The rich are far richer than they used to be, while most of the rest of us are poorer. The latest data show the top 1 percent garnering 93 percent of all the gains from the recovery so far. But median family income is 8 percent lower than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation.
Meanwhile, the tax rates paid by the wealthy have dropped precipitously. Before 1981 the top marginal tax rate was never lower than 70 percent. Under President Dwight Eisenhower it was 93 percent. Even after taking all the deductions and tax credits available to them, the rich paid around 54 percent.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Robert Reich on taxing "job creators":
Monday, October 29, 2012
Brad DeLong at SFGate:
A third of a century ago, all of us economists confidently predicted that America would remain and even become more of a middle-class society. The wealth inequality of the 1870-1929 Gilded Age, we would have said, was a peculiar result of the first age of industrialization. Transformations in technology, public investments in education, a progressive tax system, a safety net and the continued decline in discrimination on the basis of race and sex had made late-20th century America a much more equal place than early-20th century America and would make early-21st century America even more equal - even more of a middle-class society - still.
We were wrong.
America is at least as unequal as, and might be more unequal than, it was back at the beginning of the 20th century when Republicans, such as President Theodore Roosevelt of New York condemned the power wielded by "malefactors of great wealth," and Democrats such as perennial losing presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska denounced shadowy conspiracies that had somehow manipulated the financial system to rob the typical family of its proper share in America's prosperity.
Four major factors have driven rising inequality over the past 35 years:
Waning progressivity of our tax system: We no longer tax the rich a significantly greater share of their income than we tax the middle class. The idea behind the cut in relative tax rates on the rich was that it would release blocked entrepreneurial energy and trigger a burst of more rapid economic growth.
It did not: Economic growth overall has been slower since President Ronald Reagan began waves of tax cuts for the rich.
Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we’d like, but he isn’t actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. Furthermore, if we ask what Mr. Romney would probably do in practice, including sharp cuts in programs that aid the less well-off and the imposition of hard-money orthodoxy on the Federal Reserve, it looks like a program that might well derail the recovery and send us back into recession.
And you should never forget the broader policy context. Mr. Obama may not have an exciting economic plan, but, if he is re-elected, he will get to implement a health reform that is the biggest improvement in America’s safety net since Medicare. Mr. Romney doesn’t have an economic plan at all, but he is determined not just to repeal Obamacare but to impose savage cuts in Medicaid. So never mind all those bullet points. Think instead about the 45 million Americans who either will or won’t receive essential health care, depending on who wins on Nov. 6.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Igor Volsky @ Think Progress:
wrong. Syria doesn’t share a border with Iran and Iran has 1,500 miles of coastline leading to the Arabian Sea. It is also able to reach the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
2) “And what I’m afraid of is we’ve watched over the past year or so [in Syria], first the president saying, well we’ll let the U.N. deal with it…. Then it went to the Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something.” While Russia and China have vetoed multiple resolutions at the U.N. Security Council on Syria, the United States has also been working through the Friends of Syria group and other allies in the region. Obama’s approach “would essentially give U.S. nods of approval to arms transfers from Arab nations to some Syrian opposition fighters.”
3) “Former chief of the — Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This — we have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy. We need to have as well a strong military.” If Romney is worried about the national debt, why does he want to increase military spending from 3.5 percent of GDP to 4 percent? This amounts to a $2.1 trillion increase over a ten year period that the military says it does not need and Romney has no plan to pay for it.
4) “[W]hen — when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake.” Obama spoke out about the Revolution on June 15, 2009, just two days after post-election demonstrations began in Iran, condemning the Iranian government’s hard-handed crackdown on Iranian activists. He then reiterated his comments a day later in another press conference. Iranian activists have agreed with Obama’s approach.
5) “And when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.” The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Romney’s claim that he will create 12 million jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim.
6) “[W]e are going to have North American energy independence. We’re going to do it by taking full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear and our renewables.” Romney would actually eliminate the fuel efficiency standards that are moving the United States towards energy independence, even though his campaign plan relies on these rules to meet his goals.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Although Mitt Romney is as credible as a used-car salesman, there's at least one thing that we know is at stake Nov. 6
Mitt Romney has proven himself the "Etch-a-Sketch" candidate on any and every issue, but James Suroweicki @ The New Yorker explains at least one thing we can count on if this slippery character manages to hedge and edge his way into the White House:
Mitt Romney can be a hard man to pin down. But there is one thing that he’s been clear about: if he becomes President, he will repeal Obamacare. That simple promise, more than any other that Romney has made, illuminates what is most at stake in this year’s election. The campaigns may spend most of their time talking about taxes and jobs. But health care is where the election’s outcome will have the most immediate and powerful impact on how Americans live.
Professor Krugman, a former "renminbi hawk":
In 2010 an undervalued renminbi was a significant drag on advanced economies, including the United States. Since then, however, two big things have happened: relatively high inflation in China, and some appreciation of the renminbi against the dollar. As a result, the real exchange rate of China against the United States (based on consumer prices), has appreciated significantly:
At the same time. China’s surplus has come way down:
So this is an odd time to be making confrontation over China’s currency a centerpiece of your economic policy — unless, of course, it’s just bluster aimed at making voters think you’re tough.
Geography fail at final debate - Glen Kessler, WaPo "Factchecker":
Economists Laura D'Andrea Tyson & Owen Zidar, @ New York Times, have done the research:
tax plan is an across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal tax rates. This cut, along with a few other tax changes Mr. Romney has endorsed – such as repeal of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax – would reduce federal tax revenue from personal income and payroll taxes by an estimated $3.6 trillion to $3.8 trillion over 10 years.
The total is closer to $5 trillion when Mr. Romney’s proposed cut in the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent is included. About two-thirds of this amount would go to taxpayers making $200,000 a year or more – about 5 percent of all taxpayers.
Extending the Bush tax cuts for high-income earners, as Mr. Romney proposes, adds another trillion in lost revenue and increases the share of the benefits going to the top 5 percent. Even if the cost of the Romney tax cuts for the top 5 percent is covered by base-broadening measures, as Mr. Romney promises – but as President Obama and many others assert is mathematically impossible – does it make sense to devote trillions of dollars to lowering income taxes for the top 5 percent? Is this an effective way to create jobs?
Mr. Romney appears to think so. His plan rests on the assertion that lower taxes for high-income taxpayers will increase economic activity and employment – that lower taxes for job creators create jobs and will do so quickly. This assertion, while superficially convincing and ideologically compelling, is not supported by the evidence.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Professor @ NYT:
Sorry, but Professor Krugman has given you guys a well-deserved "F" for "faking it."
So they’re just faking it — the same way they have with the “six studies” supposedly validating the tax plan, four of which aren’t studies and one of which actually validates the critics.
What’s amazing here is the contempt the campaign is showing for the voters and the media.
Kevin Drum @ MJ:
More from Romney @ In These Times:From Mitt Romney, in a June conference call with some fellow plutocrats:
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.Subtle! Vote for Obama and your job is toast. Stuff like this explains why America's business elites are so beloved these days.
"Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision ..."
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Ed Kilgore @ Political Animal:
Back in August, the famous Reagan Budget Director David Stockman tore Paul Ryan a new one in an op-ed accusing his presumed doppelganger of great feats of mendacity and cowardice.
enraged J’accuse! aimed at the very heart of Mitt Romney’s biography: the idea that he was a champion creator of “jobs” or “wealth” at Bain Capital. Stockman makes earlier critics of Bain look like Starbucks-addicted yuppie pikers. Here’s a sample:
Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise.If you find Stockman’s rhetoric discredited by his hard-money biases, check out this:
Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.
Annie Lowery @ New York Times:
Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression and the recession has done little to reverse the trend, with the top 1 percent of earners taking 93 percent of the income gains in the first full year of the recovery.
The yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots — and the political questions that gap has raised about the plight of the middle class — has given rise to anti-Wall Street sentiment and animated the presidential campaign. Now, a growing body of economic research suggests that it might mean lower levels of economic growth and slower job creation in the years ahead, as well.“Growth becomes more fragile” in countries with high levels of inequality like the United States, said Jonathan D. Ostry of the International Monetary Fund, whose research suggests that the widening disparity since the 1980s might shorten the nation’s economic expansions by as much as a third.Reducing inequality and bolstering growth, in the long run, might be “two sides of the same coin,” research published last year by the I.M.F. concluded.In the United States, since the 1980s, rich households have earned a larger and larger share of overall income. The 1 percent earns about one-sixth of all income and the top 10 percent about half, according to statistics compiled by the respected economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Chrystia Freeland @ New York Times:
IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.
Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.
Income inequality - 2008The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But as the story of Venice shows, virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.You can see America’s creeping Serrata in the growing social and, especially, educational chasm between those at the top and everyone else. At the bottom and in the middle, American society is fraying, and the children of these struggling families are lagging the rest of the world at school.Economists point out that the woes of the middle class are in large part a consequence of globalization and technological change... Economic forces may be behind the rising inequality, but as Peter R. Orszag, President Obama’s former budget chief, told me, public policy has exacerbated rather than mitigated these trends.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Andrew Fieldhouse & Isaac Shapiro @ Economic Policy Institute
- To meet Romney’s commitment to limit spending as a percent of the economy to 20 percent while at the same time increasing defense spending to 4 percent of GDP, would require nondefense spending cuts totaling $6.1 trillion from 2014–2022, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Romney campaign has proposed only $2.4 trillion of specific spending reductions. It has not specified the other $3.7 trillion in spending cuts necessary to achieve its budget plan.
- Similarly, over the next decade Romney proposes $5 trillion in tax cuts, a widely-discussed figure that in fact appears to be understated. Beyond suggesting possibly capping the dollar value of itemized deductions—doing so could increase taxes on middle-income households and even fully eliminating itemized deductions would not keep upper-income households from receiving a net tax cut—the Romney campaign has not identified any specific changes in tax policies to offset these tax cuts, but in the Oct. 3 debate Romney stated his tax plan would be revenue neutral.
- In combination, over the next decade the Romney budget plan would necessitate $11.1 trillion of spending cuts and tax increases. It specifies just $2.4 trillion of these, thereby hiding $8.7 trillion of painful decisions. The Romney budget blueprint details all the specific proposed tax cuts, so the public knows how it might specifically benefit from this part of his plan, while leaving out 78 percent of the details that would let the public gauge how its taxes might increase and how government benefits and programs would be cut.
BOSTON—For weeks many Beltway insiders had written off the Romney campaign as dead, saying the candidate had dug himself into too deep a hole with too little time to recover. However, with a month to go before ballots are cast, Romney has pulled even with President Obama, and the former Massachusetts governor credits his rejuvenated campaign to one, singular tactic: lying a lot.
“I’m lying a lot more, and my lies are far more egregious than they’ve ever been,” a smiling Romney told reporters while sitting in the back of his campaign bus, adding that when faced with a choice to either lie or tell the truth, he will more than likely lie. “It’s a strategy that works because when I lie, I’m essentially telling people what they want to hear, and people really like hearing things they want to hear. Even if they sort of know that nothing I’m saying is true.”
“It’s a freeing strategy, really, because I don’t have to worry about facts or being accurate or having any concrete positions of any kind,” Romney added.
Romney said he is telling at least 80 percent more lies now than he was two months ago. Buoyed by his strong debate performance, which by his own admission included 40 or 50 instances of lying in one 90-minute period, the candidate said he will continue to “just openly lie [his] ass off” until the Nov. 6 election...
Steve Benen @ Maddowblog
Just three weeks ago, CBS's Scott Pelley asked Mitt Romney, "Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don't have it today?" The Republican didn't answer the question directly, but instead suggested there's no cause for alarm -- the uninsured can rely on emergency rooms.
The exchange was widely panned for being both callous and ignorant, and yet, as Rebecca Leber noted, Romney apparently can't help himself.
"No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance."
He pointed out that federal law requires hospitals to treat those without health insurance -- although hospital officials frequently say that drives up health-care costs.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers @ Bloomberg View:
Mitt Romney says he will get the U.S. government’s finances in order and make life better for business. It’s a classic Republican pitch, but to what extent does it correspond to what he might really do as president?
Not so much, if you believe -- as Republicans traditionally do -- in the wisdom of markets.
One way to assess the benefits of Republican presidencies is to look at how markets have responded to them over the years. The most reliable method is an “event study,” which analyzes the response of market prices to rapid shifts in the likelihood of a Republican in the White House. Fortunately, history has blessed us with many such natural experiments.
Let’s take the 2004 election as a particularly stark case study. In the middle of Election Day, flawed exit-poll numbers suggested that John Kerry would win in a landslide. For the next few hours, financial markets believed that there would be a Democrat in the White House. Then, by late evening, the votes were counted, and it became clear that President George W. Bush, the Republican, had won re-election.
The incident is a social scientist’s dream. It led financial markets to believe that the country was switching from a Republican to a Democratic administration -- a shift in beliefs that was completely unconnected to other factors, such as specific political promises or the state of the economy.
Market ResponseSo how did markets respond? Yields on government bonds were lower during the brief period in which a Democrat was expected to be president, suggesting investors believed the Republican would increase the national debt -- a move that, all else being equal, should push up interest rates. Indeed, the debt rose sharply in the following years under President Bush.
This reaction has been typical in recent decades: A study of similar events over previous election cycles -- by economists Justin Wolfers, Erik Snowberg and Eric Zitzewitz -- found that since 1980, bond yields have tended to rise on news that a Republican will be elected. The pattern held last week, when interest rates on government bonds increased slightly after Romney’s strong performance in the first presidential debate.
This record suggests that markets believe the modern Republican Party has abandoned its historical commitment to fiscal responsibility. They have been right: Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all presided over a rising national debt, in many cases despite reasonably strong economic growth. By contrast, before the last recession, debt has fallen as a share of gross domestic product under every Democratic president since at least Harry Truman.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Above all, there’s this:
MR. ROMNEY: Let — well, actually — actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description, but number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.No, they aren’t. Romney’s advisers have conceded as much in the past; last night they did it again.
I guess you could say that Romney’s claim wasn’t exactly a lie, since some people with preexisting conditions would retain coverage. But as I said, it’s the moral equivalent of a lie; if you think he promised something real, you’re the butt of a sick joke.
And we’re talking about a lot of people left out in the cold — 89 million, to be precise.
Furthermore, all of this should be taken in the context of Romney’s plan not just to repeal Obamacare but to drastically cut Medicaid.
So enough with the theater criticism; Romney needs to be held accountable for dishonesty on a huge scale.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
"Der Spiegel" interviews economist Joseph Stiglitz
Stiglitz: First, he has to recognize that there is a problem at all. Watching inequality grow is like watching the grass grow. You don't see it happening day by day, but over a period of time it becomes visible.
SPIEGEL: What is the scale this inequality?
Stiglitz: In the last decades, income and wealth disparity have grown dramatically in this country. Let me give you an example: In 2011, the six heirs to the Walmart empire commanded wealth of almost $70 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of US society.
SPIEGEL: The US has always thought of itself as a land of opportunity where people can go from rags to riches. What has become of the American dream?
Stiglitz: This belief is still powerful, but the American dream has become a myth. The life chances of a young US citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data. The belief in the American dream is reinforced by anecdotes, by dramatic examples of individuals who have made it from the bottom to the top -- but what matters most are an individual's life chances. The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data.