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Talk to the Hand

© Ed Stein

I love reading Ed Stein’s comics on his website, because he usually includes extra information. Here’s what he included for this one:

It’s not even a question that the national economic policies of the last few decades have favored the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. We’ve seen an astonishing increase in income inequality as taxes have become more regressive and the marketplace has been increasingly deregulated. The percentage of the nation’s wealth controlled by a tiny minority has grown exponentially while the income of lower- and middle -class Americans has stagnated.

I’ve wondered for years how so many people have been persuaded to vote again and again against their own economic self-interest. A revealing article by Jane Mayer in the August 30 issue of The New Yorker magazine helps explain it. Over the years billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers have steadily funded operations designed to stoke populist anger against the government and progressive ideas. The Tea Party, far from being a spontaneous populist movement, has been underwritten with tens of millions of dollars and coordinated through a network of organizations with names like Americans for Prosperity, with the singular goal of creating an angry block of disaffected voters who will unwittingly vote for policies that benefit the very wealthy.

Lurking behind the trumped-up fear of a government takeover of our lives is a desire on the part of these rich funders to force government out of the job of regulating how they do business, protecting workplace safety, defending the environment, overseeing the safety of the food supply, and raising their taxes–in other words, doing anything that might reduce their profits. That would also include, by the way, paying for the safety net. How this will be good for the army of middle class Americans they’ve enlisted to fight their battles for them is something I can’t answer, and I suspect the zealous Tea Party devotees can’t either. But letting out the anger, I guess, feels really good, even if the eventual consequences most certainly won’t. But, by then, we might have another Democrat in the White House we can blame for our troubles.



  1. Richard wrote:

    The Jane Mayer article was one of the most important I’ve read in a long time.

    We need to pass around the meme to boycott Koch Industries products:

    Pick out the consumer products you use and find alternatives:

    We use Brawny paper towels. No more.
    We use Vanity Faire napkins. No more.

    Finding an alternative to lycra and polarguard might be tougher but it’s something we’re working on.

    I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to see if Costco’s Kirkland brand paper products are rebranded Georgia Pacific. If anyone I’d love to hear about it.

    The Koch brothers donate a lot of money to good causes as well and this makes things tougher for many to refuse their money. I just saw them listed as an underwriter for the PBS show Nova and they donate huge amounts of money to various museums in New York.

    Still, us little people can do our part by singling out their consumer products and finding alternatives.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 4:32 am | Permalink
  2. patriotsgt wrote:

    I’ve been thinking the issue of the national economic policies of the past several decades and have some questions along with some opinion. First, we have lost a vast amount of manufacturing jobs to other countries. One argument I’ve heard people make is big business is too greedy and don’t want to pay American wages. On the other end i’ve heard that the cost of doing business in the USA is just too great with environmental, energy, federal, state, and local regulations and taxes. The overall argument for business leaving the US seems to be the cost of doing business in our country whether it be wages or non-wage costs. We can never have a thriving economy unless we bring back these jobs or level the playing field and create some new kind of industry to employ our workers.

    Currently, we cannot compete with foriegn manufacturing. Just about every product i’ve picked up in the last few weeks is made somewhere else from building products to electronics and brings up the question what does America produce? At one time we were a leader in producing electronics what happened or why? Now we are used to paying $25 for a DVD player made in China, Mexico or somewhere. These countries can produce that product far cheaper then we ever could and they do not have the environmental, energy, gov regulation, wages, healthcare, retirement and other costs our manufacturers have. No wonder jobs are leaving and not coming back.

    How do we fix this and build our manufacturing base again? I can think of 3 ways; one is to reduce all the regulation and wages so we can make a $25 DVD player, or institute some kind of parity tarif. We could have an environmental and wage parity tariff on all incoming products. This would of course raise the cost of that same DVD player to maybe $50, and create revenue for the Gov, but it would level the playing field. The 3rd way is to encourage invention, which has always been our halmark, to unlock the future products in manufacturing. Although as soon as other countries can copy the process we’ll be back to the same spot.

    What say you smart people? How do we get jobs back or make it worthwhile to produce something in the USA?

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 5:28 am | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I’ve never been convinced by the over-regulation argument. Germany has a significantly higher tax and regulatory burden than the US. It also has much a larger manufacturing base. I understand that they also make it much more expensive for German companies to manufacture overseas, something that the US does not do.

    There have been proposals for something like environmental and wage parity tariffs, like you suggest. As usual, Congress has not shown any interest in it. I do not know whether there are any WTO rules around that either, which would create headaches in instituting such a tariff. But I agree that such a tax would likely de-incentivize any further loss of manufacturing jobs. I’m not sure it would bring overseas jobs home.

    I would like to see some similar ideas in the service industry. It is simply ridiculous that Microsoft’s tech support is located in the Phillipines. Some of our local hospitals send their medical transcription to India. It’s just ridiculous. These are not even high paying or unionized jobs.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    Now that you have read the Jane Meyer article, read the whole book “The dark side”

    Karl Rove has had the same aim for ten years. Get the wealth in the top 5% of this country.
    This is now a tax deductible organization for political contributions, unlimited from the rich to tell unending lies to the unsuspecting.

    Re: manufacturing. Health insurance costs (arbitrary to line the pockets of the rich) have gone out of control. We can’t compete. It has to be removed from the workplace. they we can have jobs. Health insurance will be subsidized in four years so all must have insurance and the rich pay for the poor. And here we have to fight the Unions to take away benefits, or start new businesses with no health insurance.

    Tax cuts for the rich must be allowed to expire at the end of the year to fund the insurance. Have your contacted your representative if your representative is a Democrat?

    Leave all the Muslims alone: I’m sure the Fox news owner from Saudi Arabia is fommenting trouble so that idiots attack the Mosques. The young Muslims are going to attack back and cause chaos in this country. Remember the Prince is the same group (tribe) that destroyed the world trade center.

    Don’t let Sarah Palin attack Iran. she still thinks Iraq was right. We took the Iraqi money that was in our country and invested it in reconstruction in Iraq using US firms. IE, we took their money for graft.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  5. patriotsgt wrote:

    Many of our environmental regulations are good things, it’s just they are expensive to implement and maintain. The benefit however is a greatly improved environment for all. We don’t get to see the effects of lack of regulation in these other countries, but i’m fairly certain it would just sicken us all. I hadn’t thought about WTO rules on the tariffs getting in the way, but perhaps we could start with US owned companies whom have goods manufactured overseas as you eluded to concerning Germany. Enacting parity tariffs might have a unintended side benefit of other governments deciding to invest in their own environment or increase worker wages rather then pay the US. (kind of a reverse psychology capitalizing on any anti US sentiment)

    I completely agree about the service industries. I’ve had cable service calls answered by a Canadian and I don’t know who else. How can it be cheaper to outsource via long distance to a foriegn company? Customers can vote with their business, I switched providers.

    For Ebdoug – contributions are made to rogue orgs from all political spectrums. The supreme court blocked the last try to quell the surge of money. There are billions of dollars pouring in from foriegn interests (many mid eastern) interested in their own agenda that far outway Rove et al. Leave all GOOD Muslims alone. I personally want us to lay hands on the thugs and the only way to stop them is kill them, unfortunately. I don’t think Palin can attack anybody as a political cheerleader, and I doubt she can run for office, she’s not presidential materiel. On the Iraq thing,Ebdoug you got to get off of this thing. We did not take any oil money as the far left said we would in the beginning, but we did use American firms to help rebuild, along with many foriegn firms (China, Russia, etc). We deserve something for our efforts. Was Iraq right or wrong, we can debate this and I could offer a strong argument in favor of the war, and you could offer a strong argument against. Can we agree to disagree?
    Finally, I think we shold allow the tax cuts to expire for everyone and everyone should pay at least $10 in tax. All should contribute not 50%. However, I’m not sure I trust congress to do the right thing with our money, do you?

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    The poor pay a huge percentage of their income comparatively in taxes-sales tax. Just two and one half packs of cigarettes in New York pays their $10 in taxes. The poor have a much higher percentage of smokers, and New York collects from them to pay their increased health care for smoking and obesity.
    Re: Iraq. Most people in this country watch television. Most were swayed to believe that we should invade Iraq. I have no TV and studied and studied the situation. I remember someone coming to me “We are invading Iraq” After all I heard and read and studied, I just could not believe we were going in to destroy that country and our own. No, I’ll stop preaching (maybe) , but I won’t stop crying at the destruction of the two countries.
    Once I learned that Obama agreed that it was the wrong thing to do, he had my support forever.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  7. John wrote:

    Despite all the good intentions, tax deductable charity donations have become a complete con and a haven for money laundering and tax evasion, not to mention the oppurtunity to promote community good will at the expense of the rest of the tax payers, minus of course any contribution that they should make to that tax pool.
    As for tariffs and the such, I ain’t no ecomista, but it seems to me that: Yes the U.S. was a manufacturing powerhouse rah rah but your most important export in the last hundred odd years has been ‘culture’. The rest of the world used to want to be America. I think America wants to be that America again, and I am not sure it’s possible.

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  8. patriotsgt wrote:

    Ebdoug, I hear you. On the poor yes I understand your sentiment. Part of me agrees, but part says our charity to them enables many to continue making poor decisions, ie. smoking, drinking, druggging, gambling. Part of me says by giving them a long term free ride we are saying to them, don’t worry we know you can’t do for yourself and we’ll help you because you can’t help yourself. I’d rather see us teach, mentor and enable them to succeed. Forever giving does not help them break the cycle of poverty. Here’s my analogy I use with my children on stress and it’s positive benefits; if you lie on the couch and someone brings your food and gives you fresh batteries for the remote, you never have a reason to get off that couch. But, if you get hungry or your remotes’ batteries rub out you’ll experience stress and have to either get up and make your sandwich or go hungry and wait for somebody’s mom to come along and give you one. When you have to get up and do it yourself, you’ll also feel better, improve self esteem and possibly go further to improving your situation.

    On President Obama, he was a johnny come lately to the Iraq war issue beginning in 2006 when he became a senator, and would say whatever public opinion was at the time given his ambitions. I trust the war opinions more of those that voted against from the start like Sen. Mikulski, but she does however fully support the troops and voted yes on every bill that supports the warfighters.

    Sorry to be so long winded..

    John- I agree completely on the charities issue. I think congress, the IRS or AG should audit/investigate every non-profit and charity to insure they are what they claim. Verify their benefit of tax exemption so to speak. It can be done by states as well.
    On America’s exceptionalism it is tough to rebuild that when our own president says to foriegn leaders we are not the worlds leader, exceptional or the greatest nation on earth. I understand him wanting to be humble.., but on the bright side, millions still want to immigrate here.

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  9. ebdoug wrote:

    Re: welfare. Take a hair sample. (not even blood) Nicotine, drugs, alcohol. Those are people who test positive don’t need welfare. The wealthy social ladies that I grew up with can support them if they care to. Oh, nicotine can be there second hand so they people around them will have to stop smoking also. End of welfare problem. Then again remember all the seven years of disabled vets who have been traumatized because of some idiot in the White House. The real needy ones would surface. I happen to feel that cigarettes should have the same laws as marijuana; although they are much more lethal than marijuana.
    Take my son and his family (they chose to have four) He started a dairy farm. She does day care. Net income in 2009 $11,000. They get free health care (not Medicaid but just above that.) Now he grosses a huge amount that goes mainly to grain to feed the cows (I do the tax return so I know) So we need to raise the price of milk so he can get a living wage which would mean that no one could afford dairy products. Or we can continue the dairy subsidies, the government subsidizes and free health insurance to keep the price low. That is called socialism. And I have to proudly say that he received one of ten top rewards in the North East region for the quality of his milk. If he gets the top award, he competes Nationally.
    Re: my oldest son who with his brother in law bought a golf course this year. A golf course? Going out to buy a golf course? Wow. They are having the golf course pay their health insurance and are self sufficient except for all the debt.
    Since I built my own house as a single mother, heated with wood, had sheep (50) and chickens, had no TV, my children didn’t even have a remote. They rest when they collapse from exhaustion.
    Middle son works as a VP for a computer company at Tyson’s Corners. He, also, never stops.
    So my sons’ lives demonstrate your premise.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    Ebdoug – as usual, you make many good points.

    You have alot to be proud of in your children. They have found their way and chosen their paths to be successful.

    I agree we are a product of our upbringing (as your example reinforces). My father insisted both my brother and I start working (delivering papers) at age 11. We both did that, then I started cuting lawns with money I saved from delivering papers.
    I bought the 1st gas powered mower my family owned (we used a push mower, sicle, and clipping shears to do our lawn). When I was 16 my Dad took me to a job interview and I got a job as a vegetable cook staying there throughout HS. My brother became a lawyer and CPA, holding several management postions w/ the state and is now an asst dean at a college. My sister earned a masters in english where she began as teacher in college, now she owns several real estate companies that are doing well, even in this market because she saved money when all her advisors told her to spend it/ pay herself more, during the boom years. She had been taught by our parents (who lived through the depression) to put money away for rainy days or when times get tough and now she buys struggling real estate comps with the money she put away. We all subscribed to the work hard, think ahead, and pay it forward theories we were taught. Accepting a handout from the Gov would have been a defeat and unacceptable. But, we all believed that if someone got down on their luck or sufferd some sort of bad luck, like a fire or such it should first be the responsibility of friends, family, church and neighbors to help. If that wasn’t enough then the gov should help.

    I agree, we should not reward poor behavior ie. giving welfare to addicts, alcoholics, etc. We can pay for their rehab, but first screw-up the money gets cut off. It’s the only way some people learn, unfortunately.

    Times are different now I guess.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  11. ebdoug wrote:

    I don’t think we have to pay for their rehab. I think they should be off for three months, then have their hair retested. Meanwhile the schools would have to make sure the children are fed and clothed.
    I come from wealth. My father from southern origin thought it terrible that woman go to college. The three of us defied him and got our degrees. I got the only degree that was worth anything BS in Nursing, U of Del. I barely used it. The other two didn’t use theirs. We never mowed, cleaned or anything. I still don’t know how to clean. But I mow all the time and have a reel mower for my garden. That I use daily. I tell my grandchildren it is powered by adipose tissue. Having not gone to boarding school and not been a debutante, I was (and am) the black sheep of the family. “I did it my way”. And I predictably go along with your premise. Other then raise good children and make other people happy(my patients and then my tax clients), I have not achieved much. But I feel no lack. I’m on Facebook under Eva Douglas

    Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  12. Dnono wrote:

    Drug/addiction treatment is way more cost-effective than cutting off treatment, waiting for the addict to turn toward more criminal behavior and incarcerating them (and then treating the addiction issue while in prison).

    BTW most addicts are battling issues stemming from some form of past trauma. Yes outwardly they may appear to simply be making ‘bad choices’, but in most cases there’s an underlying cause that needs to be addressed for long-term recovery to be successful.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink