Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, October 1, 2010

Defining Prosperity Downwards

I think Thomas Friedman bit Matthew Yglesias, fed him his blood, buried him for three days and dug him up to rise from the grave. Yglesias is now a globalization vampire. He's a globepire!
The key issue is how can we push the public and the political system to take a broader view of what matters and whose interests count over the long-term. Right now the interests of foreigners are basically absent from our political debates, even over issues like trade, climate, migration, and war where the relevance is obvious. It’s also obvious why that might be. But few people are prepared to explicitly defend the proposition that foreigners’ interests don’t count. And that gives me hope that better thinking can emerge over time.

So.... is Yglesias talking about trade or climate?
James Fallows reminds me of a site I’d seen before and forgotten about—Global Rich List. What you do is you plug your income in and it tells you where you fall on the international distribution of income.

This is pretty much impossible to do in a really methodologically rigorous way. But the broad message it sends is clear enough. Pretty much everyone in the United States of America is doing pretty damn well by international standards. An income of $50,000 per year, for example, puts you in the top one percent internationally.

Ah, we should be comparing our salaries to the Third World's! This must be why David Brooks was telling us we should be happy making $50,000 a year instead of expecting more. (Never mind that a lot of people would be delighted to make $50,000 a year.) It's now the magic number that the middle class should aspire down to. We are sure that the elite would be delighted if we started comparing our salaries to middle class Indian or Chinese salaries, but we silly Americans expect to live in America and not a foreign country, and therefore prefer to compare ourselves to our fellow Americans, a few of whom now have so very much more than they had before this elite-driven economic collapse.

We also wonder how Yglesias is managing on his $50,000 a year salary, which he surely must have settled for since he recommends it so highly.


Downpuppy said...

Only someone with no soul* or tradition could be so utterly blind to simple rules like put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbor.

*Although a demon animated corpse would qualify, I think a far more likely possibility is that Yglesias was hatched & raised in box.

KWillow said...

Yes, yes! Let's compare our standard of living with 3rd world countries! That'll make us feel much better when we cash the unemployment check.

Sounds like a new conservative Talking Point. Yglesias must have got his ahead of the other winger pundits & bloggers.

Soon, Beck and Rush and a few TBagger candidates will be spouting about how well off OUR poor people are with their Welfare and Social Security and Medicaid.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Next up: comparing our median, etc. incomes with those in The Industrialized West. "We" make more than "they" do in freakin' FRANCE, so a) shut up, and b) be grateful.

--with no mention of the social safety net, the shared expenses of essential oh never mind. Plus "health care" as a right, not a commodity.

Susan of Texas said...

Why is Yglesias so respected? Sure, he's not stupid and he's not blindly ideological, but beside not totally sucking, I can't see what the big deal is.

Anonymous said...

I read globepire as Globespierre.

Anonymous said...

oh legacy kids

Syz said...

Yglesias needs to stop hanging out at the Sudermans. Yes, our salaries are in the top 1%, but those high salaries are distributed very unequally. Of the 30 OECD countries, the United States has the third-highest poverty rate (after Turkey and Mexico.)

Anonymous said...

Easy to be glib about this topic when you're a fat trust fund baby.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in a third world country. Obviously, any American with any amount of income would be doing OK in most third world countries--as long as they were able to access their money and the third world country maintained a monetary economy for them to use and the exchage rate stayed favorable.

Those are rather a lot of caveats. The last caveat is the biggest: most Americans can't afford to get to a third world country and entirely shift their income and property and family there to experience the joys of doing so. Why is that? Because many americans are poor right now, in their own world. That means inferior access to health, education, and work chances. The "wealthy" bus driver doesn't move to Nepal because there are no fucking buses for him to drive. If he did move there on his income he would, of course, be able to afford a servant. A barefoot, ten year old village girl to get up and make him tea in the morning over the kerosene stove but, hey! a servant! Until the money ran out.

What on earth do these comparisons mean in the real world. Its like saying "On bizarro earth superman is weak, and that old lady is strong!" Sure, but we aren't in bizarro world.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, why do I bother reading Megan?
Latest crap post is crap

Downpuppy said...

Megan is on a run of crap like amoebic dysentery meets an all-fruit diet.

Stupid rumor about Spain, rubbish about Ireland, Third Way foolishness pawned off on "the left half of the blogosphere" & some generic swiping at econometric modeling based on a 3rd hand story. Since modelling is based on her Archnemesis, Numbers, I get why she hates it.
The sheer shoddiness of all 4 posts is truly stunning, even for The Business & Economics Editor of the Atlantic.

Susan of Texas said...

I'm kind of struck dumb myself. There are a few interesting comments, however.

It's a strange way to run a blog: print as much wrong or misleading information as possible so knowledgeable people will correct you in your comments, thereby educating the readers.

Anonymous said...

God, I wish she'd stop gratuitously inserting the word "rather" into every other sentence. I rather think it rather makes her sound rather like a right twit.

Ken Houghton said...

"We also wonder how Yglesias is managing on his $50,000 a year salary, which he surely must have settled for since he recommends it so highly."

Anonymous (2:17AM, 2 Oct) got it right: MattY, like Mr. Suck On This, doesn't have to worry about money, having been born (MY) or married into (FlatEarther) it.

And I'll point out here what I pointed out chez DeLong: you can't take a Flow Variable (income) and compare it directly to a Stock Variable (Wealth). So, piling on from KWillow's point, making $50,000 would put you in the top 1% of people worldwide—counting Zimbabwe, China, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc.—if you could keep all of it.

You can't, unless you're living solely off the interest from your trust fund. (I would say "savings," but no one who has that kind of savings would not have it in trust for tax purposes alone.)

nate said...

Is it really necessary to pay MattY and McMegan six figures to spout bullshit? Surely we could hire someone in India or China for a fraction of that. Globalization and all, you know.

Anonymous said...

great post thanks