The inauguration and the economic divide


Second inaugration speeches are hard; you have to be political without sounding partisan, inspiring without being divisive -- and promise change and progress even if you haven't accomplished what you wanted in the first term. The Obama address surprised me: He went left, making clear that he wants economic and social equality to be his final legacy. It's getting rave reviews in the lib-blogosphere, where it's been described as the speech liberals have been begging him to give for years. You can't argue with the content -- he mentions gay rights, global climate change, equal pay, protecting social security, economic inequality, the need for collective effort ... he even talks about reforming the tax code.

So now comes the hard part: The struggle for economic justice has to go beyond a compromise plan that limits higher tax rates to people earning more than $400,000 a year.

In fact, the best thing I read this weekend was a NY Times piece by Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who argues forcefully that continued economic inequality is prolonging the recession. It's also destroying the nation's future:

Our skyrocketing inequality — so contrary to our meritocratic ideal of America as a place where anyone with hard work and talent can “make it” — means that those who are born to parents of limited means are likely never to live up to their potential. Children in other rich countries like Canada, France, Germany and Sweden have a better chance of doing better than their parents did than American kids have. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty — the second worst of all the advanced economies, putting us behind countries like Bulgaria, Latvia and Greece. Our society is squandering its most valuable resource: our young.

Stiglitz says what few in Washington want to admit: We can't get the economy going again without rebuilding the middle class, and we can't do that without higher taxes on the rich and a lot more public investment in education. Oh, and all this talk of how it's out of our control is bullshit:

There are all kinds of excuses for inequality. Some say it’s beyond our control, pointing to market forces like globalization, trade liberalization, the technological revolution, the “rise of the rest.” Others assert that doing anything about it would make us all worse off, by stifling our already sputtering economic engine. These are self-serving, ignorant falsehoods. Market forces don’t exist in a vacuum — we shape them. Other countries, like fast-growing Brazil, have shaped them in ways that have lowered inequality while creating more opportunity and higher growth. Countries far poorer than ours have decided that all young people should have access to food, education and health care so they can fulfill their aspirations.

Makes me think about some of what I hear out of San Francisco City Hall. Oh, we can't do anything about economic inequality; that's a national issue. Or maybe it's a state issue. I bet there's not an elected official in town today who woudn't proclaim complete agreement with everything Obama just said -- and there are very few of them who are trying to bring that message back home.

In San Francisco, we give tax breaks for businesses that create high-end jobs that drive poor people out of town. We happily seek development without considering the impact it will have on existing vulnerable populations. We even struggle over free Muni for low-income youth. We do nothing -- nothing -- to reclaim wealth from the 1 percent and put it into local housing, public education, and job-training that could make a dent in our local economic inequality.

Mr. Mayor: Are you even paying attention?








"Is Edwin Lee paying attention?"

Hell, no!

Just look at the corporations and barons who are lining his pockets with li xi envelopes.

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

"Is Edwin Lee paying attention?"

Hell, no!

Just look at the corporations and barons who are lining his pockets with li xi envelopes.

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

"Is Edwin Lee paying attention?"

Hell, no!

Just look at the corporations and barons who are lining his pockets with li xi envelopes.

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

But that is simply not the case. The poor in America are better off than the poor in most any other country outside the West. And much of the reason for that is because having successful people and businesses creates investment and growth and jobs and prosperity.

Liberals always focus on the fact that the pizza is not cut into equal slices, but they should be focusing more on the fact that the US has a 18 inch pizza while most other countries have a 12 inch pizza. A small slice here would be a big slice elsewhere, which is why millions crave to live in America. According to you, they should want to stay away because of out inequality, when it is precisely our opportunity that attracts them.

Envy was never a sound basis for policy and it isn't under Obama either, who consults far more with big business than he does with activists, and for good reason. focusing on the fact that others have mroe than you is rarely healthy.

It makes a nice speech and all, but you know and I know that difficult budget deficits and spending cuts lie in our future. To pretend that we are suddenly heading for a socialist nirvana because of one opportunistic speech is stretching credibility.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

It's simply not true anymore that the US has the highest living standards in the world. Not when you add in all the services, social insurance policies, etc., that people receive in other developed countries.

That said, it really is the inequality that matters, independent of poverty. Inequality, as an independent variable, is associated with a host of social ills, including crime, lowered life expectancy, mental illness, obesity, teen pregnancy, among others. It has to do with people's inherent sense of fairness, and the effects that perceived unfairness has on the human psyche.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

be rich if a single person is poor. Even poor people disagree with that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 7:07 am

Reductio ad absurdum troll

Posted by Greg on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 8:38 am

Visit any communist country if you dont believe me.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:05 am

The whole point of a progressive tax system is to get more ppl to be winners. If a person is being "punished" via paying a higher tax rate, what it means is that the person has been incredibly successful. He can thank a working lawful system for that - and since the richer one is, the more he or she benefits from a working lawful system, the more in taxes he or she should pay via higher tax rates.

If the winners were really being punished, they wouldn't be making the $ they do to be in the position that, hopefully one day, they will be paying much higher tax rates ON ONLY THAT PORTION that is above some set level of income - JUST LIKE IT WAS IN THE 1950s.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

redistribute resources from the successful to the failures. A tax system should exist only to raise revenues, and be as broad-based as possible. The purpose of a tax system isn't to implement class warfare

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:59 am

And it's a one-sided war waged by the 1% against the 99%.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

At least try and come up with an original cliche.

Posted by anon on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

At least try and come up with an original cliche.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

I'm not sure it qualifies, but really -- wouldn't "punishing success" include not only taking away *all* the fruits of the success but also, like, laying a hellacious beating on the success/victim?

Nobody -- outside of some toxic workplace environments -- has *ever* been punished for success.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

When you advocate for a smaller and smaller % getting a larger and larger percentage of this country's profit sum, it is you who are engaging in class warfare.

The purposes or benefits (same thing in this case) of a progressive tax system (PTS) - meaning the more one makes, the higher the tax rate on just that portion of the income above some set level - are several.

For one, it helps prevent some entities from becoming too powerful and thus be almost more powerful than the state which in a democracy is the people's voices. A much more progressive tax system would inhibit the ridiculous power the Koch brothers to control who is in our congress and what policies those in congress pursue and ignore.

Another benefit of a PTS is it benefits those who need help most - low income folks and families - rather than those who don't need any financial help. And the benefit of that is a much more cohesive stable society. And who are the ones that are the biggest beneficiary of a much more cohesive stable society??? Those with the most to lose financially - meaning those that would be paying the highest tax rates. Thus a PTS actually benefits the most those paying the highest tax rates though many of them are too stupid, greedy, and shortsighted to realize this.

There's many other benefits of a PTS: a better functioning govt, better schools, a better educated citizenry, more safety in products, cleaner water and air, less crime, etc etc etc etc.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

in your analysis. Unfortunately, the privatizing, regressive tax advocates are perfectly happy with public services going down the shitter because they can afford to pay for those services in the "free market."

Who needs a library if you can afford to buy books? Public schools when you can send your kids to private ones? Public transit if you have a car (with or without driver?) Public safety if you live in a gated community?

The corporate-sponsored free market anti-tax propaganda is ubiquitous and insidious. I believe that people will realize its fraudulence as we continue to live through a period of rapidly decreasing political, economic and social conditions.

As they say, it all comes out in the wash (no matter what someone writes on the internet.)

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

it is true what you said, but we must admit that social media is an important method.

Posted by Daniel on May. 14, 2013 @ 5:24 am


Sounds like G.W.

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

rising tide to pizza pie. It is still a false analogy but somehow more apt because a greater percentage of the population goes hungry here than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

It doesn't matter how big the pizza is if you don't get any slices (except those you dig out of the garbage cans.)

Hunger in the USA: the shame of a rich, but extremely unequal nation.

Let's replace trickle down with bubble up.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

It's the poorer States that vote GOP.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 7:08 am

In America, the economic system isn't up for a vote of the people. Neither party advocates making substantial changes.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 8:37 am

any other single issue. Insofar as they vote GOP, or vote for the more conseravtive Democrats, they are voting for opportunity over inequality. They accept the latter as the price of the former. According to you, that shouldn't happen, yet it does.

And the irony is that the poorer States are GOP.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:04 am

If these voters are voting for economic policies (tax cuts for the rich so schools and colleges are starved for $ so innovative businesses aren't formed in those areas thus making economies in those areas poor) that make them poor relative to those areas that want the rich to give back so that $ can be funneled down to the lower income population so they can go to college and get a college degree and ultimately create a stronger economy, then obviously the Republican-voting areas are voting against their own self-interest.

So why would they do that? Using the magic and power of propaganda on tv, specifically Australian multi-billionaire Rubert Murdoch's Faux TV can get enough ppl to vote against their own self-interest using lies, distortions. social wedge issues, smearing of Democrats and liberals, etc (must be just a coincidence that a billionaire broadcasts propaganda 24/7 that strongly benefits billionaires).

Never before in the history of the US has a tv network like Faux TV existed before, where rightwing propaganda is spewed 24/7 all over the country. At the same time, no matter where one is in the US, if one turns on the radio to get political opinions, the only one heard is rightwing such as Limbaugh, Hannity, etc (NPR is not the opposite of such rightwing propaganda since NPR bends over backwards to make sure the right's views are heard to the same extent if not more than the left's).

The poorer an area is, the less educated the population tends to be so they are more vulnerable to propaganda, whatever the source. The source in the US is always rightwing. Recently, there's been a slight opening for the left on tv via MS-NBC but that's a small amount vs the right's total propaganda machine on tv, radio, and newspapers.

But just because this phenomenon takes place because billionaires are acting in their own self-interest (to the detriment of almost everyone else) doesn't mean it's good for this country or it's right. It just means that tv and radio is an extremely powerful medium to spread propaganda - especially when it's not countered to any extent with an opposition POV on the tv and radio in those areas (and not just those areas).

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

And that you know better than them?

And that they need a liberal white male from San Francisco to tell them how to think and vote?

Is that it?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 7:02 am

I wish there was something to respond to but all I see are your straw man creations. Let’s see you refute what I said about Republican policies and the economies they create, or refute what I said about Faux “News” and the propaganda they spew 24 / 7 or how most media in this country is rightwing. That might require you to do a post with an ounce of intelligence and thinking and form an argument that has an ounce of substance – which is apparently asking too much of you.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

Presidents always move to the center
Progressive ideas are not popular
All politicians lie
"Purity progressives" can't compromise
Nader lost the election for Gore
Progressives have situational ethics
Progressives ignore pressing problems to promote pet projects.
Progressives want to tell everyone else how to run their lives
Progressives call anybody a troll who doesnt' agree with them

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

Rising tide/pizza pie fantasy: more for you, more for me.

Economic reality: more for you, less for me.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 8:38 am

I focus on baking a bigger pie.

Big difference, and my approach is more American.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:05 am

even if it is "more American."

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:27 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 9:50 am

Maybe go for a walk and see for yourself how badly distributed the pizza pie is in SF. Entire pizzerias for a few, whole pies for some, small slices for most, no slices for many.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 10:04 am

long as you have enough pizza.

The pizza you get depends on the value of what you contribute.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

are poor or nearly poor, even as the pie gets bigger or the tide rises. So some people don't get enough pizza and some barely get enough, and these numbers are increasing disproportianately.

Also, 1% of the population is getting 93% of all newly baked pizzas.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

does not mean that you don't have as much pizza as society deems you to deserve.

When will you ever stop focusing on what others have?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

You? The neoliberal wage structure?

Polling data indicates that the majority of people think that the financial industry is overcompensated? The majority want higher taxes on the wealthy? Why isn't "society" defined as the wishes of the majority?

And you are not addressing my point that many people don't get any pizza at all.

(You probably prefer Domino's or Pizza Hut, anyways.)

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

and think that those with more money should have less money.

What does that have to do with running a society and encouraging enterprise and success?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

That's not success by any measure. If you only care about the health of corporations and not of people, you are morally bankrupt...and living in a failed society.

Posted by Ana on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

Good reason to pursue success rather than punish it, perhaps?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

Thank you, Marie Antoinette. Do remember the little children after you've gorged yourself at your last banquet and are facing the guillotine.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

There is method in what you perceive as madness

Posted by anon on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

I had an evil thought to post something under the name of "Guest" along the lines of "well they prolly deserve it. Shoulda picked better parents." I abandoned the idea because 1) I don't want to pollute the site by engaging in imping, and 2) Something like that would be obvious that I was just creating a distorted caraciture of the positions of the capitalist right.

But lo and behold... these people really do hold that position. Amazing. The right in this country is really going off the deep end.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

they were lucky. Wow, you're so smart.

Posted by anon on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 3:57 pm


Authoritarian troll.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

Opinion polls don't decide policy; election results do. And election results do not support your hypothesis.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:17 pm
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

so are much more important and valid than your alleged self-serving opinion polls.

The latter is just talk; the former is power, money and deeds.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

Money decides policy. Elections are mostly for show.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

Yes, poor people in this country are well off by the standards of famine and drought and war-torn suffering people of sub-Saharan Africa, so there's really no trouble. No trouble at all!

The reality is that poverty has been exploding in the U.S. and the relative wealth disparity which exists itself constitutes a major ramification of it. The great wealth of some individuals in-and-of-itself is the cause of hardship among the poor here. Money is power, and the power discepancy hurts people who live under it.

In the last 30-40 years, the disparity between the most wealthy and the most poor has been growing in leaps and bounds. The big lie is told to dismiss any attention to this problem.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

I'd rather have 10% of a million than 50% of a hundred, thousand, even if the latter is less "disparate".

The whole business of looking at what other people have in trying to assess one's one worth is a futile process.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

my wage, how many things I have, or my bank account.

Superficial, materialistic troll.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 3:05 pm