April 30, 2011

Neosporin, Stat!

See those plants in the background of the picture below? Those are bromeliads. Here's a closeup. They have lovely flowers, but they're also natural traps for rainwater, and we had gallons yesterday.

That means mosquitos, and boy am I chewed. We're looking at having deck repairs done, and that involves showing contractors around. I never remember to use Off or an equivalent before I do that, and I always pay a price. Why do mosquitos love ankle-flesh so much?

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April 29, 2011

Flora & Fauna

Desert Rose in our back yard, with mini-Godzilla coming up on the backstretch stem.

From Events
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April 28, 2011

Rare burst of honesty from mainstream media

There are very few members of the media who have had the guts to call Trump's nonsense for what it is: racism. One who has was Bob Schieffer on the CBS Evening News last night. Commenting on Trump's latest smear, that Obama couldn't have gotten into Columbia and Harvard without help,

Schieffer told Katie Couric, "that's just code for saying he got into law school because he's black. This is an ugly strain of racism that's running through this whole thing. We can hope that kind of comes to an end too, but we'll have to see."
Good for you, Schieffer. We've all known that, but it's nice to hear someone on the nightly news state it unequivocally.

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April 27, 2011

Birth certificate released, birthers unsatisfied

That's not much of a surprise if you've observed conspiracy theorists for a while. People still think the moon landing was a hoax, and don't even mention the Kennedy assassination unless you're prepared for ever-more preposterous "explanations" that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't possibly have acted alone.

But it's annoying that a large number of Republican officeholders still can't bring themselves to admit that birtherism is, was and will be nonsense.

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April 26, 2011

Defining Deficit Hawks

Brad DeLong looks at Diane Lim Rogers's response to an item by Greg Sargent which said that Paul Ryan was no deficit hawk. Rogers disagrees, and DeLong demolishes her reasoning using Ryan's own voting record. That in itself is worth a read, but I laughed out loud at this comment left on DeLong's post:

If Paul Ryan is a deficit hawk then I am a deficit Roc.

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April 25, 2011


Digby suggests that by allowing Ryan to bring his budget to the fore and then voting on it the Republicans may have gone beyond what the public will take.

Doing so after their frontal assault on the Democrats in the last election with "death panels" and "pulling the plug on grandma" means that they actually ended up giving the Democrats the benefit of the corporate bought and paid for propaganda, which is unusual.
Heh. For once I got ahead of her:
It's official. The Republican Party's members of the House have a death wish. How else can one explain their vote (235 to 193, all Democrats and only four Republicans in the No column) to destroy Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Ryan 2012 budget plan?

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April 24, 2011

Veggie Bread

From Bread
Zucchini Bread with Provolone
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April 23, 2011

Ideology Fail

I thought Republicans hated Big Government. From Michigan:

Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores.
Aside from the obvious intrusiveness into the citizens' private lives, I imagine all the Wal-Marts, K-Marts, Targets, Sears and Penneys in the state also think this would take their customers away. I can hear the phone calls to his office now:

Wal-Mart: "Bruce, what are you thinking? If that passes half our Back-to-School sales disappear!"

Casswell: "Yeah, but the little peasants don't deserve your fine merchandise. Hand-me-downs were good enough for me at their age."

Wal-Mart: "Bruce, Bruce. How can we contribute the maximum to your next campaign if our revenues fall off because of this?"

Casswell: "Oh. Oh, when you put it that way. . ."

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Needs peanut butter, doncha think?

Did I ever show off my raisin bread?

From Bread
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April 22, 2011

Commercials which need explanation

  • The appearance of matching bathtubs in all Cialis advertisments
  • The Bayer aspirin ad in which the guy on the plane explains to the flight attendant offering him aspirin that he's not having a heart attack, he's got back pain. Does any 40-something male in the English-speaking world not know that aspirin was marketed as a pain reliever before it was discovered to have other properties?
  • How the dog in this Travelers ad was able to sign the forms for his safe deposit box

April 21, 2011

In 2011 this is still an issue?

Hey, look! Baseball has a new paternity leave policy, and some sportswriter objects to a guy taking advantage of it.

Troglodytes abound, but particularly in the oh-so-macho environs of the press box.

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April 20, 2011

Oh, man, who'd a thunk this?

Official Statement from the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball:

"Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club. I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball. My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership. I will announce the name of my representative in the next several days. The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future."
Considering McCourt had to borrow $30M from Fox (Sports, I imagine) to meet payroll last week, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Heaven knows McCourt's been nothing but a looter since he bought the team, reportedly buying half-a-dozen homes in LA, including two next door to one another in Holmby Hills for approximately $31M. He's taken money out of the team and put comparatively little back in, and he's now about $459M in debt.

On balance, getting the team out of McCourt's hands is a good thing. However, Selig's not my idea of the best trustee, so the best thing we fans can hope for is that he finds a buyer for the team, and soon.

Update: From ESPN this historical note: "Baseball officials could not recall another instance in modern times in which the commissioner's office seized control of a team from its owner."

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April 19, 2011

What's happening in Wisconsin?

Well, the Democrats have now filed four recall petitions against Republican State Senators.

In all four cases, organizers collected far more signatures than the roughly 15,000 needed, and did so weeks ahead of the deadline.

Republicans currently control the state senate with 19-14 majority, so if the signatures are certified against all four Republicans, Democrats will have a chance to regain control of the upper house in an upcoming recall election against the incumbents.

You may recall that the Republicans said they'd be trying to gather signatures to recall several Democratic State Senators; so far they've filed none. Now, they could be sandbagging, waiting to turn in all their signatures at one time, so I hesitate to read too much into that lack, but it's nonetheless encouraging that the Dems have gotten far more signatures than they need to force recall elections on at least four of Governor Walker's lackeys.

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April 18, 2011

More on Ryan's Medicare voucher plan

James Fallows finds the Ryan plan wanting in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the fact that Medicare spending is subject to the 80-20 rule like almost everything else. He quotes GoozNews:

Seniors and the poor account for over half of health care spending. Within those groups, 5 percent of the population accounts for 50 percent of health care costs; and 20 percent of the population accounts for about 80 percent. These costs come for the most part at times when economic incentives have no influence at all on medical decision-making: in medical crises; in treating chronic conditions; and, for most Medicare patients, in the last six months of life.

That’s why a voucher program for Medicare, which will shift an increasing share of those inevitable costs onto the elderly themselves, can fairly be categorized as a 100 percent estate tax or death tax.

That's absolutely right. You will likely transfer your entire estate to the health care system as you lie dying in a hospital bed, should Ryan's plan be instituted.

Not what you had in mind, is it?

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Me like a lot

Paul Simon's The Afterlife, from his new album released last week.

His voice just does not change. That's a good thing.

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April 17, 2011

Sunday washing

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April 16, 2011

Why won't people listen?

Climate change is killing people. Indirectly. They're being eaten by bears.

What on earth are you talking about, Link? Well, listen to this story from NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and tell me how you could do anything but agree with the journalist who's interviewed. His name is Paul Solotaroff, and he wrote an article in the April issue of Men's Journal explaining it. How can this be? The staple of grizzly bears' diet is seed from whitebark pines, extraordinarily hardy trees which have survived 50-degree-below-zero temperatures for centuries. Then the climate in Yellowstone Park where the trees live began to warm in 1980.

Now 80 percent of the Rockies’ whitebark pine groves stand dead or dying in ghost-gray swaths, and the bears who ate their fruit and kept out of harm’s way have bumbled down the hills in search of food.
And so, on July 28 last year, a vastly-underweight sow and her three cubs killed and partially consumed a camper from Michigan named Kevin Kammer.

Read Solotaroff's article. It's heartbreaking, and it's very persuasive. One's tempted to plant all the climate-change deniers at the edge of grizzly range in Montana.

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Are they crazy?

It's official. The Republican Party's members of the House have a death wish. How else can one explain their vote (235 to 193, all Democrats and only four Republicans in the No column) to destroy Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Ryan 2012 budget plan?

Recent national polls show Americans really don't like the prospect of Medicare cuts, by majorities of 54% to 76%. Yet the Republican House majority just leapt into the unknown by voting to change the way that program is run. Most objective observers say that Ryan's voucher plan for Medicare would mean seniors would end up paying a lot more for Medicare than they currently do:

by 2030, under the plan, typical 65 year olds would be required to pay 68 percent of the total cost of their coverage, which includes premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs, according to CBO. That compares with the 25 percent they would pay under current law, CBO said.
And Republicans think people will buy this?

They're completely nuts.

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April 15, 2011

A near sting in the House

This I like.

The RSC is a very large bloc of conservative Republican House members. They introduced a 10-year plan for America that makes the already far-reaching House budget look fairly moderate. It was supposed to be a symbolic vote -- one that allowed conservative members to go on the record in support of slashing $9 trillion in spending knowing full well it would never be adopted as the official position of the House and the Republican Party.

Except. Steny Hoyer and the Dems all voted "Present" rather than "No" on the thing, and suddenly this politically-radioactive budget was about to pass and be there to hang around every Republican up for re-election next November. So the Republicans had to scramble and change a bunch of their own votes to "No" to keep that from happening.

A clever sting indeed, Democrats.

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April 14, 2011

More Democratic showmanship, please

Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed a few repellent bills sent to him by the Republicans in the state legislature today:

Details here.

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April 13, 2011

Obama's budget speech

Here's the full text.

Here's E.J. Dionne's analysis. Dionne liked several items in it: number one was this:

. . .without mentioning Rep. Paul Ryan by name, he called out Ryan’s truly reactionary budget proposal for what it is: an effort to slash government programs, in large part to preserve and expand tax cuts for the wealthy. “That’s not right,” he said, “and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”
I like that part too. Too much of the commentary from the talking heads and columnists has glided right past Ryan's goal of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, when anyone with a lick of common sense knows if those were to expire in 2012 some 40% of the deficit would disappear in 20 years.

So I guess I'm on board with the plan, at least as it stands. As Krugman says, it can't be the furthest left pole, though.

If this becomes the left pole, and the center is halfway between this and Ryan, then no — better to pursue the zero option of just doing nothing and letting the Bush tax cuts as a whole expire.

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April 12, 2011

Unt hier it iss!

From Bread

That'll go well with ham and provolone this evening.

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Our Daily Bread

Today's project: Pumpernickel!

What on earth is pumpernickel bread? It's a German bread with a dark crumb, ostensibly from the Westphalia region of Germany. The recipe above is kin to the North American version, which uses coloring agents to recreate the dark bread of the original. In this case it uses molasses and cocoa powder. I've seen another, more complicated recipe which also includes instant espresso powder, which I'd bet adds a ton of bite. I didn't have any, so we'll just have to do without. We'll see.

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April 11, 2011

Blog help?

Any Movable Type bloggers out there who can point me in the right direction to change the email address the system uses to mail me comment notifications? I've been through the documentation (this is ver. 3.15; it's really old) and can't seem to find it.

This is due to changing from DSL to cable and canceling the DSL connection. My comment and trackback notifications went to the email address associated with the DSL line.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fed up

The word is that Obama will announce a new deficit reduction plan this week, incorporating some of the ideas from the so-called Gang of Six senators who've been working from the (discredited) Fiscal Commission plan (that's Bowles-Simpson) to create a new model.

After months of private discussions, the tentative agreement among the three Republican and three Democratic senators would cut military and domestic programs and overhaul the tax code, eliminating popular tax breaks but using the new revenues to lower income-tax rates and reduce annual deficits. It would be the model, if not in all details, for Mr. Obama's own goals, Democratic officials say.
Oh, joy. Bowles-Simpson couldn't even get a majority of its own panel to agree to it, but never mind; of course it should be used as a basis for Obama's new plan.

I am so tired of Obama and his political advisers claiming they're progressive Democrats when in fact they're moderate Republicans. They may think they're going to win re-election this way, but if they keep alienating the Democratic base it's just going to stay home in November 2012.

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April 10, 2011

Last night I had the strangest dream

This needs explanation (or exorcism): Last night I had a really odd dream.

I was stuck in traffic on one of the main roads into Honolulu in a British Racing Green 1979 Triumph Spitfire, a car I actually owned and drove from 1980 through 1985. I had turned left off a side street onto the highway and gotten stuck just past the middle of the intersection, slightly blocking it. I had a pile of library books in the car, all due. Apparently the traffic wasn't going to move, because I got out of the car briefly. It's unclear what I did while I was gone, but I came back and the car was no longer at the end of the line of traffic. It was, in fact, missing altogether.

Somehow I ended up in what looked like an ordinary auto repair shop with car lot attached, sitting across a desk from a guy who looked ordinary enough. He was slender, wearing a polo shirt, and was an older guy with gray hair. I explained that their towing my car was a mistake, and that I wasn't ready to give it up just yet. He kept nodding his head and saying "Fine, fine. Just a few more minutes." Then he got a phone call, got up and told me the car was ready for pickup, and ushered me out the door.

Except the car I was led to was a big old honking bright yellow Mercury Maquis. I objected mightily and was told "No, no, this is your car. See, the keys fit and it starts up and everything." And it did! But then I noticed the Maquis body had actually been fitted directly over the Spitfire's body; I could see the green paint inside the door jambs.

Then I woke up.

So what's it mean, and why didn't I call 911 when the car first disappeared?

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April 09, 2011

Just once be mean, Mr. President

I get that when you're faced with hostage-takers who are perfectly willing to kill their hostage and you really want to keep the hostage alive you have to give in to most of the hostage-takers' demands. I really do.

But you don't, for cryin' out loud, then praise the deal as historic. Rather, you say things like "I don't like this deal, but I was dealing with murderous bastards who'd just as soon kill the hostage as keep him alive, so I had little choice."

Sadly, President Obama seems to admire compromise and comity more than he does any other principle.

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April 08, 2011

A nice turn of phrase

Writing for the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim starts his article about the impending government shutdown this way:

The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears, according to sources familiar with the budget negotiations.

He goes on to say that Senator Durbin (D-IL) paraphrases Boehner, who says it's really the old guard Republicans who want the social issue riders like funding Planned Parenthood to be included and who are refusing to compromise. That would actually make some sense, since they had the White House and both Houses of Congress for six years and never managed to criminalize abortion; they may be thinking this is their last best shot.

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April 07, 2011

Yesterday's baking

From Bread
Stoneground Wheat Bread
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Misguided zealotry

It would appear that the only thing between a government that keeps running and one that shuts down is cancer screening for women, birth control pills, and clean water and air. So says Harry Reid, and since he's one of the guys in the room working on a deal, he should know:

"They've made the decision to shut down the government because they want to make it harder, for example for a woman to get a cancer screening," Reid told reporters. "We're talking about issues relating to health of women. That's one issue that's held things up. The other issue is their wanting to change the air we breathe."
Here are the details of the policy riders the House Republicans refuse to eliminate.

The Republican party has been taken over by the most far-right of its members, and I sincerely hope their devotion to woman-hatred and the disavowal of all science sinks them. Irretrievably.

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April 06, 2011

Waitaminnit, who wrote this?

Making money is a noble American objective, making a living is a nobler one. Corporations ought to have enough decency and compassion to make sure no worker is let go solely to increase the bottom line or pad the boss' pockets with more money than he (or she) can ever hope to spend in a lifetime.

Ladies and gentlemen, that was Cal Thomas. I can count on one hand the number of times I've agreed with him, and this is one.

He cites a few examples that are particularly egregious, too. Here's one:

Last April, the Baltimore Sun reported that Stanley Black & Decker in Towson, Md., announced plans to lay off 4,000 of its 38,000 employees. Yet, according to USA Today, Stanley Black & Decker CEO John Lundgren made more than $32 million in 2010, up 253.1 percent from the previous year.
Yeah, I'd say that was pretty damned outrageous.

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Gas prices

I didn't have my camera with me, but I was over by the Pearl Harbor Exchange/Commissary Mall and the sign out front told me the price of unleaded regular gasoline at the Exchange Gas Station was $4.03/gallon.

When the price breaks over $4 on base you know it's getting up there.

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April 05, 2011

The Ryan Budget

Ezra Klein summarizes.

Besides the weird assumption that we can get to 2.8% unemployment by 2015 from the current 8.8%, the idea that health care costs will rise at only 1% of GDP and so the government will only give Medicare recipients annual vouchers for that amount is idiotic. Health care inflation has been running at roughly 7% for the past several years. Does he seriously believe that medical care costs will magically go down after years of going up? (See The Economist for a more thorough knockdown of that idea.)

There's tons of analysis about this proposal in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media. Read it and then ask yourself whether Ryan's plan makes a lick of budgetary sense. I say no.

Update: The Congressional Budget Office agrees with me: debt would go up, not down as Ryan contends, and seniors would have to pay more for Medicare than they currently do.

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April 04, 2011

Save your receipts!

I bought a Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 back in November when I was working with that jury-rigged netbook setup because I couldn't stand typing on its small keyboard. It had no PS/2 plug so I couldn't plug in one of my other retired keyboards; I had to get a USB-connected one.

About a week ago the comma key (and its upper-case alter ego, the LT key) on this new keyboard began to fail intermittently, as did the numeric keypad's zero key. Now, there's a one-year manufacturers limited warranty on this thing, but I tossed the receipt, so returning it was not an option (not to mention I'd still need a keyboard while I waited for Microsoft to replace it). So today I went out and spent $26.16 (tax incl.) for a replacement keyboard, same model, same limited warranty. This time I'll save the receipt.

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Revert to prairie?

Should part of Montana revert to prairie as its people leave or die?

The American Prairie Foundation has a plan

to create a reserve the size of Connecticut in this stretch of Montana—an expansive savannah that looks like parts of Africa and is capable of supporting many thousands of bison. The core of this proposed range is an area twice the size of Seattle where the APF's starter herd now resides. The foundation's strategy is to buy up local ranches in order to gain control over associated grazing leases on vast expanses of public land, with the goal of returning a wide area of Montana to something resembling its pre-European state at an estimated cost of $450 million.
Preposterous, you say? It seems romantic but looks entirely plausible when you consider that many counties in the Great Plains have seen population declines between 1950 and 2007, with 69 of those counties losing over half their (human) population.

Go read.

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April 03, 2011

Stupidity personified

Evidence that right-wing loonies have no sense of self, episode 1,251: Pastor Terry Jones, Koran burner, interviewed by ABC News' Bill Weir:

Weir: When you got news of today's deadly riots there in Afghanistan, what was the first thought that went through your head?

Jones: Yeah, yeah of course we were very saddened and devastated by that. It is of course a terrible thing anytime anyone is killed. Anytime someone's life is cut short through murder or even accident. I think it definitely does prove that there is a radical element of Islam. (My emphasis)

Apparently Pastor Jones isn't self-aware enough to recognize that he's part of a radical element of Christianity, one which ignores its namesake's tolerance and profession of love for all humankind.

If I were a believer in God I'd ask Him or Her why he/she suffers fools and their behavior in his/her name.

Read the whole thing. It reinforces the opinion I formed of Jones back when he surfaced a few months back: he's a dull and dense blowhard with an extreme sense of his own righteousness.

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April 02, 2011

NCAA Final Four

For the first time in a long time I don't have a rooting interest in either of the two semifinal games. Butler or VCU would both satisfy my "cheer for the underdog" need in the championship, and I don't have strong feelings about UConn or Kentucky. I lived in New London, CT from ages six to eight, but that was so long ago I haven't got any residual feelings for the place. Some of the national sporting press has tried to make me dislike Kentucky's coach Calipari as a cheating no-good rat, but the NCAA is not the most benign of good guys I can think of, so that ain't gonna work.

Guess I'll just watch and enjoy the games as games. What a concept!

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April 01, 2011

When economists attack!

Joe Stiglitz:

While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top.


a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.

None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.


But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride.

As Stiglitz points out later on:
Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.
It may take marching on Washington or rioting in the streets to change this; voting hasn't seemed to help much, even when those who could benefit most by a change actually bother to vote. According to Stiglitz, voter turnout among those in their 20s in the 2010 election was roughly equivalent to the unemployment rate in that group: 21%. Until a good chunk of the other 79% figure out that they need to vote to effect change, it probably isn't going to happen for them or for the rest of us.

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