Sunday, June 2, 2024

Rich person, poor person, convicted person.

I have an iPhone (go ahead, say it: "OK, Boomer!"). One nice thing about it is that for ten bucks a month, I get access to stories from a whole lot of publications that I'd otherwise have to pay big money for.

Take, for instance, the Wall Street Journal. I had an introductory subscription for a while, but when that ran its course, the price jumped to the usual $36.99 a month -- which didn't work for me, but totally makes sense for the kinds of readers they're trying to attract (i.e., bankers, stock traders, hedge fund operators, and other finance types).

The WSJ's news coverage reflects who they see as their ideal audience. Take, for example, this story from this week. I've included the link in case you have a WSJ subscription, which I realize is pretty unlikely, so here's the gist of the story: A couple of Nobel laureates decided in 2010 that $75,000 a year ($110,000 a year in 2024 dollars) was the peak salary for happiness; after that, if your salary went up, you'd be no happier. Researchers today are having a hard time replicating their work. From the story: "More recent research suggests that there may be no household income at which happiness peaks, and that our money might influence our emotions well beyond that threshold." As a general rule, though, people who make higher incomes tend to be happier. 

ra2studio | Deposit Photos

To paraphrase something that a fellow I once worked with used to say: Every obvious fact will someday be confirmed by an academic study. 

One obvious fact is mostly left out of the story, although one of the researchers does mention it obliquely: "It isn't what the money buys, but the choices it affords." Or in other words, the less money you make, the fewer options you have. 

And of course poor people have the fewest options of all. Oh, the government has programs to help the poor, but this article in The Atlantic this week paints a less-than-rosy view of that assistance. (You should be able to get to the article from that link -- I got a come-on to subscribe, but I wasn't blocked me outright.) Here's a summary, from the article:

Beginning in the 1980s, the U.S. government aggressively pursued the privatization of many government functions under the theory that businesses would compete to deliver these services more cheaply and effectively than a bunch of lazy bureaucrats. The result is a lucrative and politically powerful set of industries that are fueled by government anti-poverty programs and thus depend on poverty for their business model. These entities often take advantage of the very people they ostensibly serve.

From Medicaid programs to state welfare systems to job-training programs, management of government programs to help the poor climb out of poverty has been turned over to private enterprise -- which of course has a vested interest in perpetuating the cycle, so these private companies can keep as much government money as possible for themselves. 

Note the date in the quote, by the way. Who was president during the 1980s? Why, it was Ronald Reagan, whose "Morning in America" brought us trickle-down economics, weakened labor unions, and more -- ideas that, in the 40 years since, have gutted the American middle class and sent nearly all of the country's economic growth to the top. To the kind of people the Wall Street Journal would love to have as subscribers.


Speaking of (supposedly) rich people: We've all heard the news by now that as of Thursday, former president Donald Trump is a convicted felon. A grand jury in New York City brought 34 felony counts against him for fraud in furtherance of another crime, and this week, a jury of twelve ordinary New Yorkers convicted him on every count.

Yes, it's likely he will never see the inside of a prison cell -- at least, not for long. And yes, the Republican Party is unlikely to nominate somebody (anybody!) else for president later this summer. But even if all he gets is probation, he'll have to check in with a probation officer on a regular basis. His travel schedule will have to be okayed by his probation officer in advance. And if he violates his probation, he could still be sent to jail. Quite a comedown for the guy with a gilded toilet.

Plus there's a whole list of countries that won't allow in a convicted felon, which could make diplomatic travel dicey for him if he's elected again.

Although it doesn't mean he won't be. The one thing we can all do to prevent that is to make sure we get out and vote in November.


These moments of happy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

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