Spoony always fails

David “thereisnospoon” Atkins:

Why is pension envy OK but “class warefare” isn’t?

It’s called pension envy: the resentment that non-union employees often feel toward workers with good union pensions and benefits. As the results of the Wisconsin recall and ballot initiatives in San Jose and San Diego show, pension envy is not a phenomenon limited to the right. As a small business owner without unemployment benefits or even much in the way of retirement savings to fall back on should things go south, I myself feel it from time to time. Digby wrote an excellent and lengthy piece earlier today about pension envy and the way the Right has managed to marginalize the union movement in the United States while keeping Americans fighting one another for scraps.

But the puzzling phenomenon in all of this is the fact that pension envy is supposedly widespread, justified and politically acceptable, but resentment of the ludicrously wealthy who have stolen the nation’s wealth from its workers is not. Someone who is upset over teachers’ vacation and retirement pay should be a hundred times as angry at the ludicrous salaries of Wall Street executives skimming off the corporate profits that should be going to better private sector wages. There are a few probable explanations for it beyond simply the hostile conservative rhetoric that plays well with their base.

The first is that they’re not mutually exclusive occurrences. The partisan divide may suggest that people would be either upset by pension envy or by radical income inequality, but not both. But polling on income inequality and the results of recent elections involving public union pensions suggests that there is a lot of both simultaneously. The difference is that few politicians dare to put initiatives on the ballot or pass laws that seriously impact the incomes of the top 1%, and that corporate cash is able to overwhelm union money in most cases where the two are comparably tested. It’s also important to remember that unions themselves are not monolithic: many union members are Republicans, and there is a significant divide between public sector and private sector labor. Those factors combined to cause 38% of union households to vote against the recall. There is even some pension envy within the labor movement itself.

David Atkins talking about 1%ers is like Jeff Foxworthy talking about rednecks – he are one. His “small business” is a spin-off from the family business, a prosperous market research firm located on the Miracle Mile just outside Beverly Hills. This explains why Spoony doesn’t get it.

The problem isn’t pension envy. People like and respect public employees. But they resent having to pay higher taxes to support salaries and benefits they feel are excessive. The issue in Wisconsin wasn’t punishing or destroying the public employee unions, it was setting reasonable limits on their compensation.

Hating the rich was never popular in this country. Getting rich is the American dream. That’s why socialism never caught on here. People don’t see getting rich as stealing “the nation’s wealth from its workers.”

That doesn’t mean they don’t think some executives make too much money. They think professional athletes are overpaid too, but they still go to the games. People don’t resent lottery winners, they want to be like them.

Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules. You can waste a lot of time telling people what they should care about. Or you can ask them what they do care about. Spoony’s goal isn’t trying to understand people. It’s trying to figure out how to manipulate them.

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20 Responses to Spoony always fails

  1. myiq2xu says:

    I don’t resent rich people. I resent a child of privilege lecturing proles about what their “true” interests are.

  2. Lola-at-Large says:

    Spoony is a tool. Very little he says makes sense unless you know his background, then it all makes sense, and tends to make you sick.

    Did you catch THIS bellwether from PPP? I doubt it will hold true to the end, but if it does, it will be HUGE. And NC isn’t the only place it will happen.

  3. DandyTiger says:

    Americans, esp. working class Americans, seem to have a pretty simple response to Spoony and Dems in general when they tell them the proper thing to think and the proper motivations to have and the what they should resent: “November.”

    • Lola-at-Large says:

      It’s a form of grooming. There’s a talking point for the left. Are you really gonna let yourself be so nakedly groomed? When does the part where you think for yourself come in? (universal you, not you specifically DT)

  4. HELENK says:


    if you are out of work and paying for a cell phone, you need to look for work you might want to look into this

  5. Erin says:

    Full disclosure, I am a federal civil servant. As such, my agency has bargining unit (union) and non bargining unit positions. I have occupied both over the course of my career. My pension (such as it may be) and benefits are subject to the whims of congress, not a collective bargining agreement. However, the pact we all made when you hired me was that there would be a pension (roughly 1% per year of empolyeement) and I my salary would be significantly lower than my counterparts in private industry. My agency has lived up to the lower than private industry salary part of that agreement for the past 20 years. Why is it ok to break the pension part of that agreement, but not any other social contract with other Americans like social security or military pensions?

    • Lola-at-Large says:

      That’s a cogent argument, but so far that is not happening much, San Jose, CA being the recent and notable exception. That plan does strong arm current employees into paying into their pensions, or being forced into a 401-k style fund. But so far that is the only law that does that; all the others that I’ve seen address new hires or employees under a certain level of tenure.

      The thing that stands out the most to me, though, is how this kind of disparate and unequal system puts people like you at risk. I don’t know what kind of civil servant you are, but teacher’s for example, are exempted from SS, but they’d be much better off, and so would we, if they weren’t.

      Your scenario would be terrible if it happened, but it’s a trust you chose to take with politicians, who have been demonstrably less than trustworthy people. The same methods unions used to get the deals they have–persuasion and lobbying– are the same methods that other people are using to persuade politicians of a different way. One could say–like they would of the soldier who died in combat–it’s the risk you take when you sign on.

      I know that doesn’t ease your own anxiety about all this, but you did ask. I am sorry if your scenario does happen to you, ftr, and I don’t support it.

      • Erin says:

        Feds have social security since the change in pension systems in 1987. I am under the new system. Congress makes changes to the system as time goes by to assist in its continued solvency. So every few years the percentage empolyees pay in the pension fund increases. Thank you for your empathy about the uncertainty of the situation. I dont think its any better or worse than uncertainty in private industry, just different.

        However, I disagree with the description about with whom I made the deal for my employment. I made it with my fellow citizens, not politicians. Like all of our laws we have entrusted the developing of them to congress, the implemenation to the executive branch, and the interpretation to the judicial branch.

        We are our congress, we but them in their positions – there is no passing the buck. We either let things happen or we tell them we dont like how they do their job and kick them out.

        My point is that govenrment employees are an easy target and collectively we let it happen. Feds work for all Americans. Somme of what I see happening is an application of the “I am paying for this so I can treat you like crap” attitude exhibited by the ill mannered towards their waiter or waiteress.

        I understand that the rules have to change to adjust to the realities of the any given point in time. I know the deal I made and I live below my means knowing the rules are subject to change and I only have me to rely on in the end. I just find it hypocritcal to demand that only one category of people who earned a benefit under the conditions of their employment are the only ones being told to lump it.

        • Lola-at-Large says:

          I can understand that argument, but I also see how some people don’t. I do think it’s important to point out the intensity of the crowd and ask whether or not people are critically thinking about this. Glad we could talk about it reasonably. I do hear you.

        • insanelysane says:

          Erin, Uncertainty sucks, so I too sympathize.
          U said:
          …..”the any given point in time. I know the deal I made and I live below my means..”

          The entire 1st world needs to start living below their means unless we start colonizing space. We are bleeding this little paradise dry.

      • marylee says:

        Lola, I have just retired after 41 years of teaching and I paid into Social Security every one of those years. I agree with Erin, I made my employment contract with the people of Oklahoma and I’m hoping they are honorable enough to stand by their agreement – as I stood by mine.

    • jjmtacoma says:

      Private industry used to offer pensions. The civil servants were paid less and only had slightly better benefits from major corporations if you look back 20-30 years ago. I think the employment was more secure than many industries that laid people off every few years.

      I think you will see the other social contracts broken too, just taken one at a time rather than stir the whole pot all at once.

      I’ve heard that Social Security wouldn’t be around for my retirement since I was in high school (in the 1980’s). They seem to be approaching it where eventually the eligibility age will be pushed way out so that we will be working until we are over 80 if we live that long. So I guess technically, they won’t break the social contract they will just age it out of reach for pretty much everyone.

      • Erin says:

        I agree that social security is in for some modifications in the future too. You are correct about the loss of pensions in the private industry. This correlates with the growth the 401k savings plans. Unfortunately the 401ks plans havent panned out to be the great financial boon they were thought to be. While I think Spoony doesnt know what he’s talking about on any subject this included, there can be is a fair amount of the “you lazy governemnt employee you can’t have any thing I dont” going on in discussions on the subject of public sector benefits (Crawdad hole not included – i think the discussions here avoid that tone). And to be honest that urks me. It feels like a personal slur when it happens.

  6. propertius says:

    Sorry, Myiq, but you’ve been conned. It’s not the (underfunded) pensions that have breaking budgets, it’s crap like this:


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