Instead of a long essay today, I want to provide some quick takes on recent news:
I’ll start by commending U-Mass professor Robert Pollin for his article on rising inequality in the United States since the mid-70’s in the most recent Nation magazine.
Pollin pulls statistics from Larry Bartels’ Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age to compare the income collectively earned by the top 20% of workers with that earned by the bottom 20%. So for example, 60 years ago the top 20% earned just around three times what the bottom 20% collectively earned; today it’s more than four times. What’s really interesting is that before the Carter administration, the ratio went up and down in a very narrow margin, but since Carter, it has gone straight up, except for the Clinton years in which the growth in income inequality temporarily stalled, but at a much higher level than during the 50’s and 60’s. So it’s not just the parties, but the political temper of the last 40 years that has led the United States to become a nation of rich and poor, with a rapidly shrinking middle class.
Now to the Corn Refiners Association, my latest nominee for a “Ketchup” award, named after the glop that the Reagan administration wanted to declare a vegetable for the school lunch program. At the end of the year, I am going to make a special “Ketchup” award to the most absurd bending of language of the prior year.
The Corn Boys want to change the name “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS) to “corn sugar.” Cane, beets and corn all produce fast-digesting sugars, but cane/beet sugar—also known as table sugar—has managed to brand itself as being natural and therefore healthier than corn syrup. Because consumers believe that HFCS is a health risk, food processors are abandoning it in favor of table sugar. So the Corn Boys want to make their product seem as healthy as an easy-to-abuse processed food product. Truly bizarre!
Finally, an anecdote that suggests to what extreme the mainstream news media has really oversold the Tea Party: Someone I follow on Facebook described Tea Party anti-masturbation activist Christine O’Donnell as winning an election earlier this week. In fact, O’Donnell was not elected to anything, merely nominated by the Republican Party for a U.S. Senate seat.
But it’s no wonder my FBF got confused. The mainstream media covered this last round of primary voting for 2010 just as they have been covering the elections all year—focus almost exclusively on the Republican races, while assuming that the country was going to experience massive memory loss of the Bush II economic debacle and throw out the Democrats as perpetrators of our economic woes. The New York Times version of the Delaware primary voting did not even mention the well-known and popular Democratic candidate, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, until well into the last quarter of the article.
The news media is counting the Democratic candidates out because it wants to keep moving them, and public discourse, to the right. I am confident that many centrists, when faced with the choice between Democrats looking their way and the extreme right-wing Tea-partiers, will vote for the Democrat.
I also want to remind the readers that the only way to keep the temporary tax cuts for the middle class and poor that are set to run out after this year is for Congress to pass a bill. If the Republicans block or try to block that bill because it doesn’t include extending the temporary tax cuts to the wealthy, it doesn’t matter how many times they shout “Class warfare” or “You’ll stunt growth.” All most voters will hear is, “I won’t let you have your money” and they won’t like that message one bit.
At the end of the day, though, this fall election all comes down to who gets more of their solid voters to the polls. The Democrats should be dedicating significant resources for vans and car pools to get urban seniors, college students and minorities to the polls in November.