Economics

Obama's Economic Mythology

Is the middle class really in decline?

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If you're at a Catholic shrine, it's a good idea to show respect for the Virgin Mary. In New York, a Yankees cap will make you look right at home. And among a Democratic crowd, you can never go wrong by lamenting the decline of the middle class and the stagnation of wages.

I don't have to tell Barack Obama. He makes a habit of claiming that "wages are shrinking," working families have lost ground, and the country desperately needs his "Rescue Plan for the Middle Class." His economic program rests on the unshakable conviction that everyone except the wealthy is doing worse and worse all the time. If elected, he will find sympathetic ears among Democrats in Congress, where never is heard an encouraging word.

In the midst of alarming headlines, it's easy to persuade people that things are worse than they used to be. The only problem is that aside from the transitory effects of the current turmoil, they aren't.

Even on that front, things are better than advertised. For nearly a year, we've been told that the economy is on the verge, if not the thick, of a painful recession. But the traditional definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth—and we have yet to endure even one such quarter. In the second quarter, the economy grew at a brisk 3.3 percent rate, which is the opposite of what happens in a downturn.

Given all the fallout from the housing bust and the mortgage meltdown, things may look worse when the data emerge for the third quarter. But they won't change the actual long-run picture on how most people are faring in the modern economy—which is much better than we have been led to believe.

That is not really surprising. Everywhere you look, you see Americans shopping and buying. Vast expanses of land that used to harbor corn or cattle now provide a home for shopping centers that go on forever. In 1988, Wal-Mart had 1,200 stores. Today, it has 3,800. Americans bought 24 percent more new cars and trucks in 2007 than in 1990.

All sorts of products that didn't exist a generation ago are now commonplace even in humble neighborhoods—personal computers, cell phones, high-definition TVs, Polartec jackets, digital cameras, Starbucks coffee, and more. If their incomes are steadily falling, how do Americans cart home so much stuff?

Terry Fitzgerald, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, says the answer is simple. Far from declining, he writes, "the economic compensation for work for middle Americans has risen significantly over the past 30 years."

The mistake made by the School of Gloom is looking only at wages, narrowly defined. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers, adjusted for inflation, fell by 4 percent between 1975 and 2005. But those figures deceive because they omit fringe benefits like health insurance, pensions and paid leave, which make up a bigger share of total compensation than before. The numbers also rely on a mismeasure of inflation.

When those flaws are corrected, a very different trend leaps off the page. Median wages, says Fitzgerald, rose 28 percent between 1975 and 2005. Nor were the gains restricted to Bill Gates and Hannah Montana: Significant gains occurred in the middle as well.

The same pattern holds for households. The figures that suggest families are struggling to stay even overlook some types of income, and they don't account for the fact that households have gotten smaller on average. After accounting for such things, Fitzgerald found that "inflation-adjusted median household income for most household types increased by roughly 44 percent to 62 percent from 1976 to 2006."

None of this alters the fact that some people have done worse. Domestic and global competition, which raise living standards, also spell trouble for many companies and workers. A 50-year-old who loses a $30-an-hour job on the Chevy assembly line may never find anything comparable. But the steady, broad rise in living standards makes it clear that—at least until recent months—our economy consistently spawns more good jobs than it destroys.

Thanks to American capitalism, ordinary workers and families are better off today than they were a decade or a generation ago. In the midst of scary economic times, that's a heartening fact to keep in mind. Even if certain Democrats would rather you didn't.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Steve,

    In the midst of alarming headlines, it’s easy to persuade people that things are worse than they used to be. The only problem is that aside from the transitory effects of the current turmoil, they aren’t.

    I never thought I would see words such as these in ‘print’ outside of National Review! The article goes well with the KM-W piece about unemployment hysteria.

    However, don’t expect to be included in any Cosmotarian reindeer games any time soon by dissing the chosen candidate.

  2. Guy,

    Exactly. This is the kind of article that brought me to Reason in the first place and have been sorely missing for a long time.

  3. onlyalad,

    I suspect that we should not expect this departure from the cloning of Slate and The Nation to continue for very long.

  4. So I’m watching Obama’s ad and here are a couple of thoughts regarding :

    Do tax credits actually encourage employment? I am skeptical. Any data on their efficacy?

    As for the jobs being shipped overseas line, well, one cannot expect that some set or class of jobs are guaranteed to Americans and have a thriving, dynamic economy at the same time. It sounds like mercantilism.

    None of that grows government? Actually, it is a dramatic increase of the level of government involvement in the affairs of the economy.

  5. I think its pretty clear that when it boils down to it, Obama is clearly the lesser of the two evils. McBush is a proven LIAR whose word clearly means nothing.

    Jiff
    http://www.online-anonymity.kr.tc

  6. The numbers also rely on a mismeasure of inflation.

    Just a question for some clarification (admitting that I haven’t read the article referred to): why is the measure they use a mismeasure and what would be a better one and why? With an assertion like that it would be nice to see some reference to back it up.

    I’m not disagreeing, just curious, especially as I’d like to refer a friend to this article and I know that would be the first thing he’d zero in on.

  7. not to mess up the punch bowl, but didn’t Steve Chapman say he was voting for Obama? WTF?

  8. Seward,

    Agreed.

    As some of my Economics schooled buddies would say, Sen. Obama is proposing another “buggy whip maker protection act”.*

    *I like to joke with them that there still is a buggy whip market, but the users rarely have buggies.

  9. Hmm, “no decline in growth” particularly i’ll timed claim: GDP is out this morning for Q3 – it’s -0.3.

  10. not to mess up the punch bowl, but didn’t Steve Chapman say he was voting for Obama? WTF?

    As reported yesterday, yes.

    Perhaps ‘ol Steve is getting ahead of the self-hate curve?

  11. Americans bought 24 percent more new cars and trucks in 2007 than in 1990.

    I can’t afford my car payments for and to drive my two children around in my 2006 Toyota Highlander Limited Edition with DVD player, and (from the Obama spot last night) we’re struggling just to make ends meet – so we go out to eat and fret about how much it costs.

  12. While there is no doubt that health care coverage is a part of most employees’ compensation, and hence part of their total compensation package — it can also be a bit misleading, given huge inflation in health care costs. From the point of view of whether someone in the middle class “feels” like they are doing better, whether health care now costs $13,000/year or $5,000 year is irrelevant.

    More importantly, if the costs of health care were paid directly by the employee, the escalating costs of health care would also need to take into account when deciding who is and isn’t in “the middle class”. As far as whether inflation is badly stated, many people argue that the CPI understates inflation — that cost of items that real people need to buy is increasing far more than the CPI states. It may be that the items have become “higher quality”, which I assume is how Fitzgerald is assuming that is mismeasured in the opposite direction. But whether or not the car is “higher quality” or the food is “higher quality”, you still need a car to drive to work, and you still need to eat a certain number of calories a day, regardless of its quality.

    Hence, Fitzgerald’s conclusion that “the economic compensation for work for middle Americans has risen significantly over the past 30 years” is a little hard to swallow, and certainly seems to belie the experience of most middle class Americans.

  13. If their incomes are steadily falling, how do Americans cart home so much stuff?

    “I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger* today.”

    *Flat panel television

  14. I don’t know where you got your numbers, but the Commerce Department reports:

    2007 Q4 -0.2%
    2008 Q1 0.9
    2008 Q2 2.8
    2008 Q3 -0.3

    Without the stimulus checks, the Q2 numbers most likely would have been in line with the others.

  15. Americans in the middle class are taking home more “stuff” from their shopping sprees than ever in spite of the statistic that middle class family income fell over the last twenty years as adjusted for inflation. How does this happen? Are they tapping into their healthcare benefits and pensions? Or were they using their credit cards and compounding their debt? Where does he get this information about “smaller families?” With the influx of Asians and Latin-Americans on the scale that we have seen, is it likely that family sizes are trending downward? And what does citing median income statistics have to do with the middle class except obscure the major significant fact that middle class income has declined? Please make more sense.

  16. In 1988, Wal-Mart had 1,200 stores. Today, it has 3,800.

    And the most important thing Wal-Mart was importing for much of that time period was deflation.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  17. Wayne Olsen,

    Which is a better measure of economic prosperity? Per capita income or household income? Probably the former. And yes, family size is significantly down even with the migration you mention, which is in part why per capita income measures are a better way to determine overall prosperity.

  18. not to mess up the punch bowl, but didn’t Steve Chapman say he was voting for Obama? WTF?

    Just cause you like a band doesn’t mean you like all the of their songs. In the same vein, you can like a guy and still think he has bad qualities. You can think a person is right much of the time without treating him or her like a divine oracle.

  19. [sarcastic voice]

    Maybe Sen. Obama has a point about the 1970s being so much better than today. The guy is all of 3 months older than me, so he should know better.

    I ought to appreciate that 1972 Charger of mine the way it was built, back when cars were perfect and inexpensive as compared to the trash on the road now. Leave the 140 HP V8 with 2bbl carb alone, keep the torsion bar front suspension and leaf-spring rear, the AM-only radio, vinyl interior, etc, etc.

    Yes, those were the days . . .

    [/sarcastic voice]

    WHERE THE HELL WAS THIS GUY IN THE 1970s!?!?!? Sen. Obama has more wacky illusions in his head than all of the accusations toward Sen. McCain AND Pres. Reagan combined. (no, I was not quoting him above and not pretending to either).

  20. The middle class is screwed alright, but it’s their own fault – not the guvmints. We have an acucmulated decade of negetive savings rate in debt. The treasury has even more. And we are in a deflationary spiral caused by declining asset prices and negetive wealth effects – but lets quote “28% increase over the last 30 years” (which is 7.5% before inflation, by the way) as the argument why everything is fine and dandy. I don’t think Obama has a clue, or his claims are any more than envy peddling – but to just claim the opposite is just as disingenuous.

  21. seward,

    great point on the jobs being shipped overseas. that is the part of obama’s economic rhetoric that pisses me off the most. the jobs that are going overseas or south of the border are pretty much menial industrial jobs that can be performed cheaper somewhere else or by robots (and you don’t hear obama railing against robots that take over people’s jobs). we live in an ever changing economy, and our economy is no longer an industrial one, with the majority of jobs in that sector. in the past twenty years we have migrated to a technology based economy. most jobs these days are very technology heavy. true, we don’t produce that much anymore, however, we invent/engineer/design more technology, products and services than ever.

    so for those with a blue collar job that has gone overseas, scrape some money together, go back to school, and get some education in a technology related field. because the fact is industrial jobs are getting harder and harder to find and keep and that is not going to change, regardless of what obama spews out of his pie hole.

  22. Vast expanses of land that used to harbor corn or cattle now provide a home for shopping centers that go on forever. In 1988, Wal-Mart had 1,200 stores. Today, it has 3,800. Americans bought 24 percent more new cars and trucks in 2007 than in 1990.

    Almost every Democrat I know regards these things as negatives.

    But then the Democrats I know are extremely leftish. They’re probably not a that good a sample.

  23. Guy Montag,

    Well, Obama also talks about creating new jobs via spending on “clean energy” and about how those jobs will never be outsourced. First of all, I don’t know how the money spent will translate into the specific he uses (five million) or why “outsourcing” those jobs would be a bad thing. I’m sure that other countries (Germany for example) have far more expertise in some of these areas of technology, so any sound policy would actually encourage said outsourcing, so we can concentrate on the things we are good at. That’s just the basic insight of comparative advantage. I would note that one of the things that made the Great Depression even worse was the idea of defending domestic employment, producers, etc.

  24. the jobs being shipped overseas line

    People in third world countries can make products for 3 cents an hour – we’d be stupid not to outsource.

    Also, who are all these people that make such a big fuss about the US outsourcing back breaking jobs in nasty ass factories? Do you really want to spend most of your life on an assembly line, or do you just feel you have the “right” to that pension plan and $40/hour wage that’s bankrupting your company?

    Fortunately our Dear Leader will be deciding which countries are “fair” enough for us to trade with, so you won’t have to worry about those horribly affordable products on your store shelves anymore. I just hope those shirts with Obama’s face on them stay affordable enough for people to buy them in bulk for their kids – you never know when an impromptu celebration for Dear Leader will happen in school.

  25. (no, I was not quoting him above and not pretending to either).

    Well then, fireman, what was your fucking point? That your delusions about Obama’s delusions are scary?

  26. for those with a blue collar job that has gone overseas, scrape some money together, go back to school, and get some education

    Perhaps President Hopey will send them all to med school, as part of the Universal Health Right.

  27. Do tax credits actually encourage employment?

    I don’t see how. They aren’t going to people who create jobs (the employers), so how can they?

  28. As someone who was comfortably middle-class at the beginning of the Bush 43 presidency, I can assure you that the middle class is indeed in decline. All of my ‘middle class’ friends and I have faced higher fuel prices, higher health care costs, higher food prices, lower wages, lower benefits, and increasing difficulty in making ends meet. Inflation has been rampant because of the devaluation of the dollar brought about by the Fed’s mismanagement and the governments reckless spending. Once I ate steak on a regular basis. Now it is only an occasional indulgence.

    I don’t agree with any of Obama’s solutions to the problems, but he has the diagnosis dead on.

    Click your heels together three times Dorthy, and say ‘there’s no place like home’.

  29. “Everywhere you look, you see Americans shopping and buying. ”

    I always use something along the same lines when I am debating about the economy with people. Some people even get angry with me when I suggest that the economy isn’t in too bad of shape and the bailout did nothing but make it far worse. And we couldn’t be farther from “The worst economic problem since The GReat Depression.” Like I had just suggested we start raping babies or something kind of angry….

  30. They aren’t going to people who create jobs (the employers), so how can they?

    It’s a demand-side intervention, so the thinking is, I think, that if you give tax credits to folks who consume products, the businesses who make those products will do better and thus be able to hire more people.

    It’s no more or less crazy than supply-side interventions, IMHO.

  31. Also, who are all these people that make such a big fuss about the US outsourcing back breaking jobs in nasty ass factories?

    A lot of those nasty factories were the ones his buddies got closed for ‘environmental’ reasons, or his union buddies got closed by pricing themselves out of their own jobs in spite of being the most productive workers in the world.

    Remember his line about the closed steel mills on Chicago’s South Side? They got closed because they were “dirty” by his environmentalist buddies and now he is whining about it, without crediting the ‘success’ of his political allies and blaming it on the steel industry at the same time.

  32. R.C. Dean,

    I believe his proposal would actually give such credits to employers who hire folks in the U.S. That could potentially lead to a dramatic redistribution of income depending on what the final details of such a plan would be.

  33. Once I ate steak on a regular basis. Now it is only an occasional indulgence.

    A ribeye at Morton’s is still only $40, same as it was 2 years ago or more. Stop your whining and embrace smart dining.

  34. Preface: I am no expert here so please forgive me if I am wrong.

    It would seem to me that in a country that has the second highest corporate tax rate (35%?) personally I am surprised we keep companies. I mean why would a company want to hang around here and create more jobs when they can go somewhere else for much cheaper. On top of that doesn’t Obama want to repeal the tax breaks they have in place now? Doesn’t seem like a very good way to create more jobs.

  35. Kaiser,

    When unemployment breaks 10% we’ll be in the worst crisis since the early 1980s recession.

  36. Q:If their incomes are steadily falling, how do Americans cart home so much stuff?

    A: Because they are in debt up to their eyeballs.

    Also, the cost of the very inefficient health care system in the US is reflected in the value of employer sponsored health insurance, so yes, the real value of this is increasing even though workers are also stuck with rapidly increasing deductables and copays out of their declining real wages.

    And don’t forget, a lot more household are relying on two primary income earners who are often working at more than one job than in the ’70s.

  37. I believe his proposal would actually give such credits to employers who hire folks in the U.S.

    That is another of his wacky, fuzzy promises.

    While complaining about firms that move some or all of their operations to locations where tax rates and other factors are beneficial, and threatening to punish those firms for doing something intuitive, he also says he is going to give tax incentives to other companies that have kept operations here. The latter are probably due to the conditions for their industry to be optimal in the US already.

    Oh, and if anybody gets gross receipts over $250,000 he wants to take all of that to “spread the wealth around”.

  38. Kaiser,

    The larger point is that corporate taxes are in the end paid by the consumers of the goods and services that those corporations make available to the public. It is one of the ways that the tax burden of the individual is hidden from them.

  39. I believe his proposal would actually give such credits to employers who hire folks in the U.S. That could potentially lead to a dramatic redistribution of income depending on what the final details of such a plan would be.

    Oh yeah, *that* tax credit. Yup, as far as I understand it, it goes to the employer, making it a supply-side goodie. And like you say, a massive redistribution of wealth.

  40. It would seem to me that in a country that has the second highest corporate tax rate (35%?) personally I am surprised we keep companies.

    It’s not just the second highest corporate tax rate, either. It’s how it’s levied.

    Most other countries only tax corporations on domestic income. The US taxes worldwide profits.

    That’s the main reason corporations move offshore.

  41. If their incomes are steadily falling, how do Americans cart home so much stuff?

    Wouldn’t the answer to that be incurring unsustainable debt? No mention in the article about the amount/percentage of household/credit card debt people are carrying.
    I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it certainly needs to considered.

  42. Oh, and if anybody gets gross receipts over $250,000 he wants to take all of that to “spread the wealth around”.

    A marginal increase of 2% is not, in any sane world, “taking all of that”.

  43. To all of you who want to use the “too much credit” excuse for consumer spending, while their incomes are “declining”: Don’t you know that people with less income are supposed to have less credit available?

    Or are you under the impression that someone with a $75,000/year income in DC must have the same amount of credit available as someond in Iowa making $250,000, therefore they can spend the same amount of money?

  44. Most other countries only tax corporations on domestic income. The US taxes worldwide profits.

    That’s the main reason corporations move offshore.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but that sounds a little backwards. Wouldn’t taxing only domestic receipts *encourage* companies to move most of their operations to places with lower marginal rates?

  45. Again, I’m no expert here:

    “When unemployment breaks 10% we’ll be in the worst crisis since the early 1980s recession.”

    Maybe so but; A) don’t we have something like 4% more to go before we hit that mark and B) How is this calculated? Is this talking about corporate jobs because everywhere I go there are “now hiring” signs plus craigslist is just filled with job offers. It seems to me that it’s not that there aren’t any jobs out there, just jobs people don’t want to do.

    “The larger point is that corporate taxes are in the end paid by the consumers of the goods and services that those corporations make available to the public. It is one of the ways that the tax burden of the individual is hidden from them.”

    Isn’t this just another good reason to cut taxes on corporations? They jut incorporate them into their products anyways so in essence wouldn’t cutting their taxes be a tax cut for the consumer?

  46. “Just cause you like a band doesn’t mean you like all the of their songs. In the same vein, you can like a guy and still think he has bad qualities.”

    If you look at Obama and take him at his word, he wants to move away from dynamic capitalism and toward the social protection statism of Western Europe. Someone above compared it to mercantilism or buggy whip protection acts and they are right. Probably the closest I could put it would be labor Britian where productive industries are taxed and regulated to support dying industry. The question I would ask the Reason staff is just what issue is actually important to them?

    Trade? Obama is the most overtly protectionist candidate in my lifetime. McCain in contrast has voted for free trade something like 90% of the time in the Senate.

    Taxes? Obama wants to make the income tax completely regressive and let 48% of tax payers completly out of the system. So much for a flat tax.

    Entitlements? Obama wants to federalize the medical insurance program. Once the government starts paying our insurance bills how long before we end up with the one payer holy grail of progressivism. Obama also wants to end the cap of Social Security tax, means test Social Security and turn it into a welfare program. So much for privatizing social security.

    Foreign affairs? Obama makes no secret of his desire to intervene in Pakistan and escalate the war in Afghanistan and intervene for the purpose of humanitarian relief. Unlike McCain he will have a compliant Congress to support him.

    Drugs? Joe Biden sponsored the Rave Act and Obama has made no indication he would be any different on the drug war than McCain.

    The Reason staff’s are a combination of wishful thinking, “he is just talking to the crowd, he won’t really do any of that” or “the Republicans deserve to lose so they can come back and be our party”, and just class snobbery. Obama is one of them. He went to Harvard after all. He has got to be better than all of those icky Republicans.

    Reversing big government is really hard to do. Labor Britain gave Britain Thatcher and the Great Society gave the US Reagan, but even still the US ended up with a bigger government and England is down right hopeless. Is the Reason staff really so naive as to think that even four years of Obama and Pelosi could be conveniently eliminated? At best a 2012 sweep would just stop the bleeding.

    The Reason staff is just batshit insane. It would be one thing to stay home in protest or vote for Barr. But to vote for Obama just shows that they really don’t have any core beliefs or ideals. Shit no one is that cheap of a date. They don’t care about any of the things they claim to care about. What they care about most of all is fitting in with the cult of personality that is Obama and with their peers. It is really hard being a hell raiser and telling the group they are full of shit. No doubt in the circles the Reason staff runs in, pointing out what a disaster Obama will be for the country probably doesn’t buy them many friends, but hell it is not like anyone will shoot them or something. Who cares if no one invites out anymore. Fuck them. Sadly, the Reason staff doesn’t seem up to the task.

  47. I’ve always taken issue with the simultaneous effort to push everyone into college and to push everyone into factories.
    Sure, industrial times can be romanticized. I can do it, too. Look:

    OH, those days when it was cold and snowing, but the warm radiant heat of the steel mill kept us warm. It was OK, this contrast, because we had good jobs that helped us support our families. After work we went to drinking holes near our factories, with our sooted hands, and kicked back a few before boarding the trolly car back to our neighborhoods where some of us were able to afford a one story 2-bedroom single family home. It was tough to make ends meet sometimes, but fortunately, since our wives didn’t work, she stayed at home and baked bread, repaired our clothes, and raised the children.

    Ahh, those were the good times, right?

  48. Kaiser,

    Maybe so but; A) don’t we have something like 4% more to go before we hit that mark and B) How is this calculated? Is this talking about corporate jobs because everywhere I go there are “now hiring” signs plus craigslist is just filled with job offers. It seems to me that it’s not that there aren’t any jobs out there, just jobs people don’t want to do.

    When I mention this to my Leftoid friends they bring up the fact that Ronald Reagan said much the same thing. Then they think they “won” by being the first to throw down a Reagan comparison.

  49. “A marginal increase of 2% is not, in any sane world, “taking all of that”.”

    no, but combined with his other proposals – lifting the cap on social security, mandated health insurance schemes, massively increased capital gains taxes (not that that will be a problem for people right away) – the marginal effective rate will probably be higher by at least 10%. Still not “all” – but clearly a lot more than 2%.

  50. Reinmoose,

    You are exactly right. It always amazes me how ignorant people are of history. We are so much richer and better off today than we were in the past it is astounding. Anyone who wants to go back to the good old days either is nuts or completely ignorant of what those days really were.

  51. Elemenope,

    A marginal increase of 2% is not, in any sane world, “taking all of that”.

    I don’t believe that the realities of the budget or the debt will allow for any tax breaks for anyone. Either we are going to see an increase in taxes directly or indirectly, or we’ll see an even higher rate of debt accumalation which in turn will eventually lead to more taxes.

  52. John,

    “Taxes? Obama wants to make the income tax completely regressive and let 48% of tax payers completly out of the system. So much for a flat tax.”

    Judging from the context – I think you meant to complain about taxes being progressive, not regressive.

  53. I’ve always taken issue with the simultaneous effort to push everyone into college and to push everyone into factories.

    You, I and Cliff Stoll seem to be in a very small set who agree with this notion.

  54. You are right domoarrigato. My sloppy writing. That is what I get for letting myself rant.

  55. Add John to that set mentioned in my last comment.

  56. So I’m guessing Obama’s “spread the wealth around” mantra doesn’t apply to people in other countries, who obviously prefer working in Wal-Mart sweatshops to their other available career opportunities, if one can call them that.

  57. Reinmoose – you are, of course, correct about the good old days not being so great. But it doesn’t really matter where we were as much as it does where we are going. The standard of living in the US has increased – but the expected standard of living obviously increased too. We have not – in wall street parlance – beat expectations. Now we are going to have to take a writedown, and aren’t too sure what will happen after that. This story – taken in total – is not a completely happy one.

  58. “I’ve always taken issue with the simultaneous effort to push everyone into college and to push everyone into factories.”

    I am with you here, for a couple of reasons. A) The “good ol days” aren’t all that good. And more importantly B) to me anyways, college is a big waste. It cost so much money and by the time you get out you are in debt up to your ears and the job you start out with isn’t near enough to compensate for what it cost you to go to school.

    Why waste the time, especially in todays world of the intrawebs. With all the possibilities in the country, everything from playing poker to investing from your computer, imho anyways, college is a waste.

  59. Maybe I’m wrong, but that sounds a little backwards. Wouldn’t taxing only domestic receipts *encourage* companies to move most of their operations to places with lower marginal rates?

    Yes and no, I guess. French corporations pay French income tax rates on income earned on their sales in France and US rates on income earned on their sales in the US.

    US companies operating in France pay French rates on their domestic French income and then have to pay US rates on it as well (with some arcane adjustments, of course).

    There are many reasons other than marginal rates involved.

    Of course, few companies are repatriating to France since their labor laws suck so bad. But there is still less incentive for a French company to leave.

  60. The Reason staff is just batshit insane. It would be one thing to stay home in protest or vote for Barr. But to vote for Obama just shows that they really don’t have any core beliefs or ideals. Shit no one is that cheap of a date. They don’t care about any of the things they claim to care about. What they care about most of all is fitting in with the cult of personality that is Obama and with their peers. It is really hard being a hell raiser and telling the group they are full of shit. No doubt in the circles the Reason staff runs in, pointing out what a disaster Obama will be for the country probably doesn’t buy them many friends, but hell it is not like anyone will shoot them or something. Who cares if no one invites out anymore. Fuck them. Sadly, the Reason staff doesn’t seem up to the task.

    QFMFT, John. I don’t get libertarians voting for Obama. Of course, I wouldn’t get them voting for McCain either, but that doesn’t seem to be happening as much.

  61. I don’t believe that the realities of the budget or the debt will allow for any tax breaks for anyone. Either we are going to see an increase in taxes directly or indirectly, or we’ll see an even higher rate of debt accumalation which in turn will eventually lead to more taxes.

    If that’s true, and it very well may be, why all the piling on on Obama’s tax plan (or the nebulous “Obama Tax Reality that he’s hiding from all of us” that lurks in the hearts of GOP faithful everywhere)?

    Does this not mean that *any warm breathing body* in the same position would have to, and would, raise taxes?

    I’ve always taken issue with the simultaneous effort to push everyone into college and to push everyone into factories.

    You, I and Cliff Stoll seem to be in a very small set who agree with this notion.

    I actually agree as well.

  62. I dunno, I just don’t think that the majority of Americans are that stupid in not being in touch with their own economic lives. I think they are probably on some kind of solid ground when they feel that current times ain’t so good for them, just like they knew that when Reagan asked them “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

    False conscioussness is a bit suspect imo whether it comes from Marxists or the right.

  63. cunnivore,

    I too am perplexed why any sort of “limited government maverick” would vote for Obama or McCain. In what way are either of these guys going to reduce the reach of government?

  64. domo –
    You are right about future earnings and all that. But the national argument at the moment isn’t about future earnings, it’s about current earnings. Apparently we’re in such bad condition right now that people are having to choose between feeding their children and keeping the electricity on. While I’m sure there’s someone out there making that choice, I don’t see it being relevant to the rest of the middle class.

    The current discussion of future expectations is centered around how government can make your life better, not how you can make your life better. This is a very Western European concept – waiting for the government to do something about your specific situation. Nobody’s looking at the structural problems – like how the push for home ownership reduces the dynamicism of the economy by making people more geographically grounded. It’s harder and more expensive, for example, for someone who owns a home to up and leave for a better opportunity somewhere else, and that opportunity therefore has to yield significantly higher expectations than the current situation in order to warrant a move. In response, we’re trying to make the economy less dynamic instead of make the population more dynamic – this is the issue.

  65. “I don’t get libertarians voting for Obama. Of course, I wouldn’t get them voting for McCain either, but that doesn’t seem to be happening as much.”

    My personal view – libertarians do what every other “un decided voter” does – they just retain a faux-principled licence to bitch afterwards. how else can you explain a party that gets less than 10% of it’s own bases vote?

  66. The end result of all of these policies is to totally fuck the little guy and turn him into a ward of the state. Big business can always handle regulation better than small business because of their size. Further, if they can’t they can just go to the government for a handout like the auto industry or the banks just did.

    Small business can’t do that. They just get crushed by regulation. If I didn’t care about the country and only myself, I would be voting for Obama. I have a cushy government job and am set. People like me, who already have theirs and have jobs in recession proof industries like government and academia are set. It is the people who are out there trying to make theirs are screwed on this system. They can go to their government supported crappy union job, if they can find one, or they can go on the dole, but they can forget about starting a business or getting in on the ground floor of anything, because there isn’t going to be anymore ground floors anymore. What is here is here and there won’t be anymore. The new googles and microsofts and such will come from China and India not America.

  67. ” don’t get libertarians voting for Obama. Of course, I wouldn’t get them voting for McCain either, but that doesn’t seem to be happening as much.”

    I doubt that. As an article in the New Yorker mentioned the other day the GOP usually gets 70% of the libertarian vote, but lately that is more like 60%. I would guess that is gonna be right in 08.

    I mean, hand it to the GOP in the past eight years, they have worked their ass off to alienate the libertarians that at one time overwhelmingly sided with them. A lot of those people are pissed at getting the high hat and want some way to register their disapproval. After Bush grew the government more than recent Democratic President’s they probably just aren’t falling for the rhetorical charges of Democrats being “the” socialist party.

  68. Elemenope,

    If that’s true, and it very well may be, why all the piling on on Obama’s tax plan (or the nebulous “Obama Tax Reality that he’s hiding from all of us” that lurks in the hearts of GOP faithful everywhere)?

    Why am I criticizing his proposals right now? Because I am expect him to win next week. I’ll have to readjust if he loses.

    Does this not mean that *any warm breathing body* in the same position would have to, and would, raise taxes?

    Well, the other option is to reduce government spending, but that is unlikely to happen except perhaps at the margins. Any group with even marginal clout will not let their ox be gored.

  69. I want to “fourth” in with cunnivore, John and Seward. Libertarians should be voting for the candidate who is most libertarian. It’s not that difficult.

    If the election is close, you should vote libertarian because it shows that libertarians are an influential block that require “courting”.

    If the election is a blowout, you should vote libertarian to help increase ballot access and hey, what’s the harm?

    Regardless, massive statist candidates from the Republicrats do not deserve libertarian support.

  70. Kaiser –
    it’s not that college is a complete waste of money, but the idea that everybody needs it in order to perform a job is ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous to think that everyone is going to benefit from 4 more years of schooling. It’s somehow not ok to have modest expectations for yourself and for what your career options will be. It’s an elitist viewpoint that allows a struggling executive at a non-profit with a masters degree to view herself as better off than someone who earns twice as much as her waiting tables or cutting hair.

    For most jobs, college degrees are extremely bad at training people in a cost-effective way. You might say “but Reinmoose, it makes our economic actors more dynamic and more easily able to switch jobs,” which would be somewhat true, if it didn’t seem that the whole country was fixated on the concept of job security and working in factories.

  71. I asked on another thread why it is that Paul raised 35 million dollars and Barr has raised only one million. I got some good answers from libertarians. It seems a lot of people are still suspect of Barr’s conversion and there are some personality differences.

    It’s interesting how each major party also tries very hard to give you reasons to vote for their party as a way to vote against the other party as they paint the values you have being trampled on if that “other guy wins.” Undoubtedly this cuts into third party support that otherwise would be forthcoming.

  72. libertarians do what every other “un decided voter” does – they just retain a faux-principled licence to bitch afterwards.

    Oh snap! So true, though.

    But yeah, it’s time to start launching attacks on Obama’s presidency. I got caught off-guard by Bush (in 2000) and didn’t criticize him early enough. Won’t make that mistake again.

  73. The current discussion of future expectations is centered around how government can make your life better, not how you can make your life better.

    totally.

    like how the push for home ownership reduces the dynamicism of the economy by making people more geographically grounded.

    wait – you mean some Americans don’t dream of homeownership? That’s just crazy talk :0

    I agree with your whole post – I was more responding to the article which I thought was as over optimistic given the current realities, as the people it criticised were overly pessimistic given past realities.

  74. “I want to “fourth” in with cunnivore, John and Seward. Libertarians should be voting for the candidate who is most libertarian. It’s not that difficult.”

    I will throw in my “fifth.” I have been saying this for awhile too. If you truly are libertarian there is no logical reason to vote for either of these two candidates that are running. I realize a lot of the reason staffers live in DC which polls like 90% liberal but still, at the very least just stay home.

  75. There is plenty I don’t like about Obamanomics, but by any objective measure real wages and total compensation are falling the the US, and have been since 1972 with little fits and starts to the upside.

    The economic recovery from 2002 to the present (today’s quarterly GDP data suggest the expansion is over) was the only one in history to show real wage declines. Corporate profits as a proportion of GDP are record high while wages as compensation are record low.

    Chapman doesn’t help the libertarian cause by being a Pollyanna on economics.

  76. Elemenope,

    BTW, I could be persuaded to vote for Obama if say he opposed agricultural subsidies and seemed to be able to deliver on that. But there is nothing in his universe of proposals that I have seen that looks like that.

  77. Sign me up for John’s rant. A libertarian, such as myself, who can’t tolerate McCain, has no principled justification whatsoever for voting for Obama. Helping Obama run up the score just encourages both parties to go even further in the wrong direction.

  78. Reinmoose:
    “it’s not that college is a complete waste of money, but the idea that everybody needs it in order to perform a job is ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous to think that everyone is going to benefit from 4 more years of schooling. It’s somehow not ok to have modest expectations for yourself and for what your career options will be. It’s an elitist viewpoint that allows a struggling executive at a non-profit with a masters degree to view herself as better off than someone who earns twice as much as her waiting tables or cutting hair.

    For most jobs, college degrees are extremely bad at training people in a cost-effective way. You might say “but Reinmoose, it makes our economic actors more dynamic and more easily able to switch jobs,” which would be somewhat true, if it didn’t seem that the whole country was fixated on the concept of job security and working in factories.”

    I completely agree. In my post I was merely pointing out my personal reasons for agreeing. In the bigger picture though you are exactly right.

  79. There is plenty I don’t like about Obamanomics, but by any objective measure real wages and total compensation are falling the the US, and have been since 1972 with little fits and starts to the upside.

    Yet oddly, the standard of living right down the quartiles has significantly improved during the same period.

  80. it’s not that there aren’t any jobs out there, just jobs people don’t want to do

    There are also more than a few jobs out there for which our Ministry of Educationism has utterly failed to produce qualified applicants. This is largely a result of simultaneously reducing the quality of the curriculum and attempting to convince every student that they *need* a college degree.

  81. If all of the Reason staff said they were voting for Barr, or if he is not on the ballet staying home, I would respect them. They have legitimate beefs with the current Republican Party. I don’t agree with all of the beefs, but I agree with some of them and I understand why they have the ones I don’t.

    But to take their grievence with the Republicans and use that as an excuse to vote for a guy who is even worse and a guy who potentially could do much more damage to their cause is just stupid. It just says that they vote based on culture and superficiality rather than principle because Obama offers them nothing beyond those things.

  82. Also, while comparing the present with the past regarding increases in prosperity, what can’t be seen also needs to be taken into account — where would we be now had we maintained a limited government, much lower taxes, military non-interference overseas and a truly free market?

  83. TAO, libertarians shouldn’t be voting for any of the presidential candidates. I’ll be voting for all of the LPTX candidates, however, because it’s a pretty good organization – and it’s running a ton of candidates.

    (Ballot access isn’t a concern in Texas either – Democrats are so weak they don’t challenge state judicial posts, so the LPTX guys get 25% or so at least. Might be a lot more this year.)

    Anyways, if the Obama administration finally sticks a fork in the American economy with its realization of economic “popular wisdom”, I won’t be too upset. I have plenty of life left to join in the rising from the ashes. Obama will have screwed his own generation, however.

  84. P Brooks
    “There are also more than a few jobs out there for which our Ministry of Educationism has utterly failed to produce qualified applicants. This is largely a result of simultaneously reducing the quality of the curriculum and attempting to convince every student that they *need* a college degree.”

    I agree. Another problem, in my opinion anyways, is teachers unions. (ugh I despise unions) My mother was a teach for about 15 years before she moved into a different position, she explained to me once how once a teacher gets in tenure, it is all but impossible to get rid of them. At that point it is easier to fire a principal than the teachers. The problem this causes is that bad teachers are hard to get rid of and stay in the system.

  85. Perhaps it would read better if I had written — non-interference oversea, except in cases of self-defense.

  86. Chapman doesn’t help the libertarian cause by being a Pollyanna on economics.

    Somebody had to do it.

  87. since the consensus seems to be both major parties suck and don’t represent libertarians – yet libertarians seem to defect to one or the other party anyway – I ask: what is the solution? The LP lacks credibility – exuisitely clear since Bob Barr is the most mainstream we’ve been able to manage. How can we get the nut jobs to put up non-nut jobs? We seem to have a catch-22 situation here…

  88. I’ll jump on that bandwagon about the college thing. I’ve always thought it was stupid that we push college on everybody, especially in my field – education. Half of the kids I work with are totally unprepared to do four years of college, and probably wouldn’t benefit from it anyway. IMHO Teachers and education “experts” have bought into this idea because it satisfies the philosophical need to believe that all students are the same.

  89. Apparently we’re in such bad condition right now that people are having to choose between feeding their children and keeping the electricity on. While I’m sure there’s someone out there making that choice, I don’t see it being relevant to the rest of the middle class.

    John Draper has been living like that for years, but non of the children he wants to help are his own.

  90. All of my ‘middle class’ friends and I have faced higher fuel prices, higher health care costs, higher food prices, lower wages, lower benefits, and increasing difficulty in making ends meet.

    When I was a little boy in the early 70s, my folks, myself, and my two siblings lived in a 1000 square-foot house, my mom stayed home, we had 1 car, steak was on the plate twice a week, all our toys could fit into one toybox, and we spent two glorious weeks at the beach, two hours away, each summer for vacation.

    Nowadays, both my siblings have a couple kids, live in houses twice the size of the one we grew up in, one has an inground pool, the other sibling owns a 27′ camper, both siblings and their spouses work and therefore need two cars per household, chest-freezers are filled with quick-prep frozen food to keep up with busy kids’ schedules, each kid has their own toybox plus the popular electronic toys, and family vacations are spent in Orlando.

    When I was a boy, what my siblings now have would’ve been considered “rich”.

    However, according to Hopama, they’re the downtrodden middle class in need of even more tax breaks.

  91. Ravac–

    Credit cards can buy a lot of stuff, that’s for sure.

  92. Sorry people but Obama promised me that 2008 Challenger Guy has been talking about lately. Vote Obama 08′!

  93. TAO, libertarians shouldn’t be voting for any of the presidential candidates.

    Because…?

  94. Because…?

    Because none of them could be trusted to manage a 7-11, much less a country.

  95. An ideal outcome for libertarians would be for McCain to lose by say 5 points and for the Libertarian candidate to get somewhere approaching that. Then the Republicans would look at that five percentage points and perhaps think, gee what can we do to get them back and the Democrats would have to think if those guys ever vote Republican we could be in trouble. But in words of John Belushi, NOOOOOOO, they can’t do that. Better to vote for the chosen one. His posters are cool. This election has proven once and for all that the Reason staff are not serious people.

  96. Nigel Watt,

    Anyone can manage a 7-11. All you have to do is put that dot on your forehead.

    Zing!!!

  97. Nigel, so what? They’re the best of “bad” choices, and that’s kind of the point.

  98. Uh John, you’re missing the other possible scenario, which is the one in which the GOP wins, and the libertarians still get a significant showing. In that case, the GOP learns *nothing* and casts out the “traitors” and their silly ideology, since obviously they don’t need them after all.

    Even from a tactical voting point of view, voting for Obama as a libertarian is not insane.

  99. “Because none of them could be trusted to manage a 7-11, much less a country.”

    I know what you mean and not to be pedantic, but politicians manage the government not the country. It seems like a small point but it is an important one. The country manages itself and usually quite well.

  100. El – there is no reasonable way one could think the Republicans are going to win.

  101. “Even from a tactical voting point of view, voting for Obama as a libertarian is not insane.”

    First, the REason staff has bought into the conventional wisdom that the polls are all correct and that McCAin is going to get killed. I am not convinced of that but they are so they can’t be factoring in the risk of a McCain victory in their decision. Further, if the Republicans were to win and Libertarians were to vote for Obama, wouldn’t that just tell the Republicans that they don’t need the Libertarians? It is the same result regardless of whether they vote for Obama or Barr. Given that, isn’t it better to vote for someone who actually beleives in the things you do? Why on earth would you ever vote for someone so antithetical to your beliefs?

  102. John, are you voting for McCain or Barr?

  103. Elemenope,

    Even from a tactical voting point of view, voting for Obama as a libertarian is not insane.

    How does one tease out the libertarian vote from the total vote for Obama? A better way to do that is to vote you know, a libertarian.

  104. NS,

    Sorry people but Obama promised me that 2008 Challenger Guy has been talking about lately. Vote Obama 08′!

    I hate you.

    John,

    An Obama loss by any number of votes will be cast as a “theft” again. Any win, by any number of votes, will be cast as a “landslide/validation/mandate”.

  105. BDB,

    I am voting for MCCain but I am Republican not a Libertarian. I don’t share Reason’s beefs with the Republican Party over Iraq. I agree with them about spending, but a divided government will spend a hell of a lot less than a unified Democratic one. Also, the whole cult of personality thing around Obama makes me want to vomit.

    If the Republicans had Congress I might vote for barr out of protest. But the prospect of a real Democratic ruling majority ought to scare the bother anyone who beleives in small government. Go over and read Kos sometimes. Those people are fucking crazy. I don’t want any of them anywhere near unchecked power.

  106. When it comes to a limited government perspective I can’t think of an easier election than this one. Barr is just clearly the candidate of choice on that matter.

  107. I don’t know how you can seriously put a stamp of approval on what the Republicans have done the last eight years (even from a Republican point of view). I’m voting for Barr but won’t shed a tear when the Republicans get stomped. They’ve earned it.

  108. Guy,

    I work with a guy who has worked in about a million campaigns. He is a Dem but not an Obama fan. He explained to me how you do polls and how they work. He thinks the election is going to be very very close and that the polls that show Obama up are junk for a variety of reasons.

    If he is right, God help the country and all of us. I don’t really want to contemplate the mess it will be.

  109. Form your own interest group, Guy. Just ask to be in charge of the EEOC commission helping to fill the gender gap in traditional men’s occupations . . . like say . . . welding, for instance.

  110. “I’m voting for Barr but won’t shed a tear when the Republicans get stomped.”

    Are you interested in the country or just revenge? At some level aren’t you really saying that you think the country deserves to get fucked over by a leftist Democratic Administration for the sin of voting for Bush? That is a bit biblical of you isn’t it? Are you wishing for a plague of locusts to?

  111. For being “junk” the polls have been right from 1952 on. People bitching about the polls are always the ones behind. Every losing candidate says he will be “Harry Truman”.

  112. John,

    He thinks the election is going to be very very close and that the polls that show Obama up are junk for a variety of reasons.

    I suspect this as well, but have no basis for it – would you care to elaborate?

  113. John–

    If we’re going to get fucked over by big spenders we may as well get people who are honest about it. I’m sick of the Republicans. I just really hate the GOP right now. They’ve governed horribly and McCain has run a ridiculous campaign about nothing. They haven’t even tried to earn my vote.

  114. I dunno, I just don’t think that the majority of Americans are that stupid …

    I stopped reading right there. I do believe that Americans are that stupid no matter what they are opining about. I believe Americans are, by and large, ignorant rubes lacking in critical thinking skills, The average American has probaly not read any non-fiction books that were not job required since they left school. To be fair i must acknowledge they do know who won on American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

    Face it, MNG, your fellow citizens are not that sharp. Surely you’ve noticed that by listening to them expound on the issues of the day.

    I’ll go finish reading your post now.

  115. Domoarrigato,

    It has to do with turnout. You base your extrapolation from your sample on a model of how you think turnout will go. The polls that show Obama up big assume a turnout different from 2004 or any other recent election. They assume a youth vote larger than has ever been seen. He doesn’t think that will happen since it has never happened in the past despite being predicted every election. The second thing he says is that the number of undecideds is really high for this late in the election and has actually gone up in the last few weeks. That says people haven’t decided and that the whole “joe the plummer” thing and the “spread the wealth” gap has gotten people to get cold feet about Obama. Do they break back for Obama late or do they break to McCain? There is no telling at this point. He also points to how badly Obama under performed in the polls during the primaries. At this point the Traditional Gallup has it at 2 or 3 points. If Obama underperforms by a couple of points, that becomes very close very quickly.

  116. John,

    Really? Gallup polls are fairly accurate. Let me see if I remember the main formula:

    the Z, alpha over two is 1.96
    margin of error is plus minus two with the above squared multiplied by the population sample multiplied by 1 minus the population sample over the desired margin of error of 0.02 and . . .

    Nope sorry I don’t feel like typing that garbage anymore. John I think your friend is incorrect.

  117. “Face it, MNG, your fellow citizens are not that sharp. Surely you’ve noticed that by listening to them expound on the issues of the day.”

    Fuck off. They are plenty smart and most of them are likly smarter than you. They just have better thinks to do than expound on the issues of the day. The fact that Americans are not generally politically engaged is a feature not a bug. There are lots of places where people are really politically engaged and they tend to be totalitarian hell holes or ripped apart by civil wars. This whole “the people must be engaged shit” is just a bunch of leftist horse dung. The people need to be doing exactly what they are doing; enjoying their freedom and living productive lives.

  118. John there are more Democrats than Republicans in this country than there were four years ago. It’s just a fact. Saying that there will be an equal number of Republicans and Democrats like there were in 2004 is an insane assumption giving the fact the Republicans have been bleeding registration numbers like crazy.

  119. “Nope sorry I don’t feel like typing that garbage anymore. John I think your friend is incorrect.”

    Since I have never taken a poll, answered a poll or paid for a poll, I don’t really have much ground to argue with him. Maybe he is wrong. I honestly don’t know enough to know. Of course I also don’t know enough to trust the people who tell me polls are totally and completely correct either.

  120. John,

    thanks – so more or less, the polls build in very optimistic assumptions. Turnout is probably the killer. The more he is up in the polls the more people assume their vote isn’t needed to win – but you need some other sort of non-polled undercurrent (like indeps or bradley effect) combined with apathy related turnout problems to get a McCain victory, no? Not that I’m breathless for McCain by the way…

  121. BDB,

    If obama does win, you better be in here singing his praises. You want to be fucked by an honest man, so I don’t see how you can complain when you are.

  122. Chapman uses data says that things have gotten better for ‘the middle class’ from 1976 to 2006. This is no doubt true.

    Obama’s argument is that things have gotten worse since 2001. This may or may not be true, but is a completely different argument.

    I have the same problem with this column as I have with K-MW’s yesterday. Saying that ‘growth was 3 ish % in 2 qtr 08′ and ’employment is “only” 6.1%’ ignores the overall trend line, the direction of which is not good. The current *best case* forecasts point to us approaching the worse economic conditions since at least the early 80’s recession – and anyone under 50 has never really experienced such conditions.

  123. John,

    I would agree but I have the math more or less under my belt. Mathematically, Gallup has one of the best probability functions I have ever seen or heard of being used.

  124. Nope I won’t sing his praises. I don’t like him either. But the Republican Party should be repudiated for abandoning any semblance of principles they have and throwing it all overboard for this small-town populist evangelical horse shit. I knew that when Huckabee won the Iowa caucus the Republican Party was losing it. Sarah Palin as VP confirmed it for me.

  125. I am not breathless for McCain. If Hillary were running I would be voting for her. No shit. I never thought I would say that. But I think she is just an ordinary liberal. I think Obama might be that. But he also might be something a lot more sinister. There is maybe a one in ten chance he is anything other than your typical crooked liberal. But that is a chance I really don’t want to take.

  126. And that in a nutshell is why I’m voting for Barr. Obama has a pretty high bar to clear if he wants to make the next four years worse than the last eight.

  127. I’m voting for Barr but won’t shed a tear when the Republicans get stomped.”

    Are you interested in the country or just revenge?

    Punishing errant behavior is not an act of revenge. It is applying disciplne in order to minimize the possibility of future transgressions. The list of GOP generated outrages over the last 7.75 years are certainly deserving of punishment and correction.

  128. John,

    For me the point is to vote for someone whose statements correlate with my own ideas. Bob Barr wins that hands down. As for all the tactics, strategizing, etc. vis a vis voting for Obama or McCain, I think that most of what of what I hear are based on projections about the future that may or may not pan out.

  129. J sub D,

    I could easily imagine the Republicans taking the Senate in 2010 if they get their shit together.

  130. Better off than a decade ago?

    Consumer debt has gone from 200 billion to about 800 billion in the last several years.

    Overall, the article isn’t bad, but Chapman, as usual, paints too rosey a picture with the selective use of questionable statistics.

    Let’s see how “transitory” the current problems are………….

  131. domoarrigato wrote:
    I suspect this as well (polls are junk), but have no basis for it – would you care to elaborate?

    This might be why…
    “Succinctly put, the “Harvey Gantt Factor” means that at least 5 percent of white voters lie to pollsters when queried about whether they will support a black candidate.”
    Harvey Gantt factor?
    That said, Stewart predicts an Obama win.
    I forget how fortunate we are having this guy writing for Nadig papers here in IL.

  132. Re: Guy Montag

    I’m not talking about a diner at a fancy steak house — I’m talking about steak from the grocery store which is nearly 100% more expensive than it was 4 years ago. Good for you and your $40 Morton’s steak, but you have your head up your ass if you think that there aren’t a lot of people out here really hurting.

  133. BDB,

    Credit cards can buy a lot of stuff, that’s for sure.

    My bigger point was that the term “middle class” has shifted in meaning over time. Today’s middle class are pretty fucking well off as compared to a generation ago.

    But the thread has devolved into cheerleading camp, so there’s no point in discussing it.

  134. “This election has proven once and for all that the Reason staff are not serious people.” from John @11:14am

    Listen, I come to Reason on a daily basis, read almost every post and comment, occasionally I learn something. I view Reason as no more (or less) then a well written college newspaper, with most of their writers always on the lookout for a “real job”. Does anyone here really think that Dave Weigel would stay here if The Nation online or Atlantic Monthly online offered him a job? As long as you keep your expectations low – you be fine.

  135. The polls that show Obama up big assume a turnout different from 2004 or any other recent election.

    I think the polls are actually understating how badly McCain will get killed, because they still don’t take fully into account the dramatic drop in Republican identification percentages.

    W has driven so many Republicans out of the party that if you use a poll sample that reflects party ID from 04 you are going to overstate McCain’s support.

    Are you interested in the country or just revenge? At some level aren’t you really saying that you think the country deserves to get fucked over by a leftist Democratic Administration for the sin of voting for Bush?

    John, who do you think libertarians should regard as the more un-libertarian President: Clinton or W?

    As far as I am concerned, W has been orders of magnitude worse from a libertarian perspective on just about every issue other than guns.

    We can’t really know in advance what either McCain or Obama will do. Rather than compare fantasy scarecrow versions of the two major candidates, I’m just going to compare the actual record of the last Democrat President against the last Republican President.

  136. “claims about America’s declining middle class.”

    Even if it is “really” declining – Obama won’t be doing anything to “save”it.

    It wasn’t government that created the middle class in the first place and it won’t be government that “saves” it.

  137. True enough bendover,

    Fluffy,

    Then vote for Barr. I don’t care how much I hate the Republicans I would never vote for someone who was just as bad or worse. I would sit home first. Wouldn’t a big surge for Barr at the end make things better for Libertarians than an Obama blowout? Trust me, no one will read your vote for Obama as a vote against the Republicans. It will be read as a vote for things like universal healthcare, card check, and other such things.

    The big thing you are pissed at the Republicans for is the war in Iraq. Obama wants to go to war with Pakistan. Who do you think has a better chance of getting Congress to vote for a war, McCain or Obama? Hell, Obama would love nothing better than to be a war leader. Presidents love that shit. Further, if anyone dissents you will see Chris Matthews and his ilk on TV asking why America won’t follow a black President to war like they will a white President. Obama openly supports the draft, although he calls it civilian service. Honestly, the thought of Obama with his kind of cult of personality following deciding to get us in a war scares the hell out of me. It ought to scare you to. McCain has the Bush legacy to live down. No way is he dying to get into another war. Obama has no such worries. Moreover, he is a Democrat so he will have to show the public how tough he is to make sure he isn’t viewed as another Carter.

  138. One last thing Fluffy. The whole community service thing ought to give anyone who respects freedom pause. Obama wants every kid from middle school on to have to do community service in order to graduate. Fuck him. Those rat bastards ever expect my kids to go to some government funded community service program, I really will be going to the mountains with a gun. The real fascists always come for the kids.

  139. Ravac–

    Fair enough. My comment was more snark than substance.

  140. Also Fluffy, all the rednecks and Southerners that BDB hates so much but actually fight the nation’s wars, will fight one for Obama to. They won’t want to see the country lose a war even for a paper hanging son of bitch con artist like Obama. If the Demcorats won’t stand up against a war and the Right stands up and salutes and says yes sir, who is there to say no? I generally find the anti-war people to be distainful on a personal level, but they do fulfill a purpose. We should never live in a country where no one questions going to war. If Obama decides to go to war, I don’t see many people who would question it.

  141. “Also Fluffy, all the rednecks and Southerners that BDB hates so much ”

    What are you talking about? I hate people that pretend to “speak” for them, or pretend to be “one of them” when they’re not.

    I guess since I hate Al Sharpton I must hate black people, too.

  142. I’m not talking about a diner at a fancy steak house — I’m talking about steak from the grocery store which is nearly 100% more expensive than it was 4 years ago. Good for you and your $40 Morton’s steak, but you have your head up your ass if you think that there aren’t a lot of people out here really hurting.

    Stop your whining you big baby. If Morton’s is cheaper than your pissy little market protected grocery store, then just let them cook it and be done with it.

    Have a decent house red with it too if you can’t afford real wine.

  143. To defend Reason, I think you need to praise the comment threads. I have been surfing since Mosaic and I find comment threads interesting but usually devoid of any insights. This web site has good content and one of the best comment threads going.

    I was going to vote for Obama because I think it is great that we can have a black man running fro president and I like his positive message. However, after reading here and digging around throught the source material I voted Libertarian. I fell for the “increase the percentage to improve the party’s future…” I think a viable third party will be the beginning of better(read smaller and less intrusive) government.

    and if your Charger still has 318, go fish…

  144. Of course the middle class is doing worse, and Steve Chapman is either a liar or an economic Moron. 4% decline in wages, Inflation for Someone in the middle class is much higher than the CPI, increases in Healthcare benefits are meaningless when you consider the huge rise in Healthcare costs not considered in the measure for inflation. Yeah, so cars are better now, so what, government regs mean I can’t drive a 1970’s quality car anyway – The government requires that I have the expensive airbags and pollution control, and fall away engine. .

    ANd, it has been government interference in the economy that has caused this. Are you a friggin neocon ?

  145. So I found the study:

    “Conclusion

    The claim that the standard of living of middle Americans has stagnated over the past generation is common. An accompanying assertion is that virtually all income growth over the past three decades bypassed middle America and accrued almost entirely to the rich.

    The findings reported here-and summarized in Chart 8-refute those claims. Careful analysis shows that the incomes of most types of middle American households have increased substantially over the past three decades. These results are consistent with recent research showing that the largest income increases occurred at the top end of the income distribution. But the outsized gains of the rich do not mean that middle America stagnated.

    Chart: Adding Up the Income Pieces

    Why does the debate about middle America matter? Because an accurate assessment of the economic progress of middle America is a crucial input in formulating good public policy. Claims of long-term middle America stagnation-such as those quoted at the beginning of this article-are often part of a broader argument about the adverse impact of globalization, outsourcing and free trade. And middle class stagnation is used as motivation for a specific set of policies. But if middle America has not stagnated-as this analysis has shown-then this motivation for those policies is without merit.

    Furthermore, if it is understood that middle America has indeed experienced substantial gains, policy priorities may change. For example, more emphasis might be placed on policies that promote continued economic growth or that target deeply rooted poverty rather than middle class stagnation. But regardless of the specific policy, policymakers and the public should base their decisions on an accurate assessment of how the economy has impacted and continues to impact people’s lives.”

    I agree with the idea that we should focus government on the needy, and really help them, and not on the middle class. However, we have to have a middle class that feels itself to middle class and not hovering above destitution.

    I see a few debatable points in the study:

    1) Overstated inflation ( I don’t know, take your pick, but don’t pick because you like the results )

    2) There are fewer persons per household, so more for each person ( This cuts both ways. If households are smaller, it could be because people don’t feel as wealthy as they used to and are having less children )

    3) Expenses paid by employer, etc. ( This could actually cancel out a bit, if these expenses used to be cheaper and were paid by the employee )

    It’s a good paper, and Fitzgerald has more on the same subject.

    Again, I agree with his emphasis, but not necessarily his conclusion, in the following sense: An emphasis that he and I both want needs to be based on how people actually see their situation. I’m not convinced studies like this can do that, however well argued.

    I agree with Chapman about this:
    “Thanks to American capitalism, ordinary workers and families are better off today than they were a decade or a generation ago. In the midst of scary economic times, that’s a heartening fact to keep in mind. Even if certain Democrats would rather you didn’t.”

    But not for the same reasons. It is still possible that median wage stagnation has occurred. Perhaps a libertarian can never be wrong about things always getting better.

  146. Stop your whining you big baby. If Morton’s is cheaper than your pissy little market protected grocery store, then just let them cook it and be done with it.

    I always thought on top of being a comment-coward Guy was kind of a douche, but there was never truly solid evidence before.

  147. R C Dean | October 30, 2008, 10:55am | #
    Sign me up for John’s rant. A libertarian, such as myself, who can’t tolerate McCain, has no principled justification whatsoever for voting for Obama. Helping Obama run up the score just encourages both parties to go even further in the wrong direction.

    Same here, the only factor I consider Obama the lesser of two evils is in temperament, he seems to be cautious to the point of being unprincipled, as John mentions just above, he is likely to be typical corrupt Democrat playing his calls from the evergreen class envy play book, but McCain is principled to the point of being reckless and you never know where that can lead.

    I am not defending Obama, I don’t vote for protectionist period, and the fact is there is quite a bit of Nativist code language in the ads he is running.

  148. “Stop your whining you big baby. If Morton’s is cheaper than your pissy little market protected grocery store, then just let them cook it and be done with it.”

    “I always thought on top of being a comment-coward Guy was kind of a douche, but there was never truly solid evidence before.”

    It was a little douchey but only because store bought and prepared steak will always be cheaper than at a restaurant. His point still stands though, bitching about not being able to eat steak is rather dumb. I mean if it’s beef you’re craving there is always hamburger which is very cheap, not to mention steaks themselves are pretty damn cheap. I know wal-mart sells them cheap, unless of course you are buying filet mignon, which is very expensive. There are always economy cuts such as flank steak.

    Back to the main argument here. Why does everyone talk about the “middle class?” I mean if you are middle class that typically means you have a job and are making a decent living, why does no one ever talk about poor people? People who sleep on park benches, dive in dumpsters for food, and obviously don’t have a healthcare plan.

  149. Alan,

    I hope you are right about him being unprincipled. You very well may be. We just don’t know. The war issue bothers me more and more. Right now a Democratic Congress would give McCain the authorization to go to war maybe if the Mexicans invaded and even then there would probably be a few no votes. But they would give Obama the authorization in a minute. Don’t kid yourself and think liberals don’t love a good war, especially a big one where they can organize the whole country. The liberals are just as guilty of World War II nostalgia as the conservatives. Put that tendency with the cult of personality that Obama has going and you have a real way to unite the country behind a cause. Wars are really good ways to do that. Moreover, a lot of conservatives have been worn down by the last 8 years of in fighting and would be very tempted to join in just to finally bring the country together. If Obama is really unprincipled and just cares about his own ego and legacy, a good war might look pretty attractive.

  150. Kaiser,
    The word “middle class” is used in most American political discourse because everyone from mechanics who make $20,000 a year to physicians who make $200,000 a year consider themselves “middle class”. So if you claim the middle class is in decline, it (theoretically) strikes a chord with the vast majority of Americans.

  151. Back to the main argument here. Why does everyone talk about the “middle class?” I mean if you are middle class that typically means you have a job and are making a decent living, why does no one ever talk about poor people? People who sleep on park benches, dive in dumpsters for food, and obviously don’t have a healthcare plan.

    George Carlin covered that one pretty well.

    “The poor are there…just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep ’em showin’ up at those jobs.”

    The poor don’t, generally, vote. They don’t have common cause with most of the middle class, and the middle class certainly doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. Any appeals to or about the poor are nearly guaranteed to alienate anyone who makes more money.

    Oh, and did I mention, any politician who talks about the poor is a SOCIALIST. Boo!!!

    It tends to discourage engagement with the issue and the people affected, is all I’m saying.

  152. Obama is exaggerating a litle bit here. A more accurate statement would be that the standard of living of everybody except the top 20% of the population has been flat (not improving, not getting worse) during the Bush years, and probably has been getting worse within the last six months to a year. There was a lot of growth in those areas prior to 2000 or so, so the comments in the article that some measure of the standard of living was higher now than in 1990 or 1988 or 1976 are true.

  153. Everything else being equal, prices in general should come down during a correction, and they have for items where energy cost have stayed about the same for operational expenditure, like for lobster for instance.

    I’ll go put on a top hat, a penguin suit,a pair of monocles and a cane if the typical libertarian image isn’t solidified enough for you yet.

  154. I’ll go put on a top hat, a penguin suit,a pair of monocles and a cane if the typical libertarian image isn’t solidified enough for you yet.

    Or the atypical hippie who dearly loved his oil baron grandpa instead of hating him.

  155. “There was a lot of growth in those areas prior to 2000 or so, so the comments in the article that some measure of the standard of living was higher now than in 1990 or 1988 or 1976 are true.”

    What do you mean by standard of living? Since our productivity has increased the availability of thigns has gone up and the real price of things has gone down. We have all sorts of new toys that we didn’t have before. Most people didn’t have a cellphone in 2000 and now everyone does. Most people didn’t have high def TV back then and now nearly everyone does. Those are two mundain examples I know but over time it starts to add up. Because we are so much more productive now than in say 1976, the bottom 1/4 lives a lot better now in real terms, by that I mean how much stuff do they have, than they did then even though their income isn’t much higher in real terms.

  156. Actually, I take that back. Obama’s accurate. Obama is just talking about the Bush years. From the time Bush took office to last year, the standard of living for everybody except the top 20% was flat, and in the last year had declined.

    That is, Obama is saying, “Are you better off now than eight years ago?” The answer for everybody (on average) except the top 20% is no.

    He is not saying, “Are you better off now than in 1972 when you drove that Charger?”

  157. John,

    I definitely have no illusions about the Democrats being peaceniks at heart, and the first thing I’ll be watching for if Obama wins whether or not Samantha Power is let out of exile and given a prominent role in an Obama administration. If she is, expect a lot of heart break ahead as she is chomping at the bit for the power to put action behind her words.

  158. He is not saying, “Are you better off now than in 1972 when you drove that Charger?”

    Oh,, come on. He says tons of stuff like that also. Did you miss his rant about the steel mills that are gone now? Forgot if he “accused” them of “going overseas” too.

  159. Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about:

    http://blog.sustainablemiddleclass.com/?tag=wages-adjusted-for-inflation

    Of course, this is wages only, and therefore doesn’t count for technoligical improvements, but it will do, especially considering the short time frame at the link (one year, Aug 07 thru Jul 08).

    Here’s another one showing wages were flat from Nov 2001 to Jun 2004:

    http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_07162004

    More Googling would find more. Finding comparisons on the actual standard of living are harder; maybe I should just have said wages.

  160. Alan,

    Ms. Power will be and everything will become a genocide. The irony of course will be that we will end up in bush wars caught in the middle of secartian civil wars that have nothing to do with us. In short, wars that are everything that people like Power claim Iraq is. Those people don’t object to war, they just don’t like other people being in charge of them.

  161. Economist,

    You may have a very good point. Trouble I have seen is that someone(not a mechanic, I’ve never heard of a mechanic making less than 40k a year) making 20k is too proud to admit he/she is poor and not middle class because he/she made some really bad decisions around the time high school ended for em’ and the person making 200k is too proud to admit he/she has squandered most of his/her earning potential by living nearly beyond his/her means.

  162. I hope he keeps Gates. If he is shrewd enough to favor guys who have been in the trenches, and been in the high pressure situations real analyst like Gates have been over academians of the Kissinger-Power sort, foreign policy might be a little less bumpy than expected. The CIA gets a deserved bad rap from leftist for a shady history, but conversely they get little credit for what they are good at when they are on top of their game, cold, hard, disinterested analysis, and Gates during the Reagan
    years was one of the best.

    The first obligation of a President in his fidelity to the American interest is not to get rolled by foreign powers (and every modern one has been to a greater or lesser extent). I may be a peacenik but I also see the value of having a few Putins of our own.

  163. “His point still stands though, bitching about not being able to eat steak is rather dumb. I mean if it’s beef you’re craving there is always hamburger which is very cheap, not to mention steaks themselves are pretty damn cheap.”

    So basically you’re saying to lower his standard of living, at least in terms of quality of meat consumption?

    “…the bottom 1/4 lives a lot better now in real terms, by that I mean how much stuff do they have, than they did then even though their income isn’t much higher in real terms.”

    Saying people have more “stuff” is opeating in a vacuum, IMHO. Let’s say the material benchmark for the “standard middle class” household of 30 years ago was to have 2 color TV’s, 2 cars,a house with a yard, low levels of revolving debt, a pension and still enough left over for savings and annual vacation without pulling equity out of your house. Wouldn’t the current standard benchmark be about the same except with the technological improvements? The TV’s now would be HDTV, the phones would be cellphones, the cars would have anti-lock brakes, etc, etc. Productivity gains, industrial technological gains, real income growth and economies of scale should have been expected to mitigate nominal price appreciation in goods, as a percentage of real disposable income, so that the price of a standard cellphone today would be roughly equal standard “dial” phone of the 1970’s, a top-of-the-line Caddy today to one from the 1970’s, etc. No? Just my opinion.

  164. Sorry, meant “real price appreciation in goods” above.

  165. “So basically you’re saying to lower his standard of living, at least in terms of quality of meat consumption?”

    I am just saying that complaining about not being able to eat steak is ridiculous. More and more people can’t separate the “needs” from the “wants.” To live all you really “need” is food, water, and a roof over your head. Beyond that you get into the “wants.” Americans have gotten used to this standard of living outside of our means. You don’t “need” steak to live. Although I still doubt the fact that a middle class american can’t afford steak. As I said Wal-Mart sells steak for cheap.

  166. The major problem is the very categories are outmoded and useless.

    People classed as poor have a lot more in common with today’s rich people today than they do with poor people of fifty years ago– access to education/heating, hot water, affordable food and clothing, electronics, etc… the standard of living enjoyed by a ‘poor’ person is so far removed from what it used to mean that the label ‘poor’ isn’t really useful anymore.

    If you are poor in a big city, there is no limit to what you can acheive. I watched my dad work three jobs and go to night classes at the local community college, then get his bachelors and teaching credential, and start a career as a teacher after working as a janitor and doing other manual work for decades. And he’s a really successful teacher, too.

    And watching my dad struggle makes me feel empathy for every hard working person out there. I identify with the poor. But I would not be honoring my dad and his hard work if I didn’t argue strongly that there is every opportunity for poor people to better themselves in this country.

    But if they choose not to, and remain poor, their poverty isn’t Dickensian. It’s rather plush and comfortable compared to historical poverty.

    And by the way, I am a leftist. And I think that there are all sorts of inequities in our system, many of an economic nature. But it’s impossible to identify the real problems in our society until we dispose of the idea of upper/middle/lower class. It’s simply not valid anymore.

  167. I personally like that he would eliminate income taxes on seniors making under $50k. I mean…they’re old, why should they have to pay taxes? They are old after all. They’re old.

    Oh yeah, now I remember…they vote too.

  168. Lower taxes on old people? Heck no. Today’s old people are more responsible than anyone for the $30,000 per head debt that is dropped on their grandchildren from the moment of their birth. In fact, I feel that we should enslave the entire baby boom generation and not let them have their freedom until they have paid off their share of the debt. For the really old people, well, they can live on dog food until they drop. OK, I am being facetious, but you get my point.

    The young are already being forced to dig out of a hole that is not of their own making, and it will only get worse as time goes forward. The last thing we should do is give even more breaks to the people that have benefited the most and paid the least. For a retired person, $50k is a lot of money. Indeed, a retired person with $50k of income probably has at least as much discretionary spending power as a young parent making twice that. Yes, such a person can afford to pay taxes.

  169. Shorter John: Wah, people don’t want to vote for my candidate because they don’t like killing brown people! Wah!

  170. If Obama is really unprincipled and just cares about his own ego and legacy, a good war might look pretty attractive.

    I can see Obama following Bush’s footsteps for the exact same reason Bush made those decisions.

  171. This article made me angry. This guy has no idea what he is talking about in the economic world. The middle class is shrinking and has been for quite some time now. The income distribution between the top 90% of earners and the bottom 10% keeps growing larger and larger. The middle class has been shrinking for about ~20 years now.

  172. Even if I don’t always agree with the articles on reason, I can generally respect the author’s point.

    But this one — I don’t think you could possibly be more off base. The middle class is very definitely in trouble. Wages -are- stagnant, and costs of real, necessary goods are rising.

    2 years ago, our monthly grocery budget was $200, and we ate quite well on that. Now, to buy the same things would cost nearly twice that amount. And since we don’t have any additional money, it means we simply can’t eat the same way we used to.

    And really, pensions as a fringe benefit? Ha ha ha. The only places around here you can still get hired to a position with a pension are schools and the government — and even some of those are trying to keep new hires out of those programs.

  173. (For some perspective on my opinion, I was a subscriber to Reason Magazine in the early ’70s.)

    Why base your analysis on the period between 1975 and 2005? Why not go from 2005 all the way back to 1935? The middle class gains of that period would really make your case!

    In publishing such a horribly flawed analysis of filtered data, Reason should seriously reconsider whether or not its title still bears any relationship to the content it presents.

    What’s next… the case for a flat Earth?

  174. o the guys who are having the retarded argument about the steak…..you can thank the high prices at least partially on the government scam known as ethanol/flex-fuels that they’ve been trying to shove down our throats in the name of protecting the environment. Turning corn into fuel has got to be one of the dumbest economic decisions since the Great Leap Forward in China.

    So, whenever you see the price of any corn-related product (such as beef) go up, you can thank the fuckups in washington for it. Guess which candidate favors this gem of corporate welfare: Barry Obama. Guess which one opposes it and never has a chance of winning Iowa in the primaries: McCain.

  175. Reply to ceanf at 9:44am

    “so for those with a blue collar job that has gone overseas, scrape some money together, go back to school, and get some education…”

    My brother-in-law/sister are doing just that. At one point, he was making $25/hour for factory work in an affordable town. (I’m not sure what she made.) I found out because my niece (12 at the time) told us her dad said she didn’t need to go to college — there were good-paying factory jobs in town. (Naturally, I encouraged her to go to college.) This was at the same time the middle school was telling my niece’s parents that she was gifted in math, but my sister refused to have her tested or “put on a track” (ugh!). A few years later, my brother-in-law lost his manufacturing job, which caused the family to rethink education. My niece is now attending college — and studying math! 🙂

  176. Reply: John at 1:16 pm, who said:

    “Those rat bastards ever expect my kids to go to some government funded community service program, I really will be going to the mountains with a gun. The real fascists always come for the kids.”

    Hehe. We live on the side of a mountain with a neighborhood of armed men (okay, we’re talking hunters here). I was just talking to a copacetic neighbor who was dead-sure no one would fall for the Obama promises of hearts and unicorns. Then I mentioned the Democrat’s plan to assume control of 401(k)s. His eyes got wide and face flashed with anger and he said he’s keeping his powder dry. Now, mind, he’s a single guy who’s worked hard to pay for and improve his house and socking away money for retirement (nothing on credit). There are a lot of guys like that here … one in his mid-30s just celebrated paying off his mortgage. Who needs that Suze-Orman-says-this-about-your-personal-finance crap — people are doing it for themselves. Just don’t take what they spent a lifetime to build away from them to give to some jackass who never thought to save for the future. Any boomer who has saved and votes for Obama will have serious buyer’s remorse — they will be screaming in the streets over the cap gains increase.

  177. DVD players are cheaper. So are laptops and printers (though the price of ink has gone up). That didn’t have anything to do with Bush, of course, but that’s sort of my point.

  178. ceanf, try your argument in Michigan. The Auto business is shipping White-collar R&D Jobs to India and China as fast as they can manage it. The engineers and scientists, with very good college degrees, have no union job protection, unlike their UAW co-workers in plants. Non-union plant closures are everywhere. A drive around Detroit and its environs is very depressing and the people living there are not the best off they have ever been.

    The plasma TVs, two trucks, holidays are all on the credit card or the mortgage. Suddenly we all realise we have been on a long night drinking and partying that can’t carry on any longer. The hangover will be horrible.

  179. If there’s one thing Reason has taught me, it’s that 90% of libertarians are really just right-wingers. They just enjoy a certain flavor of right more than others. (Even if the Republicans haven’t offered that flavor in about a decade…)

  180. Good job fudging numbers there. Average (mean) wages amongst non-supervisory workers and median wages in the general population are essentially apples and oranges – not only a different set of statistics, but a different method of “averaging” which results in different numbers, and on top of that you’ve used an unspecified different measure of inflation.

    You also fail to note the fact that much of the increase in material possessions has to do with a vastly increased access to credit compared to the 70s, before the credit card reached the general population. In exchange for more material goods we have much, much greater debt.

    You try to say that an increase in living standards equates to an increase in wages, which is utterly fallacious. We have a much higher standard of living than nobility in the middle ages, and peasants in the middle ages had in turn much higher standards of living than nomadic hunter-gatherers in the neolithic era; the peasants were still peasants and we’re not amongst the wealthy class today. Standard of living as compared to standard of living in an arbitrary time in the past is not a useful comparative measure when talking about wealth, wages, or productivity.

    Look, libertarian principles don’t need to be propped up by funny math, they stand on their own. You do yourself and the free market a disservice by repeating this stuff.

  181. The point I’m making is that while people like me are having trouble affording steak, others, worse off than me, are having trouble affording any food at all.

    The fact is that a country cannot print money out of thin air without debasing the currency, and when the currency is debased, those at the lower end of the economic spectrum suffer disproportionately.

    That’s now ‘whining’ — that’s acknowledging reality.

    Not facing those facts could leave America in the 21st century look a lot like France in the 18th. Let them eat cake indeed.

  182. BAD news for PA from Associated Press: Obama Tells SF Chronicle He Will Bankrupt Coal Industry By P.J. Gladnick November 2, 2008 – 07:26 ET Barack Obama actually flat out told the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate) that he was willing to see the coal industry go bankrupt in a January 17, 2008 interview. The result? Nothing. This audio interview vanished. Here is the transcript of Obama’s statement about bankrupting the coal industry: “Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. Story Continues Below Ad ? That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a (sic) ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

  183. Mr Chapman fails to mention that Americans are putting in 10-15% more hours of work than they did 30 yrs ago. Look at all the laptops at Starbucks and you’ll see the work that goes uncompensated. Not only is Obama right about this but so are conservative critics of present day capitalism like Pat Buchanan & Kevin Phillips.

  184. Come on over to Detroit Steve, I’ll take you to 3rd and cass ave. When the homeless people finish you off we’ll drop you off in Oakland county where you might be able to get a bus out of town.

  185. The thing that jumps out to me is the use of statistics 1975-2005. If you look at the last six-eight years, the trendlines are pretty different.

  186. They’re just all around bad statistics. This article is a perfect example of how you can manipulate perception by abusing statistical studies. What i don’t understand is the bias, or the purpose of the skew. Yes, the hyperbole about the current economic situation is outrageous, but printing some phony statistics on the opposite end of the outrage pendulum is no way to get “the truth” out there.

    Another thing that’s total bullshit in this article is pitting the measure of household income vs. individual income. Household incomes have increased disproportionately since the mid 70s because – no joke – since then the trend of having two people instead of one per household earning an income has skyrocketed. It’s more stupid than it is unfair to try to draw a line of comparison between household income and single income when you start the line in the 70s.

    The fact is that the government IS failing to manage our economy and it IS in decline and if anything phony numbers are hiding the depth of the problem rather than making it look worse than it is. The answer of course is to fire the government on the job rather than pump some modern ‘conservative’ propaganda about how they’re doing better than we give them credit for.

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