Re: Liberty Island

1

next time you find yourself in a conversation with a libertarian

Wait, what?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
2

1: A lot of musicians are Ron Paul fans, so it's possible I encounter this situation more frequently than other members of the commentariat.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
3

You could read Douglass North and get the same effect more intelligently.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
4

2: I think some of my students, especially the ones wearing Ron Paul shirts, must surely be self-styled libertarians, but it's never occurred to me to talk politics with them. For starters, I'd be tempted to ask them what they were doing at a public university, and I think my course evaluations would likely suffer as a consequence.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
5

I'd be tempted to ask them what they were doing at a public university

One would sort of like to ask the entire George Mason law faculty this.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
6

4: I keep waiting to spot one of these bumper stickers on a car traveling on public roads.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
7

Further to 6: Probably the most offensive thing about that sticker is that the comma should be a semicolon. Heartless bastards.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 7:51 PM
horizontal rule
8

George Mason is a public university? Wow. That somehow makes the whole Wegman thing seem even worse to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
9

The typography is hideous, like they noticed Obama using new fonts and just told their geezer design guy "more fonts!"


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:09 PM
horizontal rule
10

Is there something about this hypothetical that makes libertarians think it's amazingly persuasive?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
11

10: I don't think I persuaded him but rather distracted him from talking to me about 9/11. But it did seem to rattle his thinking a bit, so that was good times.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:21 PM
horizontal rule
12

He didn't try the "But those rules would be adopted by genuine common consent on matters of crucial importance, not [thing I don't like]" or "A direct democracy blah blah gold standard blah blah representative corruption blah blah" end runs?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:33 PM
horizontal rule
13

I may have managed to reach out to a Catholic nonvoter (anti-abortion, pro-social-justice) last night by emphasizing all the currently-existing poverty-alleviating programs that Romney/Ryan actively want to eliminate.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
14

11: No, I mean why did he think that hypothetical would be persuasive to you. The way I see it, the 1,000 people form a society one way or the other, and that society needs rules (night-watchman stuff) just like ours does. Maybe they think the low population density makes it easy for everyone to live without meddling in each other's affairs.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
15

14: I think he'd never thought about which existing rules in our own society he'd support, so it was a helpful exercise down that path.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 8:55 PM
horizontal rule
16

I'm getting sick of the word "Liberty." The Libertarians have ruined it for me like the neocons ruined "Freedom."

Ain't nobody better try and take "Justice" away from me.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
17

Sorry Spike, GWB already made 'bring them to justice' an alternate phrase for 'killed them without due process."


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:09 PM
horizontal rule
18

That weasel!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
19

I think he'd never thought about which existing rules in our own society he'd support

I can derive the infield fly rule from the pure state of nature in only six steps.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
20

The infield-fly rule is a hotly debated topic in the local law school softball league. More generally, the league rules are also hilariously written (e.g., cursing at the ump is an automatic ejection).


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
21

I don't actually know what the infield fly rule means.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:34 PM
horizontal rule
22

Or why Jewish holidays made the bar emptier.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:37 PM
horizontal rule
23

Emptier except for people from the British Isles. I met a guy who knew the campus of Lancaster University.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 9:41 PM
horizontal rule
24

Also a guy who had the kind of ear ring that makes for a hole in your ear that can fit a Swisher Sweet. His ear retracted and it took twenty minutes to find the jewelry in a dark bar.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:10 PM
horizontal rule
25

4 and 5 are exactly the sort of arguments that kept me a libertarian for 2 or 3 years longer than I should have been. I wrongly assumed that if the only arguments I heard against it were that bad, then there must be no better ones.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:12 PM
horizontal rule
26

You might as well ask an atheist why they use currency with "In God We Trust" written on it.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:14 PM
horizontal rule
27

Or a communist why they don't just donate all their personal property to the Federal government.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:15 PM
horizontal rule
28

Communists only want central ownership of the means of production. Personal property is fine, but they want your stock on your lungs if you have a productive cough.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:18 PM
horizontal rule
29

-on, + and


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:19 PM
horizontal rule
30

The OP is an interesting approach, but how many libertarians out there literally think there shouldn't be any rules to define what is mine and what is not mine, and what other people can or can't do to me?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:19 PM
horizontal rule
31

26 -- I know, it's not the fault of libertarians reluctantly stuck in public employ that the government has prevented the market from providing private institutions from offering higher education.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 10:37 PM
horizontal rule
32

31: Glad to hear that. Now how do I redirect my tax dollars that fund public education, to instead pay for private tuition?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:01 PM
horizontal rule
33

Now how do I redirect my tax dollars that fund public education, to instead pay for private tuition?

Vote Republican, obviously.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:15 PM
horizontal rule
34

33: That's right, we don't determine whether education is publicly funded by deciding whether or not to attend a public university; we choose it by voting.

So why should you expect someone's political opposition to public funding affect their personal choice to enroll one of the actually existing options? It's not like libertarians think that education is evil in itself.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:21 PM
horizontal rule
35

Is the idea that anyone who would prefer a different political arrangement must not participate in the current one? That would rule out almost everyone.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:28 PM
horizontal rule
36

Point taken, but higher education is kind of a special case in that there are in fact private institutions in addition to public ones, which is not the case for roads or coins. If they really wanted to, libertarians who opposed public funding of education could express that opposition through their choice of school in addition to doing so through voting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:33 PM
horizontal rule
37

That said, "but you personally take advantage of publicly funded institutions!" is obviously not a particularly strong or convincing argument against libertarianism.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:42 PM
horizontal rule
38

Sure, but it's mostly just a way to tell someone to piss off and quit bothering you with nonsense. Similarly, people in my profession with that bent are given notice with "motherfucker, I'll gladly listen to this shit the day you give up your pension and go work for one of the private security companies around here." One of the upsides of my workplace is that that exact wording can be used.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-16-12 11:48 PM
horizontal rule
39

34: do you genuinely think I was making an argument against libertarianism? Or are you just looking for a fight? Wait, don't answer that. Please see comment 1.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:03 AM
horizontal rule
40

L'shanah tovah, VW.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:04 AM
horizontal rule
41

Back at you, teo. May the coming year be filled with joy for you and yours.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:06 AM
horizontal rule
42

Thanks, and likewise.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:07 AM
horizontal rule
43

Come on, post some Youtube videos of you guys getting your shofar on or something. I searched on Amazon for one to see what they cost and noticed one came with Free Anti Odor Spray, which seems kind of gross.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:17 AM
horizontal rule
44

Here's hoping.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:17 AM
horizontal rule
45

44 to 42.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:17 AM
horizontal rule
46

43: The holiday just started. We haven't gotten to the shofar part yet. And as for the grossness, well, they literally are just rams' horns.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:19 AM
horizontal rule
47

So "oh man you've got some wicked shofar breath" is not something you want to hear from a girl?"


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:24 AM
horizontal rule
48

That is correct.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:25 AM
horizontal rule
49

|| Some front page poster should kick it old school and put up the latest Modern Love column for comment. This might be the most mystifying one yet. The author (under her real name), A) Outs her husband as having 'cuckolding' fantasies that involve her having sex with another man, B) indicates that the sum total of her action on these fantasies has been kissing two different men in their 12 years of marriage, and C) concludes with an apparent plea to the last man she kissed to please return her texts. To people really think these columns are a good idea, or is it just that writers are really, really desparate to get published? ||>


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 2:20 AM
horizontal rule
50

It's also in the middle of a vast ocean with no other visible land nearby. Do you need any rules? If so, which ones?"

"Whoever holds the conch gets to speak. Everyone else has to be quiet."


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 4:37 AM
horizontal rule
51

39: I just think that it's harmful to the discourse to make that kind of terrible argument, even as a form of "don't bother me," because it's going to strengthen the recipient's prior beliefs.

If we all already agree that the argument is terrible, then I've been making the wrong half of my case, and what I really have to convince you of is:
That making such a bad argument is likely to actually strengthen a libertarian's belief that there aren't good arguments against libertarianism.
That it is almost always wrong to intentionally produce a harmful false opinion in others.
That in any case, it is usually wrong to get what you want by making a bad argument, for the same reason it is usually wrong to lie, even if no individual is harmed, because it corrupts discourse and erodes trust.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:05 AM
horizontal rule
52

38

... the day you give up your pension and go work for one of the private security companies around here ...

Isn't the normal practice to put in your 20 years then start collecting your pension and also go to work in private security thereby collecting a salary and a pension?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:13 AM
horizontal rule
53

51

I just think that it's harmful to the discourse to make that kind of terrible argument, even as a form of "don't bother me," because it's going to strengthen the recipient's prior beliefs.

I think this is a bit unrealistic, the vast majority of the discourse consists of bad arguments. So if you are really interested in good arguments against some belief of yours you need to seek them out. Of course most people are looking to confirm their prior beliefs not undermine them.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:23 AM
horizontal rule
54

25

4 and 5 are exactly the sort of arguments that kept me a libertarian for 2 or 3 years longer than I should have been. I wrongly assumed that if the only arguments I heard against it were that bad, then there must be no better ones.

What about all the bad arguments you heard in favor of libertarianism?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:13 AM
horizontal rule
55

The author (under her real name), A) Outs her husband as having 'cuckolding' fantasies that involve her having sex with another man, B) indicates that the sum total of her action on these fantasies has been kissing two different men in their 12 years of marriage

Worst sex story ever. What's being outed is how lame these people are when it comes to acting out their fantasies.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:16 AM
horizontal rule
56

52:

Sure, but I'd like for them to feel the magic of the free market right now and quit sucking that govt. teat.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:19 AM
horizontal rule
57

51 puts some pretty heavy moral value on casual cocktail party chitchat...

54 -- The answer to that is easy: the magical power of confirmation bias to soothe cognitive dissonance.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:26 AM
horizontal rule
58

51: Why are the adolescent fantasies of a bunch of moral monsters and intellectual idiots worth the time of day? The best way of dealing with libertarians is not counter-argument but severe social shaming. The mocking that Paul Ryan's taken for his Ayn Rand fanboydom makes me hopeful.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:31 AM
horizontal rule
59

Also, Shearer is totally right in 53 and 54.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
60

I mean, when someone says "I am a libertarian" what they mean is "I am a selfish prick who has come up with a soothing but transparently silly narrative to justify my selfishness.". End of story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
61

55: The setup had a lot of potential but it just fizzled. Those people need to join a swinger's club or something.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:46 AM
horizontal rule
62

re: 60

Some are also delusional and have some sort of Horatio Alger/Heinlein self-narrative.

"I pulled myself up via my bootstraps, and would win the fuck out in any scenario, due to my knowing-stuff-ness and awesometude. You assholes are holding me back from my true potential, and/or taking my shit."


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
63

60:

I think sometimes it means "I haven't thought about anything, whatsoever, but it's definitely the most rock-and-roll of my three choices."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:50 AM
horizontal rule
64

Some percentage of self-reported libertarians are probably liberals with shitty spelling.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:51 AM
horizontal rule
65

I just think that it's harmful to the discourse to make that kind of terrible argument, even as a form of "don't bother me," because it's going to strengthen the recipient's prior beliefs.

I've made a hobby of seeking one-liners that convey "Here's why your theory sucks." The goal is to come up with something accurate, brief and irrefutable. Here's a list off the top of my head - I bet people here can improve it.

For libertarians and other right-wing economic types:

"Why is wealth concentrated in areas with extensive government interference in the economy?" Or, alternatively: "If you like Mississippi so much, why don't you go live there?"

For creationists:

"Why don't oil companies hire creationist geologists?"

For global warming deniers:

"The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide has been demonstrated in laboratories. What keeps this effect from working in the atmosphere?"

For biblical literalists:

"The first thing in the Old Testament is an account of the creation, followed by a different account of creation."

For strict constructionists:

"The Ninth Amendment is clear in both its language and its original intent."

You get the idea. These aren't perfect - the government and wealth argument overlooks correlation vs. causation, for example - but if I'm every cornered by a libertarian at a party, I've got something to say.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:56 AM
horizontal rule
66

62: There's a homeless guy in Humboldt County who puts lectures on YouTube embodying this. One of his videos is entitled "I enjoy PRODUCTIVE work."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:02 AM
horizontal rule
67

It's not all be selfishness. There's an elegance to the libertarian ideal that's attractive to certain people (myself included). Obviously, it can't survive contact with the real economy.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:39 AM
horizontal rule
68


The best way of dealing with libertarians is not counter-argument but severe social shaming.

Possibly superfluous. The best antidote to libertarianism is time and experience. There's a reason libertarian sentiments are found disproportionately among the young and UMC: they don't do well at surviving extended contact with reality*. Like the common cold, libertarianism is a condition that usually goes away on its own if left untreated. If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a libertarian with a pre-existing condition.

*One corollary is that libertarianism is disproportionately likely to survive into old age within the protective confines of George Mason U. and Koch-funded think tanks.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:40 AM
horizontal rule
69

68: Yeah, but Libertarian Party-style college libertarianism is a lot less threatening to the country than the Alan Greenspan/Paul Ryan kind where it hits the mainstream mixed with Republicanism.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
70

There's an elegance to the libertarian ideal that's attractive to certain people

The flip side to the elegance of the theory is the brittleness of the doctrine. It's not unlike fundamentalist Christianity in that way: once breached by a wedge of empirical doubt, the whole edifice is prone to collapse.

Modern liberalism, for all its flaws, is reasonably well equipped to deal with the empirical messes and moral ambiguities the modern world presents. I can have personal knowledge of layabouts who cheat the welfare system (as I in fact do) and still come to a pragmatic conclusion that welfare is a net benefit to society, whatever the costs in dulled incentives. A libertarian confronted with the existence of virtuous destitute people has nowhere to retreat: either his elegant theory admits of exceptions, which unravels the whole thing, or the theory is a moral monster.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:53 AM
horizontal rule
71

I just think that it's harmful to the discourse to make that kind of terrible argument

Again, I was not and am not making any kind of argument. If you read what I actually wrote, you'll perhaps see that I was saying that were I to engage with my libertarian students, I would be tempted to be glib and dismissive about their silly beliefs, and that wouldn't do anyone any good.

Now, I'm very sorry that you used to be enthralled by such an empty political philosophy. But please don't make your adolescent missteps my problem. I honestly can't be any clearer than that.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:01 AM
horizontal rule
72

Seriously, I used to like U2 and REM. It's terribly embarrassing to remember, much less admit, such things, but I don't think anyone here is to blame for my bad taste.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:03 AM
horizontal rule
73

I still like U2.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
74

I'd like to be clear that I only liked U2 through the release of War and REM through the release of Fables of the Reconstruction. Oh, the shame.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
75

That's a ridiculous argument, Moby. You're impoverishing the discourse.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:05 AM
horizontal rule
76

I don't like the newer releases.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:06 AM
horizontal rule
77

A guy on my hall in the dorm used to get moody and play "Beth" really loudly. He kept it up until somebody threatened to kill him. Which is why I found this so great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
78


Now, I'm very sorry that you used to be enthralled by such an empty political philosophy.

I am frequently baffled by the respect that is afforded to political apostates. I mean, on the one hand, I get that it's gratifying to hold out a Zell Miller or Charlie Christ as someone who has seen the sweet light of reason. On the other hand -- dude, you're admitting that you used to be a fool and/or knave, and now you want me to take your advice? David Horowitz especially gets on my nerves for that reason: "I know liberals are idiots and liars because I used to be one" doesn't do as much to establish his credibility as he seems to think. And to be honest, while I occasionally enjoy a bilious rant from John Cole, I can never forget that he used go after liberals with similar relish. Really, guys, a large dose of humility would be the appropriate response to a personal realization that you fervently believed nonsense for a good portion of your adult lives.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
79

70, 68 -- frankly, by the time you're 14 you should be well aware that many people are both destitute and virtuous, and if you haven't realized that you're a fuckhead.

Which isn't to say people can't change later out of libertarianism, which is great, but I'm not giving teen Randian guy a pass any more than teen gay hating fundamentalist gets a pass (and, actually, tghf is more likely to have been indoctrinated by his parents).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:16 AM
horizontal rule
80


78 was not directed at Benquo, lest any confusion arise. I was commenting on the general tendency of opinion-makers to give exaggerated attention and credence to the views of apostates.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:16 AM
horizontal rule
81

VeeDub really is my brother.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
82

Seriously, I used to like U2 and REM. It's terribly embarrassing to remember, much less admit, such things, but I don't think anyone here is to blame for my bad taste.

Wait, is REM on the Index too?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:21 AM
horizontal rule
83

U2 and REM are where the 'I like their early stuff, before they got popular" cliche has its proper home.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:25 AM
horizontal rule
84

83 gets it right. If a plane had gone down in 1985 with both bands on it, they would be loved today by music snobs everywhere.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
85

Changing your mind as you learn and grow is normal and healthy. It's being a flaming asshole about your beliefs that's reprehensible. The latter is unfortunately quite common among young libertarians.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:31 AM
horizontal rule
86

What's the appeal of libertarianism to young people?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:43 AM
horizontal rule
87

86: I'm guessing it's all about feeling invincible.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
88

What's the appeal of Ron Paul to young people?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
89

You mean aside from sexual magnetism?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:03 AM
horizontal rule
90


What's the appeal of libertarianism to young people?

Three characteristic changes in the course of adolescence are
1. conscious construction of individual identify
2. chafing at external / parental authority
3. first experience at thinking in global abstractions

The libertarian philosophy flatters all three of those emerging cognitive traits. Your individual self is the most important thing on earth! Constraints on your free will are ipso facto illegitimate! And here is an elegant framework that explains it all (and is just simple enough for your still developing intellect to comprehend)!

Also, weed and sex are totes OK.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
91

Well, obviously.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
92

91 to whatever.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
93

91 to 48.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
94

I don't think I've encountered much of this adolescent libertarianism, or really much libertarianism that places much emphasis at all on the √ľbermenschen. Most self-identified libertarianism I meet in real life is motivated by the twin pillars of (1) the government can't do anything right! It's a sickening mix of industry shills and lazy bureaucrats, and (almost) anything they do could be done more efficiently by private parties, plus (2) but I'm cool with homosexuality and drugs and sex and separation of church and state and all that jazz.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:22 AM
horizontal rule
95

Disable the part of a normal person's brain that recognizes collective action problems and you've got a libertarian. I believe they've actually done this with lab rats.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
96

How do they get the lab rats to just eat the one part of the brain?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
97


How do they get the lab rats to just eat the one part of the brain?

The rats get a targeted tax credit. Jack Kemp proposed this back in the 80's.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:55 AM
horizontal rule
98

If a plane had gone down in 1985 with both bands on it, they would be loved today by music snobs everywhere.

Hey now. Both Achtung Baby and Zooropa are great albums. I hold no brief for any of their other later output.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
99


||

Where's mcmanus? TNR's Alec MacGillis blames Ezra Klein for making Paul Ryan salonfähig.

|>


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
100

libertarianism isn't anarchy.

primary difference: at least anarchy is well-defined.


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
101

"Because he is being graded on a curve with a bunch of guys who jump into the Sea of Galilee because they want to be closer to God."
I love Barney Frank.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
102

54: I had the bad luck to hear the good ones first. But I did push back against the bad ones when I heard them, even when I was a libertarian.

I'm not claiming that assuming the arguments you hear are the best available is a good strategy for obtaining truth, I agree that it's a bad one; but a lot of people do it, and giving them more straw folk to argue against just helps them strengthen their current convictions.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
103

71: I'm not objecting to the glibness or dismissiveness of the imagined comment. I'm objecting to the quality and soundness of the glib, dismissive comment.

65 is a great example of comments that are glib, dismissive, and correct.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:51 AM
horizontal rule
104

80: Even if 78 was not directed at me, I do agree that the fact that I was wrong about something in the past should give my opinions a penalty, not a bonus.

On the other hand, the generalized ability to change one's mind is important, as most people aren't lucky enough to hit upon the correct opinion first.

In my defense, I had changed my mind (mostly) by the time I turned 21.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:08 AM
horizontal rule
105

70: Does a political ideology have to guarantee that bad things will never happen to good people in order to be correct?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
106

I think part of the problem is thinking that you need a "political ideology" in the first place. How about starting by not being a wanktatious asshole towards your fellow human beings, a key component of which is not wanting them to starve or be immiserated.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:28 AM
horizontal rule
107


Does a political ideology have to guarantee that bad things will never happen to good people in order to be correct?

No, but a political ideology that claims that your circumstances are identical to and indistinguishable from your just reward is going to have a hard time coping* with normal human misfortune. Even more so when it claims that any state-sponsored redistribution of resources from those in comfortable circumstances to those in dire circumstances contravenes some sacred principle of liberty.

*for libertarians who don't quite have the courage of their convictions, there is the chickenshit escape hatch that says programs to alleviate human misery inevitably backfire, and while it might seem morally preferable to save people from starving, the negative consequences of redistribution outweigh the positives in the long run, so the poor are ultimately better off without any government intervention in the economy.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
108

On the other hand, the generalized ability to change one's mind is important, as most people aren't lucky enough to hit upon the correct opinion first.

I would heartily agree with that. One of the problems with libertarianism is its pretense to having all the answers: if you just apply the principles of liberty and laissez-faire rigorously enough, you will produce an optimal (and morally just) outcome. Contrast with Bertrand Russell's observation about liberalism: "The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment."


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
109

I am so happy to have been 14 at a time when espousing libertarian ideas what have been greeted with shock. I guess I'm still shocked that anyone, at any age, takes that shit even remotely seriously, but maybe I should be blaming society instead.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
110

I mean, in 1972 we knew what to say about people who thought the Civil Rights Act was some kind of affront.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:51 AM
horizontal rule
111

I am so happy to have been 14 at a time when espousing libertarian ideas what have been greeted with shock.

I wish I'd grown up then. I was reading the 1960 Republican platform the other day (don't ask why) and it was unbelievable, from today's perspective, how non-libertarian it is. The basic idea that the basic economic well-being of all people was important, and that government and unions had an important role in promoting and providing for that well-being, and the only real questions were how government and unions could properly execute that responsibility. Libertarian jerks have caused almost unbelievable damage to society in so many ways, and I wish we could have the social shaming back in place to deal with them.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 11:57 AM
horizontal rule
112

Oh, not only society -- not to mention that they are literally destroying the planet. The hell with them.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:01 PM
horizontal rule
113

Shame? We seem to have lost that concept. See Dick Morris, Paul Wolfowitz, and countless others.

I blame the 24 hour news cycle and the two minute attention span.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
114

111: It is amazing. Eisenhower's party's stated positions are way, way to the left of anything Obama could get away with (insert obvious caveat about civil rights blah blah).

How has the Free Market become our new god?

I mean, American people don't actually like going to the market and haggling. We might be the most haggle-free country in the world.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
115

114: How has the Free Market become our new god?

Because by now a few generations have not experienced it at its fullest flowering. Those that have are all dead.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
116

I was reading the 1960 Republican platform the other day (don't ask why) and it was unbelievable, from today's perspective, how non-libertarian it is.

Even more unbelievable to me is that the George Romney that championed that type of platform and led the opposition to the fucking Golderwaterites somehow spawned our current Repub candidate.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
117

Completely on topic: Check out this line from a recently-discovered video of Romney speaking "privately" to donors:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what...These are people who pay no income tax. [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The whole thing is worth reading. Libertarians are such horrible people.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 2:02 PM
horizontal rule
118

I long for the day when making a speech like that is the equivalent of a racist gaffe.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 2:04 PM
horizontal rule
119

Reaction from Borowitz: Romney: Most Americans Too Lazy to Hide Money Overseas


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 2:19 PM
horizontal rule
120

Because by now a few generations have not experienced it at its fullest flowering. Those that have are all dead.

Similarly to the collective memory of what desperate women do when they can't get a legal abortion.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
121

what desperate women do when they can't get a legal abortion

Burn their bras?

I might be in the wrong thread.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 3:04 PM
horizontal rule
122

65: "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep discussing what's for lunch. Freedom is a well-armed sheep contesting the result. Republicans are the people who think giving sheep guns is a great idea."


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 3:14 PM
horizontal rule
123

"The first thing in the Old Testament is an account of the creation, followed by a different account of creation."

The rabbi at the service I went to this morning mentioned this in his sermon.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:17 PM
horizontal rule
124

I certainly hope you denounced him.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:22 PM
horizontal rule
125

I certainly hope you denounced him.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:22 PM
horizontal rule
126

Why? It's true.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
127

I didn't do that!

Anyway, while we're approximately on the subject, AB was reading something the other day and asked me* the following question:

Is there a reason or tradition that would lead Jewish fathers to be in charge of their children's lunches?

I felt reasonably confident in saying no, but I am, ultimately, nothing but a goy. Was I wrong?

* I'm the de facto family expert on Judaism, since I was raised Catholic**

** that's a joke. The reason is otherwise.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
128

126: True? Next you'll be accepting religious leaders who acknowledge basic scientific facts.

Or the concept of consent.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
129

127.1 to the double post.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:26 PM
horizontal rule
130

Is there a reason or tradition that would lead Jewish fathers to be in charge of their children's lunches?

Not that I know of, certainly.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:26 PM
horizontal rule
131

Oh hey, teo, let's step up. Just 3 more comments and we own the sidebar.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
132

JRoth can't even SEE nosflow.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:38 PM
horizontal rule
133

Dammit!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
134

115: Because by now a few generations have not experienced it at its fullest flowering. Those that have are all dead.

God is this ever true. So it is in general with the New Deal, Great Society, women's and civil rights, numerous areas of government regulation (environmental and food and drug safety, and so on). People apparently think the benefits and relative safety we now enjoy are natural.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
135

They really do. Glass-Steagall repeal is probably the all-time example, but there are countless others. The entire neoliberal project is predicated on the idea that we can stop fighting for regulation/oversight/taxation, and business/the 1% will happily stay right in the optimal spot for social good, rather than clawing back every concession we've won from them over the past 75/125 years.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
136

118: The Romney fundraising speech footage in Mother Jones made NPR coverage, anyway.

That theme, that Democrats are basically buying votes by supporting 'entitlements' for the needy, is straight out of Phyllis Schlafly's mouth.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:15 PM
horizontal rule
137

135: Not just with respect to financial regulation. Also, as heebie notes in 120, with respect to women's rights, civil rights and similar advances. (We all know that there are not a few young women out there who aver that there is no longer any such thing as sexism; and of course Ron Paul thinks the Civil Rights Act is unconstitutional, and things would be dandy if people could refuse service to anyone they like ... because the market would take care of it. So blind to history, just so blind.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
138

We're doing a pretty good job, recently at least, of exposing folks to the horrors of the market. But the old people, rich people, rural people, and well-off cultural conservatives who form the Republican base have been largely exempt.

Anyhow, I have hopes that libertarians will be increasingly shunned and shamed and that libertarianism has run its course. It feels like a set of beliefs on a downward trajectory, not a rising one. That may be wishful thinking.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
139

No, that lets him off far too easily. Ron Paul is old enough that he can't be "blind to history" with respect to the Civil Rights Act. He's well aware of the history.

Young people are a different story.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
140

Ron Paul is an affirmative racist who put out a racist publication for many years.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
141

See here, if you had any doubts. I know I'm preaching to the choir here.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:35 PM
horizontal rule
142

Yeah, Ron Paul should be old enough to know better. Charlatan, then.

I have hopes that libertarians will be increasingly shunned and shamed and that libertarianism has run its course. It feels like a set of beliefs on a downward trajectory, not a rising one. That may be wishful thinking.

I think it's wishful thinking. They're stronger than ever.

God knows there has been enough enough discussion here and there (at CT, for example), but somehow I haven't formed a narrative for myself about just when and how libertarian sensibilities began to strongly inform the Republican party. Anybody have a short answer?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:38 PM
horizontal rule
143

1964.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
144

Right. I hate it that the loathsome bastard Goldwater managed to get some cred at the end of his life by saying not-horrible things about gay people. What a nightmare for American that man was.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:44 PM
horizontal rule
145

142,143:Rand, then Goldwater, (Friedman/Greenspan), then Nolan and the Party, then Nozick.

Wiki">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism#History">Wiki History shows why I'm uncomfortable with the limit of the word to a wing of Republicans. I'd prefer "propertarians"

Mutualism is not a socialism. I don't think. And that erasing all the varieties of left libertarianism from the discourse and history absolutely serves the Right, leaving only Romney and Obama/Rahm/Geithner corporate liberalism remaining. Or anarchism.

But...lost cause.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
146

143: Right, but why did that take hold so? KR recommended a book on the Goldwater era at some point; I should take a look at that. I can tell myself a *general* story about the power of capital and its felt need to advance a libertarian narrative.

I guess I'm thinking that think-tanks and media were employed to gradually shift the message. Maybe Nixonland would be of use.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:52 PM
horizontal rule
147

I think I'm just puzzled about why we didn't see this coming sooner. We talk as though current day libertarian themes came out of left field.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
148

146 Try Before the Storm by the author of Nixonland. It's about the rise of Goldwater style modern conservatism.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:56 PM
horizontal rule
149

80

78 was not directed at Benquo, lest any confusion arise. I was commenting on the general tendency of opinion-makers to give exaggerated attention and credence to the views of apostates.

I think this is because being an apostate can be evidence you have seriously thought about the issue at hand and have considered the evidence. Many people adopt positions (such as the religion of their parents) without much thought and then never seriously reconsider. So their views can be uninformed and uninteresting.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:57 PM
horizontal rule
150

Maybe Nixonland would be of use.

Maybe. I can't remember enough to google, but there was a book written a while back about four right-wing 60s rebels:Viguerie, Norquist, Ralph Reed, and ? that is pretty good. Help?

Everybody rebelled in the 60s, and the rebellions got co-opted by the bourgeois establishment, but remain as myths to inspire the Tea Party and OWS.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 6:58 PM
horizontal rule
151

Bob, you would like Nixonland. At a minimum, it's got plenty of great anecdotes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
152

148: I think that's the one KR recommended as well. It goes on my list NOW. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:03 PM
horizontal rule
153

From what I have read, I am not a fan of Perlstein.

He is a product of identity politics, and overrates the importance of racism and underrates the importance of anti-communism in the story of the right-side 60s. Certainly they overlap.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:08 PM
horizontal rule
154

I don't think that's really born out by the book; your "Everybody rebelled in the 60s, and the rebellions got co-opted by the bourgeois establishment, but remain as myths to inspire the Tea Party and OWS" is actually pretty close to his thesis.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
155

I'll have to make my own judgment on Perlstein, bob. I should have read Nixonland by now, but have not. The topics are kind of grim to me, I guess, but that's no excuse when I wind up asking basic questions because I simply haven't done the reading.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
156

Gotta go. This is cutting into my sacred movie time. Kitano's Violent Cop in queue.

Umm, Tarkovsky's Zerkalo (Mirror) is kinda recommended. Kinda. I've read a lot since I watched it Saturday, but not enough is said about the performance of Margarita Terekhova in the leads(s). My jaw dropped farther than after seeing Falconetti or Ullman.

Pictures

Edgiest sexiest smartest earth-mother ever.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:29 PM
horizontal rule
157

70

Modern liberalism, for all its flaws, is reasonably well equipped to deal with the empirical messes and moral ambiguities the modern world presents. I can have personal knowledge of layabouts who cheat the welfare system (as I in fact do) and still come to a pragmatic conclusion that welfare is a net benefit to society, whatever the costs in dulled incentives. A libertarian confronted with the existence of virtuous destitute people has nowhere to retreat: either his elegant theory admits of exceptions, which unravels the whole thing, or the theory is a moral monster.

What variety of libertarianism claims it's impossible to be virtuous and destitute? This is like claiming liberals believe there are no welfare cheats.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
158

Nixonland is terrific.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
159

112

Oh, not only society -- not to mention that they are literally destroying the planet. The hell with them.

Barack Obama is President not Ron Paul so if you don't like out environmental policies perhaps you should blame him (or at least someone in power).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:06 PM
horizontal rule
160

I blame the influence of libertarian ideas in undermining the environment. Not Ron Paul personally, although God help us if that bastard ever did get any actual power.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
161

160

I blame the influence of libertarian ideas in undermining the environment. ...

People don't want higher gas taxes because they don't want to pay more for gas. Same for any other environmental measure which costs them money. Libertarian ideas have nothing to do with it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 8:48 PM
horizontal rule
162

The point JBS is affecting to miss presumably being that ibertarianism has worked hard to promote (albeit that it does not have sole claim to) a great many follies of deregulation and corporate "self-policing," not just in the area of finance but also as regards the environment. (It continues to do so in various arenas, too, cf. most recently the batty "Charter Cities" movement a.k.a. "let's bring back the company town [because what could go wrong?]!")


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:46 PM
horizontal rule
163

I've been meaning to read Perlstein's books so long I feel like I've already read them.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 9:50 PM
horizontal rule
164

I feel that Nixonland really should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the political climate and especially how movement conservatism came to be what it is (and the fundamental dynamics that have governed it from Nixon's era to the present day).


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
165

(Especially valuable is Perlstein's ability to vividly evoke -- without apologizing or cheerleading for -- what led to the conservative movement's pervasive and automatic belief in its own rightness, and secondarily what led to the schism on the "left" that aided their rise to prominence.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-17-12 10:54 PM
horizontal rule
166

Nixonland is great but I would recommend starting with Before the Storm if you want to understand how it really started with Goldwater. (Forgive the italic fail on the titles. I'm typing on my phone and just can't be bothered to go through the ridiculous machinations it takes to make HTML tags.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:14 AM
horizontal rule
167

Everybody reading the same books, ain't it great. That way we can all think the same thoughts and have the same opinions. No, I am not reading Perlstein.

Go over to the US Intellectual History blog for reading suggestions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:48 AM
horizontal rule
168

What variety of libertarianism claims it's impossible to be virtuous and destitute?

It's not an explicit empirical claim, but a corollary to the principle that everyone is morally entitled to the level of prosperity they produce for themselves, no more, no less. If one recognizes that there are people who are poor through no fault of their own, anyone who is not a moral monster will agree that society has a responsibility to aid those people. Which is why most libertarians prefer to either elide the existence of the virtuous destitute, or else take the chickenshit escape hatch that one would aid them if it weren't counterproductive. A minority of libertarians (the objectivists) take the moral monster route, though of course they invert conventional morality to avoid the moral consequences of their monstrousity.

It frankly shocks me that Mitt Romney is flirting with the moral monster position and cursing the 47% moochers. I always took him for a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger chickenshit escape hatch guy.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:12 AM
horizontal rule
169

There is an op-ed by Cass Sunstein in today's NYT that addresses the exaggerated respect for apostates issue. Turns out they're the only ones who can change anyone's mind about anything. (I'm being flippant, but only a little.)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:52 AM
horizontal rule
170

168

It's not an explicit empirical claim, but a corollary to the principle that everyone is morally entitled to the level of prosperity they produce for themselves, no more, no less. ...

I don't think this is right. If some unforseeable natural disaster impoverishes a whole society I don't think libertarians would claim this is a just result. That is more Pat Robertson territory where natural disasters are a sign of God's displeasure.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:17 AM
horizontal rule
171

168

... If one recognizes that there are people who are poor through no fault of their own, anyone who is not a moral monster will agree that society has a responsibility to aid those people ...

Lot of moral monsters around then. Very few people think society has a responsibility (or the ability) to cancel out all accidents of birth and circumstance. Or are you just claiming society has a responsibility to help them a little?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:23 AM
horizontal rule
172

169: Where do you place Greg Man/k/iw on the chickenshit-escape-hatch scale?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:39 AM
horizontal rule
173

171 is heartening. Yes, Shearer is still arguing against straw men, but he then admits that they're straw men later on in the same comment.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:44 AM
horizontal rule
174

168: Society is not identical to the state.

To be entitled is not the same thing as to deserve.

It's possible for the "chickenshit escape hatch" to be true; after all, we're not going around forcibly deposing every oppressive regime in the world, in part because that would likely make people's lives worse, not better.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:54 AM
horizontal rule
175

173

171 is heartening. Yes, Shearer is still arguing against straw men, but he then admits that they're straw men later on in the same comment.

Not sure why the purported absolute moral imperative to aid the unfortunate goes away once you have given them a free turkey on Thanksgiving.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:05 AM
horizontal rule
176

It's possible for the "chickenshit escape hatch" to be true

Well, yes, put that way, the chickenshit escape hatch isn't merely true, it's axiomatic: There's a limit to how much we can do to help people. What makes it a chickenshit escape hatch in the hands of libertarians is that their argument that this limit is next-to-nothing, or nothing at all.

168 is very nicely put.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:12 AM
horizontal rule
177

175: ah, back to normal, I see.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:14 AM
horizontal rule
178

I don't think this is right. If some unforseeable natural disaster impoverishes a whole society I don't think libertarians would claim this is a just result.

Well, yes, but that's pretty theoretical to a libertarian. After all, an unforeseeable natural disaster is something close to a contradiction in terms. Vulnerability to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes is largely a product of where one lives - a personal choice, and not the fault of society.

Saying that people aren't to blame for victimization by natural disasters is the same as saying people aren't to blame for being born poor. It's obviously true, but (like many obviously true things) it's antithetical to libertarian ideology.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:19 AM
horizontal rule
179

I think the blow-up over this Romney speech is showing me that I don't really understand how politics works in this country. I'm surprised it got much attention at all; it sounds like the standard Republican party line to me. I would have thought that the sort of people who would vote for Romney would agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. I know I've heard similar things from my grandmother. The fact that she lives on Social Security payments doesn't enter her thinking at all; she's not those people, the lazy ones who don't pay taxes and expect other people to provide for her.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:20 AM
horizontal rule
180

175: a liberal can accept pragmatic constraints on redistribution (leaky bucket problems, adverse incentives) with no loss of intellectual coherence. We can also have ideological disputes with those to out left or right about how much leaky bucket is acceptable, or we can have empirical disputes about how much leaky bucket actually occurs. As long as political debate in the U.S. took place within the framework of the post-New Deal consensus, one could reasonably take the Republican side of those debates without being a moral monster. Not so with the "redistribution is ipso facto illegitimate" crowd.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:28 AM
horizontal rule
181

@142
God knows there has been enough enough discussion here and there (at CT, for example), but somehow I haven't formed a narrative for myself about just when and how libertarian sensibilities began to strongly inform the Republican party. Anybody have a short answer?

I'm probably putting too much emphasis on my immediate peers, but I associate the trend with a lot of otherwise intelligent (or at least not outright stupid) people reading Wired magazine in the 90s and actually taking that bullsh*t seriously.

I guess that doesn't address the question of why libertarianism became influential in the GOP specifically, but I think it's part of the reason these ideas seem to have such bewildering traction with so many people who aught to know better.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:30 AM
horizontal rule
182

it sounds like the standard Republican party line to me

It largely doesn't matter what politicians say (otherwise we'd be more likely to get substantive discussion of policy positions), for most people it's more about the way they frame things. Romney wasn't saying anything different here, but he framed it in a way that was much less palatable to many more people.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:31 AM
horizontal rule
183

179

I think the blow-up over this Romney speech is showing me that I don't really understand how politics works in this country. ...

The comments were obviously politically stupid and more evidence (as if it were needed) that Romney has lived his entire life in the rich man's bubble and has not a clue about many of the problems ordinary people encounter. Obama has lived in the bubble a long time himself but not his entire life.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
184

"her" s/b "them" at the end of 179.

I guess I'm Pauline Kael plus epsilon: I don't know anyone who would vote for Romney except my grandmother, so I assume they all think like her.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
185

I'm surprised it got much attention at all; it sounds like the standard Republican party line to me.

I suspect that's because you pay attention.

A lot of dutifully Republican voters remain willfully ignorant of what the Republican positions actually are.

Wasn't it a few months ago that some focus group of likely voters was shown the details of one of Paul Ryan's "Tax the poor to fund more breaks for the rich" plans, and they flat out refused to believe that that was the actual plan?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:35 AM
horizontal rule
186

I also think the specific, easily comprehensible percentage thing is kind of weird. Like, say you're a moderate Republican who lives in Ohio: you probably know both Republicans and Democrats, at least a few of them. Romney is saying that, in fact, all of those Democrats that you know are shameless, feckless welfare queens who don't want to work. That seems less tenable than saying that, you know, some large portion of those Democrats who you don't know, who live off in the cities or whatever, are feckless welfare queens. It's a message much more closely tailored to people who don't know any (or don't realize that they know any) Democrats.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:35 AM
horizontal rule
187

179: It's because the persuadable middle is bloody ignorant and needs to be beaten over the head with the facts in order to be moved by them. Otherwise they vote on bullshit things like who they'd rather have a beer with. Having a candidate openly state his beliefs in such stark terms might be enough for some people to decide he's not for them.

The problem comes down to the default split-the-difference centrism of people who are politically uninformed. It's a comfortable position if you don't pay close attention to policies and outcomes.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
188

182 mostly makes sense to me, but is the framing really so different from what you could hear from any number of Fox News commentators? Maybe my mistake is in thinking that a typical Republican voter actually tunes in to the right-wing media with any regularity.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
189

Anyhow I really like this latest statement in the context of his quote about "middle income" earners being in the 200-250k range, because it makes it more abundantly clear than it already was that his goal is to protect (at most) 3% of Americans from the machinations of (at least) 47%.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:37 AM
horizontal rule
190

188: I think Tweety's point in 186 partly answers that. Romeny made the "them" much more concrete and somewhat broader than Fox usually does.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:43 AM
horizontal rule
191

I have had the 47% line recited to me multiple times during this campaign, on some occasions by people who *almost certainly* pay no federal income taxes. These are, of course, people who couldn't explain the difference between income and payroll taxes, or how marginal rates work, or anything else about the structure of the tax system. They just heard on Fox News or in some forwarded email that half the country doesn't even pay any taxes and are outraged that shiftless black people and smelly Occupy protesters are buying $200 tennis shoes and iPhones with their government handouts.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:50 AM
horizontal rule
192

I think 185 is off-base. "It sounds like standard Republican party line" means "It sounds like what they say on Fox News and right-wing talk radio all day and night".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:50 AM
horizontal rule
193

That said, not ALL Republican voters consume Republican propaganda all day and are filled with hatred and scorn for the subhuman rabble. More than half, but then you also have the people who think they are being practical and rational and adult, in the "If you're not left-wing at 20 you have no heart, if you're not right-wing at 40 you have no brain" sense. Those are the people Romney was supposed to be winning over with the "Obama is a nice guy in over his head" B.S.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:00 AM
horizontal rule
194

Fox News's primetime viewership is around 3 million range - very much the base, not the general run of Republican voters.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:00 AM
horizontal rule
195

175 is excellent.

There is nothing wrong with being attentive to the real problems in implementing social programs. "Libertarianism" as an "ideology" is an excuse for not implementing them at all, and as I've been saying I hope we get to a point where overt libertarians are treated socially in roughly the same way as overt racists are now. A boy can dream.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
196

It's getting a lot of play in the media, because A) they hate Romney, and B) they habitually pretend such rhetoric doesn't exist on the right or if it does it's just the usual politics for the rubes and both sides blah blah. Is it actually surprising to Fox viewers?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
197

Maybe my mistake is in thinking that a typical Republican voter actually tunes in to the right-wing media with any regularity.

Yeah, IIRC Fox's supposedly vast audience is more like 3M regular viewers. It's able to drive political conversation* because it's relentlessly on-message and enough other "newsmakers" pay attention that the stuff bubbles up, but it's not as if the 80M (?) McCain voters watch it every day.

Limbaugh's basically the same deal, and at least to some extent his defense that he's just an entertainer is true: those contractors who have him on the radio while they work aren't following the political arguments so much as they're chuckling along with his bully-boy bloviation. "Because Rush said so" is probably less common than "I don't agree with everything he says, but...", so that he successfully injects lots of toxins into the discourse, but casual listeners are immune to the most outrageous stuff. Frex, I'd bet that a huge portion of his listeners shook their heads at his Sandra Fluke stuff - but with a little chuckle. They don't have to take his word as gospel to listen. But meanwhile, if Romney had come out and called her a slut, they'd be shocked and genuinely less likely to vote for the guy.

* probably less so than they used to; whether this is simply because Bush is out of power (so reporters don't hear the Fox line coming out of the White House), or because they're not on their game as much as they sued to be, or because they've become so batshit that fewer people take them seriously, I don't know. All I know is that BS like the New Black Panthers has completely failed to go beyond the Fox base, despite relentless flogging for almost 4 years now.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
198

And if it is, are they just not used to having their beliefs brought into the mainstream discussion, and so are now scurrying around like cockroaches.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:05 AM
horizontal rule
199

197 thanks 194 for confirmation.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:05 AM
horizontal rule
200

In terms of the $200,000 plus as middle class claim, I do want to be slightly--only slightly--charitable to him. (1.) They really are different from true plutocrats. (2.) Although there's really no excuse for a presidential candidate to be unaware of the data, people living on the coasts can have skewed perceptions. People with that kind of income don't feel rich, partly because of the high cost of housing. $500,000 gets you a 2 bedroom condo in Cambridge. (20 years ago it got a pretty big house in Chestnut Hill.) In other parts of the country a million-dollar house is a real mansion.

I went to a hearing of Massachusetts Health Connector board, and one of the leftier members, Nancy Turnbull, pointed out that older people with incomes of $100,000 can still struggle to pay their health insurance premiums, and that going forward this would grow as an issue.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:06 AM
horizontal rule
201

I think the 47% contretemps *could* be a turning point in the campaign, but it will come down to how the MSM play it. CNN took it easy on Romney, IMO. But local radio headline was "No apology from Mitt Romney for writing off half of America". If that becomes the narrative (which it well could, given the pressure from the GOP base to double down on the Randian sentiments), Romney will have his work cut out for him.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:07 AM
horizontal rule
202

186 is also great -- I think that's it. 47% is just too high a number. Everyone can wonder if they might fall into the same group as 47% of Americans.

I can't tell yet, though, whether this story has legs outside of liberals repeating it. If it does, that's a good sign and not just for this election.

194 is also true -- Fox News is for the hardcore base, not the mainstream Republican voter. Just as most Democratic voters have never heard of Rachel Maddow. Actively following politics is basically a niche interest of a (fairly large) group of hobbyists.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:09 AM
horizontal rule
203

201: Yeah, I can't predict at all how this will go. This is probably a good example of where the institutional weakness of the left - most clearly the death of labor, but also other orgs independent of the DNC - might make the difference. In a world of strong unions, 47% is wrapped around Romney's neck from now until he's dead, without Obama having to dirty his hands. As it is, I strongly suspect that the MSM will dismiss it as old news within 4 days unless the White House takes it up. And I'm not sure they'll want to, except in restrained, grown up tones (and a few oblique allusions: "I'm president of 100% of Americans", that sort of thing).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:11 AM
horizontal rule
204

191: Right, they've been pushing the "half of people pay no taxes"* thing for years now (it was the headline on Scaife's newspaper this past Tax Day), but they left the "dependent on government" part implicit.

Basically this is a classic "said the quiet part loud" error.

* they're usually too lazy/dishonest to mention "income"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:13 AM
horizontal rule
205

$500,000 gets you a 2 bedroom condo in Cambridge.

If you can buy a 2-bedroom condo in Cambridge, you're rich.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:14 AM
horizontal rule
206

unless the White House takes it up. And I'm not sure they'll want to, except in restrained, grown up tones

I don't know if Obama himself will refer to it, but I got an official fundraising email last night that quoted Romney and then said

The man who spoke these words -- who demonstrates such disgust and disdain for half of our fellow Americans -- is the other side's choice for president of the United States. He wants to lead our country. If we don't come through for President Obama right now, this will be the guy making big decisions that affect us and our families every single day.

Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:16 AM
horizontal rule
207

The $200-$250,000 thing is actually an example of people being unfair to Romney. He was talking in terms of hypothetical tax brackets, and described the middle tax bracket as something like "$200-$250,000 and under".


Posted by: Crytcned | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:18 AM
horizontal rule
208

Well, judging from David Brooks' piece in the NYT today, moderate Republican pundits think it's a bit much if you expect them to spin this Romney video in his favor. Everyone has a breaking point I guess.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:19 AM
horizontal rule
209

205: For people who grew up there and got displaced, it doesn't feel that way. Most of those people aren't rich (in the sense that they have to work to afford that). I don't really feel sorry for them, but that same amount of money would buy more in Wichita, Kansas.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:26 AM
horizontal rule
210

209: For people who grew up there and got displaced, it doesn't feel that way.

That's exactly what "living in a bubble" means, though, surely. It means having "problems" like "golly, gotta do some saving for that half-mil to buy a condo," and actually thinking that's not a rich-person problem.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:30 AM
horizontal rule
211

There was a whole "I Am the 53%" movement in response to OWS, and it was . . . confused.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
212

BTW, apropos of Brooks' remark that "47%" is a "country club fantasy", boy howdy is it ever. My dad is a member of a semi-fancy country club in NJ (outside Morristown), and he's damn near the only D, certainly the only liberal. And all of these rich old assholes lap up every bit of rightwing BS - birtherism and all the rest. Utterly delusional. I'm sure that every member today is hailing Romney; if they have a criticism, it's simply that he shouldn't have gotten caught saying it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
213

Well, judging from David Brooks' piece in the NYT today, moderate Republican pundits think it's a bit much if you expect them to spin this Romney video in his favor.

Et tu, Kristol?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:36 AM
horizontal rule
214

I agree that people shouldn't think that paying $500k for a condo in a desirable location is a hardship or a middle class activity, but I can certainly understand why they do. "Middle class" hasn't traditionally meant "economic refugee." But in places like Boston, if you didn't buy in '97, you can't afford to stay even roughly in place from year to year on $100k. AB's best friend is single, 40, and earns a solid professional wage, but her choices are to have roommates someplace close to (but not in) Cambridge (where she works), or to live far out. And it wasn't like that a dozen or so years ago.

I think that it's understandable that people wouldn't view that as being the outcome for a middle aged, middle class person - that's what happens if you're working class, or young, or irresponsible.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
215

210: Look, I don't want to argue this too vociferously, but I do think that perceptions are going to be different based on what part of the country you grew up in $30,000 goes a lot farther in some places than in others.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:42 AM
horizontal rule
216

207 -- I think that's close, but not exactly correct. Not brackets, so much as cut-offs for deduction closing. R cannot have people between 100k and 200k thinking he's going to fuck them by eliminating their home mortgage deduction, among others. And yet the defenses of his "plan" by economists -- which is what the conversation was about -- use 100k, because that's how low you have to go to make the thing look like it might work.

100-200k is a pretty important demographic in the Republican coalition: Bush's biggest margin against Kerry came there, and this was among the only brackets McCain won (he also won 50-75, but not 75-100).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:43 AM
horizontal rule
217

Chart


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
218

Most of those people aren't rich (in the sense that they have to work to afford that)

They're still rich; they just aren't super-rich. The fact that they can live cheaper elsewhere is meaningless: if you can afford to live in one of the priciest cities in the wealthiest country on Earth, you're rich, regardless of whether you're paying it from monthly wages or from trust fund disbursements.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:45 AM
horizontal rule
219

Speaking as someone who's recently spent time on both sides of the median household income (and paying income taxes vs. receiving EITC), $70k doesn't feel significantly more comfortable than $20k. I mean, it is - I'm wearing jeans without holes, and we took an airplane vacation this year - but it'd be hard to call our lifestyle UMC, and our net worth is probably $0, if not negative.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:46 AM
horizontal rule
220

I don't think 210 is entirely fair. In large parts of the US, it's just a given that middle-class people-- even lower-middle-class people-- will buy a house at some point in their 20s or early 30s. Saving for this isn't a rich-person problem for them. It might be fair to say that buying a condo in a more desirable coastal area is a rich-person problem, but for middle-class people who grew up in those areas, the lack of ability to do what people with similar income and social status can do elsewhere in the country, or the need to move to do so, is a problem.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:46 AM
horizontal rule
221

"live" s/b "purchase property"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:47 AM
horizontal rule
222

214: Yeah, the real estate thing is weird. I'm in a scruffy neighborhood far enough from downtown that my commute takes an hour, and I couldn't afford to buy in my building now (prices went way, way up after we bought, and while they're down since the crash, they're not that far down.)

You can say that anyone who can afford to live in large areas of most big cities, in conditions that people in the rest of the country wouldn't call poverty (no roommates, living space in good repair), is rich rather than middle class, but that leads to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
223

215: Surely it is a basic fact of the real estate market, and has been since there was a real estate market, that money goes further in some places than others and that property becomes more expensive the more prestigious a locale is perceived to be. Whether people who can still buy in such a market, just with greater difficulty and in smaller pieces than they otherwise could have, "think of themselves as rich" is a separate question.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
224

There's a nice graph here (halfway down) showing who pays taxes as a function of age. The upshot is that it's the young and the elderly who are paying no toaxes (no surprise there). Still it's nice to have a graph, though maybe that's just my preference and not generalizable.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:51 AM
horizontal rule
225

222.2: Not "live in." "Buy in." There are of course countless millions of people who rent in large areas of most big cities who aren't rich.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:52 AM
horizontal rule
226

218: We just have different definitions of "rich" in this regard. I think that somebody with a trust fund that pays $45K a year is a rich in a way that a high-income earner who makes $300,000 isn't.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:52 AM
horizontal rule
227

Having said that, though, 220 is a fair point.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
228

more desirable coastal

The geographically uneven distribution of well-paid and interesting work is the issue. Nobody's come out and said this-- living in one of the US big cities is not really a luxury choice that gives access to fancy clothes and restaurants, those are the places where the good work is to be found.

Once established enough, maybe moving and telework or long-distance commuting is viable, but that's unlikely for people under 35, none too easy later in life either.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
229

226: Those would certainly be different varieties of rich, admittedly.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
230

224: A lot of the really old are totally broke, because they spent all of their money paying for nursing home care.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
231

228: The same temperament that expects interesting work expects interesting restaurants, though. Thinking of interesting work as part of the form of our wealth makes more sense.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:08 AM
horizontal rule
232

230: for their deceased spouse, to be saddest. Well, saddest is their deceased child.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
233

The saddest would be a deceased child who was pre-deceased by their puppy dog by mere weeks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
234

There are plenty of cities in the US with interesting jobs and fairly reasonable housing. AFAIK, the severe housing shortage for mid-upper income professionals thing is only true in NYC, SF/Silicon Valley, LA, San Diego, DC, and Boston. Maybe Seattle? Anyhow, those are nice cities (except Boston) and I live in one of them, but there are plenty of other places with good jobs and even good restaurants where a professional making $100k a year can buy a home.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:33 AM
horizontal rule
235

I honestly have no idea -- what's Chicago like? In the same category, or is it systematically more reasonable for some reason?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:37 AM
horizontal rule
236

234: I'm not crying over this, but I can think of doctors who get a residency somewhere and want to go into research but only get half time where they are. They do clinical work based on where they start out. You only have so my h control over where you do your residency because of the Match system.

Pre Obama care I didn't consider leaving MA because we've got guaranteed issue community rated health insurance.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
237

Chicago is much more reasonable.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
238

235: m. Le blanc used to say it was cheaper. You could get a fairly spacious apartment for a not unreasonable sum of money.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:41 AM
horizontal rule
239

238 was I.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
240

Yeah, much, much cheaper. Visitors from NYC or Boston would routinely get sort of half-incensed about our 2000sqft apartment. I lived in Andersonville, which is a desirable neighborhood, but further out and less bar-and-restaurant-and-recent-grad-ified than Lincoln Park or Wrigleyville or Lakeview, which were a fair whack more expensive.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:47 AM
horizontal rule
241

That's a pretty big apartment!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
242

Still it's nice to have a graph, though maybe that's just my preference and not generalizable.

This is exactly where the political hay is to be made - in the demographics. Romney thinks the elderly, disabled and students are moochers.

"You've paid income taxes all your life, but Romney thinks you're a drain on society. Plus, he wants to cut your Social Security and voucherize Medicare."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
243

242: Don't forget the Troops!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
244

243: Good point!


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
245

241: CA says that the 2000sqft apartment was in Rogers Park, which is less hip and further from the Loop. The Andersonville apartment was 17 or 1800sqft.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
246

And entirely normal-sized for a house. I just haven't been in many big apartments.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
247

222: you own your place, right? Well, then you're rich. That you don't feel rich, because of context, may cause a certain cognitive dissonance, but that's because you're viewing the context too narrowly.

Having said that, please understand that I feel your pain. I make a very nice salary, I have tenure (and so don't fear losing my job), and I have outstanding (relatively speaking) benefits. And yet, I feel poor. Why? Because I live in a real estate market that's insane. Not quite as insane as Manhattan, to be sure, but close enough that living here on one income, even one pretty decent income, is a struggle. Still, if I look beyond the context of Northern California, I'm rich.

Anyway, I feel like we've had this conversation before, so it's probably not worth re-hashing.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
248

I bet you all want me to humble-brag about how my town was recently on the top 10 list of cheapest cost-of-living for metropolitan areas.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
249

247: I continue to disagree, unless you break it down more.

Look, I'm high income, and was higher income in the past, and if anyone ever hears me complaining about money they should smack me, and public policy should be oriented around taking more money from me and my ilk and redistributing it to people who have less. I'm not trying to argue about any of that. And I understand the impulse to tell people like you and me that they should stop whining and admit that they're the oppressors.

But identifying people as 'rich' connotes a whole lot of stuff about wealth, lifestyle, and social/political affiliations that aren't really true of middle to high income professionals scraping to live in a way that looks very modest if you don't allow for the expensive real estate effect. It's not false full stop, but it's also not true full stop, and there are plenty of contexts where it's going to be misleading.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
250

I CAN'T COMPLAIN BUT SOMETIMES I STILL DO.


Posted by: OPINIONATED JOE WALSH | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:29 AM
horizontal rule
251

And to the extent that public policy evens out the income distribution, it'll reduce prices for luxury goods like highly desirable real estate. Of course, this isn't exactly a bonus for those who already own that real estate, which is probably why nothing will ever change.


Posted by: Pepperfez | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
252

Stepping out of the "who's rich" debate, I offer for everybody's amusement Bill Frezza's election predictions in Forbes from four months ago. So close!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
253

But identifying people as 'rich' connotes a whole lot of stuff about wealth, lifestyle, and social/political affiliations that aren't really true of middle to high income professionals scraping to live in a way that looks very modest if you don't allow for the expensive real estate effect.

This gets insanely complicated, fast. Wealthy people can make decisions - and I'm not saying you have - which massively cut into their discretionary income, and which they mentally file as obligations. See "our kids must go to fancy-pants private school or else we're just not being prudent."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
254

I'm not claiming that it's not complicated -- just that VW's implicit assertion that it's simple is wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
255

252: gosh, I can't wait to read the column he publishes on November 8 admitting he got it all wrong and talking about why he was so wildly mistaken.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
256

253 should be read as me snarkily complaining about people in real life, who might describe their life very similarly to how LB describes hers, but they would be full of shit.

Also 252 really is awesome.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
257

This line from the Forbes piece

Twitter blitzkriegs unleashed by millions of freelance citizen reporters

is especially hilarious, given the imbalance in the number of tweets inspired by the conventions (and Michelle's speech in particular).


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
258

254: I'm not saying, either implicitly or explicitly, that it's simple. Placing one's own choices and one's own privilege (I fucking hate that word, but it applies here) in a broad rather than narrow context is complicated and quite difficult, I think. And I'm also not claiming that doing so is any more virtuous than not doing so. Still, it's my contention that people who own property where you do in Manhattan or where I do in NorCal are, unless measured in a very narrow context (against the small number or richer people that we know exist), almost certainly* rich.

* I include the caveat because there are, I'll grant you, exceptions.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:06 AM
horizontal rule
259

255: Frezza again, from just one month ago: "Take a look at this six-minute video in which Paul Ryan totally demolishes the false claim that Obamacare will reduce the nations' overall health care costs. A sixth-grader should be able to understand this. And yet half the nation still says they believe the claims. [...] If Mitt's campaign really sticks to the high road believing voters are as smart as a sixth grader and no one covers his flanks, America could end up getting what it deserves. Which is a horrifying thought. That leaves it to the Republican Super PACs to dive into the mudslinging game seeking to drive up Obama's negatives. [...]"

"So buckle up as the dirtiest presidential campaign in American history gets even dirtier. This is, oddly enough, why I still believe that the voters will show Obama the door once mud fatigue sinks in and they choose, as Mark Steyn so aptly put it, the 'last exit ramp before the death spiral'."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
260

Wealthy people can make decisions

Including, I would add, owning property in Manhattan, Northern California, Boston, or any of the other most expensive real estate markets in the nation.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
261

the column he publishes on November 8 admitting he got it all wrong

Call me superstitious, but I really wouldn't write off Romney just yet. I feel he can probably play dirty in ways we simply can't yet imagine.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:09 AM
horizontal rule
262

259: if Mark Steyn is your declension guru, you're in trouble.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:10 AM
horizontal rule
263

261: agreed. There's still a lot of time between now and the election. Having said that, the electoral map is the electoral map, and Romney (leaving aside that he's the worst Presidential candidate since Dukakis) has a very complicated path to victory.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
264

I'm not saying, either implicitly or explicitly, that it's simple.... Still, it's my contention that people who own property where you do in Manhattan or where I do in NorCal are, unless measured in a very narrow context (against the small number or richer people that we know exist), almost certainly* rich.

This seems to me to be internally inconsistent, but that's not really important -- it doesn't matter whether or not you said it was simple. What I'm going to keep on disagreeing about is that it's not generally going to be useful to distinguish between people like you and me, and people like Mitt Romney, in terms of economic class: we're all 'rich'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
265

feel he can probably play dirty in ways we simply can't yet imagine.

Squirrels!!!!!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
266

258: Couls you quit your job and keep your real estate? To me, being rich means having the freedom to say f you to your employer.

Re: Davis. I remember reading a slightly out of date guide to schools saying that one of the chief draws of Davis was that housing for students was really affordable.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
267

264: I can't figure out what you mean. That there's a difference between you and me, on the one hand, and Mitt Romney, on the other? Sure, fine, I'm happy to add another layer: super rich. Having said that, we're obviously talking past each other.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:20 AM
horizontal rule
268

Is Davis really that expensive? I just looked up a realtor there and it looks like there are plenty of nice looking homes that someone making 100k/yr could afford.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
269

266.1: not for long, no, but that's because I live somewhere absurdly expensive and because I've made a series of really bad decisions about money in my adult life (moving from one place to another, and each time choosing a more expensive landing place) that have left us with less money in the bank than, based on our income, we really should have.

266.2: that's only true if the points of comparison are Westwood, Berkeley, La Jolla, or Santa Barbara.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
270

people like you and me, people like Mitt Romney, in terms of economic class: we're all 'rich'.

Here's where the relevant distinction is rich versus wealthy. Paraphrasing Chris Rock, Michael Vick is rich. The guy who signs Michael Vick's checks is wealthy. (I think he used Shaquille O'Neal as the example, but you get the drift.)

The surgeons I know at Duke Medical Center are rich. Mitt Romney is well past rich.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
271

268: it's a lot less expensive than it was four years ago (about 30% less, I'm told). But it's still hard to find a decent house (3 bdr, 2 bath in pretty good repair) for less than $450k. And such a house would require some real work in its first year and would have no amenities that middle-class people now think of as theirs by divine right.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:27 AM
horizontal rule
272

270: I agree that you're pointing at the distinction I'm making (I'd phrase it as something like "high-income salaried" versus "owns income-producing capital", but that's not exactly right either). I'm quibbling this hard over it because I think using 'rich' for 'high-income salaried' tends to obscure that distinction in a misleading way -- unless you're actively defining terms, 'rich' sounds to me like a precise synonym of 'wealthy'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:29 AM
horizontal rule
273

How about this place for $250k?this place for $250k??

OK, I've never been to Davis so I don't know what I'm talking about, but I did look up that realtor site for kicks, so there's that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:30 AM
horizontal rule
274

266.1 seems to me to make an important point. What you call it doesn't really matter, but there's enough money, there's handy money, there's silly money and there's fuck you money. I suspect LB falls into the second category, and is annoyed because she thinks people are trying to place her in the third.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:31 AM
horizontal rule
275

I'm sympathetic to LB's point--there's a useful class distinction between her level of wealth and Mitt Romney's level of wealth--but at the same time, at some point you have to just draw a line in the sand. Now, personally, I think the line ought to be drawn around net worth (which of course includes unencumbered real estate), rather than just whether or not someone owns living space in New York or SF. But, if you don't have any line, analysis does easily collapse into the relativistic claims that heebie describes, and then one day you find yourself whining in public about how you aren't really wealthy with your $350,000k/yr job because with the kids' school and the mortgage payment and the butler's salary and the country club dues you barely have anything left over for international travel. Or, even more preposterously, you could end up with paragraphs like this:

Not long after Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race in early 2008, a titan of New York finance, Julian H. Robertson, flew to Utah to deliver an eye-popping offer.
He asked Mr. Romney to become chief executive of his hedge fund, Tiger Management, for an annual salary of about $30 million, plus investment profits, according to two people told of the discussions.
For Mr. Romney, who had spent the previous decade in public life forgoing any paychecks, the position promised to catapult him back to the pinnacle of American business and into the ranks of the stratospherically rich. Several friends and relatives urged him to accept. "Let's put it this way," said Mr. Robertson. "He could have made a lot of money."

Right--an opportunity to catapult Romney and his measly $250 million net worth into the ranks of the "stratospherically" rich. I'm guessing that club has a $500 million minimum? Or is it a billion? Who knows. Clearly, though, Romney may be wealthy, but he's not stratospherically wealthy. Probably we should lower his taxes.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:31 AM
horizontal rule
276

Or this nice little number for $275k?

Why am I doing this? I have things to do.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
277

Well, we're deep into idiosyncratic internal dictionaries here, but if we're using BG's definition of rich that being able to maintain a high-flying lifestyle without a job, then we're asserting that only the top 0.1% of America or something could be considered rich, the bottom 20% is poor, and everybody else is some permutation of "middle class". Which would render "middle" about a million times less meaningful than "rich".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
278

277: I think LB/BG want to reserve the word "rich" as basically a synonym of "wealthy", something applicable only to the top 0.1% or whatever. I think she wants to use a term like "high-income" to describe people who you're calling "rich".


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:39 AM
horizontal rule
279

277 is right. And while I understand 274, I'm not sure, based on the numbers, that it tells us much other than how LB and I feel. A lot of this is based on memory (seriously, I might be wrong about this stuff, but I'm pretty sure I'm in the ballpark), but median household income in the US is ~$50,000. Something like 2% of households in the US have incomes over $250,000 (Romney's definition of middle class). The top 5% of households bring in more than $150,000 annually. Given that (and again, I might be wrong, in which case I'm happy to be corrected), I really do think that most people who live in those households (income of greater than $150,000) are rich.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
280

Honestly, I think the SEC's definition of an 'accredited investor' (which basically means: rich person) provides a reasonably good working definition of "rich":

--a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person's spouse, that exceeds $1 million, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person; or

--a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year.

If you meet this definition, you're rich. No arguing.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
281

The wiki page on household income is too long and involved for me to figure out if I was right in 279. Like I said, if I was wrong, I'm happy to be corrected.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
282

I never have any idea what people mean when they say "rich" is one thing, "wealthy" is another thing, "affluent" is another thing, "upper-class" is another thing. Sometimes people think Rich is richer than Wealthy, sometimes they think the opposite. Sometimes people think Wealthy and Affluent are the two types of Rich. Or Wealthy and Rich are the two types of Affluent. Or base their thinking entirely on income and ignore net worth, or vice versa. Or think that "upper-class" has nothing to do with either wealth or income, as if we lived among the Prussian nobility.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
283

278: Pretty much, that's it. "Rich", used naturally, sounds to me something like "If we're not getting terribly fine-grained about it, the highest economic class it's meaningful to talk about." And I think that if you're talking about economic class, the distinction between, say top 5% and top 1 or 2% is a really significant and meaningful one that it's misleading to elide.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
284

And... he's dropped another one.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
285

That one doesn't really hurt him politically.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
286

Let's just roll with the definition in 280. Hit that and you're rich.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
287

280: You need to either adjust for age or exclude 401k-like things from your net worth criteria. A couple retiring at 65 would need that million to equal a rather ordinary pension.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:01 AM
horizontal rule
288

Huh? A couple retiring at 65 with $1 million in assets is rich. I think we should agree on that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
289

Set aside rich vs wealthy, and here's IMO the problem with VW's characterization: for LB and millions of her neighbors, there's nothing magical about living in NYC that makes living there (economically) enriching. I mean culture, yes, world capital, whatever, but if she picked up her family and relocated to e.g. Pittsburgh, they could lead roughly the same lives, with her being a lawyer, Buck being some sort of tech thing, the kids going to a good public school, and having a walkable lifestyle (including biking to work on a riverfront trail). Her income would be less, and her housing cost would be less, and she'd be in the same SES, with a household income maybe 25% less and housing bought for (say) half what they paid.

It doesn't make sense to me to say that Manhattan-LB is rich but Pgh-LB is merely UMC.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:10 AM
horizontal rule
290

I mean, that's about $40-$60,000 per year in income you get for doing literally nothing. And that's excluding the value of home equity.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
291

I mean, that's about $40-$60,000 per year in income you get for doing literally nothing.

Well yeah but that's basically being able to maintain median after you're getting too old to work. I don't really think of that as rich.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
292

288: Have you run the numbers on that? Unless someone is guaranteeing good health and/or free nursing homes, Im not sure that works. They both have 20 years of living to pay for, and odds are that one of them will drop $250k on EOL care.

Maybe you're right, but i have my doubts.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
293

But you don't have to work. You aren't putting for food, clothes, school for your kids. You aren't paying down your mortgage. And you still make more money than half the people in the country.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
294

Unpleasant, I don't want to reserve "rich" as a synonym for "wealthy" because I hate the word wealthy and try to avoid using it whenever possible.

And then, I also think (something LB) has said in the past that we don't want the UMC types to identify with the tip .1% because public education and affordable healthcare are important to them. The plutocrats don't have to worry about health insurance. They may even have concierge-practiced doctors. If you're as rich as Romney or a hedge fund billionaire, you can pay cash for medical care.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
295

Sorry urple. Unpleasant was an autocorrect.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
296

Don't most people in their 70s pay hundreds a month for meds? 10% of your income on healthcare?

Also, is that income taxed?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
297

You aren't putting for food, clothes, school for your kids.

What Jroth said. There's usually going to be some significant health care costs and some hefty end of life care stuff looming.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:21 AM
horizontal rule
298

290: 6 years in a nursing home and that's gone. You're making people sound rich who would have had a defined benefit pension in the past which would have continued until they died.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
299

291: considering that the "in 2007, near the peak of the stock market, half of households approaching retirement (ages 55-64) had less than $98,000 in a retirement savings account, if they had an account (the median for all households was much lower)" (source), $1,000,000 sounds pretty rich.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:24 AM
horizontal rule
300

290: If you are calling anybody (or couple) with $4,000 a month in fixed pension payments rich, I'll cede the point.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
301

299:

Sure, it's relatively rich only because the country's gone to shit. I don't think it's good framing to start calling four grand a month rich when it's basically just because everyone else is really fucking poor.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
302

I feel like this entire conversation is a mirror image of "that family isn't poor because they have a television and a car; you're poor if you live under a bridge and eat out of dumpsters."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:34 AM
horizontal rule
303

What gwift said. And at least at my current employer, the only difference between the pension guy and 401k guy is that the latter has to bear the risk of bad investments and was born after 1965 (or so).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:34 AM
horizontal rule
304

302: Depends on how wide the bridge is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
305

I recommend the dumpster behind the French Laundry.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
306

You're making people sound rich who would have had a defined benefit pension in the past which would have continued until they died.

This. Odds are slim the wife and I will have a seven figure retirement account but it would be unfair to point at a private sector worker with that account as rich when we're on defined benefit pension systems.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
307

I guess my shorter 289 is: ISTM that how rich you are should mostly have to do with assets + consumption - a basket of goods.

Duplicating my current lifestyle, item for item*, in NYC, would surely entail a 6 figure income, but I wouldn't be any richer, would I? Or is taking the bus to see dinosaur bones near Central Park instead of Schenley Park an inherently richer experience, with a cash value?

I should add that I'm more open to the argument when we get to, say, having a beach house or mountain chalet - those have obvious and inherent and daily lifestyle benefits. I'm not saying that Manhattan is indistinguishable from Pittsburgh, but they're comparable in terms of daily lifestyle, especially if you're just living a typical UMC lifestyle. Same deal with Davis or Sacramento (weather aside, as I prefer temperate to NorCal).

* obviously we'd need to translate housing; I wouldn't have 7 bedrooms in Manhattan


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:39 AM
horizontal rule
308

I guess my shorter 289 is: ISTM that how rich you are should mostly have to do with assets + consumption - a basket of goods.

Duplicating my current lifestyle, item for item*, in NYC, would surely entail a 6 figure income, but I wouldn't be any richer, would I? Or is taking the bus to see dinosaur bones near Central Park instead of Schenley Park an inherently richer experience, with a cash value?

I should add that I'm more open to the argument when we get to, say, having a beach house or mountain chalet - those have obvious and inherent and daily lifestyle benefits. I'm not saying that Manhattan is indistinguishable from Pittsburgh, but they're comparable in terms of daily lifestyle, especially if you're just living a typical UMC lifestyle. Same deal with Davis or Sacramento (weather aside, as I prefer temperate to NorCal).

* obviously we'd need to translate housing; I wouldn't have 7 bedrooms in Manhattan


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:39 AM
horizontal rule
309

It doesn't make sense to me to say that Manhattan-LB is rich but Pgh-LB is merely UMC.

If you look at 279, I hope it will be clear that the above is almost exactly the opposite of what I was saying.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:45 AM
horizontal rule
310

I know that I'm not the typical median income person (in academics, just started my first job at cough*tooold*cough, etc.) but people making three figures for sure seem rich to me. I mean, you ($100,000 income you) can probably afford $20 bottles of wine and $60 bottles of Scotch on a regular basis. You can probably get a used car without a bank/parental loan. You probably don't have to get the cheapest toilet paper (I've moved up to second cheapest so don't feel too bad for me). You can probably get a couple magazine subscriptions and maybe buy new books. I imagine that you eat organic foods, including meat. You probably put aside money every month, just in case.

I mean, geesh. I guess the difference between $100,000 and $250,000 income is big but wow, it's pretty giant between less than $50,000 and $100,000. I figure I can afford to buy in my very cheap town in probably 10 years.


Posted by: hydribatidae | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
311

310: Yeah, something that I think gets elided in these discussions is that median income, and much more even slightly below median, is a fairly difficult place to be financially. In the US today, median income means feeling very financially insecure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
312

It doesn't make sense to me to say that Manhattan-LB is rich but Pgh-LB is merely UMC.

But . . . there are important ways in which living in a high-salary/high-cost city changes your future options. For one thing if LB decides, ten years from now, to sell the NYC condo and move to FL she will be much better off than the Pgh-LB would be making the same move.

Secondly salary history often has a significant influence on future job and salary possibilities.

I'm on the other side of this, I've chosen the option of lower salary/lower cost + lifestyle benefits that I enjoy, and it's been great. But if I ever had to move to NYC I suspect that would be a tough transition because (a) my savings would be effectively worth much less and (b) my job and salary history reflects working in a much smaller town (for much smaller companies) and I think that would be an issue.

I could be wrong about (b), but I don't think so.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
313

Hey, how about that Pennsylvania Supreme Court? Acting like the right to vote is actually important.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
314

312: I want to know more about this Boca Raton LB.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:57 AM
horizontal rule
315

More of an AlligatorBreath, really.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:58 AM
horizontal rule
316

I want to know more about this Boca Raton LB.

It begins with Buck reading/re-reading all of the Travis McGee books, they begin talking about going to live on a boat after the kids graduate from HS . . .


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:58 AM
horizontal rule
317

We're forgetting that LB is part of a two adult household with both adults in their forties. A twenty something single person earning 150K a year is rich, even in NYC. The same goes for an elderly couple with a paid off apartment and no dependents. A family of four with two adults in their prime earning years is not.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
318

(Not hat I don't agree with the dissenters!)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
319

313: Woohoo! From the CNN story, I'm still not sure if this makes it impossible for the law to be implemented for this election, though: I haven't got the procedural status clear yet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:02 PM
horizontal rule
320

319: Not so woohoo, I thought? I don't quite understand either, but TPM is telling everyone to simmer down.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
321

Here: "The court did not, as some reports suggested, throw out the voter ID law. Rather, it decided that the lower court's decision not to block the law was premature - or to put a finer point on it, didn't fully take into account all the relevant facts that it should have in declining to block the law.

As I explained below, the state Supreme Court is sending it back to the lower court for a do-over, with specific guidelines on what to consider in making the decision."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:05 PM
horizontal rule
322

Adding to my previous, the median income for a four person household in New York state is 84K, in New Jersey it is 101K, and in Connecticut it is 104K. Lazy googling didn't turn up anything for the NY Metro area as a whole, but I'll guesstimate at somewhere in the mid nineties.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:07 PM
horizontal rule
323

It's a remand to decide whether Penn state government is really mitigating the ill effects of the law. Whether this is a way of making the Commonwealth Court kill the thing, or giving it a real chance to save the thing depends, it seems to me, on what Pa has been doing the last month to get everyone ID. A superhman effort might save the statute. My read between the lines is that the SC wants the thing kicked over to the next election, but doesn't want to appear partisan.

Here's the better dissent: http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-114-2012ds2.pdf


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:08 PM
horizontal rule
324

235: Chicago is much cheaper. And great. But living in a city that's not driving distance from your family is a real problem.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 12:35 PM
horizontal rule
325

"Rich" means you get to spend down your income to have a moderately high quality of life when you retire. That's what money is for. Of course if you retire with $ 1m in the bank most, if not all, of that $1 million will be eaten up by the time you die; but most people start out retirement with way less than that, and end up entirely living on social security and medicare.

The median net worth of Americans at retirement is about $218,000, and the median net worth of the top 10% wealthiest households generally is about $1.7 million, inclusive of the value of homes (which is usually people's biggest single asset), so having $1 million in assets excluding the value of your home would seem to put you comfortably into the top 10% of households in terms of wealth generally, and at more than 5x the median wealth of people at retirement age. I think that doing more than 5x better than the median American at retirement is a pretty legitimate definition of rich.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:05 PM
horizontal rule
326

Housing agencies define "low income" by reference to the median income of the surrounding MSA. So I dunno about "rich", but it is definitely the case that you can be low income (enough to qualify for subsidized housing and other benefits), which is maybe an okay synecdoche for "poor", in NYC with a much higher income than would qualify in, say, Pgh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:21 PM
horizontal rule
327

323: So a head shot but not an instantly fatal one.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
328

Well, yeah. You can argue that higher cost of living shouldn't mean that someone with a high income is less rich because they live in an expensive place, and there's at least some validity to that. But at the bottom end, it's just much more expensive to live indoors at all in NYC, and someone can have an income that would be plenty someplace cheap but that's a real hardship here, because the expensive rent isn't an option and there's no money left for anything else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
329

325: Does that net worth figure include a present value calculation for pension plans? Because if not it won't be a very accurate comparison across generations.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:27 PM
horizontal rule
330

Kevin Drum asks:"Why are the Rich so Damn Angry" [scared?]

Because we really are approaching a Lifeboat on the Titanic condition (Steve Randy Waldmann) when "rich" doesn't get you a seat, only "richest"

The zero-sum, positional nature of wealth-as-insurance is one of many reasons why there is no such thing as a "Pareto improvement". Macroeconomic interventions that would increase real output while condensing wealth dispersion undo the hard-won, "hard-earned" insurance advantage of the wealthy. As polities, we have to trade-off extra consumption by the poor against a loss of insurance for the rich. There are costs and benefits, winners and losers. We face trade-offs between unequal distribution and full employment. If we want to maximize total output, we have to compress the wealth distribution. If inequality continues to grow (and we don't reinvent some means of fudging unpayable claims), both real output and employment will continue to fall as the poor can serve one another only inefficiently, and the rich won't deploy their capital to efficiently produce for nothing.

Distribution is the core of the problem we face. I'm tired of arguments about tools.

Even leaving aside AGW and resource constraints, financialization has put us in a condition where real redistribution will crash the system down. Actually, a reverse or deceleration of inequality will crash the credit markets.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
331

You can look into it in more detail (and get 2010 numbers) here, I need to get to work. But the pension plan thing still wouldn't affect the fact that retiring with $1 million puts you at about 5x the wealth of the median retiree, or probably in the top 10% of all Americans, aka rich.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:42 PM
horizontal rule
332

$1 million in non-house assets, that is.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
333

330.a:Waldmann is terrific.

I was going to add something about "wealth-as-insurance" as related to oh, interest rates, profits, risk-adjusted return to show why the financial markets and therefore the entire fucking post-modern economies are dependent on increasing inequality...but Waldmann covers it in the last words of the first paragraph above.

There is a lot more at the link, such as Peter Frase's "Four Futures"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:47 PM
horizontal rule
334

sure seem rich to me... You probably don't have to get the cheapest toilet paper

Not having to get the cheapest toilet paper = rich? Surely not.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
335

Toilet paper? You lucky, lucky bastards!


Posted by: Corncob Joe | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:02 PM
horizontal rule
336

Lots of ways to look at it, including a classic Marxist declining rate of profit analysis.

But let's try Greece.

Greece goes Depression, tries to tax the the rich, the rich move their capital to London.

This is globalization and financialization, Carnegie had more trouble moving his steel mills.

You wanna be the last billionaire in Greece? Or the next to last to buy a condo in the City?

Keynes was a nationalist. Keynes don't work anymore.

Barbarism or socialism, with revolution not an option but an inevitability.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:04 PM
horizontal rule
337

Surely not.

That's what rich people always say!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
338

Oh

Five quintiles:rich, professionals, middle, working, poor.

Carry on. Bye.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:07 PM
horizontal rule
339

The rough criterion I've always used for rich is if you could liquidate your assets and move to somewhere with a modest cost of living and never have to work again. Obviously that depends on how long you live, but say 40 years or so at a midwestern middle class lifestyle. Maybe richness scales with remaining life expectancy.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:29 PM
horizontal rule
340

somewhere with a modest cost of living

Do you just mean moving from New York to Cleveland? Or from the US to Mexico? From somewhere the first world to one of the poorest 5% of all countries?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
341

339: That's my definition too.

When you talk about old people, things get really complicated because of in-kind benefits. The poorest get full Medicaid, then there's help with drugs, then with buying part b Medicare, but above more than 5 or 6 k in assets you're on your own.

So, you've got a real problem where the marginal cost of being lower-middle class in terms of income is very high. So, you know Medicare ought to pay for home health aides and not force people on to Medicaid.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:58 PM
horizontal rule
342

340: I think the standard for a typical American would be someplace like Cleveland, but for someone willing to live in Bangladesh 'rich' could be fairly attainable.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
343

338: How do you divide up your quantiles? By wealth or by headcount?

The former sounds more intuitive to me. To get the "rich", start with the richest person and work your way down until you get to 20% of the wealth - this would be well under 1%.

The people in the 99.9th and 98.9th percentile live so differently that I don't see how you can say they belong to the same class - whereas the people in the 40th and 60th percentile probably have quite similar lives.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:16 PM
horizontal rule
344

As for me, I think that being "rich" in the financial sense has a monotonically positive relation to how much money you have, but have no idea where - or why - you'd draw a precise boundary between people who are definitely rich and people who are definitely not.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:18 PM
horizontal rule
345

338: How do you divide up your quantiles? By wealth or by headcount?

What do you do with negative net worth?

I'd be curious to see how the population gets divided if you do use quintiles of wealth (and what label people would apply to each wealth quintile).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:27 PM
horizontal rule
346

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Distribution_of_Wealth,_2007.jpg


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
347

I knew it was bad. Really bad. But that pie chart is off the charts bad. 80% of the population have about 15% of the wealth.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
348

The Statistical Abstract gives amounts by household - in 2007, median family net worth was $120,300.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
349

346: So the distribution is (very approximately):

First Quintile: ~84% of the population
Second Quintile: ~12% of the population
Third Quintile: ~3% of the population
Fourth Quintile: ~1% of the population
Fifth Quintile: ~0.4% of the population

What description would you use for each category?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
350

But that pie chart is off the charts bad. 80% of the population have about 15% of the wealth.

Yeah, that jumped out at me as well.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
351

And the Census (.xls link) has some percentile data. Median net worth in 2007:

12.5th percentile: $1,200
37.5th: $54,200
62.5th: $219,800
82.5th: $571,400
95th: $1,890,700


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:47 PM
horizontal rule
352

Rather, those are medians of quartiles with the top 10% separated out, hence the weird percentiles. Mean wealth among the top 10% was $3,975,700.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
353

God damn it Minivet I just linked to nearly identical statistics.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
354

That was like tens of comments ago.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
355

Based on income, and the divisions precede the data.

The "middle class" is the center quintile. Full stop. As I said that does not make the next quintile up "rich." It is nonsensical to say 84% of the pop is "middle class."

I am in the 4th quintile, $75k, and I have everything I want and need. We are pretty rich. Others below and above my bracket think they have different needs. But if my partner thinks she wants or needs a vacation home in the South of France does not mean she is poor.

What we are not is "safe and secure" from disaster or emergency. I would claim that safe and secure is barely attainable at any level of wealth or income. Ask Louis XVI or the Romanovs or Ghaddafi. "Safe and secure" is web of social connections. Medicaid or a really big army and allies.

(Incidentally I have relatives who are missing $2.5 million. Deceased patriarch parked it overseas somewhere, or in a safe deposit box. Noted as income, taxes paid, then disappeared. Gonna take a six-figure detective.)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
356

And I don't suppose we have any status. Status is probably one quintile down from means.

Felix Salmon has a post this week on a big fight over a Jeff Koons. Do I want a fucking Koons of my very own?

Do I want to live on a lake or a mountain?

People who want what they ain't got are poor.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:28 PM
horizontal rule
357

Felix Salmon has a post this week on a big fight over a Jeff Koons. Do I want a fucking Koons of my very own?

Nobody should want a Jeff Koons.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:31 PM
horizontal rule
358

Hey now.


Posted by: Opinionated Cicciolina | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
359

She doesn't seem to want him any more, either.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
360

As mentioned above, there's a real time component you have to take into account when you talk about wealth/class. You'd put a lawyer 15-20 years younger than me in the same class, but you certainly wouldn't expect them to have the same wealth, not derived from professional income, anyway.

There's an odd thing about the post post war boom that skews the wealth stats too. My parents owned a home in California from the time my dad was 42 until he was 59, and they sold it for more than 4 times what they paid. None of us kids, or their grandkids, are ever going to see anything like that.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:42 PM
horizontal rule
361

(That's 4x nominal. Still a huge gain in real, I'm sure.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:45 PM
horizontal rule
362

We are "comfortable," or at best, "well off." They are "rich."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
363

That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest, IYKWIMAITTYD.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:01 PM
horizontal rule
364

My parents owned a home in California from the time my dad was 42 until he was 59, and they sold it for more than 4 times what they paid. None of us kids, or their grandkids, are ever going to see anything like that.

We could move to Brazil.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:03 PM
horizontal rule
365

235

I honestly have no idea -- what's Chicago like? In the same category, or is it systematically more reasonable for some reason?

Comparing real estate prices is difficult because neighborhoods vary a lot. You can find cheap housing most places if you don't mind living in a slum. Maybe this is unreasonable to expect but judging by the prices in the fanciest most desirable neighborhoods isn't reasonable either.

There are a lot of options within an hours commute of NYC and I expect some of them are affordable for typical professionals.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:07 PM
horizontal rule
366

360

None of us kids, or their grandkids, are ever going to see anything like that.

Factor of 4 nominal appreciation over 17 years still seems entirely possible with a little luck. Buy in a cheap neighborhood that becomes fashionable.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
367

366 -- Sure. Lot of luck, I think, as the demographics and income profiles change. Nothing like that involved here: this was straight up suburbia.

A little over 2x real value. The house I bought at 42 and sold at 50 went up 20% real, which was damn lucky. I bet in another 5 years the buyer will have seen under 10% nominal growth.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:16 PM
horizontal rule
368

I bought in 2003 and am still ahead on nominal terms and probably real terms. If you'd like to buy my book on real estate investing, send $19.95 to P.O. Box 47%.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:20 PM
horizontal rule
369

I bought in California in 2006. Draw your own conclusions (though I'm doing better than many).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
370

Old joke...

An old man has a fall and is brought to a hospital. The nurse checks in on him and asks, "Sir, are you comfortable?"

The old man replies, "Eh, I make a nice living."


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
371

I've completely lost track of what this long sidebar into what counts as rich (or simply well-off, or UMC, or making 4x the median income but scraping by) had to do Mitt Romney.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:35 PM
horizontal rule
372

371

I've completely lost track of what this long sidebar into what counts as rich (or simply well-off, or UMC, or making 4x the median income but scraping by) had to do Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney recently placed the top of the middle class at $200-250 K/year. This seems reasonable to me but not to others.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:41 PM
horizontal rule
373

So, here's a question: Why is it that only in the UK is there any discussion of flushing sludge out of a hot-water heating system? Does sludge not build up in US radiators? I'm worried that the sludge in our system is way down in the basement pipes anyway, but still, it seems odd that this is not discussed in a US context on the internets.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:48 PM
horizontal rule
374

U.S. hot-water heating systems heat the water, put it through the radiators, and then down the sewer. In the U.K., they have sludge because they keep re-using the same water.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
375

Right: he said that, if I remember correctly, in the context of an observation that economists say that his tax proposals would only work if taxes were raised on households making over $100k/year. Since he's pledged not to raise middle class taxes, he had to declare that, no, no, "middle class" goes up to $200-250k. He won't raise taxes for anyone below that.

Whether LB or anyone else here is middle class or rich or something else is beside the point. That said, clearly the Republican message that those making $190k are struggling, poor dears, resonates with many.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
376

357: Can't I please have a giant flower puppy in my yard? It just pleased me.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
377

375

... Since he's pledged not to raise middle class taxes, he had to declare that, no, no, "middle class" goes up to $200-250k. He won't raise taxes for anyone below that.

Which of course is also Obama's position.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:03 PM
horizontal rule
378

374

U.S. hot-water heating systems heat the water, put it through the radiators, and then down the sewer. In the U.K., they have sludge because they keep re-using the same water.

Hopefully this is a joke.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
379

374: For real? Huh. But I think there is still sludge/blockage in my system. When we had a bunch of plumbing stuff done a few years ago, a bunch of corrosion came loose and clogged the bathtub spigot. I don't see why the same thing mightn't be happening with the radiators.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
380

OT: God damn you, break room challah bread.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:09 PM
horizontal rule
381

380: G-d hearts grains!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
382

Is it taunting you? "Carbs are delicious, Halford. Come back to the modern diet. Agriculture was a wonderful idea..."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:12 PM
horizontal rule
383

It tempted me successfully, that Delilah.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:13 PM
horizontal rule
384

Grains are inscribed in the Book of Deliciousness.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:15 PM
horizontal rule
385

383: Philistine.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:16 PM
horizontal rule
386

380: Wait, you have challah bread in the breakroom AND Blackshirt Fridays?!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
387

It's confusing. And now I'm in a grain induced mental fog of weakness.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:26 PM
horizontal rule
388

Quick, someone go cut his hair. Where's Mitt Romney when you need him?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:28 PM
horizontal rule
389

Oh, at that intervention at Peggy Noonan's. She's right: a big Romney rally in Brooklyn will change everything.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
390

If grain is bad, no beer or whiskey. But if agriculture is bad, then no wine on top. I don't recall which is the case.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:32 PM
horizontal rule
391

Seitan sometimes whispers, but sometimes challahs.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
392

heebie is funny!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
393

looking!
(jk!)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
394

277: Right. The point is that Obama doesn't put forward a tax plan that cuts the marginal rate for incomes above $250k while promising not raise taxes on those below that. Romney does.

Where exactly the definition of "middle class" does or should lie is irrelevant to all this. People just get a bug up their butt(s) when someone tries to say that being in the top 10% -- or 5% -- doesn't make them middle class any more. Because they're struggling! Barely making ends meet! Scraping by!

Heh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
395

I hate Peggy Noonan.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:39 PM
horizontal rule
396

Actually I'm quite dignified-looking.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
397

On the OP, a (different) student emailed me all this crap about how much government spending has increased since 1940, decade by decade, even accounting for population growth, inflation, etc.

My impulse is to respond by challenging the idea that limited government must be good. And to point out that I distrust the private sector to serve the public good far more than I distrust the government. Is this the right approach?


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 6:46 PM
horizontal rule
398

"That government is best which governs yeast."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:03 PM
horizontal rule
399

Yeah, we should totally have let Japan win WWII. And who uses those interstate highways, anyway? Or the internet?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
400

IANAE in any way, shape or form, but doesn't the rate of increase in government spending have to be measured as a percentage of GDP?

How is the student measuring it?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
401

400: It looks to be about a doubling as % GDP.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
402

He sent me an excerpt of this stupid thing.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:13 PM
horizontal rule
403

397:

1. Government spending offsets other sorts of spending. In many cases, if you have more government, you have less cost to the economy. Medicare spends money on healthcare that would otherwise be spent by individuals, but the individuals wouldn't get as much healthcare for their dollar. In countries where the government spends more money on healthcare, the overall money spent is much, much less than it is in the U.S., with better outcomes.

2. Do we want to return to 1939 roads? Access to higher education? (We're on our way!) Pollution control? National defense? (Okay, I'm on board with that one.) Social welfare? (Maybe your student does.) What things did society do better in 1939 because there was less government?

3. When people get richer, they buy more of the stuff they like. People like government because it does so many useful things, so they buy more.

4. What is the model that your student would like the U.S. to pursue? 1939 America? 1930 America? 1900 America? Or is there some other country that has prospered in the last 70 years where government spending per capita has stayed the same, adjusted for inflation? It would be interesting to assemble a list of companies where no such increase has taken place. I'd guess it's a pretty unhappy group of countries.

Or, you could just go with what I offered in 65.4.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
404

Since 1960, I guess, not 1940.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
405

402: Oh, okay, just another screed by the Blame America First crowd. Tell your student that people who hate America ought to leave the country or be shot. Traitor. America is the greatest country in the world!


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
406

I didn't actually read it very closely once my eyes started rolling.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
407

401: It looks to be about a doubling as % GDP.

Thanks. First question, then, is whether % GDP is a good or helpful or relevant measure of the goods (broadly construed) that we, as a society, want to pursue.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 7:23 PM
horizontal rule
408

Regarding housing and income, I just went through a training to do visits at local orchards that employ migrant workers (most of whom speak Spanish). I was pleased to learn there are at least some protections available, regardless of legal status, under, for example, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

I wonder what Governor Romney thinks of them apples.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 8:45 PM
horizontal rule
409

They may even have concierge-practiced doctors.

I thought that was a made-up thing for that TV show on USA.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
410

For comparison a recent report says that in Germany the share of total wealth held by the top decile went from 45% to 53% between 1998 and 2011, while the share held by the bottom 50% went from 4% to 1%. So a lot better than the US but getting steadily worse.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 9:25 PM
horizontal rule
411

330: "Why are the Rich so Damn Angry"

The best defense is a good offense, and they know perfectly well how they'd react to being screwed as aggressively as they're currently screwing others. Much same reason that Southern whites (and not just them) always seemed to seethe with pre-emptive rage against the rarely-manifested uppityness of the coloureds.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
412

"Rich" means you get to spend down your income to have a moderately high quality of life when you retire.

Are you high? Godamnit, that's middle class. Again, the only reason this looks like rich is because decades of union busting and wage stagnation have totally fucked this country. I sure as hell am not going to start calling the ability to buy a used car and name brand toilet paper "rich". Are households and lifestyles like mine really what the word "rich" means? We have two kids and the cop+middle school teacher gigs yielded a household income of 83K last year. We're not hurting at all but I think if you were to ask most people something like "what kind of vacation would you take if you were rich" the answer wouldn't be "tent camping in my '98 Subaru."


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 12:28 AM
horizontal rule
413

402. If I was seriously wealthy I'd buy the Wall Street Journal just so I could shut it down*. Now that's a definition of rich.

*I'd make over the copyright on the title to Natilo, for him to play with.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:30 AM
horizontal rule
414

Yeah, I don't see anyone making less than ~$150K in annual income from wages (only or primarily) as "rich". Especially not on the coasts. But even if you're in Boise or Duluth or wherever, that type of income is mostly going to go to living expenses, rather than investments, unless you are an extreme outlier on the frugality scale.

I think the problem here is partly about not acknowledging all the different subcategories of working- and middle-classness in the US. What we really need is some kind of 3 dimensional graph of financial class based on (1) Current income, (2) Current net wealth, and (3) Projected future income. So, for instance, we could say that an NFL player getting the league average of ~$2 million per year is in a different, and perhaps lower, class than a very successful physician/medical researcher earning more like $250K, as the doctor is going to have a much longer career than the football player's 3-4 year average. Or, on the low end, compare a home health aide to a bartender. Or a middle-manager at a bank to a journeyman electrician. This is where a lot of the muddle comes in.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:37 AM
horizontal rule
415

413: It would certainly be cool to have one of those little stippled portraits of Luigi Galleani.

"The Borman Six girl is GOT TO HAVE SOUL!"


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:40 AM
horizontal rule
416

is there some other country that has prospered in the last 70 years where government spending per capita has stayed the same, adjusted for inflation?

Well, 70 years ago was 1942 and UK government spending was a lot higher then than it is now, at least as a proportion of GDP. (59%, rising to 70% in 1945). But since the war it's oscillated around 40-45% or so, there's been no real trend in either direction.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:31 AM
horizontal rule
417

403.2: Heebie's student isn't named "Reg", is he? Of the People's Front of America?

All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what has the Government ever done for us?


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:04 AM
horizontal rule
418

409: No, they exist in Boston. They still use insurance mostly--at least the ones catering to higher-end UMC types--, but they charge about $5,000 per year so that they're available more and can see fewer patients (maybe 300 instead of $1,000 or more). I met one who was clearly driven into it by exhaustion and his business-oriented wife. He tried to make himself feel good about it by the fact that he was able to diagnose his patient's rash (when the patient was in Germany) over an iphone and stop him from putting hydrocortisone on it which would have made this particular kind of rash worse and led to an ER visit. And they did some "pro bono" work for teachers and cops.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:08 AM
horizontal rule
419

414: I don't see anyone making less than ~$150K in annual income from wages (only or primarily) as "rich". Especially not on the coasts. But even if you're in Boise or Duluth or wherever, that type of income is mostly going to go to living expenses, rather than investments, unless you are an extreme outlier on the frugality scale.

Is that per person or per household? And what's the size of the household?

For a 2 parent + 2 children household, sure, under $150k household income is not "rich". For a single person household, I might quibble, particularly since I'm not seeing what kinds of living expenses a single person has such that most of the income goes toward them.

Up until recently, my flat-out monthly living expenses -- rent, health insurance, student loan payments -- were $2000. We can (generously) double that to cover additionals like utilities, food, gas and incidentals. That's $48k/year: call it $50k, in expenses.

I'm not trying to be querulous: I'm honestly not sure what standard, normal living expenses add up to anywhere close to $150k, or even $100k, really. Do people have $5,000/month mortgages? Or $3,500/month mortgages plus $1,500/month car payments?

What am I missing? Just that the $150k expenses figure must be for a 3 or 4 or more person family?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
420

This is the politics thread, as far as I can tell.

Mitt Romney is flailing. His USA Today column is more pathetic than I would have imagined. Robots appear to be writing his copy.

I would like someone to ask him whether he'll be supporting an increase in the minimum wage any time soon, since he's concerned about upward mobility, and explains his 47% comments by noting that it would be good if more people could earn a satisfactory enough income to actually pay income taxes.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:15 PM
horizontal rule
421

To clarify my comment, 'the cheapest toilet paper' was meant to represent not having to buy the cheapest of any staple (peanut butter, boots, etc.) just because of the price, without regard to quality, quantity or personal preferences.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
422

I think that was clear, it just seemed unusual to draw the line where 'rich' starts at the moment you stop having to worry about the cost of necessary staples.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:06 PM
horizontal rule
423

I only buy toilet paper without staples.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:07 PM
horizontal rule
424

My staples cost $100 per box. Doesn't mean I'm rich.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
425

I buy toilet paper at Staples. Because Mitt Romney.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:25 PM
horizontal rule
426

Well, it's one aspect of what I think of when I think of rich; it's not the only thing, obviously.

But I think I'm a lot closer to parsimon (419: "I'm honestly not sure what standard, normal living expenses add up to anywhere close to $150k, or even $100k, really.") than other people.

And it's a personal thing: I feel 'rich' when I have 10 spare rolls of toilet paper in my bathroom. Especially if they're the extra cushy kind. My plans for my next paycheck consist of buying a lot of staples, lining them all up and admiring them.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:25 PM
horizontal rule
427

Do people have $5,000/month mortgages? Or $3,500/month mortgages plus $1,500/month car payments?

It's not too hard to get a $3000 mortgage payment in certain markets where 500K isn't a huge amount for a house but regardless of where you're at $1500 in car payments is definitely a couple fairly nice cars, something like two cars at 35-40K for each car.

I feel 'rich' when I have 10 spare rolls of toilet paper in my bathroom. Especially if they're the extra cushy kind. My plans for my next paycheck consist of buying a lot of staples, lining them all up and admiring them.

Yeah, I can totally identify with this. We started out on WIC with my wife at home with the baby and me making eight bucks an hour. Two stable salaries feels like we've hit the big time in comparison.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
428

the people in the 40th and 60th percentile probably have quite similar lives.

I just want to flag this as reinforcing (or perhaps reinforced by) my own experience. Obviously our time hovering around the poverty line wasn't typical (we had assets purchased when we were at the 60th percentile, we had expectations of future income, we had the social capital not to be immiserated by our status/conditions), but it's simply really, really true that 50% of median income and 200% of median income are pretty similar lifestyles (thanks in large part to government assistance of course - you may recall the insane effective marginal tax rate I encountered this April - but that's the whole point of gov't assistance). One is on the short side of comfort (see toilet paper) while the other is on the long side, but neither one permits savings or "luxuries" like new cars or repairmen beyond necessity (the squirrels in my attic, let me show them). I'm not saying they're the same "class", but they're adjacent.

Put it this way: our income tripled from '10 to '11, and not that much changed. If our income tripled from this year to next, everything would change. Like, debt-free (with a $1,000 mortgage with 7 years left on it), house in perfect repair, car in perfect repair, and the possibility of savings.

On preview, I see that this is not quite aligning with gswift's experience. Presumably the difference is ever having had a 2X median income.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:18 PM
horizontal rule
429

Would you say that with a little bit more money (the +10% over 50%) you are getting out of holes like credit card debt (I don't know whether you had any) or the worst of the deferred maintenance?

Being a little in the hole and being a lot in the hole (debt, deferred maintainance, no vacations) might feel more like each other than being sorta in the hole and being completely clear.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:24 PM
horizontal rule
430

There are a lot of options within an hours commute of NYC and I expect some of them are affordable for typical professionals.

Sorry, someone may have hit this, but: not especially. Assuming that Shearer means a middle class suburb with a good school district (that is, not Dover, NJ), you can go roughly an hour west of NYC and see 1960 Colonials going for $400k - this is where I went to HS. Practically every town closer, and many farther away, are nicer and more expensive.

Maybe $450k counts as "affordable" (when both spouses will need cars), but I doubt it. Two lawyers, maybe, but most professionals are earning, what, $100k and change?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:25 PM
horizontal rule
431

409: A friend of mine is on that show. It sounds pretty fun to make, but I find the two lead guys rival Bobby Valentine in face-punchable-ness.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
432

On preview, I see that this is not quite aligning with gswift's experience. Presumably the difference is ever having had a 2X median income.

Yeah, when we were at 17K a year we were in a one bedroom basement apt. and then in a little two bed duplex. We had one car and it was a 1979 Mercury Monarch I'd bought for $600.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
433

429: During The Poor Years, credit card debt went from modest to significant (or significant to heart-stopping by your standards, I'd imagine). Some of that, though, is because, for the first year or so, it didn't occur to us to go for food stamps, and a fair amount of food went on credit - maybe $4k*? That's a guess. It was certainly more than a rounding error. If we'd gotten on SNAP as soon as possible, it would have at least saved us ~$4k of debt, because it would have freed up cash for non-food purposes.

Once we were on stamps and had paid off our car (bought new when we were flush), we were mostly able to live on cash, but of course every contingency went on credit.

If we had entered The Poor Years with zero non-housing debt, and had promptly gotten on SNAP, then we would have inexorably fallen into debt (or had a broken life - $200 to fix the dishwasher or start hand washing), but it would have been the kind of debt relatively easily paid off with 1 or 2 flush years. But, the ultra-thrifty aside, who earns $20k with no outstanding debt?

One thing worth noting is that A. we had health insurance for much of this time, thanks to AB's part-time Pitt teaching gig, and B. we had no medical issues, so that source of potentially disastrous debt did not strike.

* because I always assumed we'd be back to decent income any day - those years were filled with almost projects, or projects that stretched so long that they didn't make a dent in the debt. But I never went a month without a job, or whatever. Which made it seem rational to pay for this week's milk with next month's invoice.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:55 PM
horizontal rule
434

most professionals are earning, what, $100k and change?

I would have thought medical doctors are making quite a bit more? And finance types a lot more. Someone I know was recently offered a $200k starting salary at a small data-science business. So my sense has been that $100k is at the low end of "professional" salaries, but maybe that's because of all the ex-physicists I hear about who start making way more than that as soon as they leave academia.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
435

So my sense has been that $100k is at the low end of "professional" salaries, but maybe that's because of all the ex-physicists I hear about who start making way more than that as soon as they leave academia I know people who went to Ivy league schools.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:57 PM
horizontal rule
436

Sure, my sample is skewed. The amounts of money people I run into casually talk about always boggle my mind. I mean, I know a guy who plagiarized much of his PhD thesis, had no experience in finance, and questionable command of the English language, and got a job making over $300k/year in finance right out of grad school.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:00 PM
horizontal rule
437

If the economy crashes again soon it's totally going to be his fault.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:02 PM
horizontal rule
438

Regular engineers are not making that kind of money, essear. But I still think we're professional.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:16 PM
horizontal rule
439

When I finished grad school i learned that the average starting pay for folks leaving my institution with any phd was $90K, and this was about 3 years ago.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:22 PM
horizontal rule
440

Further to 439-that was caltech.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
441

419: Okay, this is like deja vu all over again:
Let's posit a 4 person family, 2 professionals, 2 kids in primary school, living in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in a decent suburb:

$149,000 from two salaries

~$7,000 for medical & dental incl copays etc
~$23,000 mortgage payments, on a $350K house
~$30,000 taxes
~$6,000 groceries & lunches
~$5,000 entertainment
~$4,000 clothes & dry cleaning
~$12,000 car payments on two late model cars
~$3,000 gas & repairs
~$6,000 for 2 vacations
~$6,000 student loan payments
~$3,000 music lessons, soccer, etc.
~$3,000 utilities, internet, phones
~$5,000 repairs, incidentals, whatever
~$12,000 retirement contributions

So then you're left with about $2,000/month for saving & investing (not to be forgetting looming college costs for little Butch and Susie). Nice position to be in, very comfortable, but not sustainable on one salary, and even with both, it would take you a couple of decades minimum to save up for a retirement in the style to which you'd become accustomed. I'm sure some of my numbers are a bit off, but it probably averages out to about the same. How much do people who live in the 'burbs actually spend on gasoline, anyhow? If it was the same family with only $120,000 coming in, I'm assuming you'd see a lot of economies not represented above, but here we're talking about real, honest-to-God, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses suburbanites, not frugal eggheads who drink box wine and read Pliny for fun. So yeah, $150K is not "rich" by the standards of most people who actually make that much. YMMV, of course, but I'm describing the kinds of folx I used to work with at the stock brokerage.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:34 PM
horizontal rule
442

427: It's not too hard to get a $3000 mortgage payment in certain markets where 500K isn't a huge amount for a house but regardless of where you're at $1500 in car payments is definitely a couple fairly nice cars, something like two cars at 35-40K for each car.

There you're talking about a 2-person (plus possibly kids) family. I can't say I know why people would buy two fairly nice new cars on a payment plan if they're not doing well enough financially; a 500k house or condo might be standard pricing for a modest home in Boston et al., but I wouldn't have thought so in Duluth or Boise. In any case, I understood in 419 that a 2-adult + children situation would come with additional expenses. The size of the household matters.

Since households making $150+ are still in the top 10% or so, I am not worried about them, to be honest.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:44 PM
horizontal rule
443

More than $150k in household income is the top 5% nationally.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:48 PM
horizontal rule
444

A 5% here, a 5% there, soon you're talking about real statistical significance.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:49 PM
horizontal rule
445

430

Sorry, someone may have hit this, but: not especially. Assuming that Shearer means a middle class suburb with a good school district (that is, not Dover, NJ), you can go roughly an hour west of NYC and see 1960 Colonials going for $400k - this is where I went to HS. Practically every town closer, and many farther away, are nicer and more expensive.

Once you start specifying a good school district you enter the world of circular reasoning since that means in practice schools full of rich kids located in expensive neighborhoods. I used to live in Ossining NY (30 miles north of NYC) which has a mediocre school district. You can find houses cheaper than $400K there. Like this one which seems nice enough to me. Maybe you want something better but then the claim becomes professionals can't afford the type of house to which they feel entitled, not that they can't afford any house.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
446

441: Natilo, I've noted that I understand there's a difference where a four-person family is concerned.

That said, $12,000 for retirement contribution? (I leave aside the $4,000 for clothes and dry cleaning, the $6,000 for 2 vacations, and the $3000 for music lessons, etc.)

I wouldn't have put retirement contributions in the "living expenses" category.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
447

~$12,000 car payments on two late model cars

boggle

You could buy two 2005 Nissan Altimas for $12000.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
448

445: By "good" I just meant non-failing. My HS wasn't "good"*, but it was perfectly adequate for the middle class, and I'm sure well above national average. No "professional" couple will move to a suburb with failing schools - they'll live in debt elsewhere in hopes of somehow breaking through.

* it was surely in the bottom third of Morris County school districts, but Morris County generally has good schools


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:06 PM
horizontal rule
449

Well, okay, then it's $3000/month left over, and take the 401k out of that, comes to the same thing. My point there is that people don't really think of that pre-tax auto-deduction as disposable income.

Sure, if you're talking about a single person, who's not living in a Friends-style apartment or whatever, then yeah, $150K is going to leave you with a lot to invest. It'd still take you quite awhile to be free of the necessity of making a wage.

I realize it seems alien to you, but there really are lots of people who feel that paid extracurricular activities are pretty much essential for the proper upbringing of their children. If you do want your kids to go to an Ivy or near-Ivy, and they have the exact same test scores and GPA as everyone else in your suburb, how are they going to distinguish themselves?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
450

~$23,000 mortgage payments, on a $350K house

The only way I can get this to work in my amortization calculator is $0 down, 5.5% interest, unable to refinance.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:09 PM
horizontal rule
451

447: I was assuming a biggish, high-end SUV and a nice sedan. Would these people really drive 7 year old cars?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
452

450: If you don't have a down payment, you don't get a good rate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:16 PM
horizontal rule
453

447: A typical suburbanite puts 12k miles per year on each car, and looks to trade in after ~8 years (less if they're status-conscious, more if they're thrifty/lucky*). A new mid-sized sedan costing $25k costs ~$500/mo for 60 months.

Meanwhile, a pair of 8 year old Altimas (with 96k miles apiece) will cost a hell of a lot more than $3k a year in gas and maintenance. Belts are going, transmissions are going, etc.

$12k is generous, but we're defining middle class back to "worse than a single income steelworking family in 1965" if we want to exclude ever buying a new car, or having retirement income.

* our car is 8 years old with only 65k on it. It has rust spots, a non-working rear door, and a hatch release that just conked out. It's shittier** than any primary car my thoroughly middle class family had between 1972 and 1990, during half of which time we had a second car

** relative to a current new car. Obviously it has features that outstrip a Mercedes from that era; that's irrelevant. A new Dodge has better build quality and fancier tech than a '91 Lexus; anyone want to argue that the Dodge owner is richer than the Lexus owner of '91?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
454

Natilo's example is pretty much exactly what I grew up in (inflation-adjusted). And, no, at no point did it ever feel "rich". But it was also pretty much never uncomfortable either. $150k for a family of 4 is so different than $150k for an individual. This is why "median household income" isn't worth much on an intuitive level.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:19 PM
horizontal rule
455

our car is 8 years old with only 65k on it. It has rust spots, a non-working rear door, and a hatch release that just conked out.

I had a Dodge Neon less shitty at that stage of life/miles.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
456

449: there really are lots of people who feel that paid extracurricular activities are pretty much essential for the proper upbringing of their children. If you do want your kids to go to an Ivy or near-Ivy, and they have the exact same test scores and GPA as everyone else in your suburb, how are they going to distinguish themselves?

Well, I thought you were describing the average family making $150k, not the Ivy-aspiring one. I'd missed your remark at the end there about the folx at your stock brokerage firm.

The retirement account thing bothered me before: if people have money in the five or possibly six figures in a retirement account, I don't see how they could possibly on earth consider themselves to be scraping by.

Anyway, my only point in all of this is that where the direction of domestic policy in this country is concerned, I couldn't care less about the top 10%. 5%. Threads that turn to quibbling, yet again, whether one is "rich" or well-off or merely comfortable (yet making 6 figures) are so much noise.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
457

453: $12k is generous, but we're defining middle class back to "worse than a single income steelworking family in 1965" if we want to exclude ever buying a new car, or having retirement income.

gswift was talking about our redefinitions of "middle class" upthread: that's an interesting conversation to have. I don't want to define it down, no, but at the same time I don't want to say that half the country (below the median income, say) is lower class.

I'm tired. It's a worthwhile discussion to have, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
458

The retirement account thing bothered me before: if people have money in the five or possibly six figures in a retirement account, I don't see how they could possibly on earth consider themselves to be scraping by.

So they can only start considering themselves to be scraping by once they retire, and have to live on their SS checks alone?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
459

Wait, FIVE figures?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
460

Wait, FIVE figures?

I could retire for weeks on what's in my retirement account. Pretty sweet, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:43 PM
horizontal rule
461

Those mad, mad days when you've scraped and saved after a lifetime of work and can go roll big for as long as $10,000 lasts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:43 PM
horizontal rule
462

If they have enough money to set aside and build up (and it's not just, you know, $50 per month), they're not scraping by. I don't see why this is hard to understand.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:43 PM
horizontal rule
463

448

By "good" I just meant non-failing. My HS wasn't "good"*, but it was perfectly adequate for the middle class, and I'm sure well above national average. No "professional" couple will move to a suburb with failing schools - they'll live in debt elsewhere in hopes of somehow breaking through.

Well what fraction of schools are failing? Ossining's schools seem to be about the 30th percentile among Westchester schools districts in terms of student test scores (which of course mostly just reflects the characteristics of the students).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:44 PM
horizontal rule
464

I felt rich as hell when I was making $45k in my early 20s and had six roommates. I could buy any videogame I wanted! I make way less than that now, but luckily I pretty much stopped playing videogames.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:46 PM
horizontal rule
465

I make way less than that now, but luckily I pretty much stopped playing videogames.

So you can *still* buy any videogame you want!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
466

It's true!

Well, it's sort of true. I don't know that I'd play it, but I feel weird not owning the latest Mario Kart.

THANKS, recession.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:03 PM
horizontal rule
467

462: Your modern, semi-enlightened, large-scale employer of college educated or unionized workers usually employs a defined-contribution pension plan. Because they are enlighten enough to realize that having a bunch of 70 year-old employees who can't afford to quit will cause a violent, but creaky, revolution, they often offer a very large incentive to contribute to these plan. The fact that so many young people don't do so well at match/realizing they will get old also helps. An employee gets a match of every dollar they put into a 401k. To take the example of my own employer, if you have three years with them, you can put in 8% and they will put in 12%. Thus, somebody with even a modest salary and facing a bad stock market will have put away several hundred thousand dollars after a 30 year career.

This money is never touched by the employee and is not generally accessible before retiring. Once you start, it isn't easy to stop putting it aside. Thus people who put this aside are both scraping by and saving huge chunks of money. And, as I've said above, I really don't see how this is any different from a pension (except that the employee bears more risk and can switch jobs without losing it) where that same amount of money was put in a combined account by an employer and paid out after so many years of employment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
468

Shorter 467: Neo-liberal paternal capitalism isn't all talk.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
469

I saved 5 figures as a grad student making less than $20k with no outside assistance.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
470

Damn. That should read "and then I found 5 figures".


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:17 PM
horizontal rule
471

I feel weird not owning the latest Mario Kart.

I've forgotten which years it would have been, but I feel like at least two years of my life were sunk into Mario Kart 64's battle mode.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
472

I saved 5 figures as a grad student and then blew half of it on a trip to Europe and half on moving expenses and furniture when starting my first post-grad-school job. (Dear former self: when accepting a new job, always negotiate moving expenses first.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
473

464, 466: Nerd, typed the man who has pre-ordered Hitman: Absolution.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
474

God I ruled so hard at battle mode. I was king of the Big Donut. King!

That tears it. I need to take up videogames again.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
475

I was fond of Block Fort, but Big Donut had its charms too.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:09 PM
horizontal rule
476

I was puzzling over how I spent so much time playing Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros in college, not to mention board games and telephone/pictionary and whatnot, when I don't think I work that many more hours now than I did then. But then I realized that I watched zero television and spent a lot less time on the internet then. Also, I think I slept less.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:12 PM
horizontal rule
477

~$23,000 mortgage payments, on a $350K house

The only way I can get this to work in my amortization calculator is $0 down, 5.5% interest, unable to refinance.

Not sure if someone else has already said this, but by "mortgage payment", Natilo probably means "mortgage+taxes+insurance", which is what the bank takes from you every month in a single payment that most people think of as their "mortgage payment". And, adding in taxes and insurance at typical rates, Natilo's numbers look just about right for someone who puts 20% down and has a market interest rate. If they put $0 down and had a 5.5% interest rate, the total payment would be much higher.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 5:47 AM
horizontal rule
478

I felt rich as hell when I was making $45k in my early 20s and had six roommates. I could buy any videogame I wanted!

I feel rich as hell now because I am doing the XKCD thing of buying videogames several years after they are released. Halo is great!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 6:23 AM
horizontal rule
479

Before you know it, we'll have a thread where everyone divulges their hiscores on Golden Axe. Things will turn ugly fast.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 6:54 AM
horizontal rule
480

Or Civilisation. 88% on Emperor, Ajay the Magnificent, baby.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
481

I had a Dodge Neon less shitty at that stage of life/miles.

Yeah, I know. In VW's defense, the door happened just a couple months ago, and the hatch release last weekend - they may be simple repairs but, again, budget. There's actually only one rust spot (AFAIK), right on the nose where I presume something dinged the hood years ago and the rust has slowly expanded. Another cheap fix (I could presumably do it myself) deferred.

480 is very impressive.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:10 AM
horizontal rule
482

What the hell is wrong with you people's cars? I've never had a car need expensive repairs, unless I wrecked it. My first car was 4 years old when I bought it, and 10 years old when I got rid of it (and it was running fine--I just didn't need it anymore). I did replace the tires at one point, but that's closer to "maintenance" than "repair". My current car is 15 years old and has never needed a thing. It has a big dent+rust spot where it was hit by a concrete pole, and the paint generally is clearly starting to age, and it does need a new muffler, but other than that it's like new (except for interior stains and whatnot).


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:19 AM
horizontal rule
483

Those poles always hitting cars.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:25 AM
horizontal rule
484

Also, your wife must be changing the belts, brake pads, etc. without telling you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:27 AM
horizontal rule
485

One assumes she shoves the old parts down the toilet to hide the evidence and spare your delusion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:30 AM
horizontal rule
486

480 should go on your CV, ajay.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
487

Ah, car repairs. I was throwing new rotors and pads on our Outback (pushing 15 years old, 150K miles) and noticed play in the front passenger wheel. Sure enough the bearing has gone bad. So I figure I'll have my mechanic just replace both front bearings while it's in there and they end up finding that the steering knuckle is cracked, the axle boots are fucked, the rack and pinion boot is torn, etc. Oh, and naturally the power steering fluid leak that had just started is the pump gone to shit rather than just a hose leak. $1800 all said and done.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:38 AM
horizontal rule
488

Oh, break pads. Yes, I've had those changes on occasion, when they squeak. That's also closer to maintenance than repair. I mean, I do also change the oil, and replace wiper blades every few years, etc.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:49 AM
horizontal rule