Monday Reads

Good Morning

I still can’t get over Mitten’s 47% comment.  Neither can Simon Johnson who is a former chief economist of the IMF and  a professor at MIT Sloan. He wrote an article for Project Syndicate that is just filled with wonky goodness called “Mitt and the Moochers”.

Romney is apparently taken with the idea that many Americans, the so-called 47%, do not pay federal income tax. He believes that they view themselves as “victims” and have become “dependent” on the government.But this misses two obvious points. First, most of the 47% pay a great deal of tax on their earnings, property, and goods purchased. They also work hard to make a living in a country where median household income has declined to a level last seen in the mid-1990’s.

Second, the really big subsidies in modern America flow to a part of its financial elite – the privileged few who are in charge of the biggest firms on Wall Street.

Seen in broad historical perspective, this is not such an unusual situation. In their recent bestselling economic history, Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson cite many past and current cases in which powerful individuals attain control over the state and use this power to enrich themselves.

This is representative the new whine of the newly rich. They all appear to be caught in the throes of a Charlie Brown Syndrome. Where on earth did they get they idea that they are the victims in this society?  Why are they so quick to say they are ‘self-made’ and put upon?  Are their lives this dull that they have to invent problems?

Why do the mega rich in the United States feel so put upon? Their incomes are rising, after all, and the taxes they pay have never been lower since the 1920s.

In fact, even if lawmakers in Congress passed 100 percent of President Obama’s tax plan, America’s rich would still be paying taxes at less than half the top rate that America’s richest faced back in the 1950s.

America’s wealthiest, given this ever so friendly political lay of the land, ought to be kicking back and living care-free. But that’s not happening. This election cycle appears to have America’s super rich in a feverish frenzy. They’re pouring money into the 2012 elections at all-time record rates.

What’s behind this deluge of campaign cash? A few frenzied super-rich political donors have apparently gulped the Kool-Aid of America’s delusional right wing. President Obama, these crazed deep pockets almost seem to believe, has tumbrils waiting to cart them off to the guillotines once he wins a second term.

Even David Frum finds it unnerving.  Well, to use his words, he finds it “sinister”.

The background to so much of the politics of the past four years is the mood of apocalyptic terror that has gripped so much of the American upper class.

Hucksters of all kinds have battened on this terror. They tell them that free enterprise is under attack; that Obama is a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, an anti-colonialist. Only by donating to my think tank, buying my book, watching my network, going to my movie, can you – can we – stop him before he seizes everything to give to his base of “bums,” as Charles Murray memorably called them.

And what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive, never exerted less political clout. No Coxey’s army is marching on Washington, no sit-down strikes are paralyzing factories, no squatters are moving onto farmer’s fields. Occupy Wall Street immediately fizzled, there is no protest party of the political left.

The only radical mass movement in this country is the Tea Party, a movement to defend the interests of elderly incumbent beneficiaries of the existing welfare state. Against that movement is a government of liberal technocrats dependent on campaign donations from a different faction of the American super-rich than that which backs Mitt Romney himself.

That last paragraph should be read carefully.  Huhn?

But, back to the topic, WTF makes the Romneys act so resentful? Why the persecution complex?  Is it some hangover from the Mormon history of being run out of places after you and your followers try to assassinate the local political leaders? (See Ohio, See Missouri, See Iowa, See Illinois , oh, you get the picture …)

“My question is, why don’t you stick up for yourself?” a man who had paid fifty thousand dollars to attend a dinner with Mitt Romney asked. “To me, you should be so proud that you’re wealthy.” That remark was recorded in a video of the dinner, at a hedge-fund manager’s home in Boca Raton, which was released by Mother Jones. In it, Romney complains that just under half of all Americans had come to see themselves as “victims,” when they were actually, as he sees it, entitled and demanding dependents. But there is a character who he and everyone else in the room seem to agree most certainly is a true victim: Mitt Romney, martyr to the envy of the masses.

Romney has been running a campaign centered on resentment, in many forms: the resentment directed at the “successful” that he imagines is driving his critics; the resentment he is trying to fan in his base voters; and, increasingly and most strangely, his own. Romney’s resentment has become a matter of temperament, of policy, and of politics. He and his wife, Ann, have made it clear that they take offense when his good will is questioned. Fixated on what he sees as the jealous motives of his critics, he misses the important truths about our economy and the reality of people’s lives that might have informed his agenda. He also reveals a great deal about himself.

This is not a new theme for Romney. In January, after winning the New Hampshire primary, he spoke in his victory speech about “the bitter politics of envy…. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.” The next morning, he spoke to Matt Lauer

Lauer: I’m curious about the word ‘envy.’ Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?

Romney: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.

Somehow, asking whether our economy might ever have victims is itself an act of victimizing Mitt. Resentment based in a sense of under-appreciation can be unattractive.

They seem to be in complete denial about why we find them unattractive.  So, I guess I’ll leave the analysis to BB.  I’ll just say that I”m not the only one that’s noticed this because look at the links I dug up with the google.

Speaking of rich, Mike Allen of politico has written an article on Sheldon Adelson. He’s the very rich man behind any one that promises to go to war with Iran and has a series of really nasty casinos and other related sin businesses in Macao.

So why does he do it? For the first time, Adelson talked in detail about his top five reasons:

1) Self-defense: Adelson said that a second Obama term would bring government “vilification of people that were against him.” He thinks he would be at the top of that list, and contends that he already has been targeted for his political activity.

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. is being scrutinized by federal investigators looking into possible money-laundering in Vegas, and possible violation of bribery laws by the company’s ventures in China, including four casinos in the gambling mecca of Macau. (Amazingly, 90 percent of the corporation’s revenue is now from Asia, including properties in Macau and Singapore.)

The country’s leading mega-donor is irritated by the leaks.“When I see what’s happening to me and this company, about accusations that are unfounded, that kind of behavior … has to stop,” he said.

Adelson gave the interview in part to signal that he intends to fight back in increasingly visible ways. Articles about the investigations appeared last month on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He maintains that after his family became heavily involved in the election, the government began leaking information about federal inquiries that involve old events, and with which the company has been cooperating.

The aim of the leaks, he argued, is “making me toxic so that they can make the argument to the Republicans, ‘This guy is toxic. Don’t do business with him. Don’t take his money.’ Not all government employees are leakers, but most of the leakers are government employees.”

Asked to respond to Adelson’s comments, the Justice Department said it does not comment on, or confirm, investigations.

Oh, sheesh, try to change the  subject and what do I find?  Another rich dude with a persecution complex.  (sigh)

A treat for you :  Linda Rondstadt Sings Poor Poor Pitful Me for President and First Lady Clinton in 1996.  I’m suggesting this for Mitt’s New Campaign Song.  I think Ann could do it justice.

Maybe it should be your turn!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?