Monthly Archives: April 2011

Study: Most Americans Want Wealth Distribution Similar to Sweden

By Daniel Tencer, The Raw Story, at AlterNet, 4/25/11

Americans generally underestimate the degree of income inequality in the United States, and if given a choice, would distribute wealth in a similar way to the social democracies of Scandinavia, a new study finds.

For decades, polls have shown that a plurality of Americans — around 40 percent — consider themselves conservative, while only around 20 percent self-identify as liberals. But a new study from two noted economists casts doubt on what values lie beneath those political labels.

According to research carried out by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University, and flagged by Paul Kedrosky at the Infectious Greed blog, 92 percent of Americans would choose to live in a society with far less income disparity than the US, choosing Sweden’s model over that of the US.

What’s more, the study’s authors say that this applies to people of all income levels and all political leanings: The poor and the rich, Democrats and Republicans are all equally likely to choose the Swedish model.

But the study also found that respondents preferred Sweden’s model over a model of perfect income equality for everyone, “suggesting that Americans prefer some inequality to perfect equality, but not to the degree currently present in the United States,” the authors state.

Recent analyses have shown that income inequality in the US has grown steadily for the past three decades and reached its highest level on record, exceeding even the large disparities seen in the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Norton and Ariely estimate that the one percent wealthiest Americans hold nearly 50 percent of the country’s wealth, while the richest 20 percent hold 84 percent of the wealth….

continue reading at AlterNet

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax

The Tea Party and Ayn Rand

By Megan Gibson, The Guardian UK, 4/24/11

…Rand was a staunch advocate of capitalism and limited government. She was also a staunch advocate of abortion rights and sexual hedonism, and an atheist to boot, which her conservative admirers have largely ignored. Rand and her characters maintained that morality wasn’t something that could be imposed by outside institutions, rather should be a consequence from individuals acting in their own rational self-interest. Which, obviously, steps way out of line with the thinking of the Tea Party, which encompasses the religious right….

read the full article at The Guardian UK

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Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools

Rachel Tabachnick, Talk To Action, Wed Apr 20, 2011

The DeVos family crusade to eradicate public education has targeted Pennsylvania, and a voucher bill may come to a vote in the PA Senate as early as Tuesday. It’s being marketed as a solution to save public schools, but the big donors are tied to right-wing think tanks that openly advocate, and strategize, the end of public education. How can vouchers improve public schools if the people mobilizing the movement intend to eradicate public education? Regardless of your personal stance on “school choice,” it’s important to know who is behind the voucher movement and the agenda they don’t share with the public or advertise in their media campaigns.

A new wave of school voucher bills is sweeping the nation, which would allow public education funds to be used in private or parochial schools. As with past waves of voucher initiatives, these new bills are largely promoted and funded by the billionaire DeVos family and a core group of wealthy pro-privatization supporters. They include Pennsylvania SB-1, soon coming to a vote in the PA Senate, and the “Vouchers-for-All” bill approved by the Florida Senate Education Committee on April 14. Betsy DeVos is at the helm of organizations that have set the stage for both bills, but you would never know it based on the propaganda being marketed to Pennsylvanians. Even if you are from another state, keep reading. Chances are a Betsy DeVos-led campaign is already at work in your state or will be there soon.

The DeVos family is recognized as one of the top national contributors to the Republican Party, free market policy institutes, and Religious Right organizations. Many of their previous attempts at using voucher initiatives to privatize the nation’s public schools have been transparent. Recent campaigns have been more covert and are camouflaged behind local efforts described as grass roots and bipartisan.

Pennsylvanians should not be deceived. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of school choice, behind the curtain of this effort is an interconnected network of right wing think tanks and billionaire donors, funded by foundations including those of the DeVos and Koch families and the Scaife, Allegheny, and Carthage Foundations of Pennsylvania’s own Richard Mellon Scaife. The leaders of many of these DeVos/Koch/Scaife-funded institutes openly voice their ideological objections to all forms of public education. Some even proudly display their support for a proclamation posted at the Alliance for Separation of School and State, which reads,

“I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education.”

Years have been spent developing and promoting schemes to privatize public education. The report “Voucher Veneer: the Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education” by People For the American Way (PFAW), quotes Joseph Bast, President and CEO of the Koch/Scaife/Walton-funded Heartland Institute,

“The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.”…

continue reading at Talk To Action

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Filed under Education and schools, PA govt & politics, Right Wing

“Atlas Shrugged.” Jesus didn’t

by Isaiah J. Poole, Daily Kos, 4/21/11

Just in time for Easter, the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is poised to be shown in an expanding number of theaters. And, as Ayn Rand would be the first to admit, you could not set up a sharper clash of world views.

There is Jesus Christ, who, the apostle Paul writes, “died for the ungodly.” Then there is the atheist Rand—”by all accounts … one of the central intellectual and cultural inspirations for the base of the Republican Party,” Think Progress writes this week—who once told Alvin Toffler in a Playboy magazine interview that “nothing could make me more indignant” than the idea of a “man of perfect virtue dying for the ungodly, “the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal.”

Rand is very clear: walking in the path of Christ and walking in the path of “Atlas Shrugged” hero John Galt will take you to two very different places. Which ought to give pause to political leaders who claim to embrace the values of Christ but adopt the politics of Rand….

keep reading at Daily Kos

n.b. from the Playboy interview mentioned above, quoting Rand:

“To use his mind, to perceive reality and to act accordingly, is man’s moral imperative. The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man’s life—man’s survival qua man—or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself. It is this last that Galt’s statement summarizes.”

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Filed under Religions, Right Wing