The Los Angeles Times runs a fascinating op-ed by Benjamin I. Page and Larry M. Bartels on the policy preferences of the rich versus everybody else.
On one level, it’s obvious that the rich would have different political views than everybody else, but the details are still revealing.
Wonder why the press and politicians have been obsessed with budget deficits during a recession and anemic recovery?
Our research found that the biggest concern of this top 1% of wealth-holders was curbing budget deficits and government spending. When surveyed, they ranked those things as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment — and far more often than any other issue…
They were also much less likely to favor raising taxes on high-income people, instead advocating that entitlement programs like Social Security and healthcare be cut to balance the budget. Large majorities of ordinary Americans oppose any substantial cuts to those programs.
While the wealthy favored more government spending on infrastructure, scientific research and aid to education, they leaned toward cutting nearly everything else. Even with education, they opposed things that most Americans favor, including spending to ensure that all children have access to good-quality public schools, expanding government programs to ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, and investing more in worker retraining and education.
— Meantime, The Atlantic asks why wealthy people give much less of their income to charity than poor people do:
In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
Then there’s what the wealthy do with their money when they actually give it away.
Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed. More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools (one, to the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York) than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).
I’d imagine that much of that disparity has to do with poorer people paying tithe to their churches.
— There’s a lot to chew on in this Ryan Avent post at The Economist about the implications of Google shutting down its RSS tool, Google Reader. Avent notes how much we rely on a single for-profit company for critical infrastructure and services—and how Google can take away those services when they no longer fit their strategy:
As I said, Google has asked us to build our lives around it, and we have responded. This response entails a powerful self-reinforcement mechanism: both providers and users of information and other services change their behaviour as a result of the availability of a Google product…
Once we all become comfortable with that state of affairs we quickly begin optimising the physical and digital resources around us. Encyclopaedias? Antiques. Book shelves and file cabinets? Who needs them? And once we all become comfortable with that, we begin rearranging our mental architecture. We stop memorising key data points and start learning how to ask the right questions. We begin to think differently. About lots of things. We stop keeping a mental model of the physical geography of the world around us, because why bother? We can call up an incredibly detailed and accurate map of the world, complete with satellite and street-level images, whenever we want. We stop remembering who said what when about what engagement on such-and-such a date, because we have fully archived email and calendar services for all of that. And we instead devote more mental energy to figuring out how to combine the wealth of information now at our hands into interesting things. Those interesting things might be blog posts or cat GIFs or novels or theories of the universe or personal relationships. The bottom line is that the more we all participate in this world, the more we come to depend on it. The more it becomes the world…
That’s a lot of power to put in the hands of a company that now seems interested, mostly, in identifying core mass-market services it can use to maximise its return on investment.
Read the whole thing.