Saturday, September 29, 2012

tall poppy syndrome

Amy Stein and Stacy Mehrfar have just published a collection of photos which explores tall poppy syndrome in Australia. As Amy states in a recent interview with Benjamin Starr, “Stacy was visiting NYC from Sydney and... in the course of discussing life in Australia she mentioned the term. I immediately said that would be a great book. The term was so strange and arresting to me. When we realized that it represented a viewpoint and practice so far from ideas of American individualism and exceptionalism we knew that we potentially had an interesting project.” For rest of brief interview and selected images go to

Given current election campaign dynamics, perhaps the ideological proponents of great wealth would do well to address critics in relation to this particularly "unAmerican" concept.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

dissecting "the 47 percent"

Candidate Mitt Romney continues to wield a very blunt scalpel in his dissection of the U.S. class structure. A video clip from a May 2012 speech to prospective contributors has ignited the most recent campaign firestorm. In it, he states that "47 percent" of Americans "view themselves as victims," and he's not interested in reaching out to them. The clip, initially published in a Mother Jones article by David Corn, will no doubt receive big press over the duration of the campaign. Romney goes on to claim the "47 percent" are government dependents, who pay no federal income taxes. Juliet Lapidos in a New York Times article examines the 46.4 percent of Americans who paid no federal income taxes during 2011. This population, quoting Lapidos, has the following characteristics:
  • They are more likely to live in Republican states. The states with the highest percentage of non-filers, with the exception of Florida and New Mexico, are solidly red. Ezra Klein calculates that Mr. Romney will receive “96 electoral votes from the ‘taker’ states” while Mr. Obama will receive 5. (29 are tossups.)
  • More than one-fifth are elderly. David Frum says they’re “people who pay no income taxes because their income takes the form of Social Security.”
  • Most of them pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than Mr. Romney. Here’s Ezra Klein again: “Among the American who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes—which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid.”
  • Some of them are simply too poor to pay federal taxes. In 2011, 18.1 percent of households paid neither income tax nor payroll taxes. Within that group, more than half are elderly; over one-third are nonelderly with annual income under $20,000.
  • Some of them are wealthy, and manage to slip into Mr. Romney’s dependent-victim category due to exemptions and deductions. As ABC noted in June, “20,752 households that reported earning more than $200,000 in 2009 paid no federal income taxes. About 1,500 of those tax-free Americans were millionaires.”
A series of graphics providing greater detail about those Americans who paid no federal income taxes during 2011 is available at NPR.   

Update: see Jamelle Bouie's July 2014 Slate article for a history on the use of the "47 percent" meme among conservative politicians and pundits.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

income, unemployment, and foreclosure: interactive map of U.S. states and counties

NPR has published a handy interactive map of the U.S., providing recent data relevant to household income, unemployment, and housing foreclosures. Data, color-coded per county, allow for easy visual comparisons between states and regions. Users may drill down to obtain precise county level figures.

Monday, September 3, 2012

why prole day? how about bourgeoisie day?

Why is there a holiday set aside to celebrate labor? This brief video from the History Channel provides an overview of its origins within the context of class division and strife. On the other hand, Gerald Skoning in an article today for that bastion of capitalism, The Wall Street Journal, asks "Why Not Corporation Day?": "Corporation Day would be a joyous celebration of capitalism, a three-day national holiday honoring the great industrialist pioneers, business barons and tycoons of our nation. We would pay grateful respects to the Mellons, Carnegies, Gettys, Fords, Rockefellers and, yes, the Kochs, for their contributions to our country's prosperity." 

Happy Labor Day!

Today's Labor Day edition of The Washington Post includes a brief animated video depicting the status of labor relative to the pro-deregulation position that is being articulated by Romney-Ryan. In your opinion, does this cartoon provide further support for claims by conservative critics, as suggested in this video, that mainstream media evinces a decided "liberal bias"?