Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!

It’s the first of October!  This is how you know that I most identify with my English heritage because that’s a Brit superstition that my mother used to practice every first day of the month. It came over with my great grandfather from Hastings. I guess family stories from that far back actually do come down to you.  I’m a physically obvious Phillips, however, so I guess I would pass Scott Brown’s visual DNAdar for some one with a lot of  Brit heritage. A lot of my idiosyncrasies come from my mother through my great grandfather who only contributed 1/8 of my DNA.   She was really influenced by him since he lived in their house and she passed  lot of stuff on to me and my kids through her time with us.  So, I guess Elizabeth Warren probably could relate.  Hmmmm….

 “Why,” the man in the brown hat laughed at him, “I thought everybody knew ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.’ If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you’ll get a present before the end of the month.”

I’ve been reading a lot of interesting things recently about the decline in upward mobility in the U.S.  Here’s some stories from The Atlantic that pretty much sum up my life since Dubya became president: ‘I’m Working Really Hard, but I’m Not Getting Ahead’: The New Middle Class Trap.

Only twice in U.S. history–in the heyday of the Western frontier and in the post-World War II prosperity–have Americans found it easy to rise. This isn’t one of those times. Middle-skill jobs (read: no college required) are disappearing from America’s sputtering economic engine–in factories, in back offices, even lately in state and local governments. For generations, these jobs were the ticket to a comfortable life for Americans who went directly from high school to work. But increasingly in recent decades, economic research shows, lower-wage workers in foreign lands have taken these jobs or automation has rendered them unnecessary. Today, job growth occurs mainly at the poles of the skills spectrum–in sweeping floors or flipping burgers, which can’t be outsourced, or in sophisticated engineering jobs that drive new industries.

Since 1980, the very lowest- and highest-skill jobs in the United States have each grown sharply as a share of the overall workforce, according to research published last spring by economists David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Dorn of Spain’s Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros. Meanwhile, the share of lower-middle-skill jobs has shrunk: For example, machine operators and assemblers, a classic storehouse of middle-skill jobs, fell from 13 percent of the workforce in 1950 to 4 percent in 2005. Real hourly wages have stagnated, simply as a matter of supply and demand. When too many workers compete for too few jobs, employers can hire qualified people at lower pay.

“The real question of the [displaced] middle class is: Where do they go?” asked Mark Doms, the chief economist at the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration. “Only a few of them are going to go to the tippy-top”–the highest-skilled jobs. “The rest will go to the bottom.”

Another interesting read is this interview with a sociologist who has written a book about young black men in America. The book is called Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress and is  written by Becky Pettit who is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington.  My life in inner city New Orleans and as a professor in its big urban university has really given me a front row seat in seeing the situation.  It’s a lot worse than most folks could even imagine. That’s because the unemployment rate and the labor force ignores the populace in prison and young black men are a huge part of that population.

The employment/population ratio for black males aged 16-24 was 33 percent in August, vs. 52 percent for white males of the same age group. But the black number is skewed upward by the exclusion of jail and prison inmates. The white number is also skewed upward, but less so because a smaller share of young white males are incarcerated.

“We’ve developed a distorted idea” of how young, black men are faring, Pettit told reporters on the call, which was hosted by the book’s publisher, the Russell Sage Foundation. The BLS methodology didn’t begin to distort the statistics until the mid-1970s, when the incarceration boom began.

I asked Pettit how this problem can be solved. The first thing she recommended was doing more to help young, black men get an education, since there is a strong link between failure in school and a life of crime and imprisonment.

A further idea is to reduce the penalties for nonviolent drug crimes, recommended another academic on the call, Ernest Drucker, who is a scholar in residence and senior research associate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and adjunct professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Imprisoning people for drug offenses can damage their ability to earn a living for the rest of their lives, dooming them to a life of poverty and recidivism, said Drucker, author of A Plague of Prisons.

Indeed, one of the things that this story mentions is the appalling number of young black men trapped in prison over petty things like turn style jumping. There are a number of ‘crimes’ that are applied to young black men more than any other population. They can’t put bankers that stole billions from the economy in jail but they can imprison young people for years on a number of really petty things.

It is becoming appallingly apparent that some of the tactics used to create voter fraud are coming from Republican Operatives.  This is not a new story at all.  But, it is one that should make every one be very aware of who is registering who in  their state.  Isn’t it just typical that all these new Republican laws aimed at preventing voter fraud aren’t stopping Republicans from committing voter fraud?  This story is about Riverside County in California.

Formal complaints filed with the state by at least 133 residents of a state Senate district there say they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge, calling into question the party’s boast that Republican membership has rocketed 23% in the battleground area.

More than 27,700 residents of the legislative district have become Republicans since January, according to the California secretary of state’s office — erasing a registration edge long held by Democrats.

The complaints have also shined a light on the political committee behind the registration drive, Golden State Voter Participation Project, and its biggest donor, wealthy GOP activist Charles Munger Jr. Other donors include the California Apartment Assn., Farmers Group Inc. and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America.

The problem has also raised anew the question of whether the state should ban firms that pay workers for each voter they register or signature they secure on a petition rather than paying them an hourly rate. Workers have an incentive to cut corners under such arrangements, according to Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Natomas), who has proposed barring the practice in a bill that is on the governor’s desk.

Just when you think you’ve heard about all the kooky Republicans running for office you find out there’s yet another one crazier than the ones you thought were as crazy as they got. This one is a Beckster with an end-times obsession. This guy writes novels akin to the Left Behind Series.  Rapture any one?

In Chris Stewart, the Republican nominee in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, Beck has found someone he feels pretty damn good about. “If he wasn’t running, I’d be trying to convince him to work for me, to help me stay the course, strategize, and save the country,”  he said last winter , as Stewart’s campaign was just getting off the ground. “I’ve actually tried to talk him out of running, because it’s a lion’s den in Washington.”

But, Beck added, “I believe he’s a Daniel.”

Like the Old Testament figure who emerged unscathed from a pit of lions, Stewart—an Air Force pilot turned consultant turned end times novelist—is also a prophet of sorts, and his message is grim: “If we don’t make some difficult decisions now, if we don’t show the courage to do what we have to do to save our country, we won’t make it for another 10 years,”  he said in February , in a campaign video that also served to promote a book he’d just published under Beck’s imprint. But there was hope. “At critical times in our history…we literally had miracles where God intervened to save us,” he said. Send me to Congress, Stewart seemed to imply, and it could happen again.

Read the article.  There’s all kinds of weirdness around this campaign.  The worst thing is that every one thinks this guy is a shoo-in.

Want to learn more about Marc Leder?  That’s the guy that held that fundraiser in Boca Raton that was captured in the Mitt 47% moment.  We’ve already heard about his orgies.  What else could be more “tawdry”? Evidently Leder and Mitt share a penchant for aggressive tax evasion.

Leder has been dogged by tabloid headlines recounting his nasty divorce and wild partying (replete with reported nudity and public sex around the pool at a summer house he rented on Long Island’s East End—for $500,000 a month). What he has in common with Romney, however, isn’t a taste for bacchanalian revels but a record of business and taxation practices that working Americans might find troubling.

At the moment, Leder is under investigation by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who subpoenaed internal records from Sun Capital, Bain Capital, and several other private equity giants last July.

Issued by the Attorney General’s taxpayer protection bureau, the subpoenas were evidently designed to probe whether Leder and other executives had misused “carried interest,” a method of reducing tax liability by converting management fees into investment income—which is taxed at the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent that keeps Romney’s taxes lower than the rate paid by many middle-income families. (Tax analysts say that Bain Capital records released last August indicate that the firm may have saved more than $200 million in federal taxes thanks to the carried-interest maneuver.)

If Leder did benefit from such aggressive practices, he would merely be typical of executives in an industry where tax manipulations are not just widespread, but fundamental.

So, that’s my offering this morning.  What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

26 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. janicen says:

    So much interesting reading. I’m not through it but I had to comment about the “Middle Class Trap” article because it’s kind of why I’m up so early. I couldn’t get back to sleep after I started thinking about how my husband and I are getting screwed twice over and we didn’t do anything wrong. We bought less house than we could afford, we have been lucky enough not to encounter any financial calamity so that we have been able to pay our mortgage, pay our taxes, contribute to charities and even make improvements on our home yet we are watching our investment lose value every single day not because of anything we did, but because the house across the street has been abandoned by its owners and is now owned by a bank. The very bank that we bailed out with our tax money is now letting that property sit there and decay. It’s literally falling into ruin with a roof with missing shingles, rotting siding and a few of the damaged windows aren’t even completely shut. The bank doesn’t maintain the property, mow the lawn, or even pay HOA dues. The house isn’t for sale, it’s just sitting there, slowly reducing the value of our home. Add to that, we have a child in college and because of our combined income we don’t qualify for a penny of relief from the skyrocketing tuition costs. Talk about being left behind? When I think about the Romneys and Leders of the world daring to hide their riches and then ask for more tax cuts, well my blood just starts to boil.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    On Chris Stewart–what scares me even more than the nutty beliefs so many GOP candidates have is when I find out they were in the military. The wingnuts seems to have completely taken over every branch of the service, which is a terrific reason to cut defense spending, IMO. And hire some deprogrammers.

    • dakinikat says:

      Supposedly it is linked to their end times paranoia. This guy is an end times Mormon–like Beck–which has the LDS mainstream worried. For some reason evangelicals and militia types go hand-in-hand. You would think the belief in one all powerful gawd on your side would preclude the need for weapons.

      • NW Luna says:

        Logic and rational thinking never work on these types. It’s like pointing out that if they hate big government, why do they want government regulation in everyone’s bedrooms and clinics?

        But their disconnects are so bad, it’s irresistible to call out the inconsistencies!

      • And the right-wing MSM keeps heaping on the fear with outright lies to bring the point home.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Another side effect of economic hard times: Injuries due to child abuse on the rise.

    The increase is mostly due to abuse of babies.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Former Republican congressional aide to John Shimkus (R-IL), Christan LaBella, scuffles with Lindsay Lohan in NYC hotel.

    LaBella…has previously posted Facebook photos of himself with other famous folks like vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s some nightmarish news: the moderator for tonight’s debate between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown is David Gregory. WTF?!

    I could have had free tickets, because the event is being held at my alma mater, U.Mass Lowell. Thank goodness I didn’t take them up on the offer!

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    The nation turned over its future to George W. Bush in 2000 and again in 2004. We are still paying the price for that miscalculation both domestically and with our foreign policy.

    Another slaughter of our troops by Afghan “allies” is being discussed about who as president would do a better job of managing this mess when it is all too clear – or should be – that we have lost both the moral edge and the military mission in this debacle since we helped spread this misery througout the mideast.

    Bush and Company opened a huge can of worms over there and succeeded in destabilizing a region that was simmering under the hostile rule of its leaders along with our misadventures in attacking a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 as an act of revenge.

    This has left the US in an untenable position with Bibi beckoning us on to a strike against Iran along with the surge of Al Qaeda operatives that seem to be spreading to other countries that find themselves on the shaky brink of whatever leadership emerges from the toppling of the tyrants who held them down.

    Yet Bush and his neocons go about their business without any cries for accountability while the rest of the world grapples with the aftereffects of this stupid man and his war happy cohorts.

    • RalphB says:

      Pat, Isn’t that always the way? Republicans screw things up and Democrats have to come in and clean up their huge messes. One of the main reasons I’m so against a Grand Bargain based on Bowles-Simpson, or the like, is because even if it worked and we got control of the deficit the next Republican president would just give it away in tax cuts to the rich again.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Some good news:

    The Supreme Court won’t reconsider a decision stopping a Nebraska anti-abortion group from fighting for an abortion law that requires health screenings for women seeking abortions.

    The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Nebraskan United for Life, which wanted the court to reconsider a lower court’s refusal to hear its appeal.

    And were these United for PLUBs going to pay for the “health screenings” themselves? Glad to read that these intrusive idiots were halted.

  8. NW Luna says:

    The book is called Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress and is written by Becky Pettit who is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington.

    We have a lot of liberals up here at the UW. Just not enough of them. 😉

    Prison time for turnstyle jumping? Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to see bank CEOs with fraudulent actions get their perp walks.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m just glad i don’t live in the NYC authoritarian police state where everyone who isn’t white gets stopped and frisked.

  9. NW Luna says:

    A Dem candidate for Washington state Secretary of State has a radical idea:

    Drew, who represented Seattle’s eastern suburbs in the Legislature in the 1990s, wants to change the way Washington registers voters. Her goal is to expand the number of people casting ballots by letting people register on Election Day and allowing 16- and 17-year olds to preregister when they get their drivers’ licenses.

    Wyman [the R candidate] says Drew’s plans won’t work. “On the surface, they sound like good ideas, but they would be a bad fit,” Wyman said.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Krugman warns Obama against listening to the Villagers if he wins reelection.

    First, despite years of dire warnings from people like, well, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, we are not facing any kind of fiscal crisis. Indeed, U.S. borrowing costs are at historic lows, with investors actually willing to pay the government for the privilege of owning inflation-protected bonds. So reducing the budget deficit just isn’t the top priority for America at the moment; creating jobs is. For now, the administration’s political capital should be devoted to passing something like last year’s American Jobs Act and providing effective mortgage debt relief.

    Second, contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, America does not have an “entitlements problem.” Mainly, it has a health cost problem, private as well as public, which must be addressed (and which the Affordable Care Act at least starts to address). It’s true that there’s also, even aside from health care, a gap between the services we’re promising and the taxes we’re collecting — but to call that gap an “entitlements” issue is already to accept the very right-wing frame that voters appear to be in the process of rejecting.

    Finally, despite the bizarre reverence it inspires in Beltway insiders — the same people, by the way, who assured us that Paul Ryan was a brave truth-teller — the fact is that Simpson-Bowles is a really bad plan, one that would undermine some key pieces of our safety net. And if a re-elected president were to endorse it, he would be betraying the trust of the voters who returned him to office.

  11. RalphB says:

    Message: We built that!

  12. RalphB says:

    These are hilarious 🙂

    The New Yorker: Netanyahu Caption Contest: The Winners

  13. NW Luna says:

    Study finds rats passed down harmful effects of dioxin exposure …. the great-grandchildren of pregnant rats exposed to low doses of the chemical contaminant dioxin develop diseases and reproductive abnormalities — even though they were not directly exposed. ….

    Because dioxin bioaccumulates and can last up to a decade in humans, the researchers said, a woman becoming pregnant even 20 years after exposure “runs the risk of transmitting dioxin effects to her fetus and later generations.”

    Dioxin is classified as known carcinogen by the FDA.

  14. RalphB says:

    How ever will these poor unfortunate people survive if they can’t steal with impunity?

    Felix Salmon: Victimized billionaires

  15. pdgrey says:

    This is a subject that really frosts my cookies. It’s like no one remembers 2009. I’m so glad Gov. Granholm wrote about it.