The Great Divergence

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Timothy Noah, columnist at The New Republic and author of The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, explains how America's inequality crisis got to this point and offers policy solutions to reverse it.


Timothy Noah

Comments [70]

Gee Gary, after I posted my last comment I read what I took to be your
(I paraphrase)"Good-Bye with-an-escape-clause" message. I really didn't expect that your conditions for returning to this forum to be met. Was there a confidentiality agreement that prevents you from disclosing the BL producer's guidelines about "the maximum number of words which may be excerpted from an article"? Your value to the BL comments thread is certainly self evident to me: you only had to endure "not holding your breath" for something over 4 hours before they gave in. They probably would have made a money offer if you had threatened to not hold your breath until you turned blue.
(BTW: Not to freak you out or anything, but your entire last entry was done without resort to the "cut and paste" filler that chokes the meaning from your attempts to seem erudite. It makes you seem crazy as a bed bug, but it does have a less onerous appearance.)
["The parallels to political philosophies are striking. Liberals want "fairness"----yet refuse to define exactly what 'blah, blah, blah, . . ."; everyone in the modern age knows they don't call themselves that anymore; the current narratives call for using the term "progressive".]

the BL producer provides me with the maximum number

I want a number from zero to whatever. Because you're right Jeff, it does take time to find good published analysis of the issue being discussed, as opposed to pulling short soundbites out of one's butt.

I'm about to learn soon whether or not BL producer considers my time half as valuable as i consider it. And i'm not holding my breath.

Apr. 25 2012 01:48 AM
tom LI

Our Democracy is our Economy and our Economy is our Democracy. The two are inseparable - yet these discussions, the Campaigns all do it. IF someone/group has greater benefits from, and/or access to the many parts of the market they also gain more "Democratic" access and benefits. Vice versa. When people are closed off to either they lose both.

The market is uncaring and will never make things level or equal - only WE can do that and economic justice is important, and re-fixing the game from the obvious FIX its been put in - is important and needs to be addressed.

Both parties need to "reset" and come back to the table of common sense and logic where the system is more important to the gains of the few. The "Few" will always make more gains, but they should not be granted greater privilege, or greater Democratic access/benefits for making more money than others.

Apr. 24 2012 07:41 PM
gary from queens

Dear geTaylor,

The parallels to political philosophies are striking. Liberals want "fairness"----yet refuse to define exactly what that is and fairness to whom? In similar fashion, you're advocating that moderators be allowed to apply wide and unfathomable discretion in screening comments.

As a conservative, i want the rules to be CLEARLY SPECIFIED, so that there's no appearance or hint that there's pro liberal favoritism. A level playing field. nothing more. If you have rules, SPECIFY THEM. THEN I will decide if I want to play the game on this blog. Don't make up the rules after we wasted our time engaging in debate. Like the way election officials in Democrat counties had made up the FL election rules as the ballot results flowed in.

As for the specifics, you claim that summarizing is superior to exact quoting?! I come from a reporting background, so you'll need to explain that one to me. I was taught that accurate attribution of what was said and who said it was of prime importance. When you paraphrase someone's thoughts, you are not doing justice to that person. You are injecting YOUR interpretations.

I take great care in allowing the author to speak for himself. I carefully excerpt the salient portions, and make sure it's relevant to the show's topic. Commentary is advocacy. You are advocating something you believe. There is no intrinsic necessity, nor inherent virtue, in re-arrannging perfectly assembled statements made by learned aurthors, just for the hell of it. Or just because there's an arbitrary "rule" that commentary posted must be in your own words.

So, I therefore reject the explanation for the preference of "original comments" by you. but if that is what the producer wishes, then lets get it on the record. If we can quote people at all, then how many words are permitted. I'm waiting for an answer.

Apr. 24 2012 03:38 PM

@gary from queens

On a technical comment-thread issue:

I am in support of the moderators using their authorized discretion as to when a comment is objectionable because it is comprised of mainly a "re-typed" or "pasted" quote of material from another source. If you can't summarize the material concisely or provide a "hot link", you are probably not understanding the material or you are overburdening the resources of the "comments" function. This "comments space" is legitimately moderated by the moderators. I would expect that they are responding to readers's "Red Flagging", but they need not wait for them.

Is there an issue of bias or favoritism being raised?
(e.g., Some people get to post overly long quotes but you don't.)
[Well not until they eliminate this comment. ;-) ]

Apr. 24 2012 01:41 PM

@Gary from Queens:

I waited to say this until the dust finally settled.

You have successfully hijacked the subject of this discussion and made it all about you. As a result, no ideas or opinions were advanced save the petty zealotry you wrote (at great length) and selfish dramas they subsequently created.

This is a comments page -- this is not your personal blog or a dissertation page. Please submit your cut-and-paste manifestos to a more appropriate forum. I suggest you review the meaning of the word "comment."

Thank you.

Apr. 24 2012 01:35 PM

Keeping up the dialogue here, let me respond to the "provocateur" who asked what would be done with parents of children who did not want to take advantage of the "opportunity" of universal pre-K.

As we (right-thinking-moral-WNYC-people) all know, that difficulty will present itself in a number of guises: from the most implacable and irredeemable so called "freedom" of "individual" choice dogmatists to the more understandable, pliant, and pusillanimous freedoms of narrowly conceived collectivist choice, the so-called freedom of associational choice (racial, gender, ethnic, mental-ability, etc. . . ) partisans.

The latter group of "social underminers" can be bargained and compromised with using targeted assignment quotas that preserve the gossamer netting of the enforced regime of obedience without doing damage to the legitimacy of the authority to require obedience in the service of the public good, without which there can be no other positive value. Conceptually, these focused collectivists are as ill-served by individual striving as is general society. And in the end, reflexive obedience to the "common good" will weaken to non-existence their small group values.

The enemy of all (right-thinking-moral-people) is the inflexible "Individualist" asserting a value that is his or hers alone. Although the temptation is always lurking to deal with such people by traumatic force (imprisonment, execution, infliction of physical pain) modern social science has shown that such tactics often heighten the sense of individual self-importance and obsession. Rather, we (right-thinking-moral-people) must strive to constrict the opportunities for their children to have the rewards of society (access to higher education, training, etc. . . ) so long as they comply with the dictates of their individualistic parents who refuse to realize the benefit of social cooperation. The more challenging "opposition" will be perceived as coming from the children of those "individualists" who have been inculcated at a younger-than-pre-K age to exhibit socially oppositional behaviors in order to win an advantage of attention and resources over those who are content with their share of the social good.

It should be kept in mind that the so-called "society based on individual rights" was tolerated n spite of its inherent excesses and injustices (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege and unspeakable poverty); we (right-thinking-moral-people) must be resolute in prescribing behaviors (such as attendance in universal pre-K) that are intended to eliminate the conditions supporting such cruelties.

To each whatever they may want! From each whatever can be gotten! Why not?

Apr. 24 2012 01:10 PM
MCachi from Teaneck

Dear Mr. Gary,

Obama had to repair the mess left by disastrous 8 years of the conservative GW Bush, the father of "Big Bailout" for Big Banks...that's interesting that Bush has provided socialism for banks losses and capitalism for "little guys"...Bush provided two wars on debt even...

Apr. 24 2012 12:49 PM
gary from queens

Dear Jeff Park Slope,

I appreciate your support on this issue.

Having considered the matter further, I will revise my intentions:

As of this post, I will NOT post any further comments now or in the future UNTIL the BL producer provides me with the maximum number of words which may be excerpted from an article.

I want a number from zero to whatever. Because you're right Jeff, it does take time to find good published analysis of the issue being discussed, as opposed to pulling short soundbites out of one's butt.

I'm about to learn soon whether or not BL producer considers my time half as valuable as i consider it. And i'm not holding my breath.

Apr. 24 2012 12:43 PM
gary from queens

Dear MCachi from Teaneck:

Indeed, I WAS remembering the US deficit, and the $5 trillion in national debt that Obama ALONE is responsible for, and which exceeds all the debt from the Bush adm and all previous sdministrations COMBINED. All in the effort to towards something called "fairness", for which no definition will ever be forthcoming from its exponent.

Apr. 24 2012 12:24 PM
Jeff Park Slope

The readers of this blog should be grateful for a writer such as Gary. He takes the time to expose the BL listeners to facts and analysis that many have probably never been exposed to before. This type of analysis cannot be done in one or two rah rah/no no (agree/disagree) sentences. Unfortunately it seems to me that many would rather not be exposed to these ideas. Let Gary write and provide evidence and arguments and please feel free to dispute his points with your evidence and reasoning.

Apr. 24 2012 12:23 PM
MCachi from Teaneck

Dear Mr. Gary

USA is on the edge of insolvency now too...even more insolvable than Northern Europe. Let's remember the US deficit....

Apr. 24 2012 12:12 PM
gary from queens

Dear MCachi from Teaneck:

You laud the equality of the social democracies in the EU. But they're on the edge of insolvency now, with one exception: The nightmarish welfare state of Sweden changed to a capitalist free market system. As a result, it's thriving and there's no national debt. The teachable moment obama missed. And one which newly minted conservative, David mamet, could have schooled him in.

He wrote in, "The Secret Knowledge," that there are no perfect solutions to inequality, only trade-offs: "Real diversity is intellectual. Whatever its flaws, America is the greatest country in the history of the world. The free market always solves problems better than government. It's the job of the state to be just, not to render social justice."


Free Market Sweden, Social Democratic America
By SAMUEL GREGG on 9.29.11 @ 6:08AM


"Sweden" isn't the first word that normally crosses our minds when we hear the expression "free market." But if President Obama, Paul Krugman, Warren Buffett, and other progressives want to find ways out of America's seemingly-intractable economic crisis, they might consider looking to the country once viewed as the very model of a modern Social Democracy.
They're likely to be surprised -- and probably appalled -- by what they discover. For while America has opted for more deficit-spending, bailouts, socialized medicine, easy money, failed state-subsidized Solyndra-like green businesses, "job-plans," and thus-far unsuccessful efforts to raise taxes, Sweden has been quietly turning social democracy into a museum-piece.

Apr. 24 2012 12:07 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I believe in "Biblical Capitalism." Free markets but lots of charity and of course "equal weights and measures" as well as equal justice. A free and FAIR and JUST market, with the rich and everyone else giving as much as they should to charity to assist those who really cannot help themselves, just as the New Testament part of the Bible suggests.

Apr. 24 2012 11:56 AM
John A.

Gary from queens,
Too much attention to you right now. I agree with the other posters (and producer) on this.
I heard Charles Murray brought up by the onair talent. Agreed that he would be most interesting on a WNYC program.

Apr. 24 2012 11:54 AM
gary from queens

Dear Sheldon: I agreed with you that most people like to read short comments. but even fewer people enjoy clicking on links that takes them away from the blog they're reading. Again, some salient excerpts from the piece isnt taxing in BL blog. Just maybe on your finger for the chore of scrolling past it.

Dear Mkael from bkyn: Just watch me. If one more of my posts is arbitrarily removed----and I know when its arbitrary----I'm gone. I have very good discussions on my own list, and I have several sources who accept my articles. I have better ways to invest my time, when I have the time for such things.

Apr. 24 2012 11:53 AM
MCachi from Teaneck

This is a reaction to a listener who suggested that deep inequality is a normal and acceptable by-product of capitalism. This listener compared US inequality with relative equality of former communist countries. The idea was that the former communist countries created a society of equality in poverty and, then, inequality is more than acceptable. Better deep inequality than equality in poverty.

There is very strange how American conservatives take examples from societies that defend their myths: ex-Communist countries, Latin American or African countries. There is no appetite of comparison with prosperous (very capitalistic) Western European social democracies. Germany, Denmark, Holland, Finland etc are very competitive capitalist countries and still with relative limited inequality and high upward social mobility compared with USA. For the American conservative self-esteem it is more comfortable to refer to weak competitors. Germany passed the crisis much better than USA and they have universal health care, extended welfare, thriving unions, limited poverty, a competitive manufacturing sector, healthy banks, impressing environmental records etc, etc.
I would recommend to conservatives living in a Social Darwinist capitalism mythology to reach, for example, a brilliant book showing that more socio-economic equality works better for all citizens of a society and it is not a barrier for capitalism: "The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better" by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
Using statistics from reputable independent sources, they compare indices of health and social development in 23 of the world's richest nations and in the individual US states. Their striking conclusion is that the societies that do best for their citizens are those with the narrowest income differentials—such as Japan and the Nordic countries and the US state of New Hampshire. The most unequal—the United States as a whole, the United Kingdom and Portugal—do worst.

I would recommend to conservative lovers of "dog eat dog" capitalism to take comparison examples from the whole pool of societies, not "cherry picking" for keeping 1% privileges, prestige and self-esteem.

Apr. 24 2012 11:50 AM

I nominate gary form queens to be one of the upcoming 'talking heads' on the BL segment. How about it gary and Brian?

Apr. 24 2012 11:50 AM
Jyl in NJ from Jersey City

I wish that the Brian Lehrer show would provide more nuanced coverage of the issue of the costs of higher education than is generally available even on public radio. Recent coverage of student loan debt and rising student tuition costs fails to attend to the following points: 1. This is a matter of public policy; 2. Students in the U.S. overwhelmingly attend public colleges and universities and 3. The reason that the cost of public colleges and universities has gone up so precipitously is because of declining state government support of public higher education.

Talking about higher education as though private universities were the main location of higher education is deeply misleading and makes it easy to blame student "choice" for student debt when student debt is directly caused by declining state support of higher education. In the last twenty years, state support for most state universities and colleges has declined from more than half of the revenue stream to more like one quarter of the revenue stream. Please try to actually look at the complexity of this issue.

Apr. 24 2012 11:47 AM
Mkael from bkyn

Gary - I don't believe you'd actually take your comments and leave the BL forum. You wish too much to be heard. If you really wanted to leave here.. you wouldn't threaten to, you just would.

Apr. 24 2012 11:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Gary - I hear you. I would love to paste entire passages of "Das Capital" or "The Wealth of Nations" but no one would read it past two paragraphs. Keep it short and insert a link.

Apr. 24 2012 11:36 AM
John A.

I find "Moyers & Company" to be the leading forum on this subject today, although it varies from week to week. (Now on to read 45+ messages here)

Apr. 24 2012 11:34 AM
gary from queens

DEAR RL and Peg

I assumed that one of the reasons we listened to BL is because of it's depth. Every other radio and cable show dumbs down the subject, and limits the readers or listeners to soundbite comments. WHY? Because they consider us to be idiots. A network once called me for a soundbite on a subject i was expert in, and i hung up on that person. He was Peter Thorne, anchor of the channel 11 news in NYC.

You may be one of those who are content to being treated like an idiot, capable of only one sentence answers. But I'm not.

I can go to other blogs, or write more columns for a website that takes my articles. i have my own discussion list too. And those are my options if this arbitrary rule making on posting on BL blog continues.

Apr. 24 2012 11:31 AM

Besides income taxes, there are many more taxes that must be paid by low and middle income earners - social security, medicrare, state and local, school taxes, sales taxes....on and on. And as a percentage of total income, the poor and low income earners pay a much higher tax burden than the rich.

Apr. 24 2012 11:31 AM
Rich P from NY

Amy, you want a nuanced approach (and I completely agree with you). Unfortunately, nuance seems to be beyond the grasp of the powers that be (and many of our citizens). I only wish that we had more of it.

Apr. 24 2012 11:31 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

Speaking of executive pay--Ffrom my book Ornamentally Incorrect, second edition, Bijoux and Beyond. Speaking of Richard Grasso

His defenders say he earned it by doing great things for the NYSE. This is the usual argument for giving the CEO too much money.

But this does not address the point at issue. The point is not how great the accomplishment, but what great accomplishments are worth.

Here’s the answer: nothing anybody ever did is worth that much money.
Besides, what’s the difference if you get less more money than you could ever spend or more more money than you could ever spend? Do you think all the CEOs would quit to go flip burgers if all they could get was a measly million a year?

After all, they’re just salarymen. If they need that kind of money, let them go out and start their own businesses so they can keep it all. (Hint: it’s not so easy.)

Here’s a better incentive: succeed or be fired.

Apr. 24 2012 11:30 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The commentator is contradicting himself. The more skilled labor you have, the better the chance of justifying unions.

You can only get more skilled labor (and lower tuition for colleges) by encouraging kids to AVOID going to traditional collages.

Apr. 24 2012 11:30 AM
Shauniqua C from Brooklyn

why is this guying getting a platfor to spout this BS? I'm getting tired of talking points,

Apr. 24 2012 11:29 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

I love it when free-market fundamentalists/libertarians/conservatives wrongly jump to the extremes of communism, like the first caller, when that hasn't been part of the discussion for many years. Sad yet rhetorically beneficial for those types of rightwingers and their vision of an exclusive - not inclusive - society.

@ Martin Chuzzlewit - The reason why income inequality wasn't as big an issue in 2004 was because cheap credit - which created the housing bubble - was flowing from the banks to paper over those wage and wealth inequalities.

On the other hand, people like me who have studied this in an academic setting have for years tried in vain to bring this to the general public's attention. There are many thousands of papers, essays and book (and even greater amounts of data) over the last 30 years. Guess you're just picking up on this now.

Apr. 24 2012 11:29 AM

Universal pre-K? What if you don't want your children to go?

Price controls on college tuition? On the salaries for instructors and the "professariat"? On the services and labor that work in that sector? and the of course controls on the sectors (everyone else) who work with them?

"Dilution" of value is what this comrade is about.

Apr. 24 2012 11:28 AM

It's remarkably foolish that we are not looking to the origins of our growing inequity, beginning over half a century ago if you trace it back.

The earth used to allow ever more rapid wealth expansion for all. Now we've had half a century of change from that positive sum game to what is now approximately a global fixed sum game... With pushing growth by the most productive we are pushing the earth into to a negative sum game for all of us. That's the natural way the economy hit's its natural limits of consuming the earth at ever faster rates for all.

What we can do about it won't fit popular culture, as popular culture of everyone getting ever more of everything is the problem. What it would actually involve, from a natural science of economics view, is converting more and more of the world's "giant pools of money" into endowments.

That's what would bring about a natural limit to growth in health and prosperity, rather than collapse.

Apr. 24 2012 11:28 AM

I've posted on this board about income inequality dozens of times.

Statistical fact...In order to equal the buying power of the 'average' wage($2.50/hr)of 1962 -- the same ratio of income to GDP -- the yearly wage would now need to exceed $108,000. As purchasing power of the average declines, we all suffer.

Look at the changes to the income distribution in the 50 years between the Titanic sinking and Cuban missile crisis, we haven't gone all the way back to that level of dysfucntion but unless we change course, that is where we are heading.

Apr. 24 2012 11:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Many "free market" advocates talk as though it's only the gov't. that limits market freedom. But a market controlled by a monopoly or very few companies is no more free--& possibly less so--than a market regulated by a gov't.

Apr. 24 2012 11:25 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Globalization" was inevitable, especially when communism and socialism came down. The restoration of China and INdia to their historic vast roles in the global economy was and remains inevitable. Over 1/3rd (33%) of the world's population lives in just those two countries alone. Only 4% live in the United States. It's not that the US is going to shrink, but the rest of the world will continue to grow much faster and overshadow us very soon. There is no stopping it. You might as well try to stop rain from falling.

Apr. 24 2012 11:25 AM

In 1950, the top 10% of earners owned 20% of the wealth of our country. Now they own 50% (and growing). Without an equitable tax system, how should we address this? (The rich are laughing all the way to the bank as they scoop up more and more of the "cheap" real estate in the foreclosure market.

Apr. 24 2012 11:25 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

NO. no no - more people should NOT go to "college" - they should get a higher education.

Apr. 24 2012 11:24 AM
Michelle from nyv

Generally conservatives believe far more in one's liberty, than equality. Progressives favor equality, over individual liberty. They believe a more inclusive society will make for a better one. You need a balance of both, equality and liberty, to make for a successful democracy.

Personally, I believe we have more of a plutocracy now, anyway..

Apr. 24 2012 11:23 AM

It's not just income inequality. It's the debt that the middle class now has to take on for tradtionally affordable (and in some cases neccesary) things. Education loans, car loans, mortgages and credit card debt are strangling many US families and citizens. Conversely, the wealthy can easily purchase these things without going into serious debt.

Apr. 24 2012 11:23 AM

"The top 1% of income earners earn 20% of the nations income and pay 38% of the nation's income taxes. They actually pay more taxes than the bottom 90% of taxpayers. I would like to know what other people think is fair?"

^^Hey Gary, if the bottom 90% made more money, then they'd pay more taxes.

The ONE PERCENT of the population (1.5 Million people) just don't have TWENTY PERCENT of the income; they also control about NINETY PERCENT of the income and wealth growth.

Apr. 24 2012 11:22 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Income equality is not the problem, as long as working and middle income people can afford to buy a house, two cars - a flatscreen tv, breed, and send their kids to college so they can have a "better" life than they did - they will never resent the rich. Unfornunately - that's not the case anymore and the rich will pay the ultimate price.

You have to keep the middle class happy or they will start voting for people who keep all of us poor.

Apr. 24 2012 11:22 AM
Marianne from Staten Island

I grew up in Hungary during Stalin; lived there untilthe70's: NOT everyone was on the same salary as a previous caller stated. There was inequality -- but is was not as EXTREME as it is now. The "extreme" is the problem!

Apr. 24 2012 11:21 AM
gary from queens

Dear Sheldon

Thanks for your feedback. While I would agree that most people read short comments, there are some who might want the extra.

I try to edit stuff down to the most salient, but let's face it, BL is not paying a tax on the extra words that are posted. this is not print media.

My only point of contention is that if you want to enforce rules, then ESTABLISH rules, and show us where they are.

BL producer mentioned "civil comments". Mine were civil.

She mentioned a certain acceptable length. Mine were under the blog software's limit.

She mentioned relevancy. mine were relevant.

She mentioned quoting from sources. I REMEMBER VERY DISTINCTLY, from some months ago, that BL producer admonished people that if they quote from other people, to make sure to furnish the URL link where the words came from.

Apr. 24 2012 11:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The caller himself said communism is an extreme case of income inequality. But there's no need to go to the extreme--in either direction. Where in between communism & the absolute free market is enough to limit income inequality but not so much that people aren't motivated to do better?

Apr. 24 2012 11:20 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

The "income inequality" issue is really about TOO MUCH inequality. The critique of the current Gilded Age level of income/ opportunity inequality is about degrees and not some advocacy for the leveling of incomes. How silly.

We should let the free market work...whenever one manifests. Way too many of us are ignorant of the extent to which the market is riddled with failures and fraud and levels of unfairness that hinder freedom,

Apr. 24 2012 11:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Americans are just coming back down to the standard of living that prevailed right after WWII before the "suburbanization" madness began. Suburbanization was a MASSIVE blunder, and an intrusion of big government that subsidized the construction of housing on farm land, and built big highways all over the place. Most people used to live on farms or apartments and not in big suburban homes, and that is what we are going back to, like it or not. It's not so terrible.

Apr. 24 2012 11:20 AM

Quick question about inequality: is there a ratio of minimum wage or wealth to maximum wage/wealth in order for capitalism to "work" and markets to stay liquid, etc.? Thanks!

Apr. 24 2012 11:19 AM

One major reason to the ever-growing chasm: the loss of a truly GRADUATED TAX SYSTEM.

Apr. 24 2012 11:19 AM
John from NYC

What is truly frightening about this line of thought -- Listen to this guy carefully. Than ask -- What aspect of our lives would he not CONTROL to achieve his goals?

The answer is clear -- there is NOTHING he would know do.

North Korea, here we come.

Apr. 24 2012 11:19 AM
Rich P from NY

Do we really reward people strictly based on skill level? I think that's a quixotic idea. I don't see it practiced as matter of course.

Apr. 24 2012 11:17 AM

Off-shoring, illegal immigration, anti-unionism, the FED, decline in usury prosecutions, AND the tax code.

Cut to the chase, please, half the income goes to ten percent of the households. What way - other than the TAX CODE - do we use to correct for all the factors.

Apr. 24 2012 11:14 AM

Gary- Stop using the comments section as your personal blog.
Be short and to the point. Sum it all up in 4 sentences or less.

Apr. 24 2012 11:13 AM

Gary, you've exposed yourself and turned us off. Who in their right mind would listen to you now? We've all had posts blocked at one time or another. Get over it. Speak for yourself, but don't be surprised if no one wants to listen to you now.

Apr. 24 2012 11:12 AM
Shauniqua C from Brooklyn

The only real reason for the inequality... Globalization, you now have to compete with low wage labor. Period. Trade barriers have come down over the years as well. The majority of the people will be in competition with people making very little. Every other excuse is just changing things at the margin.

Apr. 24 2012 11:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Bible does not say anything about "inequality." It talks about charity, and justice for all, and not to covet your neighbor's wife or property.

I lived in a kibbutz in Israel at one time. There is no such thing as "equality." That is a utopian ideal having no relationship to reality on the ground whatsoever. We should strive for equal opportunity at every stage, but this obssession with egalitarianism, or "equality" is for the next world, not the present world. THere is equality only in death, not in life.

But regarding the growing gap between the owners of capital and labor, that is because capital can move anywhere to get the best returns, but labor cannot move anywhere in the world to get the best jobs.

Apr. 24 2012 11:11 AM
gary from queens

Compulsory equality equals disincentives toward excellence, equals soviet bread lines and despair.
"You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money." - P. J. O'Rourke

February 26, 2012
The Energy of Poverty
By G. Murphy Donovan


Presidential candidate Rick Santorum drew fire from the usual suspects the other day for his remarks on the utility of inequality. A typical reaction was that of columnist Charles M. Blow in the New York Times, who accused Senator Santorum of "praising income inequality." Santorum was actually praising the value of individual and group inequity -- as a necessary motive force for hard work, competition, and success. Unlike the shallow reaction of the NY Times, Santorum's argument is underwritten by history, science, and common sense.

Inequality and its symptoms, such as poverty, are value-neutral. Like weather, climate, and heritage -- these things are part of the human condition. And these are conditions that, in a meritocracy, can be overcome. Competition between unequals is the leitmotif of natural, social, and political history.

The NY Times and like-minded social theorists ignore the key sources of social motivation -- and then fail to reform those government programs, such as intemperate welfare and impotent public education, which actually make social and economic poverty possible.

Apr. 24 2012 11:10 AM
gary from queens

January 31, 2012 12:00 A.M.
Obama’s Silly Rule
The Buffett rule doesn’t address the deficit or inequality.
By Rich Lowry


Buffett reportedly pays his secretary only about $60,000 a year, yet she supposedly pays a higher rate than his roughly 17 percent.

Buffett benefits from lower rates on investment income. Capital gains and dividends are taxed at 15 percent, whereas the top rate on income is 35 percent. But investment income is subject to taxation at the corporate level, at a top rate of 35 percent, before it becomes capital gains or dividends. The real rate on investment income can be closer to 50 percent than 15.

For all his advocacy in favor of raising his own taxes (and those of people, by definition, less wealthy than he is), Buffett is careful to minimize the government’s take through such expedients as not paying himself much of a salary and making shrewd use of a trust. Buffett could easily institute his own personal version of the Buffett Rule by giving himself a nice, fat raise. Regardless, his tax burden is substantial. Buffett is the primary shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, which paid $5.6 billion in corporate taxes in 2010, according to Forbes magazine.

Conceived in the spirit of a bill of attainder — let’s tax that guy — the Buffett Rule makes about as much public-policy sense as one would expect. How would it affect the federal fisc? Although the Obama administration hasn’t yet bothered to write down its signature proposal, it is estimated it will raise roughly $40 billion a year. With the Buffett Rule in effect, the deficit in fiscal year 2011 would have been $1,240,000,000,000 instead of $1,280,000,000,000.

Will it make the tax system fairer? The system is already fair, if by that you mean steeply progressive. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1 percent pays on average 18.8 percent of its income in federal income taxes, the broad middle pays 4.2 percent, and the bottom 20 percent gets more money back than it pays in. When all federal taxes are taken into account, the top 1 percent pays almost 30 percent — Obama’s magic number.

Do taxes on capital gains desperately need raising? They are already scheduled to go up, whatever happens to Warren Buffett. Obama’s health-care reform alone will bring the capital-gains rate in 2013 to 18.8 percent. If the Bush tax cuts expire, as they are set to do in 2013, the rate will hit 25 percent.

Apr. 24 2012 11:09 AM
gary from queens

Liberal Indifference to Income Inequality
Peter Wehner 12.09.2011 - 10:19 AM


The issue of income inequality has several dimensions to it, some of which I’ll address in the future. For now, though, I simply wanted to make the point that, as this superb analysis

by the House Budget Committee demonstrates, the common understanding of government’s role in income inequality has things backwards: Tax reforms have resulted in a more progressive federal income tax, while government transfer payments have become less progressive. Why? In large measure because rising entitlement payments are going to wealthier seniors at the expense of lower-earning young people. For example, in 1979, households in the lowest income quintile received 54 percent of all transfer payments; in 2007, those households received just 36 percent of transfers.

It’s important to understand that while Social Security benefits are progressive, neither Social Security nor Medicare is means-tested (that is, they are not provided to people based on a test of need determined by their income and assets). So, the second-wealthiest cohort (by age) in America is eligible for these programs. “This cohort has grown faster than the population overall,” according to the House Budget Committee analysis, “and the resulting demographic change has reduced the share of transfer payments received by lower-income households while increasing the share received by middle-and upper-income households.”

What we’ve seen, then, is a relatively well-off demographic receiving benefits from non-means-tested programs that have received large increases in spending. (The rising cost of health care has exacerbated this trend.)

Apr. 24 2012 11:07 AM
gary from queens

Brian, I discovered this post to your blog last March of 2011, in which a listener (Chip) got fed up with the "inequality" rant from your guest, Prof. Stieglitz, and noting the hypocrisy of the ranters:

The income inequality cited by Prof. Stieglitz is due to a number of causes, mostly due to liberal programs desgned to help the poorer off. For instance, the top 1% have the choice to send their kids to any school they want to. The poor must send their kids to the local public school, regardless of its quality. Yet who opposes school choice and vouchers? The Democrats.

Of course the wealthy invest overseas. According to 60 minutes this past week, the US now has the highest income taxes in the world--35%. When one is only taxed at 12% in Ireland and other European countries, no wonder wealthy individuals and companies invest overseas, sending US jobs and wealth to other countries. Yet who opposes cuts in corporate income taxes? The democrats.

The top 1% of income earners earn 20% of the nations income and pay 38% of the nation's income taxes. They actually pay more taxes than the bottom 90% of taxpayers. I would like to know what other people think is fair? The higher we make their taxes, the more likely they are to move income and investment overseas. Yet who favors increasing taxes on the wealthy? The democrats. And does anyone ask themselves what kind of government we are getting when so many people have so little financial stake in the programs they vote for?

There are a number of workers who cannot produce more $7.25 of goods and services, and these folks are largely unemployed. Instead of coming up with a system to subsidize these workers, these jobs simply get sent overseas. An American worker, simply cannot get paid more for the same work that Asian worker gets paid (making certain allowances for productivity). But who favors minimum wage laws? Again the democrats.

Finally, I am always reminded of the story in which a worker gets a dollar every time he presses a button, but when he does, his boss get $100. Some people will never push the button knowing this while others will make themselves rich and their bosses much richer. The fact is that real income for the bottom 10% of wage earners has increased, though very slightly over the past 30 years, while that of the upper 5% has increased much more dramatically, increasing income inequality, but still increasing real income for those at the bottom.

Apr. 24 2012 11:06 AM
Jacob from Brooklyn

What about the arguments that Dean Baker or Hacker & Pierson are making (on the policy level)?

Make it easier for unions to organize, create to create actual employment, etc...

Apr. 24 2012 11:06 AM
gary from queens

I will make another attempt to post what you had previously removed.

If they are removed, then I will stop contributing to this blog and I will take my complaints to the station about this. Documentation and all.

Apr. 24 2012 11:05 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Gary - take the moderator's advice, no one is going to take the time to read a 5 paragraph cut and paste job. You're smart enough to make concise points on your own.

Apr. 24 2012 10:59 AM

Comments off to a great start.

Apr. 24 2012 10:56 AM
gary from queens

Dear Brian Lehrer Producer:

Your response is deficient. I respectfully repeat my request that you be more explict in your "standard policy". You might start by showing me where it's located, and where does it state that listeners must attenuate comments to a certain length. What is that length?

Furthermore, I AM expressing my opinions, when I agree with commentaries from creditable authors, and I quote from said authors. Many listeners on your blog often challenge my views and demand a source. When I post excerpts from those sources, I'm addressing those demands.

I'm well aware of your guests and their work. You do not delete other comments posted BEFORE the radio discussion begins. You only deleted mine.

You are obviously not aware that I am contributing to the BL blog with my posts. It may not be in accord with your opinions on the subject, but it does "foster a productive conversation", to use your words.

Please stop being arbitrary and caprious in your moderating. because it's selective, and seems to be more censorship that "moderating".

Apr. 24 2012 10:53 AM

Gary - Moderating comments and trying to foster a productive conversation is an imperfect task. But we do our best to let people express their own opinions, in their own words, in a civil manner. So, copying and pasting long stretches from articles elsewhere isn't the best way to achieve that. Especially when it happens an hour before a segment airs.

Thanks for understanding.
-BL Moderator-

Apr. 24 2012 10:39 AM
gary from queens

Brian, Your favorite economist seems to be Prof. Stieglitz, who said: “There’s a system where we socialize losses and privatize gains,” he told the anti-Wall Street protesters. “That’s not capitalism, that’s not a market economy, that’s a distorted economy and if we continue with that we won’t succeed in growing, and we won’t succeed in creating a just society.”

And the biggest culprit of crony capitalism (i.e. "corporatism")----which socializes losses and privatizes gains----is the man Stieglitz supports----Obama.

Take green energy, for example. Green energy may or may not be a good thing. It may or may not be marketable yet (that means "affordable" for NY liberals). But let the free markets decide it. We will never know much private investments there might have been in other green companies, had Obama left Solyndra and other renewable energy companies fend for themselves.

What investor in his right mind would invest in a competing company that DIDN'T receive favorable guarrenteed loans from government? When the leviathan bets on the success of one company or industry, that discourages private investment in that company or industry which doesnt receive favorable treatment. Government will subsequently heap even more loans and favorable regulations on the "horse" it choose, than on its competitors. All this discourages investment, reduces employment, and skews normal free market forces (prices and resources). Witness the last 2 years under obama.

Apr. 24 2012 10:26 AM
gary from queens

Whether you believe inequality is good or bad, consider the following facts that came out last February before you propose "solutions" to this "problem". Because under free market capitalism, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Free-market capitalism cut world poverty by half

All six global regions observed by the World Bank instituted free-market economics - and the stunning result is that global poverty has been slashed in half, and well ahead of the United Nations' 2015 Millennium Challenge deadline.

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, who first spotted the incredible World Bank report released Feb. 29, noted Thursday the cut in the world poverty rate coincided exactly with global gains in economic freedom. The Cato Institute's annual "Economic Freedom of the World Index" shows that the global economic freedom average has risen to 6.64 from 5.53 on a scale of 10.

Global poverty has been slashed in half. It started with the advent of free markets in Chile in 1975, gained speed with the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions, took off with the Asian Tiger states and has been crescendo-ing around the globe ever since.

It means that the number of people who live in rock-bottom poverty — less than $1.25 a day — has tumbled from 1.94 billion people in 1981 to just 1.29 billion today. The World Bank did exhaustive research for this, using over 850 household surveys in nearly 130 countries.

Anyone who travels to countries like Peru, Poland, Indonesia, Colombia, Thailand, Hungary, South Africa, Chile, Tanzania and India knows very well that things aren't what they used to be. Vast middle classes have formed, education is booming, business is up and many of their cities no longer resemble the Third World.

People have growing access to jobs, education and a future. Mexico's rate of illegal immigration has plunged since 2009 as average incomes there approach $7,000 — the threshold that makes staying in Mexico more attractive than living abroad illegally.

The World Bank cites generally stronger political institutions — the kind that enforce one set of laws for all, respect property rights and don't reward crony capitalists or stacked courts — something Obama might learn from.

The big Goliath of this revolution is the embrace of free markets. In East Asia and the Pacific, only 14% of the locals live in abject poverty compared with 77% in 1981. In Latin America, it's only 6% vs. 14% in 1981. In the Middle East, it's 2.5% vs. 16.5% in 1981. In sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in history, less than half the people live at the minus-$1.25 a day level — 47% vs. 51% in 1981.

Apr. 24 2012 10:21 AM
gary from queens

Dear Brian Lehrer Producer:

You DO NOT have a "posting policy", let alone one that can be called "standard"!!

I posted some comments that were under the 3000 letter limit. Why have a limit to begin with, if you are going to delete comments under that limit, which i presume you dont agree with?!

One of the comments I posted, which you had just removed, was quoting from another BL poster some months ago. Was it OK then, but not now?!

Please quantify what you call brief, and why isn't it brief enough if it's fewer words than than the limit specified by your blog software?

All of my comments were relevant.

So please spell out exactly what your "standard policy" is, because you are be arbitrary and capricious with MY posts

Apr. 24 2012 10:18 AM
gary from queens

Inquality is good. Moore and Ferrara wrote an masterful treatise on the necessity and morality of inequality. This is a must read for anyone who believes that equalizing income and wealth is a good thing.

The quote I selected below is not the most salient, but it did make me realize one thing. in all my years as a worker, I never met a coworker who busted his butt on the job in order to improve the lives of his fellow workers. He did it to improve the lives of his wife and kids. We are hardwired to be family-oriented. An important factor to realize when you read the article.

The Poverty of Equality
By Stephen Moore & Peter Ferrara from the April 2012 issue

In a society where men and women are angels who always put the welfare of others ahead of their own, this system—from each according to his ability, to each according to his need—might even work. High tax rates wouldn't have any negative consequences because everyone would work for everyone else's benefit. Society would be like one, large commune, with everyone working for the common good. The ambitious, hard worker would get the same pay as the one who sleeps in and lives a lazy lifestyle. Output would be high, and we would have almost complete equality of outcome.

The problem, of course, is that men are not angels. We are driven by self-interest-not entirely, of course, but enough that giving everyone an equal share despite unequal contributions would severely deter work incentives. This is why in all those societies that have tried to enforce the more extreme vision of mandatory equality, totalitarian governments and poverty have emerged. And, by the way, in practice these societies are not very equal either. Richer and freer countries tend to have smaller income disparities than poorer and less free nations.

Apr. 24 2012 10:06 AM

We have removed several comments for violating the WNYC posting policy, which asks that you keep your comment brief and relevant to the discussion taking place on the air. Copying and pasting long excerpts from articles does not meet that standard.

-BL Moderator-

Apr. 24 2012 09:51 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

BRIAN- Please ask Mr. Noah why income inequality was not a big issue in 2004 when John (I marry millionaire women for a living) Kerry was the Dem presidential nominee?? Seriously, it was nearing the peak of the “speculation bubble” that popped in 2007 and the gap, by all measures, was huge then. Not a peep from the New Republic about “breathtaking greed”. Why now?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS – Spring Issue 2012
“Since the founding era, Americans have understood that, in a democratic society, gaps in income are inevitable.”

James Madison – FEDERALIST PAPER #10
“The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From this protection of different and unequal faculties, the possession of different degrees and kinds of wealth immediately results."

Apr. 24 2012 08:55 AM
Mark from NJ

I am an inner-city NJ high school teacher and have first-hand knowledge of the profound extent to which urban poor are not as "poor" as we think they are, given the number of people who participate in the unrecorded economy. Until we get a handle on this vast, unreported economy, our public policies addressing income inequalities will be flawed.

Apr. 24 2012 08:50 AM

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