Columbia Journalism Review has a takedown of a “study” from American Enterprise Institute purporting to show that inequality hasn’t increased, after all. What’s striking is the way AEI doesn’t even resort to the usual practice of concocting misleading numbers; it just flat-out lies about what various other peoples’ research, like Robert Gordon’s work, actually says.
Oh, and read the comments for entertainment. CJR, welcome to my world.
What I found myself thinking about, however, is the way the inequality debate illustrates some typical features of many debates these days: the way the right has a sort of multi-layer defense in depth, which involves not only denying facts but then, in a pinch, denying the fact that you denied those facts.
Think about climate change. You have various right-wingers simultaneously (a) denying that global warming is happening (b) denying that anyone denies that global warming is happening, but denying that humans are responsible (c) denying that anyone denies that humans are causing global warming, insisting that the real argument is about the appropriate response.
I’m not sure there are three levels (yet) on inequality, but we definitely have (a) right-wingers denying that inequality is rising and (b) denying that anyone is denying the rise in inequality, but attacking any proposal to limit that rise.
You might ask, how is it possible to take such mutually contradictory positions? And the answer is, it’s very easy if confusing the debate is your job.
Up until this announcement, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been unwieldy and somewhat lacking in a coherent voice, but that’s all about the change. New York City labor unions have decided to descend upon the streets of Lower Manhattan on Friday.
The leadership of the Transit Workers Union Local 100—comprised of subway and bus workers—voted unanimously to support the protestors. With a membership of 38,000, 5 Oct. will easily be the largest day yet in the protest. On 12 Oct., SEIU 32BJ, representing doormen, security guards, and maintenance workers around the city, is also staging a rally in support of the cause.
It’s unclear for now whether the transit system will be completely shut down while the 38,000 workers are participating in the protest. If it is, the Occupy Wall Street movement will definitely make its mark in history. And either way, it now has a substantial footing to make a real statement about American economy policy.
Jackie DiSalvo, an #OccupyWallStreet organizer, summarized the movement’s policy as such: “Occupy Wall Street will not negotiate watering down its own message.”
You have no idea how excited I am to see this.
In addition to rapidly increasing support for the action in New York City, Occupy Wall Street confirmed over the phone that there will be at least 26 solidarity occupations in the U.S. by Oct. 6. Further, they said that up to 70 were possible by the end of October, and recommended visiting Occupy Together for more information.
SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican who has taken a hard line against illegal immigration in her state, said her own grandparents came to the country illegally.
“I know they arrived without documents, especially my grandfather, my father’s father,” she said in an interview with the Spanish-language television station KLUZ in Albuquerque on Wednesday.
“In those days, the law was very different,” she added, saying many people came to the United States without papers back then.
The governor’s comments come as she pushes state lawmakers, in a special session this week, to take up a bill to ban immigrants in the country illegally from getting driver’s licenses in the state.
Critics blasted the governor for what they called a “disgusting” show of hypocrisy by a woman they say clearly benefited from her grandparents’ decision to come to the country without papers.
“Her grandparents shared the same story of many undocumented people. It’s a sad day that the governor has chosen to turn her back on the same sacrifices she has benefited from. This is not the governor’s finest hour,” said Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based League of United Latin American Citizens.
Hypocrisy says what?
A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn’t afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.
According to NBC affiliate WLWT, Kyle Willis’ wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. When dentists told him it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.
When his face started swelling and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn’t afford both, so he chose the pain medications.
The tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell. He died Tuesday.
Before anyone criticizes this man for choosing pain medication over antibiotics (as I’ve seen some people do), let’s think about two things:
- If you were in severe pain, and probably not thinking clearly, what would you do?
- Why should we live in a society where this is a choice someone must make?
How is this just? Health care is not a luxury, nor should dental care be a luxury. People do not deserve to die because they cannot afford an antibiotic prescription.
21st century: We’ve given civilization a try and now we’re going to back to every man for himself.
Obamacare - a family of four earning over $80,000 a year - gets subsidies. Think about that. That’s what we call the poor? Now, we don’t want the really poor people who are in poverty to have to pay income taxes. But 51% of all households. And that’s going up, by the way, because of our friend down in the White House and his allies.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, claiming the wealthy are already doing too much, even as the nation’s effective tax rates are at their lowest rates in over 50 years, and suggesting the middle class and poor should be picking up the slack.
Hatch insinuated payroll taxes that the poor and middle classes pay towards Social Security gives them some kind of advantage in regards to future benefit. Not so. The first $106,800 in yearly income is taxed. After that, no social security taxes are paid. The Medicare tax has no cap. It’s been suggested that lifting the cap on social security would help. Well, it would. Observe:
Explanation: Currently, wages over a certain yearly total ($106,800 this year) are exempted from Social Security payroll taxes. Medicare’s payroll tax has no such cap. This has raised the question of how raising the cap could extend Social Security’s solvency. [T]he Congressional Research Service looked at this question in 2008 by evaluating three different proposals. The first would raise the cap so that 90 percent of wages are taxed and pay higher benefits to those affected; the second would eliminate the cap and pay higher benefits; and the third would eliminate the cap for taxes but would not increase benefits. [This is] how much of the Social Security shortfall is eliminated by each proposal. Completely eliminating the cap without increasing benefits actually creates a long-term surplus, and eliminating the cap while increasing benefits comes close.
The benefits aren’t lavish. I calculated the benefit for an person of retirement age who earned the average income for an individual every year since age 18. Monthly benefit? A whopping $1519.00 monthly, which is $18,228 a year. Incidentally, that’s just a little less than the average individual income in 1987.
As for a family of four receiving subsidies at $80,000 a year?
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of coverage for a family of four has climbed 131 percent from 1999 to 2010. The average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2010 was $5,049 for single coverage and $13,770 for family coverage.
For a family of four making $80,000/year, that’s over 17% of their yearly income on insurance alone. Most families are carrying a deductible of $2,000, meaning they have to hit that before receiving full benefits. So we’ll assume that’s their only out-of-pocket health care expense. So yearly expenses are now $15,770 - nearly 20% of their yearly income.
That’s also assuming insurance pays everything. Average out of pocket spending for an individual is now almost $7,000/year. So we’ll assume little Billy broke his leg playing ball, coach freaked out, called an ambulance (was’t pre-approved), and that ambulance took Billy to an out of network provider where the doctor ordered x-rays and set his leg. So now we’ve added that $7,000 for a total of $22,770 - that’s now nearly 29% of their yearly income.
The median family income in the United States is $49,777. Once those health care expenses are lopped off, the $80K family is suddenly down to roughly $56,800, just $7,023 above the median. Keep in mind, the median family and below are dealing with these same numbers.
How about a CEO making the typical pay package ($9 million) for the head of a company in the S&P’s 500? How much of an impact would those health care costs be, just for funsies? $22,770/$9,000,000 = .253% of their yearly income. Sorry, but my pity well is dry.
Oh, and Hatch’s net worth was between $1,656,067 and $4,471,000, according to Hatch’s mandated financial disclosure statements. Whose interests do you think he’s protecting?
In summary, Orrin Hatch can suck it.