August 30, 2011 archive

How Can The Wealthy Be So Greedy?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It’s a topic I’ve addressed before-

How to feel poor on $500,000 a year

Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 06:46:14 AM EDT

In Which Mr. Deling Responds to Someone Who Might Be Professor Todd Henderson

J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley

September 18, 2010

Professor Henderson’s problem is that he thinks that he ought to be able to pay off student loans, contribute to retirement savings vehicles, build equity, drive new cars, live in a big expensive house, send his children to private school, and still have plenty of cash at the end of the month for the $200 restaurant meals, the $1000 a night resort hotel rooms, and the $75,000 automobiles. And even half a million dollars a year cannot (get) you all of that.

(W)hy does he think that that is the way things should be? … (H)ere is the dirty secret: Professor Henderson thinks that that is the way things should be because he knows people for whom that is the way it is.

Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them–widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

I’ll note that Mr. Deling has respectfully redacted the name of the offending asshole, but I’m free to shout it from the roof tops.

Professor Todd Henderson of the University of Chicago Law School!

So what has changed?  Things have gotten worse of course!

"Who rules America? Breaking down the top 1%"

by Gaius Publius, Americablog

on 8/29/2011 10:55:00 AM

(T)his article breaks down the top 1% of American wealth into strata, and talks about the differences. It’s a really instructive piece, and an easy read.

The Lower Half of the Top 1%

The 99th to 99.5th percentiles largely include physicians, attorneys, upper middle management, and small business people who have done well. Everyone’s tax situation is, of course, a little different. On earned income in this group, we can figure somewhere around 25% to 30% of total pre-tax income will go to Federal, State, and Social Security taxes, leaving them with around $250k to $300k post tax. This group makes extensive use of 401-k’s, SEP-IRA’s, Defined Benefit Plans, and other retirement vehicles, which defer taxes until distribution during retirement. Typical would be yearly contributions in the $50k to $100k range, leaving our elite working group with yearly cash flows of $175k to $250k after taxes, or about $15k to $20k per month.

Until recently, most studies just broke out the top 1% as a group. Data on net worth distributions within the top 1% indicate that one enters the top 0.5% with about $1.8M, the top 0.25% with $3.1M, the top 0.10% with $5.5M and the top 0.01% with $24.4M. Wealth distribution is highly skewed towards the top 0.01%, increasing the overall average for this group. The net worth for those in the lower half of the top 1% is usually achieved after decades of education, hard work, saving and investing as a professional or small business person. While an after-tax income of $175k to $250k and net worth in the $1.2M to $1.8M range may seem like a lot of money to most Americans, it doesn’t really buy freedom from financial worry or access to the true corridors of power and money. That doesn’t become frequent until we reach the top 0.1%.

(T)he people above, the “lower half of the top 1%”, still work for a living. I would put them at the top level of the “retainer class” – wealthy, but still servants.

In Roman times, these would be the very-well-off top-level administrators and professionals, many of them ex-Greek slaves, who service the real Masters (the emperor and wealthier senatorial families) and oversee the constant flow of peasant wealth upwards, from which they get a hand-me-down share.

For the author, the key American economic super-strata are:

  • 99.0%-99.5%  –  The lower half of the top 1%
  • 99.5%-99.9%  –  Most of the upper half of the top 1%
  • The top 0.1%  –  The Big Boyz (and Girlz, but very few of those)
  • The top 0.01%  –  Where most of the real wealth is concentrated

The first sub-group has a lot of retirement anxiety, as the article makes clear; and the second has some guilt. Guess where the power lies.

I like Gaius.  I like what he writes and I understand from TheMomCat who has met him that he’s a very nice guy.  He has another piece earlier that touches on the same subject-

$2 of every $3 in income growth from 2002-2007 went to the upper 1%

by Gaius Publius, Americablog

on 8/25/2011 08:21:00 PM

Not the upper 10%; the upper 1%. (2002 is the bottom of the tech crash; 2007 is just pre-the bank crash.)

Another bad stat – In 1967, 97% of prime age men with only HS diplomas were working. Today, the number is 76%. Stunning; the middle class (the real one, not the faux-middle class we see on TV) is collapsing hard from within.

All of this comes via Don Peck and his new Atlantic article, “Can the Middle Class Be Saved?“.

Peck makes several points that regular readers will be familiar with – in particular, the notion that the super-rich (Our Betters) have not only delinked their expenses from the U.S. economy – they’re started to delink their incomes from it as well.

The run-up in wealth inequality is the big story of this generation; in my view, a world-historical event that will have a world-historical outcome if we’re not careful. This wealth will be redistributed, one way or another, in this generation or a later one.

Fascinating stuff.  I encourage you to click the links.


Shot and Bothered

On This Day In History August 30

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 30 is the 242nd day of the year (243rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 123 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He would remain on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, the great-grandson of a slave who was born in modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood  in second grade because he disliked spelling it. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law.

Marshall graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore in 1925 and from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1930. Afterward, Marshall wanted to apply to his hometown law school, the University of Maryland School of Law, but the dean told him that he would not be accepted because of the school’s segregation policy. Later, as a civil rights litigator, he successfully sued the school for this policy in the case of Murray v. Pearson. As he could not attend the University of Maryland, Marshall sought admission and was accepted at Howard University School of Law.

Marshall received his law degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1933 where he graduated first in his class.

Marshall won his very first U.S. Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227 (1940), at the age of 32. That same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP. He argued many other cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Marshall served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. His most frequent ally on the Court (indeed, the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. Thereafter, Brennan or Marshall dissented from every denial of certiorari in a capital case and from every decision upholding a sentence of death.[citation needed] In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech on the occasion of the bicentennial celebrations of the Constitution of the United States. Marshall stated,


“the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

In conclusion Marshall stated


“Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.”

He retired from the Supreme Court in 1991, and was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.

Marshall died of heart failure at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:58 p.m. on January 24, 1993 at the age of 84. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His second wife and their two sons survived him

On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?

–Fanny Brice

Art Glass 43

Late Night Karaoke

Double-dip recession is upon us

  A couple days ago I read an interesting article on the aljazeera web site titled Double-dip recession is unlikely. What made the article interesting wasn’t the source, or the claim, it was the reasoning behind the claim.

 Most post-war recessions were kicked off when car sales and house sales and new construction plummeted.

  There seems to be little risk of a substantial decline in either car sales or house sales and construction, primarily because the levels are already so low….

  Both car sales and housing construction are already so low that they don’t have much room to fall.

 What the author is claiming is “things are already so bad, it’s hard to imagine them getting worse.”

 That’s a very interesting claim, but I doubt the author of the article learned it in an economics class. It sounds more like something he heard in a bar, and seemed to make a lot of sense after a few drinks.

 That’s not to say he doesn’t have a point of sorts. It’s just that his point is that we are in a Depression.

The Hype of September…

I actually question the relevance of 911 truth now.  So many things American are so dead now.  “We” can’t heal as a nation due to this singular excuse for the cancer which followed it.  Do corporations who operate in 169 countries want us to be “a nation”.

I have a list of temps my formerly “great” defense contracting company “uses” to avoid paying benefits to.  There is some obscure secret formula which decides who among the “temps” makes it to actual real employment/ownership by this company who has had a hand in major government projects.  I can state positively that I have never worked at a place which is profanes in all areas of humanity the very spirit America was founded upon.

I see Deadeye Dick is in the lamestream news now.  The walking undead.  My time is better spent feeding the raccoons marshmellows on the back deck.  The cat is curious and wants to open the screen door so I have to get up and shut the glass slider.

It was a perfect weather post hurricane day.  Summer wanes and I should be looking forward to apple picking, fall foliage horse rides and haunted Halloween hayrides.  An ad on a top alt news site features claims of advanced age enhancing new enzymes allowing 100 years of active life.  No thanks I say to myself.  Huge feelings of empty blackness and I don’t even know why.  Hope it’s nothing big in relation to my spirit world.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Worst Persons 8.26.11

Find out why television evangelist Pat Robertson is WORSE, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is WORSER, and Arizona state Sen. Frank Antenori is the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for August 26, 2011.