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More for the 1 percent

Timothy Noah in The New Republic: "Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who (with Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Ecole d'economie de Paris) first mapped the enormous 34-year run-up in income share for America's top 1 percent, came up last year with a statistic that was widely quoted by people who care about rising income inequality. In 2010, the first year of economic recovery after the 2009-2010 recession, 93 percent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 percent, which in that year meant any household making more than about $358,000. This was, I quipped at the time, a members-only recovery. No 99-percenters need apply.

"Saez has now updated this statistic to include 2011. When you look at the economic recovery's first two years, the top 1 percent (which by 2011 meant any household making more than about $367,000) captured 121 percent of all pre-tax income gains.

"How is it even possible for the 1 percent to capture more than 100 percent of all income gains since the last recession? ... Over 2010 and 2011, [the bottom 99 percent] saw, on average, a slight net decline in pre-tax income of 0.4 percent. This 'negative growth' is what, at least theoretically, boosts the 1 percent's share of income gains from 100 percent to 121 percent."


China's ambitions

Foreign Policy asks if China will ever be No. 1 and the No. 1 source the authors consult is Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore. His take:

"China will continue growing several times faster than the United States and other Western competitors for the next decade, and probably for several more. ... China's leaders are serious about becoming the top power in Asia and on the globe.

"As [Mr. Lee] says: 'Why not? Their reawakened sense of destiny is an overpowering force.' ... China will not simply take its seat within the postwar order created by the United States. Rather, 'it is China's intention to become the greatest power in the world -- and to be accepted as China, not as an honorary member of the West.' "


Democratic denialists

In the March issue of Reason magazine, editor Matt Welch writes, "Federal spending rose from $1.77 trillion in fiscal year 2000 to $3.72 trillion in 2010. If spending growth had been pegged to the rates of inflation and population, Washington would still be doling out less than $3 trillion a year, and the fiscal conversation would be about surpluses, not debt ceilings.

"These were the types of things Democrats used to care about, or at least pretend to care about, back when it was Republicans running up the national credit card."


Age of hubbub?

Stefan Kanfer reviews Paul Elie's "Remembering Bach" in City Journal and writes: "Throughout his long career, [Johann Sebastian Bach] maintained his roles as provider, husband, parent [of 20 children] and grandparent -- as well as court musician, choirmaster, church organist and composer of well over 1,000 works. These included cantatas, concertos, orchestral and chamber music; compositions for solo keyboard, violin and cello; and fugues invented on the spot to entertain King Frederick II of Prussia.

"Yet he remained modest about his accomplishments and deeply religious about his vocation. 'The aim and final reason of all music,' he believed, 'should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul. Where this is not observed there will be no music, but only a devilish hubbub.' "


Expense it!

Vanessa Wong at Bloomberg Businessweek: "Thought the days were gone when a worker could subsidize crazy living with the company Amex? Oh, you naive paragons of corporate virtue." Certify, an expense-management software firm, provided her with some of the more brazen expenses submitted in 2012, which include:

• Deer urine -- "an integral prerequisite for an agricultural products company employee's successful hunting trip with a client."

• Baby giraffe -- "brought to an office party for a restaurant/hospitality company."

• Live baby octopuses -- "a Japanese visitor to a pharmaceutical company wanted sushi."

• Dunk tank -- "to boost employee morale at an auto parts supplier. They used it to dunk their boss, which was actually probably pretty good for morale."

• Henry IV Cognac, $1,300 -- "Masters of the Universe in finance like to have drinks. One decided to sample one of the world's most expensive liquors on the company dime."

opinion_commentary

Compiled by Greg Victor (gvictor@post-gazette.com).


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