Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Happy Birthday, Megan!

Today is my niece Megan's 10th birthday. Megan lives back in New Jersey, my home state. She is also a loyal blog reader of mine. In a few weeks, I'll be able to wish her a Happy Birthday in person. It's hard to believe that she's already 10--she was about to turn 2 years of age when I moved to California back in 1997. Time sure flies.

Megan and her brother Max greeted Russell back in Las Vegas during Christmas 2003 Posted by Hello


This week, Russell began classes at the local Child Development Center in our town. So far, so good, according to Russell's new teachers. He cried for about 5 minutes on Monday, and now I hear that he even pushed Jenny away when she tried to say goodbye to him this morning. The teachers say that he is well-behaved and plays with the other school children without hesitation.

Russell's past 11 months at the Starlite Preschool in Oakland and 6 months with his home-based behavioral therapy via Pacific Child & Family Associates were very productive. In particular, his teachers at Starlite have been especially caring and kind towards Russell. I cannot thank Teacher Ching and Teacher Liu enough for taking good care of my son.

I would have to say that virtually every aspect of his behavior has improved since he began school/therapy. The only thing that leaves a bit to be desired is his speaking ability. His spoken vocabulary is only around 50 words, although his verbal comprehension appears to be around 500 plus words.

I'll keep you all up to date on Russell's process on a regular basis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Russell scratches his butt as the train rolls by Posted by Hello

The boys are back in town Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Groundhog Weekend

It's becoming routine. Hang out with friends on Saturday night. On Sunday, go to KFC for lunch, and then to Kennedy Park to ride on the train and the merry-go-round. Then I get to stay at home with the kids while Jenny goes shopping for clothes. When she gets back, I go to Walmart to buy formula and diapers.

Russell finds the idea of yet another train ride hilarious Posted by Hello

Despite the familiarity, Punky still gets excited about the train ride Posted by Hello

Still, we had a good time this weekend. Saturday night's barbeque dinner at Alameda neighbors (and Jenny's longtime friends) Julie & Gordon's house was a smashing success. We gorged out on ribs, sausages, hot dogs and salads galore along with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Our kids loved hanging out with Julie and Gordon's kids, Brandon and Kyle. It also helped that Brandon and Kyle had lots of toys--hundreds of them in a living room and dining room converted into a playroom. I wish I had brought my camera to show you Julie & Gordon's house. It's a kid's dream come true.

We try to take the kids out to a park every week, and so we went to San Leandro on Sunday because I had some leftover tickets for the train ride at Kennedy Park. Russell seemed almost bored when riding the train, although he clearly enjoyed watching the train chug by every 10 minutes. Punky was just Punky. He likes everything as long as we're there to hold him.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Who is Fatina Abdrabboh?

The greatest thing about the internet is Google. You can find out a lot about people, like New York Times Op-Ed contributor Fatina Abdrabboh. Thanks to Google, it didn't take me long to figure out that Abdrabboh has been paranoid about "being watched" since September 11, 2001, and dislikes a certain Jewish instructor at the University of Michigan, from which she graduated earlier this year.

From the Detroit News (September 11, 2002):
Fatina Abdrabboh worries about the new powers of surveillance that government investigators won in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Abdrabboh fears that she, a Palestinian American, and other Arab Americans will become the target of unwarranted wiretaps, monitoring and secret hearings solely because of their ethnicity. She has tucked away most of her favorite "I am Muslim" T-shirts and changed the "Free Palestine" screen saver on her computer.

"My freedom of identity and expression are gone," said Abdrabboh, 21, of Dearborn. "I get the feeling that I'm being watched."
I'd like to know how her freedoms of identity and expression are gone, given her contribution to today's Op-Ed page of the NY Times and feelings expressed in the Detroit News. And maybe she's being watched by her fellow Muslims at Harvard, since she led Ramadan celebrations at the Divinity School last year.

From the Detroit News (October 8, 2001)
Fatina Abdrabboh, 20, dropped out of an honors political science class at the University of Michigan because she felt a Jewish instructor "was extremely nasty to me." The aspiring lawyer said: "I already have three strikes against me: I'm Palestinian, my name is obviously Arab and I wear the hijab." Her father insisted she take off her hijab for safety, and she now removes it off campus.
Gotta get in a jab at the Jews, of course. She's also gone back to wearing the hijab, but in the NY Times she now complains about people staring at her at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge MA, of all places. Given that the Cambridge community is overwhelmingly liberal--and thus more tolerant (heh)--I find her staring allegation hard to believe.

So who is Fatina Abdrabboh? Just another whiny, Harvard grad student who hates Jews and George Bush.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Another Sign of the Upcoming Apocalypse

Al Gore created the internet. He helped draft the 1995 Kyoto Treaty to help combat Global Warming. He and wife Tipper served as the inspiration for "Love Story". And now he materializes in a Harvard University gym to help a Muslim-American student pick up the keys she dropped while running on a treadmill. Is there anything Al Gore can't do?

Some background on Fatina Abdrabboh, the Harvard student:
I consider my appearance quite unremarkable. I'm 5 feet 8 inches, 150 pounds, fresh-faced and comfortably trendy - hardly, in my view, a look that should draw stares. Still, the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, that I wear makes me feel as if I am under a microscope.

I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare - just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.

The other day, though, I felt more self-conscious than usual. Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.
Moving onto the treadmill, she begins running hard, in part as an escape from the persecution she feels as a young Harvard student of Arab origin. Her faith in the United States has been shattered by (who else?) President Bush. Then, something happened that would change her life forever: she dropped her keys.

As sweat dripped down my face, I reached for my towel, accidentally dropping my keys in the process. It was a small thing, I know, but as they slid down the rolling belt and fell to the carpet, my faith in the United States seemed to fall with them. I did not care to pick them up. I wanted to keep running.
Lo and behold, here comes Al Gore to save the day:
Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Ma'am, here are your keys." It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.

It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore's act represented all that I yearned for - acceptance and acknowledgment. There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.

It is up to us as Americans to change how the rest of the world views us by changing how we view some of our own citizens. Mr. Gore's act reminded me that rather than running away on my treadmill, I needed to keep my feet on the soil in this country. I left the gym with a renewed sense of spirit, reassured that I belong to America and that America belongs to me.
We will never know how different the world would be if Al Gore had won his Supreme Court case back in 2000 (Bush vs. Gore). But we do know that in a tiny corner of the world--Cambridge, Massachusetts--a woman has her faith in America restored, thanks to the five Supreme Court justices (William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas) who decided not to allow a third recount of punch-card ballots in Democrat-selected counties in Florida.

Yes, Fatina, there is a Supreme Court.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Take My House, Please

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 today to allow governments to take your house and then transfer it to a corporation or like entity for development. The vote was on party lines, with the liberal side of the court (Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer) along with swing Justice Kennedy voting in favor of allowing states to take private property for any "public use" reason. Previously, the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution meant that private property could be seized for public use projects such as roads, schools and sewage plants. Under this ruling, "public use" now includes projects such as shopping malls, office buildings and yes, even casinos.

Dissenting were conservative justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as well as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Here is an excerpt from Justice O'Connor's dissenting opinion, which speaks for itself:

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process.

The effect of the decision is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
This decision is just terrible, and the implications are clear. Your property is now subject to seizure by the government for any reason that can be construed as being "beneficial to the public". In the case at hand, increased taxes and revenue were deemed adequate reasons for the confiscating the homes of Connecticut residents to make way for a development of a shopping mall, office building and residental complex.

I have an idea: why don't we find out where Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer live, and then build a Jack-in-the-Box on the property?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Bit of Advice for Gary

My old friend Gary is looking to change jobs shortly. I think it is a good move, given my fairly recent (and successful) career move back to the brokerage industry.

Apple Computer founder and college drop-out Steve Jobs recently gave the commencement speech at Stanford University's 2005 graduation ceremony. It is the best college address I have ever read, and I think Jobs' advice rings true. Here's an excerpt:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Read the rest of the speech, if you have a moment. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Father's Day Weekend, Part 2

Yesterday was Father's Day, so I was the king of the house. This meant that I got to stay in bed past 7AM.

Later that morning, we left the house for Skylawn Cemetery, where Jenny's father was buried only 4 months ago. It was a beautiful day, and we noticed that many families were here to say hello to their loved ones on Father's Day. Russell clearly enjoyed running around in the wide-open spaces of the well-manicured lawn. We all bowed three times to Jenny's father as a sign of respect and then laid flowers at both his and Jenny's grandfather's graves. On the way home, we had lunch and a snack in nearby San Mateo, which is pretty close to Jenny's old condo.

Jenny spent most of the afternoon preparing my Father's Day feast of lamb chops, victory garden vegetables and chocolate souffle. I spent most of the afternoon playing with Play-Doh, reading stories and spinning tops. It was exhausting, but dinner was worth the wait.

Father's Day dinner: Lamb chops with vegetables and herbs from the victory garden Posted by Hello

Father's Day dessert: Jenny's chocolate souffle Posted by Hello

Jenny's palmiers (elephant ears) were a hit with the kids Posted by Hello

Punky is very excited to be here for his first Father's Day Posted by Hello

Russell hugs his old man on Father's Day Posted by Hello

Dance Fever

I finally found a website that hosts video for free. Click here for a short video of Russell dancing.

A Father's Day Weekend

This Father's Day weekend saw us going down to San Jose on Saturday to visit Jenny's mother--who recently returned from a two month trip to China--and sisters. Russell and Punky were especially happy to see their grandmother and cousin Andrew. A house full of toys, good food and lots of room to roam around also played a part in their good moods. With a several adults on hand, I seized the opportunity to take a brief nap shortly before dinner. It was my first nap in three weekends--what a treat.

After spending the greater part of the day in San Jose, we went home after dinner. On the way back, I had a craving for In-N-Out, so we stopped by for some milkshakes and a cheeseburger. I ran into the Union City In-N-Out, and in the line in front of me were Jenny's friends Suzanne and Michael. It has been a long time since we've seen them in person. As a matter of fact, it's been a long time since I've seen anyone outside of family since Punky was born. This got me thinking that I've really got to start calling some friends to let them know I'm still around.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Reading is Fundamental

There's an electronic chain letter making the rounds of the blogosphere, and I've been tagged. Since this is quite harmless, and I already let people know what we're reading in the Chen household, I figure "Why not?" Thanks to Joshua from OneFreeKorea for thinking of me.

How many books have I owned?

My book buying heyday has long passed. Mostly non-fiction. If you include books purchased for college/grad school and frequent trips to garage sales for used books (at 25 cents a pop), I'd say the number is close to 1,000. I just checked my Amazon account, and in the last year I've bought just two books for myself (listed below). Today, virtually all of the books I buy are for the kids.

Last two books I bought

James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima - I bought this book because I was interested in what happened to Iwo Jima flag raiser Ira Hayes. He was a Pima Indian from Arizona who lived a tragically short life. James Bradley happens to be the son of one of the surviving flag raisers.

Voices of Vietnamese Boat People: Nineteen Narratives of Escape and Survival - I have always wondered why my Vietnamese-American friends (many of them ethnic Chinese) rarely spoke of their post-war escape from Vietnam, and so I bought this book. This is one of the few published books on the subject, one that is virtually ignored by the anti-war left. Did you know that more South Vietnamese perished either trying to escape from Vietnam or in "reeducation camps" than those killed during the war itself? The guy sitting next to me at work was 2 years old when his parents put him and his 8 brothers and sisters on a homemade boat and then sailed from Vietnam to Malaysia.

Three books that meant the most for me

A Man on the Moon (Andrew Chaikin) - The story of the Apollo astronauts, the only humans ever to visit another world. Besides the founding of the United States, this is man's single greatest achievement.

On Gold Mountain (Lisa See) - A woman who is only one-eighth Chinese traces her Chinese roots in a story that is part autobiographical, part narrative. The inspiration for my own trip back to China and family history project.

Common Sense on Mutual Funds (John Bogle) - This is the only guide to mutual funds that you will ever need. I sleep well at night, thanks to John Bogle.

Someone at the Washington Post Gets It

I don't know much about Robert Samuelson other than the fact that he's an economist that writes for the Washington Post and Newsweek. Based on his more recent work, I think I'm going to be reading his Op-Ed column more frequently. Samuelson's work relies on sound reasoning along with easy-to-understand (and easy-to-verify) data to back up his conclusions. He's been described by various pundits as both a liberal and a conservative columnist, so I'll take it that he's middle-of-the-road politically.

In his latest column, Samuelson grandly proclaims "The End of Europe". And he 's right, too. How's this for an opening paragraph:

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. Since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union, we've heard countless theories as to why: the unreality of trying to forge 25 E.U. countries into a United States of Europe; fear of ceding excessive power to Brussels, the E.U. capital; and an irrational backlash against globalization. Whatever their truth, these theories miss a larger reality: Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.
Here is the supporting data, as gleaned from the Op-Ed:

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third.

No one knows how well modern economies will perform with so many elderly people, heavily dependent on government benefits (read: higher taxes). But Europe's economy is already faltering. In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent.
And of course, the inevitable comparisons with the US:

Consider some contrasts with the United States, as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. With high unemployment benefits, almost half of Western Europe's jobless have been out of work a year or more; the U.S. figure is about 12 percent. Or take early retirement. In 2003 about 60 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 had jobs. The comparable figures for France, Italy and Germany were 37 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent. The truth is that Europeans like early retirement, high jobless benefits and long vacations.
No Krugman-like data manipulation or parsing, just cold, hard facts. And I'm afraid so say that I happen to agree with his conclusion:

All this is bad for Europe -- and the United States. A weak European economy is one reason that the world economy is shaky and so dependent on American growth. Preoccupied with divisions at home, Europe is history's has-been. It isn't a strong American ally, not simply because it disagrees with some U.S. policies but also because it doesn't want to make the commitments required of a strong ally. Unwilling to address their genuine problems, Europeans become more reflexively critical of America. This gives the impression that they're active on the world stage, even as they're quietly acquiescing in their own decline.
Once again, it is up to the Anglo-American alliance--which still includes Australia but not Canada--to save the world.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Berkeley: The Dumbest Place on Earth

Is there anywhere in the world dumber than Berkeley, California? Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States and the writer of the Declaration of Independence, but his name will no longer grace the Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley. City school board members, teachers, parents and students at the school recently voted to change its name to Sequoia Elementary because the school's namesake was a slave owner.

Never mind the fact that the City of Berkeley itself is named afer George Berkeley, an 18th century slave owner who believed that slavery was the best way to Christianize non-whites. Perhaps this is what is giving two members of the Berkeley Unified School District second thoughts about changing the school's name.

One relative of a student at the ex-Jefferson Elementary School gave perhaps the most sound reason for renaming the school:

“My five year old nephew told me he voted for Ralph Bunche as the school name because it sounded like one of his favorite cereals, Honey Bunches of Oats.”

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Happy Birthday Russell

Russell turned 3 years old this weekend Posted by Hello

We celebrated Russell's third birthday this weekend with a party at Kennedy Park in Hayward. Nearly thirty adults and children were on hand for the event. The Birthday Boy clearly enjoyed his day in the spotlight, in particular the Birthday Express train ride with his pint-sized friends (his fourth in five weeks).

The highlight of the day was the unveiling of the the birthday cake, which featured his bedtime companion and latest obsession, the Baby Einstein rabbit. Prior to the unveiling, Russell was on the verge of falling asleep since the picnic lasted until well past his usual naptime. Seeing the rabbit provided a jolt to his system that kept him up for another hour or so. For several minutes, Russell stared wide-eyed at the cake as he watched one of his furry friends get cut into slices. We wondered if he would take a bite out of his piece containing one set of rabbit's eyes. In the end, he remained loyal to the rabbit and refused to eat the cake, although he is a huge birthday cake fan.

Happy Birthday Russell,

With Love From Mommy, Daddy and Punky

Russell's obsession--the Baby Einstein rabbit--on his birthday cake Posted by Hello

Russell contemplates eating his furry friend Posted by Hello

"Big sister" Bethany rides with Russell on the Birthday Express Posted by Hello

Things turn spooky when the Birthday Express enters a tunnel Posted by Hello

A good time was had by all at Russell's birthday party Posted by Hello

The Punkster will always be there for his big brother, especially on his birthdayPosted by Hello

After opening his presents, Birthday Boy Russell does his best dancing to "Boogie Nights" Posted by Hello

Good Friends Stop By

Our dear friends Sharone and Freddy stopped by this weekend to offer Russell happy birthday wishes. Russell took to them immediately, and to my surprise, plopped himself in their laps for an impromptu story time before and after dinner. Luckily, my camera was there to capture this historic moment.

Freddy the Fireman proved irresistable to Russell Posted by Hello

Russell eyes Sharone as she reads him a story Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Losing Their Minds

While I can still read New York Times Op-Eds for free, I'm going to comment on them and savor the opportunities to point out how the economic policies of President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress can drive a liberal stark-raving mad. Paul Krugman's latest piece, Losing Our Country, is a typical example of what we can expect from the New York Times.

With inflation in check, unemployment and interest rates low, a booming economy and the dollar on the rebound, there's not much economic news to complain about in the pages of the NY Times. Sure, there's always the growing trade and budget deficits that pessimists can bellow about, but these figures remain abstract concepts to most people. After all, if budget deficits have the supposed effect of "crowding out private investment" (re: increasing borrowing costs), how does one explain to consumers today's record low interest rates? Likewise, conventional wisdom states that the unfavorable balance of trade should result in high unemployment and low economic growth. Again, reality has outflanked conventional wisdom. Over the past decade, the US has the fastest economic growth and lowest unemployment of the G8 nations.

Without facts and straight statistics to back up their assertions of economic malaise, Paul Krugman and the Times editors have chosen class warfare, usually referred to as "the growing gap between rich and poor" (henceforth known as 'GGBRP'), as their weapon of choice against Republican economic policy. Sprinkle in their personal observations as privileged white males growing up in the US, and you have the latest manufactured domestic crisis on the pages of the New York Times.

Krugman's latest is a real howler, and starts off with a ridiculous assertion:

Baby boomers like me grew up in a relatively equal society. In the 1960's America was a place in which very few people were extremely wealthy, many blue-collar workers earned wages that placed them comfortably in the middle class, and working families could expect steadily rising living standards and a reasonable degree of economic security.

But as The Times's series on class in America reminds us, that was another country. The middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.
Need I remind Paul Krugman about the Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, a trillion-dollar 1960s welfare boondoggle that even Bill Clinton admitted was a failure? Did Martin Luther King Jr.' fight for minority civil rights take place during the 1960s or was I just dreaming? And what about women's rights? In the 1960s, it was still rare for women to own businesses or for women to be in the professions like law and medicine. Let's also not forget that abortion was illegal in every state at the time, something that I'm surprised got past the Times editorial review board. If Krugman's ideal world is 1960s America, then I would suggest that a young Paul Krugman spent too much time watching "Star Trek" and too little time reading the pages of his own New York Times.

It doesn't take long for Krugman to bring up the GGBRP. It starts, naturally, with a plug for "working families", implying that the rich in America don't actually work to earn their incomes:

Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages.

Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.

But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled.

Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power.
Krugman's selection of the period from 1947-1973 as the heyday of "working families" is no accident. After World War 2 ended in 1945, the industrialized world, with the sole exception of the United States, was in ruins. We had a near monopoly on high-end industrial goods and services for nearly 30 years after the war, and couldn't help but succeed. This age of prosperity came to a halt during the recession of 1973-75 [how convenient!], and stagflation then took hold of the country until Ronald Reagan's economic policies reversed the economic slide in 1983-84. So establishing the year 1973 as the turning point of "working families" is just one example of Krugman's well-known obfuscation technique: the shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead.

And let's not leave unchallenged Krugman's assertion that progressive taxation has lost [it's] powers since the 1970s. From

In 2002 the latest year of available data, the top 5 percent of taxpayers paid more than one-half (53.8 percent) of all individual income taxes, but reported roughly one-third (30.6 percent) of income.

The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 33.7 percent of all individual income taxes in 2002. This group of taxpayers has paid more than 30 percent of individual income taxes since 1995. Moreover, since 1990 this group’s tax share has grown faster than their income share.

Taxpayers who rank in the top 50 percent of taxpayers by income pay virtually all individual income taxes. In all years since 1990, taxpayers in this group have paid over 94 percent of all individual income taxes. In 2000, 2001, and 2002, this group paid over 96 percent of all individual income taxes. In 2000, 2001, and 2002, this group paid over 96 percent of the total.

Treasury Department analysts credit President Bush's tax cuts with shifting a larger share of the individual income taxes paid to higher income taxpayers. In 2005, says the Treasury, when most of the tax cut provisions are fully in effect (e.g., lower tax rates, the $1,000 child credit, marriage penalty relief), the projected tax share for lower-income taxpayers will fall, while the tax share for higher-income taxpayers will rise.

* The share of taxes paid by the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers will fall from 4.1 percent to 3.6 percent.

* The share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers will rise from 32.3 percent to 33.7 percent.

* The average tax rate for the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers falls by 27 percent as compared to a 13 percent decline for taxpayers in the top 1 percent.
The rest of Krugman's op-ed provides no data to support his accusations and is just a tirade against tax cuts and "right-wing partisans". To liberals like Krugman, the wealthy can only inherit their money or obtain it through fraudulent means. And a desire to keep most of one's earnings is just being greedy.
The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.

Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy."

But the real reasons to worry about the explosion of inequality since the 1970's have nothing to do with envy. The fact is that working families aren't sharing in the economy's growth, and face growing economic insecurity. And there's good reason to believe that a society in which most people can reasonably be considered middle class is a better society - and more likely to be a functioning democracy - than one in which there are great extremes of wealth and poverty.

Reversing the rise in inequality and economic insecurity won't be easy: the middle-class society we have lost emerged only after the country was shaken by depression and war. But we can make a start by calling attention to the politicians who systematically make things worse in catering to their contributors. Never mind that straw man, the politics of envy. Let's try to do something about the politics of greed.
Does Krugman provide any evidence that working families today are heading toward Middle Ages-like serfdom? Indeed, today's so-called downtrodden are better off than at anytime in American history. Virtually everyone at lower income levels now has access to material goods that just 20 years ago were the exclusive domain of the rich: cell phones, microwave ovens, computers [Dell's lowest priced computer is now $250!] VCRs and the like. And more people have access to college, health care and yes, air travel than at any time in our history [JetBlue offers coast-to-coast airfares as low as $99 each way]. Here's another question for Krugman and the Times editors: If everyone's income doubles during a given period, the income gap between the rich and the poor will double too. How do you explain this in terms of the GGBRP?

Finally, let me provide the clearest explanation on why the GGBRP doesn't matter. As a member of the upper-middle-class segment in the US (Top 5% in income), I really don't care how much money the rich in America (Top 1%) has or how they live. I care about how my family, friends and neighbors live. And yes, I do care about the poor in this country, because I've always believed that people need to take an active role in helping the needy. That the rich can afford to buy fifty $130,000 Mercedes autos and spends summer at their $15 million house on Nantucket really does not interest me in the least.

Some issues (but certainly not all) that matter to me include:

Do I have enough resources to provide for my family, and to retire comfortably without Social Security?

Are interest rates low so my mortgage payments aren't too high?

Is inflation eating into the value of my savings and investments?

Will my children be able to attend decent public schools?

Can we defeat Islamic Fundamentalism in my lifetime?

When will I be able to take my kids to Disney World?
And that's what really matters to me, not how George Soros or Barbra Streisand live their lives.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Punky plays peek-a-boo Posted by Hello
Russell gets some shuteye after a long day Posted by Hello
Nature's Bounty: The season's first zucchini from the victory garden Posted by Hello

And now for my next trick

We're in the process of replacing the foundation of the house, a job that will take three weeks to complete. The first phase of the project requires the house to be lifted up a centimeter from its foundation, which you can see in the photos below. It's a bit unsettling to be living in a house supported by stilts, but the end result will be a house that should survive a major earthquake.

Rear view of the house Posted by Hello
In the back of the house by the living room Posted by Hello