All great and inspiring leaders and companies whether its Apple, Rev Dr Martin Luther King, or the Wright Brothers think, act, and communicate the same way and it’s the opposite of the way nearly everyone else does. They are all storytellers.
Storytelling is one of the oldest, if not the oldest method of communicating ideas and images. Story performance honed our mythologies long before they were written and edited by scribes, poets, or scholars.
First "Why" then Trust..
We are told that America is divided and polarized as never before. Yet when it comes to many important areas of policy, that simply isn’t true.
About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.
The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these. Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants — as much as demagogy and political divisiveness — is what is making the public so angry.
Some might counter that the thwarting of the popular will is not necessarily worrisome. For Congress to enact a proposal just because it is supported by a large majority, the argument goes, would amount to populism. The public, according to this way of thinking, is generally too ill-informed.
to have its economic policy preferences taken seriously.
It is true that policymaking requires expertise. But I don’t think members of the public are demonstrating ignorance when they claim that drug prices are too high, taxes could be fairer, privacy laws are too weak and monopolies are too coddled.
Others remind us that the United States is a democratic republic, not a direct democracy, and that the Constitution was designed to modulate the extremes of majority rule. Majorities sometimes want things — like bans on books, or crackdowns on minorities — that they should not be given.
This is true. It is also true that a thoughtful process of democratic deliberation and compromise can yield better policy outcomes than merely following the majority’s will. But these considerations hardly describe our current situation. The invocation of constitutional principle has become an increasingly lame and embarrassing excuse. The framers of the Constitution, having experienced a popular revolution, were hardly recommending that the will of the majority be ignored. The Constitution sought to fine-tune majoritarian democracy, not to silence it.
The most obvious historical precedent for our times is the Progressive era. During the first decades of the 20th century, the American public voted for politicians who supported economic reforms like maximum-hour work laws and bans on child labor. But the Supreme Court struck down most of Congress’s economic legislation, deeming it unconstitutional.
In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.
The president, because he is representative of more voters, might be thought an important remedy to this problem. And when running for office, Mr. Trump did gesture at his support for popular policies, promising to control drug prices, build public infrastructure and change trade policy to favor dispossessed workers. Yet since coming to power, Mr. Trump, with a few exceptions, like trade, has seemed to lose interest in what the broader public wants, focusing instead on polarizing issues like immigration that are not the public’s main concerns but the obsessions of a loud minority faction.
As the United States begins the process of choosing the next president and Congress, we need to talk more openly about which candidates are most likely to deliver the economic policies that the supermajority wants. Yes, the people can be wrong about things, but so too can experts, embedded industry groups and divisive political factions. It is not a concession to populism, but rather a respect for democracy, to suggest that two-thirds of the population should usually get what they ask for.
Tim Wu (@superwuster) is a law professor at Columbia, a contributing opinion writer and the author, most recently, of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”
Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich
By RICHARD V. REEVES JUNE 10, 2017 New York Times
When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with elocution lessons. It is no secret that how you talk matters a lot in a class-saturated society like the United Kingdom. Peterborough, our increasingly diverse hometown, was prosperous enough, but not upscale. Six in 10 of the city’s residents voted for Brexit — a useful inverse poshness indicator. (In Thursday’s general election, Peterborough returned a Labour MP for the first time since 2001.)
Our mother, from a rural working-class background herself, wanted us to be able to rise up the class ladder, unencumbered by the wrong accent. The elocution lessons never materialized, but we did have to attend ballroom dancing lessons on Saturday mornings. She didn’t want us to put a foot wrong there, either.
As it turned out, my brother and I did just fine, in no small part because of the stable, loving, middle-class home in which we were raised. Any lingering working-class traces in my own accent were wiped away by three disinfectant years at Oxford. My wife claims they resurface when I drink, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about — she’s American.
I always found the class consciousness of Britain depressing. It is one of the reasons we brought our British-born sons to America. Here, class is quaint, something to observe in wonder through imported TV shows like “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.” So imagine my horror at discovering that the United States is more calcified by class than Britain, especially toward the top. The big difference is that most of the people on the highest rung in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.
In Britain, it is politically impossible to be prime minister and send your children to the equivalent of a private high school. Even Old Etonian David Cameron couldn’t do it. In the United States, the most liberal politician can pay for a lavish education in the private sector. Some of my most progressive friends send their children to $30,000-a-year high schools. The surprise is not that they do it. It is that they do it without so much as a murmur of moral disquiet.
Beneath a veneer of classlessness, the American class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency. In particular, the upper middle class is solidifying. This favored fifth at the top of the income distribution, with an average annual household income of $200,000, has been separating from the 80 percent below. Collectively, this top fifth has seen a $4 trillion-plus increase in pretax income since 1979, compared to just over $3 trillion for everyone else. Some of those gains went to the top 1 percent. But most went to the 19 percent just beneath them.
The rhetoric of “We are the 99 percent” has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans, and that it is just the so-called super rich who are to blame for inequality.
Politicians and policy wonks worry about the persistence of poverty across generations, but affluence is inherited more strongly. Most disturbing, we now know how firmly class positions are being transmitted across generations. Most of the children born into households in the top 20 percent will stay there or drop only as far as the next quintile. As Gary Solon, one of the leading scholars of social mobility, put it recently, “Rather than a poverty trap, there seems instead to be more stickiness at the other end: a ‘wealth trap,’ if you will.”
There’s a kind of class double-think going on here. On the one hand, upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. To the extent that there is any ethical deliberation, it usually results in a justification along the lines of “Well, maybe it’s wrong, but everyone’s doing it.”
The United States is the only nation in the world, for example, where it is easier to get into college if one of your parents happened to go there. Oxford and Cambridge ditched legacy preferences in the middle of the last century. The existence of such an unfair hereditary practice in 21st-century America is startling in itself. But I have been more shocked by the way that even supposedly liberal members of the upper middle class seem to have no qualms about benefiting from it.
The upper middle class is also doing lots right, not least when it comes to creating a stable family environment and being engaged parents. These are behaviors we want to spread, not stop. Nobody should feel bad for working hard to raise their kids well.
Things turn ugly, however, when the upper middle class starts to rig markets in its own favor, to the detriment of others. Take housing, perhaps the most significant example. Exclusionary zoning practices allow the upper middle class to live in enclaves. Gated communities, in effect, even if the gates are not visible. Since schools typically draw from their surrounding area, the physical separation of upper-middle-class neighborhoods is replicated in the classroom. Good schools make the area more desirable, further inflating the value of our houses. The federal tax system gives us a handout, through the mortgage-interest deduction, to help us purchase these pricey homes. For the upper middle classes, regardless of their professed political preferences, zoning, wealth, tax deductions and educational opportunity reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.
It takes a brave politician to question the privileges enjoyed by the upper middle class. Recently, there have been failed attempts to make zoning laws more inclusive in supposedly liberal cities like Seattle and states like California and Massachusetts. The handout on mortgage interest appears to be an indestructible deduction (unlike in Britain, where the equivalent tax break was phased out under both Conservative and Labour governments by 2000).
Or look at 529 college savings plans, another boondoggle. These are tax-exempt vehicles for putting money aside for educational expenses. Thanks to legislation signed by George W. Bush in 2001, any capital gains in these plans are free of all federal taxes. Most states also allow savings up to a certain level to be deducted from state income tax. Almost all the benefits of 529 plans go to upper-middle-class families. But when President Obama proposed to end the federal tax break in 2015, uproar ensued, and not just from Republicans. Liberal democrats representing affluent districts killed the idea stone dead.
Progressive policies, whether on zoning or school admissions or tax reform, all too often run into the wall of upper-middle-class opposition. Self-interest is natural enough. But the people who make up the American upper middle class don’t just want to keep their advantages; armed with their faith in a classless, meritocratic society, they think they deserve them. The strong whiff of entitlement coming from the top 20 percent has not been lost on everyone else.
I see now that English class consciousness has an important silver lining. At least there we know that class is a real fact of social life. Posh Brits are more likely to see that their position is at least in part the result of good fortune. For Americans to solve the problem of their deepening class divisions, we will have to start by admitting their existence and our complicity in maintaining them. We need to raise our consciousness about class. And yes, I am looking at you.
Richard V. Reeves (@RichardvReeves) is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the forthcoming book, “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/opinion/sunday/stop-pretending-youre-not-rich.html?mwrsm=Email
Big companies are crushing their competition in the US, and it's creating a dangerous 'fake capitalism' that hurts workers and consumers
Something is Broken
All around the world, people have an overwhelming sense that something is broken. This is leading to record levels of populism in the United States and Europe, resurgent intolerance, and a desire to upend the existing order. The left and right cannot agree on what is wrong, but they both know that something is rotten.
Capitalism has been the greatest system in history to lift people out of poverty and create wealth, but the "capitalism" we see today in the United States is a far cry from competitive markets. What we have today is a grotesque, deformed version of capitalism.
According to the dictionary, the idealized state of capitalism is "an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, characterized by the freedom of capitalists to operate or manage their property for profit in competitive conditions."
Parts of this definition have universal appeal today, but the harder part is the last section. The battle for competition is being lost. Industries are becoming highly concentrated in the hands of very few players, with little real competition. Capitalism without competition is not capitalism.
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Tax Cuts, Sold as Fuel for Growth, Widen Gap Between Rich and Poor
ECONOMIC SCENE OCT. 3, 2017
It is a little unsettling that the intellectual underpinning of tax policy in the United States today was jotted down on a napkin at the Two Continents Restaurant in Washington in December 1974.
That was when, legend has it, Arthur Laffer, a young economist at the University of Chicago, deployed the sketch over dinner to convince Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, aides to President Gerald R. Ford, that raising tax rates would reduce tax revenue by hampering growth.
It was another economy. The top marginal income tax rate was 70 percent then. For three decades, just over 10 percent of the nation’s income had gone to the 1 percent earning the most. Economists believed Simon Kuznets’ proposition that though market forces would widen inequality at early stages of growth, further economic development would ultimately lead it to narrow. The paramount policy challenge of the day was how to raise productivity.
It is unclear whether reality ever followed Mr. Laffer’s prescription. “In 1986 we dropped the top income tax rate from 50 to 28 percent and the corporate tax rate from 46 to 34 percent,” said Bruce Bartlett, a policy adviser in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger increase in incentives than that, and I can’t remember any big boost to growth.”
Nonetheless, tax policy today is still being driven by his decades-old argument, devised in an economy that looks nothing like today’s.
Today, 1 percent of the population is taking in more than 20 percent of the nation’s income, twice as much as when the fateful dinner took place. Today’s top marginal tax rate, 39.6 percent, is a little over half what it was then. To read the rest of the article click here.
Two Nobel Prize winners figured out the perfect salary for happinessTwo Nobel Prize winners figured out the perfect salary for happinessTwo Nobel Prize winners figured out the perfect salary for happinessLast week, Princeton economist Angus Deaton won the Nobel Prize for his research into poverty and development.
His work investigates how humanity's overall quality of lifehas surged in the past 100 years, thanks to global advancements of tech and healthcare, as well as Asia's incredible economic growth.
But he's also dug into the ways that Westerners relate to money. In a popular 2010 paper, he partnered with another legend in behavioral science: psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in 2002.
According to their study, there's a "happiness plateau" above an annual salary of $75,000.
To arrive at that figure, Deaton and Kahneman analyzed 450,000 responses from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by the Gallup Organization.
Australia goes 25 years Without Recession
Australia's economy gained momentum in the last quarter of 2016, allowing the resource-rich economy to extend its 25-year streak without recession.
It brings the country close to breaking the Netherlands' record of modern-era uninterrupted economic growth.
Australia's economy had contracted in the third quarter but the surprise 1.1% rise pulled the annual figure back to a 2.4% growth rate.
The recovery was attributed largely to strong exports and consumer spending.
Mining and agriculture enjoyed relatively strong growth in the three months to December.
Iron ore and coal are Australia's biggest exports and reduced demand from China has cooled a mining boom and hurt the Australian economy.
Australia has not had a recession - defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth - since June 1991.
It is now just one quarter short of the Dutch record set between 1982 and 2008.
Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed a 2% rise in business investment in December - the first rise after a dozen quarters of decline.
"Our growth continues to be above the OECD average and confirms the successful change that is taking place in our economy as we move from the largest resources investment boom in our history to broader-based growth," he said.
ANZ analysts said the figures confirmed that the weakness in the third quarter "was only temporary, and underlying momentum in the economy remains solid".
Capital Economics chief Australia economist Paul Dales said the economy was firmly "back on track".
"The decent rebound in real GDP in the fourth quarter doesn't just dash any lingering fears that Australia was in a recession, but it also boosts hopes that the surge in commodity prices will trigger a rapid recovery," he said.
"The outlook for the next year is reasonably bright," Shane Oliver of AMP Capital told the BBC. "We are seeing a pickup in export volumes and we have seen a big rebound in key commodity prices."
Mr Oliver added: "Growth should probably get back to 2.5%, maybe 3% over the course of this year."
Estimates by the country's central bank point to economic growth rising to about 3% for 2017 on the back of recovering commodity prices.