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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 23, 2011

 
Sacrificial Ham

by digby

Former Vice Presidential economic adviser Jared Bernstein's new blog is very entertaining and informative. I urge you all to check it out daily.

Today he responds to a piece in the Washington Post by Robert Samuelson and adds this, which seems to me to be extremely important and something that Democrats would need to start pounding into people's minds before the next election:

[H]e doesn’t stress enough the caveat that growth, while reliably positive, is still too slow. To generate the number of jobs needed to bring the unemployment rate down more quickly, we need some GDP quarters well above the recent average of about 3%.

But most importantly, anyone thinking about the nature of this recovery needs to be very clear about this: the economic well-being of the broad middle class is not simply a function of macroeconomic growth. Such growth is, of course, necessary and welcomed. It is not sufficient.

The question is whether the growth is reaching the middle class and lower-income families. The data on where growth is ending up arrive with a lag so we can’t fully answer this question yet, but some indicators are clearly worrisome. For example, corporate profits have been doing a lot better than average wages (the former has made up most of the ground lost over the downturn; the latter are recently declining in real terms).

Now, profits often lead more broadly shared gains—that certainly was the story of the 1990s expansion, which ultimately did reach the middle class and the poor, at least for a New York minute in the latter half of the decade.

But it was demonstrably not the case in the 2000s, the first recovery on record where the typical household’s real income went nowhere despite years of GDP and productivity growth. In stark contrast to the 1990s, poverty was actually higher at the end of the 2000s expansion than at the beginning.

And as long as we’re worrying about the distribution of growth, as opposed to just its creation, let’s not make things worse by extending budget-bashing tax cuts that enrich those who already appear to have climbed out of the hole and are outpacing the rest. If one goal of the nascent economic expansion is to achieve more broadly shared prosperity than the last one, to renew the high-end Bush tax cuts, as in the Republican budget plan, is to start the race with an anvil around our necks.

There's more at the link. People need to understand that they have a personal stake in the fair distribution of taxes beyond an abstract notion of fairness. They need to know that the great growth in wealth of the super-rich is literally coming at their expense. I don't think they know that.

Certainly Rush Limbaugh's audience doesn't know it. Get a load of this exchange from a couple of months ago when I happened to come across this morning:


CALLER: I keep hearing on TV and you, "We just can't afford it, and the sacrifice is gonna have to be shared." And I've got a decent memory. I remember just a couple months ago when we couldn't have increased taxes on the most wealthy, the people that have made more money over the last decade, over the last 40 years, really --

RUSH: Yeah, yeah.

CALLER: -- than anyone else in America.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: Well, wages have, you know, kinda remained flat. What I want to know is when Andrea Mitchell, Mrs. Alan Greenspan, and when Rush Limbaugh say we need to share the sacrifice, what kind of sacrifices are you guys making? I mean, really?

RUSH: What do you mean by you guys?

CALLER: Well, like I said, you, Andrea Mitchell, all the rest of the rich folk in the media that love to get up on TV and radio and talk about how the sacrifice must be --

RUSH: I'm not avoiding your question. I'll answer it here in just a second. I am not a proponent of shared sacrifice. I don't believe in sacrifice, period. I think that's an absolutely defensive, stupid, self-defeating way to go about life. This whole sacrifice business is a Democrat trick. It's nothing more than a political spin game: We must have joint sacrifice. That means we must accept, we must universally accept bad times, must just accept them, and then all share equally in them. Sorry, I don't participate in recessions. I am not gonna sacrifice to make somebody else feel good. I'm gonna keep doing what I do, and I hope to prosper at every moment of my life. I mean that's what this country's all about. Now, what do you think, what kind of sacrifice should I be doing?

CALLER: Well, I just want to know who's gonna pay for the oil subsidies, and who's gonna pay for these wonderful wars you love so much? I mean if we're going to have these things that you want, Rush, somebody has to pay for it, and I'm sick and tired of --

RUSH: Wrong.

CALLER: -- the people paying for it are the people making $50,000 a year. You're making $25 million a year.

RUSH: I don't look at life the way you do. There's a reason somebody makes $25 million and there's a reason somebody makes $25,000, and it's not the guy who makes $25 million's fault. There's a reason and it's not your job to come along and say that somebody is at fault, and it's none of your business to come along and say it isn't right and that somebody has got to make it fair by giving something up.

You are destined to fail in your own life if that's your attitude about success. That somebody's success is owing to somebody's misery, therefore the misery must be honored. Wrongo, pal. Somebody in misery's gotta be shown how to get out of it, not have it shared equally. It's what I've never understood about people on the left. Okay, so you have misery out there, but not everybody's feeling misery. Unfair. Solution? Make everybody miserable. Ergo, give us liberalism, it works. But sorry, I don't participate in it.

...Whether you know it or not, we're all sacrificing what otherwise could be a great life because of liberalism running this country right now. And of all things that you could call here to talk to me about and learn from, you're sidetracked on $25 million versus $25,000 and somehow it's unfair to spend money defending the country against people who want to kill you...

So I checked the e-mail during the break after this last caller and all this joint sacrifice business, and people are suggesting, "Rush, you do sacrifice. Why didn't you tell that guy how much you pay in taxes?" That would not be classy, folks. That's not the way to deal with this.

I mean to tell him that I pay more in taxes in one year that he's gonna earn in his worthless life is not the classy way to do this, because that's not what this clown actually means by sacrifice. You gotta understand this.

Joint sacrifice to liberals means more government. Even now with massive spending, high unemployment, foreclosures, to this liberal that called here and all the rest of them, the problem is not enough government; it's not enough bureaucrats; not enough government benefits; not enough government. That's what the left means.

The question is, when is it time for Washington to sacrifice? When is it time for unions to sacrifice? When is it time for government to sacrifice? When is it time for bureaucrats to sacrifice? When do they ever sacrifice? When does the government sacrifice? The government never sacrifices. Zilch, zero, nada.


I'm beginning to think that the best way to handle this is to have the government declared a "person" just as corporations are "persons." Limbaugh already seems to think it is one --- a sociopathic criminal, but a "person" nonetheless. The whole concept of democracy is obviously lost on him.

But just read the utter BS and understand that people listen to that and believe it. I have written before about the guy I once heard call in to thank Rush and tell him that he was happy to pay more in taxes if it meant his boss didn't have to --- it meant he was more likely to get a raise.

Let's just say that if you listen to that disembodied voice droning on and on like that every single day you're likely to get a little bit confused. At some point someone is going to have to challenge this brainwashing.


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