Thursday, September 9, 2010

Growing Inequality

Today, the wealthiest 1% of Americans account for 24% of the nation's income, up from approximately 18% toward the beginning of the 20th-century. Slate's Timothy Noah is writing a series of articles exploring this growing inequality that is worth a read.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Not Drinking

I know exactly how she feels.

Three years after quitting drinking at the age of 27, I've accepted my role as the non-drinker at any given dinner party or social event. I'm happy with my decision to teetotal, but some of my peers are less so -- for example, my friend's roommate.

"So you're not drinking? At all? Really?"

I have never had alcohol, but I have never begrudged anyone else the choice to do so. Drink and drive? Yeah, that's dumb. I'll judge you for that. Drink until you puke and have a nasty hangover? I'm not going to feel sorry for you. But if someone wants to drink, that's their choice; I really don't care. So, I guess it puzzles me why me not drinking would make people uncomfortable.

It must be an insecurity thing. If people were completely comfortable with their decision to drink, then it wouldn't matter if someone else chose not to. Drinking alcohol is such a huge part of our culture that you would think there wouldn't be as much insecurity about it as there is.

The best comment (of all time!) in regard to me not drinking was a coworker years ago. "I'd respect you more if you drank." No comment necessary.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"He was one of us."

Read this moving story about a young Iraqi boy who worked with our military as an interpreter and guide. Things like this are worth keeping in mind whenever we debate military action. The costs are many and they are born by people far from the decision makers.

Cosmic Ghosts

Scientists have discovered the remnants of a black hole eruption equal in power to a billion supernovas. Makes us seem sorta small, doesn't it?

Should the Social Security Retirement Age be Raised?

Ezra Klein changes his mind and says, "No."

Start with the basic rationale for raising the retirement age. As Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has argued, when Social Security was signed into law, the retirement age was 65 and life expectancy was 63. "The numbers added up pretty well back then," he said on Fox News. But that's misleading. That figure was driven by high infant mortality. If you were a white male who'd made it to age 60 in 1935, you could expect 15 more years going forward. If you're a white male who lives to 60 today, you can expect 20 more years going forward.

Moreover, those averages conceal a lot of inequality. In 1972, a 60-year-old male worker who made less than the median income had a life expectancy of 78 years. By 2001, he had a life expectancy of 80 years. Meanwhile, workers in the top half of the income distribution shot to 85 years from 79. Insofar as the argument for raising the retirement age is that "Social Security beneficiaries live a lot longer today than they did in 1935," it should be restated as: "Social Security beneficiaries tend to live somewhat longer today than they did in 1935, and that's much more true of rich beneficiaries than poor beneficiaries."

And so what? Lurking beneath this conversation is an unquestioned assumption: We live longer, so we should work longer. That's pretty intuitive to members of Congress, who seem to like their jobs and don't seem to like the idea of retiring. It's also pretty intuitive to blogger/columnists, who spend their time in air-conditioned rooms opining about pension programs. But most people don't work in Congress or in the media. They work on their feet. They strain their backs. They're bored silly at the end of the day. By the time they're in their 60s, they want to retire.

The bizarre thing about this debate (as with many other policy debates) is that the outcome of this debate will have a large impact on many poor people. Now, how many poor people are involved in the decision-making process? How many members of Congress would be negatively impacted by raising the retirement age or reducing benefits? That's not to say some of this might be necessary, but it is something to keep in mind whenever these people come back to us, the American people, and say that something needs to be cut.

Weekly Secret


Many of the secrets on PostSecret are sad and this one is no different. Here we have someone who seems to love someone else wanting that someone else to lose weight so that his/her family will love them as much. If these family members don't love the person with their extra weight, who says they will love them without it? And can the author of the postcard really love this person if they want them to do something shallow to gain someone else's love?

It seems more likely to me that the author wants the person to lose weight and is using his/her family as an excuse which is sad. Helping and encouraging someone to lose weight for their health is a good thing. Doing the same because you find yourself loving someone less for their weight is just sad.