Re: If enough people were poor enough, I'd be rich!

1

If I read that correctly, it's $190,000 AGI. So that's after you've squirreled bits of it away here and there, right? If so: totes rich.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 8:47 PM
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What if I get my taxes pileated?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 8:48 PM
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I forgot to mention that today I passed a store called Beck's immediately after a street called "Mine Shaft."


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 8:54 PM
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Man, hypothetical rich people suck.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 8:58 PM
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3 is excellent. But, um, where does one find streets called "Mine Shaft"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 8:59 PM
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5: Near mines?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:01 PM
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5: Raleigh, North Carolina for one, apparently. I think we should deputize apo to perform a professional probe into the place.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:02 PM
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Mime Shaft Road, on the other hand, is something you hope wasn't named by someone overly literal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:06 PM
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Google Maps finds a Mine Shaft St in Las Vegas. It intersects Rugged Ave and Squaw Springs Ln.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:07 PM
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7: He should form a posse in Zebulon. They're experts in probes, I bet.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:07 PM
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I was in Sacramento, near Folsom - old mining area. I'll go back and take a picture sometime.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:29 PM
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On topic: masturbating to the Bush tax cuts can continue. They just passed the House.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 9:44 PM
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12:"I've got blisters on my fingers!"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 10:51 PM
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"via Becks"? this is a thing?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 11:42 PM
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12 -- But not to the omnibus spending bill. Going to have to have a CR soon, or we get to have a government shutdown even before Boehner takes over.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-16-10 11:46 PM
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Government finances are depressing the hell out of me. We had serious cuts even with stimulus money last year. Tax receipts have gone up but not enough, so there's a 1.5 billion dollar across the board cut coming, since increased taxes are off the table.

And towns are laying people off, because they've lost state aid and couldn't get the unions to agree to join the health plan for state government workers. (I totally sympathize with the employees, but looking at the budget the 11% increases with massive cuts to state aid in an area with almost no businesses there didn't seem to be many other choices.) They'll probably pass an override which will let them raise taxes, but it's still a mess.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 4:57 AM
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Going to have to have a CR soon, or we get to have a government shutdown even before Boehner takes over.

I find it ironic that while the MSM style guide apparently specifies that the California government is always to be described as "dysfunctional" on first reference, owing to the requirement for a supermajority to pass routine budget resolutions, the identical dysfunction of the U.S. Senate goes unremarked.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 5:10 AM
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17: Oh now that the super-important tax cut extension has passed, I'm sure the mindless obstructionism will cease.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 5:27 AM
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With the caveat that my track record as a prognosticator is notably poor, I would be very surprised if there were a government shutdown in this Congress, for a couple of reasons.

1. Isn't it in the GOP's interest for the proximate cause of any shutdown to be Obama's veto pen rather than their own obstructionism in the Senate? Especially when there is a (minor) move afoot to reform the Senate rules in the next Congress? Wouldn't want to shine too much of a spotlight on Senate dysfunction right now; you might even inspire some of the Villagers to sign on to filibuster reform.

2. The path to capitulation is too clear and easy for the Dems to resist: simply agree to a CR for a few months and postpone the conflict into the next Congress. It's a pretty painless (in the short term) compromise for the Dems, and I think they can be counted on to take it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 5:36 AM
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Stay away from Meme Shaft Road. It's full of talking cats.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 5:56 AM
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12 -- More Dem votes than Reps. But only barely.

19 -- Oh sure. The wild card is Reps feeling they have to cater to teahadi madness. 36 Rep house members voted against the tax cut deal (including my congressman) on the theory that it spends too much (on things that aren't tax cuts). I think we're more likely to be issued ponies than the see filibuster reform in this Congress.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 6:02 AM
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Wait, if you aren't "rich" until AGI hits $190K, then I am a very long ways away from being "rich." And yet, as various relatives pester me for gift suggestions, it has become entirely clear that I have everything I could possibly need and have little cause to worry about my ability to pay the mortgage and utilities or buying food. I *feel* pretty darned close to "rich." $190K is well beyond simply "rich."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 6:58 AM
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Well, you know, no one's really poor if they have imaginary internet friends.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:03 AM
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1: Wait, if you aren't "rich" until AGI hits $190K, then I am a very long ways away from being "rich." And yet, as various relatives pester me for holiday gift suggestions, it has become entirely clear that I have everything I could possibly need and have little cause to worry about my ability to pay the mortgage and utilities or buying food. I *feel* pretty darned close to "rich." $190K is well beyond simply "rich." It astonishes me what people consider "struggling." Oh noes! $190K is barely enough to cover $5000/ month rent! However will such people survive?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:12 AM
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I'm so rich, I can afford to comment twice!

Separately, I kind of think the filibuster serves a useful function. The problem isn't the rule, the problem is the flagrant abuse of the filibuster without consequences. And by "consequences," I mean disapproval by constituents expressed at the ballot box.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:19 AM
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25.2 -- Don't worry, that'll get corrected when Republicans take over in 2012.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:27 AM
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The problem isn't the rule, the problem is the flagrant abuse of the filibuster without consequences. And by "consequences," I mean disapproval by constituents expressed at the ballot box.

Why should a Jim DeMint fear such consequences? His constituents approve of mindless obstruction.

The filibuster was only remotely compatible with effective governance as long as there was a social taboo against using it abusively. Any such socially imposed constraint evaporated long ago.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:30 AM
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If it were being used against legislation I found abhorrent, I wouldn't have any problem with the filibuster being used frequently.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:36 AM
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24: While everything in this is true, I really want to maintain a distinction between "I make enough money that I have all my needs and those of my family met, and all my reasonable desires as well, and I still have money to save," which is where you are and I (at what is probably a lower income) am, and "I have enough capital assets that I could choose not to work and can exercise noticeable political or social power through the use of my assets."

It's a political thing: I'm 'rich' in the sense that I'd be pretty ridiculously whiny if I complained about some of my wealth getting redistributed. But when we talk about politicians serving the interests of the rich, they're not paying attention to me at all -- they're focusing on a small class much richer than I am. My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:41 AM
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30

27 is pretty much exactly my point.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:45 AM
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29 gets it right. I think "well off" is a more accurate term for people having more than adequate income but lacking the power of a massive asset base.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:50 AM
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27 is pretty much exactly my point.

Unless I'm misunderstanding you, your point was that the rule is OK. Which it manifestly is not. Not now, and not in any remotely plausible contemporary context.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:52 AM
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29.2: Agreed. Of course, some of the problem politically is that many people as "rich" as you and I think that politicians catering to the really, really rich are catering to people like us (and therefore think this is grand). I propose that the class of "rich" people you describe hereafter be known as the "obscenely rich" or maybe "disgustingly rich."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:55 AM
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29.2: Agreed. Of course, some of the problem politically is that many people as "rich" as you and I think that politicians catering to the really, really rich are catering to people like us (and therefore think this is grand). I propose that the class of "rich" people you describe hereafter be known as the "obscenely rich" or maybe "disgustingly rich."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 7:58 AM
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The truth is that the top tax bracket cuts off at way, way, way too low an income. Good luck ever fixing that, though!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:03 AM
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Did folks hear the NPR story this morning about a small company that wanted to raise $15,000 via Kickstart to create a wristwatch dock for an iPod? They raised $950,000 in a couple of days. Nine hundred and fifty thousand. Dollars. Quick, somebody come up with an invention and we'll pay off all of the Mineshaft's student loans or something.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:04 AM
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To 34, almost all "feeling rich" is relative, which is why people who make what I do in Mississippi feel like aristocrats whereas I feel like someone about two clicks from a graduate student who can barely cover the bills, even though objectively that's untrue and I'm pretty damn comfortable. Helps explain the red state/blue state thing (which is basically a culture war amongst different kinds of "well off" people).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:07 AM
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There's also a capitalist/wage earner distinction that means something even when their consumption levels are similar. Small-scale wealthy people: minor developers, people who own car dealerships, that sort of wealth, might not have the capacity to consume more than plenty of wage-earning professionals. But they have more of an incentive to distort the political process in service of their economic interests than a wage-earner does.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:12 AM
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37: Helps explain the red state/blue state thing (which is basically a culture war amongst different kinds of "well off" people).

I like that formulation; two different ways of defining what personal success looks like.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:12 AM
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My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.

While agreeing with income and wealth distinctions and various definitions of the obscenely rich, I'm not sure whether or not this is true for me, in a strictly financial sense. I benefit from the mortgage tax deduction, regressive sales and property taxes (esp. in TX, where there's no state income tax), tax breaks on capital gains (though it doesn't amount to all that much for me), itemized deductions for donations, IRAs, and no doubt other things I'm not thinking of. The really poor don't benefit from any of those and are disadvantaged by most.

What's the counterargument?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:22 AM
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Counterargument is that I need government services and I and my family and friends need a safety net. I've got a significant economic interest in free public education of good quality: if I had to either pay for private schools or live in a 'good school district' with all the implications of high cost of real estate, I wouldn't be thinking of myself as well-off anymore. I've got poor and disabled relatives, that rely on Social Security for income support -- if I had to either support them entirely or watch them starve, again, I'd be a lot poorer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:29 AM
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40.last: I think one way to dimension it is how would your life look if earned income stops? How long of a buffer do you have without needing to resort to major changes in how you live?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:31 AM
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Further to 41: Now, you don't have kids, and I don't know about your other family obligations, so none of that might quite apply to you. But you personally still need a safety net: whether or not your financial interests as a healthy wage earner are served this year by policies that disfavor the poor, I doubt that you have enough wealth to support you through an extended period of being unable to work. At which point you are the poor. You, now, have an interest in there being services available for you, possibly, that a securely rich person doesn't share.

(Also, I shouldn't have claimed that my interests were identical to those of the poor, just that they were closer to those of the poor than to the rich.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:33 AM
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The counterargument is that benefits from public goods are hard to value, but nevertheless real. The lives of wealthy people in Bolivia or South Africa or Dubai or other places where there's not much that's public are a viable choice for rich people in the US.

I'm not sure where gated communities and a close identification of race and class are most entrenched in the US-- maybe Hilton Head? But a lifestyle free of public goods (parkland, public schools, and neighborhoods Jane Jacobs would like) makes less likely shared interests between nearby rich+poor. Is Galbraith still taken seriously? If not, what are plausible successors to The Affluent Society?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:34 AM
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43 pwned by 42.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:34 AM
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I upgraded four computers from wireless 'g' to wireless 'n' yesterday. At great stressful technical difficulty, but with literally hours of free, intelligent, friendly and helpful phone service from my internet provider. Up from 11 Mbps to 75Mbps.

I may be poor, but I'm fast and wide. And bulbous! I have everything I want and need, except that fucking back fence. Just don't tax my internets.

Oh, and Greetings of Comfort and Joy

Above my little bridge, all is Hell.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:36 AM
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||
Michael Bérubé in the essay on the Sokal hoax that he links to from his Crooked Timber post: "only Village Voice writer and cultural critic Ellen Willis honed in on this notion". Have at him, LB.
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:46 AM
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My immense respect for the Paterno Professor of whatever it is compels me to believe that he got it right, and some officious and misguided editor changed it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:53 AM
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41-44: All excellent points. I was thinking of many public goods (libraries, parks, good schools for other peoples' kids) as things I like but don't strictly need, but you're entirely right about the safety net.

I think the way to think about it is that my interests are clearly more aligned with poorer people when it comes to my need for, and relative benefits from, the things my taxes buy. I still get off cheap, though, on the price I pay for those services because of tax policies that are provide little or no benefit to the really poor.

Is Galbraith still taken seriously?
Don't we wish.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:55 AM
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almost all "feeling rich" is relative, which is why people who make what I do in Mississippi feel like aristocrats whereas I feel like someone about two clicks from a graduate student who can barely cover the bills, even though objectively that's untrue and I'm pretty damn comfortable.

It doesn't help that the prevailing media narrative is created in areas where $100K household income really *is* is middle class.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 9:06 AM
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50: They need to use a different color for water bodies. I spent several minutes trying to figure out why Utah would have such a huge area of >$100,000 income only to realize that I was looking at the Great Salt Lake.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 9:25 AM
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50 -- Segregation by race/class makes it much worse than even this map shows.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 9:46 AM
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29: But when we talk about politicians serving the interests of the rich, they're not paying attention to me at all -- they're focusing on a small class much richer than I am.

I'd say they are paying attention to (attending to the financial well-being of) people like you and Kraab and Di in the aggregate, though: while a given UMC member may not have enough cash to individually influence legislation or elections, taken as a whole, their interests are well looked after in the form of the sorts of policies Kraab outlines in 40.

Politicians serve the interests of the upper middle class, who are arguably "rich", but for the sake of terminological comity, let's say "well off". And of course well-offness is defined down, as Knecht observes in 50, allowing opinion makers to declare that policymakers are looking after the middle class.

We could really use a fourth category: poor (erm, working class?), middle class, UMC (i.e. well off; needs a different name), and rich. Then the UMC can discuss, if need be, its alignment with either the middle class or the rich.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 10:06 AM
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I think the distinction you're looking for is Chris Rock's Rich vs. Wealthy.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 10:48 AM
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53: Then the UMC can discuss, if need be, its alignment with either the middle class or the rich.

This misses the point I was trying to make a bit, which is that there are a lot of policies where the bottom three classes you name literally do have the same interests. Not every policy: there are all sorts of issues where my interests don't align with someone genuinely poor. But there are more, and more important, issues where my interests are aligned with the genuinely poor (who need the same governmental services I do), then with the genuinely rich (who mostly don't).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 10:52 AM
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54: I can't stand Chris Rock. Boohoo, Oprah is only worth $2.7 billion. My heart weeps.

And how is the government earning money off of putting drug dealers in jail? Jail is expensive! California is in a perpetual budget crisis because of the number of people in their jails.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 10:56 AM
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55: Certainly, I understood that. The UMC have an interest in maintaining a social safety net. Given that the Republican party (loosely speaking) is increasingly engaged in a campaign to dismantle that, UMC interests are aligned with those of the poor.

If the question on the table is whether to maintain the so-called welfare state, sure. If the question is whether to empower low-wage earners, not quite as much. Are the UMC likely to want to see an end to their perqs, an end to, say, employer-subsidized health insurance and retirement accounts? Or their tax breaks for same?

Anyway, it's a bummer that we're at the point where the public discussion is less about the difference between the interests of the poor and those of the UMC, and more about the difference between the UMC and the rich.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 11:18 AM
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Are the UMC likely to want to see an end to their perqs, an end to, say, employer-subsidized health insurance

For that one, yes (that is, I'm not answering for how it would poll because people are stupid, but for what I think people's real economic interests are). Tax subsidies for employer provided health insurance shift the balance of power way towards employers in employment relationships for people in my class.

it's a bummer that we're at the point where the public discussion is less about the difference between the interests of the poor and those of the UMC

Spell out why? This sounds vaguely as though you're unhappy that upper middle class people are getting their cooties all over political issues that should be reserved for the virtuous poor, but that can't be what you mean -- I must be misunderstanding you.

What's problematic about noting that there are all sorts of political issues on which the real interests of the vast majority of people in the country are aligned? Not realizing that is what makes it so hard to enact that sort of policy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 11:27 AM
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Tax subsidies for employer provided health insurance shift the balance of power way towards employers in employment relationships for people in my class.

Fortunately, this will soon be cured for non-union employees in the private sector.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 11:30 AM
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This sounds vaguely as though you're unhappy that upper middle class people are getting their cooties all over political issues that should be reserved for the virtuous poor

I am; but I'm in a bad mood. To the extent that I dislike the reference to the "virtuous" poor. I think many UMC people are blind to a number of things about low-income workers.

What's problematic about noting that there are all sorts of political issues on which the real interests of the vast majority of people in the country are aligned? Not realizing that is what makes it so hard to enact that sort of policy.

There's nothing problematic about it on the face of it. There's something odd going on there with "real interests," as well as with "people's real economic interests" with respect to health insurance coverage. I may have to try to say something more enlightening after I've had lunch.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 11:42 AM
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I think many UMC people are blind to a number of things about low-income workers.

Can't get more indisputable than that, certainly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 11:58 AM
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I've got a significant economic interest in free public education of good quality: if I had to either pay for private schools or live in a 'good school district' with all the implications of high cost of real estate, I wouldn't be thinking of myself as well-off anymore.

Sigh. Wouldn't that be nice.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:06 PM
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Unless I'm misunderstanding you, your point was that the rule is OK. Which it manifestly is not. Not now, and not in any remotely plausible contemporary context.

Well, the point was that the context is the problem. In the not so distant past when there was a strong and accepted social stigma that limited the filibuster's use to bills that Senators felt really, really strongly about*, it seems like a useful arrow to have in the quiver.

*To be fair, I guess the Senate Republicans feel really, really strongly about obstructionism. So I guess what I'm really saying is that the problem is Republicans.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:14 PM
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62: Indeed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:15 PM
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One time I ate an entire razzleberry pie. WIth ice cream!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:19 PM
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Merkley's filibuster reform proposal doesn't involve eradicating it, but rather limiting its application so that filibuster abuse can be avoided. I gather there are other reform proposals out there as well.

It's not an either/or question, whether to allow the filibuster or disallow it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:22 PM
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Can anybody give an example of the filibuster being used in favour of good and against evil in their lifetimes? When I was growing up it was associated with Dixiecrats trying to prevent Johnson's reforms. I don't recall any Democratic filibustering of e.g. Reagan's union busting, but the post Gigrich Republicans have taken to it like a duck to water.

By its friends ye shall know it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:38 PM
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UMC (i.e. well off; needs a different name)

"Gentry"?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:39 PM
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68. Yes! Yes! Yes! Perfect!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:46 PM
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69. especially as it is, for instance, 'the class the novel form is perfect for'.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 1:00 PM
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Can anybody give an example of the filibuster being used in favour of good and against evil in their lifetimes?

Wasn't the thread of filibuster important in blocking Social Security "Reform"?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 1:01 PM
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71: NickS is a smart guy. Matt & Ezra are also smart guys. Hard to tell the sides anymore though.

Ezra if you care to read him, has the skinny on the forthcoming Senate rules changes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 1:45 PM
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Wasn't the thread of filibuster important in blocking Social Security "Reform"?

The reform that Congressional Republicans found so toxic that not a single member in either house, even the ones the safest seats, was willing to sponsor it?

Mind you, it's not unthinkable that they would have tried in the absence of a filibuster threat, but I rather suspect not.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 1:59 PM
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71: NickS is a smart guy. Matt & Ezra are also smart guys. Hard to tell the sides anymore though.

I'm really curious to know how I'm being characterized in that sentence.


I'm willing to presume that Knecht is correct that the filibuster was not necessary for the SS fight.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 2:40 PM
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74:Damn, NickS, ignore the trolls. Why haven't I been PaulyShored yet.

I characterized you as a smart guy. It really wasn't so much about however, as to simply provide a parallel to M & E.

1) The filibuster was, or will be, necessary to protect the filibuster. (NickS)
2) M & E want to kill or weaken the filibuster as Obama, in the next term or after 2012, cements his place in history as the guy who killed the New Deal and Great Society and Democratic Party.

As to whether the filibuster was necessary to protect SS from Bush, you need to be a very good vote counter to understand the Senate. Senators make a judgment as to what will pass, and then take their public positions. IOW, public positions include the filibuster in their calculations.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 2:59 PM
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74: Even if the filibuster occasionally serves progressive ends (which is debatable), and even if the Dems showed the same willingness to obstruct the will of the majority as the GOP (which is obviously counterfactual), I'm increasingly on board with Yglesias' view that Senate rules structurally disadvantage progressive politics, because they create an enormous status quo bias, and progressives want to change things. Once attained, liberal achievements can get along without this artificial status quo bias to protect them. The popular ones (Social Security, Medicare, eventually ACA) are safe on their own, while the unpopular ones (AFDC, Legal Services) are vulnerable despite it.

I would add (and Yggles has probably made the same point at one time or another) that the combination of the supermajority requirement and the inherently anti-majoritarian Senate magnifies the structural advantage for conservative constituencies; there are a lot of sparsely populated red states.

I'd be happy enough to see the filibuster abolished entirely, but failing that, the Merkley reforms would do a lot of good by themselves.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 2:59 PM
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75 fuck i can't write today. Need to slow down

1) s/b "protect SS"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:00 PM
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76:Once attained, liberal achievements can get along without this artificial status quo bias to protect them

You really need to keep an eye on Great Britain. That's utter bullshit.

MY and Ezra are not on our my side.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:03 PM
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I'd be happy enough to see the filibuster Senate abolished entirely


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:03 PM
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Can anybody give an example of the filibuster being used in favour of good and against evil in their lifetimes?

There were a couple of odious GWB judicial appointees that got shot down by dint of Senatorial obstruction, but many more got waived through as part of the Gang of 14 deal that preserved the judicial filibuster. If the Dems had the testicular fortitude (and the party solidarity) to threaten the nuclear option the way the Republicans did, we might be looking at a very different federal judiciary today.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:09 PM
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78:Maybe I shouldn't be as elliptical as in 78. M & E have the basic argument that in a more parliamentary system, a "liberal" gov't can easily reverse the reactionary policies of a preceding conservative one.

The history of Great Britain since say the 50s should provide the empirical evidence, although obviously contingent blah blah as to why this is not a natural law to put your faith in. And as only one possible example.

What ya think, the next labour gov't gonna bring everything back to the 90s yah?

The California University system is another example. I could go all day.

Conservatives, being fucking conservatives, understand words like "inevitable" and "irreversible" in ways liberals are simply incapable.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:15 PM
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79: I was raging around the house like a maniac last night and all I could come up with when asked was, "41 someones are wrong in the Senate".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:21 PM
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What ya think, the next labour gov't gonna bring everything back to the 90s yah?

The NHS has stood up pretty well to decades of Conservative rule, including radical Thatcherism

The California University system is another example

A good example that proves my point: it's being wrecked today because of countermajoritarian features in California political institutions. If a simple majority of the California legislature could pass a budget with increased taxes, the UC system would be a hell of a lot better off.

I could go all day.

Indeed, you usually do.



Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:24 PM
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I am not a liberal. I understand "irreversible"

The Bourbons and Romanovs were not getting their thrones back.

Oops on Bourbons. Should have listened more to Saint Just.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:25 PM
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If a simple majority of the California legislature could pass a budget with increased taxes

A big if, not well supported by the polls. Jarvis understood "irreversible"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:28 PM
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74:Damn, NickS, ignore the trolls.

I wasn't insulted, just confused trying to figure out how many layers of implication were included in that comment.

My politics are closer to those of EK and MY than they are to yours, but I appreciate your political ranting as sanity check (of sorts) to help spot the cased when the liberal technocrat position is too facile.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:31 PM
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The NHS has stood up pretty well to decades of Conservative rule, including radical Thatcherism

You really aren't paying attention, are you?

Aw hell, I'll let you do your own googling, or let the Islanders inform you.

Liberals are so fucking boring.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:32 PM
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Last

1) The education changes are probably enough in themselves. The idea is to create an aristocracy that imagines itself a meritocracy, and desires to pass on its privileges to its children. This will determine almost all other politics, because the intellectual elites will be "conservative" Japanification

2) If you read the Newberry, he puts his meager hopes in some sort of Gibsonish networky counter-counter. Probably Hardt & Negri, or Wolin. Got to read those books, I guess. My bet is that Assange and his project gets stomped like a bug. They will own the Internets.

"You will never take the rich people's money from them at the ballot box."

You need guillotines (or the imminent threat) and/or bombed out ruins for egalitarian revolution. But progress and technology march on, and those possibilities are becoming mighty slim. The Romanovs did not have drones and embedded chips, and the elites were more nationalistic back then.

Was it John or Elisabeth who said, sotto voce in 2008:"Now they will take everything." That's in the Newberry also.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 3:52 PM
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||

Bob, I have a music question for you.

I'm curious if I've listened to "Murdering Stravinsky"? It's one of my favorites of her songs, but I don't know what to make of it. I love the sound, the performance, and the mood, but that as far as I've gotten.

Listening tonight I got to the lines about Guillotines and, "blood blue skies" and though, maybe Bob will have an interesting reaction to this song.

|>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:10 PM
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89.2: you have, yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:13 PM
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89.2: you have, yes.

Ah yes, nicely drawn from somewhere in the file of, "simple answers to stupid questions."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:19 PM
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Link wouldn't open, I guess I don't have Quicktime. Went online and read the lyrics closely. Seems to be more about art and artistic pretension than politics.

I'll answer with a link to Louis Proyect, who besides an unrepentant Marxist, is also an accredited member of the NY film critic community, on three recent Mumblecore movies. Getoffamylawn

Proyect also has posts on Don Van Vliet and Harvey Pekar.

On this day of woe when Obama sold us all into slavery, I am off to splurge, treat myself to a movie I have been holding off for months for a time when I needed it:Ugetsu Monogatari


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 8:42 PM
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Link wouldn't open, I guess I don't have Quicktime.

It's a link to an .mp3 file, so you should be able to just download it and then play it however you want.

Seems to be more about art and artistic pretension than politics.

Yes, but I thought you would have an opinion about that as well.

It's, obviously, not that important, but I just thought you might enjoy it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 10:11 AM
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29: But when we talk about politicians serving the interests of the rich, they're not paying attention to me at all -- they're focusing on a small class much richer than I am.

Larry Bartels' recent book--the focus of an even-more-recent mini-symposium on The Monkey Cage--has a fair amount of evidence that this is wrong, IIRC. Lower-class voters are ignored entirely; but people with of your income/social status are pandered to. Sure, the super-rich have even more influence, but there are a lot more of the merely-rich.

The problem with merely "reforming" the filibuster is that the electorate is incapable about monitoring politicians' compliance with any but the most straightforward rules. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but elections are an incredibly blunt lever.

Here's the only sort of filibuster reform I'd be on board with: any senator can put a hold on a bill, but for every day of delay, that senator has to personally chop off a finger/toe/etc.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 10:50 AM
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I should be clear: has to chop off their own appendage. Otherwise, obviously, politicians would just be cutting up the homeless or something.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 10:51 AM
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93:I do keep going back to the lyrics. I like it, but I have always liked Ian more than I should. I have to admit I have a prejudice against older artists, which I break a lot, but will still look at an artist's or intellectual's work age 20-40 first. So I haven't followed Ian since the 70s.

I don't think Ian takes ironic stances, or uses uhh distancing voices or personas. So the song is a personal message to a lover more than social commentary.

Might be a modernism vs post-modernism thing there. "Modernism is nostalgic" is something I think about a lot.
Ian possibly understands that phrase better than I do.
Her allusions are to modernists, aren't they? I consider myself a modernist, and so really can't see my own consciousness well enough to escape into post-modernism. Or don't want to.

I am very fucking aware that my revolutionary put-ons are modernist and kinda reactionary.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:01 PM
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Guy over at Kotsko's AUFS was doing reading groups, Gaddis and the like. I asked why he liked modernists, what did it mean that he liked modernist writers, and he said they were funny.

I was thinking about stuff like rebelling against the past in order to hang on to it, and liking structuralist or architectonic work as despair for structure. He wasn't much help.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:07 PM
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Chris Hedges on how WWI and the rise of mass psychology/propaganda killed the populist movements. John Emerson has his own paranoid theories, but my paranoia is deeper and more profound. That's kinda a joke.

Prior to World War I, much current American thinking, following post- Enlightenment European thought, relied on the assumption that reason could rule, that debate in the public sphere was driven most powerfully and effectively by strong, rational underpinnings. The dream was of a "pure dialectic," embodied in data, facts, postulates, deduction, or induction, stripped of emotion and conditioning. What Freud and the mass psychologists, and in turn, their godchildren, the mass propagandists, had rediscovered was a deep psychological truth grasped first and perhaps best by the philosophers and rhetoricians of Classical Greece. Greek philosophers did celebrate reason as nous, as a reflection of divine truth enacted in the human mind. But the Greek philosophers were trained in rhetoric before dialectics.

From The Death of the Liberal Class


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:27 PM
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29

While everything in this is true, I really want to maintain a distinction between "I make enough money that I have all my needs and those of my family met, and all my reasonable desires as well, and I still have money to save," which is where you are and I (at what is probably a lower income) am, and "I have enough capital assets that I could choose not to work and can exercise noticeable political or social power through the use of my assets."

By this definition of rich (being a billionaire or thereabouts) practically nobody is rich. While this may serve your desire not to think of yourself as rich I don't think it is otherwise very useful.

... My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.

But how about the really poor and those making twice as much as you?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:37 PM
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41

... I've got a significant economic interest in free public education of good quality: if I had to either pay for private schools or live in a 'good school district' with all the implications of high cost of real estate, I wouldn't be thinking of myself as well-off anymore. ...

I don't understand the point about a "good school district". The difference between good and bad school districts has little to do with government policy.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:42 PM
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55

... But there are more, and more important, issues where my interests are aligned with the genuinely poor (who need the same governmental services I do), then with the genuinely rich (who mostly don't).

Really? The most important issue of all is the maintainence of order and stability and there most people's interests align with the really rich.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:47 PM
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58

For that one, yes (that is, I'm not answering for how it would poll because people are stupid, but for what I think people's real economic interests are). Tax subsidies for employer provided health insurance shift the balance of power way towards employers in employment relationships for people in my class.

I don't think this is accurate. Linking employment and health insurance serves the interest of the UMC as they tend to be healthier than the poor.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 6:50 PM
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The most important issue of all is the maintainence of order and stability and there most people's interests align with the really rich.

Bullshit. Policies that favor the really rich create disorder and instability for everyone who can't afford to pay for the security only the really rich can afford.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 7:48 PM
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103

Bullshit. Policies that favor the really rich create disorder and instability for everyone who can't afford to pay for the security only the really rich can afford.

The really rich do not have an interest in disorder or instability even if they can insulate themselves to some extent.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 10:10 PM
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The really rich do not have an interest in disorder or instability even if they can insulate themselves to some extent.

But, being human, they do a terrifically poor job at parsing what this actually means in terms of policy (being almost entirely insulated from the effects of the relevant policies), and are therefore inordinately gung-ho for counter-productively legislation.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 10:46 PM
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The really rich do not have an interest in disorder or instability

Yeah no shit Shearer. Obviously they're not purposely trying to create disorder or instability, and have no direct interest in fomenting such. It's just that they're insulated from these effects, to an incredible degree, compared to the rest of us, and so are much more immune and oblivious to it. I once again find myself with the familiar feeling of wondering whether you're being disingenuous, or are really just that stupid.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-18-10 11:12 PM
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The fact you're failing to acknowledge, M/tch, is that the rich are simply wiser than you and me. For example, you don't see them wasting time online arguing with Shearer, do you?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 5:11 AM
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You really aren't paying attention, are you?

Bob, you're quite simply wrong. That's all. The NHS did, indeed, stand up to decades of Conservative government. This is Barcelona-is-starving level bullshit.

Also, I think you need to work out if you're in favour of making it easier to change things or against it. As far as I can see, you're mostly arguing with yourself, and turning up the volume in the hope that you'll win.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 5:27 AM
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Alex, the NHS did indeed withstand Thatcher pretty well, because her "internal market" ideas introduced a further unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, but didn't significantly affect clinical practice. But the present lot's proposals seem to me to be significantly more dangerous, as I don't see how the transfer of treatment initiatives from hospitals to GPs can do other than exacerbate regional and local inequalities in the treatment available to patients, and ultimately, increase rationing.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 5:51 AM
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109:"But the present lot's proposals seem to me to be significantly more dangerous" to 108

which was my point, NHS is about to suffer

Kraab can't say liberal programs are always self-perpetuating until they aren't, and can't use the NHS as an example

And remember Matt and Ezra's point was we didn't need to worry about the original form of Obamacare, because progressive social programs last forever, and always get bigger and better. Matt just made it again yesterday.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:08 AM
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108.2:And I'm not sure what this is about.

Arguments about the filibuster are happening in a specific historical context in which Republicans can get a majority, and have had control of gov't more often than not, and are batshit insane. I don't have to channel Montesquieu to want to keep a veto point for a little while longer. My argument is mostly against reform in an environment that demands revolution. Guillotines first, then parliaments.

Change I don't have to believe in.

Film transmits data to the audience at a rate of 24 frames (comic book panels) per second, ideally on a huge screen with sophisticated sound.

Now the three media (novels, films, comics) do work differently, and I am interested in how each ends up creating impressions in the reader, which is complicated, but comics just can't contain enough raw data to compare.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:57 AM
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106

... It's just that they're insulated from these effects, to an incredible degree, compared to the rest of us, and so are much more immune and oblivious to it. ...

Compared to people in the LB 200000-500000 $/year class? Not convinced. For example, who has to worry more about their children being kidnapped?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:15 AM
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105

But, being human, they do a terrifically poor job at parsing what this actually means in terms of policy (being almost entirely insulated from the effects of the relevant policies), and are therefore inordinately gung-ho for counter-productively legislation.

The rich have other interests which they may think are more important in any given case but they obviously have a strong stake in the existing social order. And guys like Buffett and Gates are also pretty insulated from things like higher taxes or stricter environmental regulations and don't seem all that rabidly opposed to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:20 AM
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104: The really rich do not have an interest in disorder or instability for themselves.

Isn't it awfully strange that so many rich people, who don't like disorder or instability, like things like making big dividends from the stock they own in military contractors? Rich people like disorder and instability just fine -- as long as it is the poor who suffer. It's the ne plus ultra of NIMBYism: export the war and famine and plague and pestilence to the Third World, or to the internal colonies of the First World (and, btw, destroy the Second World in the process), and you have all the benefits of permanent war with none of the drawbacks (as long as you are rich).


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:28 AM
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111: Film transmits data to the audience at a rate of 24 frames (comic book panels) per second, ideally on a huge screen with sophisticated sound.

So bigger and louder and faster is indicative of better when it comes to transmitting information? Don't get me wrong, I like film just fine. But there are things you can say with puppetry or comics, two precursors of film, that you can't say with film. And, I'd argue, while we might not be quite there yet, there are things you can say with digital video that you can't say with film.

We've moved beyond the point where Gesamtkunstwerk is a particularly useful concept in making aesthetic judgments. Even if we haven't quite plumbed the depths of immersive experience, we've theorized it pretty well. And the most totalizing virtual reality still leaves room for the appreciation of a good book or a fragment of a song heard in passing.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:47 AM
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114:Incidentally, as I am getting about a fourth of the way into the Hedges, I am encountering the argument that war is the cause rather the effect of our troubles, the disease rather than a symptom. With his background I should not be surprised.

Now his historical example of all the socialists and progressives (and some kinds of iso conservatives) flipping 1914-17 (H uses America, Bourne Addams contra all) is good, but I have always thought it raised more questions about social democrats and social liberals. Bernstein and Weber were just not capable of alienating themselves as much as Lenin or Bourne.

Which goes to the question of what is to be done in America 2011? If you are any kind of liberal, you must on principle invite the fascists Republicans to the table, and so they will reach over and stab you in the eye with a fork.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:59 AM
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Oh, for fuck's sake

We are so so so fucking fucked.

But at least the gays can be open as they die in the rubble of Tehran or Islamabad for the Empire. Yay.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:23 AM
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Personally, I'm fomenting a revolution in the preparation of CHIMICHANGAS!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:50 AM
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Another thing the wealthy have in common with the 200-500 k/year class (assuming both have children) is an interest in promoting connections (as opposed to talent or luck) as a path to success.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 9:42 AM
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I haven't read the second half of this thread closely, but I think JBS has a point. I think that part of why LB or Di is inclined to see their interests as aligned with those of the working class is because their political beliefs are such that they think that policies that will help the working class are good policy.

That's not exactly the same thing as having class interests that are aligned.

UMC people, for example, aren't likely to suffer from the trend towards public services being funded more by fees and less by taxes. If library fines or park fees or university fees triple over a decade.

UMC people may have an interest in a safety net, but labor and OSHA enforcement aren't likely to be a priority (based on class interests -- they may be a priority for other reasons).

etc.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 11:36 AM
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I don't think Ian takes ironic stances, or uses uhh distancing voices or personas. So the song is a personal message to a lover more than social commentary.

I think the first sentence is correct, I'm not sure about the second. I don't think it's social commentary, but I'm not yet inclined to think that it's commentary on a intimate relationship. I believe that it responds to some aspect of a real friendship, but I don't have a good basis to speculate beyond that.

Anyway, thanks for giving it a listen.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 11:39 AM
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UMC people, for example, aren't likely to suffer from the trend towards public services being funded more by fees and less by taxes. If library fines or park fees or university fees triple over a decade.

Really? Because I'd have thought there are a lot of people in UMC professions who would be threatened by just those things. The polarising rise in inequality has led to an ever increasing gulf between the MC and UMC and the genuinely wealthy. I'd expect that a lot of quite comfortably off people still worry about college fees and health insurance.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 11:44 AM
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UMC people, for example, aren't likely to suffer from the trend towards public services being funded more by fees and less by taxes. If library fines or park fees or university fees triple over a decade.

Library fines no, university tuition yes. Paying for college is going to be really unpleasant; we'll manage by borrowing a bunch of money, but it will hurt.

UMC people may have an interest in a safety net, but labor and OSHA enforcement aren't likely to be a priority (based on class interests -- they may be a priority for other reasons).

Employment law is: the moment something happens to my job, I'm impoverished. (All right, not "the moment", but pretty damn soon.) I make a nice living, but I'm living on my wages.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:11 PM
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I'd expect that a lot of quite comfortably off people still worry about college fees and health insurance.

Not to get too heavily into the weeds here, but it depends on the degree of worry in play, doesn't it? State college fees (tuition) going up by, say, $2000/year isn't going to severely financially trouble those making $250,000/year, to the extent that their children may not be able to attend a state college at all. While it may mean that for the working class, and the "really poor" LB invoked probably weren't looking at college in the first place.

Health insurance is a little trickier: unless and until we see insurance coverage decoupled from employer subsidy, the UMC overall aren't going to see significant cost increases, period, given that they themselves tend themselves to pay only half or a third or even less of the actual health insurance premium for their coverage plan. So here again I think they worry a great deal less than those in jobs without health insurance benefits.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:18 PM
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I have an abiding respect for people of all faiths, and I like nachos.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:20 PM
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123: I'm impoverished

I really wish you wouldn't engage in hyperbole in this way, LB.

Nonetheless, I took your point in 29.last (that It's a political thing, by which I take it you mean that it's a policy thing): you're viewing the question as one of where one's party affiliations lie, and even as a member of the UMC, you have a interest in, for example, employment law.

I suspect there's been a bit of confusion since you glossed this as "class interests" in 29. NickS points to this explicitly in 120. It's possible that if your kids were expecting to go to the local state college, the expense wouldn't be really unpleasant.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:52 PM
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Oh, strike my last sentence in 126. It doesn't belong there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:54 PM
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And of course it's easy to find policies that hurt the poor more than the UMC, almost any policy that hurts anyone will hurt the poor most. What I was thinking was much more about the interests the UMC don't share with the genuinely rich; policies that are about protecting accumulated wealth don't do much at all for me. The estate tax? Not my problem -- depending on how their health works out, I might possibly inherit something from my parents in a couple of decades, but nothing that would conceivably exceed any plausible exemption.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 12:54 PM
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I really wish you wouldn't engage in hyperbole in this way, LB

Parsimon, I live off my wages. I'm doing very nicely now. If my income (and Buck's income) stops, I don't have all that much of anything else to fall back on. Retirement savings would last a while, but not forever. That's not hyperbole, that's what it means to be a wage earner rather than someone who's actually wealthy.

I'm not crying poverty as I stand here, I'm saying that I'm not in a class where a social safety net is an irrelevance to me.

126.last:

Two kids, four years each, comes out to about ninety grand with tuition and total costs at the local public college. That's real money to me: not impossible, but costly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:02 PM
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What I was thinking was much more about the interests the UMC don't share with the genuinely rich

And that point was well taken. The difference between well paid professionals and the owners of the company are real and important.

Having just been thinking about Robert Scheer, after the "enough shovels" thread, he has a lovely article about Rockefeller, whom he contrasts with Kissinger in just that way -- however much power Kissinger has, he depends on Rockefeller's good will and patronage. In that essay he has a line about how there will always be a difference between the people who have to worry about the possibility that their check might bounce (however unlikely that worry may be) and those people who have never in their lives worried about bouncing a check.

But, of course, both of those people are in different circumstances than the people who actually are bouncing checks.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:05 PM
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Library fines no, university tuition yes. Paying for college is going to be really unpleasant; we'll manage by borrowing a bunch of money, but it will hurt.

When I wrote that I was thinking of $500/year for parking/gym/student body fees -- which have been going up along with tuition.

But, thinking about it more, there are much better examples of cases in which the working class and middle class will have different interests. Policing, for example, has traditionally been such an issue.

Mostly, though, I don't think what you're saying is wrong, but I did think (a) there are certainly counter-examples and (b) that you were being a little bit lose with the distinction between, "policies which I support because I think they're good policy and which would eventually help me" and "policies which are targeted towards the problems characteristic of people in my class."

After my previous comments I thought of the episode of The West Wing in which their example of a bold populist policy is making college tuition tax deductible which would obviously be a lot more valuable to the middle and upper-middle classes than either the working class or the "truly rich."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:12 PM
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@129

I think security is the most important distinction between the "real" rich and the rest of us. The relevant question isn't "Can you live a fairly comfortable life with some nice toys?" but "If you lost your job tomorrow or suffered a health crisis that rendered you unable to work, how many months could you last before being wiped out?" For most people, including most MC and UMC people, the answer to that second question is "Not very many".

And the gap between being able to afford nice things and being reasonably secure against sudden changes in circumstances is huge. Wanting the kind of security that means that a decent stretch of unemployment won't seriously f*ck up your living arrangements and perhaps send you out of the MC is, for most, as far fetched as wanting 5 mansions and a garage full of vintage cars. That's the real gap between the 1 percenters and the rest of us.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:41 PM
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Exactly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:42 PM
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129: Retirement savings would last a while, but not forever. That's not hyperbole, that's what it means to be a wage earner rather than someone who's actually wealthy.

I grasp the difference between the actually wealthy (who can live forever without working) and everyone else. I contest that everyone else counts as on the brink of impoverishment, despite the fact that they have an interest in a social safety net.

Whatever, LB. I really do understand the point you've been making repeatedly about wage earners.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:46 PM
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That's all I can ask. I'm puzzled by why you appear to find my manner of making that point offensive, but there's no requirement that I have to understand everything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 1:51 PM
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there's no requirement that I have to understand everything

Wrong. Don't give up on your dream of being an omniscent demigod.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 2:16 PM
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||

Overheard in while waiting to see Santa:

Santa to the mom of a girl who wasn't walking up to his lap: "Who is the young lady there?"

Mom: "Stella."

Santa: "SteeellllAAAA" (qua Brando's Kowalski)

|>


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 2:30 PM
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||

A friend's FB status update is cracking me up:

My preferred American football team won their competition today! I am especially excited in this case, because their opponents had attained a large lead at the game's midpoint, and I had assumed a victory for my favored team very unlikely. What a surprise!

|>


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 2:58 PM
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the gap between being able to afford nice things and being reasonably secure against sudden changes in circumstances is huge.

And, of course, two households with identical income may still find a different balance between the two. Much of the MC/UMC has far more nice things than security because (at least so far as I see from those around me) there's a lot of self-esteem tied up in having nice things, not so much in having a nice cushion.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 3:20 PM
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I like nice cushions and I think that you will agree.


Posted by: UMC doppleganger of Sir Mix A Lot | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 3:30 PM
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I like nice cushions and I think that you will agree.

I do indeed.


Posted by: Politely Opinionated Jonathan Coulton | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 5:30 PM
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135

That's all I can ask. I'm puzzled by why you appear to find my manner of making that point offensive, but there's no requirement that I have to understand everything.

If not offensive there is something a bit strange about someone at what the 95th percentile in household income insisting they have more in common with the bottom 5% than the top 5%.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 5:39 PM
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OT:

Suppose a person has an $850 bill from a legal firm sitting on their desk for expenses incurred in August regarding the preparation of final estate taxes, which bill was not received until November.

Suppose further that said final estate taxes were never actually prepared by said legal firm. In fact nothing further was ever heard from the firm until November's bill, and nothing has been heard since.

Might one think that said firm is prepared to write off this bill? Should one bother to pay this bill?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:12 PM
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If you don't pay lawyers, they turn-off your justice and then you have to pay the bill plus a deposit to get it restored.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:13 PM
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I'd write a letter politely saying that as the firm never prepared the final estate taxes, you do not intend to pay any bills related to that task. If they have any expectation of getting paid, they'll write back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:16 PM
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Cute, Moby, but I just wrote an online bill payment for this, and now I'm wondering if I should cancel it. If I'm going to pay it, I want it to be in this tax year.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:16 PM
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145: Hm. Yes, that's the responsible way to handle it. Thanks. I guess I don't *really* have to pay any balance this tax year.

What's Heebie's phrase? Managing to go to the bank (or whatever) like a fucking adult!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:19 PM
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If you don't understand what you are billed for, then you should cancel it. On the other hand, you'll have trouble getting a response by this tax year if you do owe them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:19 PM
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Man. I'd like them to finish the final estate taxes, frankly. I don't want to start over again with a new outfit.

In the defense of both myself and the firm, they lost one of their senior partners a couple of months ago, so it was known that they'd be in disarray for a bit. So I waited. And waited.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:22 PM
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they lost one of their senior partners a couple of months ago

That's a good way to skirt estate taxes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:24 PM
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Also, James is right in 142.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 6:57 PM
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James is right in 142.

Is he? I think it's possible that the top 5% might actually have dramatically different lives than the "bottom" 95%.


Posted by: emdash | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:03 PM
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142: I think the discussion was about where one's political self-interest lies, not the things that one has in common with one's fellow humans. Surely you could imagine how a black American in the top 5% of the income distribution could correctly see his interests as tied up with those elsewhere on the income scale.

Especially as American society gets more oligarchical, the interests of the top 1% diverge from the interests of the rest of Americans.

I'm going to also push back a bit against NickS here and say that enlightened self-interest really does allow for a very broad array of policy preferences that separate the upper middle class from the oligarchs - especially as the oligarchs themselves become increasingly authoritarian and nihilistic, and judge their own well-being in terms of the damage they do to others.

James, I think this is part of the point that you missed here:

Linking employment and health insurance serves the interest of the UMC as they tend to be healthier than the poor.

1 - Linking health insurance and employment makes for a system that ill-serves everyone, including the employed, at least in comparison to other systems that exist.
2 - Yes, the upper middle class are going to be well-served by certain systems, but no system currently in existence guarantees one's continued presence in the upper middle class. Fire insurance is a subsidy paid to arson victims by everybody else, but that's not the right way to look at it. Fire insurance has a value even to those whose houses don't burn down.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:04 PM
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152: I think it's possible that the top 5% might actually have dramatically different lives than the "bottom" 95%.

That's arguably true. By the same token, I think it's possible that the 90% percentile have dramatically different lives than the bottom 5%.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:10 PM
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To be fair, LB, it'd take more than the loss of your job to make you poor. You'd have to give up your license and your education as well. Obviously (knocking on some wood) this sort of thing is medically possible . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:32 PM
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It seems like LB defined what she meant pretty narrowly: if she and Buck lose their jobs (and, presumably, don't get new ones relatively quickly*), they'll face financial ruin. They have this in common with most people in this country (and other countries as well). Whereas people who are truly wealthy don't have such concerns. Should they lose their jobs -- assuming they work for a wage in the first place -- they can live off of their investments/accumulated wealth without worrying about a huge shift in their standard of living.

* This strikes me as a potential point of divergence between UMC people and those folks on the lower socio-economic tiers.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:39 PM
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Partially pwned by Charley. Oh well.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:39 PM
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153.1: I think the discussion was about where one's political self-interest lies, not the things that one has in common with one's fellow humans. Surely you could imagine how a black American in the top 5% of the income distribution could correctly see his interests as tied up with those elsewhere on the income scale.

I should probably try to clarify, myself: LB made the discussion about that, in 29. It wasn't initially about that. The link in the OP -- regarding whether $192,000/year (enough to make your tax payment equal to the median income) makes you rich -- didn't particularly make a claim regarding the point of its definition of "rich".

LB took a particular tack: that "rich" = wealthy enough that wage income is irrelevant, and anything less than that is not rich. She's taken issue with the OP link's definition of richness, in order to make the very limited point that anyone less than wealthy has a policy interest in maintenance of a social safety net.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 7:46 PM
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Speaking of rich people, I think I just finished my holiday shopping, most of which was done at Powell's.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:08 PM
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|| Fans of jury nullification can enjoy this. Nullified during voir dire.|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:16 PM
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||

I saw this and thought of you all.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:17 PM
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153

Yes, the upper middle class are going to be well-served by certain systems, but no system currently in existence guarantees one's continued presence in the upper middle class. Fire insurance is a subsidy paid to arson victims by everybody else, but that's not the right way to look at it. Fire insurance has a value even to those whose houses don't burn down.

Fire insurance is generally priced actuarily so there is no subsidy involved. Social insurance in the form of "safety nets" is not priced actuarily. The rich pay more in taxes although they are less likely to need a safety net. So this is a subsidy. LB appears in fact to be quite far from the edge compared to most people although for some reason she insists otherwise.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:19 PM
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LB took a particular tack: that "rich" = wealthy enough that wage income is irrelevant, and anything less than that is not rich.

Looking back at the top of the thread, here's what LB wrote:

It's a political thing: I'm 'rich' in the sense that I'd be pretty ridiculously whiny if I complained about some of my wealth getting redistributed. But when we talk about politicians serving the interests of the rich, they're not paying attention to me at all -- they're focusing on a small class much richer than I am. My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.

To some extent we're arguing about details. Most of that seems accurate, but the reason that I have for quibbling is that I think, "My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich" serves to minimize the meaning of the phrase "class interest" rather than to express helpful solidarity.

I feel sort of churlish pressing this point because (a) I'm solidly middle class myself and (b) I do think LB's point is completely reasonable taken narrowly.

However, I just feel like it seems it comes awfully close to the sentiment of, "there are no classes in the United States" which is where I thought that JBS had a point with his comment:

By this definition of rich (being a billionaire or thereabouts) practically nobody is rich. While this may serve your desire not to think of yourself as rich I don't think it is otherwise very useful.

Consider LB's comment,

And of course it's easy to find policies that hurt the poor more than the UMC, almost any policy that hurts anyone will hurt the poor most.

I think a natural result of that fact is that poor people are going to care much more about policies that have the effect of imposing modest costs on everybody and that is part of what it means to have a "class interest." It isn't that UMC people aren't affected at all, but that they aren't affected enough for it to be a voting or politically mobilizing issue -- absent personal political beliefs.

Let me put it this way, I don't think the Estate Tax is a major political issue in this country. It's important, just because it involves a lot of money, because it has important symbolic weight, and because it's aggravating to watch policy be shifted in a way that will deliver massive benefits to a very small number of people. But I wouldn't put it in my list of the top 10 political issues on which I would really like a win.

So if LB is saying that the fight over the estate tax is representative of the battle lines in American politics and that she's not on the side of the oligarchs on that fight I would sat that it's true that her interests are not aligned with the scions of inherited wealth, but I'm not convinced that it is a representative issue and I think that trying to make it an issue that's representative of American politics obscures a heck of a lot.

Which is why 94, if it is correct, is important.

Larry Bartels' recent book--the focus of an even-more-recent mini-symposium on The Monkey Cage--has a fair amount of evidence that this is wrong, IIRC. Lower-class voters are ignored entirely; but people with of your income/social status are pandered to. Sure, the super-rich have even more influence, but there are a lot more of the merely-rich.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:21 PM
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160

Fans of jury nullification can enjoy this. Nullified during voir dire

What's the big deal about 5 out of 27 objecting? Some of whom are probably just trying to get out of jury duty.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:25 PM
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Yay, NickS!

I mean, I endorse 163 in its entirety.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:28 PM
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164 -- Well, 5, plus those already excluded, is quite a few. I think Judge Deschamps probably would have seated a jury if there hadn't been a plea agreement during the recess. He's got a point though, on the potential impropriety of only having juries made up of hardliners. This is a bigger deal in capital cases, where the state tries to exclude people who don't believe in the death penalty.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:34 PM
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The comments to the article are interesting. Most are the same stupid culture war shit you get in any newspaper comments section anywhere in the country. A few, though, are from people with personal knowledge of relevant facts.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 8:44 PM
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Fire insurance is generally priced actuarily so there is no subsidy involved.

In fact, fire insurance is priced so that the odds are that the insured won't recover as much (in the aggregate) as they pay.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 9:05 PM
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168: Don't let the bastard get you. Smoke in bed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 9:38 PM
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168

In fact, fire insurance is priced so that the odds are that the insured won't recover as much (in the aggregate) as they pay.

As with any commercial insurance. But the rates are generally proportional to risk, one part of the insurance pool is not subsidizing another part.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 10:04 PM
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So what? People routinely pay more than the odds would dictate for insurance. And those who are more well off are - quite correctly - willing to pay more of a premium, compared to the odds, than poor people are. You can find very few poor people, for instance, stocking up on gold as a hedge against the collapse of civilization.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-10 10:35 PM
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Fans of jury nullification can enjoy this.

I'm all for decriminalization of weed but reading about the benefactor sucked all the joy out of this one.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:37 AM
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And those who are more well off are - quite correctly - willing to pay more of a premium, compared to the odds, than poor people are.

Is this actually true? In general, the poor pay proportionally more to have access to financial services like this*.

* Or else don't have access to them.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:21 AM
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So if LB is saying that the fight over the estate tax is representative of the battle lines in American politics and that she's not on the side of the oligarchs on that fight I would sat that it's true that her interests are not aligned with the scions of inherited wealth, but I'm not convinced that it is a representative issue and I think that trying to make it an issue that's representative of American politics obscures a heck of a lot.

That is largely what I do think -- that you have people and corporations whose primary class interest is in protecting and accumulating wealth, and the rest of us whose interests are opposed, and that political fights on other issues, while they may be important in themselves, aren't primary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:18 AM
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171

... And those who are more well off are - quite correctly - willing to pay more of a premium, compared to the odds, than poor people are. ...

This is completely wrong. One of the (many) advantages of being rich is you can self-insure against small risks and come out ahead on average. For example I don't carry collision insurance on my car because I can afford to replace it if I should total it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:54 AM
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I was thinking about doing the humorless Marxist commenting thing, but then LB concisely and clearly made the case in 174, so I can just say that endorse 174 in its entirety.

More expansively, there really is an owning class, and ordinary comfortable professional class people like LB are not in it. x.trapnel is right that the politicians who serve owning class interests throw a lot of bones in the direction of the professional class (including the upper mangerial class of business professionals) in order to a) secure their political loyalty, and b) convince them that their class interests lie with those of the owning class. As a result their class interests may be served by supporting the party of the owning class ... or the may not, actually, either in the grand sense of class struggle, or as individuals with longterm class interests (professional class people have a better shot of moving into the owning class than others in lower eschalons of the class system, but really they more likely to fall in class status rather than rise), or in the sense of actually receiving the policy dividends that they are promissed (I'm too lazy to look it up, but I remember reporting on the first round of Bush tax cuts in which, after an initial proposal in which top 5% tax cuts were paid for by the middle class got shot down, they came back with a proposal that essentially shifted the cuts for the top 5% to the next 5%).

If I understand him right, NickS, and I think parsimon, are arguing that there are real reasons for professional class people not to see their own class interests being served by policies design to help the poor: they may but probably don't come from the same neighborhoods or the same families as the poor, and while they experience the same fear of falling that all MC people do, they are not likely to fall as far or as hard as poor or LMC people can. That's all true and worth remembering so that we aren't all endlessly scratching our heads about why UMC people might vote Republican or believe that the poor people they occasionally see just need to apply themselves more, but it reflects a common and skewed perception of reality rather than reality itself.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:28 AM
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||

As long as Jimmy Pongo is here:
At the airport waiting to fly to Mpls. Would still be interested in drinks Thursday night (12/23) with any available members of the Twin Cities contingent. Email me.

|>


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:34 AM
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Email sent! Short answer, tentative yes.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:40 AM
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I am also still up for that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:50 AM
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174, 176: See, this is what I'm on about! You can't be "bourgeois" if you don't own any wealth-producing property. At most (worst) you can be petit bourgeois.

I'm not sure exactly where the argument is at right now, except that JBS seems to be arguing that, mathematically, it always makes sense for people in the nth-percentile of wealth (or is it income?)* to identify their political interests as most similar to those of the people in the n-1th percentile.

*This would seem to be a pretty key distinction to me. Consider someone who makes it in to a major-league sport as a 4th round draft pick, plays in only 5% of the games for a couple of years and is then released. For a few years, their income is going to put them in the top whatever-percent, but it's very likely that for the rest of their working life, they're never going to make nearly that much. Compare that scenario to a professional class person who might start out with a very modest salary indeed after graduating from med school or law school or whatever, but who, over time, is much more likely to accumulate enough wealth that they'll be in the top whatever-percent for a significant chunk of their life. (A big factor here of course is that you don't need two good knees to be a 55 year-old lawyer making a significant amount of money from a couple of different income streams.)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:06 AM
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I endorse 174 and 176. A world in which professionals identify with assembly-line workers and waitresses is a much better one than the current one, where professionals view themselves as junior members of the ruling class.

Something I wonder: when did "bourgeois" take on its current meaning of "middle class"?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:35 AM
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n+1th I mean.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:37 AM
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181: where professionals view themselves as junior members of the ruling class.

Yes, that was one of the tricks of the "Reagan Revolution" helped by the bull markets of the late '80s and '90s.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:54 AM
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You can't be "bourgeois" if you don't own any wealth-producing property. At most (worst) you can be petit bourgeois.

"Wealth producing property"?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:56 AM
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181.2: IANALinguist, but my understanding is that it originally had that meaning, back when it described the wealthy merchant class who were still excluded from aristocratic land ownership and direct access to political power. I have had colleagues (in the sense of fellow graduate students) who had encountered the term primarily in that context and were somewhat surprized to learn that Marx's definition was seen as something other than a historical oddity.

As for its current squishy gloss, my intuition is that this happened in the course of the cultural critiques of the 1950s and 1960s, which first criticized petit bourgeois morality and them bourgeois values, primarily referring to the aspiring middle classes. That could be completely wrong, though.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 9:04 AM
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184: What's the confusion? If you buy a single family house with a 30 year mortgage, and you time the market right, you might make a little bit of money off of it when you sell. But not nearly enough to live on usually. Even if you have, say your own house and a four-plex that you rent out, most people would still have to work to live. Assets like cars or boats are negative wealth. Maybe you don't have to own a whole factory in China to be bourgeois, but you gotta own something that covers your expenses and more.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 9:06 AM
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The real trick of the Reagan Revolution was getting working class people to identify with the interests of the rich. The tax prof at our local law school tells the story of how happy his dental hygenist was about repeal of the death tax.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:01 AM
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how happy his dental hygenist was about repeal of the death tax

If I had a thousand dollars for every person I've tried to explain why they won't ever come close to paying a single penny of estate tax even if they were 10 times richer than they are, I'd have a taxable estate.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:27 AM
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188 - Yep, and it's totally hopeless. You might as well be trying to convince them that Jesus did not say something like 'if someone hits you, hit them back harder, as a lesson to them, and to everyone else, that you are not to be fucked with.' Cause even though he spoke in Elizabethan English, and these exact words don't actually appear in the Bible, this is totally what he meant.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:51 AM
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Totes.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:52 AM
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It's about "rents." Over at Thomas I described S and Medicare as greatest generation rents, but leave that aside.

12 years of schooling and what do ya got? You at least hope you aren't working on the day shift. You hope that professional degree will allow you to make more than the dishwasher while working less hard than the dishwasher.

Now I'm really not quite talking about credentialism, but about the "accumulation" of "property" which will provide you a "profit" over and above the "real" value of your labor.

Is the heart surgeon's labor more valuable than the dishwasher's? That is a social decision, determined by socially created market systems and ideologies to support them. Obviously if everybody was a heart surgeon, or if we had ten million of them, dishwashers might get paid better. So we make it hard to be heart surgeons, and expensive.

Capitalism is not just about Daddy Warbucks exploiting the proles, it instills the mindset for accumulation and rent-seeking in everybody. It is really really hard to be a self-conscious prole, fuck even your union membership is accumulation that provides rent.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:53 AM
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The real trick of the Reagan Revolution was getting working class people to identify with the interests of the rich. The tax prof at our local law school tells the story of how happy his dental hygenist was about repeal of the death tax.

So, the trick of the Reagan Revolution was corporate consolidation of the media.

Obviously if everybody was a heart surgeon, or if we had ten million of them, dishwashers might get paid better. So we make it hard to be heart surgeons, and expensive.

I don't think you can avoid a situation where it's "hard to be heart surgeons".


Posted by: Cry[toc ned | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:24 AM
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The only reason we think it is harder to be a heart surgeon than a dishwasher is because of an arbitrary social norm that hearts are more important than dishes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:29 AM
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I had a thought this morning about how narrow this disagreement is. If the sentence

My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.

Was changed to say, "my class interests overlap more with the really poor than the really rich" I wouldn't object.

That said, when I read the following I feel convinced that I was correct to object as I did.

[Y]ou have people and corporations whose primary class interest is in protecting and accumulating wealth, and the rest of us whose interests are opposed, and that political fights on other issues, while they may be important in themselves, aren't primary.

This isn't wrong but it's so big picture that I continue to feel like it obscures more than it illuminates what I would call "class interests" -- and, probably, we mean different things by that phrase.

I endorse 174 and 176. A world in which professionals identify with assembly-line workers and waitresses is a much better one than the current one, where professionals view themselves as junior members of the ruling class.

I don't disagree with this. But . . . there's also this this. (I was looking for some of frowner's comments about the difficulties that arise when you have professional (white) people in managerial roles in community organizations but that link isn't bad. )

Note, also, that there is a long history of conflict within unions about who should or should not be allowed to join any given union. It's all well and good to say that everybody who isn't an owner of capital shares certain class interest, it's much harder to organize politically on that broad a generalization.

If I understand him right, NickS, and I think parsimon, are arguing that there are real reasons for professional class people not to see their own class interests being served by policies design to help the poor:

I'm arguing that there's a certain convenient fiction being employed when professional people say that their interests match those of the working class on the primary political struggles, and that fiction is based on the fact that professional and working class people might disagree about what issues are primary.

I also think that LB's indulging slightly in the rhetoric of -- I don't have class interests, I just want what's best for (almost) everybody. I suspect that rhetoric is a marker for professional class liberalism, but I could be misreading the tone.

One last example -- at the risk of violating the analogy ban. I was just reading The Checklist Manifesto (good book) and he mentions this research:

Brian Sexton, a pioneering Johns Hopkins psychologist, has conducted a number of studies that provide a stark measure of how far we are from performing as teams in surgery. In one, he surveyed more than a thousand operating room staff members from hospitals in five countries . . . and found that although 64 percent of the surgeons rated their operations as having high levels of teamwork, just 39 percent of anesthesiologists, 28 percent of nurses, and 10 percent of anesthesia residents did. Not coincidentally, Sexton also found that one in four surgeons believed that junior team members should not question the decisions of a senior practitioner.

I think it can be difficult for people in a position of class privilege to assess how closely aligned their interests are with people who don't share that privilege. I believe that similar dynamics apply within political coalitions.

See also, "What do you mean we kemosabe?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:35 AM
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192, 193:Try washing dishes for forty years at ten grand a year and get back to me about what's "hard."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:39 AM
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I dunno about all of this solidarity with the poor. As a UMC/UHB, I have a pretty strong interest in pulling up the bridge and letting no one else across. If I could stay forever as a permanent member of a clerical caste free of threat to my relative position from the aspiring masses, I'd probably be a lot happier. It would be nice to be a Mandarin, but my stupid conscience, social values, and desire to not appear to be a complete asshole keep me in check.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:45 AM
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195: I would, except that I've made other commitments. Anyway, there's a good chance I wouldn't live long enough and that would ruin the experiment.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:45 AM
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I think LB is just preparing her case for why she shouldn't be among those lined up and shot when the revolution comes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:46 AM
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If the sentence

My class interests are much closer to those of the really poor than of the really rich.

Was changed to say, "my class interests overlap more with the really poor than the really rich" I wouldn't object.

In context, those two sentences express what I meant to say equally well.

Let me try to restate my point in a way that doesn't set off the same objection. Put to one side for the moment of how closely aligned an upper middle class professional's interests are with the interests of the poor -- in some contexts they will be, in some contexts they won't be, and I understand that it's irksome seeing someone privileged and comfortable claiming class solidarity with people who aren't either.

The core of the point I was making was that my class interests have very little overlap with those of the really rich. The policies they care about are those that allow the accumulation and preservation of great wealth. Policies in that category don't do me any good: it's not that they serve my interests a little but those of the rich more, they don't serve me at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:51 AM
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196 -- I suppose the question is whether one is content to be in the 90th percentile, which isn't exactly the hardest thing going for someone with legal training and at least a few years actual experience, and the 99th, which takes a stronger combination of luck and/or assholery.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 12:02 PM
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A key point, I think, is that folks like myself or LB or many others on Unfogged don't have to stretch our imaginations too far to envision a scenario in which we might need the services provided by a basic social safety net. And for that reason we have an interest in seeing that net preserved or expanded.

By contrast, nothing short of a Road warrior style societal collapse would force the Koch brothers or the Waltons to depend on anything but their own resources.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 12:03 PM
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So we make it hard to be heart surgeons, and expensive.

Yeah, fuck the bourgeois gatekeepers who put up arbitrary restrictions like "medical school" and "licensing" in the way of childrens' dreams of being heart surgeons.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 12:11 PM
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194: Okay, but we basically face a simple binary choice. Either professionals side with the poor, and then sometimes imagine that their issues are the poor issues, or the professionals side with the rich. I'm not seeing much evidence that American politics supports much more nuance than that.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 12:21 PM
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Guess it's a good thing I didn't go with law degrees instead of medical, or I'd really be in trouble.

Y'all have convinced me. The incomes actually earned by each worker are decreed by God, the invisible hand, or natural law, and are not to be questioned. I genuflect in the direction of Lloyd Blankfein.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:16 PM
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201.1 -- I really think for lawyers that's an illusion. Even bad (but not crazy or medical) scenarios for Halford and LB send their households swirly downward into the 90th percentile, or maybe the 80s. You have to fall a whole lot further for the safety net to come into play. I don't know what your field is AL: but law is a thing that's very flexible, and can even be done by a single person from their basement. It'd take a Mad Max breakdown (or a personal breakdown) to get Halford on food stamps.

SS contributions top out at around the high 80s. Nearly any time an expenditure is made via the tax code, rather than as a direct grant, it favors folks in the upper half of the scale (although some deductions trail off when you get too high up the scale).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:21 PM
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Actually what I have learned is that people are really resistant to having their personal or group privileges examined.

In Japan they have words for the class that is overeducated and feels underpaid, and its mortal enemy, the class of undereducated but wealthy entrepeneurs. Neither of course reaches the top class.

In America, they are Tea Partiers and liberals.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:23 PM
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Actually what I have learned is that people are really resistant to having their personal or group privileges examined.

You're wrong, bob. That's mostly what we do here each day at unfogged.

It is true that we, as a rule, don't want to give them up.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:27 PM
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It'd take a Mad Max breakdown (or a personal breakdown) to get Halford on food stamps.

Oh, I'll bet I can prove you wrong. You may be underestimating my level of incompetence.

Also, I'm pretty sure that in the Mad Max style apocalypse food stamps would be pretty much the first thing to go.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:28 PM
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Guess it's a good thing I didn't go with law degrees instead of medical, or I'd really be in trouble.

No, then you would have a point instead of appearing to be a total moron.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:30 PM
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206: Sorry, are you saying that the Tea Partiers are "the overeducated" or "the wealthy entrepreneurs"?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:33 PM
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210: All Bob is saying is that we suck.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:39 PM
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Actually, I rather like us.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:40 PM
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212: The smugness bob detests.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:42 PM
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209:It was mentioned in a previous thread about doctors having about the highest social status possible in America?

I take "From each according to her abilities..." very seriously.

I also recognize the value of non-monetary goods, as in social status and job satisfaction.

I don't rank occupations as easily as others apparently do, in that say a criminal court judge is so obviously less valuable to society than a plastic surgeon.

I had a heart surgeon (actually thoracic, but did heart) in my immediate family. He was brilliant enough to come up with ways to maximize the bypasses he could do in a day, and got rich by undercutting prices but making it up in volume. Bought his own heart-lung machine. Changed hospitals four times over money disputes.

Fucking greedy mechanic.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:44 PM
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I don't rank occupations as easily as others apparently do, in that say a criminal court judge is so obviously less valuable to society than a plastic surgeon

Now you are just arguing in bad faith, bob.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:47 PM
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I really think for lawyers that's an illusion. Even bad (but not crazy or medical) scenarios for Halford and LB send their households swirly downward into the 90th percentile, or maybe the 80s. You have to fall a whole lot further for the safety net to come into play.

This is true -- I could get some kind of legalish job somehow even if I lost my current job, and the lowest income it would be likely to be wouldn't be all that low -- except for bracketing out medical issues. Becoming medically unable to work isn't prohibitively unlikely. (And then I'd need another hit of bad luck wiping out Buck's income. This isn't a chain of events I'm worried about at all -- it's not likely -- but it's not Mad Max-level unlikely.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:49 PM
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He's not so much arguing in bad faith as arguing with invisible people making arguments that nobody else here can hear. And, you know, whatever floats your boat but I don't see what sort of profit he gains from it.

Which is why I make such a piss-poor entrepreneur, I guess.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:49 PM
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As the late Mr. Reeve showed, any rich person is just one horseback ride away from disaster.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 1:58 PM
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217:Nah, the question as to why a heart surgeon gets paid more than a dishwasher is to me a serious, not moronic, question, because it is to me the same question with much the same answer as to why Lloyd Blankfein makes billions.

I am not in the position to be able to determine the monetary value of all the relative social contributions. Few are, that is why Walras said we don't have to! But Gerry Cohen's camping trip!

Now how this relates to LB saying she relates more to the poor that the rich, well, I think I worked with that above. The intellectual class, especially the professional class, almost always feels especially underpaid.

invisible people making arguments that nobody else here can hear

Arguing with myself mostly, and I grant myself to much latitude in skipping arguments, steps, being elliptical and allusive, etc.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:07 PM
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205: Charley, I think you may underestimate the challenges some in our profession genuinely face. In theory, yes, anyone can practice law from their basement. In practice, however, this proves exceedingly difficult without clients. Having a law license does not guarantee you a job as a lawyer, not in this market. I appreciate the point you are wanting to make about comparative levels of economic security, but claiming that no one with a law license will ever need a safety net is naive.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:09 PM
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Now how this relates to LB saying she relates more to the poor that the rich, well, I think I worked with that above. The intellectual class, especially the professional class, almost always feels especially underpaid.

LB has in common with the poor that her class, unlike the mega-rich, has not seen any increase in income over the past 35 years.

Arguing with myself mostly, and I grant myself to much latitude in skipping arguments, steps, being elliptical and allusive, etc.

Why are you doing it here?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:11 PM
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And yeah, when I am called moronic in my prime example, I can get unserious.

It is not obvious to me, considering the job satisfaction, and there may be none higher, that a heart surgeon shouldn't pay his patients.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:17 PM
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220: To sort of agree with Charley, I'm figuring I'd be very unlikely not to be able to get a job as a paralegal/admin or something. I could lose my license somehow (to forestall arguing about how bad the market for lawyers can get) but if I could work at all I'm pretty sure I'd be able to get some kind of office job, and most lawyers can say the same. That'd suck hard, but not quite social-safety-net hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:17 PM
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LB has in common with the poor that her class, unlike the mega-rich, has not seen any increase in income over the past 35 years.

Lawyers? Cite please.

And I don't have a cite, but I do think the second ten percent, or top 20, has had income increases, decreasing as you approach 80%.

Japan's neat incidentally. Got it down. Got a chart that divides income into three groups, starting in mid-80s. Top 20%, middle 70%, bottom 10%. Since that time with their tight money controlled economy, those numbers have moved like clockwork at about 1% change every five years until it is now top 24%, middle 61%, bottom 15%. Get it?

Just a little upward mobility, just a little fear.

They have done it with a downsizing of the lifetime employment system, and internal outsourcing, i.e., subcontractors to the megacorps. The owners of the subcontractors are not UofT educated, so will never achieve the social status of Uof T grads however rich they get. At the same time, opportunities for UofT grads have declined as keiretsu has downsized. So we have these two competing resentful classes under the top.

Now's that's social control, from the successful totalitarians.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:32 PM
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We had a non-attorney professional right here among the commentariat with credentials at least as highly-skilled as a lawyer's who not so long ago qualified for and took advantage of the safety net offered by food stamps. We think it would be easy enough to find something but that's just not always true.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:38 PM
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True fact; wasn't thinking about that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:39 PM
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Lawyers? Cite please.

There are no historical comparisons, but I did find this Wikipedia article interesting.

Some interesting numbers (based on 2005 data): making $250K/year puts someone in the top 1.5% of household income. 95th percentile household income is $167K.

Median household income is $46,326, median income for someone over 25 with a bachelor's degree working full time is $50,944, median for HS graduate over 25 working full time is $31,539

*Though, of course, the comments above about the importance of distinguishing between income and wealth are well taken.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:44 PM
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I could get some kind of legalish job somehow even if I lost my current job, and the lowest income it would be likely to be wouldn't be all that low

I'm not sure what you mean by "legalish", but if it means something that utilizes your law degree in a compensatory manner, there are a hell of a lot of lawyers in the classes of 2009 and 2010 who would like a word with you. I mean, their sad station in life doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong about what jobs you personally could or couldn't get if you lost your job, but the idea that there are jobs available for anyone with a JD is way off base. Most people graduating from your alma mater are doing fine,* even if they couldn't find a job in biglaw like they wanted, but a lot of people at a lot of less prestigious school are literally doing nothing, and not by choice.

* Unless they're in a 40k job and burdened with significant student loan debt, in which case they're in real trouble.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:54 PM
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227:A while back I check for quintiles, and I think top twenty bottoms out at a little over $100k household.

My household makes 75, I have presumed that LB's makes 100-200. I am in Dallas, she is in NYC. We have a house almost paid off, so maybe 150k in wealth. We aren't so different in economic class. We might even have better healthcare and job security.

But social status and intangibles are important. To me? To LB? Are the only satisfactions of her degree and professional employment monetary? Does she like NYC?

I am aware that y'all look down on me because I live in a Dallas suburb with ethnics, rather than in Austin with the artists and professionals.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:55 PM
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there are a hell of a lot of lawyers in the classes of 2009 and 2010 who would like a word with you.

Note CC's comment referred to

someone with legal training and at least a few years actual experience

I don't really know what the career path for lawyers looks like but my sense is that there is that there's a big difference between a recent graduate and somebody with a couple years of experience.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 2:58 PM
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229.last: Your abilities in discerning the attitudes and motives of other folks online continues to be a wonder.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:00 PM
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228: This was talking about literal impoverishment. I don't think Charley's right that anyone with a JD can get a job as a lawyer, but I'd agree that most people with the education/ability to have gotten a JD are probably pretty well placed to get some kind of office job -- maybe $40K or less, but something. Major student loan debt on top of that would be pretty unpleasant, but without the debt that's not literal impoverishment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:02 PM
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Oh, 230 is right. Well, I still disagree, fairly strongly, but 228 is resurtracted.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:02 PM
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that there's a big difference between a recent graduate and somebody with a couple years of experience.

Yep. Someone who didn't get a job out of law school in the last couple of years is much worse off than an unemployed experienced lawyer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:03 PM
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Straw man, DK. I didn't and wouldn't say that no lawyer could ever need public assistance. I said it would be a very shocking (or personal) scenario for LB or Halford, in the context of their background, type of law, and such. I think their class status anxiety isn't well founded. (Note, I'm not saying it's insincere.)

My reference to practicing from the basement was really more intended to differentiate whatever field AL is in from law. Although, I have no doubt that both LB and Halford could make a better living practicing law from their basements than they could washing dishes at the McManus Diner.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:03 PM
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y'all look down on me because I live in a Dallas suburb with ethnics

Oh please.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:08 PM
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resurtracted.

That's one novel theological concept there, amigo. I'm thinking: God brought Jesus into the world to absolve man of sin, man killed him. Then God decreed that He be resurrected, and then God said, ah, shit, fuck these guys, I've changed my mind, just let him die.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:08 PM
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And it really depends on the type of experience.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:08 PM
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I think their class status anxiety isn't well founded.

I think you may be underestimating how tight the market is for lawyers out there. My office, we have a kid who's been volunteering, unpaid, for eighteen months because she can't find a lawyer job, and she's really very competent.

I have no idea if I could make a go of hanging out a shingle and being a solo practitioner, but I doubt it; I've got no idea how I'd get clients. If I got laid off here, I'm pretty sure I'd find a lawyer job somewhere, but that's 'pretty sure', not 'it's absurd to think that I might not.'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:08 PM
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I wondered why people were giving me such a hard time in this thread. It's because I'm from Ft. Worth, isn't it?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:10 PM
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My ex-colleague told stories of his Nazi refugee mother, who was furious for him at choosing law as a profession, since once the shit really hits the fan you are totally worthless and can't change countries. Much better to be a doctor or an engineer.

I can pretty easily see a scenario where I couldn't find a job practicing law, got an office job, was terrible at it because I was unskilled and unproductive because of status anxiety, and ended up getting fired from that. But Carp is right that this is probably mostly paranoia.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:11 PM
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Does Fort Worth have ethnics?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:17 PM
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I don't know how to make a souffle either, but I bet I could figure out how.

LB, your current adversaries seem, often-times, ill served by their counsel. Whether that's a fair impression or not, it seems like a pretty sure thing that a bunch of people with meritorious claims against the People (whichever of them) would do well to engage you. They'd just have to find you. If only there was some way they could do that . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:17 PM
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And that gets me to 'pretty sure I'd find something', but not further than that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:19 PM
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I don't know what your field is AL: but law is a thing that's very flexible

As my handle implies I'm an academic (and I lurk). It's true that science is less flexible as a career than law. I suppose if you're a theorist you could do research in your basement, but you'd have a hard time getting paid for it.

As for the realistic risk of needing to avail oneself of a safety net, I don't mean that it's very likely for educated professionals such as lawyers, just that it's not totally of the question in any non-apocalypse scenario, as it is for the super rich.

Perceived vulnerability rather than realistic vulnerability can cause one to identify with the poor just like the dental hygienist's perceived (unrealistic) likelyhood of paying inheritance tax's caused him/her to identify with the rich.

Although I think a lawyer stands a greater chance of needing a safety net than the hygienist stands of suffering from the "death tax".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:23 PM
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Worse: southern WASPs.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:25 PM
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Although I think a lawyer stands a greater chance of needing a safety net than the hygienist stands of suffering from the "death tax".

Comity.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:27 PM
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You left me here to be with him...in Dallas.
And I know it hurt you at the time.
Well I wonder now, if it makes a difference.
Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind?


Posted by: Opinionated George Strait | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:28 PM
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Dublin Blues

I wish I was in Austin
In the Chili Parlour Bar
Drinkin' Mad Dog Margaritas
And not carin' where you are

But here I sit in Dublin
Just rollin' cigarettes
Holdin' back and chokin' back
The shakes with every breath


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:32 PM
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Yeah, now come on down and lose your mental balance
Look at me half crazy now
Oh, talkin' to chairs is strange and I know it
Look at me I'm doin' it know


Posted by: Jimmy Buffett | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:35 PM
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If I had a thousand dollars for every person I've tried to explain why they won't ever come close to paying a single penny of estate tax even if they were 10 times richer than they are, I'd have a taxable estate.

My mom has, for all intents and purposes, no estate (when everything is sold and debts are paid, it'll be four figures, absolute max), and yet she's been going through all sort of hoops trying to shield her estate from death taxes. It's ridiculous. And it's impossible to get through to her that this is all unnecessary, because she's heard about death taxes all her life and "knows" how critically important it is to plan ahead so the IRS doesn't take half your estate. She's also been dishing out the same advice to friends for decades.

The kicker in this is that my mom worked for the IRS for 30 years. For the first 20 years she was an auditor, and for the last 10 she was in taxpayer assistance.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:36 PM
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If that weren't sad, it'd be kind of funny.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 3:41 PM
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You'd think "you don't own 3-1/2 million dollars worth of stuff" would be persuasive.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:01 PM
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You'd think, wouldn't you. Every time I've said that I've been met with something along the lines of "maaaaaaaaaybe you're right about that, now that I think about it, but it's still not worth the risk". Mentioning that this is nonsensical b/c there is no risk doesn't go very far either. I don't know what to say; it's weird.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:08 PM
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Of course, you'll feel pretty silly when probate reveals that she had the Hope Diamond in her jewelry box.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:09 PM
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If you know what I mean.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:13 PM
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Straw man, DK. I didn't and wouldn't say that no lawyer could ever need public assistance

If it's a strawman, CC, it's the strawman you built. To quote:

201.1 -- I really think *for lawyers* that's an illusion.

It's fine if that's not what you meant. But it's shitty to accuse me of crafting strawmen when it is, in fact, what you said.

Also, given that a commenter at least as gifted as Halford and with substantial professional credentials did indeed go on food stamps a bit ago, it wouldn't really take a "Mad Max scenario" for someone like Halford to find himself there, too.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:14 PM
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Age is no proxy for wisdom. There are a number of ways that I think my mom would be happier if she dropped some attitudes she holds, and picked up a few others that would make it easier for her to make new friends in the US. It happens pretty often IME that people get stubborn about parts of their lives as they get old.

Well, at least an an obviously well-adjusted bunch of imaginary friends agrees about what's reasonable.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:22 PM
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241: My ex-colleague told stories of his Nazi refugee mother

You mean she was a refugee who fled from the Nazis, right? Not that she was a Nazi who became a refugee? I guess her advice would be equally applicable whatever the case, but I'm trying to imagine the accent it was given in, and I need to know how sinister to make it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:23 PM
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Use of a word like "all" in that sentence would have been a clue that I meant what you want me to have meant. Lawyers are different from humanities or science professors with respect to the ability to ply their trade in non-institution settings -- a shocking and yet defensible generalization. Are all lawyers different from all humanities and science professors in this respect? Of course not.

But yes, you're right, anyone can have some bad luck. Even Halford.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:29 PM
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But yes, you're right, anyone can have some bad luck.

That's the thing. I don't expect to be out of work before retirement -- with my current skills and experience, it'd take some really bad luck for finding work to be a problem for me. But bad luck is something that happens -- people buy fire insurance despite the fact that most people never have a house fire.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 4:36 PM
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My adviser in college made it her personal mission to correct misconceptions about the estate tax. Since I liked her, and she taught interesting classes, I got to hear it at least 4 times. Since these were all in film studies classes, I got to see many of my fellow students looking very bewildered.

But yeah, what're ya gonna do? Most people are not politically engaged enough, nor have they learned enough critical thinking skills, to figure this out on their own, and if you say something, you're competing against a temple full of screechy monkeys chanting "DEATH TAX! DEATH TAX!" It's hopeless.

Have any of the pollsters ever asked something along the lines of "Would you support an estate tax if it only applied to people with fortunes greater than $2 million?"


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:06 PM
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A somewhat related Ask the Mineshaft:

My mom's best friend from college, who I've known all my life (functionally, my aunt) has asked me to review her will. She has two sons, both a couple years older than me. The elder son lives upstate, and is married to a woman who dislikes my aunt, and they don't get along. Consequently, that son hasn't visited his mother in years. The younger son lives very near his mother, and visits her all the time. My mom suspects that he has a basically cynical motive for doing this in that he wants his filial piety to be remembered in my aunt's will. My aunt more or less agrees, but weirdly seems to be going along with this -- she has expressed to my mom that she wants to set up her will so that it unequally divides her estate, giving her younger son the larger share. The younger son has now drawn up a will for her, which presumably says something along these lines, and which she now wants me to review.

A couple of things:

1) I'm not a wills and trusts lawyer. So, aside from basic legal principles I'm not really able to add much more than copy editing and a "does this make sense?" review. On the other hand, even that level of review might be useful, since my mom's friend doesn't have great English. (My mom has explained to her friend that I am not at all versed in w+t, but my aunt is emphatic that she wants any kind of review or help I can give her.)

2) Getting involved in this makes me uncomfortable, both from a legal standpoint (because I'm not a w+t lawyer) and from a personal one. On the other hand, my aunt has been deeply and extremely kind to me all my life and this is the first time she's ever asked me for a favor. It would be hard to turn her down.

3) I think her plan to divide her estate is pretty fucked up -- even if her elder son is being a dick, why encourage lifelong enmity between her sons? On the other hand, it's her business and I don't really know what all went down. But, I don't want to be part of a plan that seems kind of rotten.

4) Related to (3), I (based on nothing but conjecture and reading between the lines of my mom's gossip) suspect that the reason the elder son's wife doesn't like or want to visit my aunt is because my aunt wasn't nice to her in the first place. So, even if the elder son is being a dick, and even though it doesn't entirely excuse the behavior, I think it's at least passingly likely that the root of the feud lies with my aunt.

WWTMD? Right now I'm avoiding her calls.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:07 PM
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I don't know anyone who wrongly thinks that the estate tax might hit them, so I can't imagine the psychology. What happens when you try to argue with them?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:08 PM
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Don't review the will -- malpractice trap, and even without the potential malpractice or professional problems a set up for misery and bad feeling. I can give you the name of a good and pretty cheap local T&E lawyer over email if you'd like; the greater part of kindness would be to donate part of the fee.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:13 PM
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185--"In the mythology of the modern world, the quintessential protagonist is the bourgeois. Hero for some, villain for others, the inspiration or lure for most, he has been the shaper of the present and the destroyer of the past. In English, we tend to avoid the term 'bourgeois', preferring in general the locution 'middle class' (or classes). It is a small irony that despite the vaunted individualism of Anglo-Saxon thought, there is no convenient singular form for 'middle class(es)'....."

http://www.iwallerstein.com/wp-content/uploads/docs/NLRBOURG.PDF


Posted by: (damn it Jim, I'm a) lurker | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:14 PM
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One more thing, sort of in defense of estate tax know-nothings: Is it possible that people are conflating the process of disposing of/hiding/worrying about assets that many older people go through when planning for long-term care with the estate tax? I.e. if you thought it was bad trying to get Grandma's finances squared away so that she could get the maximum Medicare nursing home benefit, imagine how bad it's going to be when the government gets through with her estate! (Of course, this reasoning is entirely specious, but so is most everything the anti-death tax people say.)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:15 PM
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265: IANAL, but that's what I was going to say too -- except for the part about the email referral.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:16 PM
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Yeah, I'm leaning against looking at it, although more for the misery/bad feeling reason than malpractice. She is very persistent though.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:19 PM
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264, 267- I'd guess from my experience that it was part of growing up in the 80's in an atmosphere of tax-phobia; the idea that the government would take some percentage of whatever you left in your will was a default assumption.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:20 PM
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270: But what do they say when you say that it only starts at X dollars? It seems totally black-and-white to me. Who's confused about whether their estate is worth a million dollars?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:26 PM
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Who's confused about whether their estate is worth a million dollars?

Dead people who only took a solar calculator?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:30 PM
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271: But what do they say when you say that it only starts at X dollars?

I'm not sure I have much insight into the general psychology, but both my parents (one of whom, again, spent several decades working for the IRS) think that appears to be right, on the face of things, if you look at the wording of the law (which neither of them would do without being forced to by me), but you never know when you're dealing with the tricksy government, the tax code is big and confusing and they probably usually find some loopholes to exploit so they can tax every last penny, because, you know, if it really only applied to multimillionaires, then why would everyone be so worried about it?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:38 PM
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I haven't been in the position of actually arguing this, and urple's preview-pwned me, but I'd guess it just sounds incredible to them because it doesn't fit into their existing assumptions about how the world works.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:39 PM
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I was speculating at something along the lines of 273: that maybe they believe that exempting your estate from tax, even if it's under the limit, requires some kind of knowledge or skill, and they're afraid they'll do it wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:46 PM
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I think there's an element of distrust and paranoia missing from 275, and urple's parents do seem to demonstrate that.

OT, Florida is now dispensing gold in ATMs.

he saw a photo of the machine in Dubai and said, "this has to come to the U.S."

Oh thanks, Dubai. No, really, you shouldn't have.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:50 PM
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Well, yeah, there has to be paranoia going on. I was trying to figure out what someone who felt that way but was trying to sound sane would tell themselves.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:51 PM
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276: So you're saying they're of Dubai-ous origin?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 5:55 PM
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I mean, does this seem more or less confused than the idea that progressive marginal tax rates apply to every dollar earned, and that you always have to watch out if you're near the edge of a tax bracket, because you could find yourself making $1 more and being pushed "into a higher tax bracket" and suddenly faced with a much bigger tax bill? I don't know how anyone could ever do their taxes even once and not be disabused of this idea, but it's a persistent and widespread myth nonetheless.

So the fact that there are similar widespread myths about the estate tax, which (unlike income taxes) most people don't have direct experience dealing with, and yet about which people have been warned about by talking heads for years? That doesn't really surprise me.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:04 PM
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199

The core of the point I was making was that my class interests have very little overlap with those of the really rich. The policies they care about are those that allow the accumulation and preservation of great wealth. Policies in that category don't do me any good: it's not that they serve my interests a little but those of the rich more, they don't serve me at all.

I think this is wrong. What policies exactly are are you talking about? For example how about favorable tax treatment for charitable donations?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:06 PM
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216

This is true -- I could get some kind of legalish job somehow even if I lost my current job, and the lowest income it would be likely to be wouldn't be all that low -- except for bracketing out medical issues. Becoming medically unable to work isn't prohibitively unlikely. (And then I'd need another hit of bad luck wiping out Buck's income. This isn't a chain of events I'm worried about at all -- it's not likely -- but it's not Mad Max-level unlikely.)

Is it more or less likely than that you (or your heirs) will personally benefit from the estate tax cut (assuming it becomes permanent) that was recently passed?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:11 PM
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What 279.last says, with the caveat that a lot of people don't actually ever do their own taxes, so they don't necessarily have direct experience dealing with them.

(In fact the tax preparation business trades on the same sort of paranoia under discussion: it might well be quite simple for many people to do their own taxes, but they fear they might be tripped up by that tricksy government, so better safe than sorry.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:12 PM
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I dunno, the first seems like an easier mistake. You do your taxes, and do some kind of mumbo jumbo and the chart tells you what you owe, but if you're not understanding what you're doing, having weird beliefs about how would it work out if your income were different. The estate tax doesn't apply unless you have more than the exempted amount -- there's no calculation to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:13 PM
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221

LB has in common with the poor that her class, unlike the mega-rich, has not seen any increase in income over the past 35 years

Depends on how you define her class. I believe professional women have in fact done well.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:14 PM
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279.1- My parents would talk about that all the time, too. It's like we have the same parents! I'd chat more, but there's this bowl of mushroom soup that I'm gonna go microwave-- it's only been out for like, part of yesterday and this morning, and I'm pretty sure it's still good...


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:14 PM
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the idea that progressive marginal tax rates apply to every dollar earned, and that you always have to watch out if you're near the edge of a tax bracket

I thought this until I was in my mid-20s and already had one graduate degree. In fairness, though, I'm a total moron.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:14 PM
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281: Much more likely. For me to worry about the estate tax, I'd have to either inherit money from someone I'm not related to and that I do not now have any expectations from (like, a random rich person would have to leave me money), or my retired parents would have to unexpectedly acquire a whole bunch of money, and there's no obvious way for them to do that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:15 PM
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What happens when you try to argue with them?

"Well, that's not what I've heard. Anyhow, it totally destroys family farms and small businesses."

[condensed "no it doesn't"]

"Well, that's not what I've heard."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:16 PM
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229

... I have presumed that LB's makes 100-200 ...

I'll take the over on that.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:16 PM
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281: Oh, you asked about my heirs as well. Um, then we're talking about similar levels of implausibilty. I can imagine life courses from here on out that would leave me and Buck with an estate big enough not to be exempt from estate tax. None of them are likely, but they're probably of comparable likelihood to my ending up impoverished -- I couldn't give you solid odds either way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:18 PM
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289: Nope, not since I left private practice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:21 PM
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287

Much more likely. For me to worry about the estate tax, I'd have to either inherit money from someone I'm not related to and that I do not now have any expectations from (like, a random rich person would have to leave me money), or my retired parents would have to unexpectedly acquire a whole bunch of money, and there's no obvious way for them to do that.

So there is no chance your husband's business will ever be worth a substantial amount of money?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:25 PM
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Use of a word like "all" in that sentence would have been a clue that I meant what you want me to have meant.

I don't "want" you to have meant anything in particular. I would prefer it if you didn't take a condescending tone as if only a disingenuous jerk could possible have misread what you wrote. (Because naturally you couldn't possibly have been even the slightest bit unclear.)

And, uh, a word like "some" in that sentence would have been a clue that you meant what you apparently meant. I'm perfectly willing to believe you meant what you say. I just think you said it unclearly and are now being a condescending jerk in your reply to my response.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:25 PM
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So there is no chance your husband's business will ever be worth a substantial amount of money?

Not actually impossible (well, for this business, I'd say pretty seriously unlikely, but he could start something else after the market he's in now dies), but not, I think, more likely than that we both end up broke.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:28 PM
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291

Nope, not since I left private practice

You realize he was talking about household income? If so I stand corrected.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:30 PM
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295: Yep.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:33 PM
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(like, a random rich person would have to leave me money)

Is it random, if you spent decades delighting them with oddball blog posts?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:35 PM
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265, 268: Agreed, malpractice trap. The younger son drafting it "for her" screams potential for undue influence (or at least for such an argument being made). You don't want to be too close to something which seems likely to spawn future litigation, imho.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:44 PM
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Regarding estate taxes some states have them (and/or inheritance taxes) also and they may affect quite modest estates (in NJ $500 or more in some cases).

Also a lot of estate planning is designed to minimize legal costs and red tape which can be quite substantial and which some people might consider to be the government's fault.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:51 PM
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263

... My aunt more or less agrees, but weirdly seems to be going along with this ...

I don't see anything particularly weird about rewarding people for treating you nicely even if you suspect an element of calculation.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:54 PM
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(like, a random rich person would have to leave me money)

Maybe he or she is already doing so, but in five-dollar increments, strewn about the city.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 6:56 PM
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263: Halford & Di give good advice. Can she afford to pay someone?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:06 PM
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Regarding estate taxes some states have them (and/or inheritance taxes) also and they may affect quite modest estates (in NJ $500 or more in some cases).

I'd thought to mention this as well. IIRC, Massachusetts estate taxes kick in at $1 million, which still exceeds the estates of many people, unless real estate happens to be valued close to that -- and that calculation is based on the total value of the estate, i.e. any additional real estate that may be owned in another state is counted toward that total as well.

Now that the housing market has crashed, this isn't as much of an issue, but back in the day, people of seemingly modest means could possess seemingly modest houses that were nonetheless valued at whoppingly high prices, depending on location.

None of this is to say that the bizarro fears of the dental hygienist regarding the *federal* estate tax are warranted.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:23 PM
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I'm involved in a large family project of tax-dodging estate planning with respect to the family farm, by forming a LLC that all the children and grandchildren are members of, and within which my grandparents gift to each person the maximum non-taxable gift amount every year, in the form of shares of the entity.

The irony is that since the real estate bubble has collapsed, the value of the land in question is well under the taxable limits (it is on the edge of an area that was experiencing rapid suburban expansion - there's a Toll Brothers development two farms away).

The stake I have doesn't give me any interesting control, or title to a particular spot of land, so it's been oddly abstract.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:27 PM
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302. I'm sure she could afford to pay someone. I don't know why she's insistent on having me look at it -- my mom made it very clear that I don't know anything about wills. (I'm not even the only attorney in her acquaintance. The elder son also happens to be an attorney, although for obvious reasons she doesn't want him to review the will.) I am (perhaps naively?) not that worried about malpractice issues, because of my mom's caveat and because if I did look at the will, I would advise her that I'm not doing it in my capacity as an attorney.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 7:29 PM
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because if I did look at the will, I would advise her that I'm not doing it in my capacity as an attorney

I don't know NY law (which is where I think you are?), but in most states, this would not be an effective disclaimer. If the individual is seeking legal advice, and is seeking your advice because you're an attorney, you can't avoid potential malpractice just by attempting to give advice in some capacity other than your capacity as an attorney.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:17 PM
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Also, your mother's advice that you're not an experienced T&E lawyer is similarly unhelpful. It's your professional obligation not to take on matters (even pro bono) that you're not competent to take on.* You can't insert an incompetency disclaimer at the front end of the relationship, and except that to be some sort of malpractice shield.

*You can of course take on matters in which you have no experience, but in doing so you're taking on the obligation to spend the time to become competent to handle them over the course of the representation.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 8:24 PM
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306

I don't know NY law (which is where I think you are?), but in most states, this would not be an effective disclaimer. If the individual is seeking legal advice, and is seeking your advice because you're an attorney, you can't avoid potential malpractice just by attempting to give advice in some capacity other than your capacity as an attorney.

I think I read somewhere that lawyers writing wills could get away with all sorts of malpractice because the client was usually dead when problems arose and the heirs had no standing to sue. Is this a myth?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 9:33 PM
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308: By analogy with lethal medical malpractice, I'd expect that heirs would in fact have standing to sue.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 10:43 PM
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Depends.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:27 PM
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And the answer in California is, (or was -- maybe they've changed it again), depends.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:35 PM
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308: it's sort of a myth. At least in Illinois, the parties whom the decedent intended to benefit have standing to sue.

Aside from malpractice, though, you don't want to find yourself dragged in to litigation. #1 son alleges undue influence. #2 son says, but she had a lawyer review it! #1 son says, ha, jms is no wills & trust lawyer, she's just a prop used to try and dress it up and is really part of the undue influence.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:37 PM
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Excerpt from CA case:

The determination whether in a specific case the defendant will be held liable to a third person not in privity is a matter of policy and involves the balancing of various factors, among which are the extent to which the transaction was intended to affect the plaintiff, the foreseeability of harm to him, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct, and the policy of preventing future harm. (Cf. Prosser, Torts (2d ed. 1955), §§ 36, 88, 107, pp. 168, 172, 544-545, 747; 2 Harper and James, Torts (1956), § 18.6, p. 1052.) [2a] Here, the "end and aim" of the transaction was to provide for the passing of Maroevich's estate to plaintiff. (See Glanzer v. Shepard, 233 N.Y. 236 [135 N.E. 275, 23 A.L.R. 1425].) Defendant must have been aware from the terms of the will itself that, if faulty solemnization caused the will to be invalid, plaintiff would suffer the very loss which occurred. As Maroevich died without revoking his will, plaintiff, but for defendant's negligence, would have received all of the Maroevich estate, and the [49 Cal.2d 651] fact that she received only one-eighth of the estate was directly caused by defendant's conduct.

Defendant undertook to provide for the formal disposition of Maroevich's estate by drafting and supervising the execution of a will. This was an important transaction requiring specialized skill, and defendant clearly was not qualified to undertake it. His conduct was not only negligent but was also highly improper. He engaged in the unauthorized practice of the law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6125; cf. People v. Merchants Protective Corp., 189 Cal. 531, 535 [209 P. 363]; People v. Sipper, 61 Cal.App.2d Supp. 844, 848 [142 P.2d 960]; Grand Rapids Bar Ass'n v. Denkema, 299 Mich. 56 [287 N.W. 377, 380]; State ex rel. Wyoming State Bar v. Hardy, 61 Wyo. 172 [156 P.2d 309, 313]), which is a misdemeanor in violation of section 6126 of the Business and Professions Code. fn. * Such conduct should be discouraged and not protected by immunity from civil liability, as would be the case if plaintiff, the only person who suffered a loss, were denied a right of action.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:38 PM
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312.1 -- I would guess that that is the majority rule. But as the Florida case linked in 310 shows, if the will as (incompetently) drafted is taken as the evidence of the testator's intent, and parole evidence is excluded, then an omitted child may be simply out of luck.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:42 PM
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Some sort of demon appears to be eating the moon.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:45 PM
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From Pelham v.

The analogy to third-party direct beneficiaries to determine the duty owed to a nonclient by an attorney in a negligence action provides for a broader scope of liability than privity, but a narrower scope of liability than the balancing approach used in California. (R. Mallen & V. Levit, Legal Malpractice sec. 81, at 161 (2d ed. 1981).) In Biakanja v. Irving (1958), 49 Cal.2d 647, 320 P.2d 16, the California Supreme Court held that whether in a specific case the defendant will be liable to a third person not in privity is a matter of policy and involves the balancing of various factors. The factors are the extent to which the transaction was intended to affect the plaintiff, the foreseeability of harm to him, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct and the policy of preventing future harm. However, even under the California balancing test, the predominant inquiry has generally resolved to one criterion: Were the services intended to benefit the plaintiff? R. Mallen & V. Levit, Legal Malpractice sec. 80, at 157 (2d ed. 1981).

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:51 PM
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315: I set my alarm to go look at it in another hour. But I guess insomnia is telling me to go look now.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:53 PM
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http://lawschool.courtroomview.com/acf_cases/9447-heyer-v-flaig

Another California case.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-20-10 11:55 PM
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Stupid snowstorm. Stupid clouds.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 12:21 AM
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#263: I get this all the time with financial advice I'm not licenced to provide, to people I like too much to simply f-off. What you have to do is say "I will get a good mate who specialises in these sort of things to look at it", then bite the bullet and pay a professional to do so. It is aggravating to spend the money, but it's the only ethical thing to do and at the end of the day, if you really like the little old lady it's probably worth it.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 12:39 AM
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319: Having a well-timed few hours without cloud cover. A rare thing in these parts this December.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 12:51 AM
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Who's confused about whether their estate is worth a million dollars?

How do life assurance policies work in America? Because Mrs y and I have a few which pay a lump sum if you die or an annuity (not transferable) if they mature. Company pensions are similar. At our age, it's actually the case that our estates, though nowhere near a million dollars, could vary by 50% depending on which of us kicks off first and when. So it's perfectly reasonable that we (or the second one of us to go) might get into estate duty territory, which is a lot lower in Britain, under some circumstances but not others.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 1:49 AM
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At our age, it's actually the case that our estates, though nowhere near a million dollars, could vary by 50% depending on which of us kicks off first and when.

"Admitting that he knew that, Inspector, was his crucial mistake."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:18 AM
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Mrs y often tells me she's worth more to me dead than alive, which is certainly true in financial terms, though obvs not in others. The same likely applies to most married middle class people in Britain.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:27 AM
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Most married middle-class people in Britain are worth more dead than alive to chris y? Bloody hell. I must warn my parents.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:35 AM
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I'm sure he views your parents with appropriate respect, ajay. It's just everyone else's parents in Britain he wants dead.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:38 AM
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It's a stated policy of the coalition government to remove the compulsory annuitisation requirement for self-invested pensions, so we perhaps may be entering into a new golden age for the English murder.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:44 AM
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327 is a good point. I shall write to Theresa May forthwith, in green ink.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 2:55 AM
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Obligatory Krugman reference: the Throw Momma From The Train Act of 2001.
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/30/opinion/reckonings-bad-heir-day.html

"So in the law as now written, heirs to great wealth face the following situation: If your ailing mother passes away on Dec. 30, 2010, you inherit her estate tax-free. But if she makes it to Jan. 1, 2011, half the estate will be taxed away. That creates some interesting incentives. Maybe they should have called it the Throw Momma From the Train Act of 2001. "


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 3:23 AM
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329: People have said that for a while. My trusts and estates professor was sure that at least one person would have his/her plug pulled before 2011 and that others who were about to go in 2009 would find a way to hold out until 2010. I think that alameida said that her grandfather probably did the latter.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 4:36 AM
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What would really shake things up is a 75% estate tax levied regardless of estate size and having a few "Tax Free Tuesdays" each year.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 5:21 AM
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331: you mean, "if you die next Tuesday, no estate tax"? Wow, yes, that would create some interesting situations.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 5:43 AM
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331. What else would really shake things up would be forcing everybody to maintain and equip a war elephant* at their own expense. And it's just about as likely.

*No, they can't sell the shit as fertiliser to defray costs; it's government property.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 5:44 AM
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Ah, ajay's reading makes more sense. Yes, that would be great. Sun Myung Moon could hold mass funerals in the way he does weddings, and nobody could transact any legal business on the subsequent Wednesdays because all the lawyers would be dead drunk in anticipation.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 5:49 AM
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I didn't have room for a war elephant, so I just have the trunk. Laydeez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 7:00 AM
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332: Ideally, they would do a drawing every Monday at 6:00 p.m. to determine if the next day is tax free. Maybe they have somebody shooting dice on the TV and if they hit snake eyes, no taxes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 7:03 AM
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nobody could transact any legal business on the subsequent Wednesdays because all the lawyers would be dead drunk in anticipation.

I suspect that all the lawyers would actually be asleep, after having blitzed the day before in an effort to clock up 24 tax-free billable hours.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 7:35 AM
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254: I wonder if when she says "risk" she's thinking of what the suits call political risk - that maybe next year Obama will lower the estate tax threshold to $1,000 (the same way people thought that he'd take away their guns).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 8:14 AM
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338: He's not taking guns, for real? Excuse me while I go dig a hole in the yard for a completely unrelated reason.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 8:44 AM
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Stupid frozen dirt/false NRA spam.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 8:51 AM
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Stupid frozen dirt

NO KIDDING.

WAIT.

WHAT WERE WE TALKING ABOUT?


Posted by: OPIONIONATED BRETT FAVRE | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 9:04 AM
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OPIONIONATED

Is this when you have an opinion about losing an electron?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 9:07 AM
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Two atoms are walking down the street. One of them turns the other and says, 'Wait, I've lost an electron." The second says, "Are you sure?" and the first says, "I'm positive!"


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 9:10 AM
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344

parsimon: i agree with 282.2.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-21-10 9:26 AM
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