Skip to main content


Showing posts from October 30, 2011

Another lizard-like Smeeding: making poverty disappear in our plutocratic era

When you are dealing with a fire, the experts involved are firefighters. When you are dealing with scuba diving, the experts are scuba divers. But a funny thing happened to expertise on the way to D.C. The experts on poverty are – upper class. Thus, it is no big shock that under the plutocracy beloved by Obamacrats and Republicans, we are getting a new survey of poverty that, well, tweaks it. And, abracadabra, makes it disappear! Via the New York Times report on poverty spindled and mutilated through the hands of experts, we get things like this: “One explanation can be found in programs the official count ignores: food stamps and tax credits. Combined the two programs delivered $221 billion across the country last year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than doubling since 2006. In Charlotte, Angelique Melton was among the beneficiaries. A divorced mother of two, Ms. Melton, 42, had worked her way up to a $39,000 a year position at a construction man

Uncle Sam's 600 billion dollar gift to the wealthy

Liberals (and here I will be generous and even include the center right krewe at the New Republic) have a weakness for the idea that income distributes wealth downwards. In this takedown of the conservative claim that income inequality hasn’t increased in the past thirty years, Matt O’brien writes: “Pethokoukis [the AEI economist} thinks that a more thorough accounting for taxes and benefits like healthcare or pensions yield a different picture of inequality. And that is somewhat true. After-tax inequality is certainly smaller than pre-tax inequality. But it is not as true as it used to be. The CBO recently confirmed that federal taxes and transfers are less redistributive now than they were in 1979. The same is true for benefits.” Into this picture, ladies and gentlemen, let me present two very simple concepts. One is the monopoly premium granted to corporations by that wonderful invention called intellectual property rights. The other is that equally wonderful invention called

Michael Lewis's sci fi fantasy

I’m a big fan of Michael Lewis. Coming home on the train from Amboise, I finally got to his article on Californin in Vanity Fair. And that's when I had my fan crash moment. Say it ain't so, Michael! Business Insider dubbed the article a ‘love letter’ to Arnold Schwarzenegger – and unfortunately, this is true. Lewis’s Schwarzenegger bears an odd relation to the real Schwarzenegger, who, spectators of the first decade of the Bush era will recall, was the man who rode to power against Gray Davis by promising tax cuts for business and a tres Bushian solution to California’s debt problem, which I’ve commented on before: “And now, of course, the bills for the fun filled political vacation come due. When Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, the first thing he did was Charge IT! – to a round of cheers from those scrimpin and savin’ burgermen, working all day, thinking of Jesus Christ all night. After all, why pay for the structures you need every day when – as Mr. M