Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hit's the rich wot gits the grayvy, hit's the powr wat gits the blayme...

If you tell hardcore Republicans that America has about the same income distribution as China, even though most Americans--Republicans included--wrongly believe it's much more evenly distributed (show them a pie chart of Sweden and they'll say that's ours), many Republicans will still say say it's a good thing. That the extraordinarily low taxes on the most extraordinarily wealthy make America a business innovation magnet.

The irony is that while most Republicans see themselves as supremely solid, feet-on-the-ground people, this belief is so idealistic it borders on believing in the Easter Bunny.

True, it isn't fair to say "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime." Google looks like it got its money the right way as far as I can tell. Many other got there through utter ruthlessness--Microsoft comes to mind--but at least Microsoft makes goods and services, and they mostly work, and the world has arguably benefited from having a common small computing standard, even if it's far from ideal.

But many American fortunes came from chicanery--from insourcing profit and outsourcing environmental costs; from subverting Wall Street, whose purpose had been providing financing for makers of goods and services, whose purpose is now money manipulation; from the capture of government, such that not one banker is now in jail for systematically defrauding both their own stockholders & innumerable home buyers (even though Republicans put the entire blame on home buyers), and such that corporate lobbyists have actually written many of the bills passed by Republican legislatures; by many businesses getting much or most of their profit from corporate welfare, from amazing subsidies for certain crops to tricking local voters to pay for sports stadiums while the sports franchise pockets the profits--profits that only appeared because of the heavy subsidization; from phony offshoring of corporate headquarters to a mailbox in Switzerland; from, as Warren Buffet has complained, multibillionaires like him paying far lower taxes than most wage earners; from vast military boondoggles for useless weapons systems while soldiers in the field lack body armor and properly armored vehicles--with consequent loss of life and limb.

I could go on. There are innumerable ways for clever, well-financed tricksters to pick the public's pocket.

Yet all the average Republican can see is the penny-ante frauds of black welfare queens getting thousands of dollars of public money while the billionaires steal billions. And heaven help you if your tax return is off by $10, while literally hundreds of billions are lost every year to complex tax avoidance schemes, such that some corporations don't even pay taxes.

But welfare queens don't look like Republicans, while the representatives of the ultrarich (otherwise known as Republican politicians) do. Except when they're soliciting congressional pages, or other guys in bathrooms, etc. etc. (not that a fair number of Democrats haven't also been caught with their pants down--but at least they don't brag constantly about their superior personal morality).

So I get the impression that the average Republican voter isn't voting his principles, which rarely involve supporting the kind of chicanery few of them are themselves guilty of. They're voting their tribe--and not looking behind the nice suits and red ties. Trusting to the point of gullibility of their own leaders, which holding every Democratic politician to the standards they ought to also be applying to their own pols--and don't.


msas said...

Your numbers are probably some 10 years old.
China is now considered to have a more equal income distribution than the US. Take for instance the GINI index (a measure if inequality) calculated by the CIA: USA: 45; China: 41.5.

Those are countries with similar inequality to the United States:
Cameroon: 44.6
Iran: 44.5
Nigeria: 43.7
Phillipines: 45.8

China is more like:
Argentina: 41.4
Senegal: 41.3
Turkey: 41
Venezuela: 41


Ehkzu said...'s easy to get into the weeds when you try to measure societal inequality. The challenge with the GINI index is that it's relativistic. By absolute standards the US is still one of the richest countries, even for most of its poor people--a big reason why we aren't having major social unrest over this issues.

That, along with the fact that the richest have done this to us like the way you boil a frog.

For example, you might want to look at the UN's "Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index" at

Where the US ranks 12th and dropping just among richer nations.

And even with the GINI index we're quibbling over details. No matter how you slice it the US is highly inequal and getting more so pretty rapidly, even though a middle class American suffering from this disparity would still count as a wealthy person in a majority of the world's countries.

Thus my wife and I couldn't afford to buy a home in our community today; yet when we travel in, say, the Philippines or Indonesia, we're regarded by the locals--using their standards--as almost unimaginably affluent (even though our lack of personal servants would strike them as odd given our means).