Monday Reads: Plumage and Bloomage

Good Day Sky Dancers!

My body went back to normal time this morning and stole that hour plus another back!  I’m just not adjusting well to this at all but I did enjoy time walking the dog last night under the Full Worm Moon. I’m not sure all the spring breakers holding the neighborhood hostage were gone but they seemed to be holed up somewhere inside because Temple and I had the neutral ground and all our heron buddies to ourselves.

The full Moon names used by The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not only to the full Moon.

The Worm Moon

March’s full Moon goes by the name Worm Moon, which was originally thought to refer to the earthworms that appear as the soil warms in spring. This invites robins and other birds to feed—a true sign of spring!

An alternative explanation for this name comes from Captain Jonathan Carver, an 18th-century explorer, who wrote that this Moon name refers to a different sort of “worm”—beetle larvae—which begin to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts at this time.

This is Rob and Laura who live in the Live Oak closest to the River. On the next block there are two pairs. I’ve named them Lucy and Ricky and Ethel and Fred. They live in adjacent trees.

I’ve taken some photos of spring arriving to my street.  I hope you enjoy them!  I’m also highlighting some of the Haute Couture from the New Yorker’s article on Ann Lowe by Judith Thurman.Ann Lowe’s Barrier-Breaking Mid-Century Couture How a Black designer made her way among the white élite.”  Enjoy all the plumage and bloomage!

The issue in most dire need of elucidation is undoubtedly the onslaught of voter suppression measures in state legislatures across Republican States.  It is also the Voting Rights Act headed for the desk of the Senate.  If you read anything today please read Jane Mayer’s article at The New Yorker. Here’s the headline: Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century , On a leaked conference call, leaders of dark-money groups and an aide to Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with the popularity of the legislation—even among Republican voters.”

A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers’ network—reveals the participants’ worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.

Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, told fellow-conservatives and Republican congressional staffers on the call that he had a “spoiler.” “When presented with a very neutral description” of the bill, “people were generally supportive,” McKenzie said, adding that “the most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description.” In fact, he warned, “there’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”

As a result, McKenzie conceded, the legislation’s opponents would likely have to rely on Republicans in the Senate, where the bill is now under debate, to use “under-the-dome-type strategies”—meaning legislative maneuvers beneath Congress’s roof, such as the filibuster—to stop the bill, because turning public opinion against it would be “incredibly difficult.” He warned that the worst thing conservatives could do would be to try to “engage with the other side” on the argument that the legislation “stops billionaires from buying elections.” McKenzie admitted, “Unfortunately, we’ve found that that is a winning message, for both the general public and also conservatives.” He said that when his group tested “tons of other” arguments in support of the bill, the one condemning billionaires buying elections was the most persuasive—people “found that to be most convincing, and it riled them up the most.”

McKenzie explained that the Koch-founded group had invested substantial resources “to see if we could find any message that would activate and persuade conservatives on this issue.” He related that “an A.O.C. message we tested”—one claiming that the bill might help Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez achieve her goal of holding “people in the Trump Administration accountable” by identifying big donors—helped somewhat with conservatives. But McKenzie admitted that the link was tenuous, since “what she means by this is unclear.” “Sadly,” he added, not even attaching the phrase “cancel culture” to the bill, by portraying it as silencing conservative voices, had worked. “It really ranked at the bottom,” McKenzie said to the group. “That was definitely a little concerning for us.”

Gretchen Reiter, the senior vice-president of communications for Stand Together, declined to respond to questions about the conference call or the Koch group’s research showing the robust popularity of the proposed election reforms. In an e-mailed statement, she said, “Defending civil liberties requires more than a sound bite,” and added that the group opposes the bill because “a third of it restricts First Amendment rights.” She included a link to an op-ed written by a member of Americans for Prosperity, another Koch-affiliated advocacy group, which argues that the legislation violates donors’ freedom of expression by requiring the disclosure of the names of those who contribute ten thousand dollars or more to nonprofit groups involved in election spending. Such transparency, the op-ed suggests, could subject donors who prefer to remain anonymous to retaliation or harassment.

This evening shift, circa 1924, is the earliest confirmed example of Lowe’s couture. Every bead was attached individually.Dress from collection of the Henry B. Plant Museum / Tampa, Florida

You certainly cannot boycott a Hedge or Capital Venture Fund but we know from Fair Fight that many Georgia Voters are putting pressure  on corporations–like Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot– to throw their weight behind getting Voting Rights passed and Voter Suppression Tactics stopped.  The effort is called Black Dollars Matter.

Georgia has some of the most organized and mobilized groups of Black voters, thanks to Stacey Abrams, who may be the shrewdest and most tenacious voting rights advocate in the nation.

Many of these Black voters remember when Abrams lost a close race for Georgia governor in 2018, a contest tainted by allegations of voter suppression. Kemp, Abrams’ opponent, ran for governor while also holding onto his position as the state’s chief elections officer — a position many viewed as a conflict of interest.

The perception that the GOP is trying to suppress the Black vote will only make Black voters in Georgia more determined to vote in 2022, when Abrams is widely expected to run against Kemp again, says the Rev. Jamal Byrant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.

“Georgia is frankly becoming browner and more progressive, and the Republicans are having anxiety about the upcoming gubernatorial election and they’re trying to do everything in their power to stop the wave,” Bryant says.

“You’re going to see a whole lot of first-time voters, younger voters and disillusioned and disenfranchised voters heading back to the polls because they realize what’s at stake,” Bryant says.

There is evidence to back up Bryant’s prediction. A growing body of research suggests that the passage of voter ID laws may in some cases motivate Black voters and spark voter organizing efforts.

One study examining the impact of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, suggested that voting restrictions may actually increase Black turnout in elections.

The Shelby decision made it easier for states to pass voter restriction laws after the high court removed the “preclearance” provision from the Voting Rights Act. Under preclearance, a state with a history of racial discrimination in elections had to get permission from the federal government for instituting any changes to how they run elections.

The study, which was cited in the New York Times, said the Shelby decision may have actually increased Black turnout in the 2016 presidential election in some states where preclearance was removed.

“Overall, the removal of preclearance did not decrease Black turnout,” says Kyle Raze, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon, who authored the study. “If anything, the removal of preclearance increased Black turnout in some states during the 2016 election.”

Political scientists have found laws that make voting more difficult don’t always succeed in changing election outcomes, because voters and parties take steps to counteract what’s happening.

I suppose the one great thing we’ve got going for us is that the country’s voters outnumber the country’s wicked rich. But then I read things like this poll from the Pew Research Center. “A partisan chasm in views of Trump’s legacy”.  It still seems many rank and file republicans get their information from alternative reality sites. Democracies don’t work so well when a slice of the electorate likes being deliberately and willfully ignorant.

Two months after President Donald Trump left office, 38% of Americans say he made progress toward solving major problems facing the country during his administration – while a nearly identical share (37%) say he made these problems worse. Another 15% say Trump tried but failed to solve the nation’s problems, while 10% say he did not address them.

Looking back at Trump’s term, just over half of Americans (53%) rate Trump’s presidency as below average – including 41% who say he was a “terrible” president. About a third (35%) rate his presidency as above average, including 17% who say he was a “great” president. Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of Trump’s presidential legacy, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 12,055 U.S. adults conducted March 1-7, 2021.

Graphic statement: A stately evening ensemble of black lace over aqua silk, for A. F. Chantilly, circa 1966.

I’d really like to know which problems exactly they think he solved.  He certainly created a lot more chaos and shameful policies than anything else he did.  Maybe they like the idea of child separation and children in cages? The huge budget busting and no growth creating tax cuts?  The love letters to Putin and Kim?  Who knows and I’m not about to ask any of them.  Phillip Bump of WAPO writes that “Trump is losing the war over his legacy”  How could someone who led a band of violent white supremacists to insurrection against our country have anything but a rotten legacy?  Added to his mishandling and manipulation of the COVID-19 response–discussed below–and I’d say he’s going down in history as a murderer, a seditionist, and a thief.

On Sunday evening, CNN aired a special featuring interviews with the senior officials involved in the early coronavirus pandemic response under president Donald Trump. No longer operating under the Trump political umbrella, they offered assessments of the past year that lacked any soothing veneer.

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House response under Trump, expressed her belief that the deaths that occurred after the first wave of infections last spring were largely preventable. It’s a sentiment that matches recent research but was at odds with the sanitization practices of the Trump White House to which Birx had so often adhered. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top epidemiologist, suggested it was government experts, not Trump, who had decided to push forward quickly on a vaccine to combat the virus in January 2020. That was months before the administration rolled out Operation Warp Speed, its push for vaccine development..

Well, that’s the one thing he was taking credit for that might’ve stuck.  I guess we should’ve known that somebody else’s idea all along.  Also, in the news is the Solar Winds Hack which probably was partially due to the deconstruction all over the National Security front by the Trumpist Regime.  This is breaking  from the AP: “from Alan Suderman.

Suspected Russian hackers gained access to email accounts belonging to the Trump administration’s head of the Department of Homeland Security and members of the department’s cybersecurity staff whose jobs included hunting threats from foreign countries, The Associated Press has learned.

The intelligence value of the hacking of then-acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his staff is not publicly known, but the symbolism is stark. Their accounts were accessed as part of what’s known as the SolarWinds intrusion, and it throws into question how the U.S. government can protect individuals, companies and institutions across the country if it can’t protect itself.

The short answer for many security experts and federal officials is that it can’t — at least not without some significant changes.

“The SolarWinds hack was a victory for our foreign adversaries, and a failure for DHS,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, top Republican on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We are talking about DHS’s crown jewels.”

The Biden administration has tried to keep a tight lid on the scope of the SolarWinds attack as it weighs retaliatory measures against Russia. But an inquiry by the AP found new details about the breach at DHS and other agencies, including the Energy Department, where hackers accessed top officials’ schedules.

Blush pink was a favorite color of Lowe’s. Here she uses it in silk and nylon for an evening dress, from 1962, festooned with trompe-l’oeil flowers.

Well, that’s a little this and that about the previous guy as well as what we’re experiencing now still because of the previous guy.  The Biden/Harris administration sure have their work cut out for them.

Since I now have the Blues I will put this up by Memphis Minnie (Lizzy Douglas) who recorded this song sometime during the peak of the great depression.  Douglas was born in New Orleans in the Algiers neighborhood in 1897 but moved to Tennessee to record.  She was billed as the Queen of the Country Blues. You can learn more about her at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

But there were plenty of men who wanted to play guitar like Memphis Minnie. She once even beat the great Big Bill Broonzy in a picking contest. Her title “Queen of the Country Blues” was no hype. Minnie did everything the boys could do, and she did it in a fancy gown with full hair and makeup. She had it all: stellar guitar chops, a powerful voice, a huge repertoire including many original, signature songs and a stage presence simultaneously glamorous, bawdy and tough.

She transcended both gender and genre. Her recording career reached from the 1920s heyday of country blues to cutting electric sides in 1950s Chicago studios for the Chess subsidiary Checker. Minnie helped form the roots of electric Chicago blues, as well as R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, long before she plugged in. Her unique storytelling style of songwriting drew such surprising fans as Country Music Hall of Famer Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, who covered her song about a favorite horse, “Frankie Jean,” right down to copying Minnie’s whistling. Though she inspired as many men as women, her influence was particularly strong on female musicians, her disciples including her niece Lavern Baker, a rock and R&B pioneer in her own right, as well as Maria Muldaur (who released a 2012 tribute CD) Bonnie Raitt (who paid for her headstone), Rory Block, Tracy Nelson, Saffire and virtually every other guitar-slinging woman since.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Happy Martin Luther King Day!!! Celebrate Civil Rights!

king-nobel-peace-prize-p

Today is the day to think about the sacrifices that were made by Civil Rights leaders and activists under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Today is the day we celebrate his birthday and the struggle that committed our country to fully addressing the promise of equality for all of us including those Black Americans who built this great nation under the yoke of slavery and the oppression of Jim Crow. #BLACKLIVESMATTER

I want to share this op ed written in WAPO by Michael Gerson today on why the attack on Congressman Lewis on the eve of our celebration of King’s birthday and legacy is “the essence of narcissism”.  Gerson correctly characterizes Trump’s problem as

“Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American story he is about to enter. He will lead a nation that accommodated a cruel exception to its founding creed; that bled and nearly died to recover its ideals; and that was only fully redeemed by the courage and moral clarity of the very people it had oppressed. People like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. People like John Lewis.”

Shepard-GreaterThanFearTrump has no appreciation for our roots as a nation and the sacrifice made by many men and women to bring it to where it is today.  Many of us had ancestors who did not make these sacrifices on their own terms or with consent or with recognition of their humanity which is an extremely important history to embrace.  This includes the endless humiliation and suffering of slaves and the atrocities committed against indigenous peoples.  It includes not extending the vote to woman until quite recently.  It includes not recognizing the dignity of all forms of love and being. We’ve struggled to get here and we struggle still.  Understanding the roads of our shared history is something we ask of our leaders. This shallow man who doesn’t read or appear to learn much of anything at all is preoccupied with himself alone.

A broader conception of the American story — a respect for the heroes and ghosts of our history — is absent in Trump’s public voice. He seems to be in the thrall of an eternal now. To some, the whole idea of a historical imagination will sound nebulous. Abraham Lincoln called it the “mystic chords of memory.” He hung his hopes for unity on the existence of a shared national experience that transcended regional differences. Today our divisions are more along lines of class and culture, but we also need to hear our story as one people.

Not every citizen shares this sense of history. It is a minority of Americans who visit Antietam and feel oppressed by the immense weight of collective death; or go to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and feel sickened by the scale of such a loss; or walk across that bridge in Selma and hear the echoes of snarling dogs and nightsticks against bone.

But we need a president who respects and evokes this story — or at least does not peevishly attack its heroes.

Shepard Fairey has painted the faces of the Resistance that starts in earnest this weekend with the Woman’s March on Washington .  The faces of resistance grace today’s post along with the man who must be our role model for change.

Shepard has created three portraits for the campaign; two other artists, Colombian American muralist Jessica Sabogal and and Chicano graphic artist Ernesto Yerena, have each made one more. Together, they hope the faces of “We the People” — standing in for traditionally marginalized groups or those specifically targeted during Trump’s presidential campaign — will flood Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day.

Fairey is collaborating with the Amplifier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to amplify grassroots movements and which commissioned the project. After learning that large-sized signs were prohibited at Inauguration, Amplifier came up with a hack to distribute the posters. Their plan: to buy full-page ads in the Washington Post on Jan. 20 that feature the “We the People” images, which can be torn out and carried as placards, or hung and posted around town. The posters will also be distributed at metro stops, from moving vans and other drop spots on Inauguration Day, as well as posted online for free download. A Kickstarter campaign for “We the People” has raised more than $148,000 since it was launched Tuesday night.

Today, his future press secretary has done the same thing that White House Mommy WE THE RESILIENT FINAL WITH TYPE !!!has said.  Do not be mean to Kremlin Caligula with the implication that some Russian Goon will visit us with brass knuckles if we continue not to accept his mocking of the disabled, his horrible treatment of Gold Star Parents who are Muslim and immigrants, his history of serial sexual assault and degradation of women and his fixation with SNL. The talk is that the White House Press will be sent to some far off administration building and out of their newly built offices in the White House.   Spicer wants Acosta and CNN to apologize for not treating the Toddler headed to the White House like an adult capable of answering questions germane to his job.

We’re about to become the anathema of the free world. Interviews with Hair Furor have set off shivers from our allies. Here’s some analysis from Martin Longman writing for Washington Monthly.

If Donald Trump has the goal of destroying American power, breaking up the European Union, dismantling NATO, lifting Russian sanctions, and helping to elect a bunch of Russian-aligned far right fascist parties in Western Europe, at least he’s willing to tell us exactly that. There’s very little subtlety about it at this point, and the only fig leaf he’s going to offer is the prospect that Putin will agree to some kind of reduction in our respective nuclear arsenals.

Is that a fair trade?

I don’t think so.

Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc…

…Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild…

…The Times quoted Trump as saying he was interested in making “good deals with Russia,” floating the idea of lifting sanctions…

“…[NATO is] obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said in the Bild version of the interview. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.” The Times quoted Trump saying that only five NATO members are paying their fair share…

…With Merkel facing an unprecedented challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany as she seeks a fourth term this fall, Trump was asked whether he’d like to see her re-elected. He said he couldn’t say, adding that while he respects Merkel, who’s been in office for 11 years, he doesn’t know her and she has hurt Germany by letting “all these illegals” into the country.

Since when are Syrian refugees allowed into a country for the purpose of asylum “illegals”?   NATO obsolete?  Where the hell is this mad man taking us?  Hey you … you’ve under an asterisk next to your name as president* the same way pumped up druggie athletes get one.

 

How long can our institutions endure these assaults?  Trumps appointments are as compromised as he is and they’re all freaking crooks.

Here’s the latest in the ethics issues that we’re told aren’t happening/don’t exist.final after mask newest

A multi-million dollar expansion of President-elect Donald Trump’s golf resort in Scotland is reportedly underway just days after his attorneys said no new foreign deals would be made.

Expansion plans for the Trump International Golf Course Scotland in Aberdeenshire include a second 18-hole golf course and a new 450-room five-star hotel, timeshare complex and private housing estate, The Guardian reported Saturday.

Trump officials claim the venture does not conflict with the president-elect’s promise not to pursue new or “pending deals” during his presidency to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Shepard-ProtectEachOtherSo, here’s something interesting.  Anonymous is going after Trump.  

The exchange began with Anonymous repeating accusations from sources that Trump has deep “financial and personal ties with Russian mobsters, child traffickers, and money launderers.”

The group’s twitter feed read worthy if you want to see every piece of dirt any one has ever dug up on the guy to date.  I’m sure the hacktivists are working on more.

Shepard-DefendDignitySo, I’m still laying low and trying to figure things out. I’m looking into something that could me to an acreage on an island in the Puget Sound and it has lots of little cabins on it among other interesting things.  I’m wondering how much brave I have left in these old bones.

I’m going to the NOLA protest activities on Friday. Maybe that will inspire me.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Economics Food Fight, Drive-By Mass Murder, and Other News

Thomas Picketty

Thomas Picketty

Have a Stupendous Saturday!

It’s too bad Dakinikat is so busy today, because there’s an economics food fight brewing. Perhaps she’ll still find time to comment on the controversy later the evening after she returns home with her newly adopted canine family member, Temple. Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to describe the dispute over Thomas Picketty’s conclusions about wealth inequality, published in his book Capital in the Twenty-first Century.

The Accusations:

At the Financial Times, Economics Editor Chris Giles has claims to have found problems with Picketty’s work: Piketty findings undercut by errors.

Thomas Piketty’s book, ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, has been the publishing sensation of the year. Its thesis of rising inequality tapped into the zeitgeist and electrified the post-financial crisis public policy debate.

But, according to a Financial Times investigation, the rock-star French economist appears to have got his sums wrong.

The data underpinning Professor Piketty’s 577-page tome, which has dominated best-seller lists in recent weeks, contain a series of errors that skew his findings. The FT found mistakes and unexplained entries in his spreadsheets, similar to those which last year undermined the work on public debt and growth of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

The central theme of Prof Piketty’s work is that wealth inequalities are heading back up to levels last seen before the first world war. The investigation undercuts this claim, indicating there is little evidence in Prof Piketty’s original sources to bear out the thesis that an increasing share of total wealth is held by the richest few.

Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source.

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

In one specific example, Giles says the corrected data do not show significant growth in Europe since 1970. In a second article, Giles goes into more detail. In addition, he argues that the U.S. data doesn’t support the conclusion that a greater proportion of the wealth is controlled by top 1% than in recent decades. He does admit to the top 10% controlling a greater share of wealth than previously.

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.

These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data….

A second class of problems relates to unexplained alterations of the original source data. Prof Piketty adjusts his own French data on wealth inequality at death to obtain inequality among the living. However, he used a larger adjustment scale for 1910 than for all the other years, without explaining why.

In the UK data, instead of using his source for the wealth of the top 10 per cent population during the 19th century, Prof Piketty inexplicably adds 26 percentage points to the wealth share of the top 1 per cent for 1870 and 28 percentage points for 1810.

A third problem is that when averaging different countries to estimate wealth in Europe, Prof Piketty gives the same weight to Sweden as to France and the UK – even though it only has one-seventh of the population.

Get even more detail and charts here: Data problems with Capital in the 21st Century.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The Pushback So Far:

Paul Krugman: Is Piketty All Wrong?

Great buzz in the blogosphere over Chris Giles’s attack on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Giles finds a few clear errors, although they don’t seem to matter much; more important, he questions some of the assumptions and imputations Piketty uses to deal with gaps in the data and the way he switches sources. Neil Irwin and Justin Wolfers have good discussions of the complaints; Piketty will have to answer these questions in detail, and we’ll see how well he does it.

Krugman suggests that Giles may be doing something wrong.

I don’t know the European evidence too well, but the notion of stable wealth concentration in the United States is at odds with many sources of evidence. Take, for example, the landmark CBO study on the distribution of income; it shows the distribution of income by type, and capital income has become much more concentrated over time:

It’s just not plausible that this increase in the concentration of income from capital doesn’t reflect a more or less comparable increase in the concentration of capital itself….

And there’s also the economic story. In the United States, income inequality has soared since 1980 by any measure you use. Unless the affluent starting saving less than the working class, this rise in income disparity must have led to a rise in wealth disparity over time.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum notes that

Giles’ objections are mostly to the data regarding increases in wealth inequality over the past few decades, and the funny thing is that even Piketty never claims that this has changed dramatically. The end result of Giles’ re-analysis of Piketty’s data is [below] with Piketty in blue and Giles in red. As you can see, Piketty estimates a very small increase since 1970.

blog_ft_piketty_wealth_inequality_europe

 

R.A. at The Economist: A Piketty problem?

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman

Mr Giles’s analysis is impressive, and one certainly hopes that further work by Mr Giles, Mr Piketty or others will clarify whether mistakes have been made, how they came to be introduced and what their effects are. Based on the information Mr Giles has provided so far, however, the analysis does not seem to support many of the allegations made by the FT, or the conclusion that the book’s argument is wrong.

There are four important questions raised by the FT‘s work. First, which data are wrong? Second, how did errors in the work, if they are errors, come to be introduced? Third, how do the errors affect the specific points made in the relevant chapters? And fourth, how do the errors affect the fundamental conclusions of the book?

Mr Giles focuses on wealth inequality, to which Mr Piketty turns in Chapter 10 of his book. Mr Piketty has not published nearly as much research on the question of wealth inequality, and it seems that much of the analysis in Chapter 10 was done specifically for the book, based on others’ research. Mr Piketty’s wealth-inequality analysis certainly matters as a component of the book’s argument, but it is not accurate to say, as Mr Giles does, that the results in Chapter 10 constitute the “central theme” of the book.

Are the data wrong? Mr Giles identifies discrepancies between source material cited by Mr Piketty and the figures that appear in the book. He identifies cases in which Mr Piketty appears to have chosen to use data from one source when another would have made more sense. Further, the calculations in Mr Piketty’s spreadsheets (which have been available online since the book’s publication) seem to include adjustments in the data that are not adequately explained, and some figures for which Mr Giles cannot find a documented source. Finally, Mr Piketty has made choices concerning weighting of data used in averages, and assigning of data from one year (1935, for example) to another (1930) when such assignments seem unnecessary or inadvisable.

Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan

The author concludes that, unfortunately, ideology will determine how many people respond to the Giles critique. Much more extensive analysis at the link.

Here is Picketty’s–presumably preliminary–response to Giles in a letter to the Financial Times:

Let me also say that I certainly agree that available data sources on wealth are much less systematic than for income. In fact, one of the main reasons why I am in favor of wealth taxation and automatic exchange of bank information is that this would be a way to develop more financial transparency and more reliable sources of information on wealth dynamics (even if the tax was charged at very low rates, which you might agree with).

For the time being, we have to do with what we have, that is, a very diverse and heterogeneous set of data sources on wealth: historical inheritance declarations and estate tax statistics, scarce property and wealth tax data, and household surveys with self-reported data on wealth (with typically a lot of under-reporting at the top). As I make clear in the book, in the on-line appendix, and in the many technical papers I have published on this topic, one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources so as to make them more homogenous over time and across countries. I have tried in the context of this book to make the most justified choices and arbitrages about data sources and adjustments. I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future (this is why I put everything on line). In fact, the “World Top Incomes Database” (WTID) is set to become a “World Wealth and Income Database” in the coming years, and we will put on-line updated estimates covering more countries. But I would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusion about the long run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected by these improvements.

I thought this was important:

my estimates on wealth concentration do not fully take into account offshore wealth, and are likely to err on the low side. I am certainly not trying to make the picture look darker than it it. As I make clear in chapter 12 of my book (see in particular table 12.1-12.2), top wealth holders have apparently been rising a lot faster average wealth in recent decades, at least according to the wealth rankings published in magazines such as Forbes. This is true not only in the US, but also in Britain and at the global level (see attached table). This is not well taken into account by wealth surveys and official statistics, including the recent statistics that were published for Britain. Of course, as I make clear in my book, wealth rankings published by magazines are far from being a perfectly reliable data source. But for the time being, this is what we have, and what we have suggests that the concentration of wealth at the top is rising pretty much everywhere.

Luckovich shooting

In Other News:

There has been a mass shooting in Southern California–this time perpetrated from behind the wheel of a car. From the LA Times, 7 dead in drive-by shooting near UC Santa Barbara.

The shootings began about 9:30 p.m., a sheriff’s spokeswoman told KEYT-TV. It wasn’t clear what the attacker’s motivation might have been.

An 18-year-old Newport Beach man who was visiting Santa Barbara described a confusing scene as the shots rang out.

Nikolaus Becker was eating outside The Habit, 888 Embarcadero Del Norte,  near the scene when the first set of shots was fired about 9:30 p.m. At first he thought it was firecrackers. A group of three to five police officers who were nearby started to casually walk toward the sounds, said Becker, but ran when a second round of shots broke out.

“That’s when they yelled at us to get inside and take cover,” Becker said.

The BMW took a sharp turn in front of The Habit, Becker said, and moments later a third round of shots was heard. Becker and his friends moved toward the restaurant’s kitchen but were told to wait in the seating area by employees.

He estimates there were at least 13 to 15 shots total at three locations. The locations were about 100 yards from one another.

The shooter, whose motivation is unknown, was found dead in his BMW. It’s not yet clear if he shot himself or was killed by sheriff’s deputies.

In another gun-related story, TPM reports that some gun nuts are reconsidering their campaign of carrying long guns into public places: Scaring The Crap Out of People Oddly Not Winning Fans.

Open Carry Texas and a group of other aggressive gun rights groups have issued a joint statement telling their members, Dudes, let’s stop taking our guns to restaurants. It’s freaking people out and making them hate us.

Read the full statement at TPM.

Shelly-and-Donald-Sterling1

Soon-to-be former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has signed over the team to his wife and wants her to negotiate the sale.

Shelly Sterling, who previously shared ownership of the beleaguered NBA franchise with her estranged husband, is now in talks with the NBA over selling the team, the source said.

The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life from all league events after an audio tape became public that caught him on tape uttering racist comments to his assistant V. Stiviano. He told her not to post photos of herself with black people on Instagram — such as Magic Johnson — or bring them to his basketball games.

But the NBA isn’t buying it. From ESPN: Why the NBA won’t allow Shelly Sterling to control the Clippers.

At first glance, Donald Sterling’s gesture may seem like serendipitous news for the NBA. Taking him at his word, Donald Sterling has agreed to leave the league without a fight and has signed off on the sale of his team. Digging deeper, however, reveals possible ulterior motives on Sterling’s part to delay and potentially block the sale of the team. Do not forget a crucial point: capital gain taxes. As first reported by SI.com, the Sterlings have significant incentives under capital gain tax law to avoid the sale of the team and keep it in the Sterling family. Doing so, would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, contrary to some reports, the Sterlings are unlikely to benefit from the “involuntary conversion” tax avoidance provision of the Internal Revenue Code. The bottom line is if the Sterlings have to sell the Clippers, they will probably pay hundreds of millions in state and federal taxes.

Along those lines, Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver does not accomplish the NBA’s goal of ousting the entire Sterling family on June 3. As explained in a previous SI.com article, the NBA interprets its constitution to mean that ousting Donald Sterling on June 3 would also automatically oust Shelly Sterling as co-owner, with the Clippers then falling under the control of commissioner Adam Silver. Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver risks the prospect of Shelly Sterling undertaking a slow-moving effort to sell the team. A sale process that takes months or years would clearly aggravate the NBA, which wants to erase the Sterling family name from the league as quickly as possible. A protracted sale of the Clippers by Shelly Sterling might also constitute a potential rationale for players to boycott NBA games.

Even of greater risk to the NBA, what is to stop Shelly Sterling from deciding to keep the Clippers? She could plausibly reason, on various grounds, that now is not the right time to sell the team. Also, her instruction from her husband to sell the team would not be legally binding; it would be a mere suggestion the moment she takes over the team.

Read much more at the link.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ll end with a long article that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’m hearing it’s a must read: The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Here’s the tagline:

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

Some reactions:

The Guardian: The ‘Case for Reparations’ is solid, and it’s long past time to make them.

Slate: An Ingenious and Powerful Case for Reparations.

The Wire: You Should Read “The Case for Reparations.”

NPR: How To Tell Who Hasn’t Read The New ‘Atlantic’ Cover Story.

WaPo: Culture change and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘The Case For Reparations’.

What else is happening? As always, please post your links in the comment thread.


Slash and Burn Republicanism is not Good for the Country, our Children, and other Living Things

US children starvingSome time during the Reagan campaign, our government became the enemy of a huge number of people in this country. Paranoia over a democratically elected government enshrined by voters and a sophisticated legal and political system is usually confined to a groups of paramilitary paranoids that call themselves preppers, read too much Ayn Rand, and never emotionally develop beyond, say high school. Through the money of the Koch Brothers, the pulpit connivings of Pat Robertson and the paranoid shrieking of folks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that have failed at every endeavor but snake oil peddling on the radio, we now have entire sections of the country that gerrymander legislators to send these freaks to Congress.

Take Texas. Please.

Perry and like-minded Republican governors subscribe to the slash-and-burn economic philosophy — a belief that “less” will somehow become “more.” In Texas, he has implemented this vision with gusto, cutting taxes and slashing funding for critical middle-class priorities such as public schools, higher education, health care and infrastructure. The results? Texas ranks 49th in high school graduation10th in the rate of poverty and 50th in the percent of residents with even basic health insurance.

And while Perry likes to promote the job creation in Texas during his time in office, he leaves out a critical point: The jobs “miracle” he touts is driven by low-paying, non-sustainable jobs. This year, Texas — tied with Mississippi — leads the nation for the percentage of hourly paid workers earning equal to or less than the minimum wage. More than one in 10 workers nationwide earning at or below the minimum wage works in Texas.

Let’s not even go into the social costs of letting Texas businesses operate however they want to.  Just ask the towns and farms that no longer have water and are nsubjected to earthquakes due to fracking.  We can also mention the town that mostly disappeared from a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people.  Wait until Texas property owners and taxpayers get the bills for those kinds of preventable disasters.  I’m fairly certain that northern Texas will soon be paying more for water than the world will pay for its oil.  In fact, I’ll stake all my years drawing supply and demand graph on it.

Then, there is a new kick-the-can down the road effort on the 2013 Farm Bill that’s going to leave a lot of American children starving.  Republican members of Congress appear to still think that folks live large off of Food Stamps.  It’s the old untrue Welfare Queen canard peddled by Reagan back in the 1980s come back to haunt us.

An extension does not solve problems. Congress is currently engaged in a philosophical debate about federal nutrition programs, namely, the farm bill’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some members of Congress believe the program and its current level of benefits and eligibility requirements are appropriate, particularly in this challenging economic time. Others erroneously believe the program is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse and want to cut funding and benefits to vulnerable families.

Regardless of where one falls on this issue, it is clear that an extension of the current farm bill is inadequate from both perspectives. Members wanting to preserve existing funding for this vital safety net program should welcome the long-term policy certainty provided by a five-year comprehensive bill, rather than leaving SNAP vulnerable to cuts year after year. And members interested in cutting funding from SNAP won’t achieve any of the so-called reforms they desire without the passage of a new five-year bill; an extension merely perpetuates the status quo.

Rather than waste time on a nutrition-only bill to be brought up in the House next week that would leave between 4 and 6 million Americans ineligible for full SNAP benefits, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or pass an extension that merely kicks the can down the road, Congress must instead preserve the historic coalition between farmers and consumers in need and pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill that includes both farm and nutrition programs.

Then, here we go again on shutting down the budget process, a debt ceiling increase, and vital services over providing more health care to individuals through the Affordable Health Care Act.  Once again, I remind every one that this act is basically the Heritage Institute Plan of the 1990s.  It was the Republican answer to “HillaryCare”.  How far down the path of slash and burn have we gone that today’s Republican’s reject their “conservative” plan of less than 20 years ago?  Here’s an argument for a shutdown.

I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that a government shutdown may be the only way to deal with the coming budget bedlam and #cliffgate.

Let’s start by reviewing the situation.

  1. As of today there are less than two weeks before fiscal 2014 begins.
  2. None of the FY14 appropriations have been enacted; none have any chance of being enacted.
  3. There are no formal negotiations going on between Congress and the White House, between the House and Senate or between Democrats and Republicans.
  4. The only discussions that seem to be taking place are between the two main factions in the House GOP…and the best thing that can be said about them is that they appear to be going nowhere.
  5. The original plan suggested by the House Republican leadership was flatly rejected by the tea partiers in the House GOP caucus. The tea partiers were energized by their success.
  6. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) haven’t put a new plan on the table since their last plan was rejected by members of their own party a week ago. Boehner has even indicated publicly that he’s not sure whether there is a plan than is acceptable to his caucus.
  7. Meanwhile, in keeping with the tradition that the House goes first on CRs, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he is going to wait for the House to act before moving forward. What happens when/if he moves forward is anyone’s guess
  8. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has far less room to maneuver compared to previous budget fights because he is being challenged in the GOP Kentucky primary by a tea partier.
  9. House Democrats, who in the past have provided the votes to help the House GOP pass budget-related bills when the Republican caucus couldn’t decide what to do, this time seem hell bent on not doing it again.
  10. The White House has far less sway over congressional Democrats now than it did before the 2012 election. Needless to say, it has almost none over congressional Republicans.
  11. The extremely negative political impact of the 1995-96 shutdowns is such a distant (or nonexistent) memory for so many House Republicans that it’s not at all clear they have any fear of it happening again in 2013.
  12. To top it all off, this year’s budget debate is less about the budget than it is about defunding Obamacare and that makes a compromise far harder on the budget issues.

Two things usually help with a political stalemate like this (although I’m not really sure there ever has been a situation exactly like this one):

  • A charismatic leader who can overcome the partisan warfare
  • A crisis that substantially changes the politics

It’s hard to see any leader emerging in the short-term In the current hyper partisan environment. And while there are many charismatic politicians, at least right now none have the stature with both parties to negotiate a budget peace plan.

That leaves a crisis, and baring a military or foreign policy disaster, the only one with the potential to create enough political pain in a relatively short period of time is a federal shutdown.

That makes a shutdown a better option for Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Reid than it might otherwise seem.

A shutdown also may work for Boehner because (1) it will show his tea partiers that he was willing to allow it to happen as they wanted, (2) it will change the politics as many voters go from being amused to being furious and (3) the tea partiers may be able to use the shutdown with their own voters to prove their political testosterone.

As usual, there’s a group of greedy billionaires behind the shutdown mentality.  It seems they all make lots of money just from all the hooplah.

Club for Growth and other extremist groups consider a record like his an unforgivable failure, and they are raising and spending millions to make sure that no Republicans will take similar positions in the next few weeks when the fiscal year ends and the debt limit expires.

If you’re wondering why so many House Republicans seem to believe they can force President Obama to accept a “defunding” of the health care reform law by threatening a government shutdown or a default, it’s because these groups have promised to inflict political pain on any Republican official who doesn’t go along.

Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund have each released scorecards showing which lawmakers have pledged to “defund Obamacare.” When a senator like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma refuses to pledge, right-wing activists are told: “Please contact Senator Coburn and tell him it’s dishonest to say you oppose Obamacare, but then vote to fund it. Tell him he swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Mr. Schock and 10 other lawmakers considered suspiciously squishy by the Club for Growth were designated as RINO’s (Republicans in name only), and the club has vowed to find primary opponents and support them with cash — a formidable threat considering that it spent $18 million backing conservative candidates in the 2012 cycle. Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers group that has already spent millions on ads fighting health reform, is beginning a new campaign to delay the law’s effects.

These groups, all financed with secret and unlimited money, feed on chaos and would like nothing better than to claim credit for pushing Washington into another crisis. Winning an ideological victory is far more important to them than the severe economic effects of a shutdown or, worse, a default, which could shatter the credit markets.

They also have another reason for their attacks: fund-raising. All their Web sites pushing the defunding scheme include a big “donate” button for the faithful to push. “With your donation, you will be sending a strong message: Obamacare must be defunded now,” saysthe Web site of the National Liberty Federation, another “social welfare” group that sees dollar signs in shutting down the government.

Brian Walsh, a longtime Republican operative, recently noted in U.S. News and World Report that the right is now spending more money attacking Republicans than the Democrats are. “Money begets TV ads, which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers,” he wrote. “Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fund-raising business.”

What always seems odd in all of this is the number of people that fall for these rich, ideological loudmouths whose slash and burn policy is killing every one.  It seems to me that it’s an offshoot of xenophobia, misogyny and racism.  It appears easier for some folks to believe that women, minorities, and other ethnic groups are more responsible for their economic demise than their bosses and overlords in the pulpits, in elected office, and the bosses chair.  Why some one doesn’t question the patriotism and birth certificate of the likes of Ted Cruz is beyond me.   He’s really the poster boy for everything that’s removing the greatness from our country imho.


The Real Moochers: America’s Bailed Out and Subsidized CEOs

27economix-participation-2007-blog480Any one that has spent much time in private sector job can probably discuss how demoralizing the place can be even when you’re doing something you love.  The guy above you always takes credit for what you do right and blames you for what goes wrong.  You get shoved into a salaried position so they can avoid paying you more and better and overtime.  The expectations are always for more than a 40 hour work week even you when you have little to do for a time period. The benefits are bad and getting worse.  Then they were you out physically, emotionally, and every which way possible which explains a lot of the graph and the rise in disability.  American Management and corporations treat workers about that same way they treat machines.  They wear them out and throw them away when they are no longer functional.   No amount of consumerable junk eventually replaces having to go to a job that destroys both your physical and mental health.  So, part of the weirdness of the labor markets these days is that people are just dropping out of the labor force. 

If the decline stemmed largely from an aging work force, it would be much less worrisome. But the initial wave of baby-boomer retirements plays only a small role in the drop; the labor force participation rate has fallen almost as sharply for people aged 25 to 54 as it has for the overall adult population.

As the report notes, economists are not entirely sure what has caused the shift. One factor seems to be the so-called skills gap — the slow growth in educational attainment in recent decades, even as the economy has become more technologically advanced.

A second factor is most likely the weak economic growth of the past 13 years: the 2000-1 dot-com bust, the mediocre expansion that followed, the financial crisis that began in 2007 and the disappointing recovery of the last few years.

Another cause may be the rise in the number of workers on disability. The report cites a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to argue that disability is helping cause the decline in work. That’s probably right, although it is worth remembering that the growth of the ranks of the disabled may be more of an effect of the jobs slump than a cause.

Either way, the decline in labor force participation almost certainly receives too little attention. Each month, small changes in the unemployment rate receive great scrutiny. We often overlook just how flawed a measure of the job market that rate has become over the last 13 years.

So, the news continues to be pretty glum for American workers even though there are more unemployed going back to work.  Their wages will not keep them in a middle class standard of living.  Changes are some health problem will devastate their finances.  Extremely rich people are pouring tons of money into creating untrue memes about social security, medicare, and the size of the government debt.  Let’s not even discuss the fact that we have direct evidence that Keynesian stimulus works and government spending has been coming down rapidly under the Obama administration.  Truth and data must be for suckers like us.

Meanwhile, here’s a disturbing set of studies that really should grab some attention.  “Nearly 40 percent of the CEOs on the highest-paid lists from the past 20 years were eventually “bailed out, booted, or busted.” These are the folks grabbing huge salaries for supposedly stellar performance.

But our analysis reveals widespread poor performance within America’s elite CEO circles. Chief executives performing poorly — and blatantly so — have consistently populated the ranks of our nation’s top-paid CEOs over the last two decades.

The report’s key finding: nearly 40 percent of the CEOs on these highest-paid lists were eventually “bailed out, booted, or busted.”

  • The Bailed Out: CEOs whose firms either ceased to exist or received taxpayer bailouts after the 2008 financial crash held 22 percent of the slots in our sample. Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers enjoyed one of Corporate America’s largest 25 paychecks for eight consecutive years — until his firm went belly up in 2008.
  • The Booted: Not counting those on the bailed out list, another 8 percent of our sample was made up of CEOs who wound up losing their jobs involuntarily. Despite their poor performance, the “booted” CEOs jumped out the escape hatch with golden parachutes valued at $48 million on average.
  •  The Busted: CEOs who led corporations that ended up paying significant fraud-related fines or settlements comprised an additional 8 percent of the sample. One CEO had to pay a penalty out of his own pocket for stock option back-dating. The other companies shelled out payments that totaled over $100 million per firm.

The ink has dryed on Dodd-Frank.  Yet, we have not had the most basic requirements to rein in out-of-control CEO pay implemented.

  • CEO-worker pay ratio disclosure: Three years after President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank legislation, the SEC has still not implemented this commonsense transparency measure. The reform would discourage both large pay disparities that can harm employee morale and productivity and excessive executive pay levels that can encourage excessively risky behavior.

  • Pay restrictions on executives of large financial institutions: Within nine months of the enactment of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, regulators were supposed to have issued guidelines that prohibit large financial institutions from granting incentive-based compensation that “encourages inappropriate risks.” Regulators are still dragging their feet on this modest reform.

  • Limiting the deductibility of executive compensation: At a time when Congress is debating sharp cuts to essential public services, corporations are able to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by deducting unlimited amounts from their IRS bill for the cost of executive compensation. Two bills, the Stop Subsidizing Multimillion Dollar Corporate Bonuses Act (S.1746) and the Income Equity Act (H.R. 199) would fix this outrageous loophole and significantly reduce taxpayer subsidies for excessive CEO pay.

Couple these concepts with this item.  “Taxpayer Dollars Paid A Third Of Richest Corporate CEOs”.  Cleary, there is something wrong with this picture.

“Financial bailouts offer just one example of how a significant number of America’s CEO pay leaders owe much of their good fortune to America’s taxpayers,” reads the report. “Government contracts offer another.”

IPS has been publishing annual reports on executive compensation since 1993, tracking the 25 highest-paid CEOs each year and analyzing trends in payouts. Of the 500 total company listings, 103 were banks that received government bailouts under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, while another 62 were among the nation’s most prolific government contractors.

Many of the companies appeared multiple times on the annual top 25 list, with Bank of America appearing 18 times, Citigroup appearing 15 times, while Morgan Stanley and American Express each secured 12 slots. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has landed on the list twice since the bank received $10 billion under TARP, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault has appeared three times since his company accepted $3.4 billion in bailout money. Goldman Sachs received $10 billion under TARP, and made the list seven times in the past two decades, once after receiving its bailout. Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers, both of which failed in 2008, also appeared on the list, with Leman making eight appearances before filing for bankruptcy.

Aren’t you glad that Looter Larry is on his way to Fed Chair now?

About 12 percent of the 500 CEOs listed comprised executives who ran firms that did extensive business with the federal government. IBM landed on the top CEO pay list 11 times, securing about $11 billion in total government contracts during those years, while General Electric appeared on the annual list eight times, with $16.5 billion in contracts. GE also has a large banking wing, which issued more than $70 billion in debt guaranteed by the federal government at the height of the financial crisis, making it one of the biggest beneficiaries of the bank rescue.

“Approximately 4 percent of GE’s annual revenues come from sales to the U.S. government, primarily work to support the U.S. military,” GE spokesman Seth Martin told HuffPost. Martin emphasized that none of its government-backed debt defaulted, and that the company paid taxpayers $2.3 billion in guarantee fees as part of the program.

Major government contractor United Technologies has appeared on the annual highest-paid CEO list six times, bringing in $32.8 billion in government business, while Lockheed Martin has scored five appearances, generating a total of $125 billion from government contracts from those years.

All these companies argue that they have to pay these sums to CEOS to attract and retain their services.  However, look at the performances of CEOS when the economy isn’t going swimmingly.  They fail and bring enormous harm to taxpayers, the labor market, and our economy.  It’s easy to manage a company in a recovering economy when all you are doing is sitting on cheap money and letting some customers come in to an under-stocked, under-employed, and low service providing company while working your remaining employees to death and disability.

Executive pay has steadily increased relative to average worker pay for several decades, but has exploded since 1993. That year, CEOs of companies in the S&P 500 Index made an average of 195 times as much their average worker. By 2012, that ratio had ballooned to 354 to 1.

Even corporations that do not do business with the government or receive bailouts receive subsidies for CEO pay. All companies are currently able to deduct unlimited amounts in CEO pay from their federal tax bills, so long as the pay takes the form of “performance-based” compensation such as bonuses or stock payments.

It’s just hard for me to continue to blog about these issues because they are so pervasive and not even the smallest of remedies are implemented.