Paul Krugman and “Equivalences”

In light of the Supreme Court ruling that people with lots of money can spend as much as they want to get the people they want elected, Paul Krugman takes a look at “Equivalencies”:

There are definitely times when it seems that our winner-take-all society is also a whiner-take-all society; it’s really amazing how quick billionaires are to portray themselves as victims because some people say nasty things about them.

One remarkable aspect of this whining is that the nasty things aren’t really all that nasty. Saying that the Koch brothers are using their wealth to promote a political agenda that will make them even wealthier is a substantive claim, not character assassination; it’s not at all the same as, say, suggesting that Hillary Clinton is a murderer. Yet the Kochs and Perkinses act as if this kind of thing were utterly vile, an attack on their liberty.

The other remarkable thing is the instant escalation of hurt feelings into a Godwin’s Law violation. You see, liberals criticize the Kochs; that makes them just like Hitler and Stalin, who murdered their opponents.

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

Grape expectations

Business Insider has put together a map ranking wine consumption by state. Here are the results:

imageOK. That looks like New Hampshire is the winner, but it’s not.

image-1

The winner is Washington, D.C. So this chart tells me that the District of Columbia gets so drunk, it thinks it’s a state.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the biggest wine consumers in the world:

image-2All right, wild guess. That looks like France leads the way. Of course, I’m wrong again:

image-3

Vatican City? Well, OK, yeah, that’s a country, and a not very sober one, but in a place with only 800 people, I’m sure the wine industry isn’t running special ads to get more Vaticaners (is that what you call a resident of The Vatican?) to buy more wine before it’s time.

And Andorra? Isn’t that like a suburb of France and Spain?

Get out the dog whistles: Paul Ryan and Ronald Reagan

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That’s interesting. I never had any doubt about what the reference meant. We can file it away with Ronald Reagan talking about the “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps and the Cadillac-driving “Chicago welfare queen.” The right has certain “dog whistles” where they think only their constituents hear what the mean. But it isn’t just the Fox News viewer who gets the message anymore.

The Democrats’ war on capitalism

The next time your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs bloviates on how that Kenyan, socialist usurper in the White House and every pinko commie Democrat president (and he will say “Democrat” instead of “Democratic” because that’s the way Tea Baggers speak) are giving away the hard-earned cash of America’s job creators to the moocher class, pull out this chart (via Bloomberg):

2_bloomberg_stocksA couple of things to point out.

1) The “job creators” put their money in the stock market because they have so much of it. There’s no where else to put it. The “moocher class” doesn’t put money in the stock market, because, hey, ya gotta eat. So, really, who do you think is suffering when a president actually talks about raising a minimum wage? That guy with the top hat and the monocle on the Monopoly board?

2) The premise of this chart is flawed, because anyone who knows anything about investing in the stock market will say you don’t pull all your money out of it when there’s a president of a different party in office. Surely, you can’t believe that the minute Bill Clinton and Barack Obama walked in the White House, the billionaires funding the Tea Party called their stock brokers and said “Sell everything. We’ve got to get out of this commie market!” They left their cash where it was, and the billions flowed in.

On the other hand, your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs is the kind of guy who did sell all of his stocks and buried his cash in his backyard bomb shelter when the hated Democrats took power.

That might explain why he’s so pissed off that his retirement fund that “hasn’t done Jack” since he built his portfolio when Dick Nixon took office. (I would have said “began his 401(k),” but those didn’t exist until Jimmy Carter’s administration, and Uncle Muggs would never put his money in anything that was created when that peanut farmer was president.)

Yeah, that chart proves the Democrats hate capitalism. After all, it grows like weeds when they’re in office.

What does your nation’s leader drive?

What’s interesting in the following chart is:

1) The queen of England got ripped off.

2) South American leaders drive cheaply (look at Chile and Uruguay).

3) The premise that you can determine a country’s level of corruption by the cost of a head of state’s car is really stretching it.

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Feeding hungry children in America

This is an amazingly kind thing to do (from USA Today).

After hearing last week that dozens of Utah students had their school lunches taken because their accounts were delinquent, a Texas man decided to help students in similar situations near him.

Kenny Thompson, a 52-year-old mentor and tutor at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, did some research and learned that children at the school where he works were receiving cold cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of full trays of food because they had negative balances on their lunch accounts.

These were children whose parents couldn’t afford the 40 cents per day fee, so Thompson took $465 and paid off the delinquent accounts of 60 children, KPRC television reports.

Because the following were amazingly evil things to do:

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

And this:

A St. Louis County cafeteria worker is out of a job after giving away free meals to a child in need.

For two years, Dianne Brame worked as a cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves, keeping kids’ bellies full for their all-important task of learning.

The lunch lady loved her job: “I knew kids by their names, I knew their likes and dislikes, so it was just fun.”

But recently, she came across a fourth grader who consistently came without money. She says he used to be on the free lunch program, but language barriers got in the way of reapplying: “I sent them paperwork so that they could get back in contact with me, but it didn’t happen,” she says.

For days, Brame snuck the boy lunches. She explains, “I let his account get over $45 which I’m only supposed to let it get over $10, and I started letting him come through my lunch line without putting his number in, and they look at that as stealing. I thought it was just taking care of a kid.”

She was trying to protect him from the bullying: a cruel side dish to the default cheese sandwich given to kids without lunch money.

So, less than $500 will help ensure 60 American children have at least one decent meal a day. Otherwise, they go hungry, and people who attempt to feed them lose their jobs.

There are a lot of poor people in the U.S. and as the middle-class shrinks, it’s not because more middle-income workers are becoming rich. It’s because more of them are becoming poor. And those hardest hit by poverty are children.

So it’s always a good time to understand economic history. And since I haven’t referred to Paul Krugman in a while, maybe it’s time to look into the YouTube vault and hear him talk about income inequality and how we’ve gotten there:

Income inequality, poverty, hungry children. They’re all related. And as the generosity of one man in Texas shows, it really doesn’t take much to help children in need.