Income Inequality: A Problem That Isn’t

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

The debate over “income inequality” has simmered for some time, but now seems to be upfront as a key dividing line in American politics. President Obama uses the concept to make his case for raising the federal minimum wage. And, the Oregon Department of Employment reports on the so-called growing wage gap between rich and poor in our in state as though that were our primary economic problem.

But many who see income inequality as a major problem tend to have a fuzzy understanding of how our economy works―and who is to blame for our economic problems. They seem to think capitalism is evil. They seem to think “rich people” are evil, and they assume rich people gained their wealth by stealing money from the rest of us.

But that’s wrong. Most rich people got that way because they operate in our free-market system to provide goods or services that the rest of us willingly purchase. They create value for us, and for themselves.

Take, for example, the late Steve Jobs of Apple Computers. Jobs died in 2011 at the age of 56. From starting Apple in his garage back in 1976, he accumulated some $8 billion by creating and selling a number of very innovative products to millions of people. From desktop computers, to iPods, to iPhones, and now iPad tablets, Jobs made many lives easier and more enjoyable, and made many of us more productive. For that, those of us who freely purchased his products rewarded him with great wealth. He didn’t steal money from his customers. No one was forced to buy Apple products.

And yet, many people seem to believe that somehow Jobs and other rich people did just that: stole money from them. They think rich people get rich by making other people poor. What they fail to recognize is that poverty is not created. It’s the default condition of mankind. It’s wealth that has to be created.

People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Sam Walton of Walmart created fabulous amounts of wealth by meeting the needs of the rest of us. We gladly buy their products because they make us better off, not because there is some government mandate that we do so.

But, President Obama either doesn’t understand that or chooses to ignore it. In 2010 he told us that he thinks at a certain point “you’ve made enough money,” meaning that after that point you should pay more taxes than other people.

However, rich people are, if anything, already paying more than their fair share. In the year the President made that statement, the top one percent of tax returns included 18.87 percent of all adjusted gross income and 37.38 percent of all federal individual income taxes paid. The top 5 percent earned 33.78 percent of income and paid 59.07 percent of taxes. The top 10 percent earned 45.17 percent of income and paid 70.62 percent of taxes. How much more should they pay to make everything “fair?”

Billionaire Warren Buffet says that, because much of his income is in the form of capital gains, he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Those who seem to envy the rich are demanding he pay at least as much as his secretary. They want to raise his tax rate up to hers.

But I suggest instead that we might want to lower her rate, and ours, down to Buffet’s. I think most of us would prefer to have our taxes lowered, rather than increase taxes on the few billionaires among us. That would help make most of us better off, rather than making the rich few worse off.

And, even if income inequality were a bad thing, a strong case can be made that government solutions may make the inequality worse. As recently noted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, President Obama’s proposed $10.10 minimum wage, if applied across the economy, likely would reduce total employment by some 500,000 jobs. This is another acknowledgement that raising wages above what relatively unskilled workers are worth to a business is likely to lead to some of those workers either not being hired, or actually losing jobs they already had at the bottom of the economic ladder. Raising the minimum wage simply chops off some of those lower rungs on the ladder.

Whether or not income inequality is fair, finding ways to reduce it by helping low-income earners improve their skills and qualify for more demanding positions would be a good idea. However, reducing it by pounding down the top earners through higher taxes will not help low-income earners; it will actually make them worse off.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Jack Lord God

    It has been my experience that those who proclaim loudest to abhor income inequality tend not only to luxuriate ostentatiously in the benefits of wealth, but pursue policies that increase the condition with keen interest.

    It has also been my experience that those who complain about society being unequal tend to eschew the trappings of the common man, run from activities that would force them to rub shoulders and in general pursue an elite Valhalla that removes them from any experience of equality by as great a distance as possible.

    • John Dorman

      Conservatives spend so much effort talking about the messenger and not the message. Why? Could it be they want to persuade and not educate? Could it be they have no intelligent argument against the message and so they criticize the messenger and try to assassinate the character instead?

      For example, “those who proclaim” and “tend not only” and “pursue policies” and “tend to eschew” and “run from” and “force them” and “in general pursue” and “removes them” and “those who complain”.

      When are you going to talk about the issue and not the one’s talking about the issue? You know you can never defend a point of view on an issue that way. Why? Because you have not given a defense based on the issue. That is why I have not replied to any defense based on the issue. You have none in evidence. Waste of time.

      • Jack Lord God

        I love people who reply to a post, with a post that is longer than the original post, and then conclude with the “waste of time” flourish.

        Guess I got under your skin a little there. Tee Heee (impish grin).

        • John Dorman

          I am an observer searching for the truth. That’s my only motivation. I test ideas against other ideas. You appear to have other reasons. You have not, as far as I can tell, made any useful comments to further the purpose.. But you go ahead with your agenda if it’s worthwhile to you. It doesn’t matter in the least.

    • John Dorman

      It’s not a question of proclaiming to abhor income inequality, that’s NOT the point. The point is to understand it. To understand who, what, when, where, why and how of income inequality. Are you serious? What does emotions, anger, or if I could enjoy wealth and the pleasures and comfort wealth brings to an individual. If I am a hypocrite and want to avoid poverty and pursue wealth at the same time I still try to understand the problems of poverty that inequality and greed promote. What does that have to do with the cause/effect and objective reality of inequality? Or how does that advance any point you are attempting to make? Inequality is still as real as ever. What is your point?

      Does it make me what? a hypocrite? If I want to understand the cause/effect of inequality? and yet I would not be saddened if tomorrow I played Power Ball and won millions of dollars. Even if I kept it all for myself what would that mean? And what is your point about who or what I am? I am an observer searching for the truth and the objective truth is still there regardless of who you are or I am. You are trying to make a point about objective truth with a subjective value statement about humans. Comparing apple juice and concrete.

  • Dick Winningstad

    “…. poverty is not created. It’s the default condition of
    mankind. It’s wealth that has to be created.” Excellent quote Mr. Buckstein.

    • LulzPdx

      poverty is not a default condition of mankind, just a large portion of it.

      • John Dorman

        I agree for reasons stated above.

    • Thanks, Dick, but I have to credit others for thinking of it first. I first read it in Robert Sheaffer’s marvelous book, “Resentment Against Achievement.”

      Looking further, I found this earlier portrayal of the concept offered by science fiction author Robert Heinlein:

      “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of
      man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

      “This is known as ‘bad luck.'”


      • John Dorman

        “The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few and the one.” Mr. Spock, the Bible. et,al. Humans are sentient/sapient species that are capable of moving forward and beyond, out of systems of inequality and exploitation. They don’t have to, by any argument or justification you prefer to offer, stay at any condition that what you are calling a historical normal. It’s not “luck”. It’s human institutions and the process of cause/effect. Humans are not fated or ordained to be poor or rich. It’s not an accident. It’s a function of the power of design and organization, human activity and thinking. Both equal and non exploitative and unequal and exploitative system can and are developed. It’s not luck or accident. It’s human’s thinking, designing and developing and taking advantage of those systems and organizations and the powers it produces and affords. In predatory Capitalism the wealthy has a huge advantage in that power and therefore conducts Class Warfare to exploit that advantage. These are realities you ignore.

        • Jack Lord God

          >These are realities you ignore

          Actually those are assertions. For example:

          “Humans are sentient/sapient species that are capable of moving forward
          and beyond, out of systems of inequality and exploitation.”


          There is zero evidence humans are capable of moving beyond systems of inequality and exploitation. We have no evidence of a society now nor in the past, where people were all equal and none were exploited.

          Example (inequality) – No society has ever existed where I could play basketball or violin the equal of everyone else in that society.

          Example (exploitation) – No society has ever existed where someone who could play violin better than anyone else has not been able to exploit that talent and charge people to see it because they were of lesser equality in such talent.

          >It’s human institutions and the process of cause/effect.

          Again, assertion. There is no evidence whatsoever human institutions or process cause, or can remedy all inequality.

          Example – No matter what process I am a part of, I will never be able to play basketball as well as Michael Jordan.

          >In predatory Capitalism the wealthy has a huge advantage in that power
          and therefore conducts Class Warfare to exploit that advantage.

          Again, assertion. It is ridiculous to single out Capitalism here as counter examples of other systems provide the stronger point.

          Example – A peasent in the Soviet Union, or one in China, or under the Khmer rouge, Castros Cuba, in all of these that peasant has far less opportunity to move up than he would under capitalism.

          • John Dorman

            Do you seriously think when we talk about economic inequality and exploitation we are talking about violins and basketball. Get a clue. And we are talking about Capitalism because we have a Capitalist economic system with a huge wealth gap etc. Get a clue.

          • marvinmcconoughey

            Jack Lord God gave a reasoned response to your post, John. The wealth gap that you identify as being about Capitalism, is more accurately a world wide condition. The most “successful” nations in terms of minimal income inequality have often been those of near-universal poverty. Both we and China, two large nations with vastly different social systems, have found that rising general prosperity comes with gaps and peaks. Few would trade that condition for one of equal poverty. We can and should attempt to reduce abuses but that will not achieve perfect equality, nor should we seek to have perfect income and wealth economy. It is beyond our ability and has no inherent merit.

        • marvinmcconoughey

          John, ask yourself: how realistic is it to believe that the seven billion humans can move “forward and beyond, out of systems of inequality and exploitation?” An unprecedented degree of totalitarianism that would be required to force all humans into equality. Doing so would, all by itself, require massive exploitation of those who are above average wealth and/or income. The totalitarianism would impose further chaos.

          Americans would be the largest losers as we became forced to live at the global average per capita income of about $12,000 per year. See:

          The “system” that you refer to of inequality is, in large part, a reflection of other inequalities in population density, natural resources, climatic differences, and many more, including natural variances of individual human talent.

      • LulzPdx

        I think there is a bad assumption that only a tiny minority creates. Everyone creates. That mindset, however, keeps those with money from pretending that they deserve the money, and that those without, deserve their poverty.

        I liked Heinlein until I moved on and found truly good Science Fiction to read. That comment is as pedantic as as the vast majority of his books.

      • John Dorman

        I don’t resent achievement. I resent corruption, greed, inequality, exploitation, Class Warfare,… Poverty is not about bad luck or slipping back. It’s about the power of wealth to corrupt the political system and economically exploit the Lower/Middle Classes. This “tiny minority” is wealthy economic elite who’s only purpose to be as greedy and wealthy as possible. That’s it, that’s all.

    • John Dorman

      Explain, support and defend that assertion. It’s true wealth is created, therefore by your own logic, wealth is not the natural and default condition of humans. If there is not enough resources (and resources are not finite) to support everyone to a descent and humane level then it is a question of nature and defaults. But if it is sufficient then poverty is created by the schema, designed and maintained, of wealth (resource) distribution. We are in an era of greed and inequality designed by humans, a historical predatory Capitalism that is a human developed competitive
      zero-sum economy of finite resources based on inequality and
      exploitation. It is a greed, and corruption of Class Warfare.There is no natural default. Humans have evolved to sentient/sapient and intelligent species. They can design a system based on equality or inequality and exploitation. Who knows what it will look like in the future, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000… years in the future. If we get to other planets and resources become practically unlimited and populations are under controlled growth? Who’s to say that poverty is the natural default of the human condition of the future? It isn’t “ordained” by nature or anything else that humans have to distribute resources unequally. It is a dictate of greed, corruption and power. That could and probably eventually change at some point. Probably as a function of technology and population factors as all economic modes are historically. Don’t call it natural.

      • Guest

        Give me a picture of your idea of a Fair Society… Come on, Save mankind, give us your NEW WORLD ORDER where everyone is born with the EXACT same EQUALITIES, OPPORTUNITIES, PHYSICAL ABILITIES, MENTAL ABILITIES and at the end of LIFE WILL HAVE EVERYTHING EVERYONE ELSE GETS.. PLEASE, Bring it on, Explain how life can be made FAIR to all, in all things…

        Sounds to me you want the human race to go back to hunting and gathering which would lead to warfare over resources and then again we would have the haves and have-nots… No matter how hard you cry and wine, demand and exploit, no human will bring about the heaven you seek on Earth, not as long as there are men with dreams and a will to work toward them..

        • John Dorman

          You have no understanding of what I said and you have no intelligent response. That is what this reply illustrates. Trying to explain anything to you again is a waste of time.

          • .


          • LulzPdx

            I believe that is the most sense you have ever made. Keep up the good work!

          • .

            Your reconsignment to upper and/or outer Uranus has been approved, condiments of Ripe Marshall Appellwhite, leader of the PAC star dusting out in the tale of Hale-Bopp-Bopp, eerie Bop Bop, pilgrim!

      • Dick Winningstad

        Mr. Dorman, Poverty is the default state for humans. Without organizing for economic advancement one remains in poverty. Or to put it another way, if you don’t work and/or are bad at coordinating the efforts of others, most likely you will be impoverished. I agree that world resources are for practical purposes infinite. Japan has a dearth of natural resources yet the humans are organized to bring great wealth to the country. China is rich in resources and yet has been in poverty for decades (I am only looking at the modern era here) until it decided to re-organize its economic sector and gain wealth as a result. One can compare the East Block with Western Europe and see it is organization not resources that determines relative wealth. The U.S. is a supreme example of wealth generation through organization. It does no one any good to create poverty on purpose as that reduces the number of consumers. I disagree with your assertion that capitalism is a win/lose or zero-sum game. The wealth of the world was greatly expanded by societies that embraced the free market as started in Europe and soared in success in the U.S. Other countries that embrace the free market work better than more controlled ones that plunge their people into poverty. Look at South and North Korea or East and West Germany for good examples of the superiority of the free market. Note that China, Vietnam, and India too are abandoning their more strict controlled systems in favor moving toward greater freedom.

        • John Dorman

          I don’t think we are talking about the same things. You are talking about generating wealth and I am talking about eliminating poverty. I think you have admitted that wealth and poverty are both consequences of cause and effect, the product of human activity and motivations. Therefore a society can work towards equality or inequality. It all depends on the schema of resource (wealth) distribution. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one? It all depends on societal values and the freedom to uphold those values. To maintain a privileged minority wealthy Class is not one iota important as the suffering and misery of many in poverty. And on top of that, it is the majority Lower/Middle Classes that does the labor that creates the goods and services that generates the wealth. That Capitalism generates the huge disproportionate amount of greed and wealth of the Upper Class (note the wealth gap) does not mean it works as a moral or practical societal value. The way you look at it and make judgment depends on your own values and morals. That is not the measure to judge the free market system.

          • Dick Winningstad

            Mr. Dorman, I think we are talking the same thing. The reduction if not elimination of poverty. And, again, I suggest the free market is the best real world solution. Societies with privileged minorities are the products of authoritarian government systems be they royalist systems from the 1700’s or socialist systems of the 20th century. Those systems created or maintained huge percentages of their subjects in poverty while a privileged few lived opulent lives, be they princes or apparatchiks. The greatest generator of wealth for the largest cross section of the people of a country is the free market system with its most efficient use of resources compared to any other system. Other systems may create more equality but it is inevitably everyone being poor. Japan has a very wealthy middle class, N. Korea does not. Nor did Soviet Russia, or any of the modern mercantilism systems in Latin America.

  • Ballistic45

    America is all about giving everyone an equal starting point, NOT an Equal Ending Point !!! Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, but you have to go get it, no one is obliged to hand it to you at a cost to their own Life, Liberty and Happiness…..

    • Gardenhomeboy

      I would like to point out that equality of opportunity is also nearly impossible and is totally a waste of time to pursue. I think the state can only provide specific things such as defense, a police force, courts, (even a limited social safety net if you want), it cannot guarantee the equality of individuals in any meaningful sense at a cost people are willing to bear over the long run. The state should stick to doing things we designed it to rather than trying to guarantee nebulous conditions of equality that under a microscope simply result in the same “equality of outcome”-style oppression and authoritarianism.

    • LulzPdx

      Everyone doesn’t get an equal starting point. Children born to wealth have a huge advantage over people born to poverty.

      • Gardenhomeboy

        Which will always be true as long as wealth has any meaning in human civilization. More resources means more benefits for individuals in control of those resources. While those with less are at a disadvantage, the point is to set up a system where people can get what they need while still being net positive(if possible) contributors to society. Just cuz some students have more in-home advantages doesn’t mean you take away those advantages, instead you try to help others achieve similar outcomes.

        • .

          LulzPdx a bye, LulzPdx a bye and a good night.

          • Gardenhomeboy

            ., Many of your posts are rather esoteric or maybe they are not.

          • LulzPdx

            esotericism of one?

          • .

            Much appreciated your response to LulzPdx, seemingly a left wing persona al grabba kinda all freebies including ones not needed or entitled to.

        • LulzPdx

          It takes resources to help others. Most don’t want to take everything from the haves, just a system that evens the field a little more. You cant do anything about the connections. Those are worth more than the $$.

      • marvinmcconoughey

        Yes, but for reasons not always well understood. Because we are, to a significant extent, a meritocratic society, very smart people tend to become wealthier than our intellectually handicapped brothers and sisters. One can often observe this truth even in a family context. Regression to the mean is normal in such families, but not to full effect. That is, children of the very smart tend to have lower intelligence than their parents, but still tend to inherit above average intelligence.

        Children of the rich also often live in healthier surroundings, have better medical care, attend better schools, and are surrounded by more success-oriented peers.

        None of these effects are universal, absolute, or all-controlling. But on the scale of a nation with more than 300 million persons, the effects are powerful and far-reaching.

        We can and should attempt to provide opportunities for all. When so doing, we should also be realistic in the amount of change that we can bring about.

    • Jack Lord God

      America is about recognizing that we all start with equal rights. Other than that there is no assumption of an equal starting point.

    • John Dorman

      Ok dream on with your John Rawls concept of a level playing field. It is not reality of a predatory Capitalist economic system i.e., the U.S. You have to go get it. Did the millions of the Middle Class who were working hard and going “to get it” have an equal starting point or ending point or hindered by the Wall Street games of the mortgage/derivative re rating fraud scheme that caused the Great Recession and threw them out of jobs and homes. The largest fraud in U.S. history.? Is the Upper Class just trying to have an equal starting point in the pursuit of ” Life, Liberty and Happiness” when they conduct class warfare and subvert the level playing field with their wealth and influence and subversion of democracy and the political system? Your simplistic thinking ignores reality.

      • Ballistic45

        Show me the your guarantee to wealth and happiness that came attached to your ass when you were born!!! I didn’t get one… What the H3LL world do you live in?

        • John Dorman

          i can’t make any sense out of your replies. And I’m sure you don’t understand what I’m talking about. Guarantee to wealth and happiness? I don’t know how you get that out of what I said. But no matter, have a nice day.

        • John Dorman

          If that is the only response you have then you don’t know what world you live in.

          • .

            Boo – and, suggest you desist you seeming or seething leftist mental midget wingding.

          • John Dorman

            I suggest you make an intelligent reply. Oh, look who I’m talking to… a dot, or is it a period? Look on the page, it’s a period, it’s a dot, No, its mental midget wingding. It’s able to leap tall assumptions in a single bound. You’re funny.

          • .

            An’ you’re a stoned face dummy sitting atop a left wingers knows.

          • John Dorman

            A “stoned face dummy”? Or did you mean a “stone faced dummy”? Anyway, someone who writes like you shouldn’t be throwing any stones. A little play on words. But I called it right, you’re funny. I can see why you don’t say much. One sentence and yet full of mistakes and confusion. But, “sitting atop a left wingers knows”? Now that’s more confusing than funny. Did you mean “a left wingers nose.”? Or are you presenting an example of a “mental midget wingding”? That’s a classic, I like that, it shows creativity. May I use that? Your latest, not so much. But keep trying.

  • Sally

    I always say if you want more money work harder.
    It worked for me!

    • Gardenhomeboy

      There is one way to earn more money. Produce more value for other people. Work or the idea of physical or mental exertion is often times a result of value creation! Astounding, I know. Lots of things don’t require a lot of physical or mental exertion and they produce lots value for other people. NOT saying what you did didn’t require a lot of work just that it was more about the value you produce for other people that made you the money.

      • redbean

        Excellent point, Gardenhomeboy. It’s not necessarily how hard you work, but how much your work is valued by others that counts. Only by producing something of subjective value to someone else, do we realize a gain. Furthermore, if we use all of our resources efficiently in the process, we may even see a “profit.” Success = serving others. Apparently, this is counterintuitive to many folks today.

    • John Dorman

      And the person you work for says don’t work harder, work smarter. Or better still let Sally do the work.

  • Ardbeg Again

    Even by Buckstein standards this is a very poorly written paper. Eleventh graders can write a better persuasive paper than this.

    ” They seem to think capitalism is evil. They seem to think “rich people” are evil, and they assume rich people gained their wealth by stealing money from the rest of us.”

    Wow! That’s it? The whole reason for concern over the social consequences of income disparity is “rich people are evil thieves”? I don’t think I have to worry about this article igniting an intelligent discussion when it starts out like that.

    • marvinmcconoughey

      Mr. Buckstein wrote a concise essay that I found useful. His observation is supported by at least some of the comments found online, in books, and in magazines. Truth is, evil–however one defines that concept–is found in every income group.

      • John Dorman

        Yes, but who are the movers and shakers conducting Class Warfare against the Lower and Middle Classes? Who are using their wealth (economic power) to buy the Government (political power)? Who is living the life of riches from the spoils of inequality and exploitation? And who is getting rich from the misery and suffering of the poverty of others? Be real and honest.

        • marvinmcconoughey

          John, we differ greatly in how we perceive economics. There is no “class warfare” against the lower and middle income classes. Any warfare would quickly evolve to armed revolution.

          Governments are indeed affected by wealth, but they are also, in a democracy, affected by votes and public opinion. We all–well, almost all–try to influence government. In some respects it is the role of government to be influenced by its citizens. Trying to distribute that influence into 320-million equal parts would be impossible.

          We have an imperfect system. Improving it is a worthy goal. Trying to replace it with a non-capitalistic system is not a worthy goal.

          • John Dorman

            Your first statement, “There is no “class warfare” against the lower and middle income classes. Any warfare would quickly evolve to armed revolution.” is historically, in the U.S., wrong. As the recent Great Recession demonstrates. How can you predict such a development? And you don’t understand the term “Class Warfare” if you think it refers simple to a direct armed conflict such as a military war. I am particularly referring to the actions of one class to economically exploit another class by any means and more specifically, for example, of destroying and undermining the power of another class. This happens when, for example, as in the 70’s there is a concerted plan and effort to destroy worker Union organizations to limit their power to negotiate in the workplace for such things as wages. A more recent example is Wisconsin when Governor Scott Walker attempted to limit state worker’s ability to negotiate wages. If Enron, where thousands lost pensions, did not result in any violent retribution against officials or if the Wall Street mortgage/derivative re rating fraud, (the largest fraud scam in U.S. history) where millions lost their jobs and homes and without a single criminal prosecution has not resulted in any violence then this disproves your assertion. And certainly disproves the statement that Class Warfare is not a reality or will result in violence. Your mistake is in your understanding of Class Warfare.

            I quote:

            Class conflict, frequently referred to as class warfare or class struggle, is the tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests and desires between people of different classes. The view that the class struggle provides the lever for radical social change for the majority is central to the work of Karl Marx and the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. However, the existence of class struggle is not the product of their theories; their theories can instead be seen as a response to the reality of class struggles.
            Class conflict can take many different forms: direct violence, such as wars fought for resources and cheap labor; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty, starvation, illness or unsafe working conditions; coercion, such as the threat of losing a job or pulling an important investment; or ideology, either intentionally (as with books and articles promoting capitalism) or unintentionally (as with the promotion of consumerism through advertising). Additionally, political forms of class conflict exist; legally or illegally lobbying or bribing government leaders for passage of partisan desirable legislation including labor laws, tax codes, consumer laws, acts of congress or other sanction, injunction or tariff. The conflict can be open, as with a lockout aimed at destroying a labor union, or hidden, as with an informal slowdown in production protesting low wages or unfair labor practices.

            End quote.

            For a better understanding of this issue of planned and designed reality of Class Warfare and the effects from an historical perspective I recommend ‘The Crash of 2016’. Also ‘The Price of Inequality’. As for democracy, our Government political process today is dominated by wealth of the Upper Class, especially in the nomination process and elections.

            “Trying to distribute that influence into 320-million equal parts would be impossible.” It is not only possible but simple: Take money out of the equation. The fact that we don’t demonstrates the power, the corrupting to democracy power, of money in the political process. It is a huge factor in the political system that allows the wealthy Upper Class to perpetuate and promote Class Warfare. Why do you not recognize this but instead deny this? Is it your intention and purpose to promote and support the Upper Class in Class warfare? Or are you fooled by Conservative political ideological rhetoric to protect the Upper Class wealth and position? It’s one or the other. To deny the reality of Class Warfare in the historical development of the wealth gap, the weakened position of the Middle Class, the worker is either disingenuous or naive.

        • unemotional

          I’ve sorta enjoyed your conspiracy theory about the rich ganging up to keep the poor down. Real life kinda reveals different reasons for why people fail to flourish economically. Around 70% of NBA players are bankrupt within five years of retirement. People who have had access to millions of dollars and could have easily created a sustainable income stream for themselves and families end up broke and having to look for new opportunities.Similar fates often befall lottery winners. Because of this some have theorized that if wealth were totally redistributed evenly over the whole population, with a few years it would all end up in the hands of the few who had it before. Not because they took it but because those who lost it did so due to a lack of understanding about how to use it. This is a problem that will only be heightened by a declining education system that is now only mediocre by international standards.

          • John Dorman

            None of this demonstrates your assertion that the wealthy Upper Class do not plan and organize with the intention to weaken and have a political and economic advantage in order to exploit the Lower/Middle Classes. That’s the way Capitalism works. It is a finite resource world and the economic pie is finite at any particular time in history as a function of population and technology. Capitalism is, by reality and definition, therefore a competitive zero-sum system based on inequality and exploitation. You have ignored, in your examples, all that. This argument about “evil” is simplistic and absurd that distracts from objective reality. But you often see that in Conservative rationality. In history and the rise of Capitalism and the Modern Industrial era this is part of the human condition. As all human history, this will change as a function of technology and dialectical forces, change is the one constant of the human condition as sentient and sapient species. Look at the changes in the last 500 years or the last 200 years.

          • If you want to look at changes in the last 500 yeas or the last 200 years, here’s one way to look at them. The chart below graphs world population and GDP per capita going back 2,000 years. Note that income per capita was virtually flat until the 1800’s when it began to rise rapidly. I believe what made the difference was the advent of relatively free nations such as the United States, coupled with understanding and adoption of free-market economics (capitalism) after publication in 1776 of four great documents; The Declaration of Independence (Jefferson), Wealth of Nations (Smith), Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gibson) and Common Sense (Paine). The explosion of human liberty and capitalism made all the difference over the last 238 years.


          • John Dorman

            I never and am not saying that Capitalism does not create wealth. The enabling function in the increase in wealth is technology coupled with a rise in population. But the primary defining concept of Capitalism is private ownership of commerce (means of production of goods and services) and unlimited accumulation of wealth. This determines the unrestricted distribution of wealth. In our political system (as demonstrated with relatively recent historical Supreme Court decisions) wealth equates to political power.

            This economic and political power enables a particular form of predatory Capitalism manifested in Class Warfare that benefits the elite economic Royalists (Upper Class wealthy elites). So you are right, Capitalism generates historically record levels of wealth. But sets up, by design, an economic and politically powerful elite Class minority that promotes gross inequality and subverts and destroys democracy and true freedom. The history of the U.S. demonstrates that if you start at this system without restrictions on individual wealth accumulations in the 1700’s then you end up where we are today, a minority elite class that controls the economic and political systems with that wealth. You ignore that consequence in your attempts to support the Upper Class wealth. How can you claim to support freedom and liberty without accepting the moral position that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the many? The system that unequally supports the wealth and therefore the unequal power of the elite economic Royalists undermines the freedom and liberty of the majority Lower/Middle Classes. This is what you ignore. And history clearly demonstrates this. It’s not an accident or bad luck. It’s about wealth and power.

          • You ask how I can claim to support freedom and liberty without accepting the moral position that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s easy. This utilitarian principle leads to the stifling, if not a total lack of individual freedom and liberty.

            If you believe that capitalism allows wealth and power to influence, control and corrupt our political system, then work to restrict the reach of that political system, as our founders did, to a small but important segment of our society.

            To maximize the chance for all of us, the few and the many, to have our needs met, we all need to restrict the size, power and scope of government in our lives.

            It’s not capitalism that corrupts, it the rich and powerful of any economic and/or political system being able to use the coercive power of government to reward themselves at the expense of others.

          • John Dorman

            Yes, now you are saying something both fundamental and interesting:

            > You say: “You ask how I can claim to support freedom and liberty without accepting the moral position that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s easy. This utilitarian principle leads to the stifling, if not a total lack of individual freedom and liberty.” I meant to say “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one?” I just corrected that in my reply.

            You say you support freedom and liberty. But if a system allows a wealthy minority to control the economic and political power over a less wealthy majority then whose freedom and liberty are you promoting? Surely you don’t assert that money does not play a huge part in our political system in both lobbying (the legislature and executive branches) politicians and in elections in the nomination and campaign process? Especially important is the nomination process. This gives the Upper Class special position and access in politics and political control. But maybe you are saying by concentrating and supporting a system that promotes the freedom and liberty of a minority over th majority has greater utility. It certainly has greater utility for the minority Class. But you did not explain how and why the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few or the one leads to “stifling, if not a total lack of individual freedom and liberty.” It seems to me to give greater control of the political and economic power of a nation/state to a minority Class leads to less freedom and liberty for a greater number of the population. This is less utilitarian to the goal of greater freedom and liberty. It’s a classical issue of world history.

            > “If you believe that capitalism allows wealth and power to influence, control and corrupt our political system, then work to restrict the reach of that political system, as our founders did, to a small but important segment of our society.”

            Now that’s rich. I am an observer searching for the truth. I am not and never been an activist. But at 66 I think the future generations have to decide what world they want to live in. But that comment does nothing to establish the facts, truth, reality or promotes your assertions in any way. I’m just trying to figure out the reality of the world, not change it. And yes I believe what I say unless someone gives me a better (more rational and intelligent explanation) or my research and education.

            > “To maximize the chance for all of us, the few and the many, to have our needs met, we all need to restrict the size, power and scope of government in our lives.”

            In human civilization, government organization is the citizens attempt to organize and promote the collective good for all “We The People”. Let’s be honest, in Capitalism economics is a zero-sum competitive system. The Upper Class develop organizations and use wealth to elect and enlist politicians and political power for advantage in that competitive system (and make no mistake, Obama is not a Socialist, that’s silly propaganda for the ignoraant, he’s a Corporatist). The Conservative does not complain about government power when politicians are promoting programs for Upper Class benefit such as the tax rate etc. And it’s only when someone proposes raising Upper Class taxes do they holler Class Warfare.

            Question: When government creates a program that benefits the Upper Class or owners of a Corporation or an Industry Conservatives call that good Capitalism but when the government proposes a program that benefits the Lower/Middle Classes the Conservatives call that Socialism?

            > “It’s not capitalism that corrupts, it the rich and powerful of any economic and/or political system being able to use the coercive power of government to reward themselves at the expense oers.”

            Absolutely. I agree. That’s why I speak of degrees of inequality and exploitation and predatory Capitalism. Capitalism is a great generator of wealth and when the the Classes have equality in the government and strong economic bargaining organizations then all Classes participate in the American Dream and are equal partners in the Social Contract. All Classes and the Nation as a whole benefits. But unequal power as a factor of great wealth inequality as shown in the record wealth gap, a consequence of Class Warfare, and Class power discrimination in government corrupts and leads to the reality of today. It also leads to frauds such as the Wall Street mortgage/derivative re rating fraud, the biggest fraud in U.S. history that not one criminal prosecution has resulted. Millions of innocent people have been thrown out of homes and jobs. That’s the power of wealth to corrupt government and benefit one Class over others.

          • Rather than repeat much of what has already been said in this long discussion, let me reply to three of your specific comments:

            1 . “Surely you don’t assert that money does not play a huge part in our political system in both lobbying (the legislature and executive branches) politicians and in elections in the nomination and campaign process?

            I agree that money plays a huge part in our political system, but that’s because there’s a much larger amount of money at stake. I believe the 2012 federal election cycle saw
            some $6 billion spent in campaign contributions. But that pales in comparison
            to the real (relative) money in politics, which was the three TRILLION dollar-plus federal budget that year. It’s like the state lottery or Powerball; when the jackpot is relatively small the dollars people gamble are relatively small.
            When the jackpot gets to high levels, you see lines down the street of people
            hoping to hit it rich.

            Three trillion dollars of federal spending attracts lots of people with lots of money, trying to get their share at the expense of others. Reduce the size of the government
            budget, and you reduce the temptation for those large political contributors to play that game.

            2. You’ve said here several times that you’re just an observer searching for the truth, not an activist trying to change the reality of the world. I’m trying to change that reality for the better through educating Oregonians on what I see as the reality and on what I believe would be better alternatives.

            3. I’m glad we agree that it’s not capitalism that corrupts, but it’s the rich and powerful of any economic and/or political system being able to use the coercive power of government to reward themselves at the expense of others.” I don’t buy into your Class analysis, and frankly don’t have time to make a detailed case here on this and related issues. You’ve stated to another commenter here that you’re not interested in reading books or articles on the subject if he wouldn’t make the whole case for you. If you were interested in a
            book that challenges what you see as world reality, I would suggest Hoover Institution economist and former Marxist Thomas Sowell’s “Marxism: Philosophy and economics” ( If you’re not interested, perhaps others readers here will pick up the book and get a deeper understanding of what Marx and Marxism are all about, and why they’re flawed.

          • ooops, the link above to Thomas Sowell’s book may be wrong. Try

          • John Dorman

            I said I don’t read ideologically biased books such as from political pundits from Conservative or Progressive/Liberal agenda. And if you can’t articulate what they say then you don’t understand what they say and need to do more research etc. Both sides are a false dichotomy designed to politically scam, and give the impression of political freedom of choice. You see it everyday in the legislative process.

            You have not explained what is false about the description of Class Warfare and our brand of Capitalism as a zero-sum competitive economic Class structured system of inequality and exploitation. So I will ask you directly:

            > Is it a zero-sum competitive system? In zero-sum systems the money, for example, that goes into the pockets of the owner(s) of a business cannot also go into the pockets of the employees. If the world had infinite resources and infinite goods and services and distribution was equal then everyone could be rich. Or if they’re was adequate equality distribution of finite resources then there would be no poverty.

            Zero-sum economy:

            I quote:

            In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. Thus cutting a cake, where taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others, is a zero-sum game if all participants value each unit of cake equally (see marginal utility). In contrast, non–zero sum describes a situation in which the interacting parties’ aggregate gains and losses are either less than or more than zero. A zero-sum game is also called a strictly competitive game while non–zero-sum games can be either competitive or non-competitive. Zero-sum games are most often solved with the minimax theorem which is closely related to linear programming duality, or with Nash equilibrium.

            End quote.

            > Is our society correctly described as economically Class Structured? Is there Lower, Middle, and Upper Classes distinguished along a wealth/asset critieria.


            I quote:
            Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labor. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.

            End quote.

            I would add that as Capitalism has developed and matured in the 19th and 20th centuries the system has become less competitive and more monopolistic as markets have become dominated by ever larger corporations and privately owned businesses such as Wal-Mart. And the primary characteristic of Capitalism is the concept of private property that determines the distribution of wealth.

            Class Society:

            I quote:

            Social class (or simply “class”), as in a class society, is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle, and lower classes.
            Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and social historians. However, there is not a consensus on the best definition of the term “class,” and the term has different contextual meanings. In common parlance, the term “social class” is usually synonymous with “socio-economic class,” defined as “people having the same social, economic, or educational status” e.g., “the working class”; “an emerging professional class.” The precise measurements of what determines social class in society has varied over time. According to philosopher Karl Marx, “class” is determined entirely by one’s relationship to the means of production, the classes in modern capitalist society being the “proletarians”: those who work but do not own the means of production, the “bourgeoisie”: those who invest and live off of the surplus generated by the former, and the aristocracy that has land as a means of production.

            In the late 18th century, the term “class” began to replace classifications such as estates, rank, and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions. This corresponded to a general decrease in significance ascribed to hereditary characteristics, and increase in the significance of wealth and income as indicators of position in the social hierarchy.

            End quote:

            Inherent in Capitalism and the distribution of wealth on the criteria of private ownership of the production of goods and services is Class Structure and economic Class competition in a zero-sum system of finite resources. If you think that is not an historical and by definition, the reality of these factors, then please explain, support and defend your opinion. Why do you think this does not describe reality?

            Your explanation of how expensive elections are as compared to the size of the budget is, as an explanation of why the Upper Class attempts to control the political system via wealth, a deflection of the real issue and a very simpistic rationale. It has nothing to do with the Upper Class conducting Class Warfare except that the Upper Class attempts to control the nomination and election process with wealth as a tool to conduct and perpetuate Class Warfare by obtaining political power. The truth is the Upper Class obtains a sizeable amount of wealth via, rents – the interest paid to obtain the loans to government that maintains the debt. They, the Conservatives, mainy holler when the government spends money to mitigate the poverty created by the greed of the Upper Class and inequality and expolitation of Capitalism caused by Class Warfare.

            I suggest 2 books:

            I quote:

            1. The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America–and What We Can Do to Stop It Hardcover
            by Thom Hartmann
            Thom Hartmann is the four-time Project Censored Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of 23 books currently in print in over a dozen languages on five continents.
            Hartmann is also an internationally known speaker on culture and communications, an author, and an innovator in the fields of psychiatry, ecology, and economics.
            The co-founder (with his wife, Louise) and former Executive Director of The New England Salem Children’s Village (1978) and The Hunter School (1997), he has led national innovations in the areas of residential treatment for abused children and private/public education for learning-disabled children.

            He has helped set up hospitals, famine relief programs, schools, and refugee centers in India, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, Russia, and the United States through the German-based Salem International program. Formerly rostered with the State of Vermont as a psychotherapist, founder of The Michigan Healing Arts Center, and licensed as an NLP Trainer by Richard Bandler (who wrote the foreword to one of Thom’s books), he was the originator of the revolutionary “Hunter/Farmer Hypothesis” to understand the psychiatric condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

            A guest faculty member at Goddard College in Vermont, he also synthesized the “Younger/Older Culture model” for describing the underpinnings – and possible solutions – to the world’s ecological and socio-political crises, suggesting that many of our problems are grounded in cultural “stories” which go back thousands of years.

            Leonardo DiCaprio was inspired by Thom’s book “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” to make the movie “The 11th Hour” (in which Thom appears), and Warner Brothers is making a movie starring DiCaprio and Robert De Niro from the book Thom co-authored with Lamar Waldron, “Legacy of Secrecy.”

            Talkers Magazine named Thom Hartmann as the 8th most important talk show host in America in 2011, 2012, and 2013 (10th the two previous years), and for three of the past five years the #1 most important progressive host, in their “Heavy Hundred” ranking. His radio show is syndicated on for-profit radio stations nationwide by Dial-Global, on non-profit and community stations nationwide by Pacifica, across the entire North American continent on SiriusXM Satellite radio, on cable systems nationwide by Cable Radio Network (CRN), on its own YouTube channel, via Livestream on its own Livestream channel, via subscription podcasts, worldwide through the US Armed Forces Network, and through the Thom Hartmann App in the App Store. The radio show is also simulcast as TV in realtime into nearly 60 million US and Canadian homes by the Free Speech TV Network on Dish Network, DirectTV, and cable TV systems nationwide.

            His evening TV program, The Big Picture, is wholly owned by his own production company, produced in the RT studios, and licensed to and carried by Free Speech TV in the US, and into over 600 million homes in 104 countries via broadcast and cable by the RT TV network, and distributed worldwide on the web on Hulu.

            As an entrepreneur, he’s founded several successful businesses which still are operating, and lived and worked with his wife, Louise, and their three (now adult) children on several continents.

            He was born and grew up in Michigan, and retains strong ties to the Midwest, although he and Louise have lived in New Hampshire, Vermont, Georgia, Germany, and Oregon…and now live on a boat in Washington D.C. with their attack-cat, Higgins.

            Joseph E. Stiglitz’s new book, “The Price of Inequality,” is the single most comprehensive counter­argument to both Democratic neoliberalism and Republican laissez-faire theories. While credible economists running the gamut from center right to center left describe our bleak present as the result of seemingly unstoppable developments — globalization and automation, a self-­replicating establishment built on “meritocratic” competition, the debt-driven collapse of 2008 — Stiglitz stands apart in his defiant rejection of such notions of inevitability. He seeks to shift the terms of the debate.

            By Joseph E. Stiglitz
            It is not uncontrollable technological and social change that has produced a two-tier society, Stiglitz argues, but the exercise of political power by moneyed interests over legislative and regulatory processes. “While there may be underlying economic forces at play,” he writes, “politics have shaped the market, and shaped it in ways that advantage the top at the expense of the rest.” But politics, he insists, is subject to change.
            Stiglitz is a Nobel laureate and a professor of economics at Columbia (where I too teach, but we are not personally acquainted). He holds a commanding position in an intellectual insurgency challenging the dominant economic orthodoxy. Among his allies are Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson (the authors of “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class”); Lawrence Lessig (“Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It”); Timothy Noah (“The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It”) and Paul Krugman (“End This Depression Now!”). The collective argument of these dissidents is not only that inequality violates moral values, but that it also interacts with a money-driven political system to grant excessive power to the most affluent. In short, those with power use it to insulate themselves from competitive forces by winning favorable tax treatment, government-­protected market share and other forms of what economists call “rent seeking.”
            Conservative advocates of pure free markets, in this view, fail to acknowledge how concentrated economic power converts into political power. The right, for example, has hailed the evisceration of the estate tax and the lifting of restrictions on campaign contributions, despite evidence that such policies work to restrict competition — by further concentrating wealth in the case of the estate tax, and by further empowering corporate America to control political decisions in the case of campaign finance.
            Stiglitz and his allies argue that a free and competitive market is highly beneficial to society at large, but that it needs government regulation and oversight to remain functional. Without constraint, dominant interests use their leverage to make gains at the expense of the majority. Concentration of power in private hands, Stiglitz believes, can be just as damaging to the functioning of markets as excessive regulation and political control.
            The importance of Stiglitz’s contribution (and that of other dissidents) to the public debate cannot be overestimated. The news media and the Congress are ill-­equipped to address the role of economic power in shaping policy. Both institutions are, in fact, unaware of the extent to which they themselves are subject to the influence of money.
            Stiglitz describes the economic capture of regulatory authorities by the interests under their jurisdiction — and the more subtle intellectual capture of policy makers of all kinds. The calculated and purposeful shaping of public discussion allowed conservative analyses to dominate debate in the years before the collapse of 2008, and in the years since they have been dominant as well.
            It is not just democratic politics that is threatened by huge disparities in wealth and income. Much of Stiglitz’s book is devoted to demonstrating that excessive inequality amounts to sand in the gears of capitalism, creating volatility, fueling crises, undermining productivity and retarding growth. Just as discrimination results in the failure of a nation to make the best use of all its citizens, inequality, when it leads to inadequate schooling, housing and neighborhood conditions for large numbers of people, acts in a similarly destructive fashion.
            Stiglitz succinctly summarized his own argument in a recent online column: “Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency. Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset — its people — is not being fully used. Many at the bottom, or even in the middle, are not living up to their potential, because the rich, needing few public services and worried that a strong government might redistribute income, use their political influence to cut taxes and curtail government spending. This leads to underinvestment in infrastructure, education and technology, impeding the engines of growth. . . . Most importantly, America’s inequality is undermining its values and identity. With inequality reaching such extremes, it is not surprising that its effects are manifest in every public decision, from the conduct of monetary policy to budgetary allocations. America has become a country not ‘with justice for all,’ but rather with favoritism for the rich and justice for those who can afford it — so evident in the foreclosure crisis, in which the big banks believed that they were too big not only to fail, but also to be held accountable.”

            End quotes.

          • I’ve heard enough from Thom Hartmann when he was on the air in Portland to have no interest in reading any of his books.

            I’ve not heard or read much directly from Stiglitz, so wouldn’t mind learning more about his analysis, although I have a suspicion that you’ve articulated much of it already in your comments here.

          • John Dorman

            OK, thank you Mr. Buckstein for the interesting discussion. I guess all that can be said is just about been said. You are very articulate.

          • Thank you for an interesting discussion also. Hopefully it has stimulated others to continue looking into this and related topics.

          • Even using your class analysis, what you call the “Upper Class” has no need to weaken or exploit the “Lower/Middle Classes” in order to prosper. We do not live in a “finite resource world” as you assert. The “economic pie” is not finite, even in the relatively short term.

            Capitalism creates added value for both buyer and seller. That’s how “super rich” people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got that way; they gained lots of value as millions of us also gained smaller increments of value as we voluntarily purchased what they offered; i.e. Apple products.

            Steve Jobs died worth some $8 billion, not by exploiting his customers, but by offering them real value for the $50 to several hundred dollars they spent purchasing ipods, ipads, iphones, etc. Jobs valued the $50 he got for a low-end ipod more than he valued that ipod remaining on the shelf. The buyer valued that ipod more than he valued the $50 he paid for it. Both sides gained value; both became richer. That’s the history of the modern world and modern capitalist economy.

            Are there problems, sure. Has there been some theft, some deception, sure. But overall, mankind has become much more prosperous over the last 200 years because of capitalism than because of any other economy system.

          • John Dorman

            You said, “…what you call the “Upper Class” has no need to weaken or exploit the “Lower/Middle Classes” in order to prosper. We do not live in a “finite resource world” as you assert. The “economic pie” is not finite, even in the relatively short term.”

            I don’t believe you are being earnest. I’m talking about historically relevant issues of Capitalism, a competitive zero-sum economic system based on a class structured society of inequality and exploitation. You are simplistically both ignoring and asserting an undefended out-of-hand denial of the facts with high school civics about Steve Jobs and ipads etc. Save it for your like-minded Conservative readers. They must be your intended, targeted audience.

            Upper Class

            “Upper-class families… dominate corporate America and have a disproportionate influence over the nation’s political, educational, religious, and other institutions. Of all social classes, members of the upper class also have a strong sense of solidarity and ‘consciousness of kind’ that stretches across the nation and even the globe.” -William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, Society in Focus, 2005.

            I quote:

            Since the 1970s income inequality in the United States has been increasing, with the top 1% experiencing significantly larger gains in income than the rest of society. Social scientists (such as Alan Greenspan) see it as a problem for society, with Greenspan calling it a “very disturbing trend.”

            According to the book Who Rules America?, by William Domhoff, the distribution of wealth in America is the primary highlight of the influence of the upper class. The top 1% of Americans own around 34% of the wealth in the U.S. while the bottom 80% own only approximately 16% of the wealth. This large disparity displays the unequal distribution of wealth in America in absolute terms.

            End quote.

            Many experts write on these issues that you say don’t exist.

      • John Dorman

        “Truth is, evil–however one defines that concept–is found in every income group.” Yes, that’s part of the human condition. Did someone imply differently? And your point being..?

    • Ardbeg, whatever faults you see in my post, it does seem to have “ignited an intelligent discussion” here. Your URL link contribution is a part of this discussion…you’re personal barbs, not so much.

      • John Dorman

        The article is well articulated but is based on a political ideological rationality. Not uncommon these days and in our polarized society. You cite and restrict your information to that which supports a political (the Conservative view of reality) agenda rather than the objective truth. The very definition of propaganda. Therefore, the problem to one observer searching for the truth is not what you say but the reality that you omit. And the resulting “intelligent discussion” that has been ignited is more of the same. It is the dialog of our times. I can recognize you are an intelligent an articulate writer, no question there. But I think your purpose is not to educate and inform but a biased, ideologically grounded agenda. I am not interested in supporting either the Left or Right but searching for the truth in the world.

        • Whatever you think my motives are, I can assure you that I’m not pushing either a Left or Right agenda. That’s because I don’t believe that scale is as useful as one that runs from Top to Bottom. Top is characterized by maximum human personal and economic liberty (libertarian). Bottom is characterized by almost a total lack of such liberty (totalitarian).

          I do aim to educate about the benefits of the Top agenda, and am proud to do so. Not that we’ll get there anytime soon, but it’s my lodestar and I measure policy proposals against it.

          • John Dorman

            Left and Right is not like the axis points of a Cartesian coordinate system or N-S-E-W of a map. It’s not left, right, up, down in a directional sense. Right ideology refers to the Conservative Republican party that supports the economic wealth and interests of the Upper Class. “Upper Class” refers to an economic criteria of wealth of a group in an economically class structured society. If you are pushing an agenda that supports the Upper Class in the competition of economic resources in a zero-sum economic system then you are, by default, pushing a Conservative (Right) agenda. Even denying that Capitalism is a zero-sum economic competition or that it is a “so-called” Upper Class issue or there is no Class Warfare, or “Income Inequality: A Problem That Isn’t” or that resources or infinite or a thousand ways to minimize and discount the economic issues is supporting the Conservative agenda regardless of your intentions. The liberty you champion is the liberty to conduct economic Class Warfare and the freedom to take advantage of the political power that wealth provides to exploit the Lower/Middle Classes economically.

            The real purpose is not a political goal of Libertarian vs Totalitarian political systems. The purpose is to economically exploit the Lower/Middle Classes. That is the purpose and agenda of any political system that is based on inequality and exploitation, to serve the stability and interest of the political and economic elite. The range from top to bottom, as you put it is just the different methods employed and amount of force used to accomplish that goal. Capitalism is, by design, to serve this purpose. Describe it or your agenda any way and in any terms you want, that is the outcome as evidenced in the political and economic reality today. We just went through the Great Recession brought on by the Wall Street mortgage/derivative re rating fraud that threw millions out of homes and jobs (the biggest fraud in U.S. history) and not one criminal charge and the biggest wealth gap in our history, and the greatest transfer of wealth from the Lower/Middle Classes to the Upper Class and since the 70’s the destruction of worker organizations and ability to collective bargaining. If this is the unequal freedom and liberty you champion then yours is a Conservative agenda that supports the Upper Class.

          • lwon

            agree to disagree

          • John Dorman

            Agree to disagree what with who?

    • Jack Lord God

      ” Eleventh graders can write a better persuasive paper than this.”

      A better persuasive paper?

      Lovin’ it!

    • John Dorman

      You’re right. The article is full of simplistic rationalization.

    • John Dorman

      You’re right.

      • .

        And you’re in full bloom, Dorman, like a Sumatran corpse flower.

        • John Dorman

          Dilemma: How to reply to a comment from Dot (.) that has virtually zero content and meaning? As a saving grace, I tried to find humor in his dribbles but his comment, “And you’re in full bloom, Dorman, like a Sumatran corpse flower” offers nothing, not even a slight bit of humor or intelligence. It’s just dumb and immature. So here is the reply: IDIOT!!!

          • .

            Dorman, “John” – what spills from your lips buggers like crazy – d’oh, even flush-able wipes cannot absorb the discharge and why PDX’s sewage treatment paradigm continues to smell like Sumatran corpse flower – indeed, much the same as the odor-in-the court Cover Oregon.

          • John Dorman

            Since you have not even once contributed anything meaningful and/or intelligent to the discussion I will dismiss you and not reply further.

  • Ballistic45

    That is true, life is not fair, comes with no guarantees, I’m talking about OPPORTUNITY.. Both a Rich Kid and a Poor Kid have an Opportunity to end up with similar jobs and pay.. Given the drive to take advantage of what they have…. The Rich Kid can end up on the streets poor and drug addicted, the poor kid can end up Rich and successful with kids of his own who will find it easier if they choose to take advantage of there OPPORTUNITY to advance or end up broke….

    • LulzPdx

      the both have opportunity, but the opportunities are not even close to equal. the system is gamed.

      • ardbeg

        Agreed, but conservatives don’t really care. Over 20,000 homeless (school aged) children in Oregon. One out of that 20,000 will end up rich, where as one Rich kid can end up a drug addict. Difference is his family is still rich and can still provide for them. I’m sure the parents of those homeless children are right now blaming the rich for stealing all their monies.

        • Ballistic45

          Tell me what economic system grows the middle class faster and more complete than capitalism?

          Post WWI Communist “Think Tank” in Germany even concluded that they could NOT spread Communism across Europe on the backs of the working class as it had spread in Russia… Why, Because their Extreme form of Socialism could not compete with Capitalism in raising the living standards of workers to such levels as was being experienced in the Capitalistic Free Market system..

          Quit trying to sell a dead horse.. Your dreaming of Heaven on Earth, your Liberal Utopia… Look to North Korea if you want to see an example of YOUR Utopia… In order to fulfil all your Socialist dreams, you would have to have a Government so intrusive in your life as to regulate every interaction you make…. YOU can have that kind of life, go there if you like it so much..

          There will always be those who dream and create jobs for others, there are those who will take those jobs and prosper, then there are those who will wine and refuse to work but demand others care for them… They are the leaches hanging onto society draining its vitality….

          • ardbeg

            “Tell me what economic system grows the middle class faster and more complete than capitalism?”

            capitalism did a great job of growing ALL classes from the end of WWII til 1980. Since then it has grown only ONE class. I’d like to see ALL classes grow, not just one. If that makes me a commie so be it.

          • .

            Know: Soviet.

        • Ballistic45

          You are so full of yourself and crap… Where did you get those stats? Prove Conservatives don’t care! They may not agree with the liberal plan to address homelessness.. Your plan is to care for them forever, Conservatives want to give them the OPPORTUNITIES to care for themselves, to allow them to join the middle-class…. Your plan keeps them subservient to the hands that feed them… Typical sales pitch of the Liberal minds set… Pit one group against the other, paint one group as victims while vilifying the other… This is exactly the conclusion that Communist “Think Tank” came to when they moved to NYC from Germany just after Hitler came to power.. They realized the only way to rise to power was to exploit groups who felt disenfranchised… To champion them by convincing them they are victims and have no responsibility in their plight in life, that it is all someone else’s fault….. READ HISTORY…..

          • ardbeg

            Start in 1976 with RR running for Prez and “the welfare queen” and move forward 30+ years. Name one social program the GOP doesn’t want cut.

          • Ides of Marching to their fete

            Post JFK ‘s “Bay of Pigs” albeit Berlner post hitchings: gLib B J’s grape society fermented into a colossal $woondoggle, warbegone Nixon a pasty compared to #44’s tassels for tits, Gerald Ford, Fix or Repair Daily, yet not really so bad for US, Carter’s ‘lust’ better fitting a gerbil ‘tats for humanity, RR a great communicator save for the illegal’s amnesty wart barely seen below his knows, Bush Sr had a grand economic plan, Yettie snowman Clinton skirted out from under Juanita Broaddrick and hid under Monica Lewinski’s dress until Congress got wind of it , “W” really a fiscal liberal in shleps clothing for what we now know and/or kowtow to: Braaaack Who’s Inane carcinOma, butt insists he wanna be king in a New World in a Kwanzaa skype of gnu whorld odor in a number 1 or 2 (Biden his time) beast seller rendition.

    • John Dorman

      Back in a more naive time they would say Equal Opportunity. Just like I don’t see Fox saying “fair and balanced” anymore the “Equal” has been dropped from “Opportunity”. Mobility between Classes has become harder and less probable since the 70’s. But now with The Upper Class success with their agenda of Class Warfare, as Buffett said with his statement that the Upper Class has won (so unusual for a uber wealthy person) the mobility is statistically with the Middle Class trending down towards the Lower Class. Is that the Opportunity of Class mobility you’re talking about? The opportunity of the Upper Class exploiting the Middle Class?

      Two questions: When Government institutes a program that benefits the wealthy Class they the Conservatives call that Capitalism at it’s finest but when the Government merely proposes a program that benefits the Lower/Middle Classes the Conservatives call that Socialism?


      Why do Conservatives present such simplistic explanations that leave out so much of reality as this article and your reply here about Opportunity? Isn’t that the very definition of propaganda? Oh that’s three questions, sorry.

      I quote:

      Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position. Propaganda statements may be partly false and partly true. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes.

      As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political, religious or commercial agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of ideological or commercial warfare. End quote.

  • John Dorman

    It’s not what he says in this article, although his rationale is convoluted and his comments and examples are selected to misinform and deflect from what is important and relevant to this issue. But what he doesn’t talk about; Class Warfare. The corrupting and deforming and destructive effect of wealth on our political system, on politicians, and democracy and freedom. The effect of Wall Street gambling games ie, the mortgage/derivative re rating scam, the largest fraud in U.S. history that caused the Great Recession and threw millions of the Lower/Middle Classes out of jobs and homes. These things don’t happen by accident, they are a phenomenon of cause/effect. The decoupling of wages from productivity did not happen by accident which has since the 70’s of destroying the Middle Class and excluding them from the American Dream. None of this is an accident and this article is carefully designed to avoid the subject and misinform. It’s propaganda. I suggest you read ‘The Crash of 2016’ to understand from a historical perspective how predatory Capitalism and a competitive zero-sum economy of finite resources based on inequality and exploitation actually works. It is Class Warfare. Buffet’s comments were about this and is so unusual from a uber wealthy person.

    • Gardenhomeboy

      If you have some self respect, stop citing the “decoupling of wages from productivity”. This is “phenomenon” is explained easily. First, it is total compensation NOT wages that follow productivity increases. Second, how we measure productivity and wages influences how they relate to each other and they are still closely tied. There are more complicated reasons too.

      Here are some links from some smart people such as the chair of the Harvard Econ Department:

      • .

        ‘Peers David Appell has moved from inSalem to Gardengnome and changed his ID inane accordingly.

        • Gardenhomeboy

          What are you talking about? I am not David Appell. I am defending that market here and saying that workers are not getting shorted out of the productivity gains.

          • .

            You ‘peer a pinko socialist, like an Appell’s cede and udder lefties posting here. What’s happened, has NPR and BlueOregon upped your dues?

          • Gardenhomeboy

            I really don’t understand. Where did i say something socialist? Please point it out and we can talk about it.

          • .

            Talk about income inequity. How about a discussion attending PERS retirees garnering annuity payments greater than their working salaries, receiving COLA’s on top of that and social security, too? Governmentium class warfare has gone on too long and too far.

          • John Dorman

            OK, a question: When Government institutes a program that benefits the wealthy Class they the Conservatives call that Capitalism at it’s finest but when the Government merely proposes a program that benefits the Lower/Middle Classes the Conservatives call that Socialism. Why? Why is a program that benefits the wealthy Capitalism and a program, such as you list here, that benefits the Lower/Middle Classes Socialism? And when Government works to promote the wealthy Class the Conservative says that’s good but when Government benefits the lower income groups the Conservatives criticize the effort. Why? In my values, as Mr. Spock and the Bible have asserted, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Do you not agree?

          • LulzPdx

            . doesn’t read for context. Then he refuses to make sense.

          • .

            Lulzabye, imbued to not comprehend anything beyond her limited knows.

          • .

            LulzPdx, re-calibrated embodiment by Fisher, brains my Mattel.

      • John Dorman

        On the article ‘How are wages and productivity related?’

        It starts out, “Here is the basic logic taught in economics textbooks… ” The process of Class Warfare and consequence is not part of the basic logic. The article does not apply. I am referring to the facts of history:

        • Gardenhomeboy

          That graph despite using “hourly compensation” is still only comparing hourly wages with productivity and is not factoring in total compensation. Here is some fantastic work on labor economics from the Heritage foundation which breaks down the whole issue.

          • John Dorman

            Are you under the impression that benefits rose during this period? Or that benefits compensated for the lack of wages keeping up with increase in production? How do you explain the wealth gap or the accumulation of Middle Class debt. What do you think 401K is all about? If you think the Heritage Foundation, a Conservative think tank has a valid argument then present it. It’s not my responsibility to research support of your assertions.

            At 66 I am an observer searching for the truth. In all my adult life I have never found the truth in the biased agenda of political ideological propaganda in either the Conservative or Progressive argument. They are both a scam of the system. Continue to be a good little consumer and producer and believe what the economic Royalists tell you. Believe that Class Warfare doesn’t exist and that worker organizations are as strong and powerful as ever. Stay in the Matrix of subjective truth. Remember, there’s no wealth gap and millions of American Middle Class were not just thrown out of homes and jobs caused by Wall Street mortgage/derivative re rating fraud. And wages and productivity is rising together. so the Middle Class is doing better than ever and they are sitting on a mountain of money just like Corporate America. Believe what the Heritage foundation, Fox News and Limbaugh and this article tells you. It’s a waste of time trying to tell you otherwise.

            As for me I’ll keep reading and researching and searching for the objective truth outside the economic/political ideological agenda. whether you think so or not.

          • Gardenhomeboy

            Dude, just read the article it explains the point better than I can say it here and its buy a person trained in economics. I’m not gonna give you a screed, I simply ask that you read the well sourced research paper I linked to. I have cited 3 sources for my argument here and you have given me a graph with zero context and supporting information along with long paragraphs about class warfare.

          • John Dorman

            I don’t buy your explanation about benefits making up for reduction in wages. That is the rankest of Conservative rationalism If that was the case then the Lower/Middle Classes would not have to go in to a mountain of debt since the 70’s to maintain a standard of living. Class Warfare is a reality and has consequences. If you destroy the organizational bargaining power of a Class then employers are going to take advantage of that. That’s common sense. I’ve read much Conservative ideology, I have a degree BA, Political Science ’85 from University of California, San Diego, Reagan country. You buy into it I don’t. I also have degrees in History, Sociology, Business Admin and Public Admin. Not majors and minors but degrees. If you can’t explain your own ideas then you need to research and think about it more.

          • .

            D’oh you CONme convert and sloppber overt again.
            Rx, go get a life in the slowbeit union and never snow upon our shores again.

          • John Dorman

            You have gone into such mindless dribble I’m wondering if you are OK. Are you having a stroke? Seriously, I hope someone is there to help you. I’m going to cut off this thread, I wouldn’t want to contribute to any problem you have. Good luck and get help.

        • marvinmcconoughey

          The chart is interesting, and disturbing in that we should not seek ever-higher inequality. But, it is only a partial story. Our worker wages have declined in real purchasing power because the workers themselves are different from the past. We have successfully provided avenues by which the most talented can become managers and entrepreneurs. However, many once-high-paying jobs have vanished due to overseas competition. We cannot escape global competition. More jobs have disappeared due to computerization and improved engineering, known as “design for manufacturability.” At the same time, inequality has decreased globally, as poor nations enjoy rising standards of living. Our losses of good paying hourly jobs is reflected in the rise of relatively good paying jobs for lower income parts of the USA.

          • John Dorman

            Benefits don’t make up for static wages. If that was the case then the Lower/Middle Classes would not have to
            go in to a mountain of debt since the 70’s to maintain a standard of
            living. Class Warfare is a reality and has consequences. If you destroy
            the organizational bargaining power of a Class then employers are going
            to take advantage of that. That’s common sense. And benefits do not increase when worker organizational bargaining power is being destroyed. What do you think 401K is all about? Push more of the expense from employer to worker. It started out at Kodak with a way for executives to pay less taxes and then employers realized they could get rid of worker pensions and push 401K as a retirement program that workers could contribute to the expense of retirement.

            Yes, the Global Economy is the new and biggest game in town. Economics, the type and effect, is always a function of technology. The computer and internet has facilitated and made possible the Global Economy as it now exists. But that does not explain and negate the Class Warfare that has increased since the 70’ the worker bargaining organizations (Unions) were destroyed and continue to erode. Since the worker power has decreased since the 70’s, the wealth gap is at record levels. Capitalism has become more predatory, exploitative, and inequality has increased. Now include the phenomenon of Global Economy and the Middle Class is being reduced downward to the Lower Classes. The Upper Class and their wealth is shifting to the economic activity overseas in new ascending economies overseas. This is true, but doesn’t negate Class Warfare. It is just another factor in the equation of competitive Capitalism. As long as there is economic Class structured society based on inequality and exploitation then by design and definition, inequality in human activity will be exploited for economic wealth advantage and therefore there will be Class Warfare conducted by the more powerful Class. It’s a fact of life.

          • marvinmcconoughey

            I believe that our disagreement is rooted in fundamentally different views of economics and social justice and for those reasons cannot be resolved by recourse to argumentation and logic.

          • John Dorman

            It’s not a question of view or an ideology or value statement or even
            a concept of social justice or fairness but the objective truth, a
            matter of accurate and historical fact. I don’t ask what should be but
            attempt to describe factually what is. An explanation of cause/effect
            from a historical reality. I am not presenting and have little interest
            these days in a philosophical/moral argument.

            As such I am an observer searching for the truth, If you have a more
            realistic and intelligent explanation of the cause/effect of Capitalism
            based in historical phenomenon then present it. But don’t chalk it up as
            simply a different view of fundamental societal systems. You haven’t
            even examined, let alone explain the systems of a modern industrial
            nation/state. .

          • John Dorman

            It’s not a question of view or an ideology or value statement or even a concept of social justice or fairness but the objective truth, a matter of accurate and historical fact. I don’t ask what should be but attempt to describe factually what is. An explanation of cause/effect from a historical reality. I am not presenting and have little interest these days in a philosophical/moral argument.

            As such I am an observer searching for the truth, If you have a more realistic and intelligent explanation of the cause/effect of Capitalism based in historical phenomenon then present it. But don’t chalk it up as simply a different view of fundamental societal systems. You haven’t even examined, let alone explain the systems of a modern industrial nation/state. .

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