Via Hullabaloo, we learn David Frum said something amazing on Morning Joe and neither Scarborough nor Chuck Todd nor David Gregory dared acknowledge it. It comes about four minutes in:

Since the loss of the election, we have heard an enormous amount of discussion from Republicans on television and newspaper columns about immigration as an issue…but all of us who are allowed to participate in this conversation, we all have health insurance. And the fact that millions of Americans don’t have health insurance, they don’t get to be on television. And it is maybe a symptom of a broader problem, not just the Republican problem, that the economic anxieties of so many Americans are just not part of the national discussion at all. I mean, we have not yet emerged from the greatest national catastrophe, the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. And what are we talking about? The deficit and the debt. And these are important problems, but they’re a lot easier to worry about if you are wealthier than you were in 2008, which most of the people on television now are again, if you are securely employed, which most of the people on television now are. But that’s not true for 80% of America. And the Republican Party, the opposition party, needed to find some way to give voice to real urgent economic concerns held by middle class Americans. Latinos, yes, but Americans of all ethnicities.

The debt is a real problem for the country, but right now, it’s secondary. We adopt the Charlie Pierce approach to the American economy: Eff The Debt. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.

Of course, had Romney won, we’d probably be right back in “deficits don’t matter” territory. But it’s telling that everyone ignored what David Frum said about it.  A Canadian conservative and former GW Bush speechwriter — the one who coined “axis of evil” — is calling out the cupidity and narrow parameters of the national political press, and they don’t dare acknowledge it. 

Conservatives get worked up about media bias — supposedly “liberal” media bias. Well, part of this is true — there is a media bias, but it’s a class bias. The political media in America, in terms of income and status, is much closer to the people it covers than the people it is supposed to inform, and this frames what the acceptable discourse on the multitude of political chatfests is.

Thus, we are hearing about the debt, deficit, and fiscal cliff as if it is Apocalypse Now for the U.S. and it means we have to cut social services for people who are already suffering — because everyone must suffer more.

Why Did Mitt Romney Lose The Presidency? (by Mark Stothard)

here’s the thing that irritates me the most about every presidential campaign, debate, or discussion of energy policy.

Every time, without fail, someone, whether it be an person at a town hall, a reporter, or a politician will ask why the president (no matter what said president’s party) hasn’t done more to bring down gas prices. It is irritating because very rarely is this simple, basic concept introduced afterward:

CRUDE OIL, WHICH IS NEEDED FOR GASOLINE, IS TRADED ON A GLOBAL MARKET. YOU HEAR ABOUT THE GLOBAL PRICE FOR A BARREL OF OIL EVERY WEEK ON BUSINESS REPORTS AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR GAS PRICES HERE — AND THEN DOUBLY SO WHEN WINTER ROLLS AROUND AND PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT HEATING COSTS. SINCE THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO NEED OIL-BASED ENERGY, PARTICULARLY IN QUICKLY-GROWING SECTORS OF ASIA AND EUROPE, ANY OIL DRILLING OR DEVELOPMENT DONE ON U.S. FEDERAL LANDS WOULD MOST LIKELY BE SENT TO AND TRADED ON THIS GLOBAL MARKETPLACE, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE MANY OF THE OIL COMPANIES DRILLING IN THE U.S. ARE GLOBAL COMPANIES. SINCE THE DEMAND FOR A FINITE RESOURCE IS NOT GOING DOWN ANY TIME SOON, IT STANDS TO REASON THAT WE WILL PROBABLY NOT SEE AVERAGE PRICES AT THE PUMP GO UNDER $2.50 AGAIN. THIS IS WHY WE TALK SO MUCH ABOUT HYBRIDS AND CARS THAT COULD GET HIGH 30S-40+ MPG, AND THIS IS WHY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS DEMANDING AUTOMAKERS DOUBLE FUEL ECONOMY BY 2026 (or some year close to that): BECAUSE THERE AIN’T A THING AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT CAN DO TO REDUCE THE DEMAND FOR OIL-BASED ENERGY IN THE REST OF THE WORLD. HIGH GAS PRICE SUCK, I GET THAT, BUT TRY FILLING UP IN EUROPE SOMETIME. YEESH. INSTEAD OF ASKING HOW WE LOWER GAS PRICES (which we can’t, not really), IT’S BETTER TO ASK ABOUT DIFFERENT FORMS OF MASS TRANSIT AND CREATING THE NEW GENERATION OF VEHICLES THAT RUN ON LESS GASOLINE OR NONE AT ALL.

I feel like the caps lock is important here because the general concept of believing American presidents and their energy policy can actually have major control over a global market annoys me to no end.

This in response to the unemployment rate dropping below 7.8% this month, two days after the presidential debate.
This is the former CEO of General Electric, who should know something about economics, yet he buys conspiracy theory ish. Here’s why this is so dumb: if the president could really order the manipulation of the unemployment rate that easily, why wouldn’t he have done it for the past 2.5-3 years?
There’s a strain of conservative that believes the government can’t do anything right, but it’s often that same strain that is more than ready to believe it can pull off conspiracies like this without someone crying foul loudly.

This in response to the unemployment rate dropping below 7.8% this month, two days after the presidential debate.

This is the former CEO of General Electric, who should know something about economics, yet he buys conspiracy theory ish. Here’s why this is so dumb: if the president could really order the manipulation of the unemployment rate that easily, why wouldn’t he have done it for the past 2.5-3 years?

There’s a strain of conservative that believes the government can’t do anything right, but it’s often that same strain that is more than ready to believe it can pull off conspiracies like this without someone crying foul loudly.

Once we jettison the deadwood out of the system, the “good” teachers — the ones who can get the right answers installed into their students according to standards set by, among other companies, the corporation that’s keeping The Washington Post afloat — will be paid what they are worth by a grateful citizenry. Horse hockey. People don’t want to pay teachers because they don’t value the work that teachers do. If they don’t respect the sacrifices most of those people on the picket line are making now, what makes anyone think they won’t gripe just as loudly in that glorious future over what the “good” teachers are making, especially if private sector wages everywhere else remain stagnant and income inequality grows?

Charlie Pierce, again noting that the reason “reformers” can gin up crap and animus against teachers’ unions is because people don’t value education or teachers and aren’t taking on the people who pay the average private sector worker less each year. The problem is not that the average Chicago public school teacher makes $74K a year, the problem is why every other private worker in Chicago is averaging $47K.

Seems like the rest of the workers in the city could use a good union. Or a strike.

theatlantic:

The Cheapest Generation: Why Aren’t Millennials Buying Cars or Houses?

What if Millennials’ aversion to car-buying isn’t a temporary side effect of the recession, but part of a permanent generational shift in tastes and spending habits? It’s a question that applies not only to cars, but to several other traditional categories of big spending—most notably, housing. And its answer has large implications for the future shape of the economy—and for the speed of recovery.
Read more. [Image: Kagan McLeod]

It’s safe to say that a decent number of Tumblr users are a part of the Millennial generation. So, tell us: Do you own a car or house? If not, why?

Not to be a total dick, but it’s not because we’re cheap — IT’S BECAUSE OUR SMARTPHONES MAY BE THE NICEST LUXURY WE CAN AFFORD.
The costs of college and trying to land an apartment one can afford leaves us with not a lot of disposable income. So it’s less a preference than “ugh, I can’t fucking afford this” first and then “wait, did this ever make sense?” 
I’d like a house and a yard but it doesn’t seem feasible when you have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off.
And my next car will certainly be used, just like my current one.

theatlantic:

The Cheapest Generation: Why Aren’t Millennials Buying Cars or Houses?

What if Millennials’ aversion to car-buying isn’t a temporary side effect of the recession, but part of a permanent generational shift in tastes and spending habits? It’s a question that applies not only to cars, but to several other traditional categories of big spending—most notably, housing. And its answer has large implications for the future shape of the economy—and for the speed of recovery.

Read more. [Image: Kagan McLeod]

It’s safe to say that a decent number of Tumblr users are a part of the Millennial generation. So, tell us: Do you own a car or house? If not, why?

Not to be a total dick, but it’s not because we’re cheap — IT’S BECAUSE OUR SMARTPHONES MAY BE THE NICEST LUXURY WE CAN AFFORD.

The costs of college and trying to land an apartment one can afford leaves us with not a lot of disposable income. So it’s less a preference than “ugh, I can’t fucking afford this” first and then “wait, did this ever make sense?” 

I’d like a house and a yard but it doesn’t seem feasible when you have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off.

And my next car will certainly be used, just like my current one.

Considering that the last four years have seen countless GOP officials describe Obama as a Kenyan anti-colonialist baby-genociding Mao Hitler Stalin Pol Pot crypto-Bin Laden determined to enslave the white race at the hands of one-world United Nations Nazi Communism, maybe likening him to a snack beloved by millions of children and adults can slide.

"Mobutu Sese Seko", writing his usual must-read at Gawker, this time on the stupidity that is the bottom-feeding rhetoric that has the presidential candidates referring to each other as “Romney Hood” and “Obamaloney.” (You should probably also follow him on Twitter as @Mobute.)

This graphic shows all the average apartment rental prices and their increases over the past year. All I can conclude is FUCK YOU SAN FRANCISCO AND FUCK YOU CALIFORNIA. I’M NEVER LIVING IN YOUR EXPENSIVE-ASS STATE AGAIN.

This graphic shows all the average apartment rental prices and their increases over the past year. All I can conclude is FUCK YOU SAN FRANCISCO AND FUCK YOU CALIFORNIA. I’M NEVER LIVING IN YOUR EXPENSIVE-ASS STATE AGAIN.

Whenever I watch Mitt Romney do live, unscripted interviews like this, I generally take away two things, regardless of the economic environment surrounding the country right now:

  1. It is incredible that his competition in the Republican primary is so poor that they are all unable to take advantage of this man’s blind spot toward the fiscal manipulation and destruction that’s gone on in the financial sector over the past couple of decades that came to a head in 2008.
  2. President Obama and his campaign team will have no one to blame but themselves if they cannot craft an easy, simple narrative about economic policy to beat Romney. The reason is that Romney is begging the Obama campaign to pull a Rove on him — attack him at his supposed strength — at every opportunity. Even some of the more socially conservative independents and Republicans do not hold particularly kind views of the financial sector, and the GOP hierarchy is ready to put someone completely of the financial sector (which is different than private industry or business) at the top of its ticket.

I don’t even mean any of this in a partisan way. I’m trying to take my lefty hat off here. Romney comes off as very, very tone-deaf to valid complaints that American capitalism has largely been gamed.

(Via James Fallows.)

And the figures included here are only if you attend in-state schools. God help you if you even want to go to an out-of-state public university.

So you have a right to make a profit, but then you feel the need to beg for our money to bail you out from your mistakes?

Privatize the profits, socialize the losses again.

The reason why President Obama has to/can give two completely different speeches to the Hispanic community and the black community is partly to soothe non-black (mostly white) voters that he’s not playing favorites, but also because there is a long tradition of this sort of rhetoric in the black community. (Not that I’m excusing it; I don’t think this bootstraps crap works and it’s condescending.) I can even speak about anecdotes about family members telling me “Ain’t nobody gonna do this for you or wait to help you. Make them notice you. Do right by yourself.”

(Also, it’s not black people he needs to win over. Despite the rough times, most polls I remember seeing show African-Americans are still fully in his corner.)

It’s instructive about the president in the sense that he is black but didn’t grow up with the “traditional” black experience in America — and it’s instructive in the ways we as a country are not comfortable with acknowledging what the traditional black experience in America means now — because we have to talk about a history of slavery and disenfranchisement again.

youmightfindyourself:

By WARREN E. BUFFETT

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren Buffett, dirty commie pinko socialist.

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The Third Shift A vagabond who's made his home in the Pacific Northwest.

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