Alan

A better way to measure inequality: focus on the 1 percenters.

“It’s time to step up to the plate,” are the final words of this promising trailer for a documentary on people taking action against climate change.

RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of the best opening line of a novel ever.

Clark

A tax week reminder: by some estimates, 45 percent of federal outlays go to the military, past and present. That figure includes current spending on the Department of Defense and veterans’ benefits, and also assumes that 80 percent of debt payments can be traced to military spending (which is debatable, but not crazy). It also strips out Social Security spending, since that’s mostly paid out of a separate account. Social Security often gets lumped in with other federal spending… which can lead to as much confusion as clarity when looking at federal spending priorities. Regardless of whether you buy into these particular calculations, it’s clear that the military remains a huge part of the federal budget.

New research finds that the US is better characterized as an oligarchy than as a democracy:

[E]conomic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence…When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

I suppose that this is neither surprising nor new. Still, it’s good to have one’s intuitions confirmed in a rigorous way: the authors looked at a whopping 1,779 different issues, and were still unable to find evidence that typical, middle-of-the-road voters have any appreciable impact on public policy.

  • Echoing Alan: Adios, Gabriel García Márquez. I’ll see you in the great Macondo in the sky.

    Eric

    Oil-by-rail is unpopular in the Midwest. Here’s more evidence that by tying up the tracks crude oil-bearing trains are hurting passenger rail service, as well as Midwestern farmers.

    Oil-by-rail is unpopular in the Northwest. At the Columbian, resident Eric LaBrant lays out the case for why his nearby neighborhood welcomes smart industrial development in Vancouver, Washington but opposes Tesoro’s ginormous oil-by-rail scheme.

    Oil-by-rail is unpopular in the Rockies. The mayor of Sandpoint, Idaho explains why the coming flood of coal and oil trains would seriously hurt the town’s economy and way of life.