Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And the Emmy for 'best performance in a comedy' goes to....

Anyone else catch Fred Thompson's star turn last night? I've always thought Thompson was a marvelous, scene-stealing character actor, even though he plays the same character every time, and that character is Fred Thompson. I must also confess to a special fondness for him pursuant to the fact that Warner Bros. cast him as celebrated Texas defense attorney Racehorse Haynes in Bed of Lies, the 1992 TV movie based on my 1987 book, Deadly Blessing. (Once again, he played Haynes as if Haynes were playing Fred Thompson.) Anyway, Thompson played himself again last night, snide and curmudgeonly as ever while reminding us of how delighted we all are about the way the economy is going and, therefore, how silly and out of touch guys like Barack Obama look when they tell us otherwise. Fred seemed pretty pleased with himself overall, but I imagine he must've let forth with a groan or two when Joe Lieberman went on-stage moments later and began droning about the understandable concerns we all have over the energy crisis, the mortgage crisis, the health-care crisis and the other "huge problems" faced by "millions of our fellow citizens." Lieberman was off-message in a variety of not-so-subtle ways from start to finish. In fact I got this mental picture of some GOP strategist standing next to Thompson and fuming, "OK, who invited Lieberman! Whoever you are, fire yourself!"

The whole thing reminded me of a Harper's piece I'd thought it was vitally important to blog about a few months ago, so naturally I forgot. It was a lucid and eye-opening essay, "Our Phony Economy," by Jonathan Rowe. I urge you to go hunt down a copy in your local library, because it's a must-read if you've ever wondered why (a) the stock market so often appears unfazed by the sundry daily concerns that plague the rest of us and (b) your own financial circumstances are out of whack with all this "economic growth" you keep hearing about from GOP officials, Lou Dobbs and others. The target of Rowe's piece was the indicators experts use in assessing the economy; they consider only the quantity of economic output, as opposed to the origin, nature and/or quality of that output. To the geniuses who tell us how America is doing, $100 billion spent on an interminable war in Iraq or an emerging pollutant-based disease that threatens to end life as we know it is still $100 billion, and is thus considered a "plus": a sign of prosperity. Similarly, if the top 5 percent of American earners are raking in enough to offset the monies the rest of us are bleeding out, the economy is "healthy," at least by the numbers.

I've been thinking lately that perhaps the health of the economy should be measured only after lopping off the contributions of the top 10 percent of individual wage earners and corporations. What do you think? Any economics mavens out there?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking lately that perhaps the health of the economy should be measured only after lopping off the contributions of the top 10 percent of individual wage earners and corporations. What do you think? Any economics mavens out there?

I LOVE that idea! I'm not an economist but....

Maybe we can also start assessing our education system by ignoring the grades earned by the top 10% of the student body.

We can move easily into evaluating healthcare. Let's review ALL surgeries in this country then delete any statistics concerning 10% of the successful surgeries that resulted in healthier individuals.

I think you're onto something here.

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. Do I detect some sarcasm? Is this Fred...?

Elizabeth said...

Good post, Steve.

P.S. See this for a satirical take on the convention:
http://tinyurl.com/5rlv28

Cal said...

People can read the article you reference here:

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/06/0082042

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Cal. I didn't think Harper's allowed archival access to non-subscribers.

Elizabeth said...

BREAKING NEWS! (Well, sorta ;)

Dr. Laura spoke out on Palingate. And guess what? She disapproves!

Now what, McCain? It's one thing to dis Hillary supporters, but Dr. Laura's fundamentalist Christian worshipers? You cannot afford to alienate them!

http://tinyurl.com/5skm3g

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what Liberman was doing at the GOP convention? He looked as welcome as a whale on land.

Anon 2:45, you obviously do not know a lot about healthcare in the United States. The World Health Organization ranks the United States as the worse in unwanted and non-required surgeries. I guess you are counting plastic surgeries. Please explain how you plain on paying for emergency room care in the U.S., since they are nearly bankrupting states to keep them open. Please tell me what you plan on doing about the deficit the U.S. has with China, which grows daily. Please tell us about fallen bond and commodities markets. How do you suppose the U.S. will recover from those? Please anon 2:45, I am all ears and I know a few economists.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I'm in the top 10% of wage earners. And in the past 18 months, I have hired 7 new employees (including 2 single moms) with an average annual salary of $70K plus benefits (none of these people are related to me). I had to take on over $600K in debt to make the business grow - after throwing $300K of my own savings into the business. You could say "I've got skin in the game."

Why would you want to exclude my accomplishments when measuring the strength of the economy? What do you think you would be measuring? The bottom 90% of wage earners pay less than 30% of the income (not payroll) taxes. Those of us in the top 10% are paying over 70% of the income taxes. Who is pulling the cart and who is riding on the cart?

Sure, I'm going to have a big income this year, along with a six-figure tax bill, too. But I took a huge risk - with no guarantees - and I created high-paying jobs before I was able to make my big income. So when my taxes go up, I won't create any more new jobs; buy any more new equipment. Rather, I'll probably terminate my least-valuable employee (or two). And they just happen to be single moms.

Stever Robbins said...

Another excellent article is "Numbers Racket" by Kevin Phillips, Harpers May 2008. He traces the measures of inflation and "cost of living" for the last three decades and shows how, inch by inch, year by year, they've been changed for political expdiency--by both parties--into nearly meaningless numbers.

He ends with a summary of what unemployment, inflation, etc. would be if calculated today the same way they were calculated in the 1970s.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks to our contributors thus far for the well-considered feedback. I'm going to wait and see if this develops any traction, and then I'll have more to say.

RevRon's Rants said...

Just wanted to interject here that tonight's award for best comedic performance should go to Mitt Romney. During the course of his tirade against "liberals," he made the point that growing government is a "liberal" thing, and went on to bemoan the "liberal" government that has made the government grow so much these last 10 years. I guess he forgot that control of government budgets has been in the so-called "conservative" camp during that period. When the crowd actually cheered his absurd statement, I had to leave the room.

Four years ago, the London Daily Mirror responded to Dubya's victory with the headline, "How can 54 million Americans be so dumb?" If the intelligence displayed on the convention floor tonight is any indication, the question remains pertinent.

Anonymous said...

Please explain how you plain on paying for emergency room care in the U.S., since they are nearly bankrupting states to keep them open. Please tell me what you plan on doing about the deficit the U.S. has with China, which grows daily. Please tell us about fallen bond and commodities markets. How do you suppose the U.S. will recover from those? Please anon 2:45, I am all ears and I know a few economists.

This is me, responding: I have no idea. As I said, I'm not an economist. But I do know this:
we won't solve any of these problems by making it more difficult or more expensive to operate or own a business in this country.
We won't do it by taking more and more from people like Anon 8:17 who run the businesses that help this country run. Or telling them that their success and financial contributions are meaningless, and do nothing but misrepresent the sad, pathetic story we should really be reporting about the state of our economy.

Elizabeth said...

We are about halfway through Palin's speech and, what can I say, she is good. Looks good, sounds good, and her charm works wonders. She could indeed be selling bridges to nowhere and nobody would object. Her speech is, so far, the best of the convention today.

And the kids are adorable, especially the youngest daughter (licking her hand to smooth Trig's hair... aawww...)*. This is going to be more of a Palin/McCain ticket than the other way around.

Can't wait for her debate with Biden.

*No, I have not changed my mind about Palin-the politician and her agenda, LOL, despite my appreciation of her appearance today.

P.S. That GOP audience is so white that one needs sunglasses to dim the glare.

Elizabeth said...

Levi Johnston's convention diary:
http://tinyurl.com/65qc85

(Man, did he look uncomfortable up there...)

Elizabeth said...

There were many whoopers in last night's convention speeches, many of them in the Palin's speech itself (those snide comments about Obama showed that under her charm there is manipulativeness, a disregard for truth, and plenty of ruthless snarl -- she is a pitbull with lipstick, as she herself admitted).

But I think Giuliani's "enthusiasm" was hard to beat:

the first day she was mayor, she had more experience as an executive than -- than Obama and Biden combined.

Ahem.

Anonymous said...

The Harpers article that you reference is a response to an earlier, January 2008 article by Eric Jantzen on the necessity of bubbles to the worlds economy--he gives quite a gobsmacking overview of the historical antecedents to our current troubles and tellingly equates our view of economics in general to the dynamic of True Believers putting their faith(and money) in a new religion, imaginary god and salvation---the inevitable bust being equated to the loss of religious illusions, the loss of faith and the frantic search for a new, more powerful (but still imaginary) god/saviour.
Parallels with a lot of New Age madness, I think.

Anonymous said...

Is the NASCAR dad still a big deal in this election? If so, I think the NASCAR dads just went for Gov. Palin in a big way. The former jock/beauty queen; outdoorswoman also has a sense of humor - she got in some pretty sharp elbows of her own last night.

Any woman who puts the governor's jet for sale on ebay won't run up your credit cards at the mall. Plus, (unlike Hillary) she didn't screetch.

The Democrats are very, very scared. The war is going well, gas prices are falling, and Biden just can't relate to the average American. Two years of big leads in the polls are meaningless. The race for the White House won't be as uncontested as they had planned.

RevRon's Rants said...

"We won't do it by taking more and more from people like Anon 8:17 who run the businesses that help this country run."

Let's just stick with the "trickle down" model. We know for a fact that small business owners who make more money are gonna give their employees a fair reward for their efforts, and corporate boards will always raise wages, rather than pay stockholders bigger dividends. Stockholders would have it no other way.

At some point, *someone* is going to have to pay the tab we've run up this last 7 years. Voodoo economic policy *still* won't work. And the Chinese are willing and able to buy up our markers (they've got a great start). Myself, I'd rather sacrifice to get us back on track than leave it for my kids to handle or sit back and allow other countries to buy our country up, piece by piece.

I can understand the Republicans' current fear. They've had the reins for years, and can't really point to any kind of success, so all that's left to them is shrill attack, which will end up actually moving voters to the Dem side. I only hope the phenomenal grassroots movement we're seeing will scare *both* parties into acting in the country's best interests for a change.

Mike Cane said...

I really really reeeeeally want to hit you upside your head, Steve. Only NOW do I find out you had a book other than SHAM?!

Right, what others? SPEAK!

Mike Cane said...

OK, now I really really reaaaally want to slap you upside your head! For this:

>>>It was a lucid and eye-opening essay, "Our Phony Economy," by Jonathan Rowe.

You stood in the Comments here a few months ago and excoriated ME for claiming that the only TRUE economic reporting was coming from England! Now you suddenly have a clue that we've been lied to Left AND Right?

You exasperate me!

Anonymous said...

"But I do know this:
we won't solve any of these problems by making it more difficult or more expensive to operate or own a business in this country."

I think you have to understand WHOEVER is in the White House will make EVERYONE pay. Does not matter if he is a Democrat OR a Republican. I will pay more taxes too with Obama so what? I will do it gladly if we can fix this country's healthcare system since I pay for rising healthcare costs ANYWAY. I don't care about paying the taxes, but WHERE my tax money is going. More pork belly projects for the elected officials? Hey, lets make elected officials pay for their own healthcare? See how fast that would work.

Why is no one upset that Bush changed the bankruptcy laws that AFFECTED small business people like Anon 8:17? Bankruptcies laws were lenient to encourage more business, but the credit card companies did not see it that way. We might as well just make debtors prisons, because credit card companies want their pound of flesh. They created a system where the credit card holder is ALWAYS the loser. No politician is talking about that.

The Iraq war is not going to pay for itself either. So get use to higher taxes. Remember Bush 1? His immortal words were, "read my lips, no new taxes." See how that worked out. Neither presidential choice is going to “fix” the economy.

Anonymous said...

The economy is unfixable because all we ever see is smoke and mirrors, fudging of the statistics, deliberate bubbles perpetuated, all in order to give power to either one or another bunch of corrupt politicians--we the electorate always get fleeced, always pick up the tab, no matter who wins in these elections. The promises are always exactly that, promises that the future will be better, the oasis is over the next hill, heaven is around the corner. The promises are always shown to be so much hot air in the fullness of time.
Maybe we need to rethink this whole set-up.

Steve Salerno said...

Mike, join the club (of people who want to slap me upside the head, led by my wife). But remember--again--that many times I fly things up the pole to see who salutes. The fact that I dispute one thing doesn't mean I'm endorsing it's opposite thing, or anything else, for that matter.

And if that makes complete sense to you, you're way ahead of me at this time of night, after 15 hours at the keyboard...