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As noted below in Lunch Links, Robert Reich is everywhere these days with the release of his new movie, Inequality for All. If you’d like to read the gist of his message in a succinct column, check out this new essay from his website:

The Myth of the Free Market and How to Make the Economy Work for Us

By Robert Reich

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. 

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn’t intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the “free market” knows best.

In reality, Read More

Trickledown economic theory and the three years of state budget and tax cuts to which it has given rise continues to work wonders for the North Carolina economy…not.

This just in from the state Department of Commerce:

“RALEIGH — The state’s seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate was 8.9 percent, increasing 0.1 of a percentage point from June’s revised rate. The national rate declined to 7.4 percent from June’s 7.6 percent.”

Of course, in fairness, the notion that state policies can have any kind of significant near-term impact on the overall employment rate is as misplaced now as it was when conservatives were lambasting the Perdue administration. Save for the actual jobs it creates through public employment, the main impact state leaders can have is on: a) the long-term picture (where investments in education and infrastructure are key) and b) easing the suffering of the jobless and their families.

That said, the performance of conservative state leaders in both of these latter two areas has been truly abysmal so prospects seem likely to remain relatively dim for the foreseeable future.

 

The basic premise behind the various conservative tax plans advancing at the General Assembly is the same old trickledown economic argument we’ve heard for decades: If we tax rich people and profitable corportations less, they’ll hire more workers and everything will be be hunky dory.

The only problem with this theory, of course, is that it’s a fantasy. For the latest confirmation of this hard truth, check out this report from the Economic Policy Institute which shows that CEO pay continues to skyrocket.

And also, check out the following remarkable graph based on the report from Too Much, an online newsletter from the good folks at Inequality.org:

CEO pay

The bottom line: You simply can’t give rich people and large corporations enough. No matter how much government slashes their taxes, inequality only gets worse.

Bobby JindalThe political freefall of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is interesting on multiple levels (Chris Fitzsimon will have more on this subject this afternoon). Notwithstanding the man’s infamous deer-in-the-headlights state of the union response from a few years back, conservatives were still touting him as a rising star and potential national candidate not that long ago.

That he would now have trouble getting elected dog catcher in the Bayou State and be forced to abandon his signature tax plan is emblematic of a remarkable  political collapse — especially for a politician without any apparent immediate problems with prosecutors or prostitutes. (Of course, it should be noted that current Louisiana Senator David Vitter admitted to the latter problem with no lasting ill effects).

What the fall of Jindalnomics would seem to say most clearly is Read More

It’s one of the great ironies of the current debate in America that so many of the people who oppose the teaching of Darwinism as the definitive explanation of life on earth are only too happy to promote and practice a brutal, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest brand of social Darwinism when it comes to organizing modern society.   

This morning, two news stories highlight the impact of America’s dramatic shift in this direction:

First, the New York Times reports that there has been a startling and very troubling decline in life expectancy for poorly educated American whites — especially white women. While researchers have identified no definitive cause, it’s almost impossible to imagine that the decline in jobs that were formerly available those unable to finish high school and the shredding of the social safety net that helped lift many into the middle class haven’t both played a role.

Meanwhile, at the top of the food chain, things are headed in the opposite direction. A new report from Forbes as relayed by Think Progress shows that the collective wealth of the 400 richest Americans totaled $1.7 trillion in 2011, a 13 percent jump from the year before, as the stock market reached its highest mark in a decade and real estate rebounded.