Sunday Roast: GOP vs. Democrats — the Income Gap

On Friday, President Obama held a press conference, wherein one of the topics was the economy — and how we got into the deep trouble we’re in today.  Basically, Republicans (aided by Bill Clinton) over the last decade really, really, really screwed up everything, and we really don’t want more of the same from the same gang of Republicans.

Rachel then chatted with Ezra Klein about this chart:

On the x-axis, we have the Income Growth Rate, which is pretty self-explanatory; and on the y-axis, we have the Income Percentile, which is where we all will find ourselves — from the bottom 20% of income earners (Ma & Pa Kettle) to the top 5% (Thurston & Lovey Howell).

This is empirical evidence of how Americans fare under Democratic presidents and Republican presidents, as found by Larry Bartels, in his 2008 book, Unequal Democracy, and quoted by Larry Noah, in his Slate article, entitled The United States of Inequality, Too Many Republicans.

[T]he narrowly economic focus of most previous studies of inequality has caused them to miss what may be the most important single influence on the changing U.S. income distribution over the past half-century—the contrasting policy choices of Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Republican administrations, real income growth for the lower- and middle-classes has consistently lagged well behind the income growth rate for the rich—and well behind the income growth rate for the lower and middle classes themselves under Democratic administrations.  ~Larry Bartels

As we can plainly see on the chart above, everyone does well under Democratic presidents, while only the top 5% do well under Republican presidents.  The bottom 20%, those who can least afford their income level coming to a screeching halt, suffer the most.

Things are really tough out here.  Are Americans dumb enough and blind enough to either vote Republicans and Teabaggers into office — clearly against their own best interests?  Are we stupid enough to not vote at all?

We shall see, won’t we?

This is our daily open thread — feel free to rant.

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73 thoughts on “Sunday Roast: GOP vs. Democrats — the Income Gap

  1. On a personal level, when Clinton was president, I had a job, a large savings, and disposable income. When Bush II was “elected,” all that changed. I had a job until the end of 2004. The company I was working for decided the retail component of its business was no longer lucrative enough to continue with it. I’ve been unemployed since then.

    My savings, my retirement essentially, is nearly gone and I can’t find a job anywhere despite six years of looking for one.

    It’s in my best interest, based on this information, to vote Democrat.

    • Goon & angels, I can’t even imagine it.

      I’ve been a student for the last four years, so I expected to be living at the poverty level, but I found that even when I was working summers, the money didn’t go near as far as it used to — working got me through summer, but there was nothing leftover to save. I’ve never had that experience before.

      angels, I’m glad you’ve found a way out of this mess. Goon, I truly hope things turn around for you soon, and I wish I could help.

  2. So far, the Republican method and message has been succeeding. The method: keep the country in economic doldrums by preventing any meanful measures from getting through the Senate.

    The message: Republicans will lead the country to prosperity by cutting taxes so you can keep more of your money.

    The charts show how the income gap increases during Republican administrations and shrink during Democratic administrations. The “haves and have-mores” always seek to increase the gap between themselves and the working class. Wealth begets Power and Power begets more Wealth. As the ruling class is enriched, it gains more power over the lower classes.

    And the fate of the world lies in the hands of a few oil company executives. Another artificial spike in gas prices like what we had in the Spring and Summer of ’08 would trigger global economic collapse and social unrest. (Which is why we won’t likely have another spike in gas prices – the holdings of the ruling class would diminish significantly).

    Now, given that wealth and power always seek to be consolidated, where is the balance? Historically, when too much wealth and power became concentrated into too few hands, there are but two possible outcomes: revolution, whereby the people lop off the heads of the ruling class and redistribute wealth and power; or a voluntary relinquishing of wealth and power by the ruling class, redistributing a enough to the lower classes to quell the revolution before it starts. We’ve seen both in the French Revolution and the end of Apartheid in South Africa.

    The world seeks a leader to take us down one path or another. Sooner or later, a charismatic individual will dominate in the public eye. Curiously, we currently have Sarah Palin, who would lead us on the path of Revolution, versus President Obama, who would lead us on the path of reconsiliation.

    Sarah Palin is the darling of the ruling class. The teabaggers she has inspired are ready to take up arms – to protect the interests of the ruling class! It’s as if the ruling class is blind to the inevitable outcome of an armed insurrection. Once the shooting starts, it will be hard to stop. And the one thing Wealth and Power cannot prevent is Balance.

    Sooner or later, balance will be restored. In the meantime, we must live in the present, and not be anxious over a future we cannot control. “Always in motion, the future.” Yoda. “The future’s not written yet.” Professor Emmit Smith. “Why worry?” Alfred E. Newman.

    Peace, Blessings and Love be with you this day,

    Briseadh na Faire

  3. Condolences to Outstanding and her family. Your mother’s love and light will continue to shine on through you and yours.

  4. Fighting Bob Fest was great. Turnout was around 6,500 (tanks to a chilly drizzly morning).

    Thom Hartmann (arm in a sling) is even better in person than on the air. As is Greg Palast. This was Greg’s 3rd appearance and it looks like he is going to become a regular.

    Jim Hightower was in fine form. He’s sort of like a cross between Bilbo Baggins and Mark Twain.

    And Jesse still has it. He had the crowd chanting and up at the podium as he called to end the wars and rebuild America.

    That was the main theme of all the speakers, really. Bring the troops home and concentrate on rebuilding America. Our money and efforts are needed here.

    Oh yeah, GET OUT AND VOTE! Don’t let the bastards win.

  5. One very interesting thing Tom pointed out is that all this whooie about corporate personhood is based on a falsehood perpetrated by a clerk?

    Santa Clara v Southern Pacific doesn’t actually address the issue but the head note, written by the heir of a NE railroad, says it does. The Justice who wrote the opinion died before it was published and the following cases that called on the precedent obviously only read the headnote so we are stuck with it.

  6. The American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act
    (ARRA) has produced many civil infrastructure projects. Roads, bridges, parks, and most importantly, wilderness trails maintenance ( :) )
    Many young people have had summer jobs they otherwise would not have had.
    Crumbling streets have new pavement, bridges have fewer chunks of crumbled concrete for parasitic trolls to hide behind, and parks are becoming pleasant places to visit

    Republicans simply complain about the construction delays.

  7. Corporate “personhood” was a necessary fiction at one point.

    Corporate officers and shareholders are shielded from liability from personal injury lawsuits by the Corporation. However, when you sued for negligence because you were injured, by a defective product for example, you had to sue somebody. If you couldn’t hold the Corporation liable, you couldn’t sue. So, to hold the Corporation liable, the fiction of corporate personhood was created so the Corporation could be sued the same as a live body.

    Now we’ve gone from being able to hold Corporations accountable for their faulty products to granting Corporations the First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

    I’m looking forward to the day when the Corporate “person” will get sentenced to prison for life, without the possibility of parole. Blackwater, in my opinion, deserves such a sentence.

    Which makes for an interesting mind-movie: The Articles of Incorporation, locked up in solitary confinement, collecting dust.

  8. BnF: Now, given that wealth and power always seek to be consolidated, where is the balance?

    I’ve spent much of my adult life lamenting the nation’s march into the chasm where the only things that count are accumulation of wealth and power. It wasn’t like that in the small town in which I grew up in the fifties, didn’t notice it until I broke out into the ‘real’ world and saw what was actually going on, how the eternal upside of any atrocity was the money and power thereby generated. It’s been downhill ever since.

    BnF’s question reminded me of a scene in my book, The Incessant Voice of War; it takes place on a remote island where several of the principals have gotten together to review where they are and where they’re going in their quest to expose a pending atrocity upon which they’ve stumbled. They were assembling for dinner the night before their effort was to get underway. Here are a few paragraphs that reflect the scene and the thoughts of one of the principal protagonists:

    There was to be no business talk that evening. It was, instead, to be a time devoted to friendship, to caring, to idle chatter, to love–to all those things which so typically disappear into the dark ether of those other worlds of business, of politics, of competition: those worlds where the accumulation of money–’wealth’ in the common vernacular–and the power purchasable therewith dominate the everyday psyche. No, the collective world this evening was to be a world born of beauty, that primeval, perhaps even aboriginal beauty which defines a world not unlike that which ‘civilized’ men to this same day considered to be savage and uncivilized, a world not yet ‘purified’ by pillage, plunder, rape–or, of course, by profit.

    The grand double entendre implicit in those twin but completely incongruent realities had begun to intrigue Roger Burnett. On the one hand, there was . . . how to say it, he’d been taught it all his life, but still . . . the glory of America, the goodness only she knew, the goodness she, the self-defined “greatest nation in the world” felt duty bound to spread to every corner of the earth in order that one day soon, ALL men should finally see the . . . the . . . the what? The perception that might MAKES right? That money, that wealth . . . ergo power . . . is THE enabler of prosperity for . . . for . . . for whom? For the powerful? Surely not for the commoner.

    He was a commoner. He knew it. In fact, he had, in recent weeks, become immensely proud of the title. He had no longing for wealth, for power. No. His quest was . . . was for, instead . . . dare he think it? Dare he admit, even to himself, that his quest was for justice, for universal equality, for . . . for the prosperity born of intellect instead of money? For the dignity of the commoner, the intrinsic value of each and every human being regardless of his status in wealth’s implicit pecking order? For the joy that Beauty brings, the revelations implicit in knowledge of Truth? He dared, yes he did. He dared to hope.

    As the evening proceeded, the comity brought forth by mutual respect became, in conversation, expansive and embracing to the point where, by night’s end, the worldly woes which had served to bring the group together became, for the moment, non-entities. They were not forgotten of course, but they were completely ignored. And suddenly, the entire world began to seem a far better place.

    It strikes me that such reflections are not possible in the world within which adversaries are intermingled, only in a world where they’re absent. Our problem today in the US is that there are adversaries — those interested only in the money-power equation. We call them Republicans, or conservatives, and as someone pointed out above, there are way too many of the buggers. Way to many to allow civil discourse and intelligent planning, to allow a reasonable solution.

    An interesting problem, and extremely frustrating.

  9. BnF, what about the alternate idea that says the CEO of a corporation is the person responsible for all actions of said corporation. The Buck stops Here and the captain is responsible for everything that happens on his watch?

    I’m betting that high paid post wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if it was the hot seat. It might also have the effect of paying attention to what your company is doing if it is your personal posterior heading for the wood chipper if things go wrong.

  10. I have always been taught that “everything that does or does not happen under your watch/authority is your responsibility”
    Then again, in my line of work screwing up gets you killed. It’s self regulating in that respect.

    In todays world, the way I see it, fixing the blame is much more important than fixing the problems.
    It’s part of the Harvard MBA school of outsourcing expenses.

  11. Like Wondergoon, I’m in the same boat. My job was eliminated two years ago,, and at age 62 can’t find any work. My savings are gone, I had to take SS early and with my pension, I am now on a fixed income and just keeping my head afloat.

    I really can’t see much of a future here in America. It looks like the dummies in this country will vote republicans back in, which will mean I will slip even farther.

    There is a answer for people like me, and that is to leave. I will be moving to Belize by August of next year. I have found a 2 bedroom, fully furnished house on the beach for $600 a month. Full healthcare coverage will cost me $50.00 a month. Their senior retirement plan lets me live there Tax Free.

    Its sad that this is what has become of my country that I love, but it seems that we are hell bent onto the road to facsim, and I don’t have enough time to fight it anymore.

  12. angels81, the way things are going there are probably going to be lots of expat communities in other countries. I have little doubt this is what the RepublicaiNos want.

  13. “BnF, what about the alternate idea that says the CEO of a corporation is the person responsible for all actions of said corporation. The Buck stops Here and the captain is responsible for everything that happens on his watch?” Hooda.

    They have that in China. Remember a short while ago at least one exec was given the death penalty in their tainted milk scandal.

  14. Frugal, since the dawn of the agricultural age manunkind has lived in a stratified society, with the very few controlling the bulk of the wealth.

    Read Wilber’s “Up From Eden.” Wilber describes the development of the human psyche from the dawn of self-realization to now, and where we’re headed.

  15. On a lighter note, Bobfest is a great source for buttons, Tshirts and bumper stickers. There was one shirt, black with BIG orange letters that said BOO!. Sadly, they no longer had it in my size but I did score a few buttons.

    “God, protect me from your followers!”

    A peace sign on a green planet that said, “Coming soon to a planet near you!”

    A picture of $arah & Crazy Shelly that said “Twisted Sisters”

  16. It’s pretty interesting that even the top 5% prosper more under the Democrats, so even the wealthy can be tricked into working against their best interests. Oddly, my family does better financially under the R’s, GW’s clusterf_k of a Homeland Security reorg being our latest opportunity, but we watch everything that we really value, our environment, our personal freedom, our country’s integrity, destroyed. There is more to prosperity than money. I wish to leave my children what LBJ wanted, a glispe of the world as God created it.

  17. Corporate “personhood” was arguably driven less by necessity than by the same greed that has driven it to its next level. It was the corporations who sued, using the 13th or 14th ammendment (I forget which) so as to insulate themselves from the power of State’s to dissolve the corporation when it behaved in an irresponsible manner.

    Good source of info on the history of corporations:

    The Corporation — DVD Documentary,
    Starring: Jane Akre, Ray Anderson Director: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar

    The Corporation — Book, Joel Bakan

    This movie can be streamed from Hulu, with only minimal commercial breaks:
    http://www.hulu.com/the-corporation

  18. Some of the prosperity of the Clinton era was an illusion, driven by the stock bubble. Keep in mind that the economic “gurus” of this period were the market fundamentalists who eviscerated the financial regulatory structures that had been put in place by FDR.

    However, ALL of the “prosperity” under Bush was an illusion: the so-called “growth” that made it appear that we were climbing out of the recession caused by the stock-bubble bust was in fact another bubble, the housing bubble. Much of the “growth” of this period was smoke and mirrors, parlour accounting tricks from the financial industry that was making huge profits while producing NOTHING.

    Dean Baker has a couple of short books on the subject that are well worth the reading:

    False Profits
    http://p3books.com/falseprofits/

    and

    Plunder and Blunder
    http://p3books.com/plunderandblunder/

    (This latter can be downloaded for free.)

  19. OIMF: “There is more to prosperity than money.”

    By the bye, that was Aristotle’s argument in, among other places, the Nicomachean Ethics. Eudaimonia, the Greek word that sadly is still typically translated as “happiness”, is neither “wealth,” nor “popularity,” nor “pleasure.” A more cognate translation would be “human flourishing;” Aristotle himself describes it as, “living well, doing well.”

    There are some contemporary economists who are explicitly Aristotelian in their approach: Amartya Sen and Joseph Stigliz come to mind. A couple of others who certainly express the idea that prosperity is more than a monetary bottom line: Paul Krugman and Dean Baker.

    Funny that three of those four are Nobel Laureates.

    • Gary sez:
      Aristotle himself describes it as, “living well, doing well.”

      Seems to me, that used to be the American Dream ™. Earn enough to buy a home, buy a car and the things you need to run a home, save some money, send the kids to college, retire with a pension.

      Until the Reagan years came along, and then the American Dream ™ became, “Get more than everyone else, get it all, get it fast, and fuck the rest of ya.”

      There is no such thing as “enough” anymore.

  20. “human flourishing”

    Yes, beautiful. That’s my definition of prosperity. I think the conservative mindset is that wealth is a zero sum game.

  21. “There is no such thing as “enough” anymore.”

    And so much of what is coveted is completely worthless. Witness the big overpriced house and the families too busy working and chasing crap to create any happiness therein.

  22. “I think the conservative mindset is that wealth is a zero sum game.”

    At which point we have total economic and social collapse. Prosperity is predicated upon the possibility of the win-win, whether that is through sustainable and renewable activities or pure economic growth (these last two are not mutually exclusive.)

    Economic growth — real growth, mind you — is why deficits don’t matter much. The deficit to GDP ratio in the US at the end of WWII was 115%; that is, our debt was significantly bigger than our entire economy. But while the deficit stayed the same, the economy grew. So even before one takes into account the paying off of the bonds that financed that deficit, the size of it was shrunk to relative insignificance. Paying it off posed no substantive burden.

    Had the economy been zero-sum, that would have been impossible, and the only thing that could have happened was total collapse.

  23. There appears to be only one resource on this planet that is infinite, has no boundaries and benefits all humanity and the planet itself. And it is the least tapped resource.

    Human compassion.

  24. Zooey said: “Goon, I truly hope things turn around for you soon, and I wish I could help.”

    Thank you, Zooey. I am looking forward to the day when that happens.

  25. I best go as well, I’m supposed to go castrate pigs at a neighbor’s farm, but I might just go out and pull weeds.
    Gary, anyone who doesn’t sieze the opportunity to employ you to teach others is insane.

  26. I have had to work with people whose work ethic (or lack thereof) consisted of “in order for me to win you have to lose”.
    Counterproductive and indicitive of the entire eight year Cheney/Bush regime.

    It doesn’t have to be that way but, they have to be recognized for what they are because they will try to outsource their misery unto you. They are also usually very good liars in the short term.

    I think it’s called sociopathic behavior.

    It is difficult to get an entire population to look at the big picture when the selfish nature of a few drags the vision back to the short term instant gratification that TV and the media present.

  27. vinylspear, you’ve wrapped that up nicely!
    It reminds me of ‘prayer’ for a sports team to ‘win’ which conversely you are ‘praying’ for the other team to lose.

    Co-operation seems to be a ‘dirty’ word. Look at the repiggies party or “No” to anything constructive.

  28. Zooey: Is that a teabag effigy that person is wearing or the latest technolgy in an eight day, no change DEPENDS product?

  29. Thanks Zooey for the link to the Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.

    Very straightforward descriptions there.

  30. “Thanks Zooey for the link to the Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.”

    I echo Raven’s thanks.

  31. The neighborhood Hartmann describes regarding the local shaman and his community is my neighborhood as well. New Mexico is a big place, but not a lot of people.
    I’ve visited friends and c0-workers in the trailers and the hogans with no windows out in the middle of nowhere.
    They never fail to offer of what they have.

  32. My friend and colleague Ken Stikkers (the fellow at SIU who inspired me to follow economic theory and taught me the basics, by the bye) tells of spending time with the Sioux (I forget which major tribe). The way they demonstrated “wealth” was by how much they gave away. They looked upon the one fellow who scrimped and saved and bought himself a split-level ranch house as a pitiful individual who had abandoned his roots — his very existence — in his community.

  33. I keep getting what amounts to private responses to posts and posts out of order because of it.

  34. “… what the hell is wrong with these people?”

    That’d be hilarious Zooey, if it wasn’t so depraved.
    Clearly demonstrates that all they want is attention, and the chance to make a buck.
    It’s still a burka.

  35. “Something weird is going on in TPs postings. Anyone else seeing it or am I just going nuts?”

    By the bye, Hooda, the two are not mutually exclusive …

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