Archive for November 9th, 2011
Andrew Sullivan has some observations on the outcome of elections in Ohio, Mississippi and Arizona, and Teabaggers in general. The money quote:
We’ve seen the polls showing a shift in Americans’ views of inequality and their support of higher taxes for the wealthiest as part of a debt-reduction package. We’ve seen the accelerating moderation on marriage equality and marijuana. We’ve noticed the Tea Party’s further alienation of minority voters, and now, with the Cain circus, possible intensification of the gender gap. We’ve noticed that increasing numbers of voters, including independents, regard the GOP as potentially sabotaging the economy purely in order to defeat Obama. Now we are seeing the effect of all this in actual elections. And the GOP primary campaign has also underlined just how marginal, ideological and inexperienced many of the presidential candidates are. A party that gives a motivational speaker ten times the support of a two-term governor of Utah, re-elected with 84 percent of the vote, with strong bipartisan credentials and an even stronger tax reform plan … well, it’s a party in free-fall that also doesn’t understand that it is.
Make sure you read the poll results towards the end of his article.
When you encounter information on the web, it is increasingly important that you run down the source. WC tries to link to sources for key points. And to bring a skeptical approach to positions that seem to contradict informed experts. Usually, it is a matter of following the money. Two examples.
New Attacks on Climate Science
There’s been a spate of recent attacks on climate scientists through lawsuits seeking their emails and records by an outfit calling itself the American Tradition Institute. For example, the Institute for Southern Studies has an excellent article on a lawsuit against the University of Virginia, which seeks emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann, an award-winning climate scientist who has become a focus of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth’s temperature. The American Tradition Institute was launched in Colorado in February 2009 as the nonprofit Western Tradition Institute, changing its name to ATI last year. WTI, in turn, was a spinoff of the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) — a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group backed by energy interests. The group is led by Paul Chesser, who they described as a “noted climate scholar.” In fact, Chesser is not a scientist but and accountant, and has long worked in what environmental advocates call the “climate denial machine”: a network of organizations, many backed by energy interests, that work to create doubt about the science of human-caused global warming. ATI’s biggest funder is Montana businessman Doug Lair and his Lair Family Foundation; they contributed $5,000 and $135,000 respectively to the group last year — over 75 percent of its total income. Lair’s fortune comes from Lair Petroleum, the family business that was sold in 1989 to William Koch, the lesser-known brother of Charles and David Koch. The Koch Brothers are beginning to approach Rubert Murdoch in WC’s satanic characters contest.
But what we have is an instance of the fossil fuel industry funding attacks on climate scientists. If you think that ATI cares one rotten fig about the accuracy of climate science, WC renews his offer to sell you the Cushman Street Bridge. IT’s all about FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. If you are old enough to remember the tobacco industry’s attacks on lung cancer research, you know exactly how this story goes.
Paul Krugman points out that income immobility – the inablity of the 99% to break into the 1% or, for that matter, the inability of the 90% to break into the 10% – is real, despite the attempts by outfits like the Tax Foundation to persuade folks otherwise. It’s especially real when you measure wealth by net worth and not net income. A taxpayer who makes $0.95 million in 2009 and $1.05 million in 2010 hasn’t demonstrated meaningful economic mobility. That’s why economists work with aggregates across groups and years in measuring matters like economic mobility. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office report says as much:
Household income measured over a multiyear period is more equally distributed than income measured over one year, although only modestly so. Given the fairly substantial movement of households across income groups over time, it might seem that income measured over a number of years should be significantly more equally distributed than income measured over one year. However, much of the movement of households involves changes in income that are large enough to push households into different income groups but not large enough to greatly affect the overall distribution of income. Multiyear income measures also show the same pattern of increasing inequality over time as is observed in annual measures.
The whole belief that Americans as a class have unrestricted economic mobility is a “Zombie idea.” An untruth that will not die. And apparently devours the brains of some persons exposed to it. To quote Krugman:
Look, let me make a public service announcement: if you rely on bought and paid for sources on income inequality, you’re going to embarrass yourself again and again. These people never get it right, because their whole reason for being is to obfuscate. You should never, ever, trust what they say on this issue.
Remember, there is a department of disinformation, run by smart folks whose job is to confuse less smart folks. You don’t have to fall for it.