Again, more shootings

A waitress shot to death in a Mississippi restaurant by a customer upset that he was told by her to put out his cigarette in a non-smoking establishment. Three people shot to death in and around a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic by a shooter who would no doubt claim the mantle of “pro-life.” Obama says “enough is enough,” urging gun control.

Vox weighs in:

But why does the US have so many more gun homicides than other advanced countries? One possible explanation: Americans are much more likely to own guns than most of the world — the US makes up about 4.4 percent of the global population, but owns 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. And the empirical research shows places with more guns have more homicides.

Criminal justice experts widely recognize this is a result of cultural and policy decisions that have made firearms far more available in America than in most of the world. For the US, that means not just more mass shootings — but more gun violence in general.

Thirty-two thousand gun-related deaths a year. We’re Number One!

Source of wealth

top one percent income distribution to 2013

Source: Emmanuel Saez, table A7

As of 2014, one would need at least $1.2 million to be in the top one percent. That group accounted for about 21 percent of all income realized in the U.S.

We see that the bulk of the rich’s income is in the form of wages (which includes stock options and pensions), followed by corporate profits (e.g., S-Corporations).

They have much to be thankful for.

real income growth 2009 to 2014


We may at times wonder how an entire country could follow a self-deluded megalomaniac into racial hell and a disastrous war to boot. I am speaking, of course, of the Weimar Germans, or at least a sizable percentage of them, who enthusiastically embraced the politics of fear and hate to systematically rid their society of undesirable elements, notably “Semites.” They not only said “Heil Hitler.” They sang his praises, believing that the Jews were worthless vermin who, paradoxically, were responsible for their country’s demise.

Yet, we need only look at the phenomenon of Trump, whom one writer accuses of going “full fascist,” to gain insight into the darkness lurking within America’s body politic. Janet Allon writes:

Having surged ahead again in the polls, Trump was handed the bullhorn time and again this week and he took full advantage, milking the xenophobic vote as hard as he could. Not content with his own suggestion that perhaps closing down mosques in the U.S. would be a good idea, he upped his own sky-high ante when he said Thursday that a Muslim registry might be a good idea, telling a reporter he “would implement that—absolutely.” Pressed further about how such a thing could be accomplished, he said,  “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

Well, the Germans certainly had management, along with willing executioners. Today, too many Americans seem ready to shout “Heil Tump!” It’s not the Jews this time around. Rather it’s “the Mexicans” and “the Muslims.” Trump even has his version of brown-shirted supporters.


Missed it by that much

A disturbing chart in today’s New York Times:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.56.05 AM

Count me among the pessimists. With an entire political party in the U.S. dedicated to the proposition that global warming and its associated science is bunkum, there is little likelihood that America will come close to meeting its target pledge. Yet, as the above chart indicates, even if all the nations convening in Paris meet their targets, the planet still warms by over six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

What a legacy for my grandkids. And Republicans dare talk about family.

Inequality retards economic output

income including assets 1950 to 2014

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

There’s no question that wages and salaries in the private sector have steadily increased, as the above chart shows. Those working in government have seen more modest gains—in the aggregate. Income derived from assets advanced as well, at slightly higher rates since 1980.

Of course, these are total numbers. They do not reflect the widening gap between the Haves and Have-nots. Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez has crunched the numbers.

income distribution including capital gains 1950 to 2014

Income levels for each fractile (2010 $)

As recounted in these pages, economic growth has faltered over the last few decades, coinciding with income inequality. This paper argues that lessening inequality would stimulate the economy.

New OECD research shows that when income inequality rises, economic growth falls. One reason is that poorer members of society are less able to invest in their education. Tackling inequality can make our societies fairer and our economies stronger.

Yet, each of the Republican candidates for president advocates lower taxes on the wealthy, which would only exacerbate inequality while increasing the federal deficit. They also champion reductions in government transfers and subsidies, including investments in public education, that benefit the bottom 90 percent, whose wages have stagnated in my lifetime.

Ah, freedom

This from today’s New York Times:

For F.B.I. agents, watching an Islamic State suspect in the United States is a study in anxiety. Being an Islamic State sympathizer is not against the law. Neither is expressing hatred for the United States on Twitter. Buying guns is also legal, and investigators have watched nervously as terrorism suspects passed background checks and purchased guns more than 2,000 times in the past decade, according to government data.

So, if I had to choose which freedom to restrict, I’d go for the guns. Yet, as posted earlier, a presidential candidate had this to say:

I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.

— Dr. Ben Carson

While America doesn’t have a monopoly on crazy, we have the most fertile soil for wackiness.