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“The Return To The Roaring 20’s”: The Typical Member Of The 1 Percent Is An Old White Man

The rich are not like you and I.

It’s no secret that income inequality has been growing rapidly, with most the gains in earnings accruing to just the top one percent of Americans. But who are they? A new paper from Lisa A. Keister at Duke University looks at this question and finds that “members of the one percent are disproportionately male, white, and married.” The typical one percenter is 55, compared to about 50 for the bottom 90 percent. The one percent is about 91 percent white — just 1.8 percent of these households are Hispanic and merely 0.2 percent are black. More than half are married, versus about 30 percent for the bottom 90 percent. They are also much more likely to have a graduate degree: about 62 percent have one, compared to less than 10 percent of the bottom 90 percent.

Gender is a little harder to tease out, because the data looks at heads of households and classifies a family with a husband and wife where the husband is the head as male, so the fact that the one percent show up as about 98 percent male doesn’t mean that some rich women aren’t included. But it’s clear that few single mothers or female breadwinners are making it into this group. And we can also look at the job characteristics of the top earners to get a better sense of gender. As Mike Konczal has pointed out, the top one percent is mostly made up of executives, people who work on Wall Street, and managers. Women make up less than 15 percent of executives, while they represent 35 percent of investment banking employees and 40 percent of employees in the broader “Securities, Commodity Contracts and Other Financial Investments” category.

The 1 percent are also different in how they get their money. For the bottom 90 percent, 70 percent of our incomes from wages or salaries. But for the top 1 percent, salary accounts for just half. On the other hand, more than 30 percent of their money comes from businesses, while just 6.1 percent of the money for the bottom 90 percent is from the same source. While the 1 percent holds most of its assets in businesses, for the rest of us our houses are the most commonly held asset. The 1 percent also dominates financial assets, owning nearly 44 percent of the total financial pie, while the bottom 90 percent gets 20 percent.

And while we know that the wealthiest have been gobbling up most of the country’s income — the top 5 percent got the biggest share of income ever recorded in 2012, and the top 1 percent saw a 278 percent increase in their incomes over the last three decades while the middle saw less than a 40 percent bump — wealth concentration may be even worse. Keister’s paper finds that the 1 percent in wealth has held more than one-third of total net worth since 2001 and by 2010 had 34 percent. The bottom 90 percent, on the other hand, is left with just over a quarter of wealth. Wealth inequality is now as bad as it was during the roaring 1920s.

 

By: Bryce Covert, Think Progress, May 2, 2014

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Gap | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s All They’ve Got”: The GOP Hunt For A Watergate-Scale Scandal Continues

It was no surprise that White House spokesperson Jay Carney spent a healthy portion of his press briefing today talking about the latest White House email on Benghazi that has conservatives on the attack once again. As you’d expect, Carney described the whole thing as “an attempt by Republicans to politicize a tragedy,” adding: Like so many of the conspiracy theories that have promulgated by Republicans since the beginning of this, this one turned out to be bogus.”

Republicans, however, see it very differently. “We now have the smoking gun” on Benghazi, says Sen. Lindsey Graham. And the press is echoing this view. If you do a news search on “Benghazi smoking gun” you’ll come up with hundreds of articles from the last 24 hours. We’re talking about an email by national security adviser Ben Rhodes, written just after the attack in September 2012 and just released. As Dave Weigel demonstrates at length, there isn’t any smoking gun here.

But while the email doesn’t actually demonstrate anything criminal or corrupt, it does show that the silliness of spin goes all the way up near the top — on both sides.

This email is actually interesting, if not for the reasons Republicans want you to believe. The section of Rhodes’ email, written two days after the attack, that has people interested is some bullet points under the heading of “Goals”:

  • To convey that the United States is doing everything that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;
  • To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;
  • To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;
  • To reinforce the President and the Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.

What follows is a series of answers to potential questions about the attack and the administration’s response, always stressing the President’s strength and steadiness and steadfastness and statesmanship. Yes, this is what some of our top White House officials spend their time on.

Now, spinning, and advising others on proper spin, is part of Rhodes’ job. Is there something a little unseemly about that? Well, you might think so. But it’s a bipartisan endeavor, one undertaken in every White House and every member of Congress’ office, where communication staff spend their every waking moment wondering how they can make sure their boss looks good no matter what.

But to Republicans, when the White House does it, it’s not just unseemly, it’s downright criminal. They believe that because they are convinced that Barack Obama and everyone who works for him are corrupt down to their very core. And one of their great frustrations of the last five years is that this president, whom they loathe with such intensity, has not been caught actually doing anything that would warrant his impeachment, at least to that portion of the American public not scanning the skies for black UN helicopters coming to take their guns and force their kids to gay marry a Marxist Kenyan abortionist.

Over the last year and a half since the attack occurred, I’ve gone back and forth on what conservatives really think about Benghazi, in their quiet moments. At times, it has seemed like they genuinely believe that this was one of the worst cases of presidential malfeasance in American history. When I compared it to other genuine scandals, I can’t tell you how many wingnuts have poured into my Twitter feed with, “How many people died in Watergate? Huh? Huh?” When I attempted to patiently explain what Watergate was actually about and why it was such a big deal, they were unconvinced.

But at other times, I’ve gotten the sense that they’re making whatever they can out of Benghazi not because they really believe that they’ll find some criminality if they keep searching, but just because it’s all they’ve got. To their chagrin, this administration hasn’t had a major scandal on the scale of Watergate or Iran-Contra. While scandals like those got more and more serious the more they were investigated, the opposite happened with the ones in this administration: the closer we looked, the more it became apparent that we were talking about simple screw-ups, not corruption and malfeasance. That’s what happened with every one of the mini-scandals, from Solyndra to the IRS to Benghazi. The administration even managed to dispense $787 billion of stimulus money without so much as a hint of theft or double-dealing, which was a pretty remarkable achievement.

If Republicans had anything better to work with to show America that Barack Obama really is the pulsing heart of evil at the center of an administration riven with criminal wrongdoing from top to bottom, they wouldn’t be crying wolf at every new Benghazi email they get their hands on. Even after all this time, the “cover-up” they claim occurred wasn’t actually covering anything up, which is kind of the whole point of a cover-up. Yes, the White House was spinning in those first few days when it was still unclear exactly what had happened in Libya, spinning for all it was worth, to show how “resolute” and “strong” they were. They wanted to make sure no one thought there was any “broader failure of policy.” And did they mention that President Obama is strong and steadfast? Oh yes, he most certainly is. That may be silly, but it isn’t a crime.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 1, 2014

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And May Has Only Just Begun”: 2014’s Most Outrageous Attacks On Women’s Health, So Far

It’s undeniable that American women are facing a dire crisis when it comes to reproductive healthcare. From 2011 to 2013, a record 205 abortion restrictions were enacted throughout the country – topping the total of 189 abortion restrictions enacted in the entire preceding decade. In 2013 alone, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive rights, and half of those restricted abortion care specifically. Unfortunately, 2014 is right on trend so far. According to the Guttmacher Institute, legislators have introduced a combined 733 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health and rights so far this year, and it’s only May.

As the war on reproductive rights wages on, the types of restrictions proposed and passed in state legislatures have grown increasingly egregious and some, outright preposterous. Here are a few of 2014’s most outrageous laws so far:

1. South Carolina tries to extend “Stand Your Ground” to fetuses

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been widely criticized, particularly in response to the deaths of unarmed black teens Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis. But a State Senate committee in South Carolina has apparently decided that not only do they support the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

Last month, the committee voted to expand South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law to specifically include fetuses. Proponents of the bill claim that the state’s current “Stand Your Ground” law isn’t broad enough to protect pregnant women who use deadly force to protect themselves and their fetuses – even though the law already authorizes the use of deadly force to protect oneself or another from “imminent peril of death or great bodily injury.”

What this expansion of “Stand Your Ground” would really do is apply personhood to fetuses by defining an embryo as an “unborn child,” a deliberate tactic to challenge Roe v. Wade and the right to a safe and legal abortion. No state has ever successfully passed a personhood amendment, and the American public continues to outright reject them, even in conservative states like Mississippi. Instead of openly championing the incredibly unpopular fetal personhood legislation, a South Carolina Senate committee has chosen “Stand Your Ground” as the in-road to this dangerous legal precedent that threatens women’s rights and access to reproductive healthcare.

2. Kansas lawmaker proposes a ban on surrogate pregnancy

Though abortion restrictions tend to get the most attention, the attack on women’s reproductive rights doesn’t stop there. A recent Kansas bill, championed by staunchly pro-life state Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), would outlaw surrogate pregnancy. Kansas Senate Bill 302 would render all surrogacy agreements, whether verbal or written, null and void and would make it a misdemeanor to hire or work as a surrogate – an offense punishable with up to a $10,000 and a year in the county jail. Shockingly, Pilcher-Cook’s proposed bill isn’t the first in the nation, but is based on Washington D.C.’s highly restrictive laws regarding surrogate pregnancy. Even so, this bill appears unlikely to pass due to opposition from the Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita).

For those who struggle with infertility or have other health issues that preclude a safe and healthy pregnancy, surrogacy is one of the few options afforded to them in order to conceive and bear biological children. Attempts to ban surrogate pregnancy, whether legitimate or to “start a conversation,” reveal the paternalism that underwrites opposition to women’s reproductive rights. Women are perfectly capable of making their own reproductive decisions, whether to bear their own children, adopt, live child-free, have an abortion, or enter into a consensual agreement with a surrogate.

3. Tennessee votes to criminalize drug use by pregnant women

In response to a burgeoning drug abuse problem, the Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would criminalize the use of narcotics by pregnant women and allow them to be prosecuted for assaultive offenses if their baby is found to be born “addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.” If signed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, it would be the first law of its kind in the nation.

While the use of narcotics by pregnant women is obviously a health concern, prosecuting pregnant women for drug abuse is roundly opposed by major medical associations and reproductive rights advocates alike. Medical associations state that punitive measures like Tennessee’s bill do not improve pregnancy outcomes and advocates caution that criminalization will only deter drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment or prenatal care, for fear of being arrested and incarcerated.

What’s more, this bill only criminalizes the use of illegal narcotics by pregnant women, which doesn’t account for the majority of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of problems associated with drug use during pregnancy. According to the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner, 60 percent of babies born with NAS in Tennessee had mothers who had a prescription for the medication they were taking. This bill only criminalizes a certain type of drug use – and critics warn that it will hit black women the hardest.

Criminalization sets a dangerous precedent and hinders drug-addicted pregnant women’s access to vital healthcare and potentially life-saving treatment.

4. Louisiana bill would keep brain-dead pregnant women on life support against family’s wishes

On the heels of the tragic case of Marlise Muñoz, a brain-dead pregnant woman in Texas who was kept on life support for eight weeks against her family’s wishes, Louisiana lawmakers have advanced a bill that would force physicians in the state to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support against her family’s wishes and regardless of how far along her pregnancy is. This bill essentially turns brain-dead pregnant women into incubators against their will, compounding the trauma that their families are likely experiencing.

Unfortunately, Louisiana isn’t alone. Twelve states currently have similarly strict laws that automatically invalidate a woman’s advanced directive about her end-of-life care if she is pregnant. While a provision that would have superseded pregnant women’s “do not resuscitate” orders was dropped from the legislation, Louisiana’s bill would still override the family’s wishes. It’s a dangerous law that destroys brain-dead pregnant women’s personhood and renders her family utterly helpless.

5. Alabama House votes to ban abortions at six weeks

In the last few years, unconstitutional fetal pain bills, which ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization, have become increasingly popular in state legislatures. Nine states now have a 20-week abortion ban on their legislative books – and they’re all based on junk science. Even more egregious and outright unconstitutional are so-called fetal heartbeat bills, which outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can be as early as six weeks post-fertilization, or a point at which many don’t even know that they’re pregnant.

Alabama is the latest state to jump onto this outrageous bandwagon, as the Republican-controlled House passed the Fetal Heartbeat Act and three other abortion restrictions. Similar to North Dakota’s six-week ban that was recently struck down by a federal judge, Alabama’s bill would make it a crime to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Banning abortions at six weeks essentially criminalizes abortion itself, a move that is incredibly unpopular with the American public. Perhaps that’s why this bill ultimately stalled in the Alabama Senate.

Despite their unpopularity and blatant unconstitutionality, it’s unlikely given this political climate that we’ve seen the last of fetal heartbeat bans or other outrageous legislative attacks on women’s healthcare in 2014. After all, May has just begun.

By: Lauren Rankin, Rolling Stone, May 2, 2014

 

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP’s Comically Inept Obamcare Delusion”: Why They’re So Sad About The Enrollment Numbers

Let’s run a quick thought experiment. The Department of Health and Human Services releases a report claiming that 99.9 percent of all people who signed up for private health plans through Obamacare had paid their monthly premiums. Let’s say this report provided a state-by-state breakdown of the data that conspicuously omitted a number of states. Let’s also say that some of the largest health insurers participating in Obamacare had already provided estimates that were far lower than 99.9 percent. The White House and Democrats across the country wave the report around as proof positive that not only is Obamacare working, it’s succeeding far beyond their most optimistic projections.

What would happen in this scenario? The conservative press would loudly, and rightly, accuse the Obama administration of cooking the books on Obamacare. Darrell Issa would schedule hearings and subpoena documents. Ted Cruz would call on Kathleen Sebelius to resign again. Louie Gohmert would call for impeachment, and Lindsay Graham would ask about the Benghazi talking points. Any media outlet that mouthed the administration’s line would see its credibility take a huge hit.

This is the situation we find ourselves in now, only the parties and the numbers are flipped. The House GOP this week released a laughably incomplete report claiming that Obamacare premium payments came in at just 67 percent. The report omitted states that aren’t part of the federal marketplace (and even a couple that are), relied upon incomplete data, and put out an estimate that was wildly at variance with those of big health insurers, which put payment rates as high as 90 percent. The report was, in the judgment of ACA sign-up tallyman Charles Gaba, a “big pile of crap.”

The crappiness of said pile was, for conservatives in the media, a secondary consideration (if it was ever a consideration at all). The right jumped on this comically inept analysis from House Republicans without so much as a moment’s hesitation. Yesterday I wrote about how conservatives are finding themselves suddenly short of ways to attack the ACA, so they’re seizing on anything they can to try and sustain the narrative that Obamacare is failing. This is a prime example of precisely that.

“The enrollment totals were bogus and worse than expected,” wrote Townhall.com’s Guy Benson. “The widely touted figure of eight million enrollments that Barack ‘Mission Accomplished’ Obama’s been pushing lately is flatly bogus,” was the take at Hot Air. The Weekly Standard, the Daily Caller, National Review – everyone got in on the pigpile.

On one level, you can understand their eagerness, given that the administration has yet to release data on premium payments for Obamacare enrollees, and has instead offered estimates from insurance companies as to how many people paid. But the House GOP’s report is not a good faith attempt to fill that data void. TPM obtained the survey that the Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent to insurers to collect the payment data, and according to sources they talked to it “appears designed to yield an unfavorable result.”

The whole point of the exercise seems to have been to get a low number out there for opponents of the law to latch onto. “Once information like this is out there,” observed Jonathan Cohn, “it becomes a permanent part of the conversation. Republicans and their supporters will keep citing it, over and over again. Some will even say it’s proof that Obama is ‘cooking the books’—even if it turns out that it’s Republicans, not the White House, playing games with the numbers.”

While the right keeps fumbling about with bad news of their own concoction, potentially good news about the ACA keeps trickling out. States like Florida and Michigan, which in 2014 will see competitive gubernatorial and Senate elections, respectively, saw huge surges towards the end of the open enrollment period. Over 270,000 Michigan residents signed up for coverage, beating early projections by a hefty 70 percent. The final push in Florida saw enrollment increase 123 percent between February and April, and the state’s final tally came in just under 1 million.

The nationwide enrollment tally, according to newly released HHS data, sits at just over 8 million people.

Again, the payment data haven’t been released yet so these can only be considered preliminary totals, but at the very least they represent a huge comeback for the ACA from the debacles of late 2013. Republicans and conservatives, however, are still desperately trying to bring back the doom-and-gloom from Obamacare’s doldrums, even as the political and policy terrain shifts beneath their feet.

 

By: Simon Malay, Salon, May 2, 2014

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Benghazi Conspiracy Theorists Come Unglued”: It’s No Longer About Substantiation, It’s More Of A “Feeling”

Ordinarily on Capitol Hill, when lawmakers organize a hearing and call a notable witness, the purpose is to advance a specific cause. But if lawmakers haven’t done their homework, this usually straightforward exercise can go quite badly.

A month ago, for example, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held another Benghazi hearing because they hoped former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell might tell Republicans what they wanted to hear. He didn’t – Morell further debunked every right-wing conspiracy theory to which GOP lawmakers desperately cling.

Yesterday, something similar happened.

The Republican head of the House’s Armed Services Committee issued a statement sharply criticizing the testimony of his own party’s star witness in the latest hearing on Benghazi only minutes after the session concluded, going against his colleagues’ enthusiasm to hear just what the Obama administration did wrong the night of the attack.

It quickly became an example of the right hand not knowing what the further-right hand was doing. Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) House Oversight Committee called retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell to testify on Benghazi, insisting Lovell had key insights into the developments. But the retired general refuted key elements of the GOP line, and soon after, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, insisted Lovell does not have key insights into the developments.

At the same time, the Republican Armed Services Committee chairman directly contradicted claims from the Republican Oversight Committee chairman about accusations related to Hillary Clinton.

When Casey Stengel asked, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” in 1962, he wasn’t talking about Republicans obsessed with a misguided conspiracy theory, but he might as well have been.

Indeed, yesterday was rough for the right, but the GOP’s newly invigorated, completely unhinged interest in Benghazi has had a rough week.

The conservative outrage machine apparently went to 11 this week when Republicans learned that a White House official repeated the CIA’s line on Benghazi soon after the attacks. Why is that scandalous? I haven’t the foggiest idea – the “revelation” simply reinforces what we already knew – but GOP officials and their media allies were certain this is a “smoking gun.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is now once again convinced there was a “cover-up” – he’s used that phrase before, though he’s struggled with its meaning – and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) added that he believes White House officials are “scumbags.”

Remember, according to the Beltway’s conventional wisdom, these are the kind of leading, reasonable Republican lawmakers with whom President Obama is supposed to work and strike deals.

Let me just repeat the point from earlier in the week: it’s clear at this point that no amount of evidence, no number of investigations, no hours of hearings, no volumes of comprehensive reports will ever be enough for those who want the Benghazi conspiracy theories to have merit. It’s no longer about substantiation; it’s more of a feeling. It’s as if Stephen Colbert’ persona were real and a large group of people proudly declared, “It doesn’t matter if the evidence says we’re wrong because our guts say we’re right.”

It’s no way to win an argument, but for Benghazi conspiracy theorists, they’ve already won the argument by convincing themselves that their version of reality is superior to everyone else’s.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2014

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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