Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Looming Gilded Age: Capital, Affluence & Influence

piketty-capital-coverIf books could kill, the attempted oligarchic takeover of America would be dead this week and Wall Street would be flushed clean of villains, leaving a healthy and vibrantly flat-competitive capitalism, in its wake. The best seller lists swarm with fact-filled appraisals that should sway any portion of the population (that reads) into action.

For example, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century became a Number 1 bestseller at Amazon, around the same time that Senator Elizabeth Warren released her book A Fighting Chance -- about how Washington works, and fails to work.

Another hot book is Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, the latest from Michael Lewis on the most recent form of mass-scamming on Wall Street. (I've written about this important book, elsewhere, pointing out how even Lewis missed the worst implication of High Speed Trading, that it might - in a weird way - lead to no less than human extinction!)

Affluence-InfluenceAnd now -- Martin Gilens's Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America was an award-winner in political science last year. His new tome “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” conclusively proves that elites get their way in public policy, far more readily than the People do.

Duh, you say? So you shrug that it is obvious? Alas, your complacency is death to democracy.

Picketty's may be the most important of these books, zeroing in - supported by clear statistics - on how America's seventy year, post WWII vacation from class war has clearly come to an end. That long, prosperous truce -- the most productive and liberating and egalitarian time in all of human history -- can only be re-established if we first have to guts to recognize why it finally failed.

It is still possible to reform with moderate measures, like those one hundred years ago that Teddy Roosevelt used to restore and safeguard the middle class against a looming Gilded Age… or those that half a century later led to the flattest and most socially mobile continental society in history, with a booming middle class and the greatest surge in entrepreneurial growth and startup capitalism, in the wake of that other Roosevelt*…

ClassWarLessonsHistory…or else if such moderate, re-tuning reforms don't come, as Elizabeth Warren warns in her book, we may tumble back into the normal human mode of 6000 years, a pyramid-shaped society of aristocratic rule in which the only options remaining to oppressed masses will resemble those used by the mobs, in 1789 France. (See my earlier posting, "Class War" and the Lessons of History.)

Truly smart rich folk would see that trend, and thereupon join leaders like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, fighting to maintain a middle class civilization… where they just happen to be rich, but not lords. The tech moguls and creative types are behind Buffett and Gates.

(I portray some discussions about this taking place among trillionaires, in the 2040s, in EXISTENCE.)

Alas, those who got rich via resource extraction from public lands, or by inheriting it, or through predatory Wall Street manipulations, seem to want to be like Louis XVI lords. Their behaviors and public statements stunningly resemble those of the Bourbon First Estate. Their reactions to Picketty et al, via messengers like Paul Ryan, are not about negotiation or finding moderate reforms. They clamor, in full frontal attack mode, a no-compromise stance of absolute determination.

As my friend the epic producer of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski paraphrased recently (with his flair for drama), in The New Aristocracy, they appear to be saying: "We will be your lords. Feudalism is back. Live with it."

== What about those reforms? ==

Lessig-PACProfessor Lawrence Lessig -- one of the archetype Rooseveltean reformers -- has introduced a SuperPAC, Mayday for the Republic, with the stated purpose of destroying SuperPACs. His plan is to raise enough money from small donations to "buy Congress" and destroy the oligarchical donor system from the inside. (The goal is 5 Mayday-aligned House reps in 2014, then raise enough money to "buy Congress" in 2016.)

Terrific. Give your support.

But as you know, I go to an even more basic level -- transparency. And so is a free database of who-knows-who at the heights of business and government… aiming to be the antidote to… Big Brother. get it? Pretty much the epitome of citizen-crowdsources sousveillance. This must grow.

Better yet, fight complacency and do what really counts, by reminding all of those who are tempted to sit out the coming mid-term elections:

"It's the Supreme Court, stupid."

== YOUR bill for foreign tax dodges ==

U.S. taxpayers would need to pay an average of $1,259 more a year to make up the federal and state taxes lost to corporations and individuals sheltering money in overseas tax havens, according to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "…ordinary taxpayers end up picking up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public spending priorities, or increases to the federal debt,” USPIRG said."

In total, the U.S. loses $150 billion in federal revenue and another $34 billion in state revenue annually because of money parked in tax havens. That’s almost 5 percent of total federal revenue.

Um… can we let that sink in? that's $1,200 out of YOUR pocket, every year. Is this "transparency thing" still an abstraction to you?

See where I explore this (Money Flows that Might Prevent New World Wars)...though I do it more entertainingly in EARTH!

== Am I a "liberal? ==

ReclaimAdamSmithSome out there interpret my opposition to an ongoing oligarchic putsch and the new American Gilded Age as evidence that "David Brin is a Liberal" -- despite the fact that no one alive mentions (or touts) Adam Smith more than I do.

Yes I do support liberals (though not leftists) nowadays, for the most part. But that is entirely because of the New Confederacy's blatant abandonment of the old, conservatism of intellects like Buckley and Goldwater and the GOP's open declaration of its intent to ensure that governance fails.  Their agenda of a return to feudalism and the War on Science. In fact, I yearn for the return of a "smithian" libertarianism that might serve as a foil and intelligent balance to reformist liberalism.

If that sounds a bit obscure, then let's just keep returning to that oligarchic putsch -- the skyrocketing wealth and income disparities that seem to be a natural, toxic byproduct when cheating (an inborn human tendency) starts to spoil and ruin the brilliance of smithian market competition.

If we are returning to that age old failure mode, it makes no sense to feel rage -- this is the most natural thing that humans do, when they get power!

We can fix it. Without the insane oversimplifying radicalisms of "all capitalism is evil!" or "all government is evil!" or similar, loony symptoms of "fused political spine disease"… the inability to turn one's head and see flaws in all directions.


Patricia Mathews said...

John Michael Greer notes "Today's conservatives have forgotten how to conserve, and today's liberals no longer liberate." Too true, alas.

Keith D. Halperin said...

Dr. Brin, I'm afraid that most of the people who're buying the books you mentioned already agree with many of the basic premises, and *the authors will change relatively few people's opinions about what needs to be done. I also speculate there may be socio-economic equilibria points or **tipping points where change is much more difficult than at other times. Even if this were the case and it might get increasingly difficult to make the changes we feel are necessary, that doesn't mean we shouldn't work vigorously toward accomplishing them.


*Perhaps they might energize them, though.

**There may be tipping points where change is much EASIER, too. said...

Outstanding as always, and the reason I follow your writings beyond your novels! From Basic, to Poly Sci, to your most important thoughts on illumination and open societies, another well hit ball to deep center field n this also important topic. Well done Sir!

Wade Dowdy

NoOne said...

One of the better reviews of Piketty's book can be found at In brief, technology and other trends may continue the period of middle class prosperity for a while before Piketty's long term effects kick in.

DP said...

From historian Will Durant's book, "The Lessons of History":

Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history. The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the laws. Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it. The relative equality of Americans before 1776 has been overwhelmed by a thousand forms of physical, mental, and economic differentiation, so that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is now greater than at any time since Imperial plutocratic Rome. In progressive societies the concentration may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.

.... Good sense prevailed; moderate elements secured the election of Solon, a businessman of aristocratic lineage, to the supreme archonship. He devaluated the currency, thereby easing the burden of all debtors (though he himself was a creditor); he reduced all personal debts, and ended imprisonment for debt; he canceled arrears for taxes and mortgage interest; he established a graduated income tax that made the rich pay at a rate twelve times that required of the poor; he reorganized the courts on a more popular basis; and he arranged that the sons of those who had died in war for Athens should be brought up and educated at the government's expense. The rich protested that his measures were outright confiscation; the radicals complained that he had not redivided the land; but within a generation almost all agreed that his reforms had saved Athens from revolution.

(IOW, Solon as the FDR of ancient Athens - somebody should write about him rather than 300 Spartans)

....The Roman Senate, so famous for its wisdom, adopted an uncompromising course when the concentration of wealth approached an explosive point in Italy; the result was a hundred years of class and civil war.

.... In one aspect the Reformation was a redistribution of this wealth by the reduction of German and English payments to the Roman Church, and by the secular appropriation of ecclesiastical property and revenues. The French Revolution attempted a violent redistribution of wealth by Jacqueries in the countryside and massacres in the cities, but the chief result was a transfer of property and privilege from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. The government of the United States, in 1933-52 and 1960-65, followed Solon's peaceful methods, and accomplished a moderate and pacifying redistribution; perhaps someone had studied history. The upper classes in America cursed, complied, and resumed the concentration of wealth.

We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.

(The Right wants to complain about wealth redistribution? Historically speaking its as inevitable as the sunrise and sunset)

LarryHart said...

In my young school days, I remember learning that societies first have to produce enough necessities (food, water, shelter, heat in cold climates) for their own survival. Once they've generated a surplus, more than they require to live, then they can trade that surplus to others for other things. Or in recent terms, then they can convert the surplus into cash and spend it on luxuries.

The current incarnation of capitalism acts as if all of the means of survival are convertable to cash. And not even cash for the hungry, thirsty, cold population themselves, but cash for the private "owners" of the food, water, and energy everyone needs to live. Those owners are apparently in their right to make a business decision whether it is in their economic interest to feed their fellow countrymen or to sell to rich foreigners while their countrymen starve.

Seems to me that's no way to run a railroad.

Tom Crowl said...


Piketty's contention is a common sense conclusion:

When return on capital overall and over time exceeds any actualized growth in the economy (which was the rationale for the investment in the first place)... imbalances in wealth and power accumulate. And unsurprisingly this concentration destroys any middle class which may have briefly arisen.

What I'd suggest is that wealth and power concentration is an affliction concurrent with scale and the critical element is NOT the particular ideology at issue (in this case Capitalism).... but rather unaddressed issues in scaling the human group and the long standing lack of any effective mechanism for a balance in social forces between classes.

Hence whatever may be the guiding ideology... in practice concentration will creep in over time.

Historically the solution is collapse, revolution and/or stagnation...

Ironically to a large extent its the failure of those representing the interests of the poor (traditionally in an empire the "rabble" are represented by a wealthy, sincere and polite "Left")... that abet the weakening of the common interest by supplanting the sometimes rude voices of the angry mob with the reasonable voices of the comfortable.

While this may seem like a good idea... over time it allows tremendous stresses to build up.

Because of the altruism dilemma and a social distance that develops over time (especially in a successful empire) a wealthy "left" will end up weakening and abandoning the participation of those "forces from the bottom" that were needed to create the social contract initially.

Over the last several decades everything from the weakening of unions to exporting of jobs (w/o considering implications and remedies)... and the abandoning of home owners in the '08 crisis...has been very much abetted by "Liberals"... including Tech whizbangs.

Nothing will replace an actual 'voice from the bottom' inarticulate though it may be...

(that's why we need a Bill of Rights and 'supposedly' representatives who will try to see all sides and Courts that will draw lines)

I suggest that the solution (or palliative since it may be an unsolvable dilemma) must involve not only tools for the individual... but tools for the collective.

There is a biological root to oligarchy and authoritarianism which is neglected. And that neglect infects all our economic and political ideologies. Any theory which fails to recognize and address this dilemma continuously is doomed to failure.

I believe that root lies in the altruism dilemma. This is a scaling problem.

Self-Interest vs Altruism - Problems in Scaling the Decision Process

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
I have worked my way through Piketty’s excellent if heavy work,
I had to stop part way through to recharge my Kindle!

My “take”
An excellent book
He takes a number of “things we know” and actually uses data and historical analysis to prove/disprove them
Them as has gets
This has always been obviously true – now I have seen the data confirming it
The rich get more return
Piketty shows that the return on investment is proportional to the size of the investment
(A very neat analysis using returns from university funds)
The surprizing thing to me was that you have to be investing hundreds of millions to be getting a high return

Piketty could have been a modern quality manager – he is very data hungry –
In fact he considers the data from a capital tax to be almost as useful as the tax itself
With that information it becomes possible to fix the system when it hits the landmine

The historical information is interesting – for hundreds (thousands?) of years
It was simply impossible to join the affluent few by any type of skill or hard work –
if you wanted to be there you had to inherit it or marry into it – or steal/kill to get it

We are on course to return to that world

Saying that
the solution is in his book
a Tax on capital
That is all it would take to turn back from the Abyss

Tim H. said...

Thomas Franks nit picks Piketty:
Not a simple solution when the .01% hate labor like Fred Phelps hated gays, but it would help.

Tony Fisk said...

Must get hold of Piketty.
(btw Keith, I hear the hardcopy version has basically sold out, so I guess there's a lot of people who already agree.)

It is telling that, in his review of Piketty, Chris Berg* takes the interesting(?) view that low growth is worse than social inequality. (Kof! Kof!)

Australia's federal budget just got delivered. The most hypocritical, cynical and, above all, inept attempt at wealth consolidation ever. I think it telling that even *John Howard* is criticising Abbott for the litany of broken promises he's left in his wake.

I only hope that it is symptomatic of over-, rather than supreme, confidence.

*A hack for our local version of Cato, the Institute of Public Affairs (Liberal think tank funded primarily by Murdoch and Rinehart... 'nuff said). He does occasionally have something interesting to say but usually, as here, he takes his pay and pushes the doctrine. Ah well, the locals find his columns make for good tomato throwing practice.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Tim
Just read the Thomas Frank bit,

I tend to agree that unions are a major part of the answer -

in defense of Piketty unions are automatically thought of as being part of the political landscape in non anglophone nations so he probably didn't push them as much as he should have

In further defense unions can have an effect on the earned income part of the equation
Piketty is very clear that that is only a minor smokescreen compared to the real elephant in the room
Capital and most of all inherited capital

Tim H. said...

Duncan, I agree and will be reading Piketty when my turn comes at the library. Just thinking, if we're all very lucky, the .01% may step back from the brink and permit some TR style reform, but they so very much have a "Verruca Salt" thing going...

Joel said...

w00t! Canada is proposing scrapping the maker/taker model used on Stock Exchanges that *pay* High Frequency Traders (and encourage their various behaviors that add little value to the capital markets as a whole).

Jumper said...

The internet would be a fine way of organizing a general strike. Odd that it has not been used that way so far in the U.S. Or for example, the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, and Germany simultaneously...

Tony Fisk said...

In the cool and "Johnny *can* Code" categories, a fractal terrain generator, using 130 lines of javascript.

Less cool: Mozilla is (with gritted teeth)incorporating DRM for video into Firefox. At least they intend to use a user option model.

Acacia H. said...

I thought Dr. Brin might enjoy this article on research into an enzyme that could increase cellular longevity without caloric decreases. It works with worms at least. We'll have to test it with fruit flies and mice next.

Rob H.

Neil in Chicago said...

*) a small quibble I date the interruption in the perennial American class war from 1945 to 1973. '80 at the latest, though obviously Reagan was being groomed for a long time before.
Seventy years is too much.

*) Unlike contemporary "conservatives", Adam Smith was a marvelous writer, _and_ understood the absolute necessity of government restraining capitalists.

*) Buckle? seriously?
Buckley: "We haven't occupied them [The Dominican Republic]"
Chomsky: "We never occupied the Dominican Republic? We sent 25,000 troops in 1965."
Buckley: "Now, I think you're being evasive."

[L]et us speak frankly. The South... want[s] to deprive the Negro of a vote... [because] the White community merely intends to prevail on any issue on which there is corporate disagreement between Negro and White.... The central question... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail... in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes.... National Review believes that the South's premises are correct.... The axiom on which many of the arguments supporting the original version of the Civil Rights bill were based was Universal Suffrage. Everyone in America is entitled to the vote.... That, of course, is demagogy...
-- William F. Buckley; National Review, 8/24/1957

LarryHart said...

@Neil in Chicago,

Substitute "Democrat" for "negro" and "Republican Party" for "The South" in the screed above, and you get what I'm sure is the contemporary right-wing justification for voter suppression.

Hank Roberts said...

Dr. Brin writes

"... when cheating (an inborn human tendency) starts to spoil ... competition."

That implies cheating is not toxic until it does start to "spoil ... competition" -- eh?

Yes, that's been how human societies have always worked.

No, you can't have cheating institutionalized and tell those institutions that they've cheated enough now and it's time to stop.

Cheating uses individual people as grease for the wheels, to foam the runway for the banks.

Read your D.A. Levy:


the police try to protect

the banks – and everything else

is secondary”

Hank Roberts said...

PS, Daniel Duffy quotes Will Durant, and those words seem to me to be a paraphrase of Tom Paine:

Tom Paine:

“… Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

“As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance.

” … by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; … by collecting wisdom from where it can be found.

“… As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”
Tom Paine, The Rights of Man

David Brin said...

Tonight I sat next to George Takei and we were the 2nd public audience on the planet to watch the new x men movie (fun but a bit illogical). (And it seems that folks in 1970 had technologies we're nowhere near having in 2014.) After, Patrick Stewart was interviewed on stage.

Earlier in the Reagan Center:
Lots of excellent talks. I gave a good one, then interviewed Brian Greene onstage.

Robert, I believe many enzymes etc will be found to switch on longer lives in flies & worms & mice. We have already flipped most of the easy switches. It will be harder for us.

Neil I agree that it has taken a long time for the illusion of classlessness to evaporate… largely because it was so close to true for a while and because Americans deeply want to believe it.

Hank R you simply misread me. I oppose all cheating. All who visit here know this.

Oh re Buckley. Yes, he was in many ways a monster. But he argued. He believed in intellect. And like Goldwater and Billy Graham he changed his mind and recanted many awful statements. SHow me that in this clade of goppers.

David Brin said...

Talks should be up in 2 weeks.

David Brin said...

I just looked at my posting. Hank R. Are you kidding me? You inserted a comma where there was none. Golly.

Hank Roberts said...

Dr. Brin -- the Lessig/Superpac link seems broken. I get:

Hank Roberts said...

ack, I inserted a comma? Where?

Mangling a quote is bad behavior, not intended. I don't see where I did insert a comma (I inserted an ellipsis). Do you mean I changed the sense with the ellipsis, implying a comma somehow? Sorry, I take this seriously and I don't see where I did that.

I'm glad I did misunderstand what you meant.

Hank Roberts said...

> I oppose all cheating.
> All who visit here know this.

Yes, I know! I trust that a lot, that's why I mentioned that bit.

Does one of us have a browser cache with a typo? Where do you see a comma added to what I quoted?

David Brin said...

HR recite the sentence in two different ways. The one in which I seem to be saying that cheating only occasionally spoils has an implicit pause in the wrong place. A good lesson in being careful not to leap to conclusions!

BTW I am NOT mad! I do it myself.

dgaetano said...

@Rob H.

There's actually a biological theory for why creatures have the lifespan they do, and the practical takeaway is as Dr Brin says: techniques which make mice liver longer are probably numerous and irrelevant to humans.

Basically mice have enough age fighting machinery to make them live a couple years and no more because there's no natural selection for better. Suppose a mouse has a mutation that would allow it to live twice as long. Well, its overwhelmingly likely to make no difference to that mouse at all since it will probably be eaten within two years anyway. What the mouse needs is wings.

Give it wings and it can escape predators, and now mice with better anti aging machinery would have a selection advantage and develop longer lifespans. (Thus bats live several times longer than mice).

Creatures that occupy less dangerous environmental niches, humans, whales, elephants, etc, have evolved much more advanced methods for combating the ravages of time. Or as Dr Brin says, we've already flipped the easy switches.

Acacia H. said...

If we assume humanity has already found all the easy switches and we assume any switches we find are easy switches, then we'll never know if we found a switch humanity didn't evolve... or a switch that may in fact be a non-easy one but that we stumbled across by accident.

Correlation and causation, you know.

Rob H.

matthew said...

Some fuel for the high-frequency trading fire:

tl:dr- it looks like someone made an erroneous trade order near market close and this trade pointed out that the "safety fuses" designed to prevent flash crashes have some loopholes. Or, alternatively, Skynet is testing some boundary conditions.

Alex Tolley said...

While it is true that evolution is generally assumed to drive reproduction and therefore the reproductive age of the animal is key, there are other factors to consider. It is sometimes suggested that the extended family structure of human, e.g. having grandparents help nurture, selected for longer lifetimes. However, AFAICS, this should not add more than a generation to longevity. Thus early reproduction might lead to maximal lifetime selection for perhaps 30-40 years, while late reproduction might lead to 70-80 years if this model were correct.

However, that does not mean, IMO, that all the easy switches have been flipped. While few cases exist, there are people who live more than 100 years, so an extra 30 years is certainly possible.

However, as we understand biology better, especially the possibilities of using stem cells to rejuvenate organ systems, it may well be possible to artificially extend lifetimes by "resetting" the switches. So I wouldn't assume that we cannot extend longevity substantially. Having said that, living well to 70-80 seems far more useful than living for much longer, but in an increasingly decrepit state.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Having said that, living well to 70-80 seems far more useful than living for much longer, but in an increasingly decrepit state.

I've thought quite a bit about that myself. When I was a naive teenager, I imagined scientific progress would allow me to live to 1000 or so, and thought of that as a good thing. Seeing what my dad went through the last five, miserable years of his life, I now kind of dread the thought of living much past 70 (and I'm in my 50s now). I'm not anxious to die or anything, but there's definitely a preference for quality of lofe over quantity.

LarryHart said...

Quality of life, that is.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

The belief that extended lifespans would lead to extended periods of decrepit old age is known as the Tithonus fallacy.

Many people believe the Tithonus fallacy because that has been the personal observation of most people alive today. Actually, the practical ability of medical science to extend the period of decrepit old age probably peaked in the 1980s. I have never heard any reasonable argument that humans will ever extend the period of decrepit old age beyond its current level.

There is an urgent need to eliminate the aging process rather than focusing on lifespan. Human civilization cannot afford to warehouse countless millions of decrepit old people in nursing homes as the number of old people living through the decrepit period increases.

If we focus on healthspan, then old people can continue to be productive and self-supporting for an unlimited period of time.

Tony Fisk said...

There was a recent NS article discussing relationships between limits to longevity and stem cell lineage.

(At 115, world's oldest women was found to be soldiering on with just *three* cells of her original complement still viable)
Here's the link

Hank Roberts said...

Ok, you're the author, you're entitled to assert "an implicit pause" changed what you meant by the words -- and it's a blog, not tightly written.

I trust what you mean to say, I nitpick when I see ambiguity in the written text.

This is the Oxford Comma joke:

"I want to thank my parents, Mother Teresa and the Pope."

You've probably read The Long Con about cheating as revealed by the advertising in the tea-party-type publications -- which shows those politicians believe their chosen audience is easily fooled by ambiguity.

Write unambiguously for that audience; they need all the help clear writing can give, because they're so routinely fooled.

Hank Roberts said...

p.s.: you may find unexpected support here:

"... how to persuade those tens of millions of non-elite Republicans to stop voting against their own interests....
... Why would any conservative vote ... against corporate fraud and abuse ...? Because a lot of them hate the corporations and the corporate state as much as leftists do, and are equally disgusted with the two major parties. Substantial public majorities favor single-payer health care, tax hikes on the rich, raising the minimum wage, cutting the defense budget, increased spending for education, and reducing the role of money in politics, yet most or all of these things are off the table politically. It’s true that the members of this anti-corporate, anti-militarist majority disagree sharply about many other things. But why can’t they nevertheless achieve the goals they have in common?..."

Hank Roberts said...


Bob said...

The discussions of inequality seem to me to ignore the suppression of the prosperity at the bottom. The bureaucratic state hurts the little guy worse than the large corporations.

You demonize those few offshore bank accounts and conflate corporate and private accounts. This hurts a great many innocent people.

FATCA hurts a great many Americans who work abroad. It's handy to have local accounts, but the banks don't want American customers.

On a personal note, my wife had a life before she met me, which included bank accounts. She naturally didn't want to close them all when she moved to the USA. Now her banks won't work with her, because of FATCA.

Don't dismiss this unless you're willing to take an arbitrary 15% or more hit on all your savings.