| If you still doubt that the U.S. economy is devolving into a no-middle-class banana republic of an obscenely wealthy few vs. impoverished serfs, these two stories may convince you.
From Digby, evidence that the greed of the rich is bottomless:
Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg called the AIG Masters of the Universe's bluff (sort of):
A top executive at American International Group Inc (AIG.N) has resigned because of pay curbs imposed by the Obama Administration's pay czar, the insurer said on Wednesday.
Anastasia Kelly, AIG's vice chairman for legal, human resources, corporate affairs and corporate communications, resigned effective Dec. 30 for "good reason" and is eligible for severance pay under the terms of the company's executive severance plan, the insurer said.
Kelly stands to be paid about $2.8 million in severance, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Kelly's resignation comes after Kenneth Feinberg, who is charged with monitoring pay levels at companies that received taxpayer funds, imposed pay caps for AIG's top executives.
Earlier this month, Feinberg set the compensation structures for the 26th through 100th highest-paid employees at four firms, including AIG, limiting most cash salaries to $500,000.
Cornelius Hurley, director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law at Boston University, said no AIG employee was irreplaceable.
"We have been duped into thinking that these AIG employees have some kind of secret code that no other employee could discover if they were hired to replace them and therefore they are able to basically hold the company ransom," Hurley said.
Well, except nobody was duped. Everyone knew that this was a scam and they all pretended to believe it because they want to protect the absurd pay incentives that benefit all the overpaid elites. Why, if this idea catches on people might wonder if any of these obscenely overcompensated executives are worth the disgusting, gluttonous pay they give each other. And then where will they be?
But it is still a very good thing that Feinberg didn't capitulate to blackmail. Their threats to blow up the company by walking en masse should have been a national scandal. At least they didn't get away with that, even if the Democrats failed to properly frame it for political advantage.
On the flip side, Steve Benen has the results of a decade of repug economic policy:
Neil Irwin has a terrific report on the economic conditions of the '00s, and the ways in which they departed from every decade of the last seven.
It's a painful overview, as the chart helps demonstrate. "There has been zero net job creation since December 1999," the WaPo piece explained. "No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.
"Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 -- and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.
"And the net worth of American households -- the value of their houses, retirement funds and other assets minus debts -- has also declined when adjusted for inflation, compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s."
This was a disastrous decade that has lead "economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation's growth."
From a political perspective, it's worth emphasizing not only that Bush administration and GOP policymakers inherited a sweet deal at the start of the decade, but also that Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were able to implement just about every economic policy they found worthwhile in the ensuing years. Those policies failed spectacularly -- but the discredited agenda nevertheless remains the foundation of the Republican economic philosophy in the new decade.
Highlighting the chart, Andrew Sullivan suggested it's evidence as to "why conservatism needs to rethink its economic policies." But the startling fact remains that conservatives intend to do no such thing. Ask every Republican lawmaker on the Hill and they'll agree that the economic policies they embraced in the last decade are no different than those they intend to embrace in the new decade -- the only difference being their stated desire to see the government invest less in the coming years.
Every single study under the sun for the past 30 years has found the same: when federal government tax and spending policies favor the wealthy over the middle-class, the economy tanks. When federal government tax and spending policies restrain the super-rich and support the middle-class, the economy soars.
Repugs continue to repeat easily and repeatedly debunked lies about this for one reason: they think you're stupid.
Liberals continue to repeat the boring but factual truth about this for one reason: we know you're not stupid.