As the title of this book suggests, we are a nation increasingly “under the affluence,” meaning not only the power of those with excess wealth, but also subordinated to a mentality and ideology of affluence, the effect of which is to rationalize and normalize inequities, no matter how vast and how deep. The end result of all this has been to deepen a culture of cruelty, in which the conditions of the impoverished, the underemployed and the struggling are justified as the inevitable result of inadequate effort on their part, or of cultural flaws, while the wealth and success of the rich are likewise rationalized as owing to their superior talent or value systems. Location 162
Increasingly, the right-wing media, politicians and their followers demonize the poor, the unemployed, those lacking health care or those in need of public assistance. The have-nots and have-lessers are dehumanized while the rich are venerated. The political narrative of the “makers and the takers”—those who create wealth and those who are presumably dependent on others—has become not merely a passing political meme, as with the 2012 presidential election; indeed, it has become an almost routine ideological construct, parroted by talkshow hosts and talking heads, and believed by millions who follow their every word. Location 168
The purpose of this volume is to document the increasingly vituperative narrative of cruelty as regards those at the bottom of the nation’s class structure, and to understand why the United States, virtually alone among modern democracies, seems so hostile toward the poor and those in need. Location 176
It’s the kind of narrative that has long been typical in this country. When I worked in the city’s public housing developments and would tell people what I did, they would almost always express their disdain for those I was working with, none of whom they had ever met. The poor and those in public housing were lazy fraudsters in their estimation, gaming the system, and of course, they all needed to take “personal responsibility” for their lives rather than expecting the government to take care of them. It didn’t matter to these folks that most of their beliefs about low-income communities were wrong, as we’ll see. They knew what they knew. Facts could hardly dislodge the fervently held fictions to which they seemed so indissolubly wedded. Location 245
While the Reagan years brought plenty of policy changes that amounted to institutional cruelty, now those same kinds of policies (this time on steroids) are being proposed alongside a much more vicious and dehumanizing rhetoric. That rhetoric, by undermining the compassion that might otherwise lead folks to reject proposals to slash-and-burn antipoverty budgets, makes the current moment more dangerous than the bad old days of the 1980s—especially given 24-hour news and talk radio, which allow the proponents of such cruelty to reach larger audiences than ever before. Location 299
Since beginning work on this volume, evidence for the culture of cruelty has only become clearer. In both rhetoric and policy, things are getting uglier by the week. Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid in their states, leaving millions without the health care guarantees that would otherwise have applied to them as part of the Affordable Care Act (so-called Obamacare), while conservative congresspersons fight any increase in the federal minimum wage despite its inadequacy at the current level, to support the many families who rely on it. Location 303
No revolution in the history of the world has developed from beneath a soil watered with contempt for the people one hopes to organize. Location 391
The notion of collective uplift and a common good is not counter to our tradition but part of it, at least in theory; it is not some exotic notion from a galaxy beyond our own, but a concept that has lived at the heart of the national framework from the beginning; and it is every bit as central to that framework as the commitment to individualism. Location 415
In short, to whatever extent the American Dream is endangered, it is not by movements for more equality—not by the left—but by the current reality of economic oligarchy and those right-wing and neoliberal voices who defend said oligarchy against the tides of change. Location 437
It is not the simple fact of inequalities that concerns us, but the extremity of the gap, the shape of those disparities, and their increasing impermeability that should give us pause. Location 500
Not to mention the fact that what we have chosen to value in society—which work, for instance, is most amply rewarded in the market—has been the result of choices we’ve made, rather than some natural process. As such, the inequities we can readily see all around us reflect little about the individual worth of people at the top or bottom of the scale; rather, they reflect social power relationships that have elevated the work product of some above others, even when (as we’ll see) many of those “others” perform work generally acknowledged to be more socially valuable than the work performed by the wealthy economic minority. So even if a certain degree of inequality is inevitable in any remotely free society, we should not extrapolate from that fact the notion that those inequities that currently exist are preordained. Location 502
And yet, while corporate profits are at their highest level in the past eighty-five years, worker compensation as a share of the economy remains at its lowest point in the past sixty-five. For millions of average working people the recession never really ended, and far from a one-third increase in average wages, income for the bottom ninety-nine percent of us only rose four-tenths of one percent (0.4) from 2009 to 2013.9 In other words, virtually all the income gains during the first few years of the recovery flowed to the nation’s top one percent. Location 514
Even those gains for persons who weren’t one-percenters were received exclusively by the next nine percent. From 2009 to 2012, the bottom nine-tenths of the wage-earning population saw their incomes actually fall, meaning that a statistically improbable but nonetheless true 116 percent of all income gains in the first years of the recovery went to the highest-earning tenth of Americans. 11 In 2013, hourly wages grew at only one-fifth the rate of corporate profits, barely staying ahead of inflation, suggesting that the economy is producing far higher returns at the top than in the middle and bottom of the distribution. 12
Although deprivation is always stressful for those experiencing it, living in communities of heavily concentrated poverty magnifies those stresses many times over. Such communities have fewer hospitals per capita than other communities, are less likely to have access to healthy food, and are less likely to have adequately resourced schools, in part because school funding is so over-reliant on property taxes in most places. Residents in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods are also cut off from the job and opportunity networks that exist for middle-class families, and even for lower-income families who live in communities where middle-class families are still largely present. Location 648
Note: Poverty, deprivation
Far from an abstract concept, poverty has long-term impact on child development. Research has found that children in poverty are significantly more likely than their middle-class and affluent peers to show signs of impaired brain development in the pre-frontal cortex, which is critical for problem-solving and analytical skills.49 Independent of other factors known to impact neural development, poverty appears to have a uniquely debilitating impact on kids, due to the stresses of life in a low-income family and the subsequent lack of opportunities to which such children are exposed. Location 658
Even as the nation’s wealthiest often have the option of luxuriating in one of many homes, Americans without housing security are quite literally dying on the street from exposure to the winter cold. Location 684
Note: Where are the “private charities” you fucking libertards? And yeah, its their own fault and they deserved it you fucking Republican scum.
As for health care, although the Affordable Care Act has removed millions from the ranks of the uninsured—with about ten million people added to the health care rolls just since 201366—there remain millions more who are falling through the cracks of the system due to the refusal of mostly conservative governors to extend Medicaid in more than twenty states.67 In a country where most personal bankruptcies are caused by a medical emergency for which patients have insufficient funds, to not ensure comprehensive and affordable care for all is to force too many of the ill into destitution. Location 698
From the early 1970s until 2007, the average annual number of hours worked rose by seventeen percent.75 Workers are working harder than before and being more productive than ever, but they are making very little if any real gains in financial well-being. Location 720
Whereas incomes of those in all income quintiles grew together from the late 1940s until the late 1970s, after that period, incomes for all but those at the top began to stagnate. Location 758
Note: Post War Boom
of 2014, the four hundred wealthiest Americans were worth $2.3 trillion. This is more than double what the same group was worth a decade ago, $300 billion more than what they were worth just one year earlier,92 and $600 billion more than in 2012.93 The average member of the Forbes 400 now has 70,000 times the wealth of the typical American family, no doubt because they have worked exactly 70,000 times harder or are exactly 70,000 times smarter. Location 804
The six heirs to the Walmart fortune are worth as much as the bottom forty percent of the American population, or roughly 120 million people.99 In fact, the Walton heirs, who are rich simply because of the family into which they were born (or in the case of Christy Walton, the one into which she married), have so much wealth at their disposal that they could buy every house, condo and townhome in Seattle or Dallas or Miami and still have $40 billion to spare, with which they could buy all the homes in Anaheim, California (if they love Disneyland), or Napa (if they really like wine). Just to put the Walton’s wealth in perspective, while the six heirs could purchase every home in these major U.S. cities, someone like Oprah Winfrey (whom most people think of as fabulously rich) could only afford to buy up all the homes in Mokena, Illinois, wherever that is.100 In fact, the combined wealth of Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Howard Schultz (the founder of Starbucks), Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks), Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys), Phil Knight (founder of Nike), and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook)—a total of about $77.5 billion as of 2015—does not equal even half the wealth held by the Walton heirs. Even if we added the wealth of Bill Gates to the mix—the world’s wealthiest individual—the combined wealth of these ten would still fall about $15 billion short of Walton money.101 Meanwhile, most Walmart employees work for wages that leave them near the poverty line if not below it, forcing many of them to rely on food stamps to supplement their meager incomes, as we’ll explore later. Location 826
Note: For the next time some god damned pile of fucking worthless shit says Wal Mart can’t afford to raise wages or paying $15 an hour would put them out of business.
Indeed, the four hundred wealthiest white people in America were worth approximately $2 trillion as of 2014: approximately the same amount as all forty million African Americans put together—no doubt because those four hundred white people have worked just as hard as all black people combined. Location 880
Note: Meritocracy, Just Deserts, “Hard work.”
As for poverty, among industrialized nations, the United States has the third-largest percentage of citizens living at half or less of the national median income—the international standard for determining poverty. Only Mexico and Turkey rate worse among thirty-four modern, industrial democracies in terms of poverty rates. Location 885
While conservatives claim that even the poor in America live better than the middle class elsewhere—a subject to which we’ll return in the next chapter—this argument simply isn’t true. Compared to those industrialized nations with which the United States likes to compare itself, not only are the poor here doing worse than the middle class elsewhere, they are also doing worse than the poor elsewhere, in large measure because of less complete safety nets in America. For instance, before the effect of taxes and various welfare benefits are considered, twenty-seven percent of Swedes are poor, which is slightly more than the twenty-six percent of Americans who are; but after the effects of taxes and transfers are considered, the poverty rate in Sweden plummets to only five percent, while safety nets in the United States only bring our poverty rate down to seventeen percent. Likewise, thirty-four percent of Germans are poor prior to the effects of social safety net efforts, but only eleven percent remain poor after them. In the U.K., where the poverty rate is the same as in the United States, safety nets cut poverty by more than two-thirds to only eight percent, which is twice as big a cut as that afforded by such programs in the United States. Location 888
Yet, putting aside the sincerely held faith in American upward mobility, just how often do people rise in the economic hierarchy? Although the idea of upward mobility as a unique and central feature of the American experiment is long-standing, the sad truth is that such mobility seems to be less common in the United States today than elsewhere. According to the Global Wealth Databook for 2013, the likelihood of persons moving up in the wealth distribution is actually lower in the United States than in any other industrialized nation.120 Indeed, chronic inequality appears to be a central cause of limited mobility here. The available evidence suggests that in nations with greater inequality, intergenerational mobility is far less common than it is in more egalitarian societies. In more equitable nations such as Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the correlation between your parents’ income when you were a child and your own income as an adult is less than half as strong as in the United States and United Kingdom, both of which have far greater levels of inequality between the top and bottom. Location 922
Note: Social mobility.
Although most kids born into the poorest fifth of American families will make it to a greater income level as adults, nearly four in ten will not. Even those who manage to improve their status economically don’t improve it by much: sixty percent of persons born into the poorest fifth will remain in the lower two-fifths as adults, meaning that at most they will move from poor or near-poor to lower middle class. Only one in ten will make it into the top fifth of earners. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly a third of all persons born into the top quintile will remain there, and about six in ten will remain in the top two quintiles—in other words, the upper middle class at least—while only one in nine will fall from the top to the bottom. Location 931
Note: Pretty much kills the argument off the press that its only hard work and ambition that get you there.
For those in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, only 0.2 percent will climb into the top one percent of earners, while about eighty-three percent of those who started in the top one percent will manage to remain at least in the top ten percent as adults. Location 936
Note: Yeah, explain that one Conservafucks. Hard work and talent is important but not as important as your parents. It even addresses Sowels argument that the 1% is an abstract idea with everyone getting to bounce in and out of it.
So while some will go from rags to riches or riches to rags, the influence of parental status on one’s own status is strong. Poor families are ten times more likely to remain poor than to move into the highest income quintile, and those who start out rich are five times more likely to remain there as to fall into either of the lower two quintiles of earners.124 As for wealth, research that examined families from the 1980s through 2003, discovered that about three-fourths of the responsiblity for where an individual ends up in terms of wealth is explained by the wealth of one’s parents. Location 939
Intergenerational mobility is especially limited for persons of color. For instance, half of black children born into families in the bottom fifth of income earners will remain there as an adult, compared to only twenty-three percent of white children. Nearly eight in ten African Americans born poor will remain in the bottom two-fifths of income earners (poor or lower-middle-class) as adults, compared to only forty-two percent of whites. Only an anemic three percent of blacks born poor will ultimately make it to the top quintile, and only one in ten will make it into the upper middle class or better. Although most whites born to impoverished families won’t gain access to the upper middle class or the ranks of the affluent either, they are five times as likely as blacks to go from the bottom to the top, and more than a third will attain upper-middle-class status at the very least. Location 944
Note: So when the inevitable argument arrives “Oprah was born poor and became a billionare, so shut up,” remind them we are talking about broadly shared prosperity, and exceptional cases do not address general rules. No one really believes its “impossible” to be born poor and black and become wealthy. The argument is that it is rare, and we want to create a country where mobility is more common, and prosperity available to more.
As for why mobility levels differ so markedly by race, it appears that the biggest culprit is the effect of concentrated poverty and disadvantage within the geographic spaces where most African Americans live. For whites born between 1955 and 1970, only five percent were raised in high-disadvantage neighborhoods (places with high poverty rates, lower school quality, less social capital, etc.), compared to eighty-four percent of blacks raised in such spaces. In contrast, only two percent of blacks born in that period were raised in low-disadvantage communities, compared to nearly half of whites.129 If blacks are seventeen times as likely to have been raised in high-disadvantage neighborhoods, while whites are twenty-two times as likely to have been raised in low-disadvantage neighborhoods, it isn’t hard to figure out why the opportunity structure remains skewed from year to year and generation to generation. Although rates of concentrated poverty have fallen somewhat, as noted previously, the ratio of concentrated poverty for blacks relative to whites remains high, ensuring ongoing inequity into the future. Location 959
Note: But it’s all hard work. No. These are places rife with opportunity for public investment and greater opportunity. Why isn’t the “fwee mwarket” fixing all of this? The only argument to save Conservative and libertarian ideals is government is somehow ruining all these places. The government that isn’t investing anything.
Among the most commonly discussed, and certainly important, are the decline of manufacturing employment since the early 1970s—spurred in large measure by trade policies that opened up American markets to lower-cost goods from abroad—as well as the decline in the real value of the minimum wage, the weakening of the power of labor unions, and the preferential treatment afforded in the tax code to income from capital gains as opposed to labor. Less appreciated, but perhaps even more critical to the process of growing inequality, is the long-term economic trend away from a production-based economy toward an economy focused on financial services. This trend, which amounts to a casino-ization of the American economy, puts a premium on rampant speculation in stocks and various investment instruments and thereby disproportionately benefits that relatively small sliver of the population who make their living on Wall Street. Let’s examine these each in turn. Location 971
Note: Another brief summary of the broad causes of inequality.
It is estimated that trade policy accounts for about one-fifth of the decline in manufacturing employment during the 1990s, and another third of the decline that continued from 2000 to 2007. As a result of the loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs and their replacement with lower-paying service-sector jobs, wages have stagnated at the bottom and middle of the income pyramid, contributing to the overall growth in income disparity. Location 985
Note: Middle class can afford more cheap shit that is imported in, but we make less money, and education and healthcare rude in proportion to what we make.
While increased trade and offshoring of production has been lucrative for corporate America and those with significant stockholdings in companies engaged in global trade, the impact on most has been quite the opposite. The ability to buy goods more cheaply—the supposed benefit of trade liberalization, which we’re told makes up for the decline in manufacturing employment in America—seems weak compensation for wage stagnation and little or no job security. After all, being able to buy things for less doesn’t matter much if the service-sector job you managed to get only pays a fraction of your previous position. Location 989
Note: We caught it before he said it
Contrary to claims that such a boost might have a negative impact on overall employment—principally by raising labor costs for employers—evidence from sixty-four separate studies suggests the impact of minimum wage hikes on employment and unemployment levels is negligible at best, and certainly offset by the boost in income to those who are dependent on such wages for survival.137 In fact, the most recent evidence clearly debunks the notion that higher minimum wages destroy jobs. At the beginning of 2014, thirteen states increased their minimum wages, four because of new legislation and nine others because their minimums are pegged to the inflation rate automatically. After evaluating the impact of minimum wage increases in these states, economists found that states where the minimum wage went up actually had faster employment growth than states where it did not. Location 1010
Note: Minimum wage, and a good go to argument to get it off the ground immediately. This contains most of what you need right here.
Perhaps the strongest rebuttal to the claim that a hike in minimum wage will harm the economy comes from Seattle. The city, which will be phasing in a $15-per-hour minimum wage over the next several years—and has been pilloried in the business press as signing its economic death warrant for doing so—already had a much higher minimum wage than the national average, even before the recent hike. But had that fact harmed the city? Hardly. As billionaire investor Nick Hanauer—an admitted and proud member of the nation’s one percent—explained it to his fellow plutocrats recently: Most of you probably think that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is an insane departure from rational policy that puts our economy at great risk. But in Seattle, our current minimum wage of $9.32 is already nearly 30 percent higher than the federal minimum wage. And has it ruined our economy yet? Well, trickle-downers, look at the data here: The two cities in the nation with the highest rate of job growth by small businesses are San Francisco and Seattle. Guess which cities have the highest minimum wage? San Francisco and Seattle. The fastest-growing big city in America? Seattle. Fifteen dollars isn’t a risky untried policy for us. It’s doubling down on the strategy that’s already allowing our city to kick your city’s ass. Location 1017
Note: Thus needs to be linked as the first line of defense against minimum wage skeptics, as many like to point out Seattle as well. This data, if true, ends this long standing debate.
Hanauer then went on to explain the economic logic behind a higher, rather than lower and stagnant minimum wage. Putting it in terms that even the most jaded of corporate executives should be able to comprehend, he notes: If a worker earns $7.25 an hour, which is now the national minimum wage, what proportion of that person’s income do you think ends up in the cash registers of local small businesses? Hardly any. That person is paying rent, ideally going out to get subsistence groceries at Safeway, and, if really lucky, has a bus pass. But she’s not going out to eat at restaurants. Not browsing for new clothes. . . . Please stop insisting that if we pay low-wage workers more, unemployment will skyrocket and it will destroy the economy. It’s utter nonsense. The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy. Location 1028
Note: Now this could be level 10
Although conservatives recently latched on to an article in Seattle Magazine, which suggested restaurants were closing their doors because of the wage hike there (and that restaurant owners were “panicked” at the new policy), an investigation by the Seattle Times debunked the claim. Indeed, the very restaurant owners whose decision to close certain Location s had been chalked up by conservatives to the increase in the minimum wage, told the Times exactly the opposite. They support the wage increase and were in the process of opening entirely new Location s or restaurants elsewhere in the city.139 If anything, both logic and experience tell us that policies to reduce inequality by boosting wages at the bottom can be expected to spur job creation and economic growth rather than suppress it.140 When workers have more they spend more, which in turn allows companies to produce more or provide more services to more people. Location 1037
Note: This book proves to skim the greatness of Everything for Sale and others of the highest echelon, as it addresses now, the very argument Jon posted against Seattle on his page, destroys it, with evidence. This ruins them entirely.
A hundred years ago, U.S. workers—including millions of children—worked long hours for low wages in unsafe workplaces. Because of organized labor, the prospects for working Americans improved dramatically over the course of the twentieth century. Because of unions, millions of U.S. workers were able to achieve a middle-class life—economic security, home ownership, health insurance, vacation time and, perhaps, a college education for their children. From 1948 to 1973, the incomes of working-class families in the U.S. nearly doubled. In addition to higher wages, the struggles of organized labor have delivered virtually every protection and benefit enjoyed by U.S. workers. Unions have brought working Americans the forty-hour week, paid vacation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, overtime pay, child labor laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, whistleblower protection laws, sexual harassment laws, lunch breaks and coffee breaks, wrongful termination protection, sick leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the weekend and much more. These rights, benefits and norms were not gifts from employers. They are the result of relentless organized struggle by working Americans. Location 1049
Note: Post war boom, unions, liberal policies.
As rates of union membership have declined, wages for most workers have stagnated, in part because the relative strength of labor and its ability to obtain a fair share of their increased productivity has been diminished. Location 1072
The wealthy have long argued that income from capital gains—that is, income derived from increases in the value of investments—should be taxed either not at all, or at a lower rate than regular labor income. According to those who advocate such policies, low or no taxes on capital gains will spur the wealthy to invest more of their resources, thereby creating jobs and boosting the economy. In actuality, there is no evidence that lower capital gains tax rates spur investment or economic growth and quite a bit of evidence to negate the theory. Indeed, the economy has generally performed better when capital gains and labor income have been taxed at the same rate (and higher) as opposed to years when taxes on capital gains have been lower. Location 1082
Because capital gains income receives such preferential treatment, America’s wealthiest families—a group whose incomes average more than $345 million annually and stem mostly from rents, interest and dividends, rather than active labor—actually pay taxes at a lower rate than households with average incomes as low as $75,000. In fact, the nation’s wealthiest four hundred families have a total effective tax rate averaging about 16.6 percent of their income, essentially the same as the 16.3 percent average paid by households with annual earnings as low as $50,000. Location 1099
Currently, the wealthiest one percent of Americans make more annually from capital gains—not from actual work, but from interest, dividends and rents on things they already possess, even if they didn’t work one hour of the year—than the entire cost of all safety net program payouts in the United States combined, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.152 And yet this income, received by about three million people, is taxed at a lower rate than the income earned by construction workers, physicians, food inspectors or law enforcement officials. Location 1108
Other tax policies, including corporate tax loopholes that shelter offshore profits from taxation, or allow for accelerated depreciation write-offs, or permit deductions for the cost of advertising, have lowered the tax burden on American companies relative to average American families and individuals. Companies can avoid taxes in the U.S. by claiming huge losses at home while declaring massive profits abroad. Even though eighty-two percent of Bank of America’s revenue is earned in the United States, the company was recently allowed to claim that all of its profit was made overseas, where it is untouched by U.S. taxes, while it supposedly suffered $7 billion in losses stateside. By rigging its balance sheets this way—a practice that is entirely legal under existing law—BoA was able to avoid billions in tax liability, as did other large corporations. Pfizer, for instance, made more than forty percent of its revenue domestically and had $31 billion in profits overseas in 2011–2012, but declared $7 billion in American losses so as to avoid taxes.153 In all, according to the Wall Street Journal, sixty of the largest corporations in the United States “parked a total of $166 billion offshore” in 2012, thereby protecting more than forty percent of their profits from domestic taxation. Location 1113
No doubt it is programs and policies like this that help explain why corporate taxes as a share of overall taxes, as a share of national income, and as a share of corporate profits have all declined dramatically. Although financial aristocrats and their media defenders often complain about U.S. corporate taxes being too high—since the thirty-five percent statutory rate is higher than the rate in other industrialized nations—few companies actually pay anywhere near that percentage of their income in taxes, due to generous loopholes, shelters and gimmicks that allow them to substantially reduce their burdens. For instance, the 288 corporations in the Fortune 500 that were consistently profitable from 2008 to 2012 ultimately paid taxes at a rate that was only 19.4 percent of their income over that period, with one-third of these paying less than a ten percent rate. Twenty-six companies, including Boeing, General Electric and Verizon, paid no federal income tax at all over that five-year period, and roughly forty percent of the companies that remained profitable from 2008 to 2012 had at least one year during which they paid no taxes. Location 1123
Note: Level 9 – Corperate Taxarion, and a direct refutation of Chris’s argument that corporations are overtaxed. Normally that would provide a difficult stopping point. But this new information is absolutely critical and godlike for demonstrating that in a substantive, meaningful sense, no, our corporations are not overtaxed.
No matter how one examines the data, there is simply no doubt that the tax picture for U.S. corporations is an increasingly rosy one. Whether examined as a share of the economy,156 as a share of all income taxes,157 or as a share of all federal tax revenue, corporate taxes are at historic lows. Today, corporations are contributing only about one-fifth as much of overall federal revenue as they did in the mid-1940s.158 finally, in 2012 corporate taxes fell to only 12.1 percent of profits, the lowest level since 1972, and about half the norm that held from the late 1980s until the economic collapse in 2008. Location 1132
Indeed, while America’s wealthy minority complains about corporate taxes, many American companies actually pay less in taxes to the government than they pay to their chief executives each year. In 2013, for instance, seven of the nation’s largest firms, despite earning more than $74 billion in pre-tax profits in the United States, received nearly $2 billion in federal tax refunds, while paying their CEOs over $17 million in average compensation. Of the one hundred highest-paid CEOs in the U.S., twenty-nine of them were paid more in 2013 than their companies paid in federal income taxes. Their companies made average pre-tax profits of $24 billion that year, while raking in, on average, $238 million in tax refunds. In other words, these mega-wealthy corporations had effective tax rates of negative one percent. Location 1138
Finally, the increased financialization of the American economy has dramatically skewed economic returns to the rich relative to the rest of us. By financialization I mean the move away from productive economic activity—the manufacture of tangible goods for sale or the provision of basic services used by broad swaths of the public—and towards speculative investment, the buying and selling of companies to pump up stock values and, in particular, the increasingly popular practice of company stock buy-backs, in which companies use their profits not to increase production or hire new workers but to repurchase their own stock, thereby driving up stock prices by artificially inflating company value relative to what it would be if those shares remained in the open market. This stock overvaluation then pays substantial dividends to executives and shareholders while doing absolutely nothing for average Americans. Location 1145
Note: So much for creating jobs and investing in new and innovative capital. Destroys the argument that the more profit leads to hiring and more jobs and growth fir the rest of us.
In the 1960s, forty percent of company earnings and borrowing went to investments in new production, equipment and company growth. By the 1980s, only ten percent of earnings was going back into investment, thanks to the growing power of shareholders demanding dividend payouts and higher stock values, which could be procured via stock buy-backs. Today, companies are literally borrowing money so as to pay shareholders and buy back their own stock, rather than invest in new production.161 According to economist William Lazonic, co-director of the Center for Industrial Competitiveness at the University of Massachusetts–Lowell, the 449 publicly traded companies in the S&P 500 Index used more than half of their profits—nearly $2.5 trillion in earnings—from 2003 to 2012 simply to repurchase their own stock shares, and thirty-seven percent more to pay dividends to shareholders. Less than one dollar in ten earned by these firms was put back into production, expansion, hiring, research or development. And some companies were actually spending more to repurchase stock than what their firms were making in net income in a given year.162 Location 1152
That flat out ruins the trickle down horseshit that if “companies make more money, they use it to hire more people and create jobs for you lucky suckers! So enough of this shit that if CEOs make more money, pay more taxes, (CEO or Company) then that money comes directly out of hiring and “jobs are lost.” They don’t hire anyway with their profits. They buy back their own stock, which is distorting the demand and creating a misrepresentation of valuation anyway, just to pump up the prices and appear more valuable. This is more profitable than hiring more people, so they do it.
It is hard to imagine such a pro-union platform, for instance, surviving amid the likes of reactionary talking heads such as Ann Coulter, who says the nation’s largest labor federation represents “useless” workers—including kindergarten teachers—rather than “men who have actual jobs,”166 or the even more influential Rush Limbaugh, who insists that unionized workers are “freeloaders,” as opposed to “real, working, non-unionized people.” Location 1192
Note: Republican vs Democrats – another difference. How many liberals would say these things.
Even basic protections against the use of child labor are no longer considered sacred, with Maine’s far-right Governor Paul LePage proposing changes in labor law that would allow twelve-year-olds to work up to fifteen hours weekly.171 It is almost as if—as several other commentators have put it—conservatives are seeking to repeal the twentieth century in the interests of the affluent minority and with no concern for the well-being of the masses, who increasingly suffer the consequences of rising inequality and economic insecurity. Though such a charge may sound hyperbolic, it’s hard to avoid such a conclusion when Eric Bolling of FOX can say, as he did recently, that rather than emulating European nations that are seeking to cut back on hours in the workweek—a step that has been shown to boost productivity—we should emulate China by repealing all labor laws, including minimum wage protections, child labor laws and any upper limits on how many hours an employee can be made to work. Location 1215
After all, such a bailout for the rest of us would also likely “pay the country back” in economic stimulus, consumer spending, greater tax revenues, reduced reliance on safety net programs, reduced health care costs and a host of other benefits. But in a society with an increasingly tattered social contract, it is apparent that sacrifice is only expected to run in one direction. Location 1232
For Scrooge, the answer to the problems of the poor and destitute was simple: ship them off to workhouses established during that time to allow the wretched of England to labor away their unpaid debts, imprison them if they would not work; but by no means should one extend to such human refuse compassion or charity of any kind. Location 1309
Note: This is a Republican
Whereas Dickens intended for readers to be appalled by the cruel and callous soliloquies of Scrooge (and rest assured, they were), we can hear many of the same kinds of things being said in the United States today, which, although updated for modern times, signal a contempt for the poor no less certain than that which animated Dickens’s famous character. And the judgmentalism on display regarding the have-nots goes hand in hand with a valorization of the wealthy, with which Scrooge would have been all too familiar. It is the new “Scroogism” and its historical antecedents to which I now turn. Location 1329
Note: Hate rhetoric for the poor.
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich . . . The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community . . . That is why they are rich . . . I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins . . . is to do wrong . . . Let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings. Location 1374
Note: This is why i am Atheist. God is used to justify unconscionable things, endlessly.
In keeping with the notion that the poor were to blame for their plight, “outdoor relief”—basically, public assistance outside the confines of a workhouse—was eliminated in most all major cities of the United States in the 1870s, due to a growing belief that “indiscriminate charity” indulged the bad habits of the poor and rendered them incapable of personal betterment. Location 1378
Note: Remember the memes about how we did all this stuff in the 19th and early 20th century without taxes? This is the world you get.
The business class sought to limit or end government support for the poor because they increasingly needed low-wage workers to stoke the engines of their own profitability. If the poor and desperate had alternatives to low-wage and dangerous labor, industrialists feared their business interests would suffer.12 To make the financial minority richer, it was necessary that others be made and kept destitute. Location 1386
This is actually a rather profound insight into bargaining power and zero sum economics. For a decade, we suspected something was off with the arguments that the rich don’t get rich off the backs of the poor. The story goes, they pro-vide employment for those working for them, allowing them a good quality of life, provide value to those consenting to buy their products, and provide value to shareholders. But this passage helps us realize, it isn’t quite that simple. Most people work at a place from a position of asymmetric bargaining power. No one “has” to work at any one place but not everyone can choose to work nowhere. Eventually, in order to service, someone has to work somewhere, and that place will have more power in the relationship. They call the shots. They tell them what they can do with their life. The reality, is profit couldn’t exist without excess labor value, and so that alone insures that the rich do indeed get rich off the backs of the poor, by necessity. It’s just a matter of consent. The worker “chooses” to let this happen, but even that isn’t a true preference, but usually against a background of at least some desperation or necessity. If everyone were really equal, the power dynamic would have completely equal bargaining power. It’s not an utterly foolproof concept but, the rich do have an interest in a large part of the population being kept in difficulty so that they keep the power dynamic necessary to maintain unilateral bargaining power and this the continuation of the workers “consent-ing” to give their labor from which they profit on the excess of. In this light, you are not paid according to the value you provide, for this is impossible if the capitalist is to profit. You are obviously providing more value than you are being paid for or he could not profit. You are being paid according to what you agree to be paid, and people agree to all kinds of different things in different circumstances. You’ll drink your piss to avoid dying in a desert, but “agreeing” to drink your piss isn’t something you would ever do in a normal sitiation. Macroeconomic forces, which no one person can control, affect the context inside which they make these “agreements.” Possibly rebuttles include the argument that to some extent, you “choose” your value and thus bargaining power in the market through experience, training and education, and that will be the most challenging rebuttle, but even this is subject to ability to afford or aquire an education, luck (you happened to choose something that took off, when it easily could have been a failed field), and compitition.
In other words, beginning in the early 1930s, American “Scroogism” was on the ropes, discred by a capitalist economy that had proven incapable of producing acceptable levels of access to opportunity and mobility for the general population. Location 1448
Note general population.
In addition to these older efforts, the Johnson years witnessed the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid to ensure some degree of health care security for the poor and elderly, as well as community development initiatives, pre-school education programs, and other efforts intended to tackle persistent urban poverty. Location 1483
Indeed, according to Reagan’s first budget director, David Stockman, Reagan’s early policies—massive tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, combined with a huge buildup of the Pentagon budget—were calculated to produce such a substantial budget deficit that Congress would be forced to cut safety net programs.30 The deficit was made to balloon so that those cuts could then be made in the name of a balanced budget rather than the ideological mindset that truly undergirded them. Location 1522
But to claim that we fought a war on poverty “and poverty won,” as Reagan often quipped, overlooks the evidence suggesting that safety-net programs lessen hardship for millions. From 1959 to 1973, during which period programs like food stamps and cash assistance were dramatically increased and entirely new programs (including Medicare, Medicaid and President Johnson’s urban empowerment initiatives) were developed, the percentage of Americans living in poverty was cut in half, from 22.4 percent to only 11.1 percent.41 This included a reduction in African American poverty from just over fifty-five percent of all blacks in 1959 to slightly more than thirty-three percent by 1970.42 Although social programs were not the only factor driving the reduction in poverty during this period—the economy was also undergoing stronger than average growth—such a decline in the poverty rate certainly suggests that safety-net programs played a role and goes far towards debunking the idea that such efforts were counterproductive or kept recipients “locked in poverty.” To insist, as some have, that welfare programs have made African Americans worse off than under segregation (or even slavery)43 is not only to grotesquely diminish the horrors of those systems, but to demonstrate a profound and undiluted ignorance about the actual effects of antipoverty initiatives. Location 1592
Note: Well worded. Profound and undiluted ignorance. Willful and outright inability to examine the data.
It is to suggest that black folks were better off with poverty rates that were far higher, not to mention lower graduation rates, higher rates of hunger, and worse health outcomes—all of which were realities in the years prior to the supposedly horrible government programs about which conservatives have such fits. Location 1604
Secondly, to claim that antipoverty efforts don’t work because poverty rates have barely budged lately, regardless of program spending, ignores the way that poverty rate information is tabulated. When calculating income, government benefits like SNAP and the refundable portion of the Earned Income Tax Cr—both of which boost the income and living status of those who receive them—are not counted as income. This creates the appearance that the programs “don’t work,” because those receiving benefits from SNAP or the EITC (or housing benefits) will still be poor in official tables, even though they may actually be living at a level equal to those with an above-poverty income. So despite the fact that the programs actually have improved the lives of millions of people, they receive no cr for having done so and come to be seen as failures that should be scrapped or scaled back. If they were included in government tabulations of poverty, these programs would reveal themselves to be quite successful. If SNAP benefits were counted as income, four to five million fewer people would have been categorized as poor in 2013—roughly a twelve percent reduction in poverty from just that one program. Location 1606
Of course, it’s not only the raw financial benefit of safety-net programs that matters. More important, these programs meet the specific needs for which they were created, and far better than most realize. For instance, when evaluating the success or failure of the food stamp (SNAP) program, the primary issue is not whether this program eliminated or even reduced poverty. First, because benefits are not counted as income, it cannot have much effect on the official poverty rate. Second, the program was not intended to end poverty, but rather to improve the food and nutritional security of poor people, thereby blunting the most extreme conditions of poverty. So the primary matter is whether the program worked on those terms, and the literature in this regard is quite unambiguous. According to a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, access to the food stamp program has improved childhood nutrition in particular, thereby contributing to substantial reductions in obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes among recipient households.47 Access to food stamps has also been correlated with an eighteen percent boost in high school graduation rates, likely due in large part to better nutritional health provided by access to the program, and its corollary effect on academic performance. Location 1620
Note: This might be the densest book ever, possibly beating How Markets Fail, Everything for Sale, and We Are Better Than This. I dont even know what to highlight anymore.
And finally, public health care benefits are best judged not by their ability to reduce poverty per se, but by how well they do what they are intended to do: namely, improve the health outcomes of persons who would otherwise go without care. Medicaid expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, for instance, is cred with reducing childhood deaths among poor kids by more than five percent, as well as reducing infant mortality and low birth weight among babies born to poor moms by 8.5 and 7.8 percent respectively.49 Although those children may still be poor, it is worth noting that they are, importantly, still alive—an outcome that would be considered a victory by most, and yet which prompts no such accolades from those on the right for whom such successes are apparently trivial. Location 1637
For some on the right, it’s not just the unemployed whom we should scorn but also those who work, if they get minimum wage. Conservative commentator Erick Erickson expressed contempt for low-wage workers recently when he claimed: “If you’re a 30-something-year-old person and you’re making minimum wage, you’ve probably failed at life.”55 In other words, an adult who works at minimum wage trying to support his or her family, and who no doubt hopes for something better, is really just a loser to whom we should offer nothing but derision. Location 1666
The lack of empathy evident in Fiske’s lab experiments can also be observed in everyday real-world settings. Consider the results of one disturbing experiment recently conducted by a filmmaker in Austin, Texas. The filmmaker and a homeless man there named Sandy Shook went to a local thrift shop and purchased a blazer, slacks, and dress shoes for Shook. Shook then stood on the street and asked passersby for spare change to help pay for bus fare or, alternately, for his Subway sandwich. Inevitably, people would stop and gladly interact with Shook and give him the change he requested. Then Shook tried the same experiment dressed as he normally is, in an old T-shirt and dirty jeans. The results were the opposite: people routinely passed him by, refused to give him change and in at least one case shouted “No!” at him even before he had asked for money.69 In other words, giving money to someone who looks as though he wouldn’t normally need it is far easier for most than giving to someone who looks like he does. It’s as if the decision to give isn’t based on need so much as a judgment of the moral deservingness of the person doing the asking. Location 1714
Evidently, shame has long been known to cure poverty. Location 1749
“Why can’t we make someone feel embarrassed” for receiving public assistance? 79 In each case with rhetoric like this, the implicit assumption is that humiliation, not food, is the commodity of which the poor need more. Location 1756
And leading Tea Party activist Judson Phillips has exclaimed: The Founding Fathers originally . . . put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.96 In other words, to Philips—who is perhaps the most prominent Tea Party activist in the country—not only the poor per se but also anyone who rents, most college students, the elderly in nursing homes, and anyone else who for whatever reason doesn’t own property should be blocked from the most basic privilege of citizenship—voting. According to Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, only property owners should be allowed to vote, because, “if somebody owns property in a community, they’re invested in the community. If they’re renters, they’re going to be up and gone; they could leave the next day . . . they have no skin in the game. They don’t care about the same things that somebody does who is rooted in the community.”97 In the eyes of prominent conservatives, people who rent don’t care about their communities, the quality of their children’s schools or the infrastructure of their neighborhoods; they are just transient slackers who care little for the broader well-being of the community. If you aren’t a property owner, this is what the right thinks about you. Location 1816
The multibillionaire recently suggested that votes should be apportioned based on the dollar amount of taxes a person pays: in other words, “if you pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes.”101 That such brazen calls for an official aristocracy of the rich and the eradication of democracy can be made with no sense of shame says a lot about how normalized the culture of cruelty and inequality has become. Location 1840
That said, to diminish the real hardship faced by the poor in the United States solely because it is usually not as crushing as suffering elsewhere—and I say usually, because in some poor counties of America, conditions and life expectancy actually do rival those in some of the poorest nations on earth105—is neither a logical nor an ethical response to that hardship. Even though in absolute terms it is true that most persons in the United States do not suffer poverty in the same way and to the same extremes as say, Sri Lanka’s poor, such a reassurance is likely not much comfort for America’s struggling masses. After all, Americans are not Sri Lankans, and they are trying to stay afloat and compete in a society against other Americans. This is why the international standard for evaluating poverty is not simply a set dollar-equivalent amount, since poverty in a poor country is by definition different from poverty in a rich country, but is determined by looking at what percentage of a country’s citizens live at half or less of the nation’s median wage. To be at half or less of the median in any society, no matter what that median might be, is to be at a significant disadvantage relative to others in the job market and the housing market, in terms of the quality of education your children will likely receive, and in terms of the health care you can access. If the median income is well above your own, you will be effectively priced out of the market for any number of opportunities; as such, even if you are objectively richer than someone in Bangladesh or Ghana, the life you will be able to carve out for yourself in the place you actually live will be far removed from the mainstream there. Location 1874
This is why the reassurances of blogger Catherine Rampell at the New York Times, to the effect that “the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants,” or that “America’s poorest are, as a group, about as rich as India’s richest,” are vapid to a point that would be laughable were the subject matter not so serious. Location 1887
If anything, to be poor in a rich country, where one’s worth is sadly too often presumed to be linked to one’s possessions (unlike in a poor country, where people still know better) is to foster a particularly debilitating kind of relative deprivation. To be poor in a place where success is synonymous with being rich and famous increasingly means finding oneself voiceless, ignorable, criminalized and perceived as disposable. To live in a place where wealth is not only visible but flaunted, where the rich make no pretense to normalcy, and where one can regularly hear oneself being berated on the airwaves as losers and vermin and parasites precisely because you are poor or working at a minimum-wage job, is to be the victim of a cruelty that the citizenry of poor nations do not as likely experience. In a nation where poverty is distressingly normal for the vast majority, the poor are still likely to be viewed as belonging equally to a common humanity, unlike in a wealthy and powerful nation like the United States, where the humanity of poor people, and certainly their right to full citizenship, are increasingly under attack. Ultimately, the politics of comparative suffering is always a losing and amoral proposition. It’s precisely such politics that would justify telling a Japanese American who was herded into an American internment camp during World War II that they have nothing to complain about and should actually be grateful: after all, they could have been in Tokyo when we firebombed it, or in Hiroshima or Nagasaki when we dropped the atomic bombs. It’s the kind of position that would rationalize saying to someone who survived the Holocaust of European Jewry that they had no legitimate complaint against the Nazis, since had they lived in the Soviet Union they may well have perished in Stalin’s gulag (or, for that matter, the reverse of this argument). To forward this kind of position is like telling an African American during Jim Crow segregation to get over it, since King Leopold killed roughly ten million Africans in the Congo under Belgian colonialism. In other words, this kind of comparison between the suffering one is currently experiencing and the much greater suffering one could theoretically experience elsewhere lacks all moral and practical relevance. Location 1895
Note: Greatest passage in the book. One of the Greatest passages of all time. Dont even know how to annote it.
Not to mention, there is something ironic about this kind of argument coming from the rich, who regularly push for greater tax breaks so they can have more money with which to “do great things,” or just because they think they’ve earned it. After all, to whatever extent the poor in America are rich by global standards, surely the wealthy in America are far more so, and should perhaps rightly be seen as obsessive and gluttonous hoarders. They don’t seem satisfied with the kind of wealth that would allow them to literally buy entire countries outright, and which certainly dwarfs the wealth of the so-called rich in less wealthy nations, but yet they have the temerity to lecture poor people about gratitude? Location 1911
Note: I dont know what to do anymore.
Consider a recent commercial paid for by the Charles Koch Foundation that seeks to remind Americans how good they have it by noting that even if one earns only $34,000 a year, that’s enough to vault one into the top one percent of the world’s population in terms of income.108 Or consider the remarks of Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion label Nicole Miller, who recently said those who are poor or working class in America should stop complaining, since their incomes would make them wealthy in India or China.109 To whatever extent one finds this kind of thinking even remotely persuasive, shouldn’t the logic of such an argument run both ways? Shouldn’t the rich in the United States stop complaining about their taxes? The regulations they have to put up with? The minimum wage they have to pay employees? Talk about ingratitude! If they lived in any other industrialized nation, the taxes they paid would be higher, regulations would be just as strict or more so, and their workers would have far greater protections and safety nets than in the United States. So when it comes to shutting one’s mouth and being grateful for what one has, perhaps the rich should lead by example. Location 1917
Note: Another level 11, and among the greatest sequences of passages ever read.
Eight-two percent have a microwave. This is 82 percent of American poor families. Seventy-eight percent have air conditioning. More than one television, 65 percent. Cable or satellite TV, 64 percent . . . Cell phones, 55 percent. Personal computer, 39 percent. So how can you be so poor and have all this stuff?112 Aside from the bizarre implication that air conditioning is a luxury the poor should not enjoy, there are a few obvious holes in O’Reilly’s argument here. First, it should be apparent to even the most casual thinker that most of the poor live in apartments pre-rigged with A/C whether or not they can afford to actually run it. Second, cable is necessary in most parts of the country in order for a television to get reception at all, so the mere fact that one has cable says very little about the quality of one’s television, let alone the extravagance of one’s entertainment habits. And finally, cell phones are no more extravagant than landlines, having more or less replaced the older systems for millions of Americans, including those who are by no means poor. To not have a phone would render a person unable to remain connected to possible jobs, to family or to emergency services. Surely we do not expect poor families to be completely cut off from the world in order to deserve concern. Or perhaps for the Bill O’Reillys of the world, that is exactly what is required. Location 1940
Second, even if Rector were right and poor and lower-income persons are now able to live like the middle class did thirty to forty years ago, what is the practical meaning of this information? It is also probably the case that the poor in the 1960s had “stuff” comparable to what middle-class Americans had in 1939, but so what? The poor today also doubtless have certain luxuries unknown even to the wealthiest Americans in the 1790s, what with indoor plumbing and all, but one wonders what the point of such a comparison is. Does anyone really believe that today’s poor live better than Thomas Jefferson did, just because the latter had to crap in a chamber pot or an outhouse? Apparently, Rector and the folks at Heritage think so, as they have also made the argument that the poor in America today “live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”114 Though it should hardly need to be said, today’s poor do not live in the early 1970s, let alone the nineteenth century; they live in the present, where the ability to feel part of the mainstream (and to be part of the mainstream) requires one to be able to do things and have things that previous generations didn’t do or have. People didn’t “need” the Internet in the 1970s, for instance, because the Internet didn’t exist, but not having access to the web today can be seen as a pretty serious disadvantage. They didn’t need cars in 1837 either, but try finding steady employment today without one. Location 1960
Note: At this point all we can do is just copy and reread and save the whole chapter.
What Rector and others ignore is that the ability of the poor to purchase electronics—the prices of which have actually come down in recent years—says little about their ability to afford more important amenities. Televisions, microwaves or any other consumer products in the homes of the poor will tend to be pretty cheap. What you won’t as readily find is what really matters: namely, college degrees and high-quality preventive health care, the costs of which have far outpaced the rate of inflation. It is these things that an increasing number of Americans cannot afford, not because they have blown all their money on malt liquor and menthols but because they are not paid enough to purchase them, no matter the relatively cheap consumer goods with which they may entertain themselves, or which may cool the air in their apartments from time to time. The issue is not whether Americans are as poor today as the poor in Biafra, or as destitute as the poor were at the time of the Nixon administration or the Gettysburg Address or the landing of the Mayflower. The issue is whether the poor are situated in such a way as to compete with others in this country at this time, in such a way that they might move up the ladder and out of relative deprivation. A dishwasher will neither suffice for those purposes nor by virtue of its expense get in the way of them, but the lack of health care and education most certainly will. To deny those who are struggling all manner of modern conveniences as the right appears prepared to do—even those that are increasingly necessary to stay connected to the mainstream and develop the cultural capital needed to make oneself employable—is to suggest that the poor should slug it out like the poor of old; it is to insist that they must suffer just as those in prior generations did before any sympathy can attach. Which is no doubt why conservative blogger Jim Hoft was so quick to criticize Lorain County, Ohio, for distributing air conditioners to needy elderly and disabled folks in the summer of 2012, during a record heat wave.115 To Hoft and those of his mindset, the poor and aged (and those with respiratory disease who were particularly targeted by the effort) should suffer just as they would have in the days before air conditioning—because poor people should be miserable in the eyes of conservative America, perhaps even prostrate, covered by dirt and surrounded by flies in order to be seen as truly deserving society’s assistance. Notably, the common outrage over the possessions of the poor neglects to take heed of the obvious fact that for most, their consumer goods will likely represent items they were able to afford in better economic times before a layoff or medical emergency. If a family finds itself transitionally poor and having to turn temporarily to SNAP after the layoff of a parent, it’s not as if the computer, the car or the Xbox they had before the layoff should be expected to disappear. Unless one wishes to suggest that upon a layoff one should pawn everything in one’s possession before turning to the very government benefits that one’s taxes previously paid for during periods of employment, expressing shock at the minor possessions of the poorest among us is absurd. Location 1971
Cunha’s point is all the more pertinent given that supposed “luxury” items like vehicles help facilitate opportunities for unemployed and poor persons seeking better jobs.118 To criticize the poor for having a car is to suggest that they should be without a vehicle so long as they receive government aid. But how can those in need better their situation if they have no reliable vehicle to get them from home to a job, especially if public transportation in their area is inconsistent or if the best job opportunities are far away? Location 2005
Note: It is probably the greatest chapter ever read.
Apparently it’s a concern considered trivial by some, as suggested by a recent story in the New York Times concerning the increasing use of automobile GPS “de-activation” devices that debt collection agencies and car loan lenders can utilize so as to disable vehicles driven by people who fall behind on their car payments. According to the article, people with less than excellent cr are being lured into car loans with predatory interest rates and massive late-payment penalties. In other words, people with little money are being asked to pay more of what they don’t have, and if they’re late with a payment by just a few days, their cars can be immobilized remotely even while the car is on the interstate, in traffic, trying to get to one’s job or to pick up one’s children at school.119 Aside from how dangerous such a practice can be, how can immobilizing a person’s car help them pay for the vehicle? If they can’t get to work, they can’t earn money with which to make the payments. But none of that matters in a culture of cruelty—all that matters to such a culture and its enforcers is that an increasingly large percentage of the American citizenry can be financially squeezed, neglected and criminalized. Location 2009
Clearly under the impression that the poor eat too well on the government dime, the aforementioned Arizona Republican activist Russell Pearce said recently that if it were up to him, families receiving assistance couldn’t buy “Ding Dongs and Ho Hos,” or “steak or frozen pizza,” but would be limited to “15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk.”123 So not only should the poor not have seafood or meat, let alone that extravagant luxury known as frozen pizza, they shouldn’t be afforded the benefit of vegetables or even liquid milk, as these are properly understood to be the special purview of the rest of us. Location 2039
While the stories of SNAP extravagance say little about the reality of living and eating while poor, they speak volumes to the way in which more financially secure Americans think about those who are struggling. That anyone would believe SNAP recipients getting such paltry amounts in aid—again, $133 per person, per month, on average in 2013, or less than $1.50 per person per meal—would blow their benefits on crab legs or other expensive items, thereby reducing the amount of aid left for the rest of the month, says a lot about how families in need are perceived in this country. Those who repeat stories like this seem to believe that if and when the poor actually do splurge on pricey food items, they’re somehow putting one over on the rest of us. But it’s not as if their EBT cards are endless money pits that refill upon depletion like a cup of coffee at a Waffle House. If one blows all of one’s money on beluga caviar and cedar-planked salmon, that’s just less money for the rest of the month, which is why if a few among the poor spend in such a manner, they likely learn from their budget shortfalls and are unlikely to repeat the practice. Location 2058
Although the facts suggest that impoverished families are far thriftier with their money, including government benefits, than commonly believed, it’s still worth noting how fundamentally cruel it is to police the shopping habits of the poor in the first place. To deny to those who are struggling an occasional soda or candy bar or even cigarettes or beer is incredibly callous. While there are excellent health reasons to avoid all four, and certainly their overconsumption—and this is true for all of us, not only those who are poor—is it really necessary to resent the consumer habits of those who are economically hurting? Must they be not only poor but without any momentary relief? Without any of the escapes and diversions the rest of us take for granted? No snack food, no alcohol, no cable TV, and no movies with the kids? No anything to take their minds off the daily grind of trying to make ends meet? To insist that folks struggling with poverty be so indelibly miserable as to force them to spend every waking moment trying to find a better job seems sadistically cruel; it treats their situation as tantamount to a crime for which they are to be punished. It’s the exact same thinking that animates resentment over prisoners receiving education while behind bars, or having any freedoms whatsoever—the idea that unless inmates are made to be utterly traumatized by their incarceration they won’t fear coming back to prison. So too, under this logic, unless the poor are traumatized completely by their poverty, they won’t work hard and get their lives together. Those who adhere to this thinking are making virtually no distinction between the blame they place on perpetrators of crime and the blame they place on victims of poverty. Location 2067
Note: Probably another level 10. At thus point, we think its probably the greatest chapter ever read in our research dating back to 2011, at least in terms of rhetoric if not data.
While it might be worthwhile to figure out ways to sanction this handful who take unfair advantage, is it really so important to catch and punish these few that the broad base of TANF families should be stigmatized? In a culture of cruelty, apparently the answer is yes: stopping a handful of abusers is so important on principle, that even if entire programs have to be stigmatized, chopped or ended altogether, the cost is worth it. Location 2120
For many on the right, however, evidence is a luxury hardly worth indulging. Location 2130
Likewise, that so many Americans appear prepared to lecture the poor as to what they can eat (or even whether they should be able to purchase Valentine’s candy for a loved one using SNAP benefits) is telling as to the selective way in which government program dollars are perceived. As Bryce Covert notes in The Nation, “When we give people assistance through the home-mortgage interest deduction, we don’t feel entitled to tell them what house to buy or what neighborhood to live in; when we subsidize a college education through student loans, we don’t tell students what school to go to or what to major in. When we tax capital gains income at a lower rate than income made from labor, we certainly don’t tell those stock pickers what to do with the extra cash.”139 But of course, as Covert notes, while government programs like these benefit mostly middle-class and affluent taxpayers—and are “submerged” in the tax code or programs that are less visible to the public—food stamp EBTs are observed in the process of being used and help the poor and near-poor, who are presumed to be in that condition in the first place because of their irresponsibility. So even as those who are quite a bit better off receive the biggest benefits from government programs (funded by the government via direct payments or deferred taxes which result in the rest of us having to pick up the slack), it is the relatively small amount received by the poor that sets us on edge and makes us feel entitled to moralize. Location 2150
As for fraud by TANF recipients, there is no doubt that technical fraud occurs, meaning that recipients in some cases work for cash under the table by taking care of a neighbor’s kids or cleaning their house—income that would result in a suspension or reduction of benefits were it reported. But considering that the average monthly benefit from TANF is only $162 per person,144 and $387 per family—less than half the poverty line in every state and less than one-third the poverty line in most of them—is such under-the-table activity really surprising?145 If benefits are set so low that even when SNAP is added to them the typical family on both kinds of assistance still remains below the poverty line, how is one supposed to survive without such side work? If anything, that kind of fraud speaks to the work ethic of the poor and their desire to earn income and take responsibility for themselves and their children. It suggests that the stereotype of lazy welfare recipients sitting around doing nothing is a complete contrivance. Location 2176
When a welfare recipient is charged with fraud, she adds costs to the criminal justice system. In addition to the costs of investigation, the county has to pay for the time of both a prosecutor and a public defender. If the recipient goes through a welfare fraud diversion program, the county bears continuing administrative costs for collecting payments and monitoring her progress in the diversion program. If the welfare recipient is convicted and sent to jail or prison, then government costs soar. It is much more expensive to house a single inmate for a year than it is to provide for a typical family on welfare. If the head of a household does end up serving time in jail or prison, her children may be placed in the foster care system, where more money will be spent on the children than under the welfare system. All of these costs are ignored in calculations of the costs of investigating and prosecuting welfare fraud. In sum, the government cost savings that policymakers associate with punitive and criminalizing welfare policies may actually only be cost shifting—either between federal, state, and local coffers or from the welfare system to the criminal justice and foster care systems. Location 2195
Note: Demonstrates the perverse economic reality of tbe culture of punishment vs assisting. Conservatives want to save money. Cruelty costs more than compassion. So we see which is more important to them; money or hate.
This is just one more prime example of how conservatives routinely distort data to further a narrative of cruelty toward America’s most vulnerable. Location 2234
Though said in a slightly less bombastic way, it’s little different from the hateful ventilations of Ted Nugent, who has said antipoverty programs should be eliminated because poverty is the result of “poor decisions” that “we need to punish.”156 Because punishing poor people historically always managed to eliminate poverty—it’s apparently an ancient wisdom we’ve forgotten. Location 2259
For example, by September 2013 there were only about 3.6 million people in the entire country receiving cash welfare under the TANF program, down from fourteen million who received such benefits in the early 1990s. Of these 3.6 million TANF beneficiaries, 2.8 million, or seventy-eight percent, are children,164 and of those children who benefit from the program, three in four are under the age of twelve.165 The percentage of the nation’s adults currently receiving TANF sits at less than one-half of one percent (0.5) of the adult population, and less than 1.5 percent of the total population (including child recipients) is on the program. Far from encouraging a nation of dependent takers, the nation’s primary cash aid effort reaches almost no one.166 Location 2332
Among the most prevalent stereotypes of the poor, and especially those on public assistance, is that of the single mother who engages in irresponsible sexual activity, giving birth to children out of wedlock and thus increasing her monthly welfare stash. But it is simply not the case that welfare payments contribute to out-of-wedlock childbirth among single moms. Half of all families receiving cash welfare have only one child, and nearly eight in ten have only one or two.172 What’s more, and contrary to popular perception, there is no difference between the number of children in single-parent families that receive assistance and the number of kids in families that don’t: in both instances, the statistical average number of children in the home is just under two.173 Likewise, the typical household receiving SNAP benefits is composed of only two people—most often a parent and one child. Location 2358
Note: Another myth bites the dust
How a group of nearly forty million individuals (adults and kids combined) can be rendered culturally defective by programs that reach so few remains a mystery that those committed to the zombie lie feel no need to explain. Location 2375
To FOX commentator and longtime actress Stacey Dash (whose most memorable role was, appropriately enough, in the film Clueless), such facts prove that government aid is “the new version of slavery.”185 Of course it is, because if you receive an EBT card or state-subsidized asthma medication it’s exactly like being whipped, raped and stripped of all legal rights. Location 2402
In other words, whatever the statistics might say, they suggest that use of these programs is less about culturally engendered dependence on benefits and more about serious and unexpected life drama that happens often to persons who are on the economic margins, and especially during an extraordinary economic recession. Location 2426
Note: Good way to say it’s not always their fault but the result of a difficult state of affairs
Third, to argue that the sixty-five percent figure proves the so-called welfare state is creating a self-perpetuating culture of poverty (the standard right-wing interpretation) ignores the fact that most of the kids reaping the benefits from the listed programs are not officially poor, but they qualify for benefits because their family incomes are too low to bring them above eligibility levels. There were 16.6 million children living in “poor” families in America in 2011, for instance, but 47.9 million kids living in families receiving benefits from these programs that year. This means that two-thirds of the kids whose families benefit from these efforts are not living in poor homes, which in turn means that they will likely be in homes with parents who earn income, but not enough to make it without a little help. Many others live in homes that are poor but still have earned income from work. How the use of these programs can be blamed for fostering “dependence” or discouraging work when most of the beneficiaries live in homes with earned income is a mystery left unexamined by conservative hysterics. Location 2428
Note: Well written and telling you that poeple are working. Its just not enough to rise above assistance level. Yeah i get it. Work harder. Who watches their children? Dont have them? Well they are here so now what?
those that don’t, a large number of them have parents who are disabled. In fact, it is increasingly likely for SNAP households to have earned income, and less likely for them to rely on other forms of assistance, suggesting that receipt of this program’s benefits has nothing to do with dependence, but rather, reflect the realities of low-wage work in a faltering economy. Location 2438
Note: Just like we said
To begin with, eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch goes up to 185 percent of the poverty line, which means that many beneficiaries of this program are not poor, and thus reside in families that are hardly dependent on welfare benefits; rather, they work, albeit at jobs that don’t pay enough to bring them above the eligibility limits. How a program can be rendering people dependent when they in fact work hard every day is again left unexplained by the right. Location 2445
In all, when you consider those kids who receive school lunch benefits but are a) not poor and who live in homes with a parent or parents who work; b) poor but whose parent or parents work; c) not poor at all but who benefit from the small subsidy provided even to “full-pay” recipients; or d) children who benefit automatically just because they attend a high poverty school but who may not be poor themselves, there is little doubt that the vast majority of the children and families claimed as beneficiaries are not caught in a cycle of dependence, and that none of them are being “enslaved” by the program. The need is real, but the dependence is not. Location 2461
The parents in these cases are doing their best; they’re working and doing everything conservatives would have them do. Unfortunately their earnings have been insufficient to cover the spiraling costs of health care. Location 2472
Even more fatal for Cato’s principal claim—the idea that welfare programs discourage work among the poor because of their generosity—is the fact that since 1989 the percentage of SNAP recipient households also receiving cash has plummeted from forty-two percent of all households to only 6.5 percent, while the share receiving income from work has increased substantially, from only twenty percent of recipient households in 1989 to thirty-one percent with earnings now.195 This being so, it is disingenuous to claim that SNAP discourages work, since SNAP families are working more than ever and relying on cash aid less than in the past. Location 2499
Additionally, Cato ignores the fact that many of the benefits it references are received by persons who are not poor and who currently work, or those who work but in spite of their employment remain below the poverty line. SNAP expenditures, utility assistance expenditures, and Medicaid benefits are not all consumed by the unemployed poor; thus, simply dividing the amount spent on these efforts by the number of poor families with no member in the workforce will result in a gross overestimation of the amount being received by these kinds of families and overstate the supposed “disincentive” that these programs create for seeking employment. Given that large numbers of SNAP beneficiaries live in homes with at least one working family member, the entire idea of such a program creating a disincentive to employment is debunked. Third, the methodology the Cato analysts use to calculate the value of non-cash benefits is so dubious as to suggest they concocted it with deliberate deception in mind. For instance, they presume that the value of the rent subsidy provided to those who receive housing benefits is equal to the average fair market rent in a recipient’s state. But those who receive rent subsidies or live in public housing do not receive benefits equal to the average fair market rent. At most, the value of the benefit received should be considered relative to the typical rent at the lowest end of the rental market, since it is that kind of housing that poor people would be accessing in the absence of rental aid. By calculating the benefit relative to the average cost of housing in a state, Cato inflates the value of assistance by comparing it to middle-class rental housing. They are basically assuming that in the absence of public housing subsidies the poor and unemployed would find jobs that would allow them to afford an apartment in the mid-range of their local housing market, which is like saying that if poor people didn’t receive housing subsidies they would suddenly become middle class—an idea so self-evidently preposterous as to be hardly worth serious consideration. Location 2504
Overall, the evidence clearly negates any claim that government benefits for those in need discourage work. After all, according to the most recent evidence, three-quarters of all persons enrolled in major government benefit programs are in working families, and these families consume roughly two-thirds of all program benefit dollars.203 As such, to suggest that government aid saps the work effort of its recipients, flies in the face of the facts, however much it might be commonly believed. Location 2568
But however dishonest the Cato Institute might be, its deception is minor league compared to that of the far more professional liars who populate the Heritage Foundation. Location 2572
Of course, the bulk of the “massive” increase in welfare spending about which Heritage is so animated is in Medicaid, but two-thirds of Medicaid spending is for elderly people or the disabled, neither of whom even the most cold-hearted of modern Scrooges (one hopes) would expect to be in the workforce “earning their keep.”205 Twenty-one percent of Medicaid spending is for poor children, while only fifteen percent of program benefits are going to able-bodied adults.206 So to calculate the size of the supposedly massive welfare state by throwing in the incredibly expensive health care expenditures on elderly, blind and disabled folks is to mislead the public about the amount being spent on the supposedly able-bodied poor. Location 2599
The authors of the report romanticize the days when poor people (including the elderly) just relied on their families to care for them, or perhaps churches or “mutual aid societies.” That such channels clearly weren’t sufficient—large numbers of the elderly were poor in those days, which is precisely why Social Security was created—seems not to faze them. Location 2608
Note: Excellent one liner for social security
It’s the same with housing: Heritage argues that the old days of private and religious groups providing housing (like orphanages, or Boy’s Town, perhaps) were better than government-provided housing benefits. This is the vision the right offers to poor people: relying on some kindly old priest and his group home to take care of you, and if for whatever reason they can’t manage it, that’s too bad. They also argue that government-provided health care under Medicare and Medicaid has destroyed the wonderful private institutions that used to provide for people in need. But what evidence is there that such institutions ever covered the cost of high-dollar treatments like chemotherapy, radiation or organ transplants? Of course, they never did. Heritage seems to think people only get colds or the flu or chickenpox, and that armies of kindly old family doctors will gladly, out of the goodness of their hearts, provide care to them for free. But even if that were true for some, how would that address more long-term and costly care for serious conditions? It wouldn’t, of course; rather, private, for-profit providers would end up refusing expensive care to those who couldn’t afford it. It would be rationed care based solely on ability to pay—death panels, if you will, on which the panelists would be not doctors at all (and surely not the government), but insurance company representatives and hospital executives looking out for the bottom line. Location 2611
Overall, the Index is calculated by throwing in pretty much every kind of government program imaginable and proclaiming them all guilty of making Americans dependent on the state. Among the programs deemed so destructive to personal independence, Heritage includes consumer and occupational safety spending, disease control funding, children and family services spending, all job training programs, disability insurance, agricultural research, and disaster relief. Even those who criticize programs like TANF, public housing or SNAP should be able to see that any measure of “Dependence on Government” that includes these things, as well as Social Security, Medicare and student loans, cannot be considered serious scholarship. It speaks to the ideological dishonesty of the right and those who seek to undo the various programs of the national safety net, and it should call into question their attacks on all programs, including the easier and more vulnerable targets like cash, food and housing aid. Location 2622
Note: Good passage on what government does in general.
Yet, contrary to right-wing belief, there is little evidence (or logic) to suggest that the availability of unemployment insurance contributes to long-term joblessness, or that the elimination of those benefits will suddenly lead the long-term unemployed to find jobs. In fact, a recent study by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress found that those persons who are out of work and receiving unemployment insurance spend more time looking for work than those who are unemployed but not receiving assistance.213 Indeed, given that one can only qualify for unemployment benefits if one is actively searching for work, whatever relationship exists between unemployment insurance and increased joblessness is largely proof that the program is working, not failing. Location 2642
It appears from the bulk of available evidence that extending unemployment benefits during an economic downturn results in more jobs being created rather than destroyed. Because these benefits are spent by their recipients, they serve to stimulate the economy, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, can produce as many as 300,000 jobs nationwide thanks to that stimulus.214 That conservatives would attack the concept of unemployment insurance, even while more than three in four unemployed persons don’t even receive any,215 suggests the extent to which the right will blame the have-nots for economic problems they clearly did not cause. Location 2652
Far from not wanting to work, the unemployed desperately seek jobs; so much so in fact that the competition to get hired at Walmart can often prove more daunting than the competition to get into an Ivy League college. For instance, when Walmart opened a new store in Washington, D.C. in 2013, 23,000 people filled out applications in hopes of landing one of only six hundred jobs: an acceptance rate of 2.6 percent. By contrast, the overall Ivy League admissions rate is nearly nine percent, and even at Harvard about five percent of applicants manage to get in.216 Likewise, only about six of every one hundred applicants for jobs at McDonalds get hired, suggesting that the problem is not a lack of willingness to work, but rather an insufficient number of positions for all who need and are seeking employment. Location 2663
Among the challenges facing the unemployed, and especially the long-term unemployed, is discrimination. Presumimg them less competent or perhaps too desperate, employers are far less likely to provide interviews to long-term unemployed job seekers, no matter their qualifications. A recent study for the Boston Federal Reserve found that when qualifications and experience are otherwise similar, persons who have been out of work for longer periods of time are operating at a significant disadvantage. Location 2679
Note: Another shot to meritocracy. It isnt hard work or talent, but being out of work which can spiral into a cascade effect.
In other words, when a person has been out of work for six months or longer, employers are simply screening them out regardless of experience and qualifications.222 Unless there are specific measures established to bar discrimination against the long-term unemployed, or tax incentives for their hiring, or direct hiring of such persons by the government for new jobs programs, it is unlikely that the economic position of the long-term jobless is likely to improve. Location 2693
By encouraging their employees to apply for public assistance, companies like McDonalds and Walmart get the taxpayers to subsidize them by shifting the burden of supporting workers from employers to the public. As many as eight in ten Walmart store associates rely on SNAP benefits so as to subsidize their paltry wages, and overall, taxpayers foot the bill for more than $6 billion in various welfare benefits for Walmart employees. Location 2704
Adding insult to injury, not only does Walmart pay such paltry wages that its associates are forced to turn to SNAP for food, but even worse, Walmart is the nation’s largest food stamp redeemer as well. In other words, in many cases, their own employees are buying food at Walmart with the SNAP benefits they only have to rely on because their employer pays them so badly. This means that Walmart is making money on both ends: by paying poverty-level wages and then selling their own employees food, subsidized by the taxpayers. Annually, almost one in five dollars spent with SNAP benefits is spent at Walmart, bringing in approximately $13.5 billion in additional sales for the company. Location 2714
Yes, because criticizing million-dollar bonuses for people who helped bring down the economy is exactly like the extra-judicial murder of black people. Location 2823
Canadian millionaire Kevin O’Leary responded to a 2014 OXFAM report, which noted that the world’s wealthiest eighty-five people were worth as much as the bottom half of the world’s population (approximately 3.5 billion people), by exclaiming that the report was “fantastic news.” Location 2837
Note: Just need the statistic, not the rest
One-fifth of those who don’t pay income taxes are elderly and on fixed incomes, with nearly another fifth being students, the disabled or persons who are unemployed but actively seeking work.255 The remaining three-fifths do work but simply don’t earn enough to owe federal income tax. Why? Well surely it isn’t because they have chosen to receive crappy pay just to get out of paying taxes. It’s not as if the poor and struggling are turning down six-figure job offers just to avoid having to fork over a percentage to the government. They are not earning enough because they can’t find a job that pays enough, and they are not paying taxes on what they earn because the poor and near-poor have been removed from the income tax rolls due to bipartisan agreements in place since the mid-1970s, intended to boost disposable income with programs like the Earned Income Tax Cr. Location 2869
If a rich person and a poor person both buy a gallon of milk in Tennessee, for instance (which still levies sales taxes even on necessities like food), or clothes for their kids to start the school year, the taxes levied on these items will be the same as a share of the purchase price, but as a share of both shoppers’ incomes, the tax bite will be more onerous to the lower-income shopper. Over the course of a year, taxes such as this add up to a substantial burden at the bottom of the economic pyramid, while amounting to only a very small burden for those at the top. In some states, the disproportionate burden for the working class and poor is especially crushing relative to that for the rich. In Washington State the poorest fifth of residents pay about seventeen percent of their annual income in state and local taxes: seven times the percentage paid by the wealthiest one percent, at only 2.4 percent of income. In Florida, the poorest residents pay 6.8 times as much as the richest, percentage-wise (12.9 percent as opposed to 1.9); in Texas, the ratio is more than four to one. Location 2883
Overall, there is not much difference between the tax burdens on the wealthy as opposed to the middle and working class, when all taxes (federal, state and local) are considered. Whereas the rich would have us believe they are carrying a disproportionate amount of the tax load, the data says something else altogether. The richest one percent of Americans pay twenty-four percent of all taxes, but they also earn twenty-two percent of all national income. The next richest four percent of Americans pay fifteen percent of all taxes, but they also earn fourteen percent of all income. In all, the top tenth of earners pay nearly half of all taxes, which may seem extreme, but they also bring in forty-six percent of all national income. Meanwhile, the middle fifth of income earners pays only ten percent of all taxes, which may seem as if they were not paying their fair share, but they only receive eleven percent of all income. So too, the poorest fifth of Americans contribute only two percent of all taxes paid in the country—a seemingly inadequate percentage—but this fifth only receives about three percent of all income. Location 2892
In terms of relative tax rates, the claims of an unfair burden on the rich also fall short. The top one percent, who had average incomes of $1.5 million in 2013, paid about thirty-three percent of that in overall taxes at all levels. But those with average incomes of only $75,000 (who found themselves in the upper-middle-class fifth of all earners) paid an almost equivalent rate of thirty percent; and the middle fifth of earners, with average incomes of only $45,500, paid about twenty-seven percent of their incomes in taxes. Even those in the lower middle class, with annual incomes averaging only around $28,000 per year, paid twenty-three percent of their incomes in taxes—less than the rate for the rich but not dramatically so. And surely twenty-three percent for someone making $28,000 is a much larger burden, in real terms, than a rate of thirty-three percent on someone who makes $1.3 million. Although the poorest fifth of Americans (whose annual incomes amount to only about $14,000 on average) have a much lower tax burden than others—since they have been removed from federal income taxes by the EITC and other income exemptions intended to reduce reliance on government programs—even they pay about nineteen percent of their paltry incomes in overall taxes. This is hardly evidence of freeloading, even by the poorest fifth of Americans, let alone by the forty-seven percent about whom Romney seemed so judgmental. Location 2900
But how anyone could believe that only the poor rely on government, especially in the wake of the government bailout of the banking industry and several American corporations, is beyond comprehension by the rational mind. The overall value of the various government-backed initiatives on behalf of industry since the economic meltdown includes not just the more than $800 billion disbursed to financial institutions by the Treasury Department under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), but also hundreds of billions in additional loans to banks to improve their ability to start lending again. Location 2914
But it’s not just the bank bailouts that demonstrate how dependent the rich are on taxpayer dollars, suckled from the very government they despise. From 2000 to 2012, not even including the bailouts, some of the world’s wealthiest companies received $21.3 billion in direct government subsidies—about $200 million, on average, for each of the companies in the Fortune 100—in the form of subsidized loans, “technology development” grants and subsidized insurance, all of which use taxpayers’ money to reduce operating costs and increase profits for corporate executives.263 Overall, well over $100 billion in direct government subsidies have been handed out to businesses in recent years, the vast majority of it to huge corporations. Among the biggest recipients of government subsidies ranging from special financing deals to tax holidays to subsidized promotion of goods abroad, are Boeing, Dow Chemical, General Motors, Walmart, General Electric and FedEx. Most telling, even the current darlings of the right wing, the Koch brothers, have received substantial assistance from the government, to the tune of $88 million. Location 2943
And as discussed earlier, the preferential treatment of capital gains income—a government program that favors the income earned by the wealthy over the income earned by average Americans—provides a huge windfall to the rich, saving those who make over $1 million per year about $131,000 in taxes, as opposed to the EITC for poor and working-class families, which provides about $2,200 in relief to them. Location 2960
Note: Bitch about the poors tax return, the rich get a colossal one.
Or consider the common practice of state and local tax abatements and special “economic development awards” granted to corporations so as to lure them to particular Location s, ostensibly for the purpose of creating jobs. Surely such policies suggest that corporate success owes less to hard work or talent than public policy. Although supporters of the practice insist these special financing deals are a critical economic development tool, there is much reason to doubt their faith in the matter.267 Whether hosting professional sports franchises or manufacturing plants, communities often end up giving away more in lost property tax revenue than they gain in payroll, sales taxes generated or other economic benefits.268 And even if the incentives work as advertised—much as with the bailout of the large banks—the larger philosophical point remains: can we really claim these businesses are making it on their own, or are successful due to the talent of their executives, when they have to procure sweetheart deals from the taxpayers in order to produce such results? Wouldn’t capitalist theory suggest that for an investment to be efficient and worthwhile, it should pay for itself in the market, without government giveaways? Indeed, don’t such giveaways by definition suggest the inefficiency and thus market-illegitimacy of such investments? That some of the biggest recipients of these handouts are indeed among the nation’s most profitable companies makes the practice all the more suspect. Perhaps if tax abatements were being given to small mom-and-pop businesses we could see their utility—after all, firms like that might have a hard time competing against larger companies (like big box retailers, for instance)—but those are not the companies reaping the rewards, by and large. Although large corporations have received only ten percent of all announced subsidy awards at the state and local level, these firms have pocketed at least seventy-five percent of the actual dollars given away by these efforts—an amount equal to about $110 billion in all. Among the largest recipients of such corporate welfare are Boeing (with over $13 billion in subsidies), Intel (with nearly $4 billion), GM and Ford (with $6 billion between them), Nike (with over $2 billion) and Dow Chemical (with $1.4 billion). Other brands often cred with success due to the genius and innovation of their corporate leadership have also been given significant handouts: Google has received over $600 million in state and local subsidies, FedEx and Apple have procured about $500 million each, and Amazon.com and Samsung have both benefitted from over $300 million in subsidies. Location 2964
Note: While a large passage, it could be fundamental. Companies ane the rich CEOs arent doing it all on their own. Through preferential tax treatment and subsidies, they are receiving aid outside of market value. Chris says its not your money. The hell it isnt.
Or consider the pharmaceutical industry. When drug companies develop new drugs, they often do so only after taking advantage of government-sponsored university research. The companies then market their branded products, for which they can charge exorbitant prices, in large part because of the government-granted patent monopolies that prevent generic drugs from competing with them for a number of years. As just one example, consider the recent case of the hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi, manufactured and sold by Gilead Sciences. Gilead’s price schedule for a standard twelve-week treatment course of Sovaldi is $84,000, or $1000 per pill, even though the actual cost of production for the entire twelve-week treatment is between $68 and $136, or somewhere between eighty cents and $1.60 per pill. In other words, the price markup is on the order of one thousand to one. Since few individuals can afford the expense of such drugs, one might wonder how the company can get away with charging so much. But the answer to such a question is easy: private insurance and public insurance operated by the government will pick up the tab, thereby inflating the costs of health care for everyone. In just one year, Sovaldi and a companion drug raked in $12.4 billion for Gilead. And while pharmaceuticals are quick to defend these kinds of profits by claiming that the cost of developing drugs is massive, thereby requiring such prices to recoup corporate research and development costs, in the case of Sovaldi, as with so many other drugs, the argument falls flat. Turns out, the professor who developed the drug was working under government grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a disproportionate amount of the costs of research were borne by public dollars. Gilead’s own contribution to the drug’s R&D was likely no more than $300 million. Though hardly chump change, this amount was earned back by the company after just a few weeks of Sovaldi sales. Location 3018
Note: Corperate welfare and welfare for the rich
Or what about the nation’s various energy companies? Among the various forms of corporate welfare, which far and away dwarf most programs serving the needs of low-income and poor Americans, consider subsidies for the oil, gas and coal industries. Each year, a combination of special tax breaks, loan guarantees and direct subsidies for energy research and development cost taxpayers between $49 billion and $100 billion.277 Even if one accepts the economic validity of such subsidies, the mere fact of their existence suggests that the companies and industries benefiting from such government largesse owe their success in large measure to the state and not merely to the genius of their executives, let alone the “magic of the marketplace.” Location 3032
Drilling down a bit more specifically, consider Wall Street traders. Far from making their fortunes due to their own skills, such folks are able to make hundreds of millions of dollars more than what they otherwise would, not because they’re working harder, but simply by utilizing lightning-quick computers and software programs to which only they have access. These systems allow them to see trades that are in the process of being made—perhaps by individuals doing their own investing, or simply by investors who don’t have such computers. Before the trade can go through, the high-speed traders can buy the same stock that’s about to be purchased by the regular investor, and then sell it to that initial investor for a few pennies more than they were going to otherwise pay for it, all before the original trade is final. Although the practice has little discernible impact on the small investor, who likely won’t notice the tiny markup, the practice, done millions of times a day, rakes in mega-profits for those engaged in it.293 They are not producing anything of value. They are not making the companies whose stock is purchased worth more, allowing them to create jobs. They are simply skimming money off the top with a practice that is essentially the high-tech equivalent of mind reading or card counting in Vegas, only far more foolproof than either of those. It has nothing to do with merit or skill. Location 3121
Note: Perfect example of money made through basically deception, luck, trickery, or cheating. Not skill, nor trading value, nor creating jobs, nor making anyone else better off.
Likewise, the lack of a sales tax on financial transactions, despite sales taxes on virtually all other consumer purchases, amounts to a form of preferential government treatment of one type of market activity, and in this case, one most likely to further profit the already wealthy. When Americans have to pay sales tax on baby formula and fresh produce worth a few dollars but not on stock purchases worth trillions, it seems obvious that certain types of market activity are being favored over others, to the benefit of the wealthy. Location 3283
Note: Good point
Even those upper-income individuals unrelated to the banking industry reap substantial benefits from government. Every year, just one preferential tax policy—the home mortgage interest deduction—costs the government over $100 billion in revenue that would otherwise have been collected. This kind of policy, known as a tax expenditure, is every bit as much a government program as direct housing subsidies for Americans in need. It is no different from writing checks to homeowners to help pay their mortgages, because not collecting taxes that would otherwise be owed deprives the government of money in the same way as collecting it through taxes and then turning around and giving it back out again. And this benefit, which costs more than twice the amount spent annually on low-income housing programs, disproportionately benefits wealthier Americans, because the value of the deduction increases percentage-wise, depending on one’s tax bracket. Also, of course, since there is no similar deduction or tax cr for renters, such a policy by definition subsidizes more affluent homeowners but not less-well-off families that rent. Location 3286
Note: And it just keeps adding up. Withholding taxes from the wealthy is mathematically the same as collecting them and spending them, the public coffers see the same thing, less money in the public treasury. One just goes to help people in need and the other just winds up on the aggregate, with more money in the pockets of the wealthy or well off.
Is that benefit sizable enough to encourage them to purchase a home rather than rent? Not likely. In other words, the mortgage-interest deduction is mostly a tax giveaway to upper-middle-income and affluent homeowners—and for all those who reap the benefits (my family included, thank you very much), it amounts to a government program that puts more money in our pockets. Location 3301
The facts are all too clear: rather than talent determining income or wealth, it is a combination of luck, connections, government assistance and public policy like financial deregulation which ultimately make the difference. And let’s not forget making money the old-fashioned way: inheriting it. No matter how much we may like to believe that dynastic wealth is a feature of life only in other nations, inherited wealth continues to skew the class structure in the United States as well. Before the economic meltdown, estimates suggested that from 1998 until 2017, about $7 trillion in assets were in the process of being handed down via inheritance. Location 3305
Most important, perhaps, is the simple reality that the rich almost always depend on squeezing the working class for whatever fortunes they manage to build. The idea that the poor and working class need the wealthy, rather than the other way around—though a common perception, it appears—couldn’t be more backwards. Without workers, whom they pay less than the value of the work performed, no capitalist could ever become successful. It is only by paying workers less than the value of what they do for you that you are able to make a profit. It seems axiomatic that if you do a job for me that I could not and would not do for myself, and which enriches me to the tune of $100, but I only pay you $70 for your effort, I have taken advantage of you. To that argument the defender of capitalism would reply that without the capitalist to offer the job, the worker would have made nothing. But this equation continues to miss the obvious: without prior workers, there would have been no capitalist. The wealth held by the capitalist came from somewhere, and in almost no instance did it come from their own direct labor; rather, it came from someone else’s labor—either people the capitalist hired, or those his predecessor hired; or it came from state-sanctioned violence and the forcible expropriation of land. The railroad tycoons did not lay their own track and dig their own tunnels, not even for one day, let alone long enough to save up the money with which they were able to hire all those other folks to continue the effort. They inherited their companies or knew the right people and had the power of the state at their disposal to make their profits possible. To give thanks to the capitalist for the job offer he is able to make, without acknowledging the complete reliance upon labor that made the capitalist possible, and without which he or she could not exist, is to invert the cause-and-effect relationship between work and wealth. It was something that Abraham Lincoln understood quite clearly, however much his words might appear radical by comparison to today’s political boilerplate: Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.315 In short, the rich didn’t build their fortunes: the labor of others who were underpaid for their trouble did. Capitalists, it turns out, may be the most dependent people on the planet. Location 3318
Note: This, while not necessarily something utterly unknown, is absolutely wonderfully presented here. Does it attack business owners, the wealthy, and capitalists? No, but it certainly reminds everyone that the relationship is not near as one sided and laudable on behalf of the capitalists as they would like us to believe. “They “give” you a job.” and “You never got a job from a poor person.” These framings suggest we should be grateful for the oppurtunity to allow someone with more to exploit us. No. Obviously, if the capitalist was not able to profit off of the labor of the worker, he would not have hired him nor started the business. You HAVE to be getting more out of your employees than they are producing. This reminds us that meritocracy and the idea that you are paid for what you produce is a myth. Steve Jobs once told an enginner asking why Apple’s salaries are less than Googles “Why don’t you ask your manager why you aren’t worth more.” Worth is dependent on far more than productivity. Worth is a manifestation of knowledge of what other companies are paying. You might agree to less if you dont’ know they are getting paid more elsewhere. You might reply “Because he might be unaware that these talents are paid higher elsewhere.” You might reply “I’m obviously worth more than what I am being paid or you wouldn’t’ be a billionaire.” These little shots remind us that you produce more than you get. And perhaps that’s okay, because without this incentive we wouldn’t have industry. But don’t for a moment start this shit that you are doing us some god damned favor. We produce more than we get, or profit couldn’t exist. So there is always some sense of exploitation – and while you of course “agree” to work there, agreement comes from a a menu of available choices.
Not only are talent and hard work inadequate to explain the inflated incomes of the super-rich; so too, their value systems and personal integrity fail to justify their positions. Indeed, while the wealthy and their conservative media megaphones spend time and energy bashing the so-called “culture of poverty” and suggesting that it is the poor and unemployed whose values are dysfunctional, pathological and destructive, the reality is almost entirely the opposite of that charge. If anything, it is the culture and values of the affluent that are the most dysfunctional and destructive to the social good. Consider, for instance, the value system of executives at one of America’s largest corporations—General Motors. Recently it was revealed that GM had made the conscious decision not to replace faulty ignition switches on certain of their cars, even though they knew that the switches could turn off unintentionally, thereby disabling power steering, airbags and power brakes and leading to dangerous and potentially deadly accidents. Location 3338
Note: So no longer do you get to taut your superior “Morality” to the poor. You exist in a cuture where profit literally is seen as more valuable than human life, so you get a free pass if you kill people if you make money on it. While sloth and laziness are seen as the failings of the poor, at least they can’t be accused of willful ignorance and inaction leading directly to people dying using their products. At worst, a poor person will sleep his day away and leave everyone else alone. A wealthy will kill someone trusting his product sold on open markets because it’s just too “expensive” to recall your own god damned mistake. Don’t talk to the poor about their “ethics.”
When it comes to the defective value systems of the nation’s wealthy economic minority, there are few better examples than that provided by the investment bank Goldman Sachs. The firm, which received more in bailout funds and government subsidies than any other investment bank, used millions in taxpayer money to pay top executives, even as the bank’s actions had helped bring the economy to the brink of utter collapse. From 2009 to 2011, after receiving bailout funds from the government, Goldman Sachs paid its senior officials nearly $50 billion in bonuses. And this they did despite a history of unethical, destructive activity responsible for the suffering and even death of millions, through the deliberate manipulation of food prices. Location 3371
Note: And there falls several Conservative arguments all at once, the argument that the amount of money you have is what you have provided for society, that rich people always provide value and create jobs, that your tax dollars are going to the lazy poor when in fact they are going to the wealthiest, that CEOs are paid what they are worth when in reality it had nothing to do with market performance that garnered them their wealthy, but actively damaging the economy, crashing their company, and receiving money from a government bailout instead of a market return.
By snapping up so many properties, big investors like Blackstone reduce the pool of moderately priced housing options for families to purchase and begin building equity. Because investment groups like Blackstone have so much cash on hand to allow them to buy up single-family homes for rental, individuals who might be able to buy foreclosed houses at auction for a good price are inevitably outbid, and end up renting at a higher cost than what a fair mortgage would run them. The net result is fewer homeowners, less equity built up among the working class, and less affordable housing for moderate-income individuals, while wealthy investors make ten percent profits annually on each rental unit. Location 3438
Note: Meritocracy – Wealthy Earning their Money – An example of Monopoly, which is of course supposed to be a Myth in Libertarian’s world of delusion, whereby the market cannot provide competitive pressures because the competitors are bought, and an entire community is owned by one company that rises prices from lack of compitition. Will people pay it? Maybe, but it doesn’t provide more value for less money like the theory says. The owners of Blackstone make their money not by providing more value, but by eliminating competitive pressure. You get the same thing, but at a higher price. You haven’t created anythign new, just eliminated people’s choice in that area.
Ironically, one of the principal critiques of the so-called “culture of poverty” has long been that those trapped in this supposed culture have a “short-term orientation” and don’t plan for the future sufficiently; yet with groups like Blackstone, the very same short-term thinking—make money now, and lots of it, without regard for the risk that such actions might be introducing into the economy—is seen as normal, legitimate, even laudable in the eyes of the wealthy minority. Location 3450
Note: The Hypocrisy of Conservative thinking is exposed further by revealing that short term thinking and planning is an indictment levied only against the poor, but absolved when it comes to the rich.
A recent analysis of seven separate studies found that the wealthy actually behave less ethically than the poor: they are more likely to break driving laws, more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, to take valued goods from others, to lie in negotiations, to cheat so as to increase their chances of winning a prize, and to openly endorse unethical behavior to get ahead at work. According to the studies, the unethical tendencies of the upper class stem mostly from their more favorable attitudes toward greed when compared to those in lower-income groups. Location 3457
Note: So much for the argument “Greed is good.” Another Conservative bullshit argument bites the dust.
According to the evidence, top executives are fully aware of and endorse that reality. One recent survey of five hundred top executives in the U.S. and the UK found that one in four said they knew of ethical and legal wrongdoing in the workplace, and the same number agreed that success in the financial services sector may actually require conduct that is unethical or illegal. One in seven of the executives said they would commit insider trading if they believed they could get away with it, and nearly one in three said that their compensation plans created incentives to violate the law or one’s own ethical standards. Location 3561
Note: Just another example of how making money doesn’t always involve “creating value” or “a trade that makes someone else better off” or indicated achievement.
You can probably imagine the reaction if a poor person were to describe the importance of creative dishonesty so as to procure food stamp benefits or disability payments. Conservatives would point to them as proof positive of the dysfunctional and destructive values bred within the so-called underclass. But when rich white men like Jim Cramer encourage deceit as a way of life, so as to make billions of dollars, they are praised as genius investors worthy of significant tax concessions. While the nation is treated to a never-ending stream of warnings about the culture of poverty and the dysfunctional underclass pathologies of the struggling, the much more significant and destructive pathologies and inverted value systems of the rich go uninterrogated. Location 3571
sales. Interestingly, Glaxo thinks it deserves cr and money for AZT, even though researchers at the Michigan Cancer Institute and Duke University, who were working under government grant monies from the National Cancer Institute, actually discovered it. Location 3591
Note: Just another example of millions where government funded and facilitated life saving medicine that improves the quality of life of hundreds of thousands. What about that Anarchists and Libertaritards?
Rush Limbaugh, for instance, has openly derided the centerpiece of the law—the idea that insurance companies should not be allowed to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions—by calling such a requirement nothing more than “welfare” and “nonsense.”340 In other words, to leading conservatives, if you have chronic asthma, or a history of cancer, or high blood pressure, or a thyroid condition, insurers should be allowed to reject you entirely for coverage, and to give coverage to anyone in such a condition is to make them welfare recipients. This is modern fiscal conservatism in a nutshell: the right of corporations to make money and make decisions that kill people is more sacrosanct than the right of American families to survive or receive health care that might help them live healthy and productive lives. Location 3605
Note: The point of an economic system, a government, a country, a society, or really anything at all is for people to be happy, healthy, productive, and most of all alive. It’s a wonder Liberals complain about Conservatives when the policies and ideologies of the Right unapologetically lead to death. But you can’t say this, because they just cry ‘abortion’ without addressing the argument at hand. They bitch and complain about life before it’s born because anything that could lead to more sex is incomprehensibly bad to them, but as soon as something is born they couldn’t give a shit less. Let it die, it’s their own fault.
Consider the case of Kristy and Timothy Fugatt. In 2010, police in Childersberg, Alabama, ticketed them for driving with expired tags. The fine came to $296 in all, with an additional $198 for Kristy, because her license had also expired. Because they were unable to pay, they were put on probation. Their probation was overseen by a private company called Judicial Correction Services, which charges $45 per month to each probationer they handle. Once the Fugatts fell behind on their payments for the initial violations—in large part because their infant child was hospitalized with a rare brain disease, and caring for him made it difficult to hold down steady employment341 —they were charged additional fees and threatened with incarceration. In 2012, a police officer arrested them, threatened them with a Taser, and told them that their kids would be taken away and placed in state custody. They only gained release after relatives came to the jail and paid off their outstanding debt. Location 3617
Note: Good thing the “free market” only provides value, and if you make money it’s because you gave someone a good value. Fucking idiots.
Chase then further insulated itself from the cost of its actions by laying off 7,500 low-level employees, which then allowed them to offer nice raises to upper management, including a seventy-four percent raise for CEO Jamie Dimon, bringing his overall compensation package to nearly $20 million. Location 3642
Note: Good think they “create jobs” and “hire people.” When in reality, they want to keep input costs low, enrich owners and managers, and get by paying as little as possible to the people who put in the work for their company.
This idea that some companies are too big to jail, it makes some sense in the abstract. . . . If you have a company . . . that employs tens (of thousands) or maybe even 100,000 people, you may not want to criminally charge that company willy-nilly and wreck the company and cause lots of people to lose their jobs. But . . . there’s no reason you can’t proceed against individuals in those companies. . . . In the case of a company like HSBC, which admitted to laundering $850 million for a pair of Central and South American drug cartels, somebody has to go to jail in that case. If you’re going to put people in jail for having a joint in their pocket or for slinging dime bags on the corner in a city street, you cannot let people who laundered $800 million for the worst drug offenders in the world walk. . . . In that case, they paid a fine; they paid a $1.9 billion fine. And some of the executives had to defer their bonuses for a period of five years—not give them up, defer them . . . and nobody did a single day in jail in that case [but] somebody at the bottom, he’s a consumer of the illegal narcotics business, and he’s going to jail, and then you have these people who are at the very top of the illegal narcotics business, and they’re getting a complete walk. Location 3662
Note: Conservative double standard. You deserve jail and your life ruined if you smoke a plant because hey, you’re poor, but launder hundreds of millions for the worlds largest drug cartels and that’s fine because you’re rich.
Further demonstrating the way that valorization of the rich and the business class skews the dispensation of justice in America, consider the epidemic problem of wage theft and the nation’s pathetic response to it. Wage theft refers to a number of practices that result in business owners keeping money for themselves that has been earned by their employees. Examples include not paying for overtime work, paying less than minimum wage, cheating workers out of tips, or paying workers less than the prevailing wage required on union-negotiated contracts. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft of this sort costs workers billions of dollars each year—potentially as much as $50 billion annually—and amounts to transferring money from the hands of employees to the hands of business owners, thereby furthering income inequality. Considering that most wage theft affects low-wage employees who already struggle financially, siphoning off even small amounts from individual workers not only adds up to a huge windfall for bosses, but also can seriously impair the ability of these workers to support themselves and their families. Location 3694
Note: Another way the rich get rich off the backs of the poor. But i thought that didn’t happen assholes?
Clearly, when modern-day Scrooges ask, “Are there no workhouses? No prisons?” they are only inquiring as to their availability for the poor and struggling. Location 3737
Not only is the economic picture dim for the vast majority of the American people, but sadly the way that we are being encouraged to view those who are struggling is also increasingly negative. Relentlessly hostile rhetoric from talk show hosts and reactionary pundits poisons the minds of millions, encouraging contempt for those Americans who have become poor, underemployed or underpaid. That rhetoric serves to rationalize inequality, to justify harsh public policies that weaken the safety net for millions who need it, and to legitimize policies that further aggrandize the wealthy minority. Location 3754
Note: Good way to articulate that we live in a society the encourages hate and denigration toward the least well off.
And all of this inequality is, simply put, bad for us; not just for those at the bottom of the economic ladder, for whom it obviously isn’t working, but for American society as a whole. The evidence is rather overwhelming: on virtually any measure of social well-being that one might choose to examine, countries that are more unequal in their distribution of income rank lower than countries that are more egalitarian. On measures of health (life expectancy, infant mortality, drug use); on measures of social cohesion (“trust in others,” the status of women, homicide rates); and on measures of educational accomplishment, more equitable societies are far more successful. On virtually all of these measures the United States looks awful by comparison to most every other industrialized nation on the planet. Location 3759
When progressives and those on the left compare the United States with other nations, we take a far more sober assessment of our national position, and we often stand aghast at how far behind America seems to be when it comes to things like reducing child poverty, guaranteeing health care for our people, or providing one or another safety net program for persons in need. Noticing how much stronger are those safety-nets in most every industrialized nation with which the United States likes to compare itself, we routinely pose the question: What is it about America that makes us such an outlier among modern so-called democracies when it comes to these matters? Why is our sense of solidarity with one another so neglected and incomplete by comparison? Why do American families have fewer protections than those in other “rich” countries? Location 3809
Note: A good articulation of the difference between conservative and progressive ideologies. How we take a realistic, sobering look at our position in the world, as opposed to one filled with delusions of granduer, launguage of Rah Rah, and cocksure, overly ambitious pride. And when you think about the only, the only single thing Conservatives and Libertarians can ding liberals on…the only thing, its some form of the argument of “stealing from the rich to give to tbe poor.” They have nothing else. Nothing exists outside of that frame. Redistribution. Thats it. Higher taxes for social programs, public goods, regulation (hurts the business owners bottom line to help lower earning workers) assistance programs, minimum wage (less money for the wealthy and more for the earners), deficit spending (all seen as entitlement spending for low and middle class, the rich dont need it) social security (money stolen from your check, to benefit the middle and lower class, rich dont need it) medicaid, medicare, everything. When you realize this, you point out we have the weakest safety net in the developed world, our “entitlements” are basically less than anyone’s, and we correspond with very low ranks in almost all ways in which one wants to lead in, and you get the argument that they really have nothing to bitch about. We are a low tax high growth nation, with less of your money “going to the poor” than just about any nation. So effectively, Conservatives exist only to bitch about one thing: that the poor aren’t getting absolutely nothing, and their only go is that the poor have nothing.
Normally, when that question is asked, at least in my experience, there are two answers that typically come back in reply. The first is that the influence of the conservative Protestant colonists early on in the American experiment set the tone for the kind of society that the United States was to become. A zealous commitment to the so-called Protestant work ethic and the inherently individualistic nature of the colonial enterprise is to blame. Having seen themselves as carving out a society from nothing—an inherently racist notion, of course, as there was surely something here before white people arrived from Europe—the ideology of early Americanism was directed toward self-reliance and to eschew government intervention in matters of economics and social welfare. The second explanation commonly offered is that, unlike most nations of Europe, in the United States we don’t have the same history of a strong labor movement—no labor party, for instance, and never the kind of union strength typical in the rest of the industrialized world. As such, there has been less pressure on people with capital to share the wealth, so to speak, and less pressure on politicians to create policies that would empower workers and low-income individuals and families. Location 3816
Note: Good reasons why we think of ourselves as “rugged individualists” along with the rebuttle to the idea, articulated beautifully by Paul Harvey, which sounded scary until you realize the truth. We didnt do it on our own. We wiped away an already existing population thst had already begun development, and built a profound amount of our early production on slave labor.
If you believe that the fundamental organizing principle of the world is competition (or if the fundamental organizing principle of your society is competition) you will perceive the world as full of ruthless competitors, all of whom will victimize you if they get the chance. The world as you perceive it will begin to devolve into consisting entirely or almost entirely of victims and perpetrators; those who do, and those who get done to; the fuckers, and the fucked. Your society will devolve—not in perception but in all truth—into these roles you have projected onto the world at large. You will begin to believe that everyone is out to get you. And why not? After all, you are certainly out to get them. Location 3923
Note: Good treatise on someone like Chris’s horseshit analogy that we all begin at a starting line for a race. A race implies winners, losers, combatants, a zero sum state of affairs. He tells us the Economy is Zero sum in one breath and finishes it with the metaphor of a race.
But competition is no more natural to human existence and success than cooperation and collaboration. Yet the motif of most reality TV is about the former and not the latter: it plays to one part of the national and even human experience while largely neglecting the other. Location 3978
Though we have come to expect such rhetoric and to consider it almost obligatory within our political system, the articulation of such uncritical praise and confidence carries a cost. When our leaders on both sides of the dominant political aisle reinforce the notion of the United States as an land of unfettered opportunity, it makes seeing the existence of systemic barriers to opportunity more difficult. Location 4014
But an ideology is a philosophical prism through which one tries to make sense of the world as it is; looked at that way, meritocracy becomes a straitjacket—an almost scriptural explanation for everything, nearly as concrete and powerful as Biblical injunctions themselves. Armed with the ideology of freedom and meritocracy, a nation becomes less self-reflective. Such a nation is not aspiring to anything, because it already is an exceptional place with exceptional people; it needn’t change, evolve or grow in any real sense; it is not an infant but a fully realized and actualized adult—the greatest nation in the history of the world. Location 4046
Note: No room left for improvement and change, an insult to all who work and struggle.
Common and derogatory critiques of the poor. (Articulation – a good way to describe the attitude toward the poor) Location 4070
Although the rich no doubt viewed the unemployed and poor as moral slackers who deserved their plight—and surely saw themselves as superior in intellect, work ethic and character—few among the masses would have believed either of those things to be true. Location 4244
Note: Just a quick way to describe how the moralizing poor shaming Conservatives tend to view themselves and poverty.
Thanks to the widespread pain experienced by millions during the Depression, and the resulting recognition that state intervention was critical in making real the American dream, government job programs were overwhelmingly popular. Likewise, housing programs initiated by the government, like those of the Federal Housing Administration and the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC)—which provided low-interest loans to millions of families who otherwise could never have qualified for a mortgage—were well received. Few voices among the masses could have been heard critiquing such efforts as “big government” intrusions into the magic of the free market. The masses had gotten a dose of what the free market had to offer, and most of them were none too impressed. Location 4252
Here’s the thing: according to the Centers for Disease Control, the birth rate for unmarried black women fell by nearly a third between 1970 and 2010, from 95.5 births per 1,000 unmarried black women at the beginning of that period to only 65.3 births per 1,000 such women by the end of the period. Among black teenagers between fifteen and nineteen years of age (almost all of whom are unmarried), birth rates have plummeted since 1991, from 118.2 births for every 1,000 such girls to only 51.5 births per 1,000 such girls in 2010.47 So just twenty years ago, black teens were having 2.3 times more children per capita than they are today. From 1970 to 2009, black teens between the ages of fifteen and nineteen cut their birth rates by sixty percent, while those between eighteen and nineteen reduced theirs by a third.48 As a result of this apparently positive trend—but one that conservatives ignore—the black teen birth rate is at an all-time low. In other words, and whether we look at teens or adults, unmarried black women are already doing exactly what conservatives would have them do: namely, having fewer children. This means that if we are to view out-of-wedlock childbearing as evidence of cultural pathology, black culture must be getting healthier and less pathological, rather than more so. Location 4413
Note: A very narrow point that normally wouldn’t require highlighting, we include it because on occasion it can be useful. The US is high on the list of child poverty. This is because of rising inequality and inadequate job opportunities for the lower class and a weak safety net. But, as Chris once addressed, no, it’s because poor people have so many kids. “Their own fault” of course. This attacks that one head on.
How many of us, after all, would be where we are today were it not for loans for college, underwritten by the government? If not for low-interest housing loans created by the government under the FHA program, which may have financed our parents’ or grandparent’s homes if not our own? Where would so many be if not for the G.I. Bill, or for rural electrification programs? If not for the mortgage interest deduction: a government tax subsidy that disproportionately benefits upper-middle-class families? If not for Medicare, which might be paying our health care bills, or those of an elderly relative, or Social Security or disability benefits? If not for the government-sponsored research that was critical to the creation of the Internet? If not for Small Business Administration loans, or the interstate highway program, which reduced the cost of getting goods to market for millions of American businesses? Although we sometimes overlook the ways we have benefited from government programs, we all have, in some way. Anyone who runs a business and has employees who keep that business successful owes a debt to the public school teachers who helped educate most all of those workers, and helped to make them some of the most productive workers in the world. Any of us who attended one of those public schools wouldn’t be where we are today but for the teachers who inspired us, all of them paid from the public purse. Location 4574
Currently, the problem is that most Americans who have benefited from government programs (often several of them) don’t see it, and unless those who do are willing to openly claim their status as beneficiaries, it may remain hard for this consciousness to spread. According to a poll in 2008, fifty-seven percent of Americans say they have never used a government social program. But when asked specifically if they had received benefits from Social Security, or ever received unemployment benefits, had student loans or taken a mortgage-interest deduction, nearly nine in ten of those who said they had not received government assistance actually had; indeed, the typical respondent in the survey had benefited from four different government programs.62 Because government programs for those who aren’t poor are more sublimated—or as Cornell government professor Suzanne Mettler calls them, “submerged”—and do not require recipients to regularly interact with government officials or bureaucrats (the way the poor do, when they interact with case workers, for instance), it is easy for those who reap the largesse of such efforts to remain in denial about the aid they receive. Location 4594
Note: Useful for people like Jon and Chris, who are government beneficiaries like anyone else but would of course refuse to admit it.
In a very real sense, if not for his government-sponsored jobs—and his whiteness—my grandmother doesn’t have that house, which is to say that we don’t get that loan, I don’t go to Tulane, and I don’t meet the two men who would give me that first job; all of which ultimately means I’m not likely doing what I’m doing today, you’re not reading this book, and my children aren’t in the position they’re in either. This is how non-merit factors such as race or government-provided opportunities can keep on giving, even generations later, and even if that assistance hasn’t made possible a huge inheritance. Just a small head start can snowball, so that children who never even knew their great-grandfather are today reaping the benefits of his race, employment and class status some thirty-five years after his passing. Location 4650
Note: Just a reminder of the butterfly effect, the long series of variables that lead to things being possible due to circumstances outside of your control that you cannot take cr for. And that’s fine, you deserve the rewards of what you work for. But it’s a reminder not to denigrate everyone else who has less, because they may have been the recipients of circumstances outside of their control wherein had things been different, they could very well have succeeded.
This is a vitally important point to understand: even if someone really did “make it on their own,” without help from anyone else—an absurdity, but one we can indulge for the sake of the point I wish to make—by the time they pass any of the benefits of those accomplishments down to children, we are no longer talking about something that is earned or deserved. At that point, we are talking about being able to start a race ahead of someone else for reasons owing neither to one’s own merit nor to another’s deficit. Even if meritocracy were real, it could only last for one generation before we’d have to provide boosts in opportunity for those whose prior family members had lost the previous race. After all, it would hardly be fair to attain a real equal opportunity society, and then after a generation of that, take the children of those who ended up poor in the first generation—people who had the misfortune of being born to those who were less successful—and say, “O.K., now because your parents were such losers, you’ll just to have to run faster than the kids whose parents were winners. Suck it up and good luck.” How would that be just? How would that be any different from a society based on royal lineage and pure aristocracy? It wouldn’t be different at all. By the second generation of that, and certainly the fourth or fifth or twentieth, we would have subverted meritocracy all over again, by ensuring such an unfair starting point in each new race that those who started out behind would rarely have a real chance to prove their worth, while those who started out ahead would have less and less need to even bother proving theirs. Location 4674
Note: Meritocracy – It’s not a matter of fairness. Life isn’t fair and that’s fine, we get it. It isn’t that rich kids with better opportunity should just have everything taken from them. Fine, you do well, keep it. Just shut up about how you did everything yourself, that anyone who struggles has only themselves to blame, and be done with this bullshit metaphor how we all start the race from the same starting line. No, we don’t. And don’t start the “But I did it” shit. It’s a self-centered arrogant argument that tells you absolutely nothing about the other person’s circumstances. It’s not about making the world fairer or giving everyone a trophy. It’s insuring that everyone has a solid start to prove their worth. It isn’t saying everyone gets to finish the race, but that everyone does get to start it. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. All we are doing is providing that. To denigrate that is to denigrate one of America’s most cherished Values – opportunity. It isn’t taking any freedom from you. Having more opportunity doesn’t limit anything you can do. It expands it.
For those on the right who insist they believe in “equal opportunity” but not “equal results” take note: If results are profoundly unequal, they subvert the prospects for equal opportunity in the next competition. At least the NFL draft gives the first-round draft pick to the team with the worst record the previous year, in the hopes that perhaps the opportunity to win can be made more equal. But in the larger culture we ignore the logic of such a practice, opting instead for a process that favors the favored and provides advantages to the advantaged, while thinking nothing of the injustice of such a thing. The way we operate the society is exactly the opposite of the way in which the NFL draft functions. In the larger society we essentially give the economic equivalent of the Super Bowl champions the first-round pick, allowing them to build on their pre-existing advantage and continue to beat the economic losers senseless year after year, running up the financial scoreboard into a perpetual blowout. Location 4686
In other words, I owe every good thing that has happened in my life to that asshole who cut me from the baseball team. So to coach Cantrell, let me now offer a sincere thank you! I seriously couldn’t have done it without you. Location 4728
Note: This passage in and of itself is of no use. However, the previous couple pages were too much to highlight, but are worth revisiting. They tell the story of his life, and how it unfolded how it did through circumstances of which he was not the author. A butterfly effect he had no choice of or rather, had no idea how would play out. He didn’t “earn” the children, career, and wife he now has. He certainly made decisions that led to it being possible, but had he not been cut form the baseball team, everything would have unfolded entirely differently. It doesn’t tell us everyone low on money just deserves to be given half the wealth of the rich people. But it reminds us once again, even if mostly from a philosophical standpoint, that while you make decisions at each fork, so much of what you enjoy in life is a result of variables you played no part in. A good rebuttal would be that indeed yes, you can’t do it all, but life is about taking advantage of opportunity that is available, wherever it lies. That he had the balls to ask his wife out, choose the path he found when it was presented and so forth. But, ultimately, a lot of what we become was the result of luck. It could have been different.
The year of one’s birth can also make a difference. If the economy undergoes a major transformation, like the industrial revolution or the computer revolution, and you’re a few years too young to get in on the ground floor of the emerging industries, or a little too old and already doing something else, you’re out of luck. Of the seventy-five wealthiest people in the history of the world—using today’s dollar equivalent amount to gauge their wealth relative to the present—fourteen were Americans born between 1831 and 1840. What are the odds of such a thing? For one-fifth of the wealthiest people in the history of the world to have come from one country and essentially one decade, must mean something. What it means, of course, is rather apparent if we think about it for a few seconds: simply put, they came of age right at the time when the industrial revolution was hitting its stride, and these men made their fortunes with companies and industries that were instrumental to that revolution. Location 4749
Note: This passage and the following ones examine the industrial revolution, silicon valley, and being born at just the right time to have been in the goldilocks zone for entering the technilogical revolution. Born at the right time, or wrong time, entering the job market at the height of a recession, can have compound effects that linger on for an entire lifetime that were no fault of your own. Maybe someone graduated when interest rates were very low and was at a prime time to buy a house, where someone else was entering this time during the crash, or high rates, or when bank loans had seized up. They wouldn’t have been able to secure the loan nessesary to get that house, which they in turn wouldn’t have flipped into the next one, and so forth 3 or 4 times which results in far less net worth at 60. It wasn’t hard work, nor risk, nor gumption. Timing and luck are all around. And that’s fine. You get to keep and enjoy what you have. If only Republican morons would be happy with that. But no. They aren’t. They are only happy when the derogate, dinigrate, and malign others. They are only happy when they can take as much from others as possible.
In other words, Bill Gates was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of computing opportunities that others, every bit as capable and hard-working as he, simply did not have. Not only would he have missed out on these opportunities had he remained in the public schools where he spent the first six years, but even had he gone to a different prep school he would have missed out. Location 4782
None of this is to detract from the efforts or talents of those who have been successful—whether myself, or someone like Bill Gates, or a disproportionate number of American Jews, including, for that matter, one of my own great-grandfathers. It is simply to say that effort and talent, unless mixed with opportunity, access and good timing, combined with a little dumb luck, often amounts to very little. Location 4808
My family . . . started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around. Location 4822
No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when. Location 4830
Note: Inequality – The eternal denied problem by the right. Otherwise known as cocksuckers and pieces of god damned garbage.
The year of one’s birth can also make a difference. If the economy undergoes a major transformation, like the industrial revolution or the computer revolution, and you’re a few years too young to get in on the ground floor of the emerging industries, or a little too old and already doing something else, you’re out of luck. Of the seventy-five wealthiest people in the history of the world—using today’s dollar equivalent amount to gauge their wealth relative to the present—fourteen were Americans born between 1831 and 1840. What are the odds of such a thing? For one-fifth of the wealthiest people in the history of the world to have come from one country and essentially one decade, must mean something. What it means, of course, is rather apparent if we think about it for a few seconds: simply put, they came of age right at the time when the industrial revolution was hitting its stride, and these men made their fortunes with companies and industries that were instrumental to that revolution.Read more at location 4749
Note: This passage and the following ones examine the industrial revolution, silicon valley, and being born at just the right time to have been in the goldilocks zone for entering the technological revolution. Born at the right time, or wrong time, entering the job market at the height of a recession, can have compound effects that linger on for an entire lifetime that were no fault of your own. Maybe someone graduated when interest rates were very low and was at a prime time to buy a house, where someone else was entering this time during the crash, or high rates, or when bank loans had seized up. They wouldn’t have been able to secure the loan nessesary to get that house, which they in turn wouldn’t have flipped into the next one, and so forth 3 or 4 times which results in far less net worth at 60. It wasn’t hard work, nor risk, nor gumption. Timing and luck are all around. And that’s fine. You get to keep and enjoy what you have. If only Republican morons would be happy with that. But no. They aren’t. They are only happy when the derogate, dinigrate, and malign others. They are only happy when they can take as much from others as possible.
In other words, Bill Gates was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of computing opportunities that others, every bit as capable and hard-working as he, simply did not have. Not only would he have missed out on these opportunities had he remained in the public schools where he spent the first six years, but even had he gone to a different prep school he would have missed out. Read more at location 4782
None of this is to detract from the efforts or talents of those who have been successful—whether myself, or someone like Bill Gates, or a disproportionate number of American Jews, including, for that matter, one of my own great-grandfathers. It is simply to say that effort and talent, unless mixed with opportunity, access and good timing, combined with a little dumb luck, often amounts to very little.Read more at location 4808
My family . . . started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.Read more at location 4822
No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.Read more at location 4830
Note: Inequality – The eternal denied problem by the right. Otherwise known as cocksuckers and pieces of god damned garbage.
Yet the culture of cruelty does exactly that: it says, in effect, that one’s ability to access the basic things that one needs for survival (and certainly for the ability to exercise true human autonomy) should be based on whether or not one wins certain races in life. They should be commodities, up for grabs just like smartphones or big-screen TVs, luxury cars or vacation cruises. Such an idea flies in the face of the way we run our families, if we have them, and likely the families in which we were raised. A parent who doled out food, medicine or shelter to his or her children in this way would be brought up on charges of cruelty, endangerment and abuse. But when we do the same thing as a country, we call that the workings of a “free society” and the “magic of the marketplace.” Clearly, something is amiss when we can deem just and proper in the larger society things that we would just as quickly condemn in the familial setting.Read more at location 4909
Likewise, something is askew when we can speak of justice and liberty for all as a nation, while discussing large swaths of our nation’s people as barely worthy of human consideration. Something is dangerously upside down from a moral perspective, when policymakers can cut what meager lifelines have been provided for one sector of American citizens while seriously aiding and abetting financial excess for some of the most grotesquely rich Americans the country has ever produced.Read more at location 4916
It is one thing for a person to have a nicer stereo than someone else, or a fancier phone or car, or to take more vacations than the next person down the block, but quite another to differ markedly in our access to the necessities of life. If you have an iPhone 6 and I can only afford the old-school flip phone, life goes on; so too, if I’m driving an eleven-year-old vehicle (I was, by the way, until a recent accident), while you just bought the latest model, it’s really no big deal. But if you can get preventive health care and medicine when you’re ill and my kids can’t, because I can’t afford it, or because my state didn’t expand the programs that could make it available, then we have a problem. If my family and I are assured a roof over our heads and adequate nutrition, while you and your children are wondering where you’ll sleep tonight and whether or not there will be enough food to eat, then we have more than a problem: we have a moral crisis. In that situation, we are living in a national culture that has failed in its basic ethical obligations to treat people as equals, and we are surely betraying our national aspirations and ideals.Read more at location 4923
There can be no equal opportunity in the absence of some sense of security, and not just physical security, but the kind of security that comes from knowing that your children will eat and have health care and a place to live. Without those things assured as a matter of human right and yes, entitlement, people are really never free to be who they are capable of becoming. If you have to sweat basic matters of survival, you aren’t as likely to follow your passions, take a risk and start your own business or nonprofit group, pursue the education you’ve always wanted, or even take the time to breathe and contemplate who you are and who you want to become. If you have to worry about those basic necessities, you’ll toil away at a job you hate for years, just to put food on the table and keep the metaphorical wolf from the door, but you’ll never become the person you were meant toRead more at location 4932
But that’s the point: so long as families are worried about basic matters of survival, they aren’t really free to make choices in any true sense. The person who is poor can obviously choose not to accept a crappy job offer, but in most cases won’t, because such a choice will leave them destitute. Real choice, meaningful choice, requires a modicum of stability and security. Without those things, the ability to truly weigh options, to consider all the possibilities, and to pursue our passions is sacrificed.Read more at location 4944
This is the irony of the dominant meritocratic and competitive free-market narrative that holds such power at present. To those who worship at the altar of capitalism, government intervention in the economy stifles innovation and discourages risk-taking, entrepreneurship and determination. But imagine how much more willing to take risks a person might be, if he or she knew their failure wouldn’t mean the inability to feed or house their family? It’s easy to take risks when you’re already rich, because you have your own safety net. For poor and working-class families however, taking the same risks—quitting a low-wage job to start up that bakery they always wanted to own, or to make their own furniture, or market their own jewelry line—would be putting too much at risk. It would be too big a gamble. Not so were we to make certain things non-negotiable.Read more at location 4948
So too, the rich seem to believe that for the poor and struggling, only the prospects of continued poverty and struggle could possibly motivate them to hard work and success. If people are poor, then they must not be poor enough, on this rendering, for if they were, surely they would have gotten sufficiently motivated so as to not be poor any more. Make no mistake; this is the thinking of the sadist, akin to those who say we should make prisons as awful as possible so as to deter people from committing crime. It’s tantamount to insisting that we need to beat our children when they misbehave, as if cruelty ever motivated any of us to be better or to do better, as if cruelty did not inevitably wear off on its targets and instill in them the very same penchant for inhumanity that had previously been beaten into them or taught indirectly by the hostility of others. Just as the mistreatment of incarcerated people feeds their capacity for brutality upon release—and indeed most will one day exit the prisons within which some would prefer them brutalized—so too, the idea that we can scare needy communities into not being poor has never worked anywhere. All it has done is heap pain upon pain, exponentially adding to the net sum of brutality in the society within which the poor and the rest of us are trying to make our way. It is beneath the dignity of humanity to treat our brothers and sisters in such a fashion. It is a violation of every ethical principle, religious or secular, to which we claim some allegiance.Read more at location 4967
Let us proclaim it loudly and clearly: it is not we of the left—we who struggle for a more just and equitable nation—who hate that nation. If anything, those who hate the nation and are cynical about its people are those who throw up their hands in the face of massive inequalities and say, in effect, “Oh well, I guess that’s the best we can do.” Those who hate the country and are cynical about its people are those who insist that we are not capable of ending child poverty, not capable of ensuring health care for all our people, not capable of providing employment for all who are able to work, and not smart enough to create equitable schools and an economic system that works for everyone. What is more cynical, more hateful? To believe that we can do better or to be content at the prospects of a society in which persons of color will remain roughly twice as likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to be poor, and will enjoy one-twentieth the net worth and nine years less life expectancy than those who are white? The answers seem self-evident. It is not the left that hates the country, let alone its people; it is the right, it is the financially affluent minority who would mortgage the future of that country, its people and all of its principles for the sake of their own continued privileges and power.Read more at location 5145
I have deliberately chosen to refer to the economic “elite” as an “economic minority” throughout the book, rather than using the term elite, principally because of what each concept connotes. Too often, we use the term “elite” not merely to denote financial status, but also quality, moral value and talent (think “elite” cheer-leading squads, youth soccer teams, military units, limousine services, etc). As such, to refer to the wealthiest and most powerful one percent or 0.1 percent as “elite,” while certainly accurate financially, runs the risk of reinscribing however subtly and subconsciously this notion of deserved status, moral superiority and quality. To the extent my argument here is that their status is undeserved, and often the result of moral and ethical misconduct, it would be ironic to continue to label them in such a salutary way. On the other hand, the term “minority” has come to be seen as a word that signifies something lesser than, not merely in terms of numbers but also in terms of status and deservingness.Read more at location 5241
Note: Not all that important, just like how it is written.