I realize creative destruction happens when technology changes, and to some extent it's inevitable. (The kind of "creative" destruction Romney practiced at Bain: not so good.) But some people become cheerleaders for economic disruption without the appropriate amount of empathy for affected workers, and that annoys me.
If you think the pundit in the cartoon bears a passing resemblance to Thomas Friedman, I won't argue with you. Friedman isn't as empathy-challenged as they come, but he's pretty bad. He endlessly fantasizes about retraining Americans to be high-tech imagineers, even though our current unemployment woes are broad-based, not structural.
"In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle... Average is over," he wrote in a recent tone-deaf column that glowingly referred to the above-average workers in China who were roused in the middle of the night to work a 12-hour shift installing iPhone screens. Aside from his apparent lack of concern that such labor conditions totally suck, it's kind of haughty to imply that the unemployed are suffering from a case of averageness. There are plenty of highly-educated Americans who can't find jobs -- never mind the fact that many jobs out there barely utilize your education. If we are to dismiss the average or subpar, then perhaps Friedman's column should be the first to go.
If I only had a dollar for the number of times someone has accused me of hating the rich or wanting to punish success, I'd be a card-carrying member of the 1%. OK, I exaggerate slightly. But it's simply not true that that's where I'm coming from, nor is that the motivation behind OWS.
A couple weeks ago, the NYT published an article interviewing several wealthy people who had grumbly things to say about the Occupy movement. The quote that stuck in my mind was one from Adam Katz, the founder and CEO of private jet service Talon Air.
To many, 99 vs. 1 was an artificial distinction that overlooked hard work and moral character. "It shouldn’t be relevant," said Mr. Katz , who said he both creates jobs and contributes to charitable causes. "I’m not hurting anyone. I’m helping a lot of people."
It may well be the case that Mr. Katz is a decent person who's done a lot of good. But I find myself wondering: how does he vote? Does he support politicians who make it harder for ordinary people to be successful like him? Who appoint Supreme Court justices who seem hell-bent on creating plutocracy? Does he have any concern at all about our Gilded Age levels of inequality? Does he support the carried interest tax break that allows Mitt Romney to pay only a 13.9% income tax rate? These policies, and the arrogance, rationalizations, and excessive self-congratulation that lead to them are the things I hate. Not the rich. (Props, by the way, to the Patriotic Millionaires.)
Out of curiosity, I did a little digging about Katz's political contributions. According to this site, things ain't lookin' good.
I swore I wasn't going to do another Occupy Wall Street cartoon since I've done so many of them lately, but I couldn't help myself. I find that there's much to say about the Occupy movement and surrounding issues, while I don't have many exciting insights yet about the Republican candidate-buffoons beyond pointing out that they are, in fact, buffoons. I'm sure they will inspire cartoons as the race heats up.
I feel this one violates my policy of trying to show rather than tell, but it makes a point about something that's been driving me nuts. (See related cartoon from 2007, "The Mental Welfare State," about people too lazy to pull their brains up by their bootstraps.)
This one was at least partly influenced by the "We Are the 99 Percent" Tumblr (h/t to my colleague Matt Bors), where #Occupy movement supporters of all ages are posting photos of themselves holding hand-written notes explaining their circumstances, many of which are dire. Read enough of them, and twin themes emerge of crushing student loans amd medical bills. It's an almost embarrassing display of how miserably the richest country in the world deals with its citizens' education and health care. (And yes, I realize that Baby 7B is most likely being born in a so-called developing country, under different but no less-challenging circumstances, but I took some artistic license.)
One meme that really gets my goat these days is the idea that college kids shouldering massive student loans must have partied their way through school, or were too lazy to work to pay their tuition. Have these critics not noticed what a college degree costs now? Do they really think you can pay for higher education on a library book shelver's income? (That was my college job.) Sometimes I think these self-satisfied blowhards must have spent the last decade partying, or were simply too lazy to do the work of following basic economic trends.
Posting this to the blog a bit late due to travel. I've been meaning to do this cartoon for years, and now happened to be just the right time. It has always bothered me that radical ideas are seen as mainstream because they are spouted by bald men in suits. Meanwhile, supporters of the New Deal -- a 75-year old set of programs -- get dismissed as wacky, dirty hippies.
For your extra amusement: while checking out the Hermès website, I came across -- I kid you not -- a $1,400 leather iPad holder. The 1% need only apply!
This one was informed by this recent NYT article about a lovely new bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit. As though we're going to make up for the Bush tax cuts and trillion-dollar wars by selling off post offices. It's a market absolutist's dream come true.
The attack plan shown on the computer screen in the third panel is taken directly from the war room in "Dr. Strangelove." At least one reader thought I was depicting a military strike on Canada. It does look a bit like Canada, I have to admit. But fear not, northerly neighbors! That general is still fighting the Cold War. You're safe.
I drew this cartoon at the home of "Troubletown" cartoonist Lloyd Dangle while on a recent trip to the Bay Area for a comic convention. Lloyd, who recently retired his strip, did not seem to envy me one bit as I burned the candle at both ends to make my deadline.
I'm assuming everyone is familiar with Zipcars. I'm currently reading Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead, by Tamara Draut. The chapter about housing contains some telling statistics (bear in mind that the book was published in 2005, before the bubble burst, not that things are oh-so-affordable now).
Between 1995 and 2002, rents in nearly all of the largest metropolitan areas rose astronomically. Median rents in San Francisco ballooned 76 percent; Boston, 62 percent; San Diego, 54 percent
A house purchased in Levittown back in 1952 for $6,700 ($44,647 in today's dollars) sold for $300,000 in 2003.
Draut goes on to describe a family in San Lorenzo, CA. A young couple can't afford to buy a home in the same town as their parents, who couldn't afford to buy their own house if they had to buy it today. When you throw in stagnant incomes, massive unemployment, and austerity fever, it becomes clear that America needs... ZIP HOMES!
In the midst of all the hand-wringing over deficits, it seems no one is bringing up the simple fact that the deficit will disappear if Congress does NOTHING. The entire debate is a crock of simmering crap, a thinly-veiled excuse for Republicans who don't give a damn about deficits to gut social programs. It's straight out of the GOP playbook. Run up massive deficits to starve the beast (see: Reagan, Bush Jr.), then squawk bloody murder when a Democrat is in charge, pinning the blame on them and forcing the Dem to clean up the mess (see: Clinton, Obama, Mark Warner as governor of Virginia). And no matter how irresponsible the Republicans are, or how cautious Dems are budget-wise, the grand narrative never changes. Dems are always characterized as big spenders, Repubs as pillars of fiscal probity. And when Dems point to loopholes like the private jet tax break, the Republicans' talking point is: "That's small potatoes. It would hardly make a dent in the deficit." Well, if it's no big deal, then why threaten to blow up the whole economy over it? And if minor expenses don't matter, why threaten to defund NPR over piddling chump change? These people are unserious frauds concerned only with dismantling the New Deal, and the media should treat them as such. Anyone -- and any cartoonist -- who takes these self-proclaimed "deficit hawks" at face value (especially that smug, dead-eyed, know-nothing doucheswizzle Paul Ryan) is doing a gross disservice to the public and to democracy itself.
A few Obama supporters on Daily Kos took umbrage at this one. Personally, I think it's a pretty mild warning about the dangers of not having a jobs plan. So what if it's not politically feasible right now? He could at least try to make the case, instead of gratuitously invoking Republican falsehoods about the economy (see Krugman's posts on this tendency here and here). It's time to play offense at least rhetorically, Republican obstructionism be damned.