American Elephants

Where Have All the Millionaires Gone? Redistribution by Recession. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has had one great success as president. Liberals are deeply worried about income inequality.  The poor aren’t getting any poorer, and there has been increasing amounts of help for them. Since the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution don’t pay taxes, the problem obviously lies at the other end  — with the rich.  But there are fewer of them these days. According to the Wall Street Journal,in 2007:

390,000 tax filers reported adjusted gross income of $1 million or more and paid $309 billion in taxes.  In 2009, there were only 237,ooo such filers, a decline of 39%. Almost four of 10 millionaires vanished in two years, and the total taxes they paid in 2009 declined to $178 billion.

There’s nothing like a recession to level incomes. These disappearing millionaires do a lot to explain why tax revenues have sunk to 15% of GDP in recent years. How many of these millionaires and billionaires are businesses reporting their taxes as individuals, the article did not say. I see a lot of empty storefronts and space available signs around my city, as I imagine you probably do.The Journal went on to say:

The best way to produce income equality is to destroy trillions of dollars of wealth.  Everyone loses, but the rich lose relatively more than the poor and the middle class.  By that measure, if few others, Obamanomics has been a raging success.


If Space Aliens Don’t Work for the Economy, Maybe They’ll Work for the Greens. by The Elephant's Child

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff and Nobel Laureate and liberal hack Paul Krugman attempted to explain recently why Keynesian economics is just the thing to revive a depressed economy.  Krugman suggested that a threat of an invasion by space aliens could spur economic activity, then when the economy got going they could say they made a mistake. His comment was meant to point out in humorous fashion that World War II, under the Roosevelt administration, succeeded in ending the Great Depression. So, you see we just need to spend a bunch more money.

Except World War II didn’t end the Great Depression. It did put people back to work. The military swept up a big chunk of young and able men, and factories of all kinds turned to producing military goods, not just for us, but for our allies as well.  Factories and shipyards were running 24/7 and people swarmed to the centers where war work was going full blast.

But there were wage and price controls. There was rationing. There were no new cars, and no gas nor tires to make them run. There were no new appliances.  Meat, sugar, butter were all rationed. There wasn’t anything much to spend money on, and constant war bond drives helped those who were working to build their savings.  When the war was over, and civilian production returned, there was a great outpouring of demand. People needed cars, appliances, everything they had gone without for five years and more.  Returning vets needed houses, new babies needed everything that new babies need.  That’s when the nation really began to recover, and it had nothing to do with John Maynard Keynes.

But as the Guardian reports, never let a good idea go to waste. Scientists at NASA’s Planetary Science Division and Pennsylvania State University suggest that space aliens might destroy humanity to protect other civilizations. If we don’t reduce our greenhouse gases, it might tip off alien civilizations what a danger we are to the universe.  They might just have to step in to take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat.

The highly speculative scenario is one that researchers compiled to help humanity prepare for actual contact.  In their report “Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis”  they consider  three broad categories: beneficial, neutral or harmful. [I hope that with our economy in the tank we’re not giving grants for space alien investigation.]

“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.

Even if we never make contact with extraterrestrials, the report argues that considering the potential scenarios may help to plot the future path of human civilisation, avoid collapse and achieve long-term survival.

Are they suggesting that our carbon dioxide emissions are harming the universe? Affecting life in other galaxies?  For space alien aficionados the Guardian article is here. The picture is from Mars Attacks.

Some days it seems like we do live in an alternate universe. The stock market tanks, the unemployment rate climbs,  and the president heads off for a luxury vacation in the playground of “the rich” that he demonizes when he’s not vacationing among them.   Strange, strange, strange.


Things Look Bad. But Never Fear. Obama Will Return in Septmeber and Make — a Major Speech. by The Elephant's Child

The great listening tour is over, and President Obama has retired to Martha’s Vineyard to rest and ponder just what he will say in his “major jobs speech” in September.  Of course nobody listened on the listening tour, it might better have been called a “blaming tour.”

“Over the last six months, we’ve had a string of bad luck” Obama said  at a town hall on Monday, mentioning the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami and Europe’s debt crisis. “So there were a bunch of things taking place over the last six months that were not within our control.” Uncertainty, you see. The recovery was going fine until they started rioting in Libya, and then it just all went to hell.

Of course he blamed Bush for the mess he inherited, and some in Congress who “would rather see their opponents lose than America win”— attempting to blame the Republicans for the economic malaise.  He blamed “gridlock” which means that the Republicans wouldn’t agree to raising taxes as he wanted. He blamed  business —companies needlessly sitting on piles of cash, who should “step up” and start hiring.  I read that he brought up ATMs again. And of course he blamed an assortment of straw men.  In other words, it’s not his policies, not his ideas, not his ideology, not his fault. Obama does not take responsibility for his presidency.

But never fear. just as soon as he is rested up in the elite playground of Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama will return to Washington D.C. and make a major speech on jobs. Another 408,000 new jobless claims this week, up by 9,000 more than last week.  We’ve had quite a few previous major speeches on jobs, so there’s lots of material for the speechwriters.

This time it may be different.  I’m betting on a new Department of Jobs, a Department of Innovation, and an Infrastructure Bank.  Increased money for Food Stamps will act as a stimulus for new jobs, and all those new departments would be sure to create millions of jobs if the Republicans would just get out of the way. Since they undoubtedly will not go along with any such thing, he is free to blame Republicans for the joblessness in the country during the campaign. Will he get away with it?

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