In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and while a massive police manhunt continued for the suspected perpetrator, 19 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, NBC journalist David Gregory would say to American television viewers: “This is a new state of terror the country has to get used to.” Given the breathlessly hyperbolic coverage provided by NBC, CNN and many other cable news organisations during the search for Tsarnaev, it is by no means surprising to hear Gregory make such a comment. Whether in the context of entertainment or news media (a distinction which has been increasingly blurred by cable organisations) fear and hysteria always makes for compelling if counter-informative viewing.
Pennsylvania ended cash assistance today for very poor residents who cannot work and don’t qualify for other assistance, joining many other states that have scaled back or eliminated their General Assistance programs even as the need has grown. Roughly 60,000 childless adults (and the adult heads of some families) whom the state considers unemployable because of a disability or for certain other reasons — they are elderly, escaping domestic violence, or caring for a disabled family member, for example — got about $200 a month from the program.
Two… two hundred a month? Can you survive on that?
So last week my dashboard was lit up with posts and reposts of the same claim: that economic inequality at the time the Declaration of Independence was signed was much less severe than it is today. “Aha!,” the posters seemed to scream: “we’re not living up to the Framers’ legacy!”
At which point my “bad history alarm” started to go off.
Folks, it’s possible that the income differential between highest and lowest earning persons in 1776 was much less profound than it is in 2012. Actually, given the comparative wealth of the two economies (we’re much, much wealthier now), I’d be staggered if 2012 wasn’t more unequal: we have CEOs of global corporations and an information economy that moves at literal light speed. They had, you know, mules. Wider ranges of activity afford opportunities for wider ranges of compensation. Our income differential is a sign of our wealth, not our poverty.
But that isn’t what really bothered me about this “we’re worse off now” thread. No, what bothered me was the casual way the posters and reposters seemed to ignore the obvious: ALMOST NO ONE IN 1776 EARNED AN INCOME. The United States enslaved a third of its population. It disenfranchised and economically dominated half its remaining population (non-slave females). It practiced indentured servitude. And, particularly among the Southern elite, it was a society based on land wealth, not income. For example, George Washington owned a huge portion of what today is West Virginia. What, exactly, was his wealth in 1776? Compared to some dude working in a textile mill? Or a slave working on Washington’s farm? Care to offer a calculated guess, adjusted for 236 years of inflation … and the fact that we now know West Virginia has lots of coal?
At most, 15% of the US population in 1776 was earning an income. It was probably less. So, is it possible that of that tiny fraction of persons earning an income, the income differential between best and worst paid persons was lower than it is today? Absolutely. But given that 85% (or more) of their population was enslaved, disenfranchised or otherwise outside the “income” economy, do you really want to claim things were more economically equal then than they are today?
I didn’t think so.
I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.
Grover Norquist, on Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) bill to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes [see Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin]
There is nothing quite as classy as calling a Jewish person a Nazi.
Because the most notable thing the Nazis ever did was tax policy.
^^ Yeah. I like how he’s just wantonly invoking random negative historical events. Nazis and apartheid and war! This new tax law must be really bad!
To be fair, though, doesn’t it sound like it’d be problematic to do that legally?
Shortly before Rep. West went off the rails with his accusations of communism in the Democratic Party, political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have long tracked historical trends in political polarization, said their studies of congressional votes found that Republicans are now more conservative than they have been in more than a century. Their data show a dramatic uptick in polarization, mostly caused by the sharp rightward move of the GOP. If our democracy is to regain its health and vitality, the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party must change. In the short run, without a massive (and unlikely) across-the-board rejection of the GOP at the polls, that will not happen. If anything, Washington’s ideological divide will probably grow after the 2012 elections.
We have never hesitated to say it.
That is indeed the impression I’ve had for a long time. Of course, during the Cold War, it’s understandable if you were more united. I don’t know too much about the GOP during the Clinton years, though.
Source: Washington Post