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Economic Equality as a Prerequisite for American Constitutionalism

Ganesh Sitarman raises the issue of U.S. constitutionalism and economic inequality in a recent New York Times op-ed piece. The piece, in turn, summarizes the main theme of his book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic. While focusing on economic inequality, Sitarman’s argument fits into a broader current of discussion: what social, economic, and/or political prerequisites, characterizing the people themselves as well as their institutions, does republican government require to work tolerably well.

Sitarman’s analysis also fits into today’s political moment as well; a moment in which the question of cultural solidarity is at the fore, and the subsidiary question of the role political, economic, and social homogeneity might play in grounding a tolerably well working republican system.

Early in The Federalist, for example, John Jay argued that the then existing homogeneity of the US suggested “one connected country” fitted to “one united people”: “[A] people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs . . .  To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people . . .”

Jay did not list economic uniformity among his attributes leading to American constitutionalism. Perhaps he could have and, on Sitarman’s telling, perhaps he should have. Sitarman argues that too much diversity in wealth and property threatens the republic. Others argue that too much religious or moral or linguistic, diversity threatens the republic. Still others, too much diversity of manners and customs, presumably brought over from the old country; and even yet others that too much diversity of political orientation threatens the republic. The common theme is that republican solidarity, and hence republican governance, is threatened by too much difference, whether social, political, or economic. Despite its focus on class and economic inequality, Sitarman’s argument seems to be of a weave with this intellectual moment.

The country seems to be groping not only with what its identity is or ought to be, but also with what that identity needs to be to support its historically republican commitments. Sitarman posits that too much economic diversity, too much economic difference, cannot be tolerated consistent with sustaining republican identity. He draws deeply on classical political theorists to advance and defend his hypothesis.

There are several points at which, however, I’d want initially to press and clarify the theoretical foundation of Sitarman’s hypothesis. To start with, he claims that “Our Constitution was not built for a country with so much wealth concentrated at the very top nor for the threats that invariably accompany it: oligarchs and populist demagogues.”

There is initially the issue of threshold. To wit, just how much inequality is too much, and how does he know the amount of inequality today has put us at the threshold of what is too much for “our Constitution”?

I’m not suggesting Sitarman needs to identify a precise Gini coefficient at which point inequality places American republicanism at imminent risk. Nonetheless, one can grant Sitarman’s claims that [A] America has become more economically unequal in recent years, and [B] too much economic inequality threatens American constitutionalism, without also accepting Sitarman’s conclusion, [C] that there is today “so much wealth concentrated” among the rich today that it threatens American constitutionalism.

After all, even at its constitutional founding the U.S. was not an egalitarian paradise. And there’s been varying amounts of inequality over the past 200+ years. So some varying and non-trivial levels of economic inequality must be consistent with some types of robust American constitutionalism. So how does Sitarman know we’re reaching the critical threshold at which point America’s economic inequality threatens the continuation of the republic? I mean, sure, according to the World Bank, the Gini coefficient for income distribution in the U.S. increased from 37.73 in 1986, to 41.06 in 2013. That’s an increase, to be sure. But what’s the argument that republicanism is not threatened at a Gini coefficient of 37.73, but is at 41.06? Even by longer historical measures it seems as though the richest Americans receive a share of income today not seen since the 1920s. But it seems that the U.S. has passed through levels of inequality pretty similar to today’s levels.

What is the causal mechanism that means a Gini coefficient of 37.73 does not threaten American constitutionalism but a coefficient of 41.06 does.

To be sure, Sitarman suggests a causal mechanism: “Oligarchs and populist demagogues.” He adds later, quoting Gouverneur Morris approvingly, “The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest.” The theoretical question of thresholds aside, Sitarman’s argument here is strangely undemocratic. In times of great inequality, Sitarman suggests that we lose our capacity to be self-governing; we cede it to the rich. Sitarman, summarizing Morris, writes, “the rich would take advantage of people’s ‘passions’ and ‘make these the instruments for oppressing them.”

So we need a rough form of economic equality, because if we don’t have it, we Americans will be caught up by our emotions, and select rich people to oppress us. Of course, it’s never really “us,” it’s always “them.” Whether the “them” is Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” or Romney’s “47 percent.” Still, the causal mechanism puzzles: Poor people will be democratically suckered by demagogues into giving up their liberties when the economy has a high Gini coefficient, but somehow are immune to them when the Gini coefficient is lower.

Finally, there is the historical argument itself. Sitarman seems to suggest that inequality yesterday is the same as inequality today. And I’m open to evidence on the larger argument. Yet even at first glance, one might be excused for wondering whether changes in the nature of economic inequality between 1790 and today, and changes in the nature of democratic decision making, make arguments relating to economic inequality in 1820, and earlier, to threats to republican governance problematic for straight forward application today.

I do think there’s much we can ask about regarding the role of money in politics. Rent seeking and crony capitalism are rife, and corrupting. And while some may not want legal limits imposed on spending money in campaigns because the cure would be worse than the disease, the fact that the cure is worse than the disease does not mean there is no disease. Still, the hypothesis that today’s level of economic inequality constitutes an imminent threat to American constitutionalism seems a hypothesis that needs both a firmer theoretical foundation and more-plausible empirical support.

Reader Discussion

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on September 25, 2017 at 10:39:27 am

Professor Rogers--

I think you frame the issue incorrectly. Its not a binary choice. Isn't it possible that the greater the inequality, the greater the risk? So isn't it possible that the United States weathered the high gini coefficient in the 1920s, because of any of a variety of exogenous factors that mitigated the ill effect of high inequality, but might not today? Or even that its just dumb luck--so that the high inequality of wealth in the 1920s was perilous then, but we got lucky. Just because we got lucky then does not mean that we will get lucky again now. So framing it as thresholds: we are 100% safe at a gini coefficient of .37, and we know this because we survived times in which the gini coefficient was that high or higher in the past, strikes me as problematic. The issue is probabilistic, not either/or.

Just as interesting, at least to me, is the possibility that we in fact did NOT weather the crisis of the early 20th century successfully. After all, much of the interventionist constitutional change we adopted in the early 20th century, and which we now understand under the broad label of "progressivism," dates to precisely that period. Concern with the effects of economic inequality undergirded the assessments of TR at Ossawatomie in 1910, and it undergirded the arguments of FDR at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 1932 too. So economic inequality provoked what many here would consider an invidious constitutionalism that (they might well argue) exacerbates and debilitates our ability to cope with our economic problems in the present.

Best wishes,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on September 25, 2017 at 13:07:25 pm

"..the possibility that we in fact did NOT weather the crisis..."

YEP!!!!!

"So economic inequality provoked what many here would consider an invidious constitutionalism that (they might well argue) exacerbates and debilitates our ability to cope with our economic problems in the present."

YEP AGAIN!!!!!!

Moreover, it strikes me that Sitar-man has succumbed to the dolce like tones of his instrument; it would appear to have "colored" his view of income equality (IN-equality) at the time of the Founding. does he know nothing of the financial problems of the yeoman farmer, the laborer, AND the debtors who, in an attempt to *equalize* their own economic situation, were almost successful in taking over an entire State and wreaking havoc on COTUS.

Can anyone imagine what the GINI would be for the USA circa 1787 - heck, there was not even sufficient coinage for the rather simple economy of the time.

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gabe
on September 25, 2017 at 13:40:08 pm

The numbers were rough, but yes.

"In the late 18th century, “incomes were more equally distributed in colonial America than in any other place that can be measured,” authors Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson write, in the recently released book Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality since 1700. The richest 1 percent of households held only 8.5 percent of total income in the late 18th century. Today, the richest 1 percent have 20 percent of total income. ...

Early on, the colonies provided a level of economic equality that simply wasn’t possible in Europe. For one thing, there was a lot of land available once the colonists started taking it from Native Americans, and—as the game Monopoly shows us—owning property has historically been a good way to get ahead. ... The scarcity of labor created an unintentional redistribution of wealth—inflating the earnings of non-landowners.

For example, after the revolution, John Adams advocated for laws that forced families to divide their estates among all their children, to prevent European-style feudal estates, according to Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B.Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse in The Citizen’s Share: Reducing Inequality in the 21st Century. The goal of a republic, he believed, was “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/does-income-inequality-really-violate-us-principles/479577/

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Miss Creant
on September 25, 2017 at 14:32:59 pm

Yeas, BUT:

You failed to quote the next line in the Atlantic article which states:

"The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality on a scale from 0 to 1(with 1 being very high inequality) was just 0.367 in New England and the Middle Atlantic. It was 0.57 in Europe, in the late 18th century."

So if Rogers is above concerned with Gini variance between .37 and .41 and arguing whether we have perhaps hit the limit that allows for the continuance of Republican government - How the heck did the Colonists do it a Gini of .37 AND at a time when there was simply no coinage / currency to support an economy.

And again, there is such a thing as being land-rich" and cash-poor.

I will agree that the end of primogeniture made a signidicant difference in income (perhaps wealth is a better term) distribution; however some scholars of the period remark upon the family practice of "nudging" the yung'uns" to move further out into the wilderness as a more significant factor in land distribution.

In any event, the Gini is out of the bottle AND it ain't too different today than it was at the Founding.

Rather odd findings, I must admit - that the 1783 AND the 1983 Gini's would be so similar!!!! Odd, indeed.

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gabe
on September 25, 2017 at 15:50:05 pm

The numbers are too sketchy. For reasons you stated (and l agree with), the margin for error would have to be huge. Ergo, while l concur with the contrast, l ascribe little value to the number proffered.

Today's GlNl is about 0.46. "ln the chart [from Goldman Sachs], developed-market economies such as those in Germany, France, and Sweden tend to have a higher GDP per capita and lower Gini coefficients. On the flip side, emerging-market economies in countries like Russia, Brazil, and South Africa tend to have a lower GDP per capita but a higher Gini coefficient." Elena Holodny, The US is a big outlier when it comes to income inequality, Business lnsider, Aug. 8, 2016, Moreover,

"For the first time in this report series, Allianz calculated each country’s wealth Gini coefficient—a measure of inequality in which 0 is perfect equality and 100 would mean perfect inequality, or one person owning all the wealth. It found that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 80.56, showing the most concentration of overall wealth in the hands of the proportionately fewest people." http://fortune.com/2015/09/30/america-wealth-inequality/

"Also, The U.S. has had the highest level of disposable-income inequality among rich countries for some time. When disposable-income inequality is measured across 35 years of LIS data or 20 years of IDD data, the consistent result is that the U.S. has the highest level of disposable-income inequality among rich countries, even when the comparison is extended to include a more expansive set of countries than those in Figure 1 (see Online Appendix Figure A1 for the expanded comparison). As shown in Figure A1, only the middle-income countries of Russia, Turkey, Mexico, and Chile have higher disposable-income inequality than the U.S. The simple conclusion: The U.S. is the world champion of disposable-income inequality among rich nations." [about 0.52, per chart; The Poverty and Inequality Report 2016, The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality]

No way to cook the books to say what you want them to say.

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Miss Creant
on September 25, 2017 at 16:22:15 pm

Article: "I do think there’s much we can ask about regarding the role of money in politics. Rent seeking and crony capitalism are rife, and corrupting. And while some may not want legal limits imposed on spending money in campaigns because the cure would be worse than the disease, the fact that the cure is worse than the disease does not mean there is no disease. Still, the hypothesis that today’s level of economic inequality constitutes an imminent threat to American constitutionalism seems a hypothesis that needs both a firmer theoretical foundation and more-plausible empirical support."

The work's been done. The disease is far worse than any contemplated cure. Per the BBC:

"The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

This is not news, you say.

Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here's how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

"A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time," they write, "while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time."

On the other hand:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

They conclude:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened." http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

We are a fascist nation. We pledge allegiance to the Corporate States of America. Writing in Counterpunch, Eric Zuess nails it. "American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media)," he writes. "The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious 'electoral' 'democratic' countries. We weren't formerly, but we clearly are now." ld.

l've already demonstrated that the BoR is dead, and that there is another set of laws for our betters.

And you want me to stand for THAT flag, Comrade?

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Miss Creant
on September 25, 2017 at 17:56:38 pm

And the FUNNY thing is that all these oligarchs that you lambast (and RIGHTLY so) do tend to vote Leftist.

I do not at all dispute that income (and wealth, but that is a topic for another day with an entirely different set of influences, factors) distribution is skewed unfavorably toward a small segment of the citizenry; nor would I dispute that such a statistical condition is less than optimum for civic association.

However, it is not at all clear that the mere presence of such a distributive anomaly is sufficient in itself to precipitate the decline, much less the end of republican governance. It requires something more than simple economic grievance / envy to undo 230 years of Constitutional governance; BUT, have no fear, our leftist friends are well on the way to stoking that simple economic envy into something far more threatening, i.e., the complete and utter dismantling of traditional customs / mores / and beliefs - all with a view toward discrediting the very COTUS which has, albeit imperfectly, provided the broadest and deepest levels of opportunity for the citizenry.

And it is the very same oligarchs (your term, BTW) who have enjoyed the greatest measure of financial benefit that are the driving forces behind the intended transformation.

Yet, let us not forget, or willingly dismiss, the immense material comfort / benefit enjoyed by the *overwhelming* preponderance of the citizenry - and all this from a system you now decry as fascist. Yet this is a fascism of the LEFT (aren't they always) in which the expert planners collude with the corporatists to "manage" the economy and assure that profits sufficient for the continued funding of the State, and its many *enterprises and minions may continue apace, if not gather an ever increasing head of steam. And it matters not if in the attempt to assure continued "funding", that the very citizenry putatively the object of government ministrations are to be displaced by illegal immigrants - "Hey, they are cheaper."

And yet, YOU continue to fault the "free market" in many areas when you have herein demonstrated a clear understanding that the "market" is not free and HAS NOT been so for many decades.

I am going to send you a link to an article at American Affairs that a) you may find of interest and b) may provide some insight that would allow you to understand that it is not simply "corporate" oligarchs that participate in the changed circumstances of American Capitalism but also by implication EVERY stakeholder - Yep, that means me and you, MissC - in this somewhat capitalist economy:

https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/08/capitalism-without-capitalists/

What the AA essayist overlooks, or more precisely does not give full examination, is the role of all those guvmnt minions and the roles they play in the current corporatist mess.

As for the flag, MissC - heck I don;t even care if you stand to pee!
I stand for both - simply because I know the sacrifices that many have made on many fields during many decades.
Unlike you, I do not seek nor EXPECT Utopia - not even from COTUS or the United States.

So sit, stand, squat - whatever - "it makes me no nevermind" as my tailgating buddies are apt to say!
Just don't do it on MY DIME!!!!

Seeya

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gabe
on September 25, 2017 at 23:33:33 pm

Gabe--

One staple of civic thought, from Jefferson to Ronald Reagan, is that a republican political order requires citizens who possess the character necessary to sustain it. Power corrupts, and all men are corruptible--that follows logically from an Augustinian view of human nature. And constitutional rights ultimately are just parchment barriers if citizens lack the will to remain engaged with their government, and to demand that public servants remain publically accountable. The ultimate check and balance in our constitutional order is the vigilance of engaged citizens.

But character does not just happen. It is, in the end, the product of a self-conscious decision to acquire it. In the Jeffersonian understanding of citizenship, character happens because our social institutions align to encourage men and women to acquire it, and provide opportunity to do so. Jefferson believed in agrarianism--in wide spread ownership of family farms--because he believed that ownership of productive property aligned the acquisition of the right kind of civic character with the economic self-interest of men and women.

But in a world defined by wage labor--which is to say, in a world defined by corporate capitalism--there is a further consideration. Consider Theodore Roosevelt's argument, offered in 1910:

"No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them."

The full benefits of self-government represent a kind of leisure good, in the most literal of senses. If we want to encourage men (and women too) to be self-governing adults, and to reap the goods that come from a democratic political order, they must have time in their lives to devote to it. When too many of our fellow citizens have to work two or three jobs to provide for themselves and their families, we are no longer living in a properly functioning republican polity.

So Gini coefficients do not capture the full nature of the threat. The issue is not the wealth of the super rich, but rather the economic opportunities available to those whose family income is below the national median. The janitors and gardeners who keep my university clean and wholesome work for minimum wage, and keep multiple jobs to make their rent. Far from being lazy, they work with an intensity familiar to CPAs in tax season, or to young legal associates striving to make partner. I know more than one who obtains his yearly meat supply for his family from taking the maximum deer in hunting season. That's not a luxury or a past time--that's a necessity, an integral part of his families' subsistence.

It is possible to have extremes of wealth and also ample opportunity for the working poor. But can anyone say that that is what is happening now? Do we want the working poor to be self-governing citizens? If we don't want that for the lower 40% of our working population, what is the point of living in a democracy anyway?

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on September 26, 2017 at 08:49:00 am

Kevin:

Fair enough: some comments:

1) I do not place much faith in Gini coefficients.
2) Like you, I believe that there is far more to good citizenry (and life) than simple economic statistics. Political virtue, old fashioned, yes, but still required, is one of those things.
3) Opportunity, not income or wealth would appear to be far more significant in assessing the level of (potential) republican spirit in the citizenry.
4) I agree that opportunity is, and has, diminished within the last five - six decades. BUT, I attrribute this decline to the Leftists who have co-opted the corporate and Federal mechanisms in order to assure a steady stream of profits for themselves.
5) Gini is meaningless, if one believes that he or she can succeed.
6) Consider the wave of immigrants from southern Europe (my ancestors): Dirt poor, un-schooled, skilled in only the basic trades (if that); yet, they became good citizens, good republican citizens BECAUSE they believed that they had a chance. No different from many of today's immigrants.
7) Yet - what is different today? There simply is no concerted effort to bring these folks into the American mainstream. Indeed, their difference from the American republican mainstream is celebrated. Now combine that with the economic exploitation of these poor folks by the very same Leftists - corporatists and you DO indeed have a recipe for a diminished republican spirit.
8) I have never made any claim that *they* are "lazy" Far from that, as my own post-retirement avocation (Landscape design and Construction business) taught me. They worked as hard as my own grandfather did in the New York city building trades. The difference now is that employers are paying them far less than the prevailing wage (not a Davis-Bacon usage of the term, BTW) and keeping the rest. And no, I did not employ them as it was illegal - but I did refer them to some other opportunities.
9) As to self-governing citizens, perhaps, a change in the expectations that we set for those newly arrived to our shores may be in order. Let them understand that they will be welcomed to the same extent that they are welcoming of OUR (albeit now declining) republican ways. Thye left their native land for a reason - kindly remember that and do not heed the advice of inane leftists and libertarians who perceive no value in national borders / cultures / customs.

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gabe
on September 26, 2017 at 11:12:41 am

gabe: "And the FUNNY thing is that all these oligarchs that you lambast (and RIGHTLY so) do tend to vote Leftist."

And the funnier thing is that you keep letting the Culture Warrior™ in you slip, when you proclaim that you don't give a rip. :) Left and Right is a smokescreen; the oligarchs need the proletariat to be divided.

gabe; "However, it is not at all clear that the mere presence of such a distributive anomaly is sufficient in itself to precipitate the decline, much less the end of republican governance."

History would respectfully disagree. Empires invariably follow predictable life cycles; ever since Plutarch, it was recognized that inequality was the bane of a republic. Empires start wars because they are highly profitable for the oligarchs. Hermann Göring elaborates: "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship." We've been fighting needless wars for most of my life, and they have all been a welfare program for our betters.

Just focus on policy. Since 1981--the election of Ronald Reagan was the fatal blow to our Republic; we are just now reaping the foul harvest of Reaganomics--virtually every decision made by our legislative arm has been for the benefit of our oligarchs. While you were focused on shiny objects like SSM and abortion, they disemboweled our pension system. Now, they are after our Social Security.

gabe: "BUT, have no fear, our leftist friends are well on the way to stoking that simple economic envy into something far more threatening, i.e., the complete and utter dismantling of traditional customs / mores / and beliefs"

Again, the mindless bleat of the Culture Warrior™. "Four legs good, two legs bad...." Stop denying it.

gabe: "And yet, YOU continue to fault the “free market” in many areas when you have herein demonstrated a clear understanding that the “market” is not free and HAS NOT been so for many decades."

As l am fond of saying, we haven't had an Adam Smith free market since Leland Stanford was in short pants. The closest we can get to a free market is a heavily regulated one.

gabe: "I am going to send you a link to an article at American Affairs"

They are in the right church, if not necessarily the right pew. lnstead of competing for our business, the modern business simply buys up competitors. Again, thank St. Ronald of Reagan for obliterating our anti-trust laws. By way of example, Kroger decided to expand into Texas in ~1980. They got killed, and learned their lesson: Rather than try to compete, they just bought a major player in the market they were expanding to.

What you are seeing today is what l call late-stage capitalism. Big Gub'mint minions play a key role, through the phenomenon known as "regulatory capture." ln response to financial collapses, Sweden nationalized its banks, and lceland prosecuted its banksters. This was the right thing to do; both countries recovered quickly (compare Japan). But the Banksters "owned" Clinton (see Graham-Leach-Bliley), GWB, and Barry, the Wall Street Water-Boy, which is why we followed the Japanese model. Not a single bankster did the perpwalk (lceland prosecuted dozens, out of a population of 400,000!). Good for the Banksters, bad for us.

Why haven't we enforced our immigration laws? Cheap labor, which benefits the oligarchs at the expense of the common people. There is historical precedent; during the First Gilded Age, we called ltalian illegals "WOPs"-- "WithOut Papers." As he often did, George Carlin got this dead-solid perfect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7yzi1I_Zsk

As for the protests, you're old enough to remember Carlos and Thomas in 1968. l'll let MLK, Jr. respond:

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws."

lt is easy to be patient when your ox isn't being gored.

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Miss Creant
on September 26, 2017 at 11:38:12 am

gabe: "1) I do not place much faith in Gini coefficients."

Gabe often tends to discount evidence inimical to his position.

gabe: "3) Opportunity, not income or wealth would appear to be far more significant in assessing the level of (potential) republican spirit in the citizenry."

Evidence?

gabe: "4) I agree that opportunity is, and has, diminished within the last five – six decades. BUT, I attribute this decline to the Leftists"

Evidently, gabe has a shrine to St. Ronald of Reagan in his basement. He is a Culture Warrior™ who is ashamed to admit it or at least, denies it for polemic advantage.

gabe: "5) Gini is meaningless, if one believes that he or she can succeed."

gabe has a blind faith in the Market Fairy. The objective evidence is that social mobility is far higher in Europe, but facts can't be allowed to get in the way of one's lmmaculate Misconceptions.

gabe: "The difference now is that employers are paying them far less than the prevailing wage (not a Davis-Bacon usage of the term, BTW) and keeping the rest."

We can fix this by taxing the rich. But that is anathema to people like gabe, as his is a de facto religious belief.

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Miss Creant
on September 26, 2017 at 12:39:02 pm

In my view it is not the absolute level or threshold of inequality that matters. That is a symptom. The more important aspect is the sense of fairness. If people believe that the inequality is the result of government favoritism, not available to all, then that will be perceived as unfair and threaten the fabric of society. So it matters WHY the inequality is where it is.

In that vein, the increasing level of rent seeking and crony capitalism that accompanies a period of economic crisis such as ours threatens the foundations of the Republic. The Moral Hazard embraced by and implicit in the policies of our monetary authorities is another problem. And more concretely the dynamic which has raised equity prices to farcical levels is even more odious. Corporations borrow for nearly free due to Fed policy. This allows them to buy back huge numbers of shares. Magically then the price of the shares rises, making stock options granted to executives go into the money. Rinse and repeat for 9 years now (two full vesting periods at least). Is it any wonder corporate executives now make not the 30 times average worker pay they used to but 3000 times? Does one not think those two additional orders of magnitude might contribute to =a sense of unfairness that might play into the thesis discussed in this article (albeit with a misallocation of cause)?

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Tom Bergerson
on September 26, 2017 at 15:42:50 pm

MissC:

Cut the crap!

You obviously have a rather overvalued estimate of your own opinions. I once did business with a landscape supply company about which it was said that "They are a little TOO proud of their own plant material and soils (manure, is included)." Hey they went out of business?

How about you Missy? You are clearly a little TOO proud of your own soils and onanistic output.

Now think clearly, Dear girl, WHEN have I EVER expressed an undue confidence or reverence for the "Market Fairy"? Examine closely - not with your jaundiced eye but with the cold light of reason. You may *infer* what you desire (or NEED to) from what I say, as is your wont and a consequence of your own *religious* disposition, BUT it is not what I am implying. Yes, let us take your idiotic, inane, quasi-religious belief / adherence to the "man on the desert island scenario and examine it. It is quite simly the construct of a childlike wish for an overarching (religious?) explanation FOR ANYTHING THAT LITTLE MISS C, in a typical haughty and prideful manner, asserts as proper and natural.

MY GAWD, ETHEL, here are some more of Miss C's sacraments: tax the rich, only statistics that su[pport Miss C's own religious viewpoints are to be accepted AND none dare to questions either their accuracy or applicability; humans are completely separate from any political (ancient usage) affiliation and consequently owe no obligations to any other human; this of course is not a problem because all other humans behave the way Little Miss C thinks they ought to.

Take YOUR sacraments and place them up the Shrine of Planned Parenthood.

I'll one up you, Missy!
I believe in abortion rights for "baby fur seals" - how about you? Get it?

You are both tiresome, childish and boorish. What are you still trying to curry favor (brown-nose) your Con Law 101 professor or perhaps impress Con 101 students with how avant-garde you are?

As for me, I will simply mark you off as another prideful "know-it-all" whose behavior and attitudes caused The Trumpster to ascend to high office.

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gabe
on September 26, 2017 at 18:31:58 pm

And yes, I don;t place much faith in Gini as it fails to factor in such elements as age AND Government Transfer payments to certain segments of the population. So if you wish to label that "market fairy" - go right ahead.

Also, as an indication of MissC's mis-use of statistics there is this.

My comment indicated that FIVE OR SIX DECADES AGO, we began to increasingly lose our way.

MissC translates that as the 1980's and begins a religious jeremiad against Ronald Reagan, someone, whom to my knowledge, I did not invoke

Can you do math? 2017 - minus 50 or 60 does not equal 1980, now does it? How foolish of me - of course it does, IF it provides an opening for Little MissC to go on a quasi-religious rant against any opposing opinion.

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gabe
on September 26, 2017 at 20:39:30 pm

gabe: "Yes, let us take your idiotic, inane, quasi-religious belief / adherence to the “man on the desert island scenario and examine it"

l've been imploring you to. :) l will ask again:

1. What can you do whilst alone on a desert island that is NOT a natural right?

2, lf you can identify one, ON WHAT BASlS do you claim that it is not?

What you really want to say: "But my Widdle Baby Jesus! My Widdle Baby Jesus! My Widdle Baby Jesus!"

The crap you come up with: "It is quite simly the construct of a childlike wish for an overarching (religious?) explanation FOR ANYTHING THAT LITTLE MISS C, in a typical haughty and prideful manner, asserts as proper and natural." lt is almost as risible.

The presumption underlying natural law theory is that you can determine what our "natural rights" are by observation. l am merely proposing a way to observe them.

gabe: "humans are completely separate from any political (ancient usage) affiliation and consequently owe no obligations to any other human; this of course is not a problem because all other humans behave the way Little Miss C thinks they ought to."

Again, all you are revealing is that you don't have a credible way to define the scope of our natural rights, and you can only try to camouflage it with Trumpian bluster. lf you are alone on a desert island, you literally have no obligations to any other human, at that moment in time. But that changes when you re-enter society.

As for how humans behave, Dale Carnegie asserts that they always act in accordance with they perceive to be their enlightened self-interest, and l have never encountered an exception. ln his words, when you give $100 to charity, you want that feeling more than the $100.

gabe: "I will simply mark you off as another prideful “know-it-all”"

l don't know jack about building office buildings, and would promptly defer to your expertise. But when it comes to things like ConLaw, tax law and policy, business, and economics, l have a bunch of letters after my name and a lifetime of relevant experience that say that l do know a thing or three. l usually stick to what l know, and STFU when a subject is outside my area of expertise.

gabe: "WHEN have I EVER expressed an undue confidence or reverence for the “Market Fairy”?"

ln your analysis of what is wrong with our health care system. You seem to think that the free market (that we can't have, due to natural barriers to entry) will cure all ills.

gabe: "Examine closely – not with your jaundiced eye but with the cold light of reason."

l have ... and that's what frustrates you so. :)

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Miss Creant
on September 26, 2017 at 23:05:56 pm

gabe: "FIVE OR SIX DECADES AGO, we began to increasingly lose our way."

ln 1957, the top tax federal income tax rate was 93%, our GlNl coefficient was 0.35, and a system of tariffs protected key domestic industries. Ni6666-uhs and broads knew their place, and "jew" was still a verb. Do you want to go back to that?

What changed in the next two decades? The top tax rate was dropped to 70%, and the GlNl was still around 0.36. Estate taxes still discouraged dynasties. The Hamiltonian tariff regime remained intact. Don't see any changes worth mentioning.

But of course, for you Culture Warriors™, everything went to Hades. We stopped doing Bible readings in public schools (remember that?). The Pill. Weed. Protests against a pointless war, started under fraudulent pretense. People studied Yogananda, instead of Aquinas. Women burned their bras. Abortion became legal. Blacks became uppity. And suddenly, there were GAYS!

Sure you don't want to start chanting "Blood and Soil," gabe?

l don't think we "lost our way" at all. Quite to the contrary.

But then came Mr. 666 himself: Ronald Wilson Reagan. He cut taxes, and abolished tariffs. We went from being the world's largest creditor nation to its largest debtor. All as part of a plan to turn average Americans into serfs.

As late as 1987, the bottom 90% controlled almost 40% of the nation's wealth. Today, the top 0.1% own more than they do. Something went catty-wompus-to-the-world, and the blood is on the Gipper's hands. That was MY point.

Just own the fact that you are a Culture Warrior™. From an objective POV, nothing went bad during the 50s, 60s, or 70s (if you ignore Vietnam). There is no discernible basis for your opinion, unless you admit that there is a religious one.

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Miss Creant
on September 27, 2017 at 17:30:06 pm

Stifle it, EDITH! _Ha! - phrase is probably what you EXPECT from anyone that either disagrees with you or, Heaven Forbid has the temerity to pose a question that may dim the *enlightenment* you believe you spread across the land.

What is it with you and religion? What? were you kicked out of a seminary or something?

AGAIN: I REPEAT:

STOP imputing to me those traits, beliefs, preferences and behaviors that your rather zealous advocacy (and imagination) impels you to attribute to those that you seek to caricature.

And oh BTW, Gini is worthless as it does not consider age (see recent aging trends in Asia, India, US, EU AND of course the consequent impact upon EARNINGS) and because it does not consider guvmnt transfer payments.

I must confess to a certain resentment at being "woven" into any one a number of strawmen by the likes of someone who, I must concede, is a WORLD CLASS SPINNER OF YARNS!!!!

Oh, and don't blame Ronnie Rayguns for the leftist globalists that have assumed prominence over the economy and the culture. Look a little closer to the present.

With that, I bid you "buzz off" and godspeed to that quaint little desert island utopia you both posit and strive for.

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gabe
on September 29, 2017 at 09:55:40 am

Left unaddressed is the relationship between the change in the U. S.'s Gini coefficient over the last 35 years and the mass immigration of millions of low-skilled workers who spoke little English. It would be interesting to hear someone explain a program that continued such mass immigration without the Gini coefficient continuing to rise.

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Dave Schuler
on September 29, 2017 at 14:43:36 pm

" l have a bunch of letters after my name and a lifetime of relevant experience that say that l do know a thing or three"

Which may indicate ONLY that you are among the "educationally incapacitated" - Ha!

And many of us have letters after our names as well - we simply don't throw them around and in point of fact assume a somewhat more modest pose (some more deservedly than others, I will admit).

"ln your analysis of what is wrong with our health care system. You seem to think that the free market (that we can’t have, due to natural barriers to entry) will cure all ills."

And you, of course with all the letters after your name, PRESUME to know enough that you can first recognize and then sufficiently process and analyze all potential human interactions affecting this sector of the economy. It is called the "conceit of the planners" - and is typically a futile exercise favored by the "educationally incapacitated."

Of course, your "socialist" (your own term) planned, free for all, health care has worked so well. News today is that rates will rise on average (once again) of 20%, options will be reduced even further and more companies are dropping our of the Exchanges.

Yep, THOSE LETTERS after your name have really proved advantageous to us, now haven't they!

AND NO!!!! - You DO NOT look with open eyes but rather with a vision colored / distorted by the lens of the credentialed expert who primary assumption is that any and all that disagree is a deplorable cretin.

NOW THAT is what frustrates me.

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gabe
on October 01, 2017 at 00:02:06 am

I suspect that merely measuring the range of economic disparity misses the point when it comes to considering a "danger to democracy". More important is how static these economic strata are. If there is sufficient economic mobility it will offset the distribution of wealth. Any danger will come from an entrenched population the top of the economic pyramid, regardless of whether the wealth is held personally or in some organization - like a foundation. The key is whether the wealth is controlled by a static group.

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George Ostermayer

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