logical sense to tax people for working/earning more, since that is not needed for funding government.
    I don’t know his full set of arguments for this, but I would personally supplement this viewpoint, by arguing that there should be a cap on income (a maximum wage of some sort), otherwise this would obviously worsen income inequality.

    However, the massive unfortunate caveat with all of this: You have to get people to accept/understand MMT first, which is incredibly difficult. MMT’s framing of taxes though, is the key for changing the narrative on many of these topics.

  17. Johann Sebastian Schminson

    We have elevated greed to virtue status (along with avarice, cowardice, hypocrisy, wrath, and pride).

    The best answer is to boycott these dickheads.

    Charles Stewart Parnell, then Member of Parliament, at the time:

    “I wish to point out to you a very much better way – a more Christian and charitable way, which will give the lost man an opportunity of repenting. When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him – you must shun him in the streets of the town – you must shun him in the shop – you must shun him on the fair green and in the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of the country, as if he were the leper of old – you must show him your detestation of the crime he committed.”

    1. hunkerdown

      That only works if they actually *need* to have contact with the little people in order to get their needs met. When the elites can operate independently of the proletariat and compel the proles to produce out of the proles’ expense, or else starve, shunning doesn’t have much of a foothold to gain. Proles are only good for numbers to the snob classes and they can be manipulated remotely just fine. Those few who need access to the elites to do their job can be thoroughly vetted for loyalty, disempowering them as a class.

      There are few avenues for proles to withhold cooperation without seriously damaging their ability to access basic needs. One example of such an avenue is for attendees at some official’s presser to all turn their backs to the podium, which embarrasses the official not only to the public but to their friends in power, who expect them to keep control of their underling-constituents.

  18. Brindle

    Ran into this Noam Chomsky piece from 1996. The 90’s seem so quaint now, but the signs were there for all to see.

    —-Well, the Washington consensus — which is basically designed for the Third World to make it that way, and keep it that way — it’s now being applied not just to the Third World countries, but to the rich industrial societies, with the United States and Britain in the lead. However, it’s with a twist.
    Since it’s being applied at home, this is really existing free market theory that’s being applied at home, meaning nuanced. So, powerful government to protect the rich, and market discipline and tough love for everyone else.—-

  19. Art Eclectic

    The thing that class warriors keep forgetting is history. Russian history and French history in particular.
    The elite “makers” keep whining about the social safety net and creating dependencies but they don’t grasp that what we’re really doing is paying people off so they don’t burn the place down. “Get a Job” is the common refrain. There aren’t any. Bring this fact up and then you’re all set up for a lengthy “too many Mexicans taking jobs from low income Americans who should be cleaning toilets and picking strawberries instead of cashing welfare checks” argument.

    You can’t win.

    1. Tony

      No, you can’t win, so you have to change the debate.

      The entire line of reasoning of “just desserts” is based around the need for a society to reward contribution and punish free-riding. Every society has retirees, disabled, mentally ill, new mothers, children, incompetents, klutzes, morons, etc. The debate REALLY is, what do we do with people who can’t (or won’t) do their share?

      When resources are scarce, it may make TONS of sense to encourage high inequality (big rewards to high performers, harsh consequences for the lazy or disabled) in order to overcome scarcity. When resources are plentiful, it makes much less sense to encourage that gap. Goods and services abound, so there’s no reason to over-reward high performers and little burden letting some free-riders slide.

      On the contrary, if the free-riders are destitute while the high performers waste even a fraction of their allocation, it generates jealousy, anger, and desperation … like the kind someone feels when they can’t feed or clothe their child. Add up enough of that desperation – incrementally, marginally, drip by drip – and eventually society breaks down. There’s nothing to be gained by being a free-rider anymore.

      And, more importantly, nothing to lose.

      1. economicminor

        So it isn’t a free ride for the elite to get money from the FED at .25% and then loan it back to the Treasury for 2.5% or take a risk and loan it to a poor person on an sub prime auto loan at 12%? Or for the corporate leaders to get the same money and buy back stock so that they can continue to have a relatively low P/E and get their bonuses?

        1. Tony


          See above where I say “waste even a fraction of their allocation.” A 2.25% risk-free premium is waste, by my calculation. A securitized portfolio of subprime auto loans sliced, diced, and ratings-agency-spiced is waste, by my calculation. They are overcharging for their services because they can, and they truly believe they are doing God’s work. As long as the system they know continues to operate in the expected manner, their beliefs will be unshakable.

          I don’t think you and I disagree at base.

  20. The Dork of Cork

    The fashionable people to hate in UK land is the Glaswegians.
    They make fun of their short life span and such.
    While the middle class of the south live long boring lives where the fear of death is extracted from their thoughts and replaced with material junk until the final realization at their death bed.

    Yet the tradition of seeking freedom without aispiration to the middle class life is deep rooted in the western Scottish psyche.
    Be he the fictional Rab C Nesbitt or the very real late Tommie Weir.

    Its fun to observe the English walking the Scottish highlands with a little “plan” in their heads.
    They must get to this spot at a certain time and such.
    Yet this miss almost everything.

    There is a freedom in becoming a animal.
    To seek time units & perhaps drink over and above heavy material junk.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Well said. I think this is one of the things at the crux of the independence question, whether its vocalized much or not. The Scots, perhaps due to the history of a harsh climate that doesn’t distinguish between rich and poor, have a much more sophisticated grasp of this and don’t engage so much in class bigotry. Its one of the best things about them as a people and why a NO vote tomorrow will be such a shame.

    2. hunkerdown

      I’m really hoping for Yes on the off chance I have enough Scots heritage to manage a passport out of this labor camp we call the USA.

      1. ambrit

        I hadn’t thought of that angle. Being half scot myself, the idea of barely surviving frigid winter on the Western Isles, where moms folks come from, makes me pine for the heather. (My wife, being from south Louisiana, gives me a meaningful stare.)

  21. Blurtman

    I will make a politically incorrect point which runs contrary to the liberal grain. Rich people can get their kids into Ivy League schools via connections. This is the so-called affirmative action for the rich. When it is practiced, and it still is, affirmative action can get folks into schools who fit into poorly defined racial and ethnic categories. Who gets left out? The non-rich and those who do not fit into those racial and ethnic categories.

  22. Jeff Barton

    Its simple (to me anyway)

    1) Policies like Nafta and the grand outsourcing experiement of U.S. companies have put the workers of 3rd world countries in competition with American workers which has outsourced many jobs, and reduced the pay for many others as the bar gets lowered for compensation.

    2) Increases in technology and automation reduces the amt of manufacturing and service jobs available leaving many unemployed. This pool of unemployed are so desperate that they’ll take lower wages to just have any job at all. Less and less humans will be needed as time goes on, and guess what? At some point (which we may have already reached) there just won’t be enough jobs to go around, and a certain percentage of the population will ALWAYS be unemployed, lazy or not.

    3) All of the productivity gains (amt of widgets produced per worker) we’ve had since the industrial revolution, then the later technology revolution have benefitted only the top echelon director level personnel of companies. Corporate compensation has exploded for the officers of the companies, and pay for average workers hasn’t budged since the seventies. Its accepted policy now for those in charge to take all the loot, and giving employees a decent share is “solcialism”

    None of this can be blamed on the poor – I know this’ll sound a bit esoteric, but we are all the same. Every person wants to contribute. The 3rd generation welfare families? That’s just learned behavior, not some sort of “innate nature” of a group of people

    1. lakewoebegoner

      Add the subsidized capital gains tax rates.

      Want to juice the economy tomorrow? Enact a revenue neutral income tax cut for the lowest bracket while raising the taxable capital gains taxes by a corresponding amount.

  23. Chance Nation

    How about proposing a Job Guarantee/Employer of Last Resort option to those that don’t like the current social safety net? It could be funded through changing the tax structure on economic rents. That way Angry Bear’s income taxes wouldn’t be used. Heck, if taxes were structured properly, income taxes could be gotten rid of or reduced significantly. Even though government spending isn’t revenue constrained, that concept probably won’t be understood any time soon, so it has to be presented in a way that has a fighting chance of general acceptance.

    1. Louis

      Some kind of guaranteed jobs program ala a modern-day CCC isn’t a bad idea—it gives people something to do and the ability to earn some money versus just sitting around, getting angry, and perhaps eventually deciding that they have nothing to lose.

      The objection, of course, will be either that it costs too much more or unfairly competes against the private-sector.

      1. hunkerdown

        If it were designed anything like current social safety-net programs, it will be carefully tuned to provide exactly enough calories for them to continue working, and never enough to accumulate any significant capital of their own.

        Hmm, maybe the Red Scare could be exploited again to the proles’ benefit, if “If you don’t want to pay them to work, the Russians will, and you’ll wish you had once it’s too late.”

      2. ambrit

        Trouble is, the private sector isn’t doing any of these things, or the state wouldn’t have to intervene.

  24. Benedict@Large

    I’ve gotten to the point where I get intensely angry whenever I even try to read things like this. Bitterly jealous people afraid that someone poor person might get a dime without suffering “JUST LIKE I DID” to earn it; knowing in their suffering hearts who is really stealing from them, but feeling powerless to do anything about it constrained as they are by their golden handcuffs, they seek and find in the poor an outlet for their rage that is unable to fight back. These are the pathetic human beings who in their own unrestrained greed enable the likes of the Koch Brothers and their project to destroy the United States as we know it.

    1. YankeeFrank

      The intensity of your anger is in direct proportion to your humanity. Good work I say. Yves’ relative, like many of my own, is part of the cancer that eats away at our shared humanity and will, unless we put a stop to it, destroy us and our world.

      1. hunkerdown

        If they’ve taken pains and measures to separate themselves and their outcomes from the rest of humanity, have they opted out of being human?

  25. Lambert Strether

    “specialized, difficult training” Yeah, like being a hedgie, a bankster, or a crooked lawyer. The obfuscation required in all three trades does demand such training, it is true.

    1. reslez

      Indeed — for not everyone is capable of the required levels of hypocrisy, malice and self-delusion. These all require specialized and difficult training. But if you work hard, make the right friends, and bend the rules, you too can be a successful parasite in this country. Live the dream!

  26. PeonInChief

    There’s always an interesting assumption in these pieces: First that people are paid according to their productivity and that productivity determines what they’re worth. That’s not true. Unfortunately people who make this argument can’t imagine a world without the poorest 50%–cleaners of all kinds, customer service representatives, retail salespersons, restaurant workers and so on–because they don’t really notice their existence. Suppose all of those people disappeared for a month. It would be inconvenient, uncomfortable and foul.

    1. reslez

      In terms of utility, the person who cleans the toilet is far more important to society than the person who skims financial fees or outsources other people’s jobs.

      1. RWood

        Yes, this is definitely the correct observation about the brave people who compose the burial squads in West Africa, versus the bureaucrats and elites who have neglected the public health systems to the abject state now. And then looking westward…

  27. Louis

    Art Eclectic wrote: “[…]what we’re really doing is paying people off so they don’t burn the place down.”

    I’m reminded how David Simon, the creator “The Wire”, writing in one his books about the shortcomings of welfare in low-income urban neighborhoods. He basically said that welfare has largely failed to pull people out of poverty—my recollection is that he referred to it as a “bribe.” However, he also emphasized that the real alternative to welfare—that wouldn’t result in more crime—would necessitate making some major structural and economic changes that there will never be the political support for.

    1. McMike

      Exactly. Give people decent jobs, good pay and opportunities, or build more jails and try and bribe a subset in the margins. We’ve chosen the latter.

      Of course that’s what we choose in our imperial foreign policy as well.

      It also includes accepting that some portion of the population is simply going to be truly unmotivated & lazy, dysfunctional, criminal, or mentally ill. And you have to decide whether to tolerate it, or have them shot.

  28. McMike

    I’d direct them to the movie “Trading Places.” It’s a caricature, but makes its point.

    In truth, this is merely one manifestation of the induced/allowed infantilization/pathologizing of our elite and right wing populace. Self-justifying rationalizations. Celebrated anti-social behavior. In a way, they simply haven’t grown emotionally beyond High School. Their compassion, empathy, and ability to think outside themselves has been stifled and they have been fed a steady brainwashing diet of elite exceptionalism.

    I was once a promising corporate professional. My departure was gradual and all at once. The tipping point was a party where I was surrounded by truly despicable and ignorant lawyers and wall street types. The ignorance, small mindedness, and juvenile anti-social currency of conversation were insufferable. I had no interest in spending another moment in that glorified frat house.

    They’ve been on top too long: coddled, backstopped, protected, segregated, subsidized… born on third base, and living in a bubble. They forgot what it is like to be in a precarious position, to lose everything, to go without, to fear the rabble on whose backs they are standing, to interact with others across the spectrum outside of monetized transactions.

    Like Mme Antoinette, they may find themselves blinking from the gallows some day (so to speak) wondering where all these angry people came from, and wherever did their valet get off to….

    Most of us here at NC understand that they are undermining their own system. Killing the golden goose that was a somewhat widely affluent, relatively stable, and optimistic middle class. It’s basically been turned into a Ponzi scheme that has stopped drawing in new money. A few will get out on top, but a lot of these penny-ante sociopaths are going to get a rude awakening sooner or later.

    Cognitive dissonance may well force them to pull a Hoover and blame poor people and liberals all the way to their graves. But ti won’t change the reality outside their windows.

    1. Louis

      Businesses aren’t, as you put it, “killing the gold goose” intentionally—their customers have to come from somewhere after all. However, at the individual level, profitable businesses have an obvious interest in keeping costs down, including wages, if they want to remain profitable. When One firm lowers wages, it’s not a problem; however, when everyone else catches on, the economy suffers.

      The crux of the problem is reconciling the economics of an individual business with the economics of the larger economy.

      1. McMike

        The goose being cooked is the liveable communities and economic structures where the business owners, managers, and enablers live, and the nation around it.

        It’s the tragedy of the commons all over again. Self-consuming cannibalism.

      2. LifelongLib

        For roughly 40 years (1935 – 75) the New Deal dealt with this using a combination of unions and government employment/spending. It forced businesses to pay more than they would have liked in both wages and taxes, but in doing so enabled some prosperity (there were still many people who were left out). Since then, unions have vanished, taxes have fallen, and businesses are left wondering where their customers went.

        1. Louis

          The New Deal was part of it but there’s more to the story—for one thing entry into World War II helped boost the economy—not that I’m advocating war as a means to improve the economy. The United State emerged from World War II with basically no competitors—they’d all been destroyed—for around 20 years (give or take), so there was no competition for wages. In the 1970’s things started to change: Europe and Japan were back online, so to speak, and the outsourcing of manufacturing began.

          Globalization has its benefits and drawbacks—there definitely is a degree of a race to the bottom—but as a practical you can’t reverse it, so outsourcing and automation are here to stay. That being said, as automation renders more jobs obsolete, we’re eventually going to have to confront the fact there is a structural lack of work: i.e. there permanently aren’t enough jobs to go around.

          I don’t know what the solution is: guaranteed minimum income, guaranteed jobs program, or something else. However, I do know that having a large number of people sitting around with nothing to do but get angry over being marginalized, and eventually feeling like they have nothing to lose, is a very dangerous situation for any country.

    2. proximity1

      “I was once a promising corporate professional. My departure was gradual and all at once.”

      If I understand you, what happened was that you had an opportunity to enter into a class status that you perceived–and by all indications rightly so–as something different than and, according to conventional opinion, relatively higher than your station up to that point. In the quite early course of this opportunity, from what I read in your account, you found the expected and required class norms so distasteful that you decided before very long into the process not to pursue that course and abandoned it. Would that be about right?

      That means that a film like “Trading Places” would speak to you and be seen in a way that is simply very different from the way that those once-potential professional peers of yours would regard the same film. They’d see the same film as a story about how a clever street person outsmarted two well-placed old codgers who’d simply lost their edge and as a result, got the consequences their foolish carelessness deserved–since, naturally, everyone gets what he deserves. The quick and clever outwit the slow and dim and thus, one rises to and the other falls to his respective rightful place. The corporate professionals could watch that film, laugh in all the right places and, at the end, say to themselves, “See? It’s just as I’ve always said: people get what they deserve in this world. Hardworking strivers prosper and the rest fall behind, and all is right with the world.”

      You found that you didn’t, couldn’t, in good conscience feel that you belong in a group which believed— and which expected of others around them to believe– such a panglossian view. And you did the most natural thing by not staying in it.

      1. McMike

        Yeah, I was basically joking about the movie. The self-rationalizing rich are immovable in their thoughts, just like the rest of the anti-social right wing death cults.

        The upside of my personal experiences was it allowed me to seek out (and find) progressive minded, and compassionate people who had achieved comparatively higher levels of self awareness (many of them wealthy, many of them not).

    3. UpperClass

      McMIke – Re: ” Killing the golden goose”

      Predictions about the fall of the 0.01% are greatly exaggerated. That they are eating the commons or cooking the golden goose entirely misses the point.

      The Uppers know what they’re doing. When the commons is barren and the golden goose reduced to bones and the hungry hordes storm their gates, the Uppers will merely gas their planes and jet to their alternative home in London or Paris or Hawaii. And stay there – until the riots subside.

      So what if the US market dries up and we can’t afford the goods on the shelves. There’s always China and South Amer and Africa in the far distance. Good money to be made there.

      They got it covered/

      1. economicminor

        good luck with that
        They better look around
        Europe is on the verge
        S. America? Not for me..
        Africa.. e bola and real poverty..
        Maybe the S pole? or maybe they can make a deal w/ Putin and move there….
        This isn’t just a USA problem. We are no longer disconnected.

      2. casino implosion

        And when the earth itself is exhausted, they intend to upload their consciousness to a starship and “set off to explore the cosmos” in the words of Alex Jones from one of his documentaries that I viewed on youtube. Leaving the rest of us here to “eat roasted rats” in the ruins in the words of PK Dick.

  29. proximity1

    I suppose that the most effective means by which wealthy people come to understand the, well, rather chance-filled character of their own good fortune, by which they better grasp the fact that their own hard work and persistence were not the entire story after all, is when they suffer a serious and lasting “déclassement”–losing their former stature and the sense of security it afforded them. Then, especially, they’re more apt to notice the changing and precarious nature of living. That actually happens to people from time to time. When it does, though it’s still not a certainty, there’s at least a better chance that they’d look upon others who were once much less fortunate than they with a newfound sympathy. Until then, deep resentment and denial is the most likely reaction to moralizing from others about upper-class disdain for the lower-classes. I also think that the class contempt runs very strongly in each direction, the poor and disfavored returning the contempt for those above them that you describe flowing from the more fortunate to their perceived inferiors. In each case, face-saving and prideful denial is involved. Class identities are real and they are powerfully enforced whether one is in the low or lowest or in the high or highest. No one in either is permitted to bridge the division with impunity from his class peers. It is a deeply taboo thing to undertake and usually means that, if insisted upon, sanctions up to and including shunning will result. A person may move up or down the class structure, but whichever way one moves, he may not seriously challenge the class norms and the barriers they raise and maintain by bringing the uninvited (whether from above or below) with him in a lasting and a prominent manner. Token exceptions might be forgiven in an especially eccentric person but for most, one is either with one’s class or against and, therefore, cast out of it.

  30. Banger

    I find these arguments very interesting and they manage to pass muster today where they would never do so a few decades ago–what happened? What happened is that the power-elite in the West have turned their back on the 18th century Enlightenment as much or more than the mis- and under-educated masses. Reason, science, art, the Western Humanist tradition is largely lost on these people and their toadies and hangers-on (you have to see it up close to believe it).

    On safety nets–in my view they’re mainly wrong-headed and would favor eliminating them in favor of a guaranteed income program that Nixon and Milton Friedman proposed–they are clearly the most cost-effective way to deal with poverty that would lessen the stigma and the stupid and humiliating paperwork people would have to go through and eliminate wasteful overhead.

    As for people being forced to raise 100k I think many of those people, if well armed and trained, would go after rich people very quickly to collect a little tax. Eventually you’d have private armies and little feudal wars. BTW, I am entirely convinced that what the rich really want is a solidly neo-feudal world but they don’t see the dark side of it for them–they’d have to hire food tasters, guards (who could very quickly turn on them) and it would not be a very pleasant existence. There is already some of that among the very, very rich. We’ll see how it shakes out.

    1. reslez

      > Reason, science, art, the Western Humanist tradition is largely lost on these people

      They rule by manipulation of public opinion — deceit is their stock in trade. They see no value in reason because they can persuade more easily without it. Science is just a tool for winning soundbite arguments on TV. They have no idea what built their society or what is required to sustain it. They only see the short game, the short con. And under the current circumstances this is a successful strategy.

      > I am entirely convinced that what the rich really want is a solidly neo-feudal world but they don’t see the dark side of it for them

      The fact is our elites are not the elites who would prosper under such a system. Feudal elites have to be good at fighting, which requires physical courage. Our elites are only good at fraud and theft by deceit. They would function decently well inside a Church bureaucracy but when it comes to actual power they would quickly find themselves under someone else’s mailed bootheel.

      1. Oneaboveall

        From what I’ve read, it seems that a good deal of elites were eliminated by other elites when they became too much trouble. If someone like Petraeus, after becoming dictator, decided that Blankfein, Dimon, etc, are more trouble than they’re worth, what could the elites do to stop him?

    2. Skippy

      If you can’t understand the rationalization Milty had for a BIG, yet, bring up wasteful overhead, stigmas, cost effectiveness, et al, all whilst referencing “Reason, science, art, the Western Humanist tradition abandoned” – well I don’t think I’ve ever heard such contradictions ever.

      You do realize Milton was a Chicago boy Right[?], was caught red handed by the Buchanan Committee and was a key figure in the establishment of the FEE think tank.

      Skippy… you bemoan the loss of the aforementioned values [more like romanticism] at the same time you utter one of the names most responsible for the loss. It would be an absurdly ludicrous proposition if the damage was not so viscerally real.

  31. Savonarola

    You know what I sometimes say to those who demean the poor in front of me? Of course, this doesn’t work on everybody, but I find significant overlap between “religious” folks and those who seem to see themselves as above the poor as a political position.

    “Verily I say to you, whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.”

    Often, if said quietly and reverently, it shuts people up in one stroke.

    1. Banger

      It’s always interesting to confront Christians with the essence of their religion they and their pastors usually ignore. That’s why its useful for all and sundry to be acquainted with the Bible, particularly the Gospels.

    2. proximity1

      That might be. But in the most hardened cases of devoted class identification, such appeals to scripture just won’t soften the other’s heart. Imagine saying that to a Lloyd Blankfein, for example or to any of his closest peers. Their most likely immediate reaction would be–whether stated aloud or not– “Check, please. And, valet, please bring my car around.” These people don’t have time for even civil society’s statutory rules and regulations, let alone prescriptions on righteous living supposedly from the authority of a diety that they neither acknowledge nor respect. That would be for others, their victims, as poor suckers. For them, it’s all about competing and defeating the competition and pity and sympathy for losers is for suckers, a sign of weakness. So goes the catechism of wealth and power. Of course, one can be gracious about clawing one’s way to the top and fighting off all challengers in order to stay there. Look at how “these people” (see, the contempt runs both ways) can smile and wave for the cameras.

    3. StPeter

      It’s interesting to watch someone fight the lures of marketism and classism [“My class is better than your class”] against the virtue of compassion.

      I once told a long-time Buddhist that marketism severely lacks compassion. Ya gotta remember that compassion is a biggie virtue in Buddhism. Buddhists are repeatedly exhorted to have compassion for all living things. Building compassion in one’s self is a life-long effort in Buddhism.

      One very knowledgeable Buddhist ended the conversation by calling me a communist. Another simply ended with “I don’t know.”

      Let’s not underestimate the difficulty of feeling compassion for those less fortunate. Even for Buddhists it’s a tough call.

  32. readerOfTeaLeaves

    That post is eye-raising.
    Anyone that lacking in empathy, that unobservant, that blindly selfish, and that obtuse is best avoided.
    I know a few people who hold these views, and I avoid arguing with them — they want confirmation that their justifications are valid. Arguing with people like this is a complete waste of my time. I avoid them like plague and would never do business with them.

    1. run75441


      Stop by AB and I will introduce him to you. There is something to be learned from people like this.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        I agree – there is something to be learned.
        Maybe I just don’t have the time-energy these days.
        Unfortunately for me, I encountered a situation on Monday with a guy who espouses the views listed in this post. He was getting into his very new, very shiny brand new foreign sports car (it would have cost at least $45,000) when I encountered him.

        He is all about ‘investments’. In his worldview, he’s smarter than the rest of us because he just lets his money work for him. He seems to believe that anyone who works is an idiot. He appears to have almost no empathy, and very little ability to see anything from someone else’s perspective. I honestly don’t think that paying serf wages would trouble him in the least; for him, money is power.
        For me, most of the time, money is a tool.

        (I actually enjoy working, so guys like this just bore the hell out of me.)

        However, I do think that you make a fine point.
        Maybe my recent experience just makes me a bit impatient and short-tempered. Apologies if I came across as such.

      2. readerOfTeaLeaves

        One more point: on Saturday, I was talking with a friend. He told of a former school buddy who, at age 62, is going to retire. The man will be living on around $860/month.
        He’s 62, and his body is giving out.
        He doesn’t make all that much money, and he’s worn out.
        Because of ‘Obamacare’, he’ll have at least moderate medical ($100/mo).
        He’ll live in his pick-up camper parked on property owned by friends, and he’ll have to shower at the homes of friends, or somewhere in town. (The town is too small to have a YMCA or a health club.)

        This man has worked almost every working day since he was 16.
        He’s always lived in a rural town in Washington state, in the old timber country.
        He’s worked in shake mills, logging operations, shops, and auto shops.
        He’s worked, and worked, and worked – always at low wage jobs in a small town.
        He’s raised 3 kids, and is known as a very decent person.

        And the obnoxious jerk that I encountered getting into his new foreign sports car 48 hours later was more than I could stand to deal with, after hearing about the honorable, hard-working guy who will be living in his pickup for the indefinite future managing on less than $1,000/month for the rest of his life.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to say it but that relative has far and away the highest EQ among my closer family members, which is a big part of how she got to be a six figure earner with only a high school degree. So the combination of an ability to seem considerate and open attitudes like that is a wowser.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Ah, point well taken, Yves.
        I’d been thinking about my aggravating experience, and forgot to think more widely about people in occupations like real estate, sales, etc who have high EQ and hold some of the views espoused in the post.
        Thanks for the reality check.

  33. McMike

    To answer the main question: “how to make headway in arguments,” the answer is: don’t try.

    They are internet trolls. They are the bloviating ignorant neocon brother at the holiday dining room table. They are the crazy person on the subway.

    They are a lost generation.

    Don’t bother to engage. Ignore, change the subject, and/or walk away. The look on your face (a combination of revulsion and disinterest) and brisk relocation may or may not penetrate their consciousness. But it will help preserve your own sanity and peace.

  34. McMike

    o answer the main question: “how to make headway in arguments,” the answer is: don’t try.

    They are internet trolls. They are the bloviating ignorant neocon brother at the holiday dining room table. They are the crazy person on the subway.

    They are a lost generation.

    Don’t bother to engage. Ignore, change the subject, and/or walk away. The look on your face (a combination of revulsion and disinterest) and brisk relocation may or may not penetrate their consciousness. But it will help preserve your own sanity and peace.

  35. McMike

    To answer the main question: “how to make headway in arguments,” the answer is: don’t try.

    They are comment board annoyances. They are the bloviating ignorant neocon brother at the holiday dining room table. They are the crazy person on the subway.

    They are a lost generation.

    Don’t bother to engage. Ignore, change the subject, and/or walk away. The look on your face (a combination of revulsion and disinterest) and brisk relocation may or may not penetrate their consciousness. But it will help preserve your own sanity and peace.

  36. Garrett Pace

    “saying you hated the poor was seen as an admission that you were the functional equivalent of poor white trash, so insecure in your own social standing that you saw it not just as reasonable but important to kick those below you so as to assure your clearly precarious economic foothold”

    There’s the answer. Everyone is insecure today.

    1. McMike

      Not so sure. In previous gilded ages, it was a lot more common to lose everything and find yourself starting from scratch. Particularly for those in the top 20% but below the top 1%.

      Everyone may be psychically insecure these days that’s true.

      But financially, the elite are more locked into their wealth than they have been in a long time.

  37. nony mouse

    I should have a lot to say about this, coming from the near (not absolute) bottom rung of society. but I don’t have much except that your relative is displaying many, if not all of the ego defense mechanisms on this list:

    ok, after a brief “warming up”–
    it isn’t so much that ‘poor people’ are that way because they have made a mess of their lives through poor choices. at the same time, I admit that I myself made many poor choices, although not the same ones as others in my class. also, I did not have to suffer constant racial discrimination. so what is my excuse for not ‘making it’ adequately on my own? my brain works, somewhat. I have functional limbs. I guess I have no excuses at all, right? well, I won’t elaborate too much my personal problems here. suffice to say, I needed 20 extra years to raise myself because I had a family full of alcoholism and drug abuse (and spousal abuse, and child neglect) that did not do it properly the first time. let’s put it this way–my family could not even manage to teach its members how to drive (for some convoluted reason that I won’t get into). if I had wanted to learn how to drive, which is an essential skill in California considering the state of public transit in most places and the need to get to work, I would have had to (and did, somewhat) find a job to pay for the lessons to learn to drive, hope that I made enough on minimum wage to save up for a crappy, second hand vehicle plus insurance and maintenance and gas, while also paying rent somewhere and food and public transit. I have relatives who chose the car. guess what? they are still living at home with family at 32. I chose my freedom. I chose not to pay endless amounts that I didn’t have for a car, and to survive instead because I couldn’t live at home forever. this limited where and when I could work, and where and whether I could attend schooling, and a million other things. but I could not afford to do both, and couldn’t manage to do much other than my minimum wage job. try figuring out how to climb out of THAT hole. I’m still doing it, and nearly 40.

    in sociology, I believe that a lot of this is down to culture and social connections. the plumber’s kid becomes a plumber, not through innate abilities but through being exposed to that ‘way of life’ and the practice of if from birth. he has social connections in that world who can, and will help him adapt to it and they are willing to teach him what he needs to know to take over the reigns from them (helping him, in essence, to eventually become their equal). same as for the lawyer’s son. if you come from a lower class, you have no or little idea how to navigate your way to one of those chosen lawyer spots. plus, you have to fight to survive (little or no family resources backing you), no social connections to reach out and mentor you or find you that plum internship (unless you go around constantly ‘selling’ yourself and hoping that someone ‘sees your potential’ and makes an investment in you), and you are competing both with the sons and daughters of those born into those positions, as well as those on the rungs immediately below those (but above yours) who aspire and have better chances at reaching them due to ‘being born with’ the things that you lack.

    if you were born into the community that I was born into, it isn’t that you have absolute NO chance of escape. but you have been saddled with: a race ‘in disgrace’ with the rest of society for no reason attributable to your actions, a family riven by poverty and unable to hang together properly long enough to support you or even help you grow up properly (in nearly all ways, not just financial), a dysfunctional and financially hamstrung school district. a lot of daily distractions and impediments in your life that prevent you from attending to what little abstract knowledge is even being conveyed in those classrooms (having no food in the fridge in the morning when you leave, and in the evening when you get home, and knowing that landlord wants to kick your family out of a rat-infested house by the end of the week really takes precedence in your mind over learning abstract factoids that someone else discovered long ago which appear to have little relation to anything in your life or environment, so you must remember them wholesale and also memorize how they interact. I could go on here about the failings of the education system, but that’s another huge and complicated issue and I don’t believe I have ‘the solution’ at all). also, you have the prospect of earning your high school diploma having learned almost nothing that will help you get a job in your environment. your neighborhood has no jobs, except fast food and liquor store attendant. the rich parts of town are essentially barred to you, unless you want to be hassled by cops just for sitting in a parked car or walking down the street. you know someone who might be able to get you a job in a warehouse, but his job might not be there due to layoffs next month. it is difficult and dangerous work and the first time your hoopty car fails on you, your employer will fire you. in other words, there are incredible disincentives and obstacles to living ‘the right way’, and the wrong way is just the path of least resistance. sometimes, the ‘wrong way’ is essentially all you can muster because the ‘right’ path is not open to you at all, and possibly never was. essentially, your life becomes about making reactive, ‘make do’ choices that seem the best option at the time, or at least the only options that you are able to choose because you can’t get out of the box you have been placed in to make other choices.

    I grew up with someone who knew he would be given a car at 16. he knew how to drive already when we met at 12. his family owned their home on the hill, and had for the last 2 generations (same house. very rare). his stepfather was a Harvard graduate and geneticist. his deceased father had been a banker, who had set aside enough money before he passed to enable a trust fund for him that he would eventually get (probably enough to buy a house, or set him up in a profession but not enough to live on endlessly). his parents paid for expensive private school, so that he didn’t have to go to the educationally worthless public schools (13k/year). he was not a scholastic champion (not stupid, but better with concrete things hence his interest in football). his family were willing to support him long enough for him to obtain training and do something that would earn him enough to live on. he used to just tell me “stop worrying. just get out there and do it” about everything from learning to drive, to getting an apartment in a decent area, to obtaining an education. why did he say this insensitive thing? because everyone he knew, with similar backgrounds and resources, were ‘just doing it. just going to art school, just travelling to europe, or just bumming around until they could find what they wanted to do in life. but they had something to ‘do it’ with, and someone to fall back on when they failed. and I did not. and I didn’t have anyone interested enough in me to invest the time and resources to mentor me up to something better, either. I would have had to pay for college or ‘trade school’ out of my own pocket at that time, and just couldn’t afford to do that and live. I could not see a viable pathway, and was struggling just to stay in the place I was. I think many poverty-stricken people are like that. it is a daily struggle just to stay in place. advancement out and ‘up’ is nearly impossible.

    1. Eric377

      Okay, but was inane contempt expressed by some person you never knew about people in your approximate circumstances a contributor to your woes? Probably not.

      1. nony mouse

        what is your point? and how is that relevant?

        if those who are in the more affluent positions hold those views of everyone lower, most especially of those from ethnic backgrounds, how does that NOT affect their prospects?

        how can a black person from the inner city ghetto convince a person like the above to give them a chance to learn how to become like the privileged individual? at most, they can convince the small business owner that they have the intellectual abilities to take on the various duties and learn all of the ropes of that small business owner’s life. or perhaps they can get a job at Sears or something.

        is the person’s expressed view inane? undoubtedly. but these are the people with the resources and power, and they as a group holding the same or similar views makes advancement from the bottom either an impossible prospect, or an exception that proves the rule that the Bootstrap Myth is true–you just need to be an exceptional individual to climb up out of your impoverished environment. you CAN do it, and those people who do not are just not trying very hard.

        I find it amazing that you can’t see that trying to be hired by someone with this attitude does not affect the less-privileged person’s quality of life. imagine the story with the additional, and obvious racial element. for a black person, literally Everything they do is scrutinized for signs of ‘promise’ or ‘defect’. the evidence of the former is when you evince traits more similar to those socio-economic ‘betters’ you are trying to impress, the latter when you evince the ‘natural’ tendencies of black people as expected by these biased individuals.

        I have experienced direct impacts from people holding these views when they discover the kind of social background I come from, and yet I am able to mingle among them and masquerade adequately because I am white, and don’t have a low-class speech pattern or vocabulary. as soon as they find out some real detail of my real life, I become an object of pity, amusement, and suspicion that I am not what I claim, and therefore I am just a drug-addict in disguise, waiting to slide back into the same ‘poverty/dependence’ mentality as my forbears. see, everything adds up in those kinds of equations so easily, doesn’t it? if I win, it’s the Bootstrap Myth at work. if I don’t, it’s because of the ‘natural’ deficiencies of my (perhaps genetic) background.

        and the very rich are not the only ones carrying these delusions around with them. the middle classes who were not extremely prosperous are somewhat even worse, because they usually DID work for much of what they now have and can’t possibly see how those same avenues were not open to someone who appears, for all that anyone can see from outside, to be so much like them. it must be a personal deficiency, right? I did not even have the ‘excuse’ of being racially discriminated against.

        I guess I should go back into my corner and kick myself for those poor choices some more times.

        ((sorry to make any straw men out of your one-line wisecrack. if it helps, I am not necessarily speaking TO you directly, but to the general attitude in society that I have come across in people in my actual life))

        1. nony mouse

          and by ‘poor choices’ I give you this real life example from my family members’ actually lived experiences:

          child a: drug dealer or simply dope addict? which one is better? she’d worked as a waitress in 2-3 jobs to barely support herself and her daughter before that grand opportunity came along.

          child b: pizza parlor worker, or Macy’s. until they close the branch downtown.

          child c: no hope for her. she was mentally defective from the off and unlike to do much.

          child d: roofer, until that became impossible because of the availability of incredibly inexpensive, and at times illegal, immigrant labor made a living wage impossible. after that, FedEx until lower back injury made that impossible.

          parent a: bartender. also worked in a factory (earning min. wage) making lamps for Gumps in S.F. which sold for thousands of dollars. coworkers all non-English speaking immigrants.

          parent b: government job which was eventually eliminated when the military left the area. lucky enough to be offered early retirement. worked 30 years at something she hated, but it put food on the table for 4 kids and various grandkids in the home.

          without the ability to live off of any surplus (provided by themselves, or their family), what vital skills and training were any of these individuals supposed to obtain, and how could they have ‘worked up’ from where they were to something better? managing the pizza parlor? managing the immigrant roofing crew? admittedly, drug abuse and alcoholism (probably to medicate underlying depression and stress) did not help these individuals and were poor choices, but what were their better choices?

          1. just bill

            nony mouse,

            You are absolutely right but should not feel personally helpless at forty. You are a wonderful writer and there is undoubtedly a way for you to make that pay. Don’t give up. Try everything. Read some Henry Miller. I recommend Plexus.

  38. lyman alpha blob

    I would inform your relative that she is 100% correct when she says “If you told these people they had to come up with $100,000 to get their child back, they’d find a way to do it.”

    The way they do it might be by finding someone like your relative and taking the money from them, perhaps violently so. That is the argument I use against this type of BS. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization and I have no problem with giving some portion of my taxes to help those less fortunate. Or those who have the misfortune of working for someone who thinks it unjust to pay their workers enough to actually live on like your relative.

    I would much rather lose some of my income to help out my neighbors than risk losing ALL of my wealth and perhaps my health and life along with it if there were no safety net and millions of desperate people out on the streets forced to provide for themselves by any means necessary.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      You strike me as eminently sane.
      Like you, I’d rather share than live in a hostile, Mad-Max like dystopia.
      Particularly with things like ebola lurking in the shadows.

  39. proximity1

    At the same time, more than a few very wealthy successful people have shown extraordinary determination, simply stopping at nothing. When reversals come, when they’re knocked down, whatever injury they may feel, they bury it and get back up and into the fight. It is very hard not to admire that kind of stubborn–nearly insane–determination to prevail. Some successful people have amassed significant fortunes, lost everything and rebuilt from practically scratch and done all that more than twice. Such a never-say-die attitude is simply a part of their natural character and, who can deny that in the world as we know it, that will very often take a person very far if what he’s after are the conventionally accepted notions of success as defined by material possessions. Those people are, by such measures, “blessed”, aren’t they? Plenty of these people are firmly convinced that what they have is nothing more than what any other person ought to have and strive to have. Their view is that there is “nothing stopping anyone else from doing what I did.” That, of course, is simply not the case. We are not all made the same. But they don’t want to hear that and maybe they can’t hear that. It’s anathema to their view of the world that has worked so well for them.

    1. James Levy

      I find it interesting that if you interviewed NBA or Wimbledon finalists none of them would contend that “anyone can do what I have done.” We all know that if you took millions of people and gave them all a racket or a basketball only a tiny percentage would be able to make it to the top, and many would be just awful. In sports, we all know that we are not all given the same endowments and that without tons of talent, luck, and determination you aren’t going anywhere. But when it comes to making money, everyone seems to want to believe that all men are created equal. It’s quite odd, when you think of it.

  40. Maude

    Insecurity is the key. The human brain understands subconciously what is reality – that it’s host has done nothing to ‘deserve’ it’s top position in society -and the brain will do whatever it takes to continue it’s current existence, including fabricating delusions that mask the underlying precarious perch on top of the heap.

  41. chas

    I’m amazed that most if not all of the commentors have neglected the real cause of inequality in this country. And that’s the political payoff. Anybody ever heard of campaign contributions &/or lobbyists.

    1. hunkerdown

      Are you fighting the last war, or just planting misdirection to line us up behind your bastards oligarchs? People don’t pay for their own elite status anymore. They simply use their influence and positions of trust to direct the money of the 99% to those they like.

      Augustinians are lost babes in the wilderness without some sort of grand societal drama, aren’t they?

  42. Vince

    It’s at this point I like to channel quotes from good old RTM. As you can tell nothing has changed in 200 years (and likely much more). I’ll make a similar prediction for the future.


    “To remedy the frequent distresses of the common people, the poor laws of England have been instituted; but it is to be feared that though they may have alleviated a little the intensity of individual misfortune, they have spread the general evil over a much larger surface.”

    “It is quite obvious therefore, that the knowledge and prudence of the poor themselves, are absolutely the only means by which any general and permanent improvement in their condition can be effected. They are really the arbiters of their own destiny; and what others can do for themselves. These truths are so important to the happiness of the great mass of society, that every opportunity should be taken of repeating them.”

    “The labouring poor, to use a vulgar expression, seem always to live from hand to mouth. Their present wants employ their whole whole attention, and they seldom think of the future. Even when they have an opportunity of saving they seldom exercise it, but all that is beyond their present neccessities goes, generally speaking, to the ale house.”

    1. Tony

      “Many hands make light work.” – John Heyward

      “Teach a man to fish.” – some Jewish carpenter guy… or something…

      “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

      (full disclosure, I was looking for the quote about beer, turns out the quote is apocryphal and this is what he actually wrote)

      Malthus’ principal weakness is that he fails to account for the ingenuity of people and their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

  43. Joseph jubb

    I think I have been waiting for this subject to come up in NC, for it is at the crux of all the ills contaminating our contemporary lifestyle. . Attitude. Hubris. Entitlement. That complete lack of forgiveness, compassion or any kind of moral compass. It’s the easy way out. One doesn’t have to listen to their conscience any more, and the idea of extending a helping hand to the needy is seen as a laughable act, worthy of scorn and ridicule – a sign of weakness and gullibility. God help us. But, inevitably, the wheel turns, and those that are first become last. As for any kind of measures to reawaken human kindness in those seemingly unencumbered by such notions, (yes, reawakening, for it resides in all of us), there has to be a need for this to happen. Until then, example is the only effective counter to such civilized barbarism, but it is a slow process. Like the saying goes: “The beatings will stop when morale improves.”

  44. Eric377

    When you are on third base, whether it was by a triple of not, you are on third base. Why some strike out is not dependent, that I can see, on whether third base is occupied.

    1. proximity1

      Well, once on third, the runner can usually stay there until what looks like the best opportunity to make it to home-plate presents itself. As for the poor bastard at bat, he may strike out, he may pop out, he may ground out to the short-stop. But, if second base is vacant, and there’s a runner at first, any good hit that makes it to mid-field is going to oblige both the batter and that runner at first to make their way forward, with the risk of being thrown out in a sinlge or a double-play. The fortunate fellow at third, if the circumstances of the hit don’t favor his run into home-plate, may just stand there and watch his team-mates try and beat the fielders to the bags. So, striking out aside, the vagraries of chance intervene in who advances and who is thrown out in much of baseball and in life. Okay, “slugger”?

      1. Eric377

        Being on third doesn’t interfere with the batter. Maybe the batter hits a home run. Maybe the batter hits a triple. This poster’s remarks may be unkind, but thinking they provide any special insight into the social and class structure is very speculative.

        1. hunkerdown

          The baseball metaphor falls down when one can pay others to do the running for them carrying their sedan chair.

  45. frosty zoom

    “If you told these people they had to come up with $132,000,000 to get their senator back, they’d find a way to do it.”

  46. Jack King

    We have tried a lot of social experiments….The New Deal, The Fair Deal, The Great Society, The New Frontier, etc etc…..we have fully taxpayer funded education K-12. We have community college systems that are heavily taxpayer supported. We have Pell Grants that 90% of community college students qualify for. We have Affirmative Action and racial quotas. We have a progressive income tax to help redistribute wealth. Trillions upon trillions of dollars have been spent to make it “fair”. And with what result? Very little. That is why we still have the whining.

    1. frosty zoom

      We have tried a lot of social experiments….

      •• like iraq.

      The New Deal,

      •• “look billy, ¡food!”

      The Fair Deal,

      •• monty hall, right?

      The Great Society,

      •• as seen from the back of the bus.

      The New Frontier,

      •• whitey on the moon! (h/t gil)

      etc etc…..

      •• guatemala, panama, afghanistan, vietnam, grenada

      we have fully taxpayer funded education K-12.

      •• what about the toilet paper?

      We have community college systems that are heavily taxpayer supported.

      •• good. imagine if they crumble more.

      We have Pell Grants that 90% of community college students qualify for.

      •• good. do they teach derivative trading in community college?

      We have Affirmative Action and racial quotas.

      •• and for-profit prisons.

      We have a progressive income tax to help redistribute wealth.

      •• and a capital squeeze tax of -17,353,498%

      Trillions upon trillions of dollars have been spent to make it “fair”.

      •• guatemala, panama, afghanistan, vietnam, grenada

      And with what result? Very little.

      •• the man in the white house is black.

      That is why we still have the whining.

      •• seems to me the whole shebang is geared to the whiners-in-chief while the whinees get trickled on.

    2. Bart Fargo

      You act as if those are extreme inequality-leveling measures the American public sector has resorted to. But the rest of the civilized world just sees them as the bare minimums of a state social apparatus, in that they don’t really reduce inequality so much as they keep the unequal system from collapsing into nationwide rioting.

    3. Tony

      A few notes:

      Provision of education is written into many state constitutions. It’s not an experiment; it’s bedrock law.

      Widely accessible college funding support was enacted largely on the basis of the success of the G.I. Bill – publicly financed workforce training for the industries that fought and won the Cold War.

      Affirmative action and racial quotas were a band aid on a bullet wound. Three decades of bureaucracy to remedy three centuries of colonialism, slavery and medieval reliance on divine rights.

      Redistribution of wealth is only OK when it goes from bottom to top, amirite?

      The basic argument is we can only have equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. This is a false dilemma. What about equality of bare minimum standard? What about equality of starting point?

      Someone being born poor and uneducated isn’t anyone’s fault – it is how we ALL start out. But, depending on who caught you on the way out, you may immediately be provided with a number of promises and expectations (housing, food, education, trust fund, etc…). I think it would be better for society as a whole if we decided that everyone got at least the first three on that list. If they want more, or better, then we have a few jobs around here needing done.

    4. Vatch

      I must protest. Many of the biggest subsidies go to those who are already insanely wealthy, such the bailouts following the Great Financial Collapse of 2008. Also, our tax system is far less progressive than it used to be, such as during the Eisenhower administration, when the top marginal rate was 91%. What progressiveness remains is largely neutralized by complexities (loopholes) in the tax code that only benefit the very rich or large corporations. Hence, inequality is growing in modern America at an alarming pace.

      Elsewhere in the comments to this article I have harshly criticized Communism, and I believe my criticism is justified. But America’s modern oligarchs are intent on worsening our society so that a time may come when even a monster like Stalin may not seem so bad. Fortunately, we have a long way to go before that happens, but we’re moving in that direction.

      1. Jack King

        “I must protest. Many of the biggest subsidies go to those who are already insanely wealthy, such the bailouts following the Great Financial Collapse of 2008. Also, our tax system is far less progressive than it used to be, such as during the Eisenhower administration, when the top marginal rate was 91%”

        All the TARP bailout funds have been paid back…with interest. Yes, we once had a 91% top marginal rate for federal income taxes. It was JFK that pulled that off with the largest tax cut to the rich in the history of the country. But guess what, before the tax cut, the top 1% only paid 22% of all federal taxes. Now they pay pay 38% of all federal taxes.

        As far as inequality increasing in the US, that is correct. There are 3 reasons why. 1.) Technology–one guy with a backhoe can do the same job as six guys with a shovel in half the time. 2.) Global economy– There are new markets for domestic firms, but there is also new competition. Used to be that a US company only had to worry about a competitor in another state. Now it is the world. If the competitor has a labor intensive product and they come from a low-cost labor market, the US company had better move their manufacturing there, or they will die. 3) Quantum growth in single parent households– this is a virtual guarantee of poverty.

        If you’ve got any solutions to these 3 issues, I’m all ears.

        1. jrs

          The real bailout wasn’t the TARP bailouts but the Federal Reserve wasn’t it? If I’m missing something I suspect some monetary theorist will correct me, but my layman’s best understanding of what went on is yes the Federal Reserve gave many multiples of what TARP did to the banks. So much for talking points? Of course even the paid back with interest argument has flaws in that they used the money to buy Treasuries paying more than the interest rates of the loans they were given!!! This is absolutely known to have happened.

          ” But guess what, before the tax cut, the top 1% only paid 22% of all federal taxes. Now they pay pay 38% of all federal taxes ”

          They are likely much richer now, well that’s what all the data seems to say, but then the rich hide their wealth so I’m not sure the figures are certain.

          1. Jack King

            “The real bailout wasn’t the TARP bailouts but the Federal Reserve wasn’t it? ”

            The FED managed the TARP bailout. But it was more than just TARP. It was also Freddy and Fanny, Auto companies, AIG, and other toxic assets. The outflow to date has been $612 billion ($700 billion was originally authorized). The inflow, which includes interest, dividends, and fees is $653 billion.

            “They are likely much richer now, well that’s what all the data seems to say, but then the rich hide their wealth so I’m not sure the figures are certain.”

            Yes, the onepercenters are richer. In fact, their incomes have gone up much faster than the middle class. But so what. With the tax cuts, the rich didn’t really change their consumption. What they increased was their investing. That is what creates jobs and helps the middle class. If you want to punish the rich and raise taxes, they will just rachet back their investing. Their consumption will stay the same. Fire destroys that which feeds it. So do taxes. We need more saving and investing, not less of it.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You clearly are new to this blog. First, even the TARP calculation is inaccurate because it excludes a monster tax break given to AIG. Throw the value of that in and the TARP lost money. Even the GAO has disagreed with the Treasury’s assertions re TARP “profits”:

          Second and far more important, TARP was the itty bittiest part of the massive rescue the banks program. The biggest was and is the Fed’s super low interest rate policies, ZIRP and QE. The second monster bailout you ignore is the 2012 Federal/49 state mortgage settlement. That get-out-of-liablity-almost-free card kept the banks from suffering mortgage chain of title related losses that would have driven all of them into the ground (including JPM due to second-order effects thanks to its exposure to everyone else as the biggest derivatives clearing firm). And on top of THAT, the three card monte you conveniently ignore is that the banks would have been unable to pay off the TARP had the Fed not succeeded in goosing asset prices, particularly of mortgage-related paper.

          The best short-form debunking comes from Steve Waldman:

          Suppose my kid’s meth habit got the best of him. He’s needs to come up with $100K quick or his dealer’s gonna whack him. But he’s a good kid, really! Coulda happened to anyone. So I “lend” him the money, even though he has no visible means of support and the sketchiest loan sharks in town wouldn’t give him the time of day. Now I believe in bootstraps and hard work, individualism and self-reliance. So I tell my son. “Son, you are going to pay me back every penny of that loan. You are going to work it off. I have arranged with one of my golf buddies, a guy who owes me a favor or three, a job that pays $200K a year. You’d better show up every day at 9 a.m. and sit behind that desk, and get me back my money!” And he does! After a year, he’s made me whole. What a good kid.

          No bail out, right? He paid me back every penny! Worked it off!

          Bullshit. The opportunity I provided him, the $200K job that he would not have received without my intercession, was a huge grant. On the open market, if I were to accept bribes from the highest bidder to wangle the job from my friend, that opportunity would be worth more than the $100K advanced. I paid my son’s loan with my own money. I just obscured the cash flows, so my son and I can pretend and sustain our mutual self-regard and our righteous disdain for the moochers and the hippies and the riff-raff.

          1. Jack King

            Yves….you missed my follow-up to jrs where I further elaborate on TARP, and other bailouts. With regards to the rest of your post, even though I was in favor of the initial $700 billion bailout, it should have stopped there. We needed the initial injection because we were headed into deflation, but that’s it. I agree with the Keynsians that in that environment, massive spending is needed. But I also agree with Keynes that it should not turn into a long-term policy. Virtually every OECD country is running permanent deficits. They call themselves Keynesians, but once deflation was quelled, Keynes advocated returning to classical macro policies (for the unwashed, that means balance the freaking budget).

          2. Tony

            Your observations about TARP as a fraction of the entire “package” are an excellent illustration of necessity vs. desperation. The collapse of Lehman and the forced marriages of Bear and Merrill were “desperation” writ large. The government was merely refereeing the feeding frenzy. Once the money markets froze up, however, there really was no choice but to tell everyone “you’re all going to be OK” before the cannibalistic banks tore civilization down.

            Now the banks feel safe and cozy and are back in the “necessity” frame of mind. They are back to inventing things. Unfortunately, they are just re-inventing different versions of the same products that necessitated TARP and QE 1 through 3 in the first place. This is largely because the environment in which they operate is not so very different from the one they found 2001-2006.

            1. Jack King

              “there really was no choice but to tell everyone “you’re all going to be OK” before the cannibalistic banks tore civilization down.”

              Tony…the two biggest “banks” to be bailed out were both GSEs (Freddy and Fanny). The next is AIG (insurance) which has paid back everything, then Bank of America and Citigroup both of whom have paid back extra because of interest. GM and Chrysler both still owe the taxpayers a sizable amount of money, but for the most part, the banks have a clean balance sheet. So what in God’s name are you talking about. Could you provide the name of a specific bank or banks which still owes the taxpayers bailout money, and how much?

              1. Tony

                “Bailout Money,” by which, I presume, you mean direct obligations of those firms to the Treasury of the United States. That portion of the ledger has been cleared with regard to banks. It’s funny you should mention that the manufacturers have had a rougher go…

                It’s funny because the banks were able to clear their ledgers via extremely convenient assistance with other parts of their balance sheets. The car companies have no such luxury. Being able to offload risk-weighted MBS onto the Fed’s balance sheet in return for interest bearing cash reserves or interest bearing Treasury obligations is a massive, unaccounted-for, off-books subsidy that will take a generation to unwind… once we decide to finally start unwinding it. Any day now, I’m sure.

                Also, I’m essentially repeating Yves’ point above. Her explanation is much more detailed.

    5. hunkerdown

      You must also believe that advertisers and salespeople never lie or bend the truth, and that the pictures and people on the little screen are compelled by law not to tell self-serving porkies?

      Stop talking around your pacifier. It’s unseemly.

  47. DJG

    1. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Period. Isn’t that Oliver Wendell Holmes? (Who knew more than Ayn Rand.) One counterargument.
    2. These days, though, I ally myself with Diogenes, as translated by Guy Davenport, “I have come to debase the coinage.”
    3. Coinage to debase: Calvinism (which is part of your relative’s problem). Let’s see: A theology that a god creates sinners who may or may not be predestined to a hell. It’s Christianity’s reductio ad absurdum. Yet it is also the mother’s milk of many white peeps and much of libertarian-land.
    4. Coinage to debase: The the poor aren’t industrious. Hell, the South Side and the West Side of Chicago have plenty of drug dealers, many of them catering to you know who (white folks). But your relative doesn’t want that kind of industry going on. So you pay taxes to buy some social peace (and back to point #1 above).
    5. Coinage to debase: Lack of class in the USA. Think of black people as a social caste to do the dirty work. Isn’t that what black people were for historically? There’s no genetic difference from the white population. Now we have low-cost Mexican and Central American immigrants to mow the lawns. Maybe if white people were more industrious…

  48. Adam1

    “If you told these people they had to come up with $100,000 to get their child back, they’d find a way to do it.”
    Well she’s right! The only problem is such a level of desperation means the solutions include busting into her home and possibly putting a bullet in her head. The 1% seem to keep forgetting what happens when you tell people to just go eat cake. Its not going to end well for anyone.

    1. Savonarola

      I have to admit to you, that is what I immediately thought. “Take my child and demand a $100,000 ransom, and I will go on a spree of death and destruction unknown since the Visigoths.” Oh definitely, that would be me coming over the seventh hill with an axe and a glint in my eye. Somehow, I don’t think that is what the quoted person had in mind: but you put anyone’s back up against the wall, and by Lord, you get the teeth.

      The other incredibly tragic thing about that particularly ugly quip is that she almost certainly fails to understand that this happens every single day down on the Border. In part, people send their kids over the Border alone because now it is SAFER than sending them with a coyote, who have been holding people ransom instead of turning them over to their family like they were paid a year’s wages to do. Often, people don’t come up with the money. Their family are killed or sold into slavery. Real life – every day.

  49. anonymous123

    My ivy league college roommate was a class bigot. I remember one interaction particularly well, when we were discussing potential candidates for an upcoming election. She said Why would you ever vote for a Democrat?” Me (naively, looking back!): “Because they help people.” Roommate: “Why would you want to help the poor? It’s their FAULT that they’re poor.”


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s bad.

      But I think the worst would someone thinks like your roommate but pretends not to.

  50. Peter L.

    “Anyone who has made headway with class bigots or with bystanders to those arguments, please share your strategies!”

    I’ve met a fair number of “class bigots” who are simply ignorant of facts. For the more open minded, talking about facts of poverty in the United States can be helpful. For instance, I once asked some of my classmates if they knew the median income in the United States. First, they didn’t know. Second, they guessed the number was above $100K. When they learned it was around half of what they thought, I think it gave them a real pause. Some people just do not know or understand what most people go through. I think this was headway.

    For the less open minded and more Ayn Randian, I think it a good idea to talk about the fact that the government is deeply involved in creating and maintaining fortunes for many rich people. A easy topic to discuss is patent law. Whether you like the law or not, one has to admit that the government grants patent monopolies to people, and then uses state resources to enforce those rights on behalf of private companies, or individuals. Does a pharmaceutical company deserve its profits? Or does Bill Gates deserve profits? The answer might be yes, but then you can have a great discussion because that seems to imply that a market without very strong government intervention wouldn’t properly compensate would-be patent holders.

    In a long discussion with a neighbor, and small-time real estate hustler in New York (who had chosen to interpret David Cay Johnston’s work as a manual on how to get government subsidies), I made some headway by discussing whether kids ought to be unfairly disadvantaged by their parents poor choices. So even if one grants, wrongly, that poor parents deserve their lot in life, it still is very tough to maintain that kids ought to be disadvantaged. Presumably this is why even majorities of republicans favor more spending on education and programs for kids.

    It’s tough, it should go without saying I suppose, to provide really useful examples of talking to “class bigots,” because people have different and diverse reasons for holding their beliefs. It’s important to try to speak to people’s real concerns and stay away from canned arguments.

    On a related note, I’ve heard Gar Alperovitz say that people involved in building local community wealth (through co-operatives and employee ownership strategies, for example) have made lots of headway with conservatives, at the local level, because they are doing things that clearly benefit local businesses. That is, the idea of co-operation and sharing might sound bad to a Ayn Rand follower in the abstract, but when it is really working in practice it has the effect of changing minds.

    1. ChrisPacific

      One I’ve tried on the ones who object to government support for children of disadvantaged parents on the grounds that it’s the job of the parents and why should we reward their laziness:

      Either have the guts to take your argument to its logical conclusion (that we should regulate against having children for parents who aren’t willing or able to provide for them) and then defend that position along with all the associated moral and societal consequences, or else recognize that by failing to do so, we are all complicit in allowing children to be born into bad situations that they themselves have no power to change, and perhaps should feel some responsibility to do something about it.

  51. susan the other

    Our national economics, which can never be considered a policy because it is so incoherent and undefined, so avoided, is a disaster. We live in a wild-west free-for-all. We need policy. Policy that works. So that nobody has to suddenly come up with $100,000 to save anything, let alone their children. We live in a disgusting country. That only seeks to avoid creating the things it pretends to have. Very strange.

    1. cripes

      Susan the other:
      “We live in a disgusting country”
      Which is why the best defense of Randians is to whine that food stamp recipients have cellphones.
      Or microwaves.

  52. just bill

    A good friend who started with nothing and made himself an enviable pile meets all such arguments with the assertion that ‘everyone has a chance’. Strictly speaking that is true. At least in my generation (born 1943) a white male could attend any college that would have him at a reasonable cost. He could find a reasonably secure job (although I could never find one worth having and finally stopped looking at age 38), and he could start a business on a shoestring and succeed with little more than discipline and a willingness to forego luxuries behind him. Of course, it was necessary to give some things up. I gave up breeding.

    When I was younger I noticed too many people beginning adult life more or less assuming that nothing more would be required of them than a nice smile and a willingness to take orders. Thirty to forty years ago there actually were a substantial number of jobs requiring just that. I worked in a famous NYC building that housed hundreds of people whose biggest problem was that they were given no meaningful responsibility and often simply sat watching the clock tick. I wondered how long it would be until the company realized it was overstaffed by a factor of three or four? About ten years after I quit the new chairman noticed the same thing and slashed the ranks.

    My Dad always insisted that no matter how bad things may be a person only needs one job. I think it pays to think that way, particularly since those of us now old enough to be exchanging comments on this blog are unlikely ever to experience a system any better than the one we now have.

  53. Blue Stater

    Very interesting commentary. I’ve lived in western European countries (UK, Germany, Austria, Spain) with “mixed” economies that many Americans would call “socialist”; I spent a fair amount of time in Soviet-bloc, truly socialist countries in the Cold War era (East Germany [DDR], Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia); I’m a native-born American citizen and resident.

    I think we have to admit that even the most doctrinaire Soviet-bloc countries had some good features. For example, the status of women in the DDR 30 years ago was miles ahead of where US women are even now. Child care in the DDR and Czechoslovakia was free and very good, freeing parents to pursue their careers. All careers were open to women because the DDR simply couldn’t afford the prodigal waste of talent that is a necessary concomitant of sexism in the workplace. I never saw a homeless person; street crime was almost non-existent. They had bad features, too: the Stasi (DDR) and the StB (Czechoslovakia) were an evil bunch (on the other hand, our police agencies are coming more and more to resemble them). Yugoslavia was harder to figure because I don’t speak any of their languages, but people there seemed more free and society seemed more open.

    When we assess the accomplishments of those countries we have to take into account the fact that communism was forced on them at the point of a bayonet by the [Soviet] Red Army after WWII. The DDR was poor and falling apart because the old Soviet zone comprised the poorest third of pre-war Germany, and the USSR took most of its war reparations from its occupation zone. I remember riding in trains in the DDR where you could see that the second mainline track had been ripped up and taken to the USSR to repair their railways (which had been ripped up by the Germans, of course), and this was 30 to 40 years after the war. I didn’t see pre-1968 Czechoslovakia; the country I saw was sullen, dismal, obviously repressed.

    I think the two most important reasons communism failed in Eastern Europe are, first, that it was imposed on those countries, and second, that the theory of communism gives fallible human beings total power to redistribute wealth and income. That’s a lot of power, and it’s asking too much of human beings to sustain forever the idealism that led to the first genuine communist regime (in Russia) to begin with.

    I think the western Europeans had the answer: a mixed economy, with state ownership of natural monopolies like telecoms, natural resources, railways, etc.; a thick social-welfare net; high taxes. But they are in the process of giving it up, I think, with the likely result that in 20 years’ time they will be no better than we are, with high income inequality and immiseration. If you want to see a proudly socialist country that really works, try Finland. No class bigots there; no homeless people (that I ever saw, anyway); public services that work, most notably education; no conspicuous displays of wealth; no signs of wretched poverty. That’s a societal goal worth aiming for.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Good post. The obvious lesson of the twentieth century is that both doctrinaire communists and capitalists operate in a blind ideological fog and cannot see the world rationally. Some types of endeavors are suited to public ownership and others to private. We have excellent examples both to follow and to avoid. Of modern societies, it’s pretty obvious to me that the 20th century northern European social democracies have done the best job for the greatest number of people of the lot. I can’t even really understand the arguments of the ideological capitalists and communists in light of all the contrary empirical evidence. We know what works and what doesn’t within the set of tried approaches, all we have to do is look at the evidence laid out before us dispassionately.

      1. OIFVet

        Sorry but what you call “doctrinaire communists” were nothing more than state capitalists. But, as Blue Stater pointed out, at least they had a strong safety net compared to the corporatist version of capitalism.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Cites to examples of putative communism that were both *not* “nothing more than state capitalist[ism]” and unambiguously successful would be welcome.

          The obvious is that probably nobody given a choice wants to forced to eat at a state run restaurant, or have their hair cut at a state owned barber shop, or shop at a state owned grocery store etc. etc. but at the same time private, for profit health care, policing, courts, military or roadways or water, sewer, etc. etc. (I’d argue any utility, really and probably much more) make no sense either.

          Doctrinaire communists/capitalists often cannot or won’t make these obvious practical distinctions because to do so would conflict with their fixed ideological beliefs.

            1. Kurt Sperry

              So there are no even subjectively successful historical examples of a “real” communist state then we can discuss? Any unsuccessful ones? Any at all?

              1. OIFVet

                Can you even name a real communist state that ever existed? Bet not, By definition, communism is stateless to begin with, so “communist state” is a contradiction in terms. Can you name any historical or present-day examples of a successful capitalist state?

                1. Kurt Sperry

                  Of course no examples of purely communist or capitalist states exist. These are abstract theoretical constructs, labels used to define or make some sense of a messy continuum. In reality all systems will be hybrid. The interesting question is to me which hybrids are shown to deliver the greatest common good and why.

  54. Sanford Calef

    I like to strip economic or philosophical morality out of this rant.
    and simply go to the heart of it…..which is negotiation.

    Someone getting paid what they are worth.

    At the high end, or low, there is no set “worth” in compensation.
    Negotiation…of some sort…settles the number.

    With that in mind….
    if this becomes a country full of folks who have to clean rich folks bathrooms for a living….
    they will simply negotiate a better wage thru the ballot box….with their numbers.
    Do the math.
    1,000 one percenters versus 300 million bathroom specialists…
    Probably be wise to be very nice to whoever scrubs your toilets.
    Afterall they won’t be inconvenienced by a 70% high end tax rate like we used to have.
    Or a VAT tax like the Europeans still have.

  55. armchair

    Don’t buy into anything class bigots say. I say that I am not convinced by their arguments and I keep saying it. I say that I see a lot of hard working people that are really struggling. The bigots respond by shifting all the blame to the poor with the standard argument about bad choices. I say I am not convinced. Also, don’t accept extreme examples. They are used as disinformation everywhere (see ‘runaway lawsuits’ and ‘capital punishment’). Everyone seems to know about someone that bought lobster and champagne with food stamps. Don’t accept it. Say, you’re not convinced that ever happened, or that if it did, that you don’t believe everyone is like that. You’re just not convinced. Explain that you’re not convinced that people with no income are successfully eating lobster every night.

    Counter with how difficult it is for a penniless person to get a bank account, and how usurious payday loan places are. Explain that people who can’t pay court fines are getting jailed in some counties (maybe just a few, but look-out). Explain that there is a lot of bureaucracy for people in government programs, and they don’t have as much as leisure time as one might imagine. Ask what choices the bigot would make with $800 a month in income.

    Also, don’t be afraid to express compassion over and over again. It is okay to say, that you’re not convinced, and that you still feel like more could be done. Say that you don’t feel hopeless and that you believe that with imagination, resources and determination more could be done. Say that you feel strongly about this and you’re just not convinced that all 100% of all poverty or 100% of all economic instability can be explained by bad personal choices. Say that you feel like it is okay to want to help people. Say that you wish the person you were talking to had more hope.

  56. Pearl

    I find that flying off into a fit of rage is helpful.

    The following is a (portion) of an email that I sent to my son more than a year ago upon finding out that his (biological) dad–whom my son has never known very well– had gotten our son, a pre-med student at UCLA, a “lucky sperm-club,” cushy, paid internship” at the HMO where my former husband is an executive.

    I will just jump in where my rage starts, not where my actual email started:

    (Oh. And the names have been changed to protect me from the litigious.)

    “……and social security is not welfare–[your step dad] paid into social security for his entire working life. But no one could predict that pooled-risk (large-group) health insurance and the deductibles and co-pays and co-pays on prescription medication would literally eat up one’s entire social security check. With literally no money left for food and utilities.

    This is not the way things were supposed to work in our society.

    I am going into detail here because I want you to understand that this situation, for [your step dad] and me, and for our country as a whole–is completely untenable.

    Only once one is poor does one truly understand and appreciate how expensive it is to be poor.

    The poor are the ones paying the $35 overdraft charges on their checking accounts for a check that a bank doesn’t clear, and then automatically puts through the highest check first so that more checks will bounce–thus generating more fees.(Remember my $230 eighty-nine cent burrito from Taco Bell?)

    Yet banks give wealthy people, like [your bio dad], “reward points” for free.

    But [your bio dad’s] “reward points” are not free; they are paid for by the money banks make off of the fees they charge to poor people for being poor.

    That’s one banking example of why our country is coming unstitched.

    But the obvious example that I’m leading to is the profits made by health insurance companies, for-profit hospitals, and the non-profit hospitals and healthcare companies that masquerade as “Non-profit organizations” to avoid paying their fair share of corporate taxes.

    Our nation’s healthcare delivery system has–enough in itself–broken our nation’s back. [Your bio dad] and I saw this coming in the 1980s. But [bio dad] hung in there and has profited greatly off of the backs of those in our society who are less fortunate than others, and he has actively participated (ahem–how often does he go to DC?) in the policy decisions that have continually led to making very wealthy people much wealthier at the expense of our middle class, our poor, our elderly, and our sick.

    Our society does not function when most people live paycheck to paycheck while a medical insurance salesman can afford a $265,000 swimming pool and $10,000 for puppy boot camp.

    I think it’s great that [your bio dad] got you a summer job.

    I am distressed, I must admit, however, that he has encouraged a kid–who very much wanted to give something to society–to work in one of the handfuls of industries that has only been a taker from our society.

    Executives in the healthcare “industry” unabashedly and relentlessly suck money out of our society faster than they can shelter their obscene earnings in off-shore tax havens, and they have actively avoid taxes by referring to themselves as “non-profit” organizations.

    Please take just one minute to listen to this piece of history, narrated by Michael Moore:

    But I hope you can use the opportunity working in the very broken healthcare system of ours to see first-hand how ugly the industry is; I hope you walk out of your tour of the slaughter house deciding that you would rather be a veterinarian than a slaughter house baron.

    I hope you introduce yourself to and shake the hand of the janitor who empties the wastebasket in your cubicle every night. I hope you learn his or her name and greet him or her by name each time your paths cross. I hope you never forget that he or she has no less value as a human than the man or woman who sits in the big office down the hall.

    And I hope you remember the manual if not menial jobs that almost all of your ancestors had just 2-3 generations ago.

    I hope you walk out of your air conditioned office and notice the Mexican migrant farm worker who stoops in a field for 12 hours a day in the hot sun–picking strawberries for less than $10,000 per year. I hope you do the math and realize that it would take such a man–a man just as human as [your bio dad] –26 years of his full-time earnings to pay for [bio-dad’s] swimming pool.

    And I hope you find that obscene.

    I hope you need to park at a gas station on your way home from work to use its filthy, disgusting restroom and realize that someone is going to get paid $7.50 an hour to clean up what you can’t even bleach from your mind.

    And I hope that repulses you.

    I hope you notice and go out of your way to be courteous to the pregnant woman who hands you your bag of fries at McDonald’s. I hope you consider that she has probably walked to work, been on her feet all day, and has been screamed at by annoyed, hurried customers, and ignored by [#@%&$s] on their iPhones who extend to her the same courtesy they might extend to to the ATM Machines at which they make transactions.

    And I hope you realize that if she gets really sick in a few days, she probably can’t afford to miss a day of work–so she won’t.

    And I hope that scares you.

    I hope you don’t flail your hands at an environmentally-conscious bicyclist who slows you down by a few miles an hour for a few blocks on your way home.

    Indeed, I hope you’re inspired by it.

    I hope you take one day to notice that, collectively, every working woman you see makes 75 cents for every $1.00 that every working man that you see on that day.

    And I hope you question why.

    I hope when an 18 year old in a Porsche cuts you off in L.A. traffic you flip him off and call him an [$%#@&]. On the other hand, I hope that you nod approvingly and wave in front of you the guy driving the piece of [$%#@] 30 year old Toyota with a ladder strapped to the roof and that you think of Jake.

    And I hope you consider that you may have just waved in front of you a person who is smarter than any professor you’ve ever had.

    I hope you drive past a bus that’s transporting prisoners and notice how few of them are white.

    And I hope you ask yourself how many of them would be in that bus if they had had all of the advantages that you’ve had. And I hope you start your mental list of advantages that you’ve had with the simple fact that you are a white male member of the middle to upper middle class.

    I hope you notice the cardboard shelters under the freeway under-passes and think about how scary it must be to spend the night in one.

    And I hope you feel compassion.

    I hope you hear a first gen child switch effortlessly between the language he speaks at home and the English he is learning simultaneously.

    And I hope you marvel.

    I hope you acknowledge elderly working people and consider that they may be working only because they have to, and not because they want to.

    And I hope you help to fix that.

    I hope you notice that wealthy people tend to be whiny, ungrateful, wasteful, and greedy–and generally don’t even consider themselves as “wealthy.”

    And I hope their attitude grates on you like nails on a chalkboard.


    And…that was the gist of the email. My son is 22 now. He has since graduated with a degree in Neuroscience from UCLA and has decided to become a P.A. rather than an M.D. because he wants a “work schedule that will allow him to be a good dad some day.” Application to P.A. school requires 6 months of patient-caregiver interface. He spent this summer becoming certified to be an E.M.T., and is currently looking for a job and an affordable place to live in L.A. on the minimum wage he will be making for the next 6 months.

    I wish I could I could help him financially, but I can’t. Nevertheless, I think his struggling for a while will do more for his integrity than last summer’s cushy HMO desk job.

    The way I’ve always looked at motherhood is that it’s not my job to make my kids happy. It’s my job to them good humans. If they turn out to be good humans–they’ll probably be happy.

    You can’t just assume that your kids are going to pick up your values by osmosis. These values have to be taught directly and from the very earliest of ages. And sometimes, the “teaching” continues via emailed, scolding rants when they’re young adults who live 2,000 miles away from you.

    Cuz I don’t know how one goes about “fixing” an actual grown up classist, racist, or sexist.

  57. RWood

    My, what a garden! Thank you, Yves, for the grounds and thank you all for your contributions and I’ll try to keep their flavors in my stew.
    Back here near the compost, I find a savory from Naomi Klein:
    “How we transition from our current status quo sets the parameters for how we want to organize society.”

  58. Adam

    I think people forgot what happen the last time they said let them eat cake. I believe there were guillotines involved and revolution. Ask the Cubans in Florida or the Chinese in Taiwan if they would prefer to give the poor a little more or be ran out of their own country.

    Taxes pay for good social institution as well as give people hope. The only people that want to live in a libeterian paradise are the people who are already rich.

  59. Scot Griffin

    Wow. I’m late to the party, so forgive me if I repeat what somebody else has already said (although based on a sampling of the earliest comments, I think I have something to add here).

    “Anyone who has made headway with class bigots or with bystanders to those arguments, please share your strategies!”

    First, you need to understand who the bigot is as that tells you the source of his or her bigotry. Once you understand the source of bigotry, you have a chance to address it squarely.

    My experience is that most people who espouse views such as those of run75441 at Angry Bear are either (1) young and impressionable, (2) living with a deep but unspoken fear that they’re next on the chopping block, 3) a mercenary paid to do so (e.g., Fox News, “libertarian”/neoliberal think tanks, etc.), or (4) a “libertarian”/neoliberal ideologue.

    I know a lot of financially successful people (please note the qualifier; success comes in many forms), and I’ve never heard any of them resort to such rhetoric, which is apologetic. While I am sure that people who “know” they are successful often feel victimized by the tax system, they are much more likely to resort to arrogance than apologize. “Do you know who I am?” When you are financially successful in spite of the tax system, you know that people who are not won’t be especially sympathetic to your whining, so you might as well act like you own the place and make others whine about you. (At least that’s my interpretation of the behavior, when I’ve seen it, and it is not ubiquitous by any stretch of the imagination).

    Responding to the “Impressionable”: Expose their ignorance of the origins of the “free market” system. Typically, they are not yet fully invested in the ideas of meritocracy and the “free market,” and so they are more likely to question their understanding if you demonstrate they don’t know something.

    Responding to the “Fearful” (the most common type, in my experience): Make them question their unspoken assumption that the market prices the value of labor correctly. You find the Fearful all the way from the Working Poor to the Working Rich (the high income, highly leveraged individual), but regardless of what strata of society they are from, the Fearful believe two things: (1) that the system is (or is supposed to be) fair, i.e., a “meritocracy” and (2) that they are more deserving of success than at least one person who is more successful than they are. It is easy to play the two beliefs off each other, especially when you focus on the unprosecuted crimes of the FIRE sector.

    Responding to the “Mercenary” and the “Ideologue”: Neither the Mercenary nor the Ideologue is willing to question the infallibility of the “free market”: the fact that the free market was created by taking away the commons and forcing the masses to participate is irrelevant, and the fact that somebody else is more successful than they are is even less relevant because the Lord God Market is omniscient and selects only the deserving for ascension. Since you cannot break their hermeneutic circle, you must expose their cognitive dissonance, which you can do by extending the conversation to include the capital gains tax treatment of stock market gains and losses. Such gains and losses are, plain and simple, gambling winnings and losses. In the vast majority of cases, if you are trading on the secondary markets, you are just betting on the future success of the company relative to their current stock price. If you are selling, you are shorting the stock. If you are buying, you are going long. Either way, no money is flowing directly to the company, i.e., you are not a job creator. This opens up the possibility of exploring what a job creator is and how the tax system can be adjusted to create more job creators (hint: giving tax breaks only for investments that actually creates jobs and taxing stock market gains as ordinary income or, better yet, taxing them more). They will either come to question what they think they know, or they will expose themselves as cranks. Usually they will do both, the latter immediately, the former much later.

  60. Rosario

    If you are convinced you deserve everything you have done, and you did it all by yourself you might be a robot on an uninhabited planet (even then, you were manufactured by someone). This human island extreme individualism prevalent among the privileged and wealthy misses the whole point of individualism as a philosophy. The right to think and express as an individual, not consume as you please. Consuming has massive moral and ethical implications that are not nearly as much of an issue when thinking and expressing.

    1. jrs

      Agree on the definition of individualism, it went wrong somewhere. Why I’m still an individualist but I don’t see it as consumerism/materialistic greed.

      As for other people, one can benefit from them but one can also be hurt by them of course, it’s not a one way street where there’s only benefits. The only thing one CAN’T do is escape having been raised with/by other people. One would be completely insane and feral and barely human if they had no human contact growing up. So I guess one could say that’s a benefit even the worst parenting imparts. And one can seldom escape living with people to some degree – even loners who keep mostly to themselves.

  61. Bunk McNulty

    A favorite topic.

    For a long time, I sold wine for a living. Which sounds better than saying I was a clerk in a liquor store, but I was that, too. It’s a job that requires rather a lot of specialized knowledge, and despite what the Somm movie suggests, you can’t go to school for a year and just jump into it. Alas, it still pays $15/hour, and if you’re lucky you’ll get time and a half after 40 hours. A fair amount of the job involves what I call the Care And Feeding Of The Overprivileged. That part is pretty simple: Be scrupulously polite, do not be familiar, do flatter their knowledge, and never lose your cool, even when they start not understanding, as in “I don’t understand why you don’t…” (fill in the blank: ship for free, give me a bigger discount, don’t have what I want right this minute). And do your best to sell up, sell up, sell up. They don’t know anything except that they want The Best, and The Best for them is the most expensive. Living well the best revenge? Taking their money, that’s the best revenge. That, and laughing at them after you lock the door at the end of the day.

    1. Scot Griffin

      “Taking their money, that’s the best revenge.”

      But you didn’t take their money. Your boss did. And for the low, low price of $15/hour.

      “That, and laughing at them after you lock the door at the end of the day.”

      But most of “them” are tragic in their own way, more worthy of sympathy than scorn. There is this weird thing that I’ve witnessed among the newly minted “privileged” (including myself) , and that’s this tendency to expect some recognition of their privilege by others. Supposedly, you have arrived. Why do you feel like the same schmuck you were before? It sucks. Most power through the doubt, but it’s BS. They know deep down inside that they are not any better than they were before they “arrived,” and they know that they were lucky, that people who had more talent and worked harder did not “make it” and never will.

      What’s my point? As a society, we should be willing to tolerate both those with no ambition and those with too much of it. Why? Because they are legion compared to the 0.01% who define the rules and what passes for “culture” in this low-rent neoliberal shit hole we call Western Civilization.

      “A fair amount of the job involves what I call the Care And Feeding Of The Overprivileged.”

      You are far too polite. When I was a member (pun intended) of an entirely male executive team (which, with one exception, was always the case), I called it “Dick Holding.” I was usually the one given the task. Never again. And I can hold my own, thanks.

      1. Bunk McNulty

        Yes, the boss got the money. There is still satisfaction in working the uninformed greed of the wealthy to my advantage. It’s fun to be Brer’ Rabbit! And at the upper end of the business (“Show my your first-growth Bordeaux!”) dick-holding is the game, as it is, I would imagine, in any service business that deals with these people.

  62. Bobito

    The answer to class bigotry is propaganda that reminds folks that those in the upper classes are mostly immoral thieving pirates who obtained their wealth through luch and the misfortune of others.

  63. J-Ho

    Many others have more or less brought it up, but I find that a lot of these people believe in economically rational beings who respond to systemic incentives. So it may be worth pointing out that it’s unwise to create a socio-economic-political system that gives the majority of the people the incentive to crazy hatchet murder the ruling class and their managers/enforcers (sorting out the latter from everybody else is, I gather, where those things turn REALLY messy). Especially considering that no society has ever successfully predicted or avoided the inevitable on that front.

    So yeah, I’m not a fan of capitalism or the government or any form of entrenched power or bureaucracy. But, personally, I’d rather make the transition to anarchy gradually and peacefully rather than suddenly collapsing into a dystopian nightmare world of scarcity, desperation and all-against-all like the Mad Max allusions above. Granted, we’d all look cool and drive bitchin’ cars and shit.

  64. Kevin

    One obvious reply to that quote:

    “If you told these people they had to come up with $100,000 to get their child back, they’d find a way to do it.”


    “Yes, they’d probably have to rob a bank to get it. Is that what you want, more crime? Because that is what you get when people get desperate, and the policies you favour are making people desperate.”

  65. casino implosion

    re Yves comments…interesting, attitudes towards the poor as class marker. Parvenu insecurity. The traditional WASP old money noblesse oblige(these are the circles I imagine Yves to move in.)

    I like to fit everything into the “Yankee-Cowboy War” framework. Could it be that during the Reagan era, the “Cowboy” mindset of southern/sunbelt/new money/extraction & energy industry/defense & armaments “won” the ideological war for the terms with which the poor are dealt?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I most assuredly do not come from old money. I do come from (on my father’s side) from Yankee farmers and fishermen. But they understood that people who tried kicking those below them were crass and greedy.

  66. Chris Maukonen

    Class hatred amongst the the upper crust, $100,000. Class hatred in NC comments, priceless.
    Fore everything else there’s MC.

  67. Fred Grosso

    What would our world be like if nutcakes like ISIS start focusing their atrocities on nutcakes like the Kochs and other powerful rich guys?

    1. ambrit

      Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Just like sharks and lawyers.
      Q: Why don’t sharks eat lawyers?
      A: Professional courtesy.

  68. Phil

    Humans are wired for status; there is no way to escape this. Thus, consciousness of status-seeking and what that entails could be taught as part of one’s education. The same goes for racism. Human brains are wired to notice “difference”. If you don’t think you have a racist bone in your body go take a few free tests at “Project Implicit”

    We all seek status. By claiming that one is not a status seeker, one is claiming status, as well as seeking out like minded non-status seekers, among whom we will most likely seek more subtle kinds of status.

    This is not to excuse the harm that status seeking does (or remove praise for the good that it does – it works both ways). Best to be aware; try to put oneself on the others shoes. Be kind, to oneself, and others. Do one’s best, and strive (without wearing a hair shirt) to be measuredly humble. We can hardly take credit for most of who we are, or what we have accomplished. Our gifts are mostly given to us, as well as our faults.

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