The Non Zero-Sum Society: How the Rich Are Destroying the US Economy

by Robert Reich Published on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by RobertReich.org

Excerpt

And why Walmart, McDonald’s and every hospital in the country should be unionized – As President Obama said in his inaugural address last week, America “cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” Yet that continues to be the direction we’re heading in…the super-rich have done well in the economic recovery while almost everyone else has done badly…Not even the very wealthy can continue to succeed without a broader-based prosperity. That’s because 70 percent of economic activity in America is consumer spending..Almost a quarter of all jobs in America now pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four…It’s not a zero-sum game. Wealthy Americans would do better with smaller shares of a rapidly-growing economy than with the large shares they now possess of an economy that’s barely moving…If they [the wealthy] were rational they’d even support labor unions – which have proven the best means of giving working people a fair share in the nation’s prosperity. But labor unions are almost extinct. The decline of labor unions in America tracks exactly the decline in the bottom 90 percent’s share of total earnings, and shrinkage of the middle class…What’s to blame? Partly globalization and technological change. Globalization sent many unionized manufacturing plants abroad…Unions are almost extinct in America because we’ve chosen to make them extinct…Republicans, in particular, have set out to kill off unions…Don’t blame globalization and technological change for why employees at Walmart, America’s largest employer, still don’t have a union…

Full text

And why Walmart, McDonald’s and every hospital in the country should be unionized

As President Obama said in his inaugural address last week, America “cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

Yet that continues to be the direction we’re heading in.

A newly-released analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the super-rich have done well in the economic recovery while almost everyone else has done badly. The top 1 percent of earners’ real wages grew 8.2 percent from 2009 to 2011, yet the real annual wages of Americans in the bottom 90 percent have continued to decline in the recovery, eroding by 1.2 percent between 2009 and 2011.

In other words, we’re back to the widening inequality we had before the debt bubble burst in 2008 and the economy crashed.

But the President is exactly right. Not even the very wealthy can continue to succeed without a broader-based prosperity. That’s because 70 percent of economic activity in America is consumer spending. If the bottom 90 percent of Americans are becoming poorer, they’re less able to spend. Without their spending, the economy can’t get out of first gear.

That’s a big reason why the recovery continues to be anemic, and why the International Monetary Fund just lowered its estimate for U.S. growth in 2013 to just 2 percent.

Almost a quarter of all jobs in America now pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 7 out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains.

It’s not a zero-sum game. Wealthy Americans would do better with smaller shares of a rapidly-growing economy than with the large shares they now possess of an economy that’s barely moving.

At this rate, who’s going to buy all the goods and services America is capable of producing? We can’t return to the kind of debt-financed consumption that caused the bubble in the first place.

Get it? It’s not a zero-sum game. Wealthy Americans would do better with smaller shares of a rapidly-growing economy than with the large shares they now possess of an economy that’s barely moving.

If they were rational, the wealthy would support public investments in education and job-training, a world-class infrastructure (transportation, water and sewage, energy, internet), and basic research – all of which would make the American workforce more productive.

If they were rational they’d even support labor unions – which have proven the best means of giving working people a fair share in the nation’s prosperity.

But labor unions are almost extinct.

The decline of labor unions in America tracks exactly the decline in the bottom 90 percent’s share of total earnings, and shrinkage of the middle class.

In the 1950s, when the U.S. economy was growing faster than 3 percent a year, more than a third of all working people belonged to a union. That gave them enough bargaining clout to get wages that allowed them to buy what the economy was capable of producing.

Since the late 1970s, unions have eroded – as has the purchasing power of most Americans, and not coincidentally, the average annual growth of the economy.

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics  reported that as of 2012 only 6.6 percent of workers in the private sector were unionized. (That’s down from 6.9 percent in 2011.) That’s the lowest rate of unionization in almost a century.

What’s to blame? Partly globalization and technological change. Globalization sent many unionized manufacturing plants abroad.

Manufacturing is starting to return to America but it’s returning without many jobs. The old assembly line has been replaced by robotics and numerically-controlled machine tools.

Technologies have also replaced many formerly unionized workers in telecommunications (remember telephone operators?) and clerical jobs.

But wait. Other nations subject to the same forces have far higher levels of unionization than America. 28 percent of Canada’s workforce is unionized, as is more than 25 percent of Britain’s, and almost 20 percent of Germany’s.

Unions are almost extinct in America because we’ve chosen to make them extinct.

Unlike other rich nations, our labor laws allow employers to replace striking workers. We’ve also made it exceedingly difficult for workers to organize, and we barely penalized companies that violate labor laws. (A worker who’s illegally fired for trying to organize a union may, if lucky, get the job back along with back pay – after years of legal haggling.)

Republicans, in particular, have set out to kill off unions. Union membership dropped 13 percent last year in Wisconsin, which in 2011 curbed the collective bargaining rights of many public employees. And it fell 18 percent last year in Indiana, which last February enacted a right-to-work law (allowing employees at unionized workplaces to get all the benefits of unionization without paying for them). Last month Michigan enacted a similar law.

Don’t blame globalization and technological change for why employees at Walmart, America’s largest employer, still don’t have a union.

Don’t blame globalization and technological change for why employees at Walmart, America’s largest employer, still don’t have a union. They’re not in global competition and their jobs aren’t directly threatened by technology.

The average pay of a Walmart worker is $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

Walmart is a microcosm of the American economy. It has brazenly fought off unions. But it could easily afford to pay its workers more. It earned $16 billion last year. Much of that sum went to Walmart’s shareholders, including the family of its founder, Sam Walton.

The wealth of the Walton family now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

But how can Walmart expect to continue to show fat profits when most of its customers are on a downward economic escalator?

Walmart should be unionized. So should McDonalds. So should every major big-box retailer and fast-food outlet in the nation. So should every hospital in America.

That way, more Americans would have enough money in their pockets to get the economy moving. And everyone – even the very rich – would benefit.

As Obama said, America cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/29-2

It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, New York Times, January 29, 2013

President Obama’s first term was absorbed by dealing with the Great Recession. I hope that in his second term he’ll be able to devote more attention to the Great Inflection.

Dealing with the Great Recession was largely about “Yes We Can” — about government, about what we can and must do “together” to shore up the safety nets and institutions that undergird our society and economy. Obama’s Inaugural Address was a full-throated defense of that “public” side of the unique public-private partnership that makes America great. But, if we’re to sustain the kind of public institutions and safety nets that we’re used to, it will require a lot more growth by the private side (not just more taxes), a lot more entrepreneurship, a lot more start-ups and a lot more individual risk-taking — things the president rarely speaks about. And it will all have to happen in the context of the Great Inflection.

What do I mean by the Great Inflection? I mean something very big happened in the last decade. The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post-9/11 and the Great Recession. In 2004, I wrote a book, called “The World Is Flat,” about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy.

Today, not only do all these things exist, but, in combination, they’ve taken us from connected to hyperconnected. Now, notes Craig Mundie, one of Microsoft’s top technologists, not just elites, but virtually everyone everywhere has, or will have soon, access to a hand-held computer/cellphone, which can be activated by voice or touch, connected via the cloud to infinite applications and storage, so they can work, invent, entertain, collaborate and learn for less money than ever before. Alas, though, every boss now also has cheaper, easier, faster access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. That means the old average is over. Everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives.

When the world gets this hyperconnected, adds Mundie, the speed with which every job and industry changes also goes into hypermode. “In the old days,” he said, “it was assumed that your educational foundation would last your whole lifetime. That is no longer true.” Because of the way every industry — from health care to manufacturing to education — is now being transformed by cheap, fast, connected computing power, the skill required for every decent job is rising as is the necessity of lifelong learning. More and more things you know and tools you use “are being made obsolete faster,” added Mundie. It’s as if every aspect of our lives is now being driven by Moore’s Law. This is exacerbating our unemployment problem.

In their terrific book, “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy,” Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology note that for the last two centuries it happened that productivity, median income and employment all tracked each other nicely. “So most economists have had this feeling that if you just boost productivity, the pie grows, and, in the long run, everything else takes care of itself,” explained Brynjolfsson in an interview. “But there is no economic law that says technological progress has to benefit everyone. It’s entirely possible for the pie to get bigger and some people to get a smaller slice.” Indeed, when the digital revolution gets so cheap, fast, connected and ubiquitous you see this in three ways, Brynjolfsson added: those with more education start to earn much more than those without it, those with the capital to buy and operate machines earn much more than those who can just offer their labor, and those with superstar skills, who can reach global markets, earn much more than those with just slightly less talent.

Put it all together, he added, and you can understand, why the Great Recession took the biggest bite out of employment but is not the only thing affecting job loss today: why we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising and high unemployment remains persistent.

How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime. Government can and must help, but the president needs to explain that this won’t just be an era of “Yes We Can.” It will also be an era of “Yes You Can” and “Yes You Must.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130130&_r=0

Profits of World’s 100 Wealthiest Could End Poverty Four Times Over: Report

- Jon Queally, staff writer, Published on Monday, January 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Oxfam report shows how extreme global inequality ‘hurts us all’

The profits of the world’s one hundred most wealthy individuals last year would be enough to wipe out world poverty, says a new report. And not just once over, or twice over, but the vast amount of money that has flowed to the top of the world’s financial food chain would be enough to eradicate the worst kind of poverty a full four times over.

Such an explosion in extreme wealth and income inequality represented by these numbers is exacerbating and hindering the world’s ability to tackle poverty, warns international aid group Oxfam International in a new analysis published ahead of the World Economic Forum starting in Davos this week.

According to the report, ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all,’ the $240 billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to eliminate extreme poverty four times over. In releasing the report, Oxfam is calling on world leaders to curb today’s income extremes and commit to bringing back inequality levels to at least those experienced in the early 1990′s.

“Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s executive director.

“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” he said. “In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”

“From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favour. It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite.”

In addition, Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive, says the world’s extremity of wealth inequality is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive”.

Oxfam is calling for a ‘new global deal’ which would stabilize the world’s economic systems and bring equality back in way that would benefit all humanity.

“From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favour. It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite.”

The group estimates that closing tax havens – which hold as much as $32 trillion or a third of all global wealth – could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. In addition to a tax haven crackdown, elements of the “global new deal” Oxfam envisions would include:

  • a reversal of the trend towards more regressive forms of taxation;
  • a global minimum corporation tax rate;
  • measures to boost wages compared with returns available to capital;
  • increased investment in free public services and safety nets.

According to Al-Jazeera:

The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.

“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. [...] We’re anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/21-0

 

Justice and Prosperity

Editorial, New York Times, January 22, 2013

Mini-excerpt

[President] Obama and [Chief Justice] Roberts visions of Amer­ica are very dif­fer­ent. No dis­agree­ment is more fun­da­men­tal than that about the con­nec­tion between jus­tice and prosperity. To Mr. Obama, pros­per­ity enables jus­tice and vice versa…Roberts… has reg­u­larly ruled as if jus­tice and pros­per­ity are unre­lated or even anti­thet­i­cal…The con­nec­tion between jus­tice and pros­per­ity is clear and strong….jus­tice of all kinds, espe­cially social jus­tice, is an essen­tial means of achiev­ing prosperity…

Excerpt

…As the president’s Inaugural Address made plain and as important rulings of the Roberts court show, the Obama and Roberts visions of America are very different. No disagreement is more fundamental than that about the connection between justice and prosperity.

To Mr. Obama, prosperity enables justice and vice versa...The Roberts court, on the other hand, with the chief justice in the majority, has regularly ruled as if justice and prosperity are unrelated or even antitheticalThe connection between justice and prosperity is clear and strong. “Economic growth,” the scholar Benjamin Friedman documented, “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness and dedication to democracy.” And justice of all kinds, especially social justice, is an essential means of achieving prosperity…

Full text

When Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. congratulated President Obama after he completed his oath of office on Monday, Americans heard the cordial, affirming voice that regularly fills the courtroom of the Supreme Court. But the chief justice’s graciousness did not mean he was endorsing the president or his views.

As the president’s Inaugural Address made plain and as important rulings of the Roberts court show, the Obama and Roberts visions of America are very different. No disagreement is more fundamental than that about the connection between justice and prosperity.

To Mr. Obama, prosperity enables justice and vice versa. Persuasively, he said in his address, “Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.” He also said, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else.” And commitments to justice, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, he said, “do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

The Roberts court, on the other hand, with the chief justice in the majority, has regularly ruled as if justice and prosperity are unrelated or even antithetical — by protecting large corporations from class-action lawsuits; by making it much harder for private lawsuits to succeed against mutual fund malefactors, even when they have admitted to lying and cheating; or by allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns and advance their narrow interests by exerting influence unjustly over government.

When the chief justice cast his critical vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act last June, he made clear that he did not favor the law, which is the most important commitment to justice and prosperity so far of the Obama administration. He wrote tartly, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

The connection between justice and prosperity is clear and strong. “Economic growth,” the scholar Benjamin Friedman documented, “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness and dedication to democracy.” And justice of all kinds, especially social justice, is an essential means of achieving prosperity, as economic progress in the South demonstrated after the civil rights laws brought racial progress.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the coming months about the continuing need for a critical section of the Voting Rights Act that prevents racial discrimination and about the basic rights of gay Americans. Those cases are unquestionably about justice and fundamental issues of fairness. But their outcomes will inevitably affect prosperity as well, because they deal with issues of participation in American society and, as a result, in the American economy.

The cameras lingered on President Obama after the inaugural ceremony just before he entered the Capitol, as he turned back toward the Mall and took in the crowd of a million or so of the American people whose general welfare he again swore to promote. When Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath, he had a similar chance to be reminded of the multitudes to whom the Supreme Court pledges “Equal Justice Under Law” — and to be reminded of the strong link between justice and prosperity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/opinion/justice-and-prosperity-defined-by-obama-and-roberts.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130123&_r=0

5 Action Items for Obama

by Rev. Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association, Huffington Post, 01/16/2013

On Jan. 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President Barack Obama will be sworn into office for his second term as the first black President of the United States of America. I am reminded of these words from Dr. King:

“One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.” (Spoken by Dr. King at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in 1966.)

The 2012 election signaled that the United States is again in a “great period of change.” The following five issues call out for “new attitudes and outlooks,” and I urge President Obama to rise to the challenges of leadership with responses based on justice and compassion.

1. Create a just and compassionate federal budget.

The effects of our country going over the “fiscal cliff” were minor, but we still face grave economic challenges. Our next federal budget should focus on job creation, revenue increases, a shared commitment to the common good and cuts in unnecessary military spending. Our elected officials need to stand up for those most marginalized in our society, to put partisan politics aside, and make a difference in the lives of all who live and work in this country. I call upon the Administration and Congress to work together to create a just and compassionate federal budget.

2. Prevent gun violence.

The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was just one in a long string of tragic and deadly incidents of gun violence. The devastating killings in Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., Ft. Bragg, Texas, the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and Virginia Tech make it clear that we must immediately take steps to halt the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. We join with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence in calling for change. For far too long, the National Rifle Association has been able to derail any discussion of how to prevent gun violence, but we must not allow them to obstruct the current movement toward change. We owe it to the memories of all those lives cut short by gun violence and hate to do all we can to make America safer. I call upon the Administration and Congress to pass legislation aimed at preventing gun violence atrocities.

3. Develop compassionate immigration reform.

Everyone agrees that our current immigration system is broken. Millions of undocumented immigrants are living and working within U.S. borders without a path to citizenship. The Administration’s focus on enforcement-only policies has not reduced that number but instead has led to the tearing apart of families, human rights abuses and even death. Legislative action is needed now to preserve families and save lives. The Unitarian Universalist Association is a signatory to the Interfaith Immigration Coalition‘s “Interfaith Platform on Humane Immigration Reform.” We affirm that immigration policy reform should uphold family unity as a priority of all immigration policies; create a process for undocumented immigrants to earn their legal status and eventual citizenship; protect workers and provide efficient channels of entry for new migrant workers; facilitate immigrant integration; restore due process protections and reform detention policies; and align the enforcement of immigration laws with humanitarian values. I call upon the Administration and Congress to work together to develop compassionate immigration reform.

4. Protect all women in their reproductive lives.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Our country must commit to protecting all women and their reproductive lives with justice and compassion. Reproductive justice works to understand and address systemic inequalities as they relate to marginalized communities and people and their reproductive and sexual lives. As a human rights issue, reproductive justice promotes the rights of people to have the children they want to have, not to have children they don’t want to have, raise their children in safe and healthy environments, and express their sexuality without oppression. I call upon the Administration and Congress to protect all women in their reproductive lives.

5. Marriage equality.

Last year was a watershed year in the ongoing struggle for marriage equality. This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Though this is now a matter for the judiciary and not the legislative or executive branches, it is my fervent hope that the freedom to marry will soon be a right afforded to all.

In the days, weeks, months and even years ahead, there will inevitably be other challenges to face in the ongoing process “to form a more perfect union.” As we mark the 84th anniversary of the birth of Dr. King, I call upon the Administration, Congress, and all Americans to work toward the goal of “liberty and justice for all.” There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-peter-morales/5-action-items-for-obama_b_2489762.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Pope Slams Capitalism, Inequality Between Rich And Poor In New Years Message

Reuters  |  By Philip Pullella Posted: 01/01/2013

The 85-year-old pope rang in the new year with a mass for about 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks its World Day of Peace with initiatives around the world.

He also spoke of peace after the mass, addressing tens of thousands of people who had followed the service from outside in St Peter’s Square.

“A new year is like a trip. With the light and the grace of God, may it be the start of a path to peace for every person, every family, every country and for the entire world,” he said from his window overlooking the square.

He thanked the world’s peacemakers, saying they deserve praise for working, often behind the scenes, tirelessly, thanklessly and armed only “with the weapons of prayer and forgiveness”.

Peace marchers carrying rainbow banners released blue balloons in a sunny but cold St Peter’s Square as the pope spoke.

Earlier in his homily, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics decried “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor”.

He also denounced “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality”.

Benedict said he was convinced of “humanity’s innate vocation to peace” despite many problems and setbacks. A personal relationship with God can help all believers deal with what he called the “darkness and anguish” that sometimes defines human existence.

“This is the inner peace that we want in the midst of events in history that are sometimes tumultuous and confused, events that sometimes leave us shaken,” he said.

In his full message for the peace day, the pope called for a new economic model and ethical regulations for markets, saying the global financial crisis was proof that capitalism does not protect society’s weakest members.

He also warned that food insecurity was a threat to peace in some parts of the world and strongly reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to gay marriage. Heterosexual marriage had an indispensable role in society, he said.

Thousands of people took part in a peace march to the Vatican led by the Catholic peace and charity group, the Sant’ Egidio Community, which negotiated the end of the civil war in Mozambique in 1992.

Other peace marches took place in Italian cities, and Catholic dioceses around the world held their own events.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/01/pope-slams-capitalism-ine_n_2392653.html?utm_hp_ref=business&ir=Business

The Faithful Budget

Priorities for a Faithful Budget – A collaboration of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities and organizations…

Our Message to Political Leaders

We write as communities of faith where respect and care for one another is a sacred imperative and we are learning to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” But American society as a whole is, or should be, also such a place, where we delight in the value of each and every one, and gladly accept a mutual responsibility for one another’s wellbeing…

A faithful budget must promote a compassionate and comprehensive vision for the future….
Our message to our national leaders — rooted in our sacred texts — is this: Act with mercy and justice by serving the common good, robustly funding support for poor and vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, and exercising proper care and keeping of the earth…All our faith traditions place people who are impoverished and marginalized at the forefront of concern.  The current fiscal debates – at their heart – are a struggle for the soul of our nation and its moral conscience.  We grieve at the soaring gap between rich and poor; faith and fairness require that we preserve and strengthen vital lifelines for people who are struggling to overcome hardship and poverty in the US and abroad. The faithful way forward to fiscal health calls for a focus on job creation, revenue increases, a shared commitment to the common good, and cuts in unnecessary military spending…

Full text

All our faith traditions place people who are impoverished and marginalized at the forefront of concern.  The current fiscal debates – at their heart – are a struggle for the soul of our nation and its moral conscience.  We grieve at the soaring gap between rich and poor; faith and fairness require that we preserve and strengthen vital lifelines for people who are struggling to overcome hardship and poverty in the US and abroad. The faithful way forward to fiscal health calls for a focus on job creation, revenue increases, a shared commitment to the common good, and cuts in unnecessary military spending.

In Summer 2011, an interfaith coalition in Washington, DC began daily Capitol Hill prayer vigils and worked together out of our common sense of urgency around the need to protect social safety net programs that serve people living in poverty and The Faithful Budget Campaign continues this work in this critical 2012 election year.

Priorities for a Faithful Budget

A collaboration of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities and organizations, The Faithful Budget promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.

Sign On to the Faithful Budget Preamble!

Join your voice to many others calling for a faithful budget. Review the preamble and sign on below. (Note: Signing on is only for the preamble, not for the entire budget document.)

You may also download the preamble document with initial sponsors list, or download the entire Priorities for a Faithful Budget document.

Preamble to Priorities for a Faithful Federal Budget

Our Message to Political Leaders

We write as communities of faith where respect and care for one another is a sacred imperative and we are learning to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” But American society as a whole is, or should be, also such a place, where we delight in the value of each and every one, and gladly accept a mutual responsibility for one another’s wellbeing.

As the American people we understand ourselves to be “one nation under God,” not a mere collection of isolated individuals. All of us have something to contribute to our life together, and none of us is excluded from our circle of mutual care and concern. Government of, by and for the people at its best is a vital forum for promoting the common good and ensuring that no one is left behind.

A faithful budget must promote a compassionate and comprehensive vision for the future. As communities of faith, we call on our elected leaders to craft a federal budget that fulfills our shared duty to each other in all segments of society to those who are struggling to overcome poverty or are especially vulnerable, and to future generations through our collective responsibility as stewards of Creation.
Our message to our national leaders — rooted in our sacred texts — is this: Act with mercy and justice by serving the common good, robustly funding support for poor and vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, and exercising proper care and keeping of the earth.

In the current political and economic climate, neither party is giving voice to the needs of the families who are struggling to overcome poverty. It is simply not true that we must reduce assistance for the poorest among us in order to achieve fiscal recovery. A Faithful Federal Budget can advance fiscal responsibility while increasing support for the poor and vulnerable, by focusing on job creation and economic revitalization, an equitable tax system based on fairness, and true human security over disproportionate military spending.

The way to national recovery is not to close our hearts to the poor, but to heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah who assures us, “[I]f you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday . . .you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in”(58:10-12).

In this time of global economic crisis, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other communities of faith, guided by our sacred texts, advocate a constructive vision of the directions needed for a just society and a healthier world. The common prophetic message found in sacred texts does not rest solely on eternal life, but on God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Our shared traditions insist that piety and righteousness cannot remain only individual endeavors, but must also encompass our society’s commitment to justice and mercy.

Principles of a Faithful Federal Budget

Restoring Economic Opportunity: The opportunity to work hard and improve one’s economic condition is a value that defines this nation. But it is a reality increasingly available only to those who are already wealthy. We believe in the inherent worth of every individual and that God intends dignity, health, and wholeness for each person. We need an economy that empowers workers to self sufficiency and provides pathways out of poverty. The principles of “liberty and justice for all”, as enshrined in our Pledge of Allegiance, seem hollow in light of the pace at which wealth and opportunity have shifted from the many to the few. We believe that everyone deserves equal opportunity and must therefore have equal access to the building blocks for success. We urge Congress to make the long-term investments needed to sustain the United States’ economic renewal, create economic opportunity for all, and work toward ending poverty. This requires investments in high-quality, affordable education, sustainable jobs with living wages, and policies that help families to build assets.

Ensuring Adequate Resources for Shared Priorities: From the time a federal income tax was established, the concept of a progressive tax system, based on the ability to pay, has been widely accepted as fair and equitable. Over the last several decades our tax system has grown less progressive, and now frequently places more of a tax burden, as a percentage of income, on the middle class than it does on the wealthiest among us. The tax system also creates financial incentives for individuals to act in ways that are thought to strengthen our social fabric, such as investing and saving for retirement, starting a business, owning a home, getting a college education – even charitable giving. Because of the way tax benefits are structured, however, too often low-wage workers do not earn enough to access those benefits. This results in a system that perpetuates inequality by rewarding behavior that generates financial security for those who already have it, while excluding those who are working hard at low-wage jobs and need help the most. An equitable, moral tax code should reward the efforts of low-income people to work and save at every level. A Faithful Budget will act to correct this imbalance. Investment in the renewal of our nation’s economic well-being and protecting the poor and vulnerable will itself serve to reduce the long-term deficit. Such investment should be financed through an equitable tax system founded on fairness, where those who have reaped extraordinary benefits contribute proportionately to the good of all.

Prioritizing True Human Security: With well over half of the discretionary budget dedicated to military spending, the United States is unable to invest in other areas that build substantial human security in our communities. Global threats to peace and security need not instill a national inclination to make an imbalanced investment in new weapons systems, detention centers, and militarized border walls, leading to disproportionate spending on the mechanisms of war and enforcement, while we become less secure in so many other ways. We believe a faithful budget must reevaluate these priorities, increase investment in the areas of health, education, and community well-being that are essential to true security. Our budget priorities should reflect a more balanced approach to the full spectrum of investments that build meaningful security for individuals, families, and communities.

Meeting Immediate Need: As it always has been, the faith community itself continues to be committed to serving vulnerable populations at home and around the world. At the same time, we urge our nation to implement policies that will reduce poverty and hardship. As a united people committed to compassion and justice, we fulfill our calling as a people when we invest in a social safety net that will support the vulnerable in times of hardship, such as recession, unemployment, sickness, and old age. Even as the economy has begun to revive, unemployment rates remain remarkably high. Proactive stimulus policies and the elasticity of the mandatory safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, are incredibly effective measures that have prevented millions from falling into poverty. Congress has the moral and pragmatic responsibility, even as it pursues long-term deficit reduction, to adequately fund critical human needs, social service, environmental protection, and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance programs, all of which ensure human security in its broadest sense.

Accepting Intergenerational Responsibility: We cannot leave our children a legacy of debt, but neither must we leave them a legacy of rising poverty and growing inequality. As educational programs, adequate housing, health care, nutrition programs, job training, and other community services all fall victim to pressures to reduce the deficit, economic vulnerability continues to grow and more families find themselves one disaster away from poverty. Our nation’s vital social safety net did not create the deficit, and the vulnerable populations served by the social safety net it should not bear the brunt of deficit-reduction measures. A Faithful Budget will seek wise and far-sighted ways to reduce the nation’s long-term deficits while protecting the most vulnerable among us.

Using the Gifts of Creation Sustainably and Responsibly: In the book of Genesis, God called Creation “good.” Because of Creation’s intrinsic worth, the earth and its resources deserve our respect and our consideration. While the earth has been given to us as a home, and while its resources are bountiful and good, we have abused this gift, placing unsustainable burdens on our environment and its resources. As a human community, we owe a debt to our environment, both for its own sake as well as our own. Environmental degradation has substantial, and potentially irreversible, short and long-term impacts, such as rising health care costs from air pollution and resulting respiratory problems; increased premature deaths due to the cumulative impacts of poor air quality; declining water quality in our communities; degradation of public lands; global climate change, which is already affecting some of the most vulnerable populations on earth; and loss of open space. A Faithful Budget must encompass a reverence for our created environment, making choices that protect air, water, and land—the entirety of Creation—gifts from God that must be available to and protected for this generation and those to come.

Providing Access to Health Care for All: As providers of services and care, both physical and spiritual, our members, congregations, and institutions are well-acquainted with the importance of providing access to health care for all people. All individuals, regardless of their age, income, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, geography, employment status, or health status, deserve equal access to quality, affordable, inclusive and accountable health care. Reducing health care options for some based on any of these factors is profoundly unjust. As we examine the interwoven web of access within the federal budget, there are areas of profound concern for the common good and practices of good stewardship. A Faithful Budget will ensure access to quality health care by investing in wellness and making needed improvements in the health care system.

Recognizing a Robust Role for Government: We are inspired by a common conviction that God has called on all of us – as individuals, as communities of faith, and as a society acting together through our government – to protect the vulnerable and promote the dignity of all people. For this reason the faith community has worked alongside the United States government for decades to protect those struggling to overcome poverty in the U.S. and abroad. People who need help paying rent or feeding their children come to us, frequently as a first and last resort, and we do all we can to provide the aid that compassionate love demands. And yet, faith communities and agencies cannot do it alone. The need is great as many who once gave to our ministries of mercy are now recipients of our charity. We need the government’s continued partnership to combat poverty by providing a truly adequate short-term safety net, and by means of policies that serve to prevent poverty, reduce extreme inequality, restore economic opportunity for all, and rebuild a robust middle class.

The Call

As faith communities and Americans of conscience we stand with those among us with those whose need is great and we call on all of us to act together as the American people with mercy and justice, and to re-arrange our national priorities to focus on the common good. Accordingly, this Faithful Budget boldly proclaims the aspirational goals toward which, we believe, our nation much strive. More pragmatically, we urge Congress and the President to show their intent to move toward these goals by enacting legislation that enhances the well-being of all Americans and to make a good faith increase in funding for the impoverished and the vulnerable here and abroad in fiscal year 2013.
Let us embrace a call to live together in community, not agreeing on everything, but sharing in the common purpose of bettering our nation, protecting our brothers and sisters here in the U.S. and around the world, and sustainably caring for our environment. We call on Congress and the Administration to craft a federal budget that protects the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.

The following list of sponsors are those organizations who have endorsed the preamble of the document Priorities for a Faithful Budget.  Click on the links to visit their websites and learn more about them.

Updated: March 22, 2012

American Friends Service Committee
Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
Bread for the World
Center of Concern
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
Church of the Brethren
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Economic Circle of Justice, Sisters of St. Dominic Blauvelt, NY
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Faithful Reform in Health Care
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Islamic Society of North America
Jesuit Conference
Jubilee USA Network
Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, US
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Minnesota Council of Churches
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity
Muslim Public Affairs Council 
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

http://faithfulbudget.org/about/

Class Wars of 2012

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, November 29, 2012

On Election Day, The Boston Globe reported, Logan International Airport in Boston was running short of parking spaces. Not for cars — for private jets. Big donors were flooding into the city to attend Mitt Romney’s victory party.

They were, it turned out, misinformed about political reality. But the disappointed plutocrats weren’t wrong about who was on their side. This was very much an election pitting the interests of the very rich against those of the middle class and the poor.

And the Obama campaign won largely by disregarding the warnings of squeamish “centrists” and embracing that reality, stressing the class-war aspect of the confrontation. This ensured not only that President Obama won by huge margins among lower-income voters, but that those voters turned out in large numbers, sealing his victory.

The important thing to understand now is that while the election is over, the class war isn’t. The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election.

Before I get there, a word about the actual vote. Obviously, narrow economic self-interest doesn’t explain everything about how individuals, or even broad demographic groups, cast their ballots. Asian-Americans are a relatively affluent group, yet they went for President Obama by 3 to 1. Whites in Mississippi, on the other hand, aren’t especially well off, yet Mr. Obama received only 10 percent of their votes.

These anomalies, however, weren’t enough to change the overall pattern. Meanwhile, Democrats seem to have neutralized the traditional G.O.P. advantage on social issues, so that the election really was a referendum on economic policy. And what voters said, clearly, was no to tax cuts for the rich, no to benefit cuts for the middle class and the poor. So what’s a top-down class warrior to do?

The answer, as I have already suggested, is to rely on stealth — to smuggle in plutocrat-friendly policies under the pretense that they’re just sensible responses to the budget deficit.

Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.

Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.

The point is that the class war is still on, this time with an added dose of deception. And this, in turn, means that you need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even — or rather especially — if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution. In particular, whenever some deficit-scold group talks about “shared sacrifice,” you need to ask, sacrifice relative to what?

As regular readers may know, I’m not a fan of the Bowles-Simpson report on deficit reduction that laid out a poorly designed plan that for some reason has achieved near-sacred status among the Beltway elite. Still, at least you can say this for Bowles-Simpson: When it talked about shared sacrifice, it started from a “baseline” that already assumed the end of the high-end Bush tax cuts. At this point, however, just about all the deficit scolds seem to want us to count the expiration of those cuts — which were sold on false pretenses, and were never affordable — as some kind of big giveback by the rich. It isn’t.

So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/opinion/krugman-class-wars-of-2012.html?comments#permid=1

The Twinkie Manifesto

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, November 18, 2012

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing “lower tax rates” as a “guiding principle.”

Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.

Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders.

Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.

The data confirm Fortune’s impressions. Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply, not just compared with the middle class but in absolute terms. According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, in 1955 the real incomes of the top 0.01 percent of Americans were less than half what they had been in the late 1920s, and their share of total income was down by three-quarters.

Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever — and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats’ style is met with cries of “socialism.” Indeed, the whole Romney campaign was based on the premise that President Obama’s threat to modestly raise taxes on top incomes, plus his temerity in suggesting that some bankers had behaved badly, were crippling the economy. Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right?

Actually, some people thought so at the time. Paul Ryan and many other modern conservatives are devotees of Ayn Rand. Well, the collapsing, moocher-infested nation she portrayed in “Atlas Shrugged,” published in 1957, was basically Dwight Eisenhower’s America.

Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.

Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.

There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/opinion/krugman-the-twinkie-manifesto.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121119&_r=0

The Case Against Romney: At Heart, He’s a Delusional One-Percenter

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, 10/31/12

Every election is a choice between imperfect alternatives. I will examine both choices in turn, but the first one, Mitt Romney, has rendered the normal analytic tools useless. The different iterations of his career differ so wildly, yet comport so perfectly with his political ambitions of the moment, that it is simply impossible to separate his panders from his actual beliefs, the means from the ends. It is easy to present Romney’s constant reinventions as a character flaw, but all politicians tailor their beliefs to suit the moment; Romney’s unique misfortune is that he has had to court such divergent electorates — first a liberal general electorate in Massachusetts, then Republican primary voters of an increasingly rabid bent in 2008 and 2012, and finally America as a whole after securing the nomination.

One can plausibly imagine Romney as a genuine right-winger, first implanted in hostile deep blue territory, hiding his arch-conservative beliefs in order to secure the brass ring he coveted before he was liberated from running for reelection and unmasked himself to his fellow Republicans nationwide as the “conservative businessman” he always was. One can just as plausibly imagine him as his father’s true political heir, covertly plotting to move his party sharply leftward, a turn he would execute only once he had burrowed undetected beneath its ideological perimeter.

The true picture is a mystery, probably lying somewhere between these points. Undoubtedly, what Romney believes in above all is himself. As a friend of his told Politico last month, at a moment when his campaign appeared hopeless, Romney approaches politics like a business deal: “Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success.” (This was the reporters’ paraphrase, not the friend’s own words.)

He meant this not in the spirit of exposing Romney’s fraudulence, but in an elegiac way — a lament for a great man who would do good if only given a chance. From a certain perspective, there is an understandable and even admirable elitism at work. Romney truly believes in his own abilities and — unlike George W. Bush, who was handed every professional success in his life — has justification for his confidence. He is a highly intelligent, accomplished individual.

Some version of Romney’s own fantasy — that, once in office, he will craft sensible and data-driven, and perhaps even bipartisan, solutions to our problems — surely accounts for his political resurrection. Starting with the transformative first presidential debate, Romney has wafted the sweet, nostalgic scent of moderate Republicanism into the air. Might he offer the sort of pragmatic leadership that was the hallmark of his party in a bygone era — a George H.W. Bush, a second-term Reagan, an Eisenhower, a Nixon minus the criminal paranoia? Some moderates supporting him, like reformist conservative Ross Douthat or the Des Moines Register editorial board, have filled the many voids of Romney’s program with some version of this fantasy. It is an attractive scenario to many, and one worth considering seriously.

This hopeful vision immediately runs into a wall of deductive logic. If Romney were truly planning to govern from the center, why would he leave himself so exposed to Obama’s attacks that he is a plutocrat peddling warmed-over Bushonomics? The election offers Romney his moment of maximal leverage over his party’s right-wing base. If he actually wanted to cut a budget deal along the lines of Bowles-Simpson, or replace Dodd-Frank with some other way of preventing the next financial crisis, or replace Obamacare with some other plan to cover the uninsured, there would be no better time to announce it than now, when he could sorely use some hard evidence of his moderation. He has not done so — either because he does not want to or because he fears a revolt by the Republican base. But if he fears such a revolt now, when his base has no recourse but to withhold support and reelect Obama, he will also fear it once in office, when conservatives could oppose him without making their worst political nightmare come true as a result.

And so the reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.

Economists have coalesced around aggressive monetary easing in order to pump liquidity into a shocked market; Republicans have instead embraced the gold standard and warned incessantly of imminent inflation, undaunted by their total wrongness. In the face of a consensus for short-term fiscal stimulus, they have turned back to ancient Austrian doctrines and urged immediate spending cuts. In the face of rising global temperatures and a hardening scientific consensus on the role of carbon emissions, their energy plan is to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Confronted by skyrocketing income inequality, they insist on cutting the top tax rate and slashing — to levels of around half — programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance. They refuse to allow any tax increase to soften the depth of such cuts and the catastrophic social impact they would unleash.

The last element may be the most instructive and revealing. The most important intellectual pathology to afflict conservatism during the Obama era is its embrace of Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy of capitalism.Rand considered the free market a perfect arbiter of a person’s worth; their market earnings reflect their contribution to society, and their right to keep those earnings was absolute. Politics, as she saw it, was essentially a struggle of the market’s virtuous winners to protect their wealth from confiscation by the hordes of inferiors who could outnumber them.

Paul Ryan, a figure who (unlike Romney) commands vast personal and ideological loyalty from the party, is also its most famous Randian. He has repeatedly praised Rand as a visionary and cited her work as the touchstone of his entire political career. But the Randian toxin has spread throughout the party. It’s the basis of Ryan’s frequently proclaimed belief that society is divided between “makers” and “takers.” It also informed Romney’s infamous diatribe against the lazy, freeloading 47 percenters. It is a grotesque, cruel, and disqualifying ethical framework for governing.

Naturally, this circles us back to the irrepressible question of what Romney himself actually believes. The vast industry devoted to exploring the unknowable question of Romney’s true beliefs has largely ignored a simple and obvious possibility: That Romney has undergone the same political and/or psychological transformation that so many members of his class have since 2009. If there is one hard fact that American journalism has established since 2009, it is that many of America’s rich have gone flat-out bonkers under President Obama. Gabriel Sherman first documented this phenomenon in his fantastic 2009 profile in this magazine, “The Wail of the 1%,” which described how the financial elite had come to see themselves as persecuted, largely faultless targets of Obama and their greedy countrymen. Alec MacGillis and Chrystia Freeland have painted a similar picture.

The ranks of the panicked, angry rich include Democrats as well as Republicans and elites from various fields, but the most vociferous strains have occurred among the financial industry and among Republicans. All this is to say, had he retired from public life after 2008, super-wealthy Republican financier Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of person you’d expect to have lost his mind, the perfect socioeconomic profile of a man raging at Obama and his mob. Indeed, it would be strange if, at the very time his entire life had come to focus on the goal of unseating Obama, and he was ensconced among Obama’s most affluent and most implacable enemies, Romney was somehow immune to the psychological maladies sweeping through his class.

Seen in this light, Romney’s belief in himself as a just and deserving leader is not merely a form of personal ambition free of ideological content. His faith in himself blends seamlessly into a faith in his fellow Übermenschen — the Job Creators who make our country go, who surround him and whose views shaped his program. To think of Romney as torn between two poles, then, is a mistake. Both his fealty to his party and his belief in his own abilities point in the same direction: the entitlement of the superrich to govern the country.

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/10/case-against-romney.html