Born today in May 31,1819: Walt Whitman. An exhibition on his life.
A Noiseless Patient Spider
A NOISELESS, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
Analysis of this poem are everywhere on the net. They usually stress the human capacity, a near craving in the search for connections or at least a couple of truly meaningful ones. Though there is a sadness, a melancholy, “surrounded, in measureless oceans of space” that is a meditation about the human desire to fill up what can at times seem like the vastness of existence with some kind of contribution – labor, art, companionship, empathy. Others fell the void with delusions of noble violence, war and greed.
button-fly jeans wallpaper. best not worn to rock concerts or beer fests.
Adapted from The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz, to be published in June,
The “Rent Seeking” Problem
Here I need to resort to a bit of economic jargon. The word “rent” was originally used, and still is, to describe what someone received for the use of a piece of his land—it’s the return obtained by virtue of ownership, and not because of anything one actually does or produces. This stands in contrast to “wages,” for example, which connotes compensation for the labor that workers provide. The term “rent” was eventually extended to include monopoly profits—the income that one receives simply from the control of a monopoly. In time, the meaning was expanded still further to include the returns on other kinds of ownership claims. If the government gave a company the exclusive right to import a certain amount of a certain good, such as sugar, then the extra return was called a “quota rent.” The acquisition of rights to mine or drill produces a form of rent. So does preferential tax treatment for special interests. In a broad sense, “rent seeking” defines many of the ways by which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else, including transfers and subsidies from the government, laws that make the marketplace less competitive, laws that allow C.E.O.’s to take a disproportionate share of corporate revenue (though Dodd-Frank has made matters better by requiring a non-binding shareholder vote on compensation at least once every three years), and laws that permit corporations to make profits as they degrade the environment.
The magnitude of “rent seeking” in our economy, while hard to quantify, is clearly enormous. Individuals and corporations that excel at rent seeking are handsomely rewarded. The financial industry, which now largely functions as a market in speculation rather than a tool for promoting true economic productivity, is the rent-seeking sector par excellence. Rent seeking goes beyond speculation. The financial sector also gets rents out of its domination of the means of payment—the exorbitant credit- and debit-card fees and also the less well-known fees charged to merchants and passed on, eventually, to consumers. The money it siphons from poor and middle-class Americans through predatory lending practices can be thought of as rents. In recent years, the financial sector has accounted for some 40 percent of all corporate profits. This does not mean that its social contribution sneaks into the plus column, or comes even close. The crisis showed how it could wreak havoc on the economy. In a rent-seeking economy such as ours has become, private returns and social returns are badly out of whack.
Maybe he does in the book, but I wish that Stiglitz had gone more into how long the U.S. and western Europe (to some extent) can continue this descent into two economies. The worker economy that is making the same thing – adjusted for inflation – it was making thirty years ago, and the top one to ten percent who are making their money through rent seeking. It does not take a majority to continue the trend. Conservatives are a minority in the U.S. Senate and because of parliamentary rules they can and have held up any legislation that addresses deeper financial reform They have even been somewhat successful in blocking implementation of the financial reform we did pass in 2009. Since the rent seekers have more money they can also siphon off funds from the middle and working class by trying to pass an estimated 400 state level bills aimed at passing Jim-Crow-Lite laws aimed at women. The Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1863. Yet we did not have real emancipation until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those opposed to real capitalism, a system that incorporates economic justice, might not take a hundred years, but a half century wait is a real possibility without more progressives in Congress. Stiglitz addresses something that former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has hit on, as that Paul Krugman hints at, that if the 1% mentality about how the economy should run continues, it will take democracy down with it.
In a society in which inequality is widening, fairness is not just about wages and income, or wealth. It’s a far more generalized perception. Do I seem to have a stake in the direction society is going, or not? Do I share in the benefits of collective action, or not? If the answer is a loud “no,” then brace for a decline in motivation whose repercussions will be felt economically and in all aspects of civic life.
For Americans, one key aspect of fairness is opportunity: everyone should have a fair shot at living the American Dream.
May 25th was the anniversary of the Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Retro Film Featuring Original Archival Footage. Sadly all 68,000 tons steel used to build the bridge was supplied by the now defunct Bethlehem Steel.
The contraceptive coverage benefit does not substantially burden religious practice but rather preserves the religious liberty of individuals to make personal medical and moral decisions without interference from anyone, including their employers. In addition, it has been well established that the government has a compelling interest in protecting public health and remedying long-standing discrimination by ensuring that women receive contraceptive coverage through their health plans.