A Blog on Politics, Principles, and Uncovering the Narrative

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Why Do Poor People Commit More Crimes than Rich People?

I have heard that question asked several times in my life, and for a long time I gave the wrong answer. Because they have a greater need for things is the most common answer. Other answers might include theories about resentment, having less to lose, or simple desperation. You might come up with more complex theories, like I did.

None of these are the correct answer.

As with any question or statement, you need to apply critical thinking, and one of the major elements of critical thinking is to question your assumptions. So, in the question, “Why do poor people commit more crimes than rich people,” what is the whopping huge assumption being made?

That poor people commit more crimes than rich people.

And, as it turns out, that assumption is patently false.

First, you have to ask, what is being measured? We have no numbers, no statistics on what crimes are actually committed. Many people commit crimes and are never found out. Can you use arrest records? No, for the simple reason that many people arrested are later found innocent, or charges are dropped against them. What we use to measure crime rates is convictions.

This is where the numbers fall to pieces: convictions are a horribly inaccurate way to judge what actual crimes have been committed, especially in terms of being rich or poor.

Here are the reasons for that:

Targeting and Arrests

First of all, police more easily assume that poor people commit more crimes, and target those people far more readily for search and arrest. Take New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” laws. You might expect that high-power Wall Street executives would be an obvious target, and would often be found to have drugs on their person. Unsurprisingly, there were the fewest stop-and-frisk searches in the financial district. Instead, the vast majority of searches were in Harlem.

Unsurprisingly, the areas with the highest incomes had the fewest searches, and the areas with the lowest income had to most searches.

Race also clearly plays a part. Between 49% and 61% of all stops were made on black people, who constituted 23% of the population. 8% to 12% of searches were of white people, who make up 40% of the population. Although the rate of marijuana use is roughly equal between black and white people, black people are arrest about four times more often than whites. Since race has a strong correlation to economic status, this has an impact on how things work out. 

The reason may go beyond simple economic bias. Rich people have far better legal representation, and police officers might have a bias towards searching or arresting people who will help their conviction rate. The wealthy are also often well-connected, and police may get blowback for stopping a frisking a rich person.

Nor is it just simple stops and searches. White collar crime is infamously under-prosecuted. Despite massive corruption and crime that led to the 2008 Great Recession, almost no convictions were made. Despite fraud, embezzlement, and tax evasion are rampant, few arrests are made and even fewer cases end in a conviction. Just look at how long Donald Trump got away with a plethora of crimes—and, despite all the evidence available, is still getting away with them. Usually only the most egregious, high-profile cases are even considered for prosecution.

As a result, most suspicion and targeting is placed on poorer people. If you target one group more than another, it is completely unsurprising that the group more targeted will be arrested and convicted more often. However, it does not mean that they commit more crimes.

Having a Good Lawyer

This is a huge factor. Wealthy people can get the best legal representation, which can, far more often, lead to all charges being dropped, or a deal being made that will require only rehab or community service, while no conviction ever goes on their record. One famous example is George W. Bush, who was well known to use drugs in his youth. At one point, he mysterious “volunteered” to do community service, for no stated reason, shortly after it was rumored that he was arrested for drug possession. When they do go to trial, expensive expert witnesses and a host of other legal protections are used.

People of lesser means, meanwhile, have only what legal representation as they can afford, which is little or none. Those with none have to resort to public defenders, who are notoriously under-qualified, overworked, and underfunded. Stories abound of poor people who are likely innocent of crimes being convicted, and of rich people likely guilty getting off scot free.

This contributes heavily to the large disparity in conviction rates between the rich and poor.

Plea Deals

Bail also plays a big part. If you are rich, bail is not a problem, and you can continue on with your life while your lawyers find ways to make your consequences as little as possible.

However, if you are poor, bail often makes it impossible for you to get out. Within days, you lose your job, and for most poor people that’s a harsh sentence in and of itself. Many poor people spend months or even years in jail waiting for a trial, some of them being incarcerated even longer than their sentence would be if they were found guilty.

It should therefore be no surprise that most poor people charged with crimes will plea to guilty convictions, even if they committed no crime at all.

One good example of this was in New York in 2018, when cops illicitly stopped a car with black occupants, one of whom had just been released from the hospital. The cops falsely claimed they smelled pot and demanded to search the vehicle. They demanded the occupants exit the car, but the injured man told them of his condition, and that it would be hard for him to get out. Impatient, the police brutally dragged the injured man from the vehicle and, when he struggled in pain, they charged him with resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. The man had to go back to the hospital for five days to recuperate from the injuries police did to him—all the time handcuffed to his bed. After a two-hour search, the police did not find any marijuana; facing an embarrassing situation, they planted some in the vehicle and charged the occupants with drug crimes. Unable to defend themselves (body cam footage was withheld for two years), they had no choice but to plead guilty to resisting and obstructing in exchange for the drug charges to be dropped. A conviction without a crime—one that would not have happened, certainly not successfully, with a wealthy person.

Sleeping Under Bridges

Then we have the laws themselves. There is a famous adage: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges.” Many laws are heavily biased in terms of economic status. It is commonly noted that if the punishment for a crime is a cash penalty, then the crime applies to poor people only. For example, there are laws requiring drug testing for public assistance, but none for the beneficiaries of corporate welfare or massive tax breaks. Being homeless can lead to being convicted of a number of crimes; sleeping in the street or in parked vehicles are the most common. Not being able to pay fines, often very steep for poor people, for offenses such as traffic tickets, civil offenses, and misdemeanor crimes can end in a conviction and jail time.

Most crime by rich people is masked by corporations. If you poison one person and they die, you get convicted. But if you own a corporation and you poison a whole city, you might be fined, for a much smaller amount than you profited by not cleaning up your waste. Wealthy people can steal, injure, and even kill, sometimes on mass scales, and never be arrested, much less convicted.

One significant example of this is how we treat the crime of theft. If a poor person commits a theft, from shoplifting to burglary to grand theft auto, they are charged and convicted. And yet, the most common form of theft goes totally unpunished—and is even rewarded. Unsurprisingly, it is the primary form of theft committed by rich people: wage theft.

If you take all other forms of theft—larceny, burglaries, auto theft, and robbery—and add them together, they are dwarfed by wage theft, which can total tens of billions of dollars in theft every year. This includes minimum wage violations, overtime violations, rest break and off-the-clock violations, in addition to simple underpayment. I myself have been the victim of three of those at various jobs, and many—perhaps most—workers have similar stories to tell.

And yet wage theft, while technically a crime, results in no convictions. This is because it is treated as a civil crime, and not a criminal offense. If you steal $100 from your employer, you can be arrested, convicted, and jailed. If your employer steals $100 from you, they are not even arrested, and usually they get away with it. You can only find redress through filing for public prosecutors to get your money back, which is rare, and takes years even if they do so, or by taking the case to court, which results in legal fees often dwarfing the amount that was stolen from you. Because it is so hard and expensive to get redress, employers usually get away with it scot-free—which explains why it is so rampant.

 

The Scale of Crimes

Finally, we have the way that convictions are counted. Stealing ten dollars from one person and a million dollars from a thousand people may both end up with a single conviction each.

If ten thousand criminals steal $100 each from ten thousand victims, for a total of $1 million, and are caught and convicted, that is counted as ten thousand separate crimes.

However, if one white-collar criminal steals $1 billion from a hundred thousand people, and is caught and convicted, that may be counted as only one conviction—despite stealing a thousand times more money from ten times as many people.

There are a number of possible variations of this, where poor people are convicted on the basis of minor infractions, while rich people are shielded for significant crimes.

Conclusion, and How to Handle the Issue

Unfortunately little of this at all is documented, so there are no numbers which can prove that wealthy people, per capita, commit more crime than poor people.

However, a very strong case can be made that this is in fact the truth—but because we use convictions as the measure, people always assume the opposite.

If anyone asks you why poor people commit more crime, the very first response would be to demand they provide evidence for their claim.

THEM: Poor people commit more crime than rich people.

YOU: Cite a source for that.

THEM: It’s a well-known fact.

YOU: Great. Then citing a source will be no problem for you. I’ll wait.

THEM (Whether or not they cite a source, probably not): Statistics prove this.

YOU: Statistics showing what?

THEM: That poor people commit more crimes.

YOU: So, all crimes can be known? No one ever gets away with one?

THEM: OK, arrests then.

YOU: All arrested people are guilty?

THEM: OK, convictions.

YOU: If your wealthy employer steals money from you in wage theft, will that person be convicted? Are wealthy people ever convicted for sleeping in their cars? Are wealthy people convicted if the corporation they own kills people? None of these are counted as convictions. Or how about the difference in availability to expensive legal representation, which results in many indictments failing or being pled out? Or how about profiling of poor people by police? How about the scale of crimes?

THEM: [At this point, they will do one of three things: (1) deny that any of that has an effect without any evidence; (2) try to focus on one small detail they think they can argue and never return to the primary assertion; or (3) change the subject entirely.]

Simply put, there is no argument that can be made aside from appealing to faulty assumptions.

However, anyone with any reason or sense of fairness will have to conclude that it is as the very least highly likely that rich people commit as much or likely more crime than poor people.

Stacking the Deck

Union massacre
Police attack strikers outside Chicago’s Republic Steel plant, killing 10, on May 30, 1937. (AP / Carl Linde)

Employment is a negotiation between the employer and the employee.

Negotiations depend heavily upon your position.

Businesses have great negotiating power and thus a strong negotiating position. When they hire you, they control the interview. They are positioned as the ones making the decisions. You have to compete with dozens or sometimes hundreds of other candidates. They have all the information, you have practically none. They are portrayed as the ones doing you the favor. They have authority over you. Job interviews are designed to intimidate, to make you feel small and powerless, begging for the position. This is not a natural imbalance; it has been very carefully cultivated to give them all the power and you virtually none. 

The same goes for what happens to you when you are employed. After you get hired, you know that you could be fired at almost any time, if the employer so decides. Employees are forbidden to exchange contract details that could give them negotiating power. Anything you gain has to be begged for, and even with exemplary service, bonuses or raises are rarely guaranteed. And don’t even think of trying to unionize; you will be treated like crap until they find a way to fire you.

Even after you get fired, many employers don’t even give you a letter of recommendation, forcing you to list them as a reference, where you know nothing about what they will say about you, making you rely upon their good graces when you look for jobs in the future. It is as if they hold all the cards, and you have none.

All of that gives employers frighteningly unequal power over their employees.

For the worker, there are only two real negotiation tools that could possibly fight against all of that: unions and government regulations.

Is it any mystery that these are two things that businesses have worked for decades to degrade and destroy? Two things they have striven endlessly to vilify, denigrate, and smear?

“Unions are corrupt! They only take your money and give you nothing! They are run by organized crime!”

“Government regulations cost jobs, obstruct good and honest businesses, are useless bureaucratic power grabs, and only make things worse!”

“Minimum wage hikes will only raise prices, get people fired, and make businesses go bankrupt and close!”

And they get people like you and me, regular working people, to spread and perpetuate these lies.

And they are hypocrites. They claim that the “free market” will treat everyone fairly. That if they don’t pay workers enough, they won’t get people to work—something that only happens in rare cases like 2022, and even then, they fight like hell against paying higher wages, and complain about how “no one wants to work anymore.”

They claim that the “free market” will not only give fair wages, but that it will provide for workplace safety and other abuses—but we have seen all too painfully what a wretched lie that is as well.

Unions are the biggest “free market” mechanism to balance employer abuses… and so businesses go to any expense and the greatest efforts to crush any union from starting or practicing, vilify and attack any existing union, and pay off politicians and plant pro-corporate judges to make laws which undermine any chance of fair union representation.

“Free market” my ass.

The Name of God: Aside from That

Thanks
“Thank you President Trump for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!”

A common refrain from the Religious Right: “You cannot dare utter the name of God in the public square.”

Well, they’re right, after all, aren’t they? You cannot say the word “God” in public. Well, not exactly—actually, anyone can do it, really, at almost any time. There are, after all, public churches, and all manner of religious ceremonies, and religious broadcasting all over TV and radio, as well as on the Internet. If you are in public and you say the word “God,” nothing happens to you at all. No, what they mean by the “public square” is just in official government business. No one in government is ever allowed to speak the name of God in official government business. Ever.

Well, except for when the president makes a speech. He pretty much always ends it with “God bless the United States of America.” And a whole bunch of other times the president mentions God and has religious leaders make speeches and stuff.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except for legislatures, where every day, in every legislative body, at every level of government, when they begin every session with a religious prayer led by a chaplain or other religious speaker.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except in every courthouse at every level of government whenever any witness is sworn in, they do it with their hand on a bible and are required to swear in the name of God before they give testimony.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except for every school, at the start of every school day, when the teacher leads every student in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, where every student says “Under God” to describe the nation.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in school.

Well, aside from the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that any student or group of students, acting independently of school officials, may engage at prayer any time at school on the one condition that it not interrupt a class in session.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any way related to the government.

Well, except for every single cash transaction in the country, where every single last piece of currency, every last coin and bill, is branded with the motto “In God We Trust” on it, the official currency of the nation, printed and controlled by the government.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in public where the government is concerned.

So, yes, in every speech made by every president, every session of every legislature at every level, every session of every court in every courtroom, in every pledge and every prayer by every student in every school, and in every cash transaction made by every person every day using federal currency… yes, then you can have the name of God in every single government transaction.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Never. Or the cops will come for you and arrest you for saying that word.

Right-Wing Love for Putin and Russia Pre-Dated Trump

Ratherberussian

Why do republicans love Putin?

Even now, as the world and the rest of America gets behind Zelenskyy and Ukraine, republicans steadfastly admire and support Putin, though often more quietly so after Putin’s recent atrocities.

But how did they come to love Putin and Russian in the first place? The Republican Party’s identity for decades was practically defined by their searing hatred for Russia. Even in 2012, Mitt Romney identified Russia as being America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

Most people assume that Donald Trump brought Putin Love to the right wing, but that’s not accurate. Trump’s association with Putin developed at about the same time as the republican admiration of Putin, but Trump was not openly pro-Russian until after Putin was already a right-wing hero. 

So, how did it happen? Why did republicans go Coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over this aggressive dictator?

The answer is Obama. He was an effective, popular, charismatic president who was being a better Republican president than any of their own candidates could hope to be. This drove right-wingers crazy. They needed a foil for Obama, someone arguably better and more powerful than him, but no one in their own ranks measured up.

And then Syria happened. In August of 2012, Obama was asked what would provoke a U.S. military action in Syria, and Obama replied that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would constitute a “red line” that would bring America into the fray. However, a year later, Assad crossed that red line, using sarin gas to kill more than a thousand of his own people. Suddenly, Obama was boxed in: he had promised action, but almost any action he took would end badly, not to mention that the American people did not want to add a third land war in Asia to our plate.

Obama responded by passing the buck on to Congress, asking for their approval to use military force. Conservatives saw this as a sign of weakness and began to pile on.

It was then that Vladimir Putin came to the rescue, suggesting a plan to get Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles so as to avoid military action against them. Obama grabbed the opportunity as a best possible solution, and Damascus agreed to the terms.

That was when republicans suddenly took a liking to Putin: he had stolen Obama’s thunder, outplayed him in Syria, and took the limelight in center stage. The idea that Putin had shown up Obama and pulled the rug out from under him in the region became the story of the month. Matt Drudge, of the Drudge Report, hailed Putin’s involvement in Syria, tweeting that “Putin is leader of the free world.” He began to constantly run headlines praising Putin and trashing Obama, branding Putin as the strong, charismatic world leader, and Obama as a spineless coward who couldn’t begin to match his Russian counterpart. This was a drumbeat starting in 2013 onward, often echoed elsewhere in the conservative sphere. And then, in early 2014, just six months after the Syria deal, Putin just rolled into Crimea and annexed it, and Obama could not do much of anything about it. Putin again came out on top.

Republicans loved this. They discovered a newfound hero in Putin. He was rugged, masculine, in control. He was a right-wing, nationalistic, militaristic shirtless man riding a horse in the countryside. His policies were fiscally conservative, anti-tax, pro-Christian, and a near-perfect fit for the religious right. Most of all, Putin was aggressively, even virulently hostile to gay people. And he invaded and occupied nearby countries.

And Obama was more or less powerless to stop him.

That’s what truly made Putin a right-wing hero, besting Obama in the geopolitical arena, not just once, but twice. Showing power to Obama’s powerlessness. Comments like this started appearing in right-wing areas in 2014:

“Putin is a former KGB colonel. 0bama is a former community organizer. Of course Putin is going to have a far better grasp of international affairs. That is obvious to anyone outside of the liberal echo chamber.”

“Putin right? Why is anyone on earth surprised? President Putin is highly intelligent and by far the best leader in the world. The best leader I have seen in my life time. A man’s man who makes his own decisions and loves his country and its citizens.”

“He is a world leader. He sees the world, not the next party, photo op, selfie…. Putin=Leader Obama=Loser in every category for a leader as well as human being.”

“arguably, Putin would be a better Commander in Chief than our dear leader.”

“Putin at least isn’t a blind Marxism/Leninism fool, unlike Obama and his fellow New Bolshevik Criminals. Their pathetic attempts to focus solely on domestic control, while ignoring rest of world will end up destroying this country.”

All of this was more than a year before Trump showed any sign of being relevant at all. Trump did not bring Putin to the party, republicans were already very much on board. Right-wing talking heads started speaking reverently of Putin, gleeful to have someone who showed up their hated foremost enemy, their own president. More and more, they found elements of Russian culture and Putin’s political positions of which they approved, like Putin’s laws against “homosexual propaganda,” i.e. any favorable mention of LGBTQ people or issues.

While Trump spoke favorably of Putin once or twice after the Syria deal, even slightly before his fateful trip to Russia for the Miss Universe contest (the one where the “pee tape” was allegedly recorded), no possible argument could be made that Trump was in any way responsible for making Putin popular in right-wing circles. In fact, this early admiration for Putin likely helped republicans accept Trump better; he was already a Putin-lover, and fit right in with the crowd.

The problem for republicans is that Putin is, both to their discomfort and delight, a murderous power-crazed dictator willing to commit atrocities. The atrocities part may tamper down their enthusiasm temporarily, but they love the aggressive strongman part, and even as Russia becomes a pariah in most of the world, conservatives still prefer him to anything liberal. Thus we saw signs, t-shirts, and other conservative gear since maybe 2018 reading, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”

But Trump didn’t bring that. It was there before he stopped being a joke.

Sources:

The Blue Tsunami Arrived

I’ve heard many people saying that no “wave” materialized for either party. Some conservatives chide that maintaining the status quo should be a massive disappointment.

This could not be further from the truth. The Democrats had a massive blue wave, you could even call it a “tsunami.”

It just didn’t look like one because it cancelled out the red wave that seemed inevitable.

Consider:

  1. In midterm elections, the party that won the White House in the previous general election almost always loses a large number of seats.
  2. Democrats generally do very poorly in midterms at any time because of low turnout.
  3. Biden’s popularity is very low and people are feeling a very strong economic sting from inflation.

Because of those three elements, Democrats, in any other midterm, would have suffered huge losses. By all rights, republicans should have not just taken control of both houses, they should have done so decisively.

In 2010, Obama lost 6 senate seats and 63 house seats.

In 1994, Clinton lost 8 senate seats and 52 house seats.

In neither case did Obama or Clinton have lower popularity than Biden. In neither case was there a recession or inflation to depress their votes.

For Biden to lose only a dozen or so house seats and to keep all his senate seats—maybe even gain one—is unprecedented at a time like this. Only one in the past 80 years has any Democrat done better in a first midterm, and that was Kennedy in 1962 (lost four in the house, gained three in the senate).

It is arguable that relative to what could be expected, Biden gained at lest 5-6 senate seats and maybe three or four dozen house seats.

Accounting for these realities, what we just witnessed was a blue tsunami.

The reasons are clear: republicans shot themselves in the foot, and Democrats, for once, took full advantage of it.

There were three major elements to the republican death spiral:

  1. They made it perfectly clear that their top goal was to dismantle democracy and fix future elections in their favor;
  2. The repeal of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision; and
  3. Trump’s strategy of primarying out winning republican candidates and replacing them with election-denying sycophants and stooges who were poison to republicans on the ballot.

Democrats successfully campaigned against all three, and it worked wonders.

It didn’t hurt that Michiganders, against the will of the republicans who had rigged the state, ended gerrymandering, giving Democrats the victory that republicans had been stealing for a decade. Let’s hope that other states held in thrall by republicans vote in similar measures, if that is even possible.

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Trickle-Down Lies

Trickle-down is a scam.

Trickle-down not only doesn’t work, it obviously couldn’t. The first hint is in the name: “Trickle-Down.” Not “Rain Down,” “Shower Down,” “Torrent Down,” or “Flood Down,” but just a trickle, at best. The idea that workers get almost nothing is right there in the name. You’d think that people would have caught on to this sooner. It would be like an employer offering their workers a raise and calling it “Crumbs off the Table.”

From there it gets worse. The idea of the theory is to jump-start the economy by giving money to rich people. There are several rather unmistakable reasons why this wouldn’t help the economy.

First, rich people are, not to put too fine a point on it, rich. They don’t need money to invest, they already have it. Thus the “rich” part of it. They already get generous tax breaks on successful investments in the form of capital gains taxes; that gives them more money already. And if all their wealth is tied up in other ventures, there is a long line of banks that are usually willing to issue them big loans in order to help them invest. If they come to a bank and say, “Here’s a great opportunity to create a business with a promising future,” loans are almost inevitable.

Next, giving rich people more money via tax breaks does not guarantee that they will invest it in a way that creates more jobs. When a rich person gets more money, their natural reaction is to say, “How can I make the most money with this money?”

This is where Trickle-Down is most clearly absurd as a solution to a depressed economy: if no one is buying anything, then the last thing a rich person will do is invest in building factories to sell things to people who aren’t buying anything. Instead, they will either hoard the cash if nothing is paying off, or else maybe invest in derivatives, which usually create few or no jobs at all.

For example, if a rich person invests money in stocks, that mostly just represents value moving from one person to another. It does not create wealth, nor does it spur jobs. At the very best, if enough rich people buy stock in a company, the stock price will go up—which may improve the image of the company, and could help it buy more acquisitions, but not really to create a large number of new jobs. By the time you get to any job increases, the percent of what was spent on the tax break for rich people is so diluted that the benefit in jobs is lost in the white noise of market fluctuations.

Next, we have the basic function of capitalism: the idea that people will create jobs and wealth in pursuit of wealth made by commerce. The critical point here is that rich people getting money is the inducement for creating jobs. You invest, build, hire, produce, sell, and profit. Profit is the end of the process. That’s the whole point

Giving rich people money should be the end reward for that process, not the start of it. If you start by giving rich people more money, there is, if anything, less incentive to work harder for it. It’s like giving the horse the carrot at the start of the ride, not the end. Or, more to the point, it’s like putting gasoline in your tailpipe. It creates a nice flash, but gets you nowhere.

So, What Creates Jobs?

It’s important to realize that companies, by their nature, do not create jobs. They avoid creating jobs. As Nick Hanauer put it, corporations are not job creators, they are job destroyers. Employing people is a cost. To maximize profits, businesses need to minimize costs. And since payroll is normally one of the biggest expenses any company has, they do everything they can do minimize it. That means paying less in salary and benefits (and destroying unions which would demand such things), making workers do more work for the same pay (businesses call this “productivity”), replacing workers with automated processes, and firing workers whenever possible.

Businesses don’t hire workers because they are charitable and like helping the working class. They only hire workers when it is impossible to profit without workers—and then fire the workers as soon as their jobs fail to make enough money for the company.

In short, businesses don’t want to create jobs; they only do it when absolutely necessary, and destroy the jobs as soon as it is profitable for them.

Capitalists will say that greed is good, as a motivator to make people invest. The problem is, greed has no limits. Corporations, by their nature, endlessly look for ways to increase the bottom line. Pay workers less, charge customers more, skimp on safety and corporate responsibility—exactly the opposite of what free-market capitalists claim will happen in an unregulated system.

There is a dire problem here. Businesses make money in the first place because the general population has enough wealth to buy the things offered for sale. If people don’t have enough money to buy things, then sales diminish. The more you underpay workers and lay them off, the less wealth there is to buy the things businesses are selling. Capitalism pushes wealth upwards, robbing the poor to pay the rich. If too much wealth accumulates at the top, the business cycle dies.

It is very much like a game of Monopoly: at the end, one person gets all the money, and then the game ends. We play that game, but we fail to project forward to think about what happens to the people who lose, and how the economy functions after that.

So we see that if money fails to cycle back to the workers, the system fails and collapses. It becomes clear, then, that the problem is not that there is too little wealth at the top, the problem is that there is too much

What you really want in the end is more commerce and more jobs, right? Supply-siders claim that the best place to stimulate that system is at the top. The problem is, that’s the furthest point from where the stimulus is needed. Instead, wealthy people will divert most of that wealth away from commerce and jobs, as explained above. That means that a small percent—just a trickle—goes from wealthy people to investment in commerce—where a percent of that wealth goes back up to the wealthy again—and thus a smaller percentage to jobs, and an even smaller percentage back into commerce.

Adding more money to the already large amount owned by the wealthy mostly just helps the wealthy, and by the time it gets to where it is needed, it’s too small an amount to do much good.

Instead, the stimulus needs to be plugged into the part of the cycle where it will have the biggest impact: people buying things. That is the true beginning of the cycle. Consumers have money and want to buy things, so businesses respond by creating jobs to produce the things people want.

Consumers with money drive economic growth the most directly and effectively.

If you give that tax cut to the working poor and middle class, they will inject almost all of it directly into the economy, buying goods and services. They will be far less likely to hoard it or direct it into derivatives. Instead, it will be spent in a way that directly and most effectively spurs job growth, tax revenue growth, and yes—even the growth of profits for rich people, who will have to actually work to get that money, as capitalism supposedly intended. Where tax breaks for rich people will result in only a tiny percentage creating jobs and commerce, tax breaks for workers results in most of that amount creating commerce and jobs. Far, far more effective.

The cycle always works best when more money is in the hands of working people. We saw this In the 40s and 50s when the top marginal tax rate for wealthy people was 90%, and the working class, strongly supported by powerful unions, had a great deal of disposable income. But now? Now, we have already run out of wealth for consumers to spend, and the cycle is mostly supported by what is left: debt spending. Not a sustainable solution.

What is needed is what we did from 1936 onward: tax wealthy people more, and, with the help of unions, put as much money as possible into the hands of workers. That’s the equation that will work.

Stimulus spendingDirect spending that puts more money in the hands of people at the lower end of the scale has been found to be far more effective at stimulating the economy. Food stamps, unemployment benefits, spending on infrastructure, and other programs to help the working poor have great stimulative value.

On the other hand, tax cuts for rich people and corporations are among the least stimulative actions you could take, and actually drain the economy.

It has been demonstrated again and again that the economy works by “profits-up,” not “trickle-down.”

If you want to create jobs, flood the lower and middle class with spending money. That’s where they money has the greatest positive impact. Trickle-down is like trying to eat well by giving a ravenous friend your dinner money and hoping that he brings you leftovers.

Arguments to the Contrary

Conservatives typically avoid arguing about how working class spending affects the economy because the answer is so obvious. Instead, they focus on the poor, starving rich people.

A popular argument is straight out of Ayn Rand: rich people are creators, they are the productive class. If you don’t give them tax cuts, and especially, if you dare to raise their taxes, they will decide that it just isn’t worth it, close up their businesses, putting workers out of a job, and the economy will fail.

This is presented as a serious idea, but once you consider it, it is so laughably absurd that it is amazing that anyone is actually trying to argue it.

One excellent example is Bill O’Reilly, who, on his show (in 2011, when it was still on), made this exact point. He used himself as an example. O’Reilly said that if Obama, who was president at the time, were to raise the marginal tax rate to 50%, O’Reilly would have seen that as too onerous, and would have quit his cushy, estimated $20 million-a-year job, laying off “scores” of workers. Why? Because O’Reilly having a take-home of $10 million instead of $12 million (if the top marginal rate were the real rate, which it is not) is just too little for him to sit on his ass all day and pontificate to crowds of adoring fans. What a hard life to lead. No, he would have rather fired dozens of people who depend on him rather than suffer with only $10 million a year, with a personal net worth of at least $50 million. Poor little rich man.

Not to mention the fact that business is a cutthroat environment absolutely brimming with people waiting in very long lines to compete. The moment one businessman closes up shop, a hundred more jump out to compete for the business left behind.

The conceit also assumes that the people controlling these companies are so uniquely talented that the next hundred would not be able to do nearly as good a job. Like, I suppose, Donald Trump, perhaps? No. While some have talents in marketing and management, these are not unique talents limited to the special few. There is more than enough talent out there.

In addition, the very idea that a businessman would close up shop with only fair profits instead of excessive profits is preposterous. People in business have to be able to weather the most severe storms, including intense competition, market downturns, and all the way up to bankruptcy and rebuilding. And yet the Randian theory suggests that all of these people are so weak and frail that a 10% tax hike would send them packing.

Any real business owner who shut down their business because of a tax hike would be mocked viciously as they were trampled by the stampede of other businesses clamoring to take their business under the higher tax rate. Profits are profits, you never turn one down.

Then there are the bogus statistics. Conservatives have two basic arguments why tax hikes on rich people won’t work. First, rich people don’t have enough money, and second, they pay too much in taxes already.

The first argument says that even if you taxed rich people at 100%, it would only produce enough revenue for running the government for a few months; there just isn’t enough money there to do the job.

The second argument is that rich people already have too high a burden. In this argument, they claim that the top 1% of income earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government. So unfair! And let’s not mention that the top 1% own about 40% of the wealth, so a 40% rate is more than fair. No, let’s totally ignore that.

But wait. Those two claims by conservatives don’t add up. The average real tax rates (the actual percentage of earnings paid as taxes after all adjustments are made) for the top 1% is given as 25%. And if 25% of their income pays for 40% of all taxes collected, then 100% of their income should pay for 160% of all taxes. That would absolutely be more than enough to do the job for the whole year and then some.

The discrepancy between the two arguments proves that these people are playing fast and loose with the numbers; both arguments are full of lies.

Usually, individual conservatives don’t make both arguments; some make one, and some make the other. But few make both. Few, but not none. In 2011, Michele Bachmann shamelessly made both arguments in one three-week period. No one in the media called her out on it.

In fact, you should consider why rich people still work at all. I mean, if I had ten million dollars free and clear, I would fucking retire. I would buy a nice house and live well off my savings.

So, why do rich people keep working? I can see six reasons:

  1. They like money. there are variations on this, but it boils down to greed. No amount of money is enough. Give me more, more, more. It’s an obsession.
  2. They want to win. They want to be the best, or at least amongst the best. They want to have the biggest pile of toys, the most corporations, the biggest mansions, the greatest private jets and yachts. It’s a competition.
  3. They have a monetary goal. Once they hit certain figure or status, they consider their goals achieved, and then stop working—but will continue working until that happens.
  4. They have a non-monetary goal. Maybe they believe in the work they are doing, and money is just a means to that end. Maybe they hit their monetary goal way back when, but keep at it because they believe they can accomplish something that they consider important.
  5. They love their work. They love doing what they are doing, they are artists or professionals who believe in what they do, and love doing it more than anything else.
  6. Their identity is based upon working. They need to work, they have to do what they do; they would not know what to do with themselves if they ever stopped.

So, how would these people respond to higher tax rates?

  1. People who like money would still like money. They would actually work harder for it.
  2. People who want to win would still want to win, even if the prize were smaller.
  3. People who have a monetary goal would have to work longer and/or harder to achieve that goal. Yes, they would then quit, but they would have quit sooner if their taxes had been lower.
  4. People with non-monetary goals wouldn’t particularly notice, unless somehow the increased taxes made it impossible to reach their goals—and considering how exceptions are always made to encourage more business, it is safe to assume they’d be covered.
  5. People who love their work regardless of the money would still love their work and keep doing it.
  6. People whose identity is based on working would still work.

As you can see, with all of these groups, raising taxes would not stop any of them—and with some, it would actually spur them to work harder and longer.

And then there is one more reason that we knowing high taxes on rich people would work: because we did it and it worked.

At Davos in 2019, Michael Dell scoffed at the idea of a top marginal tax rate of 70%, retorting, “Name a country where that’s worked!”

Well, The United States of America, Mike. For 45 years, from 1936 to 1981. The fact is, the higher we taxed rich people, the better the economy was. High tax rates helped us win WWII, and helped create a supercharged middle class that created an economy that even conservatives refer to as a “golden era.” Clearly, we did not tax rich people out of existence.

As a result, we know for a fact that a top marginal rate of 70% will, in fact, work extremely well.

Oh, you know what else we had before the top tax rate was lowered below 70%?

We had unions. That is, a mechanism to fight for better pay and benefits for the working class, thus enabling more wealth in the hands of people who actually power the economy.

The point, I hope, has by now been made abundantly clear. Our economy is better off when we tax the rich more and the working class less.

The Slow and Brutal Dementia of the Right-Wing Base

It is astonishing that this race is within the margin of error.

Many on the left are astounded that so many conservative Christians in Georgia would reject a compassionate, profound, and clean-living Christian pastor like Reverend Raphael Warnock, and instead prefer the deranged and hedonistic pathological liar Herschel Walker. The thing is, this is nothing new; the phenomenon goes back to Ronald Reagan, and has only been growing since then.

People were incredulous when an actor, Ronald Reagan, who was clearly not too bright, ran for office. We believed his popularity was due to his acting skills, his charisma and charm—which, at least in part, was true enough. His supporters were perfectly willing to ignore the dim-witted nature of the man, instead creating their own image of his power and brilliance in defiance of what everyone witnessed.

But then republicans got behind George W. Bush, a privileged, former-drug-using, bullying little snot who was a serial liar, an AWOL draft-dodger, and clearly dumb as a post.

Not too long after that, republicans went absolutely wild over Sarah Palin, a corrupt, lying idiot who couldn’t answer even the simplest of questions—and even preferred her over John McCain, who, while he had his own issues, was at least pretty smart, and was a war hero to boot.

And then, of course, there is Donald Trump, who topped the chart with his pathological lying, his malignant narcissism, his appeals to violence and hatred; his cheating, stealing, and fraud; his racism, misogyny, and open contempt for disadvantaged people; his openly criminal intent, his open assault on institutions and truth, and even his hostility to democracy itself. He became not just their hero, but their savior. Their fealty and adoration turn out to have been not opportunistic but true, as it maintains its intensity even beyond his usefulness to right-wing desires.

With each of these inept, easily-manipulated, unqualified, and clearly broken people, their corruption and ill deeds just got more and more outrageous as their intelligence shrunk to almost vanishing insignificance.

Herschel Walker is nothing new; he is simply the latest in a clear trend, a progression—or, more accurately, a regression—towards a crushing singularity of lies, debauchery, and stupidity.

And so we find that an increasing number of republican voters not only don’t respond to intelligence, character, or values, they in fact don’t give a rat’s ass to any of it. All they care about is one thing:

Will they rule in my name?

Beyond that, most republicans could care less about the person. Put a known pedophile, a rapist, even a mass murderer up for republican candidacy, the ever-growing base will vote red.

Even worse, it actually seems that the more reprehensible and asinine the candidate is, the more they vote for them. One might think that the republican base was simply voting for whomever ran on the republican ticket, but no—they actually seem to prefer lying, corrupt, idiotic scumbags.

As confounding as this may be, once you look closer at the culture, and see the contempt for compassion, the destructive “make the world a worse place” attitude, their joy in making people they don’t like suffer for their entertainment, and their unrestrained desire to serve their animal pleasure of domination of others, you begin to realize that these people suffer from a sort of sadistic nihilism. Hurting people is the whole point. Wrecking the world is what they want. And they seem to not care the least about values or consequences.

Herschel Walker, in fact, may be even closer than Trump to being the embodiment of the republican base.

We have to realize that their behavior is not an accident or even very fringe; it is, in fact, a movement in and of itself.

No, They Don’t Want That

Neither Trump nor republicans want the affidavit released, just as they didn’t want the search warrant released.

This is a very common republican tactic: by demanding to have something released when they believe it is unlikely that will happen, they can raise doubt while at the same time pretending that they have nothing to hide.

Well, that backfired when it came to the search warrant: Garland got the warrant and receipts released, to the vast embarrassment of Trump and the GOP.

Now they’re screaming for the affidavit, as if somehow that will fully exonerate Trump. This time, they feel more confident that it will not be released, as releasing affidavits is very rare.

Of course, they might actually get their wish—and if they do, they will surely regret it. An affidavit would show the cause the FBI had in asking for the search warrant—and that could potentially be worse for Trump than the search warrant was.

Of course, republicans have another motive: the affidavit would reveal the FBI’s source(s) that they supposedly have within the Trump inner circle, or at least clues as to who it could be. This would help them because it would give them a target to endlessly smear and accuse—not to mention signal to their fringe crazies that open season is on for snitches.

If the affidavit is released, which it probably won’t be, it would hopefully be heavily redacted to hide all sensitive information.

In Which Conservatives Hold That Liberals Are Racists

Common right-wing claim: Liberals are racist.

Argument: liberals believe that black people cannot achieve anything on their own, and need special help and favors, whereas republicans respect the ability of black people to succeed on their own.

Flaw: This argument makes many extremely fallacious assumptions:

1. That racism and other impediments do not exist; that people of color share an even playing field with white people, and have an equal chance to succeed in any enterprise.

2. That liberals believe that racism has no impact; without this assumption, liberals would only be misguided, not racist.

3. That liberals believe that people of color cannot successfully compete in a fair and equitable environment, and so push artificial advantages on them that they do not need, eroding their self-confidence and self-reliance.

Ergo, since liberals believe people of color are inferior, liberals are racist.

That’s not some distortion I cooked up, that is the actual theory as explained to me by various conservatives. I will assume for this writing that any conservative making this argument atually believes it. Many likely do. But many know the argument is a crock and spread it because it serves and entertains them.

So let’s unravel the flaws:

1. The core of the argument, of course, hinges upon the assumption that racism simply isn’t a thing, that it has no significant impact. This is outrageously wrong; the evidence that racism exists, both personal and institutional, and has a substantial impact, is overwhelming, to say the least; it takes a fantastic level of willing blindness and denial to state otherwise.

2. The very idea that liberals do not believe that racism exists or has any impact is laughable.

3. Liberals do not fight to give people of color any advantages. All that liberals try to do is to remove obstacles created by racism and level the playing field. Not even close to the same thing. Liberals, for example, want to establish hiring guidelines, workplace rules, and other protocols that make the job market equitable and fair.

Of course, conservatives would not agree to many of these basic facts. They argue that racism has no impact in society, using fallacious examples like “we elected a black president” and “employers hire strictly on merit.” They use anecdotal evidence as if it were statistical; just last week, a conservative argued that of course the playing field is level, because “black millionaires and billionaires exist.” I hope that I do not have to explain to the reader where the flaw in this argument resides.

Furthermore, they expect liberals believe the exact same thing, or else are deluded.

And, since they believe (or claim to believe) that the playing field is level, they see any attempt to actually level the playing field as giving black people a decided advantage. Imagine a white person going into a room where they are told that they will get equitable snacks, and find that they are given 15 while a black person across the table has been given 5. An arbiter appears and says, “There has been a mistake, you got too many and the other person was given too few; we shall even things out.” The white person sees any attempt to give 5 of his snacks to the black person as unfair theft. The white person assumes that the unequal distribution is because they somehow deserve more, and that the lack for the black person is because they did something wrong. Human nature tells us that the reasoning is more venal: “I got the bigger share, for whatever reason, and I intend to keep it.”

When people are born with wealth stolen from others, many won’t and don’t question its validity; as the saying goes, “People born on third base believe that they just hit a triple.” They believe that the advantage is earned or otherwise natural and deserved. They also argue that since white people are often poor, this means that black people cannot be at a disadvantage. “I had to fight tooth and nail to get where I am, and have always had it really rough” is a common right-wing protest that they have it just as bad as black people do. It ignores the possibility that someone else had it worse, or that a much higher percentage of black people than white people have that problem.

Conservatives claim that 230 of years of slavery and 160 years of racial discrimination had no relevant economic impact in favor of white people or at the cost of black people; this idea is ludicrous on its face.

Conservatives deny the facts plainly established, such as that banks favor white people and disfavor black people when it comes to loans, that black people looking for jobs are denied even an interview 50% more often even when they have equal qualifications as white applicants, or that black people are treated differently by police.

So, is the truth that conservatives are racist? One could easily argue that anyone making such a preposterous argument about race as the one detailed above easily fits the bill. However, I will simply note the truism that “While not all republicans are racist, racists are usually republicans.”

Playing the Racist Card

When you hear right-wingers demand Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LCAT scores, do not respond to them by noting that she is an experienced judge at the Circuit level. They know that. That’s not their message.

You have to remember that republicans have laid down a heavy carpet of racist propaganda over the past many decades which makes the assertion that no black person ever achieved anything except through affirmative action. You have probably seen a number of TV shows and movies where someone says to a perfectly qualified white male, “We can’t hire anyone but a minority woman.”

While no white person, according to conservatives, ever has to question if their accomplishments were buoyed by racism—they are outlawing even the expression of that very idea as we speak—every black person must assume that any advantage or higher position they attained was not earned, but instead tainted, given to them in acts of reverse racism: “They only got there by being black.” If you want an example, look no farther than Obama.

And yes, of course it is hypocritical. While Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker is claiming that Jackson is just a “quota” nominee because Biden said he’d only put a black woman on the court, he made no such objections when Trump said he’d put a woman on the court.

 When the wingnuts like Tucker Carlson demand to see The Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LCAT scores, they do not actually want to see the scores—they know they would be outstanding. What they are doing in demanding them is reminding their base that simply because she is black, she is by definition not qualified. They are communicating by dog whistle the idea that Jackson’s rise to the D.C. Circuit Court was only achieved by liberals hiring an unqualified black woman because reverse racism demanded it, and the proof is that Jackson is not revealing her LCAT scores.

The actual reason Jackson probably won’t reveal those scores is because the very request is condescending, demeaning, and insulting, not to mention outright racist; despite having less experience and qualifications, Amy Coney Barrett was never asked to do so. It would be like demanding that a nuclear physicist take a remedial high school math test by people known the hate the person for personal reasons. Agreeing to do it would be to reward the most disgustingly dishonest of people, and to invite even more abusive demands in the future. If Jackson did provide her LCAT scores and showed them to be what we all know they are, pundits like Carlson would only pivot and move the goal posts, demanding to see all her emails or private notes or whatever came next. You give a rat a cookie, it’s going to want a glass of milk.

No matter how dishonestly disguised, the only reservations that have been forwarded about The Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have been, at their heart, racist. Because that’s the only play republicans have against her.

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