Category Archives: society

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com.

January 17, 2012, 9:00 pm

For God So Loved the 1 Percent …

Princeton, N.J.

IN recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare.

“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”)

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

[…]

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The 1 Percent Paint a More Nuanced Portrait of the Rich – NYTimes.com

The 1 Percent Paint a More Nuanced Portrait of the Rich – NYTimes.com.

Among the Wealthiest One Percent, Many Variations

KINGS POINT, N.Y. — Adam Katz is happy to talk to reporters when he is promoting his business, a charter flight company based on Long Island called Talon Air.

But when the subject was his position as one of America’s top earners, he balked. Seated at a desk fashioned from a jet fuel cell, wearing a button-down shirt with the company logo, he considered the public relations benefits and found them lacking: “It’s not very popular to be in the 1 percent these days, is it?”

[…]

As a member of the 1 percent, he is part of a club whose name conjures images of Wall Street bosses who are chauffeured from manse to Manhattan and fat cats who have armies of lobbyists at the ready.

But in reality it is a far larger and more varied group, one that includes podiatrists and actuaries, executives and entrepreneurs, the self-made and the silver spoon set. They are clustered not just in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Denver and Dallas. The range of wealth in the 1 percent is vast — from households that bring in $380,000 a year, according to census data, up to billionaires like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates.

[…]

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America for sale: How a private-equity firm would flip the United States to China. – Slate Magazine

America for sale: How a private-equity firm would flip the United States to China. – Slate Magazine.

Fire Congress, Dump Mississippi and Alaska

How a private-equity firm would refurbish the United States for quick resale to China.

Like many large corporations, America is going through a painful transition as it reaches maturity. Growth has stagnated, expenses have soared, and shareholders are getting antsy. While emerging markets offer potential, competitors are rapidly eating away at the United States’ market share. Analysts are bearish, with many believing the country is on the decline. Is it time for a leveraged buyout?

Probably not. Still, it’s a fun thought experiment: What sort of changes and cost-cutting measures would a firm like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital impose if it wanted to buy the country at a discount and refurbish it for a quick, profitable sale to, say, China?

Though the United States carries a $15 trillion debt load, if you look past its bloated budget and shaky governance, the country has some valuable assets. America has vast real estate holdings, a productive workforce, reliable cash flows, and a globally recognized brand name. An aggressive private-equity outfit, though, would find a lot to cut and a lot of people to fire. Here’s a 10-point plan to get the country shipshape.

[…]

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Debating Taxes and the Family – NYTimes.com

Debating Taxes and the Family – NYTimes.com.

January 9, 2012, 3:17 pm

Debating Taxes and the Family

by Ross Douthat

I’ve praised Rick Santorum’s tentative steps toward a pro-family tax agenda. Others on the right are less impressed.

[…]

Families who either benefited from an expanded personal deduction for children or applied an expanded tax credit against their income and payroll taxes would no more be “dependent for [their] existence on the federal government” than an investor who benefited from the differential treatment that the tax code gives to income from capital gains, or a business that benefited from a reduction in the corporate tax rate, or an heir who benefited from the abolition of the estate tax.

[…]

[The] claim that a more family-friendly tax code would benefit “only Americans fortunate enough to have a child” falls into the trap (common to analysts on the right and left alike) of treating children as a kind of consumption good, rather than as American citizens with interests of their own.

[…]

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Is the U.S. Still a ‘Land of Opportunity’? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

Is the U.S. Still a ‘Land of Opportunity’? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

Room for Debate Home

Updated January 8, 2012 9:02 PM

Is the U.S. Still a ‘Land of Opportunity’?

There is a growing consensus that it is harder to move up the economic ladder in the United States than in many other places, like Canada. Should more Americans consider leaving the U.S. to get ahead? Or can the U.S. make changes to be more of a “land of opportunity”?

[…]

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Sir Christopher Meyer: God and the American Elections

Sir Christopher Meyer: God and the American Elections.

Former British Ambassador to the United States and Germany, former Chairman of the Press Complaints

God and the American Elections

Posted: 9/1/12 00:00 GMT

In 1849 a Scottish traveller to the United States, Alex Mackay, observed that “English names are plentiful around you, and many objects within view have an English look about them. Yet, when the Englishman steps ashore, it is on a foreign, though a friendly land.”

This was an insight of fundamental importance, which we Brits have to learn and learn again. I love America. But it is foreign, more foreign than a common language, shared history and the ‘special relationship’ would suggest.

[…]

When I first went to live in the US in 1988, I had my Alex Mackay moment.

[…] in the large picture, it is God who makes the big difference between the two sides of the Atlantic. British politics, like most European politics, is irredeemably secular, as Santorum has disapprovingly noted. God does not even get a walk-on part in our elections. In America he is centre-stage, wherever you place yourself in the political spectrum, to be invoked as much by Barack Obama as Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has apparently been told by God to stay in the Republican primary race.

[…]

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America’s Unlevel Field – NYTimes.com

America’s Unlevel Field – NYTimes.com.

Op-Ed Columnist

America’s Unlevel Field

Last month President Obama gave a speech invoking the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt on behalf of progressive ideals — and Republicans were not happy. Mitt Romney, in particular, insisted that where Roosevelt believed that “government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities,” Mr. Obama believes that “government should create equal outcomes,” that we should have a society where “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk.”

[…]

Let’s talk for a minute about the actual state of the playing field.

Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.

[…]

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The Tories shouldn’t be frightened by the Republican Right – Telegraph

The Tories shouldn’t be frightened by the Republican Right – Telegraph.

The Tories shouldn’t be frightened by the Republican Right

The trenchant moral case for the free market being made in America’s election campaign should be heard in Britain, too.

9:00PM GMT 07 Jan 2012

What a difference four years can make. The last American presidential campaign began with a galaxy of star performers roaring away from the starting blocks. As Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama descended for personal visitations on the little town hall caucuses and trudged through the snow of New Hampshire to greet breakfasting truckers in their diners, even those cynical BBC correspondents who generally hold US politics at an ironic distance began to see the point of its commitment to grass-roots democracy.

[…]

The surprising rise of Rick Santorum in the first primary contest does not mean that the Republican party has found an unexpected star – which might have injected some excitement into the process. What it suggests, rather, is that the party faithful (and God knows, you have to be faithful to participate in the time-consuming caucus process) had so little enthusiasm for Romney, and were so desperate to make clear their desire for someone whom they saw as a genuine conservative, that they backed a man who is not plausible presidential material just to make a point. Not good.

[…]

Even Romney, who is Mr Moderate, is framing his challenge to Obama as a demand for a resurrection of the “merit society” as against the “entitlement society”. But it is the Republican Right (which regards Romney as a Left-wing wimp) that is putting forth the most trenchant case for free-market economics and framing it in unabashedly moral terms. The ideal of self-determination and personal independence is so fundamental to the conception of civic virtue in America that it scarcely requires any justification in political debate: all that is needed is to point out that a policy is detrimental to the ability of individuals to make their own way in life and to take responsibility for their actions, for it to become virtually indefensible.

[…]

Read the full story here: The Telegraph

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The gender gap in politics: Why do women vote differently than men? – Slate Magazine

The gender gap in politics: Why do women vote differently than men? – Slate Magazine.

Why Do Women Vote Differently Than Men?

Despite stereotypes, men are actually more fickle at the voting booth.

This election cycle, as with just about every other, there is considerable handwringing about where the women voters will land. Which candidate will alienate women and which one will say just the right things? (And what do women want to hear, anyway?) Among the GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich’s woman problem has been especially chewed over; there’s the matter of his cheating and his three marriages, not to mention the condescending way he’s spoken of Michele Bachmann. Perhaps in desperation to connect with that mysterious species of voter, the Woman, the candidate’s efforts recently yielded the headline: “Gingrich Sheds Tears in Meeting with Iowa Mothers.”

But why do women vote differently than men? For decades women have been more closely aligned with the Democratic Party and men more likely to identify as Republicans. And even among a single-party electorate, there is variation between the sexes. We know from Iowa entrance polls, for instance, that Ron Paul placed third despite having much more support from male voters, whereas Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney achieved their virtual tie by winning over more women than men. As predicted, Gingrich fared poorly with women, though in fairness he faired almost as poorly with men.

[…]

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No longer the land of opportunity – The Washington Post

No longer the land of opportunity – The Washington Post.

Harold Meyerson

Opinion Writer

By , Published: January 3

“Over the past three years, Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an Entitlement Society,” Mitt Romney wrote in USA Today last month. The coming election, Romney told Wall Street Journal editors last month, will be “a very simple choice” between Obama’s “European social democratic” vision and “a merit-based opportunity society — an American-style society — where people earn their rewards based on their education, their work, their willingness to take risks and their dreams.”

Romney’s assertions are the centerpiece of his, and his party’s, critique not just of Obama but of American liberalism generally. But they fail to explain how and why the American economy has declined the past few decades — in good part because they betray no awareness that Europe’s social democracies now fit the description of “merit-based opportunity societies” much more than ours does.

[…]

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