Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who Isn't Paying Taxes

From Andrew Sullivan's column. He quotes Bruce Bartlett at the New York Times:

There are 78,000 tax filers with incomes of $211,000 to $533,000 who will pay no federal income taxes this year. Even more amazingly, there are 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million with zero income tax liability, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million with the same federal income tax liability as most of those with incomes barely above the poverty level.

Monday, June 6, 2011


"Thus we still speak of certain peoples as 'primitive' and 'backward' because they do not care to rush about the earth at immense speeds, to accumulate more possessions than they can possibly enjoy, to annihilate all peace and silence of the mind with an incessant stream of verbiage from newspaper or radio, or to live like sardines in the din and the fumes of great cities. It seems to have escaped our imagination that evolution and progress have occurred in quite other directions than these."-Alan Watts

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Authentic Culture vs. Creative Culture: Malcom McClaren

In a karaoke world everyone and everything is for sale... in a world that struggles to find something authentic, and maybe you do... invariably it's not for sale. So what do most artists, what do most creative people do? They spend their whole lives trying to authenticate a karaoke culture. But to do that, you have to be some kind of alchemist, a magician. to make that happen and those people are very rare today.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing Beyond Growth

Yale Environment 360 today tackles the question of whether our focus on economic growth harms our well-being.  James Gustav Speth wrote:

There are some, myself included, who believe that the U.S. is now experiencing uneconomic growth. If one could measure and add up all the environmental, security, social and psychological costs that U.S. economic growth generates at this point in our history, they would exceed the benefits of further ramping up what is already the highest GDP per capita of any major economy.

Though not widely accepted, the case is strong that growth in the affluent U.S. is now doing more harm than good. Today, the reigning policy orientation holds that the path to greater well-being is to grow and expand the economy. GDP, productivity, profits, the stock market, and consumption must all go up. This growth imperative trumps all else. It can undermine families, jobs, communities, the climate and environment, and a sense of place and continuity because it is confidently asserted and widely believed that growth is worth the price that must be paid for it...

It is time for America to move to post-growth society where the natural environment, working life, our communities and families, and the public sector are no longer sacrificed for the sake of mere GDP growth; where the illusory promises of ever-more growth no longer provide an excuse for neglecting to deal generously with our country’s compelling social needs; and where true citizen democracy is no longer held hostage to the growth imperative.

Don't You Wish You Could Get Paid More for Poor Performance?

If you're a CEO, should you want your company's stock to nosedive?  Probably not.  Will you be paid better if it does?  There's a good shot, says Roger Martin writing in the Harvard Business Review:

As far as CEO compensation goes, under the current stock-based compensation model, it is unambiguously better to have your stock plummet and then partly recover than to have the stock stay steady over the same period. Though they wouldn't want to admit it, the crash of 2008 wasn't all that bad for the vast majority of big-company CEOs. With the exception of those few CEOs who were sacked, most had terrific air cover: "Our stock may be down 50% but so is everybody else. Really, I'm doing well, all things considered."
Even better, CEOs got tranches of options and/or grants at super-low prices — in some cases lots of them to keep the CEO in question from being depressed that his/her existing options were 'so far underwater'. As the market dragged their stock prices up with everyone else's, these CEOs made out like, well, bandits.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ad Age Reports the Middle Class has Become Irrelevant

As Too Much reports:

“Mass affluence,” as a new white paper from Ad Age, the advertising industry’s top trade journal, has just declared, “is over.”

The Mad Men 1960s America — where average families dominated the consumer market — has totally disappeared, this Ad Age New Wave of Affluence study details. And Madison Avenue has moved on — to where the money sits.

And that money does not sit in average American pockets. The global economic recession, Ad Age relates, has thrown “a spotlight on the yawning divide between the richest Americans and everyone else.”
Taking inflation into account, Ad Age goes on to explain, the “incomes of most American workers have remained more or less static since the 1970s,” while “the income of the rich (and the very rich) has grown exponentially.”

The top 10 percent of American households, the trade journal adds, now account for nearly half of all consumer spending, and a disproportionate share of that spending comes from the top 10’s upper reaches.
“Simply put,” sums up Ad Age’s David Hirschman, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence — particularly in categories such as technology, financial services, travel, automotive, apparel, and personal care.”
As the very rich become even richer, they amass greater purchasing power, creating an increasingly concentrated market for luxury goods and services as well as consumer goods overall.
America as a whole, the new Ad Age study pauses to note, hasn’t quite caught up with the reality of this steep inequality. Americans still “like to believe in an egalitarian ideal of affluence” where “everyone has an equal shot” at “amassing a great fortune through dint of hard work and ingenuity.”