The Surreal World of The Villagers vs. The Nightmare Reality of the 99 Percent

Amazing Portraits of Salvador Dali (13)

This is going to be sort of a cross between a morning reads post and a rant.

Yesterday, Dakinikat and I were talking about how lately it seems like it’s hard to find things to blog about because there’s nothing really new happening in the political world. Sure, there’s news coming out of DC, but it’s pretty much the same thing every day. The Republicans hate President Obama and continue to do their best to block everything he tries to do. Obama sort of sounds like a liberal at times, but he’s still offering that “grand bargain” to the Republicans who hate his guts and still letting down the voters who elected him in the process.

Republicans pretend to obsess over the federal deficit and debt and economic writers like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich repeatedly try to explain that the problem with our economy right now isn’t the deficit or the debt, but the high unemployment and stagnating wages that keep the lower 99 percent of us from spending our money as freely as we’d like.

Lugubrious Game, by Salvador Dali, 1929

Lugubrious Game, by Salvador Dali, 1929

As I looked around for Thursday reads last night, I began to feel as if I’d entered a surreal alternative reality–almost as if I had awakened to find myself in a Salvador Dali painting in which everything seems crazy and nothing ever changes. The only breaks from the tedium of the Village come when there’s news of another shooting and the media covers it for a few days–like the recent obsession with ex-cop “Rambo” Christopher Dorner.

Now that Dorner has gone down, there’s another high-profile shooting for the media to focus on. USA Today reports: Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius charged with murder.

South African police on Thursday said they would charge Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius with murder after his girlfriend was shot and killed at his home earlier Thursday morning.

The circumstances of the incident are still unclear but police in South Africa said they would oppose bail when the Paralympic gold medalist appears in court Friday. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon but was delayed to give forensics investigators time to do their work, the Associated Press reported.

Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes said that Pistorius was at his home after the death of the victim and that “there is no other suspect involved,” The Associated Press reported.

Britain’s Sky News first named the woman as Reeva Steenkamp, a model and recent contestant on Tropika Island of Treasure 5, a South African reality TV show. A talent agent for Steenkamp said she was the victim. However, police have yet to confirm the woman’s relationship with the Olympic and Paralympic athlete.

South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp attend an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa last November.(Photo: Lucky Nxumalo, AP)

South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp attend an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa last November.(Photo: Lucky Nxumalo, AP)

Meanwhile, as the Villagers ignore the need for gun safety legislation and argue about the deficit and the supposed out-of-control government spending that isn’t actually happening, the rich get richer and the lower 99 percent get screwed. Case in point, please read this piece in The New Republic by Timothy Noah that the Villagers will either ignore or mock: The One Percent Gobbled Up the Recovery, Too. In fact, it put the 99 percent back in recession.

Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who (with Thomas Piketty, an economist at the École d’economie de Paris) first mapped the enormous 34-year run-up in income share for America’s top 1 percent, came up last year with a statistic that was widely quoted by people who care about rising income inequality. In 2010, the first year of economic recovery after the 2009-2010 recession, 93 percent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 percent, which in that year meant any household making more than about $358,000. This was, I quipped at the time, a members-only recovery. No 99-percenters need apply.

Saez has now updated (PDF) this statistic to include 2011. When you look at the economic recovery’s first two years, the top one percent (which by 2011 meant any household making more than about $367,000) captured 121 percent of all pre-tax income gains.

How is it even possible for the one percent to capture more than 100 percent of all income gains since the last recession? Looked at from one point of view, it’s not. It is enough to say that in 2010 and 2011 all of the recovery went to the one percent. If you were in the bottom 99 percent, as by definition nearly all of us are, you didn’t see a dime of that recovery.

What happened to the rest of us then?

Over 2010 and 2011, it saw, on average, a slight net decline in pre-tax income of 0.4 percent. This “negative growth” is what, at least theoretically, boosts the one percent’s share of income gains from 100 percent to 121 percent. If you think of income distribution as a Pac-Man game, with the one percent as Pac-Man, imagine your Pac-Man consuming all the pac-dots in one game and then somehow, after you’ve left the arcade, gobbling up some of the pac-dots in the next player’s game too. Another way to put it is that the one percent didn’t just gobble up all of the recovery during 2010 and 2011; it put the 99 percent back into recession.

Sadly, airhead talking heads like Joe Scarborough will continue to have much more influence in the Village than actual economists like Emmanuel Saez and real reporters like Timothy Noah.

Speaking of airheads, after the SOTU speech on Tuesday night we had the pleasure of watching baby-faced Florida Senator Marco Rubio make a complete ass out of himself on the TeeVee. Hullabaloo blogger David Atkins, who–unlike Rubio–is somewhat knowledgeable about economics, tried to explain to the the latest “great Republican hope” (before his speech) that not only do deficits not cause unemployment, but also our federal deficit is steadily decreasing. Of course no reader of Dakinikat’s posts needs any of this explained. But I still want to link to Atkins’ concluding paragraphs.

Why is the deficit shrinking? Mostly, because of the pickup in economic activity. The elimination of some of the tax cuts for the wealthy will also help. The Affordable Care Act will also be taking a bite out of our extravagant healthcare costs.

4. None of this has any impact on unemployment. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of jobs: public sector and private sector. Even though the private sector is doing better, public sector jobs are still declining due to conservative policies theoretically designed to reduce deficits. Private sector jobs, meanwhile, depend on consumer demand–not corporate profit. American corporations are experiencing record profits, but they aren’t hiring because there’s not enough middle-class consumer demand for them to hire workers.

4a. The lack of consumer demand leading to poor private-sector job growth in spite of record profits has nothing to do with deficits or uncertainty in the investing climate. It has everything to do with income inequality and economic insecurity among the middle and lower classes.

4b. The obsession over deficits among conservative politicians is directly responsible for public sector job cuts that are helping to drive up the unemployment rate and kill consumer demand.

All of which means that politicians like Marco Rubio who insist that the deficit is directly hurting employment are either so ignorant of economics that they shouldn’t be handling public policy, or so cynically manipulative that they shouldn’t be handling public policy.

And no “reporter” in Washington or elsewhere should be covering Rubio’s statements without providing a basic lesson in macroeconomics as context for his fact-free response.

Actually, Village idiots “reporters” like Chris Cillizza pretty much ignored whatever substance there was in Rubio’s speech and approvingly reported on the personal history that Rubio discussed. But beforehand, Cillizza wrote that Obama should focus on deficit in State of the Union

It’s the deficit, stupid. A look back at Obama’s first three State of the Union speeches, plus the address to a joint session of Congress in 2009, suggests a similar thematic pattern: He starts with the economy, moves to education and then, in the middle section of the speech, addresses the deficit. (The exception was in 2011, when Obama began his speech with a riff on partisanship.) In 2012, Obama spent just five minutes on the debt — less time than he spent on partisanship (51/2 minutes) or foreign policy (six minutes).

He should flip that script in this State of the Union and spend the bulk of his time talking about the deficit. Here’s why: In January 2009 polling by Pew Research Center, 53 percent of respondents said reducing the deficit was a “top priority.” In January 2013, that number soared to 72 percent, by far the biggest increase of any issue over that time. (By contrast, 85 percent said strengthening the economy was a top priority in 2009, while 86 percent said so at the start of this year.)

The debt is the issue of the day, and one that, if Obama is beginning to eye his legacy as president, could go a long way toward shaping how history remembers him. Make this speech a deficit speech.

For Cillizza and his ilk, “the deficit” (or “the debt,” which he doesn’t seem to understand is not the same thing) is “the issue of the day,” and unemployment and the other struggles of the 99 percent are completely invisible. Oh, and by the way, Dick Cheney loved Rubio’s speech.

I could go on and on like this, but I’ll stop now. I just wanted to rant for a bit in hopes of pulling myself out of my current malaise. I’ve realized finally that there isn’t going to be any real change as because the Villagers (often including the President) are just going to continue focusing on cutting spending and ignoring the problems facing those of us who live in the real world.

If you stayed with me this far, thanks for letting me rant! Now, I welcome your links to whatever you are reading and blogging about today.

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44 Comments on “The Surreal World of The Villagers vs. The Nightmare Reality of the 99 Percent”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    It has been 6 months since journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria. His parents have traveled from Houston to Beirut in search of news of his whereabouts.

    Austin Tice was reporting in Daraya, outside Damascus, when he went missing in mid-August. The Tices became concerned when several days elapsed without a word from their son, who previously had checked in regularly. His disappearance rapidly became public, with McClatchy News Service and the Washington Post, for whom Tice had been reporting as a freelancer, posting stories about his disappearance. The Tices then launched what has become a multi-month search.

    But despite all their efforts, the Tices say they and the news organizations have little information to work off of. “It has really been a prolonged silence – an excruciating silence,” Debra says.

    “We don’t know with any certainty where he is or who has him,” says Marc Tice. “We could speculate ourselves crazy.”

    The parents speak wearily about the waiting game they and their six other children – Austin is the oldest – are playing as they wait for news. The situation has changed agonizingly little since his kidnapping in August, with the exception of one video of Austin in captivity that was made public.

  2. Fannie says:

    It was obvious that Rubio did not ask the why the deficit is shrinking……………..he didn’t care to mention that it was from all the cuts in GOVERNMENT……………….Rubio hired Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff for his upcoming, whatever committee.

    I’m still in shock over Freedom Works and the Panda and Hillary………..if this is proven, there ought to be some Big Trouble for them. And I’d like to be part of it, take them down.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    That was an excellent rant BB. Thank you!!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thank you!

      • RalphB says:

        I really enjoyed it because I feel the same. Our media is a large part of the political problems in this country.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks, Ralph. It’s so frustrating. When I heard Krugman say we’d be a full employment right now if we’d relied on Keynesian economic, I felt like running out into the street screaming. But no, it’s all about making us suffer while the Villagers thrive.

      • RalphB says:

        That’s the problem, the Villagers are thriving. Let them get hit a little and the story would change immediately.

  4. hyperjoy says:

    Point well taken. Seems there has been nothing new in politics since Hillary Clinton was a possibility for president. Then the democrats got rid of her and that was that.

  5. RalphB says:

    Part of Leon Panetta’s final day is presenting an award to Hillary.

    At 1000, Panetta will be joined by General Dempsey in presenting former Secretary Clinton with the Department’s highest awards for public service at a ceremony attended by DoD and State Department workers.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are very concerned about Hagel’s ties to a “terrorist group” that doesn’t actually exist.

    • RalphB says:

      Heh, sounds a lot like his question to Hillary about us smuggling arms to our NATO ally Turkey. What a maroon.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Annals of media incompetence: Dorner was reported to have taken two women hostage and tied them up. Later it was reported they were maid. But it turns out it wasn’t two women, it was a man and woman who came to their cabin and found Dorner inside. They were tied up for only 15 mins.

    Karen and Jim Reynolds said at a news conference Wednesday that they think Dorner, 33, was holed up in their unoccupied cabin in Big Bear, Calif., since Friday, only steps from where police had set up a command center.

    “He said four or five times that he didn’t have a problem with us, he just wanted to clear his name,” Jim Reynolds said. “He said I don’t have a problem with you, so I’m not going to hurt you.”

    Dorner tied their arms and put pillowcases over their heads before fleeing in their purple Nissan, the couple said.

    Before he fled, the couple said Dorner told them that he had been watching them before he took over their cabin. Dorner told the couple he could tell they were “hard working, good people.”

    “He had been watching us and saw me shoveling the snow Friday,” Jim Reynolds said.

    • RalphB says:

      It’s a shame Dorner is dead. I would have liked to see him go to trial. His actions don’t seem to add up to the portrait painted by the press to me.

  8. dakinikat says:

    Speaking of know-nothing villagers, Joe Scarborough just tweeted that Paul Krugman was as extreme as Wayne LaPierre. Joe just can’t get over the fact that Krugman cleaned his clock and all the economists know it.

    Frank Rich @frankrichny
    This really did just happen: Joe Scarborough closed out show by declaring “extremism” of @nytimeskrugman equivalent to Wayne LaPierre’s.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I can’t take Morning Joe anymore, he is the most narcissistic, self-involved, know-it-all on the tube. What Joe needs is a good cleansing colonoscopy because he’s full of it.

      • dakinikat says:

        I tweeted something to that effect to him and told him he knew nothing about economics.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I’m glad you did that Dak. His self-aggrandizement gets worse by the second and Mika basically just sits there rolling her eyes or, at the extreme, makes audible sounds of frustration. I know his point-of-view is suppose to be from the conservative perspective, but it’s become from his point-of-view from the GOP propaganda perspective. If they don’t get a grip on Joe and the direction of that show soon, they’re going to go down.

        • dakinikat says:

          The conservative perspective should not include blatant misinformation that’s been debunked by scholarly work. Not even the Republican economists I know–or me when I was one instead of an independent economist–would say that kind of stupidity. You only hear lawyers, politicians and journalists say that. The reason Arthur Laffer can’t get a job with any place reliable–either private, public, school or otherwise–is that he refuses to give up on his completely discredited hypothesis and makes money touting it for Koch brothers lie tanks. Not even Greg Mankiw or Martin Feldstein would repeat that crap and have said just the opposite actually.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Since Joe keeps repeating the same lie, everyday, I suppose we can surmise that Joe is snorting Koch too.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Snorting Koch. Good one!

  9. roofingbird says:

    This is interesting: http://www.kuam.com/global/story.asp?s=21192708

    Here in our little town, our Air Force base has been humming right along, especially with the addition of Marines. They and I think, one other base on the west coast have increased presence as suppliers of emergency materiel and long range surveillance. So, it would certainly affect our region if the pacific arena expansion was truncated.

  10. ecocatwoman says:

    Superb and definitely called for rant, bb. The patients are running everything and those few of us who can actually see & do live in reality are confined to our rooms/homes. It ain’t safe out there for so many reasons.

    I tried watching Morning Joe about twice & couldn’t stomach it. It’s beyond me why he’s still on MSNBC. Are they paying him more than Fox would? Won’t O’Reilly allow him to join their boyz club of wankers?

  11. ecocatwoman says:

    Speaking of Darling Marco – he’s selling Rubio water bottles for a contribution to his PAC for just $25.00. If it held water that had touched his mouth it would probably garner at least $50.00.

  12. RalphB says:

    TPM: Merkley On Hagel: I Told You We Should Have Reformed Filibuster

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a leading champion of filibuster reform, issued a statement Thursday lamenting Republican efforts to perform an unprecedented filibuster against a cabinet-level nominee, Chuck Hagel.

    “Merely weeks after the Senate came together in a good-faith effort to fix the Senate’s problems, Senate Republicans are now engaging in the first-ever filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee,” said Merkley said in a statement. “It is deeply disappointing that even when President Obama nominates a former conservative colleague of the GOP caucus, the minority is abusing the rules and the spirit of ‘advise and consent.’ If our step we took last month is to be successful, extraordinary stunts like today’s filibuster can’t happen.”

    Harry Reid is such a useless shithead!

  13. RalphB says:

    Slate: Why Republicans Can No Longer Be Trusted on National Security

    Because their leaders have become shallow, ignorant, and totally unserious on the issue that matters most.

    A very good substantie article by Fred Kaplan.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Excellent rant, BB!

  15. Toadfish says:

    Haha it’s tragicomic to think of American msm political discourse as being a surreal village where nothing ever changes, and which is disrupted only by passing obsessions with the latest shooter/shooting. Nice post, keep it up.