It's nice to be nice ...


George Will writes a column here, titled "Democrats' Prosperity Problem," that I suppose is typically dishonest and purposely misleading. He quotes Barack Obama at the New Hampshire debate lamenting that "the burdens and benefits of this new global economy are not being spread evenly across the board" and promises to "institute some fairness in the system." Look how cleverly Will responds a week later: "Well. When in the long human story have economic burdens and benefits been 'spread evenly'? Does Obama think they should be, even though talents never are? What relationship of "fairness" does he envision between the value received by individuals and the value added by them? Does he disagree -- if so, on what evidence? -- with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that "the influence of globalization on inequality has been moderate and almost surely less important than the effects of skill-biased technological change"? And in truth, Will does not really care very much about issues like inequality. He and his friends are doing just fine. "In the 102 quarters since Ronald Reagan's tax cuts went into effect more than 25 years ago, there have been 96 quarters of growth. Since the Bush tax cuts and the current expansion began," he writes, "the economy's growth has averaged 3 percent per quarter, and more than 8 million jobs have been created. The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is below the post-World War II average. Democrats, economic hypochondriacs all, see economic sickness."

That was in Sunday's Post. When I turned to Sunday's Times, however, I learned from Larry Summers, whom I doubt even Will could paint as a Commie, that his favorite statistic these days is this: "[S]ince 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It's as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent." What's more, "In 2004, according to the Congressional Budget Office's latest official analysis, households in the lowest quintile of the country were making only 2 percent more (adjusted for inflation) than they were in 1979. Those in the next quintile managed only an 11 percent rise. And the middle group was up 15 percent. Do you sense a pattern? The income of families in the fourth quintile -- upper-middle-class folks with an average yearly income of $82,000 -- rose by 23 percent. Only when you get to the top quintile were the gains truly big -- 63 percent." That one's here.

Here's my "favorite" statistic: Over the last quarter century, the portion of the national income accruing to the richest one percent of Americans has doubled. The share going to the richest one-tenth of one percent has tripled, and the share going to the richest one-hundredth of one percent has quadrupled. For working people, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the process of collecting this data began more than 60 years ago. For the poor, just in the years since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line has increased by nearly a third. Meanwhile, the average CEO of a Standard & Poor's 500 company took home $13.51 million in total compensation in 2005, a year in which the top one percent of Americans earned nearly twenty-two percent of all income. Believe it or not, by 11:02 a.m. of the first work day of work on the first day of the year, one of these average CEOs will "earn" more money than the minimum-wage workers in his company will make for the entire year.* To those who would argue that this is just the way the world works, one would have to ask, why is this not the case in Europe or Japan? In fact, among major world economies, the United States in recent years has had the third-greatest disparity in incomes between the very top and everyone else; only Mexico and Russia are worse.

J.J. Goldberg's Forward takes on its prime institutional constituency in a sad and brave editorial here, scoring not only the billionaires of the World Jewish Congress but the many machers of American Jewish institutional life, including the right-wingers who pretend to speak for the dovish American Jewish community, but consistently misrepresent their views on behalf of a Likud/Neocon dominated view. Bravo.

Taking the train to DC for the Center for American Progress/Century Foundation foreign policy conference this morning, it occurred to me that today is the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest days of my then-young life and also one of the most exciting moments in the history of the left, at least in my not-so-young life, today: that was the June 12 Central Park rally for the nuclear freeze; a movement that launched itself democratically and forced the political process to respond, ending ultimately in the end of the Soviet Union, if you accept the Soviet scholar Matthew Evangelista's argument, and I largely do.

The greatest moment of the day, which brought 750,000 people to the park was after Jackson Browne sang "The Pretender" with Gary "U.S." Bonds, and after he sang "Imagine" with Joan Baez, for John Lennon, who was barely a year gone by, when he said, "I have one more friend left here," and out came Bruce Springsteen for an acoustic "Promised Land" and, I think, "Running on Empty." (It was the only time in my first 35 years or so that Bruce ever actually showed up somewhere he wasn't billed.) I had graduated college a few days earlier and was planning to move to Washington after a cross-country trip by Econoline van, and I sort of figured that now that we had had this rally, the Reagan Republicans would simply give up and let the cool people run the government. Young people are so much more sophisticated than we were in those days. Anyway, it was a beautiful day in every way; sad to think of what has been lost since those days.

Two addenda:

1) The Clash were in town that weekend but refused to play because they supported unilateral nuclear disarmamant, and thought the resolution for which this rally was called was silly.

2) My favorite ex-in-laws, Geoff Lewis and Amy Caplan, got married the next day and are still married, so congrats to both of them. (Should you see this, guys, that's why I've always been able to remember your anniversary.)

Reading around:

Fox ignores the war.

File under "too good to check."

Terrific Rick Perlstein essay on China watchers in The Nation, here, though I'm not sure I concur with its policy conclusions.

Also read Rick on the evergreen topic of "High Broderism."

Jurgen Habermas on Richard Rorty.

Because I feel a moral obligation to report each and every social encounter I have with Joe Klein in this space, here is what we said to each other at Tina Brown's book party at the Sony Center last night:

Joe (hand on my shoulder): "Hey Eric."

Eric: "Hey Joe, howya doing?"

The end.

From our sponsors:

Newsweek noted Bossie's upcoming "tough documentary" about Clintons, but not his past "slimy tactics"

An article for the June 18 edition of Newsweek reported that Republican activist David Bossie is producing "a tough documentary" about former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) aimed at "a new generation of voters who don't remember the old Clinton wars." The article noted that Bossie "worked tirelessly as an investigator for" Rep. Dan Burton's (R-IN) House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in the 1990s. But Newsweek failed to inform readers that Bossie's alleged actions in that post ultimately got him fired from the committee and earned him the condemnation of congressional Republicans and Democrats.

NBC, ABC, MSNBC misrepresented Edwards' response to question about Hilton sentence

Several media outlets -- including NBC's Nightly News,, and MSNBC's First Read weblog -- misrepresented Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards' (NC) comments at a June 7 press conference to suggest that he drew a parallel between celebrity heiress Paris Hilton's initial release from (and subsequent return to) jail and the class divide in the United States -- one of his signature campaign issues. In fact, Edwards mentioned Hilton only after a reporter posed a question linking her to Edwards' message about economic inequality, as Media Matters for America has noted. Moreover, Edwards said specifically that he was going to "stay out of the Paris Hilton story" and stated twice that his comments were "without regard to Paris Hilton."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rich Siegel
Hometown: Northbrook, IL

The Bush administration admits that it is afraid to expose the fragile Marine General/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace to the wrath and scorn that Congress would subject him to in reconfirmation hearings. We appear to have found what cutting and running really means.

However, since he is still Chairman until September, there appears to be no reason not to call him for hearings on progress in the meantime.

Name: Dawn


I was very interested to see your post about looking at stuttering in a new way. I don't see many blogs that are not specifically for stutterers address the subject. Carly Simon has always been a hero of mine, since I too am one of the very few females who stutter. I'm interested in hearing your views since you are an objective observer whose opinions I respect. I could go on forever on how it has affected my life, but how do non-stutterers view stuttering anyway? You can be honest! That is the blunt opinion I can't get from my family and friends. I like to believe that the world is more forgiving than we know, and that knowing that would alleviate a lot of the fear and dread associated with stuttering and help matters immensely.

Thank you as always for your work.

Eric replies: Well, I can speak only for myself and say that it has never, ever come up in conversation before. I have one friend who stutters and we have many friends in common. We speak of her sympathetically, but I can't say we've (or I've) ever considered the difficulties she must endure, particularly as a child, the way we would have with another, more visible, disability. The afternoon, and particularly Carly's remarks, proved a real eye-opener for me.

Name: Ken
Hometown: Manhattan

It's Courtney Cox's house, not Courtney Love's .... I know they're difficult to tell apart, but one of them danced with Bruce in a video (the apex of both their careers) and the other didn't.

Eric replies: Right. Sorry. I ain't nothin' but tired, I guess.


* The CEOs of America's largest corporations (The Fortune 100) make an average of $17.6 million per year. That is $67,692 per day or approximately $8,461 per hour. The Federal Minimum Wage is currently set at $5.15 per hour or $10,712 per year (for a 40 hour work week).[ It takes the average CEO, 2 hours and 2 minutes to earn $10,712. The CEO of Fortune 100 companies earn $10,712 in 1 hour and 16 minutes. It takes the average minimum wage worker 52 forty-hour weeks (2,080 hours) to earn $10,712. See Survey of CEO salaries at companies with $1 billion plus of revenue, Money Line, 6/21/06; Survey of CEO salaries at Fortune 100 companies, USA Today, 4/11/06. See also New York Times, March 29, 2007.

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