Salon gets started: Return of the teach-in!


Politics takes a long time: Alice Karekezi has an intriguing new piece at Salon. The headlines go something like this:
What caused the wealth gap?
Protesters are furious over America's growing income disparity. Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains where it came from
These kinds of explanation are badly, badly needed. The country is full of people who know that things have gone badly wrong.

How many of these people could even begin to explain why?

It has taken us a very long time to reach our current debased state. We need a very long series of teach-ins, aimed at folks on the left, right and center.

No, they won’t all end up on your side. But many of them will. No one will end up on our side if we insist that we must never talk to those very bad people.

We recommend the Sachs interview. Question: How can the past thirty years be explained in a way folk can understand? Repeat: In a way folk can understand.


  1. Amen, brother. The problem with our rank and file is that they get off on being what they regard as morally and intellectually superior to THOSE OTHER PEOPLE--a superiority which they demonstrate by demeaning mainstream Americans, especially white men, while screaming about how THOSE OTHER PEOPLE are bigots. It's insane, but that's what they're doing. 72% of Americans identify as white and most of them are either white men or women who know and love white men who can easily see that most do not fit the left-wing caricature.Yet our side insists on insulting them and then complains when whites and men regard liberals as their enemies. OF COURSE they see it that way because that's what our side has been so passionately telling them.

    Apparently our side seems to know that there are these things called elections but don't really get this whole concept of votes on why it's important to get the most of them.

    Talk about the need to reach out to white and male voters and all you get back in return are insults and sneers.

    Look at the liberal rank and file and what you see is a mass of unintentional Republican fifth columnist.

  2. Alice Karekezi says, "the top 1 percent continued to control more than 40 percent of the country’s wealth." However, that doesn't mean that the same group of people continue to control all this wealth. Membership in the top 1% is changing all the time. The same goes for all the other income ranges. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett weren't born into billionaire families. They got into the top 1% by their own labor. And, not so incidentally, their efforts benefited America's economy, in terms of jobs created, taxes paid, and products and services provided.

    In short, what caused the wealth gap is that the free enterprise system allows people who contribute a great deal to become very rich. Granted some rich people inherited their money and some made money in ways that didn't benefit society, but I believe the majority of rich people earned their wealth by honest endeavors.

  3. David in Cal,

    "...I believe the majority of rich people earned their wealth by honest endeavors." So what? They deserve what for that, being honest? Another yacht?

    I happen to agree with the part of what you said that I just quoted from you. And I'm a left-wing democratic socialist of some sort or other. The majority of these rich people are honest. (In fact, probably many of them very very honest -- truly fine individuals.) So what?

    Elizabeth Warren puts it well. Honest people, who worked hard and with imagination, AND who were able to benefit in their projects from the roads and bridges, government-created laws and regulations, and well-educated/well-trained workforce available to them thanks to public education -- these honest, hardworking, and imaginative people who also make a lot of money from their efforts (and I don't begrudge their making lots of money): these people shouldn't have to help sustain the very systems that enabled their hard work and imagination to achieve something? They shouldn't have to help sustain those systems in proportion to the benefits they've received from them? (And just how much personal wealth should they be accruing for their efforts/achievements, btw. Is there no limit? Or should I just bow down and worship?)

  4. mch, I think all Americans, rich or poor, deserve freedom. One aspect of freedom is that we each should be free to make as much money as we choose to. It also means that that even if you think someone doesn't need more money, that shouldn't give you the right to pass laws that would prevent him from making more money if he so chooses.

    Elizabeth Warren is right that businesses should pay their fair share of taxes for roads, bridges, public education, etc. However, there's a flaw in her comments. She simply assumes that businesses aren't already paying their fair share of taxes. She ignores the huge amount of taxes and fees that businesses already pay.

    Now, it's conceivable that an economic analysis might show that businesses aren't currently paying their fair share, although I think the opposite is more likely. In any event, one shouldn't just assume that businesses aren't paying enough.

  5. David, you say businesses pay a huge amount in taxes but which ones? Corporate taxes comprise less than 12% of federal revenue, a share that has been decreasing over time. (see OMB data for 2011 budget)
    Do you want to count excise taxes which are about 3% of federal revenue?
    One could make the argument (I do) that businesses pay the FICA and Medicare taxes which comprise 43% of federal revenue but one could just as easily ascribe those tax payments to the individuals who work for the companies (the government does in individual income taxes).
    What Warren is on about and a theme of the OWS protestors is that nobody would mind paying their taxes (well, mostly, we're not France or Greece) if there was a sense of the overall fairness in the system. But there isn't.
    When a GE, as the avatar for corporate tax avoidance, pays nothing, why should an individual pay 18% on average?
    There doesn't have to be a list of demands or solutions when those demands or proposed solutions are to be made to the same people who screwed the pooch.

  6. David in Cal:"One aspect of freedom is that we each should be free to make as much money as we choose to. It also means that that even if you think someone doesn't need more money, that shouldn't give you the right to pass laws that would prevent him from making more money if he so chooses."

    What law are you talking about?

  7. David in Cal,

    "One aspect of freedom is that we each should be free to make as much money as we choose to." Wealth is indeed related to freedom, particularly as a condition of it. If I was born into a poor, uneducated family with inadequate schools in my neighborhood, what kinds of choice will I have about making money? Far fewer than if I was born into a well-educated, middle class family with access to excellent schools. The old born on third base and thinks he hit a triple (or worse, home run) problem.
    It's very hard for each of us to discern all the ways we are constantly enabled by the work of others and the institutions that are just part of the air we breath. But with a little effort of the imagination, we should be able to develop some discernment.

  8. Conservatives oppose raising taxes on the rich, and David says no one one should have the right to pass laws about how much money someone can make.
    Liberals are not suggesting such laws.
    We want to pass laws about how much people pay in taxes.
    Conservatives have already done so, and by so doing have gradually shifted the cost of government from the very rich to the middle class and working class.
    All we want to do is reverse some of that shift.
    If raising taxes on the poor is ethical, why isn't raising taxes on the rich?
    How simple is that?