Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Victor Davis Hanson's crying "Vanitas!" again. Since Obama was elected, you can't deport Mexicans anymore, they're letting women serve in combat, and worst of all, some people of whom Hanson does not approve might not die broke in a rooming-house:
Does it really make all that much difference whether you are a doctor at 70 who religiously put away $1,000 a month for thirty years, compounded at the old interest, and planned to retire on the interest income, or a cashless state employee with a defined benefit pension plan? The one might have over $1 million in his savings account, but the other a bigger and less risky monthly payout. Suddenly the old adult advice to our children — “Save and put your money in the bank to receive interest” — is what? “Spend it now or borrow as much as you can at cheap interest”?
That guy got off easy, idling away his days as a highway patrolman or a garbageman, then being rewarded with a comfortable old age. What kind of message is this sending our youth? (The bit about cheap interest is what the classicists call a non sequitur.)

Also, some of the people Hanson doesn't like have even gotten rich:
There are not just the rich and poor any more, but now the “good rich” (e.g., athletes, rappers, Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley grandees, Democratic senators, liberal philanthropists, etc.) and the “bad rich” (e.g., oil companies, CEOs, doctors, the Koch brothers, etc.). The correct-thinking nomenklatura and the dutiful apparat versus the kulaks and enemies of the people.
Both the "apparat" and the "kulaks" seem pretty flush to me. But the former get their asses kissed by fancy magazines, and the latter by Victor Davis Hanson, so I can see why they'd feel hard done by.

After decades of philosophizing, Hanson has suddenly discovered class warfare. And he wants in -- but he knows the priests at the temple of Mammon frown on that. So he's devised a dispensation for himself: He'll only rag on the undeserving rich. And while others would draw a distinction between those whose wealth is earned and those whose wealth is unearned, Hanson knows what really makes a man worthy of Fortune's smile: the right politics. These days, this is what passes for conservative populism.


  1. "oil companies, CEOs, doctors, the Koch brothers"

    the difference is the nature of the economic rents being pocketed.

    Natural wealth extractors are essentially ripping off the rest of us by monetizing the commons out from under us.

    As for CEOs:

    is corporate profits. Um, yeah.

    Doctors, well we have the world's most over-priced heath care system. While doctors are not the main bad guys here, they're certainly in on the take.

    The Koch family made their money in oil so I don't understand why Hanson lists them again.

    One group VDH misses is landlords. They're also part of our unbalanced economy of the top 5% tapping rents out of the 95%. Here's a chart I made of inflation in housing rents (blue) along with inflation in health care (red):

    shows housing costs are up 60% and healthcare up 80% since the late 1990s.

    As of 2010, the top 5% of this economy are clearing 33% of the national income:

    it's probably worse now. Our economy is as unbalanced as the Soviet Union's ca. 1980 or so. Yet nobody can see the basic imbalances!

  2. Take interest: not long ago most Americans assumed that when they retired, their 5-7% interest rate on passbook savings would provide some sort of income. Not now. There is scarcely a 1% return . . . No wonder that unemployed young people are endlessly circling the airport with nowhere to land, given all of us old planes perpetually taxing around on the crowded runways below.

    Well, that explains it. Here I was thinking that my problem was unemployment, when it's actually insufficient compound interest on the money I don't have.

    In fairness, he does eventually mention unemployment, but by that point I'd subconsciously sunk my teeth into my forearm in an attempt to blot out the pain.

  3. DocAmazing12:13 AM

    While doctors are not the main bad guys here, they're certainly in on the take.
    That explains why I'm sending my credit card company minimum payments. Try not to confuse labor with management, mmkay? Bunches of us are employees, and insurers are the main beneficiaries of our fun fun fun healthcare system.

  4. AngryWarthogBreath12:21 AM

    What about singers who perform in media other than rap, VDH? What about Justin Bieber? I know what the Internet thinks, but you show no evidence of whether he's an apparat or a kulak! Ted Nugent's only worth $20 million, but I guess he's bad rich, right? What about heavy metal? Is Serj Tankian good rich and Dave Mustaine good rich? WHAT IS THE ANALYSIS ON oh forget it rappers are disproportionately black Victor Davis Hanson is racist move along.

  5. DocAmazing12:21 AM

    Hanson's tell is complaining about defined-benefit pensions. There's nothing shady or greedy about defined-benefit pensions, but Our Corporate Overlords no longer like them, as they encourage a feeling of security, which leads to resistance.

    The idea that working-class people should work a lifetime and then draw a pension comparable to our tenured and useful-to-the-owners VD Hanson just rankles his classical ass.

  6. Y'know, rappers. Because Jay-Z . . . and Obama. So I should hate Jay-Z.

    Look, a lot of that nonsense is explained in an article VDH wrote last month on being "hip." I'm not saying you should read it (point of fact, you really, really shouldn't read it), but there it is. It may be the worst culture war article ever written, although I think our proprietor may be in a better position to make that call.

  7. Spaghetti Lee12:39 AM

    Suddenly the old adult advice to our children — “Save and put your money in the bank to receive interest” — is what?

    "Keep your money away from the bank because they'll steal it and piss it away on derivatives."

  8. Well, it's not like state employees do anything useful like maintaining conservative blogs.

  9. montag212:49 AM

    Charlie Pierce made an observation a few days ago about Ben Carson that seems to fit really well here: "Oh, drive the nails into your hands on your own time."

  10. Spaghetti Lee12:50 AM

    The Koch family made their money in oil so I don't understand why Hanson lists them again.

    The Koch brothers are more publicly well-known as a target of liberal ire than your average anonymous energy company CEO, meaning Hanson wants to kiss their asses even harder, not merely because he's a professional ass-kisser, but because rotten shits like him define a person's worth and importance solely by how much liberals hate them. He can't help himself.

  11. AGoodQuestion12:53 AM

    But the former get their asses kissed by fancy magazines, and the latter by Victor Davis Hanson, so I can see why they'd feel hard done by.

    This is the best laugh I've had in a few days. Thanks Roy.

  12. AGoodQuestion1:04 AM

    One source of economic woe that Hanson avoids is the cratering of wages and of income overall in terms of overall monetary value. I wonder if that didn't make the article because of the solutions it might imply.

    No, actually I don't.

  13. BigHank531:08 AM

    My goodness. I wonder whose economic policies have suppressed inflation and lowered interest rates so dramatically? One could look at a chart to see when they collapsed....or one could blame the dusky Moor.

  14. BigHank531:14 AM

    Half the Hoover Foundation's money comes from corporate contributions:

    as opposed to being carried down from Mount Olympus on a golden chariot, which would undoubtedly suit Hanson more. No doubt the injustice of having to pay attention to crass earthly concerns like money makes him grind even more enamel off his teeth.

  15. smut clyde1:55 AM

    taxing around on the crowded runways below

    He probably means "taxiing", but his articles have degenerated to a collaboration of Freudian slips and spell-check.

  16. DBake2:22 AM

    Why, back in the days of Cato the Elder, a slave would toil endlessly for his master, knowing that his only thanks in old age would be to sell him off to some sodomite with a fetish for the elderly! Ha! That was how you made an empire. That was how you trained men of character. Nowadays, we have... what? Defined benefit pensions? Entertainers, and other low sorts --with millions?

    This is how the end comes. First a failure to acknowledge rank and station, then the frequent bathing, then people love the philanthropist more than those who make their fortunes through pillage and rapine. A general softening of manners. Decadence, in short.

  17. I'm not really sure what you're getting at, but if you

  18. There are not just the rich and poor any more, but now the “good rich”
    (e.g., athletes, rappers, Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley grandees,
    Democratic senators, liberal philanthropists, etc.) and the “bad rich”
    (e.g., oil companies, CEOs, doctors, the Koch brothers, etc.).

    I don't like any of those people, though.

  19. montag22:36 AM

    If one made a pile of all the straw men VDH employs here, and set a match to it, California would have to call in out-of-state firemen to contain the blaze.

    But, then, that's not exactly a new habit of VDH's (he even dragged Elizabeth Warren into a recent blog post about Christopher Dorner that could have been titled, "Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up! Just SHUT UP About Race All You People Or I Swear I'll...").

    Jaysus, would someone please steal his new chainsaw again, just so we can get some relief from this for a bit. His whining over trivialities is far preferable to his defense of the monstrous.

  20. Victim Dabbles Halfwit: At some magical point, the rich became not the successful, the skilled, the well-inherited, the lucky, or the hardworking, but “them”: the suspect, the damned even....

    Yes, dear classicist, I believe that "magical point" was about 2000 years ago when a certain uppity Nazarene penned a Buzzfeed article opining that the rich were very unlikely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and accompanied it with a disrespectful graphic paid for by George Soros depicting a camel laden with goods produced offshore, unable to force its way through a needle.

    No wait, scratch that - it was actually in the Bible, and along with dozens of other verses provided a theological underpinning for criticizing excess wealth in western culture, at least in theory, for about 1500 years until Calvin turned it on its head. Maybe you were absent the day weeks years that was covered in high school and college and made for tv specials. Be assured it didn't start with Obama or Paul Krugman or Rachel Maddow. It's right there in the New Testament, where God provides an object lesson by taking the lives Ananias and Saphyra in case people doubted the camel parable. No joke, you can check the kerning.

  21. Fats Durston3:09 AM

    A Few Minutes with Victor Davis Andy Hansonoony

    Didjoo ever wonder why cars don't break down so much any more? Have you noticed that we're not getting any interest any more? You know what's annoying? People texting. And black people. I remember when you could hate on wetbacks and nobody cared. Ever noticed that there haven't been many presidents with names like Obama? Why is that? ...

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  23. apocalipstick3:12 PM

    Has anyone told the parasite (whom I am betting has a pension through the UC system) that "saving" is a fool's errand these days, what with the nearly negative interest rate banks pay? He seems to mean "investing," which more and more seems to mean "throwing your money up in the air and hoping that wolves don't run away with all of it."

  24. Ah, thanks for that tip, I appreciate it! It opens up so many future possibilities for biting sarcasm against those on my enemies list....[narrows eyes and glares in Jonah Goldberg's direction]

  25. "redunceity" - May I steal? Brilliant!

  26. apocalipstick3:23 PM

    Or Calvinism is meritocracy given a new paint job. After all, "I'm rich, so I must be better than you" was around long before Jean Calvin.

  27. Mr. Wonderful3:27 PM

    And leave the connolli.

  28. Provider_UNE4:01 PM


  29. Mr. Wonderful4:08 PM

    What does it mean to be "undeservingly" rich? It's evaluated by what metric? Morally? Pop stars and athletes are having too much fun to deserve their wealth? Hip-hoppers shouting obscene doggerel don't "deserve" wealth, whereas Hank Reardon has the decency to put in hours of hard labor?

    But that's an aesthetic response, not an economic (or even moral) one.

    Shouldn't VDH therefore avoid aesthetics, foreswear morality--he sneers at "good" and "bad" anyway-- and invoke the market? But what is more market-validated than someone buying a Beyonce track or a ticket to watch the Warriors-Sonics game? Isn't that the essence of the market's wisdom--that it remains bracingly indifferent to good/bad judgments and only wants to reward those who serve the desires of others, whatever they are?

    And what is less market-validated than inheritance? Heirs provide nothing in the way of goods or services. And God knows they haven't "earned" their wealth because they literally haven't done anything (other than be born).

    Could it be that VDH's entire view of this topic is incoherent and irrational? That would explain a lot.

  30. Provider_UNE4:10 PM

    madam or sir, you may steal anything I cough up extemporaneously. which is pretty much everything I cough up in comment sections. occasionally I find a nut, like the blind squirrel I am.

    I will likely forget the coin of lexicon in a few days, and therefore am happy that one might find use of it.

    /tips hat in gentlemanly fashion, looks to see if onion is still secured properly to belt.

  31. Provider_UNE4:18 PM

    Here we go again.

    Anyone round here have any experience with a family that had a smart kid and a stupid one?

  32. Provider_UNE4:20 PM

    I would like to take this comment to the prom in a '65 mustang convertible.

  33. AGoodQuestion5:39 PM

    When he was getting into teaching, all of his peers thought of him as a "sucker" and "marveled at his ability to do such a job for such low wages.
    Now it's a sign of profligacy if public school teachers can buy Starkist tuna instead of the store brand. What a difference a couple of decades make.

  34. AGoodQuestion5:52 PM

    Maybe that's what they mean by "Work smart, not hard." A little prenatal research and you're set for life.

  35. The Dark Avenger7:35 PM

    I want to take this comment and make it a member of the wedding.

  36. Sgaile-beairt9:03 PM

    on the interenet nobody knows youre a do[g]

  37. Tehanu9:19 PM

    Those state employees certainly should have been putting away $1,000 a month for thirty years! Imagine how much money they wasted paying rent, making car payments, and buying food!

  38. Tehanu9:29 PM

    I notice Victorius Davisus Hansonus never brings up the richest Roman of them all, Marcus Licinius Crassus -- the man who invented sending firefighters to burning buildings but letting them burn down until the owners sold the buildings to Crassus at pennies on the dollar -- er, minims on the denarius. I guess even Victor has figured out that would be poor salesmanship.

  39. My dad was a lifetime county employee, a deputy sheriff, and he retired making just over $1000 a month in the early 90's at lieutenant grade. He was a manager with a college degree at nearly the highest level of the department. Given that his starting salary was something like $3300/year, there was never any $1000 a month to put away.

    Screw that asshole Hanson. These kinds of flip scenarios where the math is so wrong used to smugly dismiss human striving are just enraging.

  40. whereas Hank Reardon has the decency to put in hours of hard labor?

    Well, more like watch from the observation deck while others put in hours of hard labor on his behalf, but your point still stands.

  41. Tehanu9:43 PM

    Tell me about it. And the really enraging thing for me is, he's a public employee himself, or was, anyway. I bet he was just as much an asshole to work with as he is to read.

  42. Win my friend. Pure gold plated and platinum dusted win.

  43. BigHank5311:25 PM

    Eh, it's more likely that Hanson admires the business model but hasn't figured out a way to monetize a burning Mexican tomato picker yet. It'd be fun, but there's not any profit in it.