American Elephants


Why is the Left So Suddenly Rapturous About Income Inequality? by The Elephant's Child

Inequality is currently a big deal because 1). Barack Obama wants to use it in his campaign for keeping the Senate in the fall elections 2). the lapdog media is obediently cooperating in emphasizing Obama’s theme of the moment and 3). A new book by French economist Thomas Piketty which is focused on inequality, wealth redistribution, capitalist wealth, and the horrors of capitalism. Karl Marx is revisited for the 21st century.

From Cato’s Michael Tanner:

Capital in the Twenty-First Century provides a serious critique of inequality in modern capitalist economies and warns that market economies “are potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based.” To remedy this, he argues for a globally imposed wealth tax and a U.S. tax rate of 80 percent on incomes over $500,000 per year.

The Left has been rapturous. In the last two months, Piketty’s book has been cited more than a half-dozen times by the New York Times, something that has happened with no other book in recent memory. Paul Krugman hails it as “the most important economics book of the year.

From Daniel Suchman in the Wall Street Journal:

Thomas Piketty likes capitalism because it efficiently allocates resources. But he does not like how it allocates income. There is, he thinks, a moral illegitimacy to virtually any accumulation of wealth, and it is a matter of justice that such inequality be eradicated in our economy. The way to do this is to eliminate high incomes and to reduce existing wealth through taxation. …

Soaring pay for corporate “supermanagers” has been the largest source of increased inequality, according to Mr. Piketty, and these executives can only have attained their rewards through luck or flaws in corporate governance. It requires only an occasional glance at this newspaper to confirm that this can be the case. But the author believes that no CEO could ever justify his or her pay based on performance. He doesn’t say whether any occupation—athletes? physicians? economics professors who sell zero-marginal-cost e-books for $21.99 a copy?—is entitled to higher earnings because he does not wish to “indulge in constructing a moral hierarchy of wealth.”…

He assumes that the economy is static and zero-sum; if the income of one population group increases, another one must necessarily have been impoverished. He views equality of outcome as the ultimate end and solely for its own sake. Alternative objectives—such as maximizing the overall wealth of society or increasing economic liberty or seeking the greatest possible equality of opportunity or even, as in the philosophy of John Rawls, ensuring that the welfare of the least well-off is maximized—are scarcely mentioned.

Michael Tanner had the most obvious answer to the problem of the inequality of the lower classes, or the less fortunate: “Instead of attacking capital and capitalism, why not expand the number of people who participate in the benefits of having capital? In other words, let’s make more capitalists.”

It should not be surprising then that “the Left is unremittingly hostile to exactly those policies that would give workers more access to capital.” They want to abolish 401(k) plans, replace them with social insurance, limit tax breaks for wealthier participants, and expand (the broke) Social Security instead.



It’s Earth Day. Yawn. Zzzzzz-zzz… by The Elephant's Child

The Humor:

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Fort Mason Park in San Francisco after last year’s Earth Day.

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I was visited late yesterday by an earnest young woman representing WASHPIRG, which is the Washington State version of the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. Every college student is required to pay a fee to this group, which seems a little odd since this is just another of Ralph Nader founded private activist groups. They send college students out every year to shill for donations to their cause of the moment. Ralph Nader, “consumer advocate” has formed dozens of “nonprofits” but somehow managed to become a multimillionaire in the process.

The WASHPIRG group this time is the Environment Washington Research and Policy Center. My visitor left a handy leaflet which says:

In Washington, extreme weather in hitting closer to home.

If you think we’ve seen more than our usual share of extreme weather in and around Washington lately, you’re right. Last year’s wildfires, which devastated eastern and central Washington and cost $67.5 million to fight, were a tragic example. Unfortunately it’s not just wildfires, In fact 98% of Washingtonians live in counties hit by at least one weather-related disaster between 2007 and 2012.

And it could get worse. Climate scientists warn that if we keep polluting the way we are now, the next generation is likely to see even more floods, more intense hurricanes, more drought, more heat waves and more dangerous smog pollution as the planet warms and the climate changes.

Sigh. Weather is not climate. Climate is average temperature and has nothing to do with weather. Warmer or colder climate does not cause wildfires, floods, hurricanes, drought or smog pollution. We had some forest fires last year, as we do most years, but it was a fairly low year for forest fires, which are most often caused by lightning strikes or human carelessness. Floods are usually caused by either snowmelt or heavy rain, not climate. This has been one of the quietest years for hurricanes in recent years, and 2012 was a record year for lowest number of tornadoes, until beaten by 2013. So far 2014 is matching 2013. California had a mild winter with light snowpack, but the devastation of the Central Valley drought can be laid in the laps of the environmentalists who have forced the state to cut off water to the breadbasket of the country because of a tiny bait fish which they think may be “endangered.” The planet is not warming, and has not warmed for 17 years and 8 months. There has been no warming, none, since August 1996.

The main culprit: Carbon pollution from fossil fuels

Sigh. There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” We are carbon-based life forms. We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide which rises from the oceans and is a natural fertilizer for plants. Trees grow and die and decay and release carbon dioxide. We have posted a video from Matt Ridley explaining the “greening of the planet” and the blessings that brings, like feeding hungry people.

What’s driving these changes? We know that carbon pollution from cars and trucks that run on gas and coal-fired power plants owned by utilities like Puget Sound Energy, plays a major role. And the more pollution we allow, the more likely our children will face the consequences of more extreme weather, more smog, rising sea levels and the extinction of certain animals and plants.

I may be mistaken, but I think Washington state had only one coal-fired power plant and I thought they shut that down a year or two ago. I remember my legislator voting to close it because he saw pollution (steam, water vapor) rising from the smokestacks. There’s the litany: “extreme weather, more smog, rising sea levels, and extinction of certain animals and plants.” Greens managed to decimate the logging industry in the state because we had to save the spotted owl, which could only live and breed in old growth forest. Then after massive unemployment, ruined lives and devastated communities, they learned that the spotted owl was perfectly happy in young forests, that its numbers were declining because it was being attacked by its larger, stronger cousin the barred owl. They’re planning to shoot barred owls.

I will spare you the rest of this silly leaflet. At the end, they announce that :

Environment Washington Research and Policy Center has already made a difference for your environment:
Our public education campaigns played a key role in passing plastic bag bans in seven Washington cities. Thanks to our research, outreach and education, Puget Sound wildlife is now better protected from the growing threat of plastic pollution.

Oh, bwa-ha-ha-ha. “the growing threat of plastic pollution.” Cities love banning plastic bags because they charge 10¢ a bag for a plastic bag, which goes to the city. You’re supposed to buy and use cloth bags which are dangerous, often contaminated with e-coli or other bacteria,  and have actually killed people.




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