Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part VI (And Last!)


This series ends where it started, sort of. On the night of the Democratic debate, I posted If You Were Listening Closely Tonight…. The thrust of that piece was to focus on the difference in the ways Clinton and Sanders spoke about economic inequality:

Sanders spoke, as he always does, as a Democratic Socialist. Essentially, that means he wants to address our extreme inequality through policies that will compress — bringing the bottom up and the top (the billionaires) down.

Clinton’s framing, by contrast, was all about equality of opportunity. She may have thrown in a line here or there about “fairer” tax policy, but those were throwaways. The thrust of her message was that every one should have the chance to succeed the way she and Bill have.

I went on to make the point that only 1% of the population can be in the top 1%, so there needs to be more to it, much more to it, than equalizing opportunity.

But I left out an equally important point.

In my previous post in this series, I discussed the messages that Hillary is sending to her corporate and Wall Street sponsors with her positions. For example, it’s okay for her to vaguely diss the TPP, without speaking to trade deals in general, because the TPP will be a done deal when she takes office. But it’s not okay for her to favor the re-institution of Glass-Steagall, because that’s not cool with the Wall Street crowd.

And so it is with the discussion of inequality. The 1% know that equality of opportunity is a farce. They’re not threatened by it. They know that under the current system their kids and grandkids will occupy the same perch they do one day.

If you want to speak about economic inequality in a way that doesn’t offend or threaten the top 1%, you speak about equality of opportunity; how everyone should have a chance to make it to the top. But you don’t speak about greedy billionaires, as Sanders does, whose massive fortunes must be redistributed so that we all can share in the country’s prosperity. You don’t speak, as Sanders does, about growth for growth’s sake being pointless if the benefits all flow to a select few.

If you listen carefully how Hillary Clinton is speaking about inequality, her message to the 1% is unmistakable: “You have nothing to worry about under a Clinton presidency.”

Which means that the rest of us do.

Previous posts in this series:

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part I

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part II

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part III

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part IV

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part V


  1. You made the point that only 1% can be in the one percent. That is not true. The number of people moving above $124,000 in agi exploded from less than a million to over 4 million. We and the poor are the enormous beneficiaries: these people now pay over $500 billion in taxes.

    I could do a similar analysis for the top ten percent. That group experienced a similar explosion.

    Again, the real issue isn’t equality, it’s improving the outcomes for the poor. Setting equality as an objective is destructive of outcomes for the poor because you inherently assume a negative relationship between outcomes for the poor and outcomes for the top 1%. In fact, there is a very positive relationship between the two as not just the $520 billion in taxes screams in evidence but all the economic activity of the other $2 trillion.

    • Consider your first two sentences:

      “You made the point that only 1% can be in the one percent. That is not true.”

      Keep considering them until you say to yourself “Bob Lord is right. I’m a moron.” Let me know when you’ve come to grips with that. Until then, try to refrain from commenting on this site, just in case your idiocy is contagious.

  2. In 1980, an adjusted gross income of $124 thousand ($2008) put you in the top 1%. That was 932 thousand tax returns. By 2008, the number of people with an agi of $124 thousand had exploded to 4.1 million. Those people went from paying $124 billion in taxes at an average rate of 34.4 % to 520 billion at 21.9 percent. Just an unbelievable triumph for supply side economics. We left France in the dust. They experienced nothing like this. Piketty is a fraud and France is the victim of his ideas.

    The problem isn’t equality, it is improving outcomes for the poor. Driving for equality always leads you to everyone being in the bottom 1% like Cuba with a maximum monthly income of $20.

    • Essentially, what you’ve just done is describe how creeping inequality works. In the beginning, and 1980 is not a bad estimation of that, the top quintile or so of the population benefits from the concentration of wealth and income. As the process continues, however, the concentration also continues, and the size of the group that benefits shrinks. Eventually, even those in the bottom of the 1% get squeezed.

      As for the tax relief, you’re including the entire top 1% in your numbers. What you’ll find if you look closely at the change in tax policy since 1980 is that the income tax brackets really haven’t changed that much with one exception: the additional brackets that used to apply only for the 1% have been eliminated. So, the billionaire class has benefited, but the folks just below the 1% have not. Worse, employment taxes have increased for the groups below the 1%. So your numbers here are misleading, and I believe intentionally so.

      Piketty is not the fraud. You are. Piketty didn’t go online using a pseudonym in order to make statements he didn’t want attributed to him. You did. On what planet, Thucky, can you consider yourself anything other than a fraud?

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