Sunday, August 11. 2013
A couple some scattered links this week (got a slow start and didn't
find much, other than that Kathleen Geier should be Washington
Monthly's weekend blogger every week):
Kathleen Geier: An important new paper shows us what's driving economic
inequality -- and how we can stop it: Starts by quoting her own
earlier post today -- guess it's one of those lines worth repeating --
that Larry Summers "agreeing to investigate the causes of stagnating
wages is something akin to O.J.'s vow to 'find the real killers.'"
(The Summers post originally appeared
New York Times piece about "the walking conflict of interest that
is Larry Summers.")
Geier then moves on to the Josh Bivens/Larry Mishel paper,
The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as
Evidence of Rents in Top 1 Percent Incomes."
The authors make a strong case that the engine driving the rise in
income in the top 1 percent has been the financial sector. Among other
things, the financial sector has had both increased opportunities and
increased incentives for rent-seeking. Rent-seeking in finance has had
spillover effects to other sectors of the economy and driven up wages
in the top 1 percent of those other occupations as well. Crucially,
the authors argue that the rise in rent-driven incomes among the top
1 percent has been "the primary impediment to having growth in living
standards for low- and moderate-income households approach the growth
rate of economy-wide productivity." I'm summarizing here, but it's well
worth reading the entire article and working through the details of the
Also see Geier on
No, Walmart doesn't create jobs, and
What's different about today's conservatives?
Sean McElwee: Republicans have no clue how businesses work: Makes
a few points and could make many more, but the central point is that
the Republicans help the very rich become relatively richer, often at
the expense of the rest of the economy. The Democrats do a somewhat
better job by recognizing that more people matter than just the top
1% (not that they don't pay plenty of attention to the superrich).
There is a chart here with the number of jobs created under every
president from Obama.
The totals are even worse: Democrats created 45 million jobs, while
Republicans created only 23 million, and Republicans actually had
more time in the White House. But what's truly interesting about
this data is that even if you take the highest numbers under Bush
(in January 2008, before the recession) he still created only 3.9
million jobs. And remember, he did that after coming into office
with great economic indicators and a balanced budget. So much for
supply-side economics. On the other hand, Obama, who was dealt far
more strife, has focused more, although not entirely, on the middle
class -- and so far, this nonsense about the "Obama economy" isn't
even close to true. If job growth keeps improving like it has over
the past year (at about 2 percent), then by July of 2016, Obama
would create more than 12 million jobs over his eight years. Larry
Bartels finds in his book, Unequal Democracy, that income
growth is not only higher when a Democrat is in office, it's also
more equally distributed.
Reminds me of a Harry Truman quote that goes something like: "If
you want to live like a Republican, you have to vote Democrat." But
even with all those new jobs, it's unlikely that income, let alone
wealth, will be more equitable in 2016 than when Obama was elected
in 2008. Growing inequality is the central political problem of our
time, and Obama has hardly even talked about it -- just offered an
occasional nudge, hoping no one will notice. Indeed, no one has.
Also, a few links for further study:
Tessie Swope Castillo: Everything you know about drugs is wrong:
Interview with Carl Hart, author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's
Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About
Drugs and Society (2013, Harper).
Michael Klare: The Third Carbon Age: Or, as Tom Engelhardt put it
in his preface, "How to Fry a Planet": Klare surveys the latest gains
in fracking, accepting the industry's claims of vast new reservoirs of
gas -- more than we'll need for decades, which is kind of like forever,
at least to a corporate accountant.