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Victor Davis Hanson gets paid

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To write stuff like this.

As a student of the past, the learned professor is no doubt well aware that every ruling class has needed its toadies and flatterers, its court eunuchs and its Hoover Institute Fellows, its . . . but really, what’s the point? Still this particular bit of magisterial toga-tugging caused me to cast my eyes toward the heavens, in expectation that a just deity might feel impelled to cast a Parthenon-sized asteroid in VDH’s general direction:

Reduce much of what Barack Obama says, advocates, and tries to implement and you find a particular kind of despised but uniquely American species in his cross-hairs: upper-middle class, making $200-800,000 a year, employed as a professional or small business person, living in the suburbs or small town America, children in non-Ivy League private and public colleges, a nice house, perhaps a vacation home, boat, 2-3 nice cars, residing outside the east and west coasts without an aristocratic pedigree, for whom food stamps are as much an anathema as is Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol.

Oh put-upon “upper middle class” cultivator of your own vineyard! Oh globe-trotting emeritus being read to by a boy!

Just for the heck of it, I calculated the total monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit a four-person household, consisting of one adult and three children, is eligible for in Colorado, assuming the parent of the children works full-time and earns ten dollars an hour, has a monthly rent of $800, pays $100 a month in utilities, and has no other sources of income. The answer is $474 a month. This is the massive redistribution of income that so offends our classical scholar, as he wrinkles his nose in distaste at the leveling immorality of nations — countries far less wealthy than the United States — where it is taken for granted by literally all respectable political opinion that it is not acceptable for people to starve because they happen to be poor.

Since Hanson is so fond of ancient texts, perhaps he should review this one:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

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  • Yog Sothoth, Devourer of Souls

    in expectation that a just deity might feel impelled to cast a Parthenon-sized asteroid in VDH’s general vicinity:

    I am not, and never have been, just, but let me assure you that Victor Davis Hanson knows well the fate appointed unto him. An asteroid would be merciful, and that is not a quality for which I am known.

    • NonyNony

      Feh – like Victor Davis Hanson has a soul to worry about.

      • Yog Sothoth, Devourer of Souls

        Feh – like Victor Davis Hanson has a soul to worry about.

        Well, not any more. I was feeling a bit peckish back in the early eighties. I gained a snack, and VDH gained a career.

        • Mrs Tilton

          This comment makes me need to gay-marry Yog Sothoth, D.o.S.

          And, because the nation is in the thrall of the Dusky Kenyan Usurper, we can not only get gay-married in New York, we can get Islamically gay-married, with mandatory socalized-medicine abortions for all the guests.

          • Yog Sothoth, Devourer of Souls

            I can only marry in R’lyeh, where dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. Few jurisdictions give marriage equality to an Elder God who is not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence’s whole unbounded sweep — the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy and mathematics alike.

            And even then, I still have to file Single for Federal tax purposes. It is enough to make an Elder One smitey, it is.

  • wengler

    Ah yes, the rich that benefit from living in a country where they don’t have to hire private guards or transport themselves in armored car convoys.

    They are so put upon with their 19 percent effective tax rate.

  • Anderson

    Jesus, what kinda commie Islamoclassic text ya quotin there, Campos?

  • DrDick

    Over $250,000 a year for the household puts you in the top 1.5%. That is not middle class, upper or otherwise. That is upper class, no matter what pampered, overfed class warriors like Hanson think.

    • L2P

      Not just over $250k, but up to $800k! He’s talking about people that are taking in almost a million a year.

      That’s a long way from even the long-suffering law firm junior partners, successful dentists, and junior VPs that complain about the cost of private school and childcare. We’re talking about people that are jetting off to Paris for the weekend and leaving their kids with the weekend nannies because, what, you don’t?

      And really, if a few 16-year-old moms have to give up their foodstamps to keep the not-quite-absurdly-wealthy in spare Beemers, well, is that too small a price for America to pay?

      • DrDick

        $800,000 puts you in the top 0.2-0.3% of household income in this country

        • R. Porrofatto

          My instant reaction, too. In what Bizarro U.S.A. does an income of $800,000 qualify as “upper middle-class?” The number of strata of what these nutjobs insist on defining as middle-class is approaching infinity.

          • Malaclypse

            In what Bizarro U.S.A. does an income of $800,000 qualify as “upper middle-class?”

            In the same USA where a schoolteacher getting 45K is an overpaid union thug with a cadillac benefit plan.

            • Malaclypse

              I was trying to be snarky, but VDH beat me to it.

              • Matt

                Amazing the way his logic works – now all he needs to do is find someplace where he can start up a business where the “workers” pay $100 a day to get raped in the ass by farm animals, and nobody will EVER be able to complain about their job again! (by his principle of, “well, your job sucks less than THAT job so STFU”)

          • DrDick

            Anybody with less money than Bill Gates is middle class in their world.

            • L2P

              If you have fewer personal servants than Victorian aristocrat, you’re middle class.

      • Davis X. Machina

        He’s talking about people that are taking in almost a million a year.

        Backup shortstops? Lefty one-out guys?

  • thebewilderness

    Yanno, I read an article in a magazine once about how to feed a family of four on $400 a month.
    It was in 1968.

  • Mikey

    Crack whores get paid too . . . what’s your point?
    PHD Schmee HD – some people suck dick for a living. There it is.

  • Man it clearly so sucks to be rich that I wonder why people don’t give up all their money…

  • efgoldman

    Oh DAMN Paul.
    I clicked the link.
    Now I have to wash my eyes out with Clorox(tm) and my brain with battery acid.
    Aaiiiiiiieeeee….

    • DrDick

      Always. Stay. In. The. Boat.

  • Murc

    You know, what I take away from that parable is ‘Abraham is a hypocrite and an evil, colossal dick.’

    • DrDick

      That is why I prefer Matthew 25:31-41.

  • Bill

    Court eunuchs often performed essential administrative functions, and deserve better than to be equated with Victor Davis Hanson.

  • An even more ancient text:

    Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

    Ezekiel 16:49

  • howard

    i would love to see how many people there are that actually fit hanson’s profile here: it’s not just the relatively small number of people who make that much money.

    they also have to be employed (not business owners or partners), live in a suburb or small town that is not on the east or west coast (not manhattan, or the bay area, or los angeles, or other locales where high-pay is more likely), and send their kids to public schools and colleges (oh yeah, there’s just loads of people in that income bracket who favor public schools and state universities).

    i mean, what a ridiculous construct.

    that said, though, i do think we need to be clear about one key point: even a person making $800K a year has more in common with a median household than with the upper .1%, which is where the real high income is, the people making millions to tens of millions.

    that doesn’t make them middle class, but neither does it make them truly high income people in the american income distribution table.

    • DrDick

      It does not make them the highest income people, owing to increasing concentration of wealth and income at the top over the past 30 years. It does make them truly high income people. The top 0.5% starts at $397,949 and the top 0.1% at $1,134,849. $800,000 is a lot closer to the top 0.1% than even to the top 0.5%. They have absolutely nothing in common with the bottom 90% of Americans.

    • Paul Campos

      that said, though, i do think we need to be clear about one key point: even a person making $800K a year has more in common with a median household than with the upper .1%, which is where the real high income is, the people making millions to tens of millions.

      that doesn’t make them middle class, but neither does it make them truly high income people in the american income distribution table.

      I think this is only true in a narrow mathematical sense. The declining marginal utility of income helps ensure that the $800K and $20 million a year families are both, broadly speaking, members of the same social class — one that has essentially nothing in common with that made up of families making the national median ($50K).

      • Malaclypse

        In either household, there is exactly zero chance of existing paycheck-to-paycheck.

        • Warren Terra

          Some such profligate might exist – consider all those poor bankers who we were told in late 2008 were facing utter ruin after years of making bonuses on that scale – but surely we need have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone who earns the median annual income every fortnight or so and yet manages to live from paycheck to paycheck.

        • howard

          as it happens, i’ve had the experience of working for 4 billionaires in my time.

          if you think they have more in common with people earning $800K a year than the people earning $800K/year have with those earning a median income, i think you’re absolutely wrong.

          the thing that isn’t a fantasy in hanson’s account of these folks is that they probably own 2 homes, 2-3 cars, and a boat. they worry a lot less about losing their job and making their mortgage payment than someone with a median income, absolutely true.

          but they are not people who can get senators or governors or congresspeople to return their phone calls; they are not people who can afford high-priced legal and accounting talent in the face of the slightest misstep; they are not people cops are afraid to give a hard time to.

          and of course, i deliberately picked $800K, the highest end, to make the point, but everything i just said is even truer for people at $300K/year.

          i’m not sympathetic in the slightest to the moaning and whining of these folks how tough they have it; i’m not sympathetic to the idea that their taxes shouldn’t be higher (although i personally think we need another bracket that starts somewhere around $2M, give or take); i’m not claiming that their lives aren’t considerably easier than those existing paycheck to paycheck (although i can guarantee you that there are people – or households – earning $300K/year who do live paycheck to paycheck, admittedly after socking away considerable sums into their retirement account and having a hefty mortgage on their beautiful home).

          i’m simply saying that lumping those people with the plutocrats and the super high income is an analytic error, although it appears to be one that many enjoy making….

          • DrDick

            No, lumping them in with the bottom 90% is an analytic error. They are highly privileged plutocrats. The fact that there are people who are grossly more privileged than they are does not change this fact. They have nothing in common with the rest of us, other than the fact that they have less money than Bill Gates.

            • Malaclypse

              I’m willing to grant that someone making 800K is probably not a rentier, but they sure as fuck are not in the same social class as the bottom 90%. I’d posit that 90% are analytically working class (in the sense that they all fear the loss of a paycheck), some fraction of 1% are genuinely rentier oligarchs, while those in between are either successful entrepreneurs or else lackeys of the oligarchs.

              Yes, I’m sure there are holes in this schema.

              • howard

                malaclypse: i don’t have a basic problem with your schema, so i’ll only say that i’m not lumping the $800K household into the same “social class” as the $50K household.

              • DrDick

                Quite a few rentiers earn $800,000 a year or less. George W. Bush comes to mind.

            • Murc

              Er… that’s unfair, Doctor D.

              Making half a million dollars a year makes you rich, and highly privileged. It doesn’t necessarily make you a plutocrat with nothing in common with those making the median wage, especially if you do happen to be someone who is truly self-made (a vanishing breed).

              • howard

                murc, since you’re largely agreeing with me, i hate to disagree with you, but no, making $500K/year doesn’t make you rich.

                it provides you an opportunity to become rich, which is a different matter.

                income is not wealth: if you’re making $500K/year and spending $550K/year (not unheard of), you’re likely not as well off in net worth terms as someone who is making $80K a year but spending $60K.

                take a look, for example, at how many highly compensated athletes and entertainers think they’re rich because of their paycheck, spend it all, and discover that no, they don’t have much net worth at all.

                (nor should i limit that to athletes and entertainers; although there is a declining utility of money, it’s not like spending for status, or assuming that you’re richer than you are and pursuing a lifestyle accordingly, suddenly go out of style when you earn $500K annually).

                • Murc

                  I suppose that’s true, Howard, but I have to say, if you’re making half a million dollars a year and AREN’T rich under your definition, you had better have a damn good excuse. ‘Putting five kids through college at the same time multiple uninsured family members suffer from expensively debilitating illnesses’ excuse.

                • take a look, for example, at how many highly compensated athletes and entertainers think they’re rich because of their paycheck, spend it all

                  After some hard thinking I am forced to agree that people who spend all their money don’t have money left.

                • dave

                  Is this the ‘you’re only rich if you die rich’ argument? Personally I’d settle for blowing half-a-mil a year, if that was the choice.

            • howard

              dr dick, i didn’t “lump them in” with the bottom 90% of the income ladder.

              i said they have “more in common with the median household than with the upper .1%.”

              we can quibble to some degree over the $800K household; we can’t even quibble over the $300K household.

              • DrDick

                Yes, we can quibble over that $300K household, which is in the upper 2-3% of the income distribution. I will concede that they do not have a lot in common with those in the top 1%, but it is more than they have in common with those earning the median income. If you are in the top 5-10% you are pretty much by definition rich. I wish I had the standard deviations for the US income distribution so I could give and exact number, but in a normal distribution (which US income is not), being in the top 5% would put you 2 standard deviations from the mean.

          • L2P

            You’re arguing over how many bags of money can dance on the head of a pin.

            • Warren Terra

              More like how many bags of money can dance on a football field, but I take your point.

    • kth

      The only important thing is that the political interests of the semi-millionaire and the billionaire are, for all practical purposes, identical. A senator may not take a meeting with a mere neurosurgeon from a medium-sized town. But the surgeon doesn’t need the meeting; his interests were perfectly well-represented by the plutocrat the senator cannot afford to ignore.

      • Paul Campos

        Exactly

      • Malaclypse

        The only important thing is that the political interests of the semi-millionaire and the billionaire are, for all practical purposes, identical.

        But they are not. The surgeon needs a stable society, with customers that can pay, directly or indirectly, for his/her services. The surgeon will eventually retire, and needs to do so well before his/her handle begin to get shaky with age. The surgeon needs us, and we need the surgeon. The surgeon, if s/he is at all aware, knows that disasters can still happen. The surgeon does best in the stable, Keynesian world of 1948-1973.

        None of this is true for the billionaire. S/he can get any need, any whim, satisfied in any of dozens of societies, and need owe loyalty to none. The billionaire really does do best in the deregulated, low-tax world of 1980-now.

        Eventually, the billionaire will fuck over the surgeon.
        The billionaire needs none of that.

        • Malaclypse

          his/her handle

          Hands. Damn auto-correct.

          • mpowell

            I thought you were just bringing the hip to the conversation.

          • mpowell

            I also agree 100% with your point. The problem is most Surgeons don’t. They would rather sabotage their customer base with low taxes. The problem in our country is that this class of people does not, in fact, understand the difference between their own situation and the already mega-rich.

      • DrDick

        Ding!

      • timb

        this times 100

  • Aaron E. Baker

    Whenever Victor Davis Hanson gets mentioned, I share some choice excerpts from his novel, No Man a Slave. For example:

    The Spartans are trapped at Leuktra, their king Kleombrotos dead. But just as the Thebans are to crush the final circle and carry off Kleombrotos, Lichas charges through the enemy to save his the body of his king, and nearly kills Chion, Melon, and Epaminondas as he finds a path out.

    Lichas and his son cared nothing for the collapse of the Spartan ranks, much less the truth that the day of his parochial state was over. No worry that its dwindling manhood would never again march far to the north as it had for a 100 seasons and more.
    No, it was enough that they were Spartans. Now in the joy of battle, now with their grip on shield and spear, whether that was here in the north or far to the east. His son was with him. Good men still lived. Life was sweet, the best when in the hammer and tongs of battle.
    Spearing Persians or Thebans, it mattered little. Whether in the heyday of Spartan power or now amid its twilight also countered for nothing. Lichas was Spartan and in his armor, the gear of no less than Lysander himself. So he was stalking proudly and upright despite his age. If the Spartans were to lose, they would lose the way of Leonidas and Lichas, killing as they protected their king with all blows to their front.
    The stabbing now grew fiercer still, and Lichas smiled as he heard the dying around him in vain begging the Keres to pass them by, the vultures of death now back above Melon, but who kept their wide distance from Lichas lest such a man strike even them a lethal blow.
    Then without missing a step, Lichas stepped on the downed Chion’s chest and tried to stomp the slave to death. The slave rolled away, and Lichas moved on to finish off others less dangerous.
    But the slave stumbled somehow to his feet, bellowing, “Chion lives! Kill the king! Where is Kleombrotos?” Then Chion crashed to the ground again, still muttering as the battle raged past him.
    Lichas next slammed his freed shaft with an upward flat stroke against the helmet of the onrushing Epaminondas himself. Before Epaminondas could recover from the slap and with his men swarm such a killer, old Lichas stooped down, and with one fluid motion, more a god now than human, picked up his bleeding king, slung him over his back, and used his body as a shield to batter himself a way out back through what was left of the guard. Antikrates backpedaled behind his father, screaming for all those still alive to follow the path of the old man.
    They were aiming at an escape route, perhaps back through the shattered circle and on right through the Sacred Band to the open country—slashing and shouting as their leader went ahead, “Turn Spartans. Turn back. Draw back from these stinking pigs. Apostrepesthe tôn suôn. They will not have our Kleombrotos. They will not have a Spartan king for their slop. Not today, not ever.”
    There were perhaps only 100 Spartans still alive in the circle who broke out with Lichas, the bald hoplite god, roaring to all, “Not today, not ever, not today, not ever—ou sêmera, oupote, ou sêmera, oupote.
    These were desperate and defeated men, abandoned by their allies, surrounded by the Boiotians. But such killers were now buoyed by this late appearance of their bloody Ares, their god Lichas who had always found a path out for them.
    With Lichas they were determined to fight their way out with their Kleombrotos rather than surrender. With Lichas by rote they returned to all their training and as if awoken from their trance backpedaled in column.
    With Lichas, almost magically they wheeled around and plunged ahead through Pelopidas’s men to their rear who thought the battle was long over. With Lichas in the armor of Lysander they could do anything! One man, a single man like Lichas was worth a lochos, maybe two.

    Clearly, Lichas was worth at least one lochos. But even better is this passage, where Epaminondas shows us how to up a Thespian:

    But tell me this also farmer,” Epaminondas pressed even closer, still grinning at upping the Thespian. “Think when you have wasps with the sharp tails in your vineyard that Malgis planted. You know the terrible black ones. The ones that sting the paws of sleeping Sturax over there. Or land on the nose of Porpax. Or even in their pride jab the tall legs of your Neto or the chest of buxom Damo—do you chase them all over the orchard, flailing at one or two of them with the broom or clapping at them with your hands?”

    “Of course, not!” Odd that the Theban knew of Neto and his son’s wife Damo, and of Chion and apparently Sturax and Porpax too, but at least not Gorgos as well.

    “You think me a fool, Theban? To protect this household that you apparently know so well, I hunt out the nest of these stingers and then burn them out all at once with a torch of straw. Yes, I do. And so would you, had you any sense.” Melon sensed the Theban had a good lid on his own pot, and would need two or three more sticks on the fire before boiling over.

    Still, Epaminondas flashed his black eyes, “Then don’t mark me a fool either, when you call me dream monger and worse. Like an old woman by the fire, you warn me that it is terrible to fight the Spartans. Maybe it is—as we both know—or maybe not. But when you fight the Spartans, you must kill their king. No one, not even our Malgis had done that. Then when you take on Sparta, you fight in Sparta, not where and when the kings slither or buzz to sting you.”

    I, for one, will never forget those slithering kings.

    • grouchomarxist

      And Hanson’s deathly — er, I mean deathless prose never won a Bulwer-Lytton Award? The thing’s rigged, I tells ya! Rigged!

    • I’m definitely not getting out of the trireme for that.

  • Murc

    Something that ought to be pointed out is that the people in VDHs example might BE rich, but they don’t FEEL rich. (No judgment. At least not yet.)

    Let me unpack that. I’ll use my own family as an example. My Dad is a successful doctor, a specialist. Owns his own practice in partnership with another doctor. He clears about 200k a year after taxes. He’s rich, by any definition. If I really press him on the issue, he’ll admit that.

    But he doesn’t FEEL rich. (Again, no judgment.) He owns a nice house and takes a vacation every year, but he doesn’t own a mansion and a house in Vail and another in Cabo. More to the point, the cultural signifiers of both himself and his peers are solidly middle-class. They live in housing developments, not gated communities. They’ll spend twenty grand re-doing the kitchen… and brag about how they got an awesome deal on it instead of having to pay FORTY grand. They drive Mercedes and Audis and such, but they buy them used and hunt for a cheap price, and then put seventy or eighty thousand miles on them. Their clothing isn’t bespoke. Most critically, they worry deeply about their kids, because they’re rich, but they’re not WEALTHY. They won’t be passing on trust funds.

    I pressed Dad on this once, and he admitted to me, “I know I’m rich. But… rich guys are the ones who buy Congressmen and Senators, and have kids who will never have to work a day in their lives, and wreck entire countries, and brag about how much money they can blow on a pointless luxury, and who talk to my secretary like she’s an object when they’re paying out of pocket for me to do some utterly stupid cosmetic procedure for their feet. I don’t feel like that. I don’t FEEL rich.”

    But Dad is pretty self-aware. It comes as no surprise to me that the people in VDHs example would think of themselves as middle-class and solidly resent implications they ought to contribute more to society. VDH is deserving of ridicule and disdain, but he has tangentially put his finger on a very real attitude that needs to be dealt with for what it is, rather than what it SHOULD be.

    • howard

      murc, well put.

    • DrDick

      I do not disagree with that, but the central point is that those in the top 5-10% ARE rich, not matter how they feel about it. Wealth is an objective measure in relation to the overall income distribution and not a subjective state.

      • Murc

        That’s absolutely correct, Doctor D, but we do have to deal with what people FEEL their objective states are, even if they happen to be wrong.

        You are quite correct that the overall point is that those in the top 5-10% are rich. But many of them do not feel like they are rich. That’s a misperception that needs to be corrected before we can move forward constructively.

        And educating people is hard, especially when it involves educating them to believe something that’s personally damaging.

        Basically my point is that there are a lot of people up there who aren’t rentiers, who don’t identify as rentiers, and whose moral and class interests don’t align with those of the rentiers (I sense actual legitimate disagreement between us on this one point) while simultaneously being rich themselves. And we should approach this subject from that perspective, because its more correct, and we try and deal with reality as it is, yes?

        (I really feel like I’m expressing myself badly but can’t think of a way to be more clear.)

        • DrDick

          Obviously many people in the $300,000-800,000 range (I have no idea of the percentages) are not rentiers (which really reflects the sources, rather than the amount of your income, though normally reserved for those at the upper end). Your father is a good example. I will also concede that their political interests do not entirely coincide with those of the rentiers, though they are often closer that to those of the median income. It is also important to recognize that not all upper end rentiers agree on political goals or interests (George Soros/warren Buffet vs. the Koch Brothers of the Waltons for instance). Our elites are not monolithic, even within income strata, but they do share many common interests (in the sense that they benefit directly from the same policies).

      • Joshua

        DrDick, I’ve had this convo with my girlfriend and that’s where I am leaning to.

        I’ve often heard it said that “$250K ain’t much in Manhattan.” Except it is. It may not put you in the top 2.5% like in the rest of America, but you’re still in the 90th-93rd percentile. If you’re making $250K in Manhattan, you’re doing better than 9 out of 10 people. It’s a lot of money.

        It doesn’t feel like a lot, because Manhattan is expensive, and there are people a lot richer all around you. But that is irrelevant. You choose where you live. That’s part of living in this “free country.”

        A doctor or accountant bringing home $250K a year in Manhattan, though, honestly? I think he has more in common with his janitor than the hedge fund guy on the UES. A doctor’s lifestyle is still dependent on his income. The hedge fund guy bringing home $60M a year is not.

        • Anderson

          I’ve often heard it said that “$250K ain’t much in Manhattan.” Except it is.

          Yes; for one thing, you get to live in Manhattan.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Right. I’ve said this many times, but if it’s really important to you to have more ivory backscratchers, then move to Yonkers.

    • Holden Pattern

      As has been said in these conversations many times over, and now I quote me:

      It’s just all about fear, frankly. These people are afraid that they’ll lose the lifestyle they’ve levered themselves into (which is not necessarily a profligate lifestyle—just a secure one). And you know, that’s not an unreasonable fear—as noted above, the market is basically rigged, there’s almost no way to get a return on liquid investments, and there’s no social safety net that stops you above the poverty line.

      A couple bad hits in the market, a serious illness (in some parts of the country, an earthquake or other uninsurable event), and they’re fucked. And at a mean age of 56 [this was specific to the other conversation, but most people who are earning a couple hundred or more a year are mid-career at the earliest], they will never get it back.

      None of this is to underplay the difference between their situation and the situation of people who are truly poor, or truly struggling, but it does make it plain that the fight to climb into the rentier class is a fight for a decent life with some security, and that the current model in the United States is for the truly wealthy to buy enough political influence and create enough insecurity to ensure that everyone else is stepping on each other to try to make that climb instead of making common cause.

      Hanson, of course, is part of the machine that tries to keep everyone below the rentier class divided, and none of that is intended as an excuse for whores to the rentier class like Hanson.

  • Fats Durston

    It’s not giving the money away that bugs STD Hanson. It’s that food stamps create a class of power tool thieves.

    • hv

      In that enterprise

      • hv

        Ooops, I was trying to say… in that enterprise, he is looking out for the middle class almost entirely! The rich can buy more power tools.

  • bobbyp

    Yes, the “lower rich” @ +300k/year have little in common with the hedge fund managers of the world. However, they have even less in common with the night janitor cleaning their waste baskets for $8/hr.

    • DrDick

      My point exactly.

    • Holden Pattern

      This is probably true. But until you can convince the people making a nice living that they do have common cause with the janitors scraping by, under a system where wealth = power, you will have a hard time getting the people making a nice living to do the right thing — they will instead focus on levering themselves up into the rentier class on the backs of the janitors.

      • DrDick

        Which is a pretty good description of the system we have now. I am not sure how much you can convince them that they have in common with the janitor (I am not sure how much they actually have in common for that matter).

        On the other hand, I think it is possible to make the case to them (as is the case with Soros, Buffet, and Gates to some extent) that they stand to benefit from protecting and promoting the interests of that janitor. Malaclypse’s point up above is key to this. You can even make the point for the billionaires, if you can get them to look past their narrow, short term interests.

  • commie atheist

    Meh, VDH is low-hanging fruit, Why, EvenTheLiberal Matty Yglesias thinks that ultra-rich assholes get a raw deal in America:

    In other words, it seems to me that if you’re a waitress or a cab driver or a security guard or a carpenter or a cashier you’re perfectly entitled to regard “the elites” as encompassing the CEO and the professor and the blogger too. Whose life you’d prefer really has to do with your tastes and preferences. The diminishing marginal utility of money means there’s a strong case for redistributing funds from people who have a lot of it to people who’ll get more use from it. But that very same diminishing marginal utility of money means that there’s little reason to believe that inequality in real living standards among the elite is nearly as big as the inequality in income.

    Shorter Yglesias: Yeah, rich people make lots more money than they need, but they have to join lots of golf clubs and go to board meetings, so, like, it totally sucks to be them.

    And yes, he’s best friends with Megan McArdle, also, too. Fucking douchebag.

    • Walt

      That was an inept and annoying post by Yglesias, but his point is exactly the opposite of VDH’s — that professors and bloggers are privileged too, so its not surprising that people making median income and below regard them as elite.

    • Ben

      There’s been a quick surge of Yglesias Hate recently. He didn’t do anything enormously d-baggy, did he?

      • Murc

        Not really, no. It’s just… mmm.

        I forget who coined the term, but Yglesias is a huge proponent of what I’ve seen referred to as pity-charity liberalism. He’s in favor of largely libertarian economic policies coupled with explicit redistribution; that is, literally taking cash money away from the rich and handing it over to the poor still in the form of cash.

        This is ENORMOUSLY annoying to those of us who think that such a system is massively unlikely to work in the real world for any length of time.

        • bay of arizona

          And the only way this could be facilitated would be through giving labor a lot of leverage (Scandinavia has the free market/massive safety net) – but he loves to bash unions as well which makes it even more implausible, or nothing better than intellectual masturbation.

          • Scott Lemieux

            but he loves to bash unions as well which makes it even more implausible

            This is not actually true, but anyway.

            • L2P

              That’s very true.

              He doesn’t bash unions.

              He only bashes some of the LARGEST unions. A then fervently supports economic policies that will inevitably erode and destroy unions. And then offers very modest support of any pro-union measures. And then opposes any regulations that would actually support union-dominated industrial development. And of course this is all in the middle od his basic neoliberalism, where we can be libertarian free traders because we can robin hood are way to equality with measures that exist (and seem likely to exist) only with large unions to support them.

              So, yeah, OK. Technically, he doesn’t “bash” unions.

              • mpowell

                This is basically true. But I don’t put it down to ill-will when you’re talking about Yglesias. He has the view that we can have a relatively open market economy and still get social justice. He’s probably wrong in his assumptions of what is possible, but it’s much different from feigning concern for the poor in the process of advancing a conservative market agenda.

        • Walt

          I saw that characterization in his comments, and thought it was spot-on (the commenter termed it “charity liberaltarianism”). What’s annoying about it is that it substitutes Econ 101 shibboleths for actually thinking about the issues. It’s important to be mindful of the effects of regulations, but it’s not like we can deduce these effects from a short list of first principles.

          It’s also annoying to read. He clearly is reading a bunch of economics papers, so he’s picking up jargon like “equilibria” and “club goods”. This is barely tolerable from a professional economist, but fantastically annoying coming from a dilettante.

          bay of arizona’s comment, on the other hand, is bullshit. Yglesias is pro-union, except for his obsession with teaching reform.

        • mark f

          He’s Catherine Keener’s character from Please Give.

        • Anderson

          Yglesias went to Harvard. That is bound to affect one’s notions about class.

          It seems safe to say that in MY’s case, this effect was not to inspire a longing for the day when those spoiled bastards get theirs.

          • In all fairness, Harvard graduates are more consistently liberal than those of other Ivy League universities. Also, familiarity can breed rather different combinations of empathy and contempt….

          • hv

            That is bound to affect one’s notions about class.

            “affect” is not incorrect; but “effect” may be more accurate. And I love using it as a verb.

  • Christopher

    I’m not a VDH expert, but has Hanson always been so stereotypically… old?

    The conversation’s ostensibly about a power tool that got stolen or his last vacation and all of a sudden he’s going off on how the pinko fags are ruining the country and black people are all thugs and now one of them is in the white house and you just sort of nervously smile, murmur something that sounds conciliatory and try to tactfully direct the conversation in another direction while praying there are no strangers in earshot.

    Didn’t he used to at least have a little restraint?

    • Joshua

      When did he have restraint? When he was inserting himself and his right wing cohorts in 300?

  • les

    Yeah, the problems of the top 5% are largely illusory, and dipshits like VDH are idiots. But the fact that the 95% have ceded control to the 5% is the crazy bit; I don’t give a shit if the 5% think they’re middle class, or put upon, or any of it. Why the fuck do more than half of the 95% facilitate their rule, is what I don’t get.

    My comment can’t find a node? WTF?

    • Malaclypse

      Why the fuck do more than half of the 95% facilitate their rule, is what I don’t get.

      Because many people think they will be rich, someday.

      My comment can’t find a node? WTF?

      Normy deletions cause havoc with the threading.

      • les

        Yeah, I get that many people believe it; that somehow the top 5% will accommodate half the population. But they’ve also apparently agreed that the appropriate way to be rich is to be a vindictive, amoral greed head whose pastime is kicking the shit out of anyone below them on the ladder. I guess I’m just naive–I hate it when that happens.

        • DrDick

          Sadly, that is the most common route to becoming (or remaining) rich in the first place.

  • Paul, the takeaway from the column for me was this:

    2. When listening to national network or cable news, please assume that during the half-hour show one of the talking heads — anchor, correspondent, interviewer — is either married to or dating another like talking head at another station or paper, or a DC politician, and that most of what we shall subsequently hear is predicated on that fact. The nexuses are usually sex, money, power, or a shared quest for celebrity, and they lead to a warped view of contemporary America — the deranged hatred for the upstart and independent Sarah Palin a prime example.

    As Warner Wolf used to say on the news here in the city “You coulda turned your TV off right there.”

    This basically negates the entire FOX News network.

    • jackd

      Nice catch, actor212.

      The odd thing is that right up to the last clause I, and I think most people here, would agree. It’s just a slightly broader conception of The Village. Of course VDH’s fealty oath included loving what his masters love and shunning what they shun, and they love them a Liberal Media myth.

  • H-Bob

    Why is making people earning $200K-$800K pay a 4% higher marginal tax rate viewed as “despising” them ?

    • DrDick

      Really! If I actually despised them, I would call for a 90% marginal rate on income over $250,000. I reserve that for income over $1 million (them I really do despise).

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