The Bellman’s speech

Tonight at 8:00

This New York Times graph of pay and productivity is striking, and illustrates real problems. But I have two remarks:

  1. One segment says “Great Wealth to the top 1 Percent…Was Reversed by Policy…But Then Rose Again.” I remember the 70s and the Carter administration. It wasn’t Reagan’s policies that crushed the middle class.
  2. Another segment compares the situation in 1975 with that in 2008, saying “To Sustain Household Spending…More Women Worked…” To which I reply, “Hey, New York Times, you say that like it’s a bad thing. In 1976 you thought it would be awesome.”

Inevitably the article that goes with the graph, The Limping Middle Class by Robert B. Reich, sounds like its author lived through some alternative historical timeline in which the 70s were good times and the 80s and 90s were economic hell.

It’s no surprise that Reich, if he’s a visitor from a parallel universe, would think we need more government regulation, higher taxes, and a big honkin’ stimulus package:

“Doctor, I gave the patient the salt of mercury you prescribed, but he seems to have weakened, surprisingly.”

“That is surprising. Well, prepare another dose, and I’ll let blood.”

Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and the other elite brains in Washington have but one idea. Sadly, that one idea isn’t “Snark.” Otherwise, the parallels are eerie. Tell me who in high office today best fits this description:

The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies —
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best —
A perfect and absolute blank!”

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave — but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!”
What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Surprisingly, a Snark hunt is more fun to read about than to live through.