Sympathy for the Devil

That didn’t take long.  Perennial austerity advocate Robert J. Samuelson over at the WaPoo  frets about the poor little feelings of America’s rich, in these troubled times:

There are many theories about why inequality has increased, though no consensus: New technologies reward the highly skilled; globalization depresses factory wages; eroded union power does the same; employer-paid health insurance squeezes take-home pay; a “winner-take-all” society confers huge rewards on an elite of celebrities, sports stars and business leaders.

Now, let’s take that little piece of deliberate lying apart piece by piece; it clearly needs it.  First, inequality has increased because of government policies that encouraged it; Samuelson here picks up a bunch of symptoms and calls them causes, figuring (perhaps rightly) his readers are too dumb to notice the difference.  The goal of “globalization” was and is to depress wages, as was the concerted assault on unions, both of which Samuelson’s crummy employer always cheered. Second, our costly yet ineffective health care system is a huge drag on the economy,  but Samuelson blames it on forces beyond our control, rather than on the rapacious 1%-ers who run it.  Last, it’s a neat trick to lump celebrities and sports stars in with, say, the Koch Brothers, but to do so is deliberately misleading.  Neither group spends lavishly to further their own interests over those of everyone else, nor did they inherit their lofty positions as the Kochs did. They work for their money, and got it without any help from a handmaiden government.

Whatever the cause, inequality is a new political fault line. Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proposed a 5.6 percent surtax on those making more than $1 million to pay for President Obama’s $447 billion jobs program. What could be easier? Millionaires are few in number (about 534,000, says the Tax Policy Center). They’re increasingly unpopular, and they can afford it.

Ah, it’s clearly time to haul out a bowling ball of lies to knock down those ten pins of common sense.  Samuelson doesn’t disappoint:

The trouble is that the wealthy don’t fit the stereotypes: They aren’t all pampered CEOs, hotshot investment bankers, pop stars and athletes. Many own small and medium-sized companies. Half the wealth of the richest 1 percent consists of stakes in these firms. That’s double their holdings of stocks, bonds and mutual funds, according to figures compiled by economist Edward Wolff of New York University. Reid would pay for Obama’s jobs plan by taxing the people who are supposed to create jobs. Does that make sense?

Oops.  Turned out to be a gutter ball, and worse, one that looks suspiciously like John Boehner’s orange head.  Of course, the statistics reek of bogusness, but guys like Samuelson aren’t really trying all that hard anymore.  They write columns straight off the wingnut ticker tape, where “job creators” are the answer, whatever the question. Less than 3% of actual “small businesses” are taxed at the top rate, and Samuelson knows this, but what the hell?  It’s worked so far….

The backlash against the rich is the start of debate, not the end. Are the rich to be punished for succeeding or merely asked to pay their “fair” share? Who is wealthy or who’s just well-off? Is $250,000 a reasonable cutoff for couples, as Obama once indicated, or has that been repudiated? If taxes do rise, what approach would best preserve incentives for hard work, investment and risk-taking? Are Obama’s assaults on wealthy business leaders just deserts (sic) or political cheap shots? However measured, the rich are besieged; the attacks almost certainly will intensify.

Ah, before there were “job creators,” there were the “successful” being “punished.” And my, how this punishment seems to have taken its toll on the poor dears. Ensconced in one or the other of their several gated compounds, these shrinking violets feel “besieged,” as Samuelson so sympathetically puts it, and worse, they’re threatening, for the umpteenth time, to go Galt on us if we don’t leave them alone.  These are the things that keep Samuelson awake at night. They should.


  1. mikeinportc says:

    :) ))))))) They’re sooooooo besieged that they’re sitting on record cash, and spending on luxury goods as if were penny-candy.I also wouldn’t lump sports, & other entertainment stars in with the the likes of the Koch Brothers, for another reason besides actually earning it. Many ( Eldrick W., excepted) are known for being generous, to a foolish degree, with their less-fortunate friends/famiy/aquaintences.

    OT( or maybe not), I wonder if the timing of the Iranian terra-ist plot-”foiling” is part of the answer to being “besieged” ? Remember about a year ago? As the protets in Europe were picking up steam, our spooks warned everybody to beware of public places, lest eight malcontents in Pakistan, under constant surveillance, do something untoward.

    Btw, how is it “terrorism”? A secret asassination , of one individual ( a furriner ! & an A-Rab!), that most ‘Murricans have never heard of, and whose death, a sizeable continent (9/11!9/11!9/11!) might enjoy. I thought terror was suposed to, well, …terrorize. An Iranian-American, hires a Mexican drug cartel, to whack a Saudi ambassador? Of course the alleged motive is obvious, but even so , it sounds almost as crazy as….I don’t know….. six amateur nobodies attacking Fort Dix . ( Did the FBI hire a bunch of has-been screenwriters a few yers ago?) I know I’m under the bed, with my knickers in a twist.

  2. mikeinportc says:

    Meant *contingent* , although, many that I know, espousing such attitudes are continent-sized. ;)

    ( The cursor misbehaves terribly on this site ???)

    • cocktailhag says:

      I thought it was because my computer is a bit late for the big sleep… When I heard about the “Iranian” plot today, I didn’t even think to write about it because I thought it was so bogus. I don’t expect to be proven wrong. Do they really think his horse shit sill works?

  3. daphne says:

    Yuck. Does Samuelson really write so crappily? No wonder I never read his columns.

  4. Samuelson owes his reputation entirely to the fact that a guy with the same last name wrote the Econ 101 textbook terribly popular in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s. Folks who don’t know better (Venn-diagram that overlap with WaPo readers, why don’t you?) think there’s a vague relationship, but there’s not.

    Also: “Boehner’s orange head” heh!

    • cocktailhag says:

      Did that textbook call for endless military spending, cutting social security, and austerity as the medicine for every hiccup? If so, maybe a family resemblance was involved. Otherwise, I figure he’s just another righty affirmative action hire, like the rest of the WaPoopers seem to be.

      • No, the real economist Samuelson is a Keynesian.

        I think Fred “Hire the Handicapped Wingnut” Hiatt interviewed this fraud in the afternoon, post-cocktails, with Peggy Noonan sitting in after an Acelea run from NYC.