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Showing posts from January 27, 2019

Many ways to skin a plutocrat

The billionaires convoked their version of a kangaroo court – call it the country club court – and pronounced sentence upon Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal: unconstitutional! Well known legal scholar  Michael Bloomberg, atop his pile of 3 billion dollars, was particularly scornful of such doings by the plebes far down below. And so the word went forth. But the word is, to say the least, a bit confused. For why, one might ask, is a federal tax on the wealth of the living unconstitutional, but an estate tax on the wealth of the dead constitutional? Here we have a truly marvelous structure founded on split hairs. Federal, as opposed to state, inheritance taxes have a long history. They were first implemented in the Civil War. Even then there were voices raised – voices rich with port, steak, and oysters, voices that were filtered through cigar smoke – that such a tax was a direct tax, and thus unconstitutional, under the provision of the tax and spend provision of the Cons

the guiding myth of social mobility at the top: dont believe it!

Excerpt from Willetts Magazine: On the social function of fat cats 2: inherited wealth ...So whenever some purported study of showing that fortunes don’t last down the generations is pumped through the system, the media jumps for it. For instance, this study: the American Enterprise Institute, that stalwart engine of plutocratic reflection, published the findings of two of its researchers, Kaplan and Rauh, in 2014, which purported to show that there was a vast socially mobilizing churn that we can see by looking at the Forbes 400. Kaplan and Rauh have divided the individual who find places in the Forbes 400 from 1982 to 2012 into three categories: that that come from wealthy families, those that come from upper middle class families, and those that come from working or middle class families. The claim to discern a distinct change from 1982 to 2012 – the number of individuals coming from wealthy families declines, while those from upper class families increases. Thus, there is ch

Scullery work

It is a natural law that a room tends to become dirty – and if you don’t believe me, take it up with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This natural law has evoked a social response – or many a social response. “Dirty” is a word that seems to imply dirt – that thing we see plants grow from, and that we walk on when we go out into the woods. But like a speck of dust, “dirty” has floated away from dirt to embrace a host of ills – stains, smears, muck, grease, fingerprints, fungus, etc. It also goes with the word “stinky” – dirty and stinky belong together like a comedy duo. If you smell something foul, chances are you will find something foul. In the 19 th  century, the old ways – which in the country meant embracing your sweat and never changing your clothes, and in aristocratic circles meant heavy perfumes – gave way, grudgingly, to new ways – for instance, running water and electricity. It was a long haul, and involved (gasp!) a great deal of public investment in such things as se