The free market at work
Remember yesterday, when I said I’d see you today with Friday links? Tough news, champ. The management at Combat! blog loves you very much, but someone bought our time today. You guys know you’re my favorites. But you pay me very little. I must conform my life to those endeavors likely to sustain it, and talking that mess on the old yakbox, as blogging is called, sustains little. It’s probably because my dad isn’t a wealthy blogger, either. The whole blog-based American economy is rigged—a maze with no exit, designed to keep us in roughly the same place we started. If you don’t believe me, ask the Washington Post.
They’re one of several outlets to cite a study of how many Americans have earned more than their parents, from 1940 to the present day. I’ll give you the good news first: we won World War II. The bad news is that since then, the percentage of adults who make more than their parents has declined—sharply. While 92% of children born in 1940 wound up earning more than their parents, only 46% of adults born in 1990 do. If you’ve been born since then, and your version of the American Dream involves buying anything, you have half the chance your grandparents did.
Maybe that’s because there’s been no economic growth since the 1970s—even when you adjust income for taxes and transfers, or tax-funded benefits—for half of American households. Spoiler alert: It’s the bottom half. But half! That’s astonishing. Even as it doubled in size, the economy managed to do nothing for half of us, for the last 40 years. That’s from your boy Thomas Piketty, that dude Emmanuel Saez, and some new jack named Gabriel Zucman who was probably in charge of writing everything down.
Anyway, there’s quantitative proof that we live in a less just society. Or maybe it’s just a more efficient one. How that looks probably depends on where you sit. If I had to estimate it, I’d say there’s about a 50 percent chance of you coming down on either side. What a time to be alive.
Yesterday, President Obama announced that he would address a joint session of Congress regarding jobs and the economy on September 7—the same night, it turns out, as a Republican presidential debate. Exactly how it turned out is a matter of conjecture. Press secretary Jay Carney insisted that the date was not chosen to conflict with the debate, noting that there were going to be 20 of those things and that “one debate of many was no reason not to have a speech when we wanted to have it.” Still, I bet they have a big calendar in the White House, and Obama’s move seemed like a deliberate provocation. Fortunately for everyone, he was provoking John Boehner, which is like trying to get a fish to gasp. “As the majority leader announced more than a month ago, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, Sept. 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening,” Boehner wrote, asking the President to move the speech to September 8. Guess which date they compromised on!
Former Minnesota governor, Republican presidential candidate and benevolent eagle Tim Pawlenty delivered what his aides described as a “major economic policy address” yesterday, laying out his plan for the United States economy to achieve 5% annual growth. “Plan,” in this context, is more like “demand,” and “achieve” is “develop with no discernible causality.” The details of Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan may surprise you, particularly if you’ve never heard or read anything about a Republican politician since 1928. The rest of you can put on your disappointed-not-to-be-surprised faces in preparation for the jump.
President Obama with various Democratic lawmakers, all poised to run out of the room and say they never met him if a scary poll comes out.
According to the Times, President Obama will officially come out against extending the Bush tax cuts for households making over $250,000 a year, offering instead to extend cuts for the 98% of Americans who earn less than that. He’s also presented a package of deductions and capital incentives for small businesses, plus infrastructure spending designed to boost the economy and encourage hiring. It’s not a stimulus, though, because people don’t like that word. That a government plan to stimulate the economy must never again be called a stimulus is one of the few things that Democratic lawmakers can agree on lately. The other is that not giving a tax cut to the the richest 2% of the country is politically risky, and maybe they should just do it anyway so Republicans will stop being mean to them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, presumably saying "yea" very quietly.
Late Thursday night—while the rest of us were having a dream in which we go to the bank and the teller says “Your account has accumulated substantial interest, Mr. Brooks,” before opening a vault full of zombies, zombies—Congress did not pass an unemployment benefits extension. Already we enter the realm of subjectivity. In strict, learn-about-it-in-high-school journalism practice, one is discouraged from constructing stories around what did not happen.* The headline on the AP story—Congress fails to pass an extension of jobless benefits—has the word “fail” right in it, as if passing the bill to postpone expiry of unemployment benefits for one million Americans were something the legislative branch meant to do and just couldn’t put together. In some sense, that’s kind of accurate. The Senate voted 57–41 in favor of the bill, but a Republican filibuster derailed it during procedure. Those are the facts. What happened depends on what news you read.