Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, December 16th, 2013.

The Peasants Are Almost Revolting

Obama Administration

Polls are showing really strong support for raising the minimum wage. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed that even a slight majority of Republicans favored raising the minimum wage, with 69 percent of respondents overall favoring it. I don’t know if there are polls asking this specific question going back over the years, but my guess is there wasn’t this much support for raising the minimum wage until very recently.

Of course, as we saw a year ago with gun control, just because a whopping majority of Americans want something doesn’t mean Washington will respond.

Paul Krugman writes that our growing income inequality is not only holding back the economy; it’s skewing government as well

This is especially clear if we try to understand why Washington, in the midst of a continuing jobs crisis, somehow became obsessed with the supposed need for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. This obsession never made economic sense: In a depressed economy with record low interest rates, the government should be spending more, not less, and an era of mass unemployment is no time to be focusing on potential fiscal problems decades in the future. Nor did the attack on these programs reflect public demands.

Surveys of the very wealthy have, however, shown that they — unlike the general public — consider budget deficits a crucial issue and favor big cuts in safety-net programs. And sure enough, those elite priorities took over our policy discourse.

See also Bill Moyers, The Great American Class War: Plutocracy Versus Democracy.

I don’t know if most Americans realize that food stamps and other forms of public assistance from taxpayers actually benefit corporations. Joan Walsh writes it’ s not just Wal-Mart and McDonald’s —

One in three bank tellers receives public assistance, the Committee for Better Banks revealed last week, at a cost of almost a billion dollars annually in federal, state and local assistance. That’s right: One of the nation’s most profitable, privileged and high-prestige industries, banking, pays a sector of its workers shockingly low wages and relies on taxpayers to lift them out of poverty. In New York alone, 40 percent of bank tellers and their family members receive public assistance, costing $112 million in state and federal benefits.

Bank CEOs get multi-million dollar bonuses as profits soar, while millions of tellers are so poor they get welfare. Something’s wrong with that.

Revulsion at subsidizing profitable corporations that pay poverty-level wages is helping fuel a wave of long-overdue organizing and protest on behalf of low-wage workers, from the fast-food strikes that have swept the country to Wal-Mart protests this holiday season. Taxpayers recoil at the notion, but so do many workers themselves. “I thought I could make it on my own. That didn’t happen,” Wal-Mart worker Aubretia Edick, who makes $11.70 an hour and still gets public assistance, told the Huffington Post. That’s why she joined a one-day strike. “Wal-Mart doesn’t pay my salary,” she said. “You pay my salary.”

The U.S. now has the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

My sense of things is that at least some people are waking up to this. But are enough people going to wake up soon enough?

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Guns and Crazy

Obama Administration

We’ve passed the first anniversary of the Newtown school massacre. In this past year investigators have learned that Adam Lanza was not just bit odd or withdrawn. He was seriously warped and putting out flashing 90-foot neon signs that he was potentially dangerous. His mother kept buying him guns because, in her mind, an interest in shooting was the only “normal” thing about him.

I will say one thing in Nancy Lanza’s defense, which is that the United States health care system does not offer enough for people with severe psychiatric disease who need long-term, closely monitored care. That’s mostly because there’s no way to wring a profit out of the seriously crazy. Even if you have money and good insurance, sometimes the medical-care infrastructure you need just isn’t there.

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