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Old 09-25-2013, 09:49 AM   #676
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Interesting perspective, Anitram. When I say that I am hopeful, that's not without heavy qualification, because I honestly feel more cynical than hopeful at the moment. But on your post... it almost sounds like we've peaked at the top of the dynastic cycle and we're heading down. Will the inequality which you envision (I assume) getting worse be accompanied by an overall decline in living standards, in the pattern of a falling empire?
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Old 09-25-2013, 10:37 AM   #677
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Originally Posted by anitram View Post

We're cycling...but not in a good direction, instead, we're cycling back to what humans innately know.
There won't be enough time for the cycle to complete. People are too educated, information moves too freely, and technology is evolving too rapidly for them to "win." The super wealthy may try to assert their control one last time before we get through this mess, but we will get through it.

Scarcity is what causes this inequality - the hoarding of a limited supply of resources. In this case "money" and other hard assets. Well, all you need to do is follow a few technical breakthrough sites and within a few days you would realize we are only a decade or two away from what they call, "The Age of Abundance."

This is not pie in the sky daydreaming - these projections are from scientists that are working in the trenches and bringing these technologies into the mainstream.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:12 AM   #678
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There won't be enough time for the cycle to complete. People are too educated, information moves too freely, and technology is evolving too rapidly for them to "win." The super wealthy may try to assert their control one last time before we get through this mess, but we will get through it.
I'm not that optimistic, especially with the educated part. Plenty of people, if not most Americans, are unaware of how the economy really works beyond the supply and demand part. Information does move freely, but a lot is inaccurate. Here in FYM, we have people posting articles from the Daily Mail or Examiner.com or even amateur blogs, so that's says a lot.

Maybe I'm missing the point of your post, but I am simply not optimistic. I don't think we're headed for a feudal society in this country, but the statistics regarding the middle class says it all.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:25 AM   #679
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The general assumption by many people is that 'the world only spins forward'. Such as 'Manifest destiny' or that we will continue to progress. There is no natural law that states this. We are just as likely to regress as progress. Attitudes could change and we could be as racist as we were before say. For instance aren't the Republicans coming across as much more baldly corporatist and anti-welfare than say they were a couple of decades ago (though both parties are quite corporatist). I think we've been lucky our values have been generally improving over the course of the last century.

While technology could solve some of our resource issues, it does not necessarily mean it will. For a start it would depend on who controls the technology and whether who makes it will allow it to be freely available which is unlikely to be the case.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:43 AM   #680
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Here's an interesting study:

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Suppose you got no sleep last night and you have to take an intelligence test today. If you’re like most people, you’re not going to do so well on that test. Now suppose you are struggling with poverty and you have to take the same intelligence test. How, if at all, will your test score be affected?
Harvard University economist Sendhil Mullainathan and Princeton University psychologist Eldar Shafir offer a clear answer: You will probably do pretty badly. In a series of studies, they found that being poor, and having to manage serious financial problems, can be a lot like going through life with no sleep. The reason is that if you are poor, you are likely to be preoccupied with your economic situation, and your mind has less room for other endeavors. This claim has important implications for how we think about poverty and for how we select policies designed to help poor people.
In one experiment, Mullainathan and Shafir went to a large shopping mall and paid numerous people, with a diverse range of incomes, to participate in a little test. They began by asking participants how they would solve a financial problem (for example, they might need to spend a certain sum of money to fix their car).
Participants were randomly assigned to one of two versions of the problem. In the “hard” version, the cost involved was pretty high (it might cost $1,500 to fix the car). In the “easy” version, the cost was low ($150). After explaining how they would solve the problem, people were subjected to intelligence tests.
Poverty’s Toll

Here’s the remarkable result: When rich people and poor people were assigned to the easy version of the financial problem, they performed about the same on the intelligence tests. But when they were assigned to the hard version, with its larger financial stakes, poor people did a lot worse on the intelligence tests, and rich people looked much smarter.
Was this a result of some kind of “math anxiety” on the part of the poor? Evidently not. Mullainathan and Shafir conducted a second experiment in which they began not with a financial problem but with arithmetic questions, using the same sets of numbers as in the first experiment. In this version of the experiment, greater difficulty in the initial question didn’t produce differences between rich and poor on subsequent intelligence tests.
What’s going on here? Mullainathan and Shafir have a straightforward answer. If you are poor and you are trying to manage a hard financial situation, your mental resources will be strained, and you are less likely to perform well on other tasks.
To be sure, an experiment with people at a shopping center is pretty artificial. The authors created a similar test in the field, involving sugar cane farmers in India. What made the test possible is that sugar cane farmers face serious financial pressures before harvest; after harvest, they are far more comfortable. Mullainathan and Shafir administered an intelligence test to hundreds of farmers pre-harvest and the same test to hundreds of others post-harvest.
The result? After harvest, the farmers looked a lot smarter. Here again, Mullainathan and Shafir suggest that if you are in the midst of economic struggles, your mind will be occupied, and you won’t be able to perform so well on other tasks. (They controlled for nutrition and for stress, and found that those factors didn’t matter.)
In their experiments, Mullainathan and Shafir found that the effect of being poor and having to manage a hard financial problem is equivalent to the loss of 13 IQ points -- comparable not only to the loss of a full night’s sleep but also to that of being a chronic alcoholic, or being 60 years old rather than 45. Their conclusion is that poor people “are less capable not because of inherent traits, but because the very context of poverty imposes load and impedes cognitive capacity.”
Changing Policies

This claim casts a new light on some important findings with respect to the behavior of poor people, including the difficulties they face in complying with drug regimens, keeping appointments and managing their finances. In all these cases, the problem isn’t adequately described as a deficient sense of responsibility. It reflects, at least in part, the cognitive demands created by poverty itself.
There are also important implications for government policy. Even more than the rest of us, poor people can greatly benefit from frequent reminders, as well as from sensible default rules, which establish what happens if they do nothing at all. With respect to forms and applications, simpler is usually better. If we are trying to design educational, training and employment programs for the poor, that is a critical lesson to keep in mind.
How Poverty Takes Over the Mind - Bloomberg

Stress can twist your mind. This study can shed light on why some people who were born into poverty stay there.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:46 AM   #681
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I'm not that optimistic, especially with the educated part. Plenty of people, if not most Americans, are unaware of how the economy really works beyond the supply and demand part.
I think that over time, people will eventually get bored of the partisan trimmings and start looking for cold hard facts. Especially after they've been burned a few times.

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Information does move freely, but a lot is inaccurate. Here in FYM, we have people posting articles from the Daily Mail or Examiner.com or even amateur blogs, so that's says a lot.
The same as above - we will start throwing out the bad and enhancing the good. More and more research institutions are using opensource and crowdsource models. If the contributions are pure rhetoric, and can't be supported by verifiable facts - then they will be thrown out. In a way, you are actually proving this point. You mentioned Daily Mail and Examiner as unreliable sources for these very reasons - so you disregard them. Many others will start doing the same. Eventually, we will move toward non-party politics. That's not the same as Single Party - it's just that people won't see the need to align with any single platform. Decision will be based on vetted information.

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Maybe I'm missing the point of your post, but I am simply not optimistic. I don't think we're headed for a feudal society in this country, but the statistics regarding the middle class says it all.
My point is that the exponential growth in technology will not only remove the limited resource problem from the equation - it will allow greater opportunity for everyone to acquire an in-depth education and vetted information. These arenas are not controlled by the rich, but by the bright minds in college labs, grandma's basement, and the local cafe.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:58 AM   #682
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I think that over time, people will eventually get bored of the partisan trimmings and start looking for cold hard facts. Especially after they've been burned a few times.

The same as above - we will start throwing out the bad and enhancing the good. More and more research institutions are using opensource and crowdsource models. If the contributions are pure rhetoric, and can't be supported by verifiable facts - then they will be thrown out. In a way, you are actually proving this point. You mentioned Daily Mail and Examiner as unreliable sources for these very reasons - so you disregard them. Many others will start doing the same. Eventually, we will move toward non-party politics. That's not the same as Single Party - it's just that people won't see the need to align with any single platform. Decision will be based on vetted information.

My point is that the exponential growth in technology will not only remove the limited resource problem from the equation - it will allow greater opportunity for everyone to acquire an in-depth education and vetted information. These arenas are not controlled by the rich, but by the bright minds in college labs, grandma's basement, and the local cafe.
To add to my previous post, another problem here regarding information is if people are getting any information, or want to. There is plenty of intellectually lazy people out there who not only ignore what is happening in the world, but don't put an effort into learning about it. I know a few people who have no idea who the mayoral candidates are for New York City this year. There's too many people who are that out of touch with what's going on, so even if the reliable information was there, they wouldn't use it.
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:40 PM   #683
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Originally Posted by anitram View Post

We're cycling...but not in a good direction, instead, we're cycling back to what humans innately know.
You're quote came to mind while I was reading this article:

RIP, the Middle Class: 1946-2013

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In our neighbors’ driveways, in their living rooms, in their backyards, I saw the evidence of prosperity distributed equally among the social classes: speedboats, Corvette Stingrays, waterbeds, snowmobiles, motorcycles, hunting rifles, RVs, CB radios. I’ve always believed that the ’70s are remembered as the Decade That Taste Forgot because they were a time when people without culture or education had the money to not only indulge their passions, but flaunt them in front of the entire nation. It was an era, to use the title of a 1975 sociological study of a Wisconsin tavern, of blue-collar aristocrats.
NBCrusader, this ^ is the America you were referring to. Essentially, it no longer exists (or is fading rapidly).
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:31 PM   #684
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very interesting article. this was a good take-away:

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The shrinking of the middle class is not a failure of capitalism. It’s a failure of government. Capitalism has been doing exactly what it was designed to do: concentrating wealth in the ownership class, while providing the mass of workers with just enough wages to feed, house and clothe themselves. Young people who graduate from college to $9.80 an hour jobs as sales clerks or data processors are giving up on the concept of employment as a vehicle for improving their financial fortunes: In a recent survey, 24 percent defined the American dream as “not being in debt.” They’re not trying to get ahead. They’re just trying to get to zero.

That’s the natural drift of the relationship between capital and labor, and it can only be arrested by an activist government that chooses to step in as a referee. The organizing victories that founded the modern union movement were made possible by the National Labor Relations Act, a piece of New Deal legislation guaranteeing workers the right to bargain collectively. The plotters of the 1936-37 Flint Sit Down Strike, which gave birth to the United Auto Workers, tried to time their action to coincide with the inauguration of Frank Murphy, Michigan’s newly elected New Deal governor. Murphy dispatched the National Guard to Flint, but instead of ordering his guardsmen to throw the workers out of the plants, as he legally could have done, he ordered them to ensure the workers remained safely inside. The strike resulted in a nickel an hour raise and an end to arbitrary firings. It guaranteed the success of the UAW, whose high wages and benefits set the standard for American workers for the next 45 years. (I know a Sit Down Striker who died on Sept. 17, at 98 years old, an age he might not have attained without the lifetime health benefits won by the UAW.)


while capitalism might be more or less a "natural" state, maybe, debatably, a strong middle class has to be created and fashioned into existence.
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Old 09-25-2013, 05:08 PM   #685
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very interesting article. this was a good take-away:





while capitalism might be more or less a "natural" state, maybe, debatably, a strong middle class has to be created and fashioned into existence.
Maybe we need to split the congress into 3 sections: Senate, House of Representatives, and House of the Middle Class.

It's unfortunate that both parties claim to be all about the middle class, yet neither have done much to protect it since the 40's...

We need to start electing people FROM the middle class in order to make a difference. The problem is, they can't get the funding (nor do we really want them to) to start a campaign. Maybe as Social Media replaces TV, we will see some changes in this area.
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Old 09-25-2013, 06:45 PM   #686
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Which brings us back to Citizens United.
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Old 09-25-2013, 07:19 PM   #687
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Is this still law?

Tillman Act of 1907

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All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders' money for such purposes; and, moreover, a prohibition of this kind would be, as far as it went, an effective method of stopping the evils aimed at in corrupt practices acts. Not only should both the National and the several State Legislatures forbid any officer of a corporation from using the money of the corporation in or about any election, but they should also forbid such use of money in connection with any legislation save by the employment of counsel in public manner for distinctly legal services.
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Old 09-25-2013, 07:26 PM   #688
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Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, 1902

"The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the state [the federal government], and the state not only has the right to control them, but it is in duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown. There is clearly need of supervision—need to possess the power of regulation of these great corporations through the representatives of the public wherever, as in our own country at the present time, business corporations become so very powerful alike for beneficent work and for work that is not always beneficent. It is idle to say that there is no need for such supervision. There is, and a sufficient warrant for it is to be found in any one of the admitted evils appertaining to them."
Oh how far the GOP has fallen...
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:47 PM   #689
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more thoughts on this topic:

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The Real Reason for the Fight over the Debt Limit

MARK THOMAS
The Fiscal Times
September 24, 2013

The fight over the debt ceiling is not, of course, a fight about how much government debt we should have. Politicians and the press often make it seem as though the long-run debt is the real issue, but if that were true we’d be hearing a lot more about using tax increases to close the budget gap. After all, our tax burden is not all that high relative to other countries, and there are ways to raise taxes that do not harm economic growth.

In fact, the debt is not even an immediate problem. As the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show, we don’t have a debt problem until over a decade from now, and when the debt does finally begin increasing the main cause will be rising costs for health care. So finding a way to rein in health care costs, something that already seems to be happening, is the key to solving our future debt problem.

This political dispute over the debt limit is, plainly and simply, about the size and role of government. In particular, it’s an attempt by Republicans to use undue fear about the debt to scale back or eliminate spending on social insurance programs such as Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, food stamps, and unemployment compensation. And it’s no accident that this attack on social insurance coincides with growing income inequality.

We have lost something important as a society as inequality has grown over the last several decades, our sense that we are all in this together. Social insurance is a way of sharing the risks that our economic system imposes upon us. As with other types of insurance, e.g. fire insurance, we all put our money into a common pool and the few of us unlucky enough to experience a “fire” – the loss of a job, health problems that wipe out retirement funds, disability, and so on – use the insurance to avoid financial disaster and rebuild as best we can.

But growing inequality has allowed one strata of society to be largely free of these risks while the other is very much exposed to them. As that has happened, as one group in society has had fewer and fewer worries about paying for college education, has first-rate health insurance, ample funds for retirement, and little or no chance of losing a home and ending up on the street if a job suddenly disappears in a recession, support among the politically powerful elite for the risk sharing that makes social insurance work has declined.

Rising inequality and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads to an attack on these programs.


Even worse, this social stratification leads those at the top to begin imposing a virtue and vice story to justify their desire to stop paying the taxes needed to support social insurance programs. Those at the top did it all by themselves. They “built that” through their own effort and sacrifice with no help from anyone else.

Those at the bottom, on the other hand, are essentially burning down their own houses just to collect the fire insurance, i.e. making poor choices and sponging off of social insurance programs. It’s their behavior that’s the problem, and taking away the incentive to live off of the rest of society by constraining their ability to collect social insurance is the only way to ensure they get jobs and provide for themselves.

Of course, this is a false view of how the system operates. The wealthy would not have the opportunity to make so much money if it society didn’t provide the infrastructure, educated workforce, legal protections, and other building blocks critical for their success.
And we shouldn’t forget that many of the wealthy got where they are through the privilege and advantage that comes from familial wealth rather than their own merit.

Contrast that with the fact that the great majority of people receiving payments from social insurance programs are not deadbeats or takers – they are hard working individuals and families who have had a spell of bad luck through no fault of their own e.g. job loss in a recession, and need help getting through it, or who have trouble supporting a household while working at, say, a minimum wage job.

The truth – something those involved in the shameful attempt to make life even harder for the unlucky and the unfortunate seem to have forgotten – is that we are all in this together, and that includes sharing the risks inherent in our economic system through generous social insurance programs.

- See more at: The Real Reason for the Fight over the Debt Limit | The Fiscal Times
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:53 PM   #690
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Oh how far the GOP has fallen...
The Democrats have also been generally poor when it comes to corporate regulation.

I went to a conference recently on the trends in anti-corruption and anti-bribery legislation and I found it interesting that the real leaders, the first nation to enact such laws, was the US, in 1977. That is probably very surprising to people of today, as the US would certainly not be at the forefront.

But think about it - the US took a leadership position on this, lobbied hard within the OECD and the end result was that the other western nations followed suit. It was remarkable, and it was really for the best.

The comment made at the conference by the (American) speaker was "that was accomplished because we had a much more liberal government than the one today."
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