Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Economic Inequality-- Not Just Public Policy... It Starts On A Personal Level


A lot of voters-- voters who don't know rich people, I always thought-- were impressed with Trump's claims that because he was so rich he wouldn't be susceptible to taking bribes and being a crook. Personally, I know lots of rich people so I recognized Trump was lying-- lying egregiously, tricking voters by design.

At the end of 2013, Paul Piff, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine gave the TED talk above, which I urge you to watch. Piff describes his primary academic interest as "how social hierarchy, economic inequality and social class, and social emotion shape relations between individuals and groups." Conclusion seems to be that rich people have a great tendency towards greed, avarice, entitlement, delusion about their own abilities and general sociopathic behavior. I guess it's why the French and Russian revolutions killed so many of them. It's why the year after Piff's TED Talk, billionaire Nick Hanauer warned fellow plutocrats that the pitchforks are coming. "I have," he admitted, "been rewarded obscenely for that with a life that most of you all can't even imagine: multiple homes, a yacht, my own plane, etc., etc., etc." He went on:
But let's be honest: I am not the smartest person you've ever met. I am certainly not the hardest working. I was a mediocre student. I'm not technical at all. I can't write a word of code. Truly, my success is the consequence of spectacular luck, of birth, of circumstance and of timing. But I am actually pretty good at a couple of things. One, I have an unusually high tolerance for risk, and the other is I have a good sense, a good intuition about what will happen in the future, and I think that that intuition about the future is the essence of good entrepreneurship.

So what do I see in our future today, you ask? I see pitchforks, as in angry mobs with pitchforks, because while people like us plutocrats are living beyond the dreams of avarice, the other 99 percent of our fellow citizens are falling farther and farther behind. In 1980, the top one percent of Americans shared about eight percent of national [income], while the bottom 50 percent of Americans shared 18 percent. Thirty years later, today, the top one percent shares over 20 percent of national [income], while the bottom 50 percent of Americans share 12 or 13. If the trend continues, the top one percent will share over 30 percent of national [income] in another 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent of Americans will share just six.

You see, the problem isn't that we have some inequality. Some inequality is necessary for a high-functioning capitalist democracy. The problem is that inequality is at historic highs today and it's getting worse every day. And if wealth, power, and income continue to concentrate at the very tippy top, our society will change from a capitalist democracy to a neo-feudalist rentier society like 18th-century France. That was France before the revolution and the mobs with the pitchforks.

So I have a message for my fellow plutocrats and zillionaires and for anyone who lives in a gated bubble world: Wake up. Wake up. It cannot last. Because if we do not do something to fix the glaring economic inequities in our society, the pitchforks will come for us, for no free and open society can long sustain this kind of rising economic inequality. It has never happened. There are no examples. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state or an uprising. The pitchforks will come for us if we do not address this. It's not a matter of if, it's when. And it will be terrible when they come for everyone, but particularly for people like us plutocrats."
Piff found in his studies the same thing that Hanauer found in his own social observations: "We're at unprecedented levels of economic inequality. What that means is that wealth is not only becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a select group of individuals, but the American dream is becoming increasingly unattainable for an increasing majority of us. And if it's the case, as we've been finding, that the wealthier you are, the more entitled you feel to that wealth, and the more likely you are to prioritize your own interests above the interests of other people, and be willing to do things to serve that self-interest, well, then, there's no reason to think that those patterns will change. In fact, there's every reason to think that they'll only get worse, and that's what it would look like if things just stayed the same, at the same linear rate, over the next 20 years." Why is that important? He doesn't talk about pitchforks or guillotines or firing squads.
[I]nequality-- economic inequality-- is something we should all be concerned about, and not just because of those at the bottom of the social hierarchy, but because individuals and groups with lots of economic inequality do worse ... not just the people at the bottom, everyone. There's a lot of really compelling research coming out from top labs all over the world, showcasing the range of things that are undermined as economic inequality gets worse. Social mobility, things we really care about, physical health, social trust, all go down as inequality goes up. Similarly, negative things in social collectives and societies, things like obesity, and violence, imprisonment, and punishment, are exacerbated as economic inequality increases. Again, these are outcomes not just experienced by a few, but that resound across all strata of society. Even people at the top experience these outcomes.

So what do we do? This cascade of self-perpetuating, pernicious, negative effects could seem like something that's spun out of control, and there's nothing we can do about it, certainly nothing we as individuals could do. But in fact, we've been finding in our own laboratory research that small psychological interventions, small changes to people's values, small nudges in certain directions, can restore levels of egalitarianism and empathy. For instance, reminding people of the benefits of cooperation or the advantages of community, cause wealthier individuals to be just as egalitarian as poor people.
This is the kind of solidarity Randy "IronStache" Bryce's campaign-- in fact his whole brand-- is all about. The DCCC is desperate to figure out how to duplicate Bryce's brand. Ben Ray Lujan himself showed up in Racine to see what he could discern. He couldn't discern anything, of course. Bryce has a more powerful brand than any DCCC candidate. He's raising more campaign funds-- from more people-- than any DCCC candidate. Why? Bryce, a union activist, is all about solidarity. The DCCC New Dems and Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party don't know what solidarity is. They've never felt it, not for a moment in their lives. They won't ever represent us. Randy and candidates like him will represent real people DCCC-New Dem garbage careerist candidates are the enemy of regular people. They stink. Are they better than Republicans? Sure-- more or less. Are they worth a bucket of spit? No? A bucket of piss? No. Should you vote for them? Certainly not in a primary. Against a Republican in November? Make up your own mind about that. I wouldn't. I've never voted for my Blue Dog-New Dem congressman, Adam Schiff, since he was first elected. And I never will. I've never voted for California Senator Dianne Feinstein, not when she ran for the Board of Supervisors, for mayor of San Francisco, for governor or for senator. She represents wealthy special interests, not me and not the issues or values I care about.

Goal ThermometerThere's a reason I asked Kansas Democrat James Thompson to put an exclamation point on the end of this post. This is heavy... and if you find it as compelling as I do, please consider contributing to his campaign at the ActBlue 2018 congressional thermometer on the right.
As someone who was once homeless, I understand better than most the pain and struggle of being truly poor. As I have climbed the ladder of success, I witnessed firsthand that the ladders are not equal; they are not the same for every person. Some are shorter, some are longer, and some don't have a ladder at all, but rather an elevator that only stops at the penthouse. I do not hate the rich. I want to be rich myself. What I find offensive is not the wealth but the greed. The type of greed that pushes people down rather than pulling everyone up. Income inequality is the greatest injustice of our time because it creates so much other injustice in its wake in areas such as criminal justice reform, healthcare, sex trafficking, racism, sexism, employment, campaign finances etc. When our children are sick, should we not be able to get them care? When men and women give of themselves a full days labor for the betterment of our society, should they not enjoy a full days wages that allows them the basic dignity of taking care of themselves and their family. Shouldn't a poor man's vote count just as much as the rich man's?

The true battle for our country's future is not between the left and the right, but between the top and the bottom. Charles Koch is credited with saying "I only want my fair share. ALL OF IT!", which highlights the greed of the privileged princes of Wall Street. Through corporate socialism over the past 40 years, a/k/a "trickle down economics," the billionaire boys club redistributed the wealth of this country to themselves and now use that wealth to pay for the oppression of working people by sewing division and keeping the masses in disarray. The shadow oligarchy controlling this country knows that a populace divided by racism, sexism and xenophobia cannot unite sufficiently to wrest power from them or their puppets in Congress. However, while much of our country's wealth is concentrated in a relative few individuals such as the KOCH brothers, the real power of this country is located in the people, working class people, but only if we unite, for with unity comes great strength and power to demand change.

Consequently, campaign finance reform is probably the most pressing issue confronting Americans in 2018 and 2020. We must fix the system, before we can fix the problems in the system. We must remove the ability of corporations to control our political arenas and representatives by reversing Citizen's United.  We must than ensure that working people are paid a fair days pay for a fair days labor and moving our minimum wages to $15 and adjusting it annually based on inflation.  Next, we must make sure that the product of our labor is no longer amassed by the rich but instead remains with us through a fair and progressive tax policy. Passing a Medicare-for-all policy that at minimum contains a public option, will guarantee working Americans are no longer slaves to the grind simply working for their healthcare and instead are free to move from job to job and maximize the fruit of their labor. Finally, we must guarantee education for all citizens at public universities to remove the anchor of student loans from around the neck of our populace. To "make America great again" we must restore our democracy to one that again enables social mobilization instead of the veiled caste system that we have become. United we stand, divided we fall.

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At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The true battle for our country's future is not between the left and the right, but between the top and the bottom."

After your Hanauer quote and this sentence, how can you still stump for more democraps... the OTHER party of inequality, corruption and avarice?

I'll answer for you. The true divide in this shithole is between those who know what the issues are and those who, for whatever reason, refuse to know. It is this divide that allows the sociopaths to continue to rape and pillage until finally the misery among the 99.9% is so great that they snap and start killing the rich.

If even a third of americans could think their way out of a wet toilet paper bag, we should be able to solve this peacefully at the ballot box.
But we aren't doing that, are we? You, DWT, are working your ass off to maintain the status quo.

With all you write, here especially, I have concluded that you aren't working to maintain the status quo out of some nefarious motive... you'd never keep posting these proofs... You do so out of willful ignorance, at best, giving a wide benefit of doubt. You post this, proving that greed breeds and correlates with sociopathy. You post proofs of the correlation between money and democraps. You post proofs that the democraps are ruled tyrannically from the top by the money. You rail and lament about the democrap leadershit suppressing and oppressing altruists at every juncture. Yet the trivial and logical epiphany escapes you.
It's spectacularly willful ignorance.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

Doesn't just apply to those who maintain inequality through suppression and oppression. It equally applies to those who maintain it through subterfuge and fraud... and also stupidity.

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Democrap dude, what do you propose? You make shit comments on post after post after post and yet I never hear anything but 'democrap this' and 'democrap that'. Your post here certainly doesn't sound like you are calling for violent revolution, so after years of worthless commenting what are you trying to say?

Your railing posts come across as the same willful ignorance that you accuse the bloggers of being. Though I wonder if you are the one with 'nefarious motive' in trying to poison the well against good candidates that this blog points out.

If you have the answers then by god spit them out! If not than stop polluting this place with your redundant inanities. Readers here all know the problems we face on the political front and name calling is one of the slowest, least effective ways of affecting any sort of change.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, 7:46! It beats the pointless bleating of reforming the DINO-Whigs from within! There is no point to wasting time and energy on those who refuse to see the future and adapt to it.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:46, it's really easy. Don't vote for democraps. ever again. at least not on any national level.

Find a Green or write in someone or just stay home. Nothing will suffocate the democraps faster than irrelevancy on a scale that will keep the corporations and billionaires from contributing.

But I know that asking individuals to do this will prove to be fruitless, because most individuals are dumber than shit. This they prove every cycle when they vote for steaming piles like Pelosi, scummer, hoyer, Crowley, DWS, DiFi and 200 others, but most provingly, for $hillbillary.

I also know that adding your vote to that pile just because you want to feel like you've participated in a "winner" is not only just as fruitless, it's fucking stupid.

Vote for someone you truly believe in. But always remember that party matters more than the candidate.

Me? I haven't voted for a democrap since I choked down my own vomit and voted for gore in 2000. Never again.

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to what end do expect to reach by not voting for someone just because they have a D by their name? Does your Green party representative have any power to accomplish anything in Congress? What happens when they inevitably caucus with the democraps do you drop them for the next flavor of the day? If the Democrat agrees with me on most policies I'll vote for them if they don't then I'll look elsewhere.

The system we have isn't going to be changed by a few people voting third party. If you want to propose that then you need to do better than 'democrap' and show some real organization prowess because at this point no 3rd party has stepped up to credibility.

For many, like here on DWT, the easier option is to fight the local battle in the Democratic primary. It will be a low turnout (less of your 'dumber than shit' voters) and if you can truly organize you can even overwhelm an incumbent because no one is going to listen to ads or other big money buys in a primary.

You win your primary and win a seat, other people see how it can be done. You repeat that about 60 or 70 times and the progressive wing has enough power to sway the do-nothing backbenchers that their seat is likely to be safer by voting your guys into power than by siding with Pelosi, Hoyer and the other thieves. Is it a quick process? No, but it is quicker than hoping that the Greens will supplant the Democrats and it is more efficient in getting things done than hoping that Bernie wins the presidency as a third party candidate without any powerbase in Congress to actually make his platform happen.

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

60 or 70 times? you think we have 120 - 140 years to fix this?

Your rationalization reminds me of the old saying attributed to Einstein: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

Your way won't work. It's proved to be ineffective after Clinton and the dlc thoroughly corrupted the democratic party 1980-1983. All grassroots efforts as well as Bernie's attempt failed and will always fail.
1) the democraps don't WANT to be fixed -- they make too much money as they are
2) voters have never seemed open to fixing when they can keep the status quo easier.
3) the money and the democrap leadershit have installed many firewalls to prevent all future insurgencies. Each insurgency that doesn't immediately die of its own ineptitude (OCCUPY) teaches them more about how to inoculate themselves. What, you thought all those superdelegates emanated from the ether?

My way probably won't work either. Human nature after all is to take the easy way out, delude one's self as you have, and just stay stupid.
But at least my way is trying something different. At least I'm not insane.

Circumstance may tip the scales either way. We may get pence who really wants to be our Christian caliphate holy father Nazi fuhrer. We may get some charismatic progressive with billions in private support to emerge. Americans could coalesce around either one. The former is far more likely than the latter, but the latter COULD have happened if Bernie had told the DNC to go fuck themselves and taken his movement independent in '16.

But keeping the same democrap party relevant won't ever change our vector. Changing it from the ground up is delusional. Waiting 60 cycles hoping for that miracle is delusional.

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Win the primary, 7:44? Then what? Have the party leadership NOT support you so that you lose to the Republican? I believe that DWT has covered this very scenario more than once in just the past couple of years.

The Party leadership is itself working hard against any change whatsoever. They don't care if their ineptitude and corruption is handing the nation over to the fascist corporatists who own the GOP. They will still be paid handsomely to betray We the People.

You also seem to think that only a few people will always vote third party. Ever think what would happen if the numbers who waste their votes on DINO-Whigs all voted third party? The DINO-Whigs would be gone overnight, just like the historical Whigs.

Real change is never going to happen by working within a corrupt organization. It will happen when enough people stop believing in fairies and unicorns and again become rational voters with a mission to force change.

No charge for the lesson.

At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:38, I believe that if 15% voted "other", two things would happen:
1) the democraps' money would dry up
2) the small contributors would start looking toward the best of the "others" and start working and supporting.

2016 saw about 4.5% "other", which was more than triple what 2012 had. Not enough, but marginally encouraging. However, that would have to become a trend that doesn't look like a reality just yet.

It would almost require a high-profile progressive, or several, to jump ship and draw a lot of interest. Bernie, Elizabeth, Grayson could be the catalyst(s). We know why they aren't (they're part of the problem). Like voters, they want that money and machine to help them NOW. They put party before principle.

So, rather than relying on voters being sentient... we are waiting for a miracle.

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am still trying to figure out who this magical 3rd party is that is riding in to the rescue? It sounds like fantasy at this point. I would have as much rhetorical plausibility in stating we need to pray for the Rapture rather than vote for Democrats if we want change.

You see a solution, but it is pretty obvious you have no intention of trying to make it happen as your skills don't seem to be driving any credible 3rd party activity. If you want a change, make it happen, but stop trolling around here like you are some sort of genius in a land of dummies.

I'll stop voting for Democrats with good policy as soon as there is a viable alternative. I voted for Stein in the last election, but I might as well have been part of the 40% of the population that just didn't bother to vote. Grassroots, even within the Democratic Party, can effect change and do it pretty quickly just by turning some of that 40% into voters. Unfortunately for you the only real attempts at grassroots organization are not coming from a third party.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Who died and left you in charge? No one invited you to take your arrogant superiority complex to some forum more suited to your eminence.

Of course, I'm still awaiting you saying something of consequence besides belittling those who aren't bowing to your greatness.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:55 and 9:10, sorry for spoiling your delusions. Pramila Jayapal is a very good rep. But as a democrap, she is impotent to override the money's tyranny from the top down. Ted Lieu is reportedly a good one too. And he even finagled a western DCCC co-chair position. Yet steny hoyer still comes west and ratfucks all the good that Lieu tries to do. So go ahead and vote for your "good" democraps. But realize that the party dictates from the top, not from the ground up.

Or have you already forgotten 2009?

The consequential thing I'm saying is that your SOS, lesser evilism uber alles forever, WON'T FUCKING WORK! You can delude yourselves and believe that slotting in a few decent ones here and there will eventually bubble up and change the party from within. But it hasn't in 36 years, has it? And the party only gets worse and worse, does it not? Just peruse all the pieces Howie and Noah post here proving this.

So, again, I say to you that it won't matter how many cycles you keep striving (even contributing) to get more democraps elected. IT WON'T FUCKING WORK!!

Once that epiphany occurs, then you can start imagining alternatives.

We voted for Stein, which makes us part of the triple "other" tally from 2012. If that can triple again in 2020, do you think that the sudden "viability" of Green candidates might wake a few dormant independents? You think that tripling again in 2024 might just get someone (and their party) elected who is NOT a total tool for billionaires?

It might not work. But doing what you've been doing since the '82 cycle sure as HELL won't fucking work.

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2009 - the beginning of the end of Hope for Change? The beginning of that 1985 Moderate Reagan Republican giving away the major mandate given him by the voters? THAT 2009?

Yes, I remember it well, and I was not surprised when the voters took away that mandate in 2010 by giving the Congress back to the Republicans (without my help, I add).

This is why I will not work with the effort to reshape the DINO-Whig Party from within.


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