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LAT/USC Poll: The Center is Holding for Brown, Boxer

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Months ago, Jerry Brown’s campaign manager, Steve Glazer, told us he thought the race for governor between his guy and Meg Whitman would either be very, very close or a blow-out for Brown. With Whitman spending more than $160 million thus far and her spinmeisters claiming that their private polling was showing the race neck-and-neck, most analysts have been reluctant to acknowledge that public surveys have consistently shown Brown breaking away.

That’s hard to do today with the big Los Angeles Times/USC survey finding Democrat Brown — with overwhelming support from independents, moderates, Latinos and women — leading Republican Whitman 52-39% among likely voters, compared to 49-44% last month. And that’s with a survey model that gives the GOP a huge enthusiasm advantage, pegging likely voters at 44% Democrat and 40% Republican – far closer than the 13% difference between them in official registration.

Among key constituencies who tilt the balance in statewide races in California, Brown leads 61-24% among independents, 59-30% among moderates and 61-27% among Latinos – not to mention his 55-34% advantage among women, who comprised 53% of the LAT/USC likely voter universe.[Results and crosstabs here.]

The survey also shows Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer with a smaller but still hefty 8-point lead over Republican Carly Fiorina – 50-42% — with Fiorina doing better among conservative-leaning constituencies than Whitman, especially in the Central Valley. Like Brown, Boxer has consolidated the vote among classic Democratic blocs and she has huge leads in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Despite heavy breathing from the national press corps, the race is essentially unchanged in the LAT/USC survey, from 51-43% last month.

The poll suggests – as did another from the Public Policy Institute of California last week – that Whitman has been unable to develop support beyond the conservative, Republican base vote in Southern California and rural areas of the state. Despite all the money she has spent on television commercials, key blocs of voters – including women, Latinos and middle-of-the-road Californians — just don’t like her.

While Brown’s overall favorability is nothing to write home about – 48% favorable versus 44% unfavorable, at least Krusty is on the plus side. eMeg is below water at 37% favorable and 52% unfavorable. About seven in 10 Republicans and conservatives give her favorable marks, but  among independents, only 18% have a favorable view of her compared to 69% with an unfavorable view; Latinos have a 2-to-1 unfavorable view of her at 26-52% and women are fed up with her too – 33% favorable compared to 55% unfavorable.

Exactly what women find objectionable about Whitman is hard to pin down from the LAT/USC data. But here’s one clue: When asked how well Whitman handled her “nanny situation,” 38% of women said “well” and 54% said not “well.” (BTW, 26% of Latinos said “well” compared to 68% who said not “well.”)

Brown was also judged better than Whitman in terms of understanding people, speaking plainly, knowing how to get the job done and, by-2-to-1, telling the truth. The 54-year-old Whitman had only slightly better marks than the 72-year-old Brown on having the energy to get the job done and being decisive.

In the Senate race, Boxer and Fiorina each are pulling about eight in 10 votes from of their own party vote, but Boxer has a big 58-26% lead among independents and a 59-31% lead among moderates. Fiorina is leading Boxer in Southern California outside of LA 51-39% and in the Central Valley 53-40% which is why she’s running closer to Boxer than Whitman is to Brown.

Boxer’s favorability is pretty weak – 44% favorable and 50% unfavorable. But it’s better than Fiorina’s – 36% favorable and 43% unfavorable. Importantly for Boxer, independents like her a lot more than they do Fiorina: 50-42% favorable for Boxer compared to 16-60% unfavorable for Fiorina. And while women aren’t exactly wild about Boxer – 47-46% on the favorable side – they don’t care for Fiorina at all: they rate her 32% favorable and 45% unfavorable.

The Democratic firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint conducted the poll for the Los Angeles Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, calling landlines and cellphones Oct. 13-20.  A random sample of 1,501 California registered voters were called, including an oversample of Latino respondents for a total of 460 Latino interviews. The survey identified 922 likely voters for whom the margin of error is +/- 3.2%. The margin of error for Latinos is +/- 4.6%.

To be included in the likely voter sample, respondents must have voted in 2006 and 2008, said they were “almost certain” or “probably” going to vote in 2010 and rated their enthusiasm about voting as 5 or higher on a 10-point scale. Those who registered since the 2008 election were included if they met the enthusiasm standard and said they are “almost certain” to vote this time around. Likely voters also included those said they have already have voted by mail — about 7% of voters surveyed.

Meyer on Palin’s Touch; Enthusiasm; Lies; eMeg 3.0

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Last week, when the Queen Bee of the Mean Girls — aka Sarah Palin — visited California to rally support for the Mad Hatter Tea Party, California’s Republican Mamma Grizzlies — Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina — were too busy with their own schedules to find time to appear with the Thundra from the Tundra.

Calbuzz is certain this had nothing to do with the Field Poll’s findings that Palin’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating in California is 33-58% or that 53% of voters said they’d be less likely to vote for someone endorsed by the former Alaska governor.

We’re sure they were sorry to miss Sarah, since both of them worked so tirelessly for her election to the White House when she was Arizona Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in 2008. But schedules are schedules. Or are they? Calbuzz Editorial Pen Swordsman Tom Meyer has another take on the scene.


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About that enthusiasm gap:There’s been a lot made of how depressed the Democrats are compared to the Republicans and no doubt, that appears to be true in many parts of the country. But not so much in California, according to the new LA Times/USC survey.

According to David Lauter of the Times:

The survey asked respondents to rate on a 10-point scale how enthusiastic they felt about voting this year. In September, when the poll asked that question, Republicans had a big advantage, with 42% of registered Republicans statewide rating their enthusiasm as a 10, compared with 27% of registered Democrats. In the latest survey, conducted statewide Oct. 13-20, that 15-point gap had nearly disappeared: 39% of registered Republicans rated their enthusiasm at 10, compared with 35% of registered Democrats.

The survey also found that Democratic likely voters scored an average 8.2 on a 10-point enthusiasm scale, compared to 8.3 for Republican likely voters and 7.4 for independents. And since the Times/USC survey has squeezed their voter model down to 44% Democrat and 40% Republican — a whopping 9 points below the actual difference in registration (when most pollsters are looking at something more like 43% D and 34% R) — it’s going to be hard to believe the GOP spinners when they argue that enthusiasm means things are breaking their way.

And speaking of spin: We weren’t there, but it sounded to us like Meg Whitman’s head exploded the other day after an event in Los Angeles where she accused Jerry Brown of lying about her record to Latinos — with special emphasis on her stand on Arizona’s immigration law which, by the way, she has said is fine for Arizona but not right for California because of geographic reasons (whatever those are).  The LA Times and AP wrote up the story, including this from eMeg:

“Jerry Brown has taken this vote for granted. He’s living on what he did for this community 40 years ago,” Whitman said. “I’m the first Republican in 30 years to open an office in East L.A. I have reached out to this community, I’ve been part of this community…. Our entire Internet site is translated into Spanish. His website — he uses Google to translate it into Spanish. I mean, think about that — it’s not respect for the community.”

What a puta, that Jerry Brown is! No wonder eMeg’s standing with Latinos has dropped 20 points or more. Surely that has nothing to do with her treatment of her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, whom she fired unceremoniously in the summer of 2009 after learning that Nicky was an illegal immigrant.

Calbuzz was pleased to see, however, that we made the volcanic Sarah Pompei’s mailaround notice from the Whitman campaign with this entry:Click here to see a link to one such misleading mailer– actually a link to our Calbuzz exclusive report on labor’s mail campaign to Latinos, including prayer cards showing Brown with Cesar Chavez and with Mother Teresa.

eMeg 3.0: First it was jobs, education and waste. Then it was Jerry’s bad, I’m good. Now — 80,000 commercials later –  it’s, I’m a good billionaire who’ll treat you like adults, tell it to you straight and lead you out of the wilderness. Yes, the New and Improved Meg Whitman is now up on the air — a new 60-second quasi Fred Davis biographical spot designed to introduce (or re-introduce) eMeg to the 7% or so of California voters who don’t yet have an opinion about her. At this late stage in the campaign, it seems like a strange move. But who knows? Maybe Meg’s unfavorables are so high they have no choice but to try anything to make her likable. She should have come to dinner with Calbuzz a year ago.

BTW: When we heard about NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg campaigning for eMeg (“She’s my kind of candidate,” he said), it occurred to us that the two of them together have spent at least a quarter of a billion dollars seeking office — $109 million for Bloomberg and $141 million (and counting) for Meg.

Voters Turn to Web for Politics (Calbuzz Sets Pace)

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

All but overlooked in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll is some intriguing new data that shows a dramatic shift in how people get their political news in the state: web sites and blogs have now left newspapers in the dust as primary sources of such information.

“People more and more are getting their news and information about California politics and elections on the internet,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s CEO and director of the survey. “Television and newspapers are not what they used to be.”

The survey asked respondents to identify where, ”you get most of your information about what’s going on in politics today.” The results show that while TV remains the top choice for 37 percent of Californians, the internet is now in second place, at 24 percent, while newspapers lag  behind in third, with only 15 percent saying it is their main source for politics.

The findings cap a decade-long cultural trend: When PPIC asked the same question in 1999, 45 percent listed TV as their leading choice, while 30 percent said newspapers and only five percent pointed to the internet.

While the influence of political coverage in newspapers has sharply declined, however, there was some good news in the poll for the industry: Among those who use the internet for politics and elections news, 47 percent said they turn to newspaper web sites, only slightly fewer (50 percent) than those who said they use other types of websites (we name no names).

As for those who still consider newspapers their leading political source, nearly three in four (73 percent) said they read the paper version of the publication, a significant drop-off since 2007, when PPIC first asked the question, and 87 percent said they preferred the paper rather than the‘net.

The PPIC research is just the latest in an ever-accumulating mountain of evidence that shows the traditional MSM business model, which consisted of publishing or broadcasting a general interest news and information product to a mass audience which is then marketed to advertisers, continues to crumble.

With the rise of the internets, the mass audience has fragmented, and consumers now have a virtually unlimited number of niche news sources where they can find more in-depth and detailed information about specialized topics (we name no names).

The good news: a vast array of choices for readers and viewers. The bad news: consumers, citizens and voters never again have to read or watch something with which they disagree.

“People can now find many sources of information they agree with, instead of seeking a broader view,” said Baldassare. “The trend certainly has pluses and minuses.”

Late Edition: At our request, PPIC ran another crosstab which found that among those who have both a cellphone and land line, 34% get their political information from TV, 26% from the internet, 16% from newspapers and 11% from radio. Among those with a land line only, 62% get information from TV, 12% from the internet and 10% from newspapers. This is a HUGE difference and suggests that the shift to the internet for information is moving right along with the shift toward cell phones and away from land lines.

When it rains it pours: Speaking of digital technology, we can only hope that Her Megness found it amusing when her spokeshuman, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, made a one-letter URL error on a Twitter message she was forwarding from chief strategist Ned Beatty Mike Murphy, and accidentally directed the entire Golden State political press corps to a You Tube video of a Korean transvestite bass player.

The story about Pompei’s mis-tweet promptly went viral, though Calbuzz is not entirely certain that it counts as good news for a campaign in the closing days that the most popular message you put out is about a Korean transvestite bass player.

No word yet on who the guy is endorsing, and apparently no truth to the rumor that before he makes up his mind he’s demanding more info on eMeg’s position on intellectual property rights.

How dare you? Belated mega-kudos to our old friend Cathy Decker, High-Ranking News Sheriff and Ace Rewrite Person for the by-God L.A. Times’ vast political team, for neatly working the word “umbrage” into a recent analysis about the low-rent controversies, including the whole “whore” kerfuffle, that pockmark California’s campaign for governor:

It was not immediately clear who uttered the comment; the Brown campaign said it was not the candidate. The candidate was not heard disabusing the speaker, in any case.

Whitman’s campaign responded in full umbrage, calling the word choice “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California.”

“This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman,” her spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said.

And yet the same Whitman campaign last June tried to dismiss as inconsequential reports that the candidate, during her tenure as chief of EBay, had cursed at and pushed a young woman underling.

Decker’s splendid adjectival construction provides an entry point into a re-examination of “umbrage politics.” In this silly political game, a candidate or campaign takes deliberately misconstrued, overdrawn or reductionist offense — of the “I’m shocked – shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” variety — at some statement or act by a rival (see: Fiorina, Carly; entire campaign).

Or as Michael Kinsley put it, in a lovely little piece called “Do People Really Want a Stupid President” over at Politico:

This puts us in the fashionable world of “umbrage politics,” where the game is to take as much offense as possible at something someone said or did. Usually this will involve giving the controversial statement or action an interpretation, or at least an importance, your victim obviously never intended and hiding the obvious fact that — far from being “saddened” or “outraged” — you are delighted to have this stick to beat him or her with.

Obama said that “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day” at the moment “because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” (Columnist Michael) Gerson riffs on this: “Obama views himself as the neocortical leader —  the defender … of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression.” In short, he takes this single sentence from the president, deconstructs it thoroughly enough to qualify for tenure in many an English department and calls the result “some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.” Then he goes to town.

We’re shocked – shocked!- to find that umbrage politics is going on in this campaign.

Final word on whore: Better late than never, Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss breaks it down once and for all. Let us not speak of this matter again.

PPIC Poll: Why Jerry and Babs Lead Meg and Carly

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Propelled by his standing among Democrats, Latinos, women, liberals and especially moderates, Jerry Brown is leading Meg Whitman 44-36% in the latest survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which also finds Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina 43-38%.

Despite her massive spending – which is expected to reach $180 million – Republican Whitman has been unable to break away from Democrat Brown except among Republicans, conservatives and Southern Californians outside of Los Angeles.

Among independents – a group Team Whitman has identified as crucial to their final game plan – the race is essentially tied, with Whitman up only 37-36%, according to PPIC. Men, whites and voters in the Central Valley – demographics essential to a Republican candidate – also are evenly divided, while Brown is crushing Whitman in Los Angeles (54-28%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (55-29%).

Brown’s strong lead appears in some considerable part to be due to his appeal to middle-of-the-road voters – moderates – as distinct from independents, according to a crosstab PPIC created at the request of Calbuzz. Brown, of course, leads among liberals 82-4% and Whitman commands conservatives 63-15%. But among the large swath of voters in the middle – however they are registered to vote – Brown leads 51-29%.

The findings are based on a turnout model – derived from questions probing respondents’ likliness to vote — that includes 44% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 19% independents. The 9-point differential between Democrats and Republicans is 4 points lower than the official difference by party registration. That takes into account the “enthusiasm gap” many pollsters find during the election season.

But if Republicans turn out in vastly higher numbers and Democrats don’t, the race could certainly be closer than PPIC suggests. On the other hand, the survey only includes 49% women, which is likely 2-4 percent too low — which would advantage Brown and Boxer.

While Brown leads Whitman on voters’ beliefs about who would do a better job on education, environment and immigration, Whitman leads on two of the most compelling issues – jobs and the economy, and state budget and taxes. But PPIC did not ask questions about character or qualifications – two concerns the Brown campaign believe precede voters’ views about issues.

The data make it clear why, in the closing days of the campaign, Whitman continues to hammer on Brown’s record on  jobs, taxes, the death penalty and pensions, while Brown is emphasizing Whitman’s truthfulness, experience, self-interest and integrity.

While just half the Democrats say they are satisfied with their choices of candidates in the governor’s race and 46% say they’re not satisfied, only 38% of Republicans are satisfied compared to 58% who are not satisfied.

Satisfaction doesn’t seem to be preventing either Brown or Whitman from consolidating their party base: Brown has 76% of the Democrats and Whitman has 73% of the Republicans. But given that Whitman has spent so lavishly – explaining that she must do this because Brown is so well-known and the unions are funding him to the hilt – it is astonishing that nearly six in 10 Republicans are not happy with their choice.

The relatively large number of undecided voters — 16% — is at least partly a function of PPIC’s polling technique: they do not ask undecided voters for whom they are leaning, a question that many pollsters use to better simulate a final vote.

In the race for  U.S. Senate, Boxer commands Democrats, Women, Latinos, liberals and – importantly – moderates. She also kills Republican Fiorina in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

But Fiorina is closer to Boxer than Whitman is to Brown because she is not only ahead among Republicans, conservatives and voters in Southern California outside of LA, she also leads Boxer among men, whites and voters in the Central Valley. Only independents are a wash.

According to the special Calbuzz crosstab, Boxer has the liberals 81-4% and Fiorina has the conservatives 69-13%. But moderates are tilting 51-24% for Boxer – which explains why Boxer is emphasizing Fiorina’s very conservative views on abortion, offshore oil drilling, environment and other issues that cast her GOP opponent outside of the California mainstream.

Voters are more satisfied with their choices for Senate than they are their choices for governor: Democrats are satisfied 67-27%, Republicans are OK with their choice 61-34% and independents say they’re satisfied by 51-41%.

None of the propositions PPIC tested appear in great shape: Prop. 19, to legalize marijuana, is trailing 44-49%; Prop. 23, to overturn the state’s greenhouse gas controls, is losing 37-48%; Prop. 24, to repeal a law giving business a tax break, is behind 31-38%, with 31% undecided; and Prop. 25, to lower the threshold to pass a budget to a majority, is leading just 49-34%.

PPIC surveyed 1,802 adults by landline and 200 by cell phone, Oct. 10-17. Included in the sample were 1,067 respondents identified as likely voters, for whom the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. (The cell phone interviews, however, included were with adults who have both cell phone and landline service, not just those who have a cell phone only – a demographically distinct, and more Democrat-leaning, group. PPIC informs us that at most 103 respondents in their total sample have a cell phone only. We don’t know how many CPOs were in their likely voter sample.)

PS: We note with some disgust that the Wall Street Journal broke PPIC’s embargo on this survey. We’re not sure where they got the numbers but they may have figured them out from the Brown campaign’s 1:30 pm conference call when the survey was discussed. Calbuzz, however, has played by the rules.

Taxes, Class Warfare and eMeg’s Vast Fortune

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Faced with Jerry Brown’s intensifying attacks on her call to end California’s tax on capital gains, Meg Whitman has responded with one of the hoariest political lines in the Republican campaign play book: the Democratic nominee, she says, is engaging in “class warfare.”

Whitman argues that her capital gains proposal, which would eliminate state taxation on sales of stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets, would jump start California’s economy, by keeping the profits from such transactions in the hands of investors, who would channel the money into starting and sustaining businesses, thereby creating jobs.

Brown argues, however, that the tax cut not only would blow a $5 billion hole in a state budget already wracked with huge deficits, but also would prove beneficial only to the very wealthy, including Whitman herself.

In the days since their final debate, when Brown repeatedly charged the big winners with the tax cut would be Whitman and “her billionaire friends,” the “class warfare” meme has been sounded and echoed in quick succession by Whitman spokesmen, by the state party and by the candidate herself, at a Monday appearance in Southern California.

The fact that I would run for governor to enrich myself is ridiculous – all you have to do is to look at how much money I have spent versus how much money I would save. He is so off-base on this. It’s a political stunt. It’s class warfare.

Well and good, but inquiring minds want to know: Why does “class warfare” always only go in one direction?

For Whitman and her allies, taxing profits of investors and the wealthy, in essence, is a wrong-headed, socialist, economic redistributionist notion that strikes at the most fundamental values of American capitalism.

Yet they never portray their own, constant, fierce and unbridled attacks on unions as “class warfare,” no doubt because they are the most selfless of citizens — “I refuse to let California fail” — whose beef with labor represents nothing more than high-minded, good government reform, which they embrace solely for the most civic-minded of motives.

Whitman mocks Brown as “crazy” for even suggesting that economic self- interest might help explain the great personal favor she’s done all of us by deigning to run for governor; after all, Meg notes, she and Griff might only net $15 million a year as a result of her proposed tax cut – a mere bagatelle.

What person in their right mind would spend $140 million to run for governor to save $15 million? I mean it just shows Jerry Brown does not understand math.

How about some Calbuzz math:

According to an in-depth study by our Department of Investment Risk Management Modeling and Abacus Repair, $15 million a year on a one-time investment of $140 million works out to a 10.7% annual rate of return, most likely more than Our Meg could make anywhere outside of those early-peek IPOs she got the inside track on over at Goldman Sachs.

Qui bono capital gains: Despite eMeg’s distaste for “class warfare,” a look at the numbers clearly shows that it is precisely her economic class – the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers – who would reap the outsize benefits of her tax cut proposal. As Michael Hiltzik, the Pulitzer Prize-winning economics columnist for the by-God L.A. Times, has noted:

The real problem with this proposal is that it looks like a pure handout, and a costly one, to the wealthy, a group that includes the billionaire Whitman herself. In 2008, according to figures from the Franchise Tax Board, more than 82% of the $56 billion in capital gains earned by California residents were reported by the top 1% of income earners (those touching about $500,000 or more).

And this, from Hiltzik’s colleague, the redoubtable George Skelton:

Who pays the (capital gains) tax?

–People with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $500,000 pay 82% of the total capital gains tax. For them 38% of their earnings comes from investment profits.

–These $500,000-plus earners amount to only 1% of taxpayers – or about 150,000 returns – but provide 48% of the total personal income tax.

–-People with more than $200,000 in adjusted gross incomes – 4.4% of filers – provide 93% of the capital gains tax.

Whitman says that eliminating the tax would “spur innovation, which we have to own in California.” But, I note, many people realize investment profits merely by buying and selling stock. That hardly induces innovation.

Still, eMeg stands aghast at the shocking suggestion of “class warfare,” though she never hesitates for a second to demonize as “labor bosses” public school teachers who knock down 60 grand, or thinks twice about bashing some poor shlub living on a $25,000 pension after 30 years of mopping floors at the DMV office for “sucking up taxpayer funds.”

How rich is eMeg? Fortune magazine, which just released its annual compilation of the 400 richest individuals in America, pegs Whitman as the 332nd wealthiest person in the nation, with a net worth of $1.2 billion.

Among the 400, there are 84 people who live in California – about 21% of the total – and Whitman sits near the bottom of that list, which makes the wannabe governor only the 74th richest citizen of the oh-so-Golden State.

These 400 people, who represent 0.0000012% of the country’s population,  control about 2.5 percent of its wealth – about $1.5 trillion; thus the Fortune 400 control only slightly less wealth than the $1.6 trillion held by the bottom half of the U.S. population, no doubt most of them avaricious public employees with outrageous salaries and benefits.

Of course, it must be noted that Meg’s cohort of 400 is just the crème de la crème of the upper 1% of taxpayers who have made out like bandits prospered disproportionately over the past decade. Washpost columnist Steven Pearlstein writes:

By 2007, the top 1 percent of households took home 23 percent of the national income after a 15-year run in which they captured more than half – yes, you read that right, more than half – of the country’s economic growth. As Tim Noah noted recently in a wonderful series of articles in Slate, that’s the kind of income distribution you’d associate with a banana republic or a sub-Saharan kleptocracy, not the world’s oldest democracy and wealthiest market economy.

Put another way, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities did in boiling down the same economic trends in a 2009 report:

Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

During those years, the Piketty-Saez data also show, the inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households…

The last time such a large share of the income gain during an expansion went to the top 1 percent of households – and such a small share went to the bottom 90 percent of households – was in the 1920s.

1928 – now that was a helluva’ year.

Why it matters: All this talk of class warfare – the horror, the horror! — would be little more than fodder for Marxist whining sessions or kvetching by petty and jealous-minded souls who lack the innovative imagination, spirit and perseverance needed to make themselves fabulously wealthy in the entrepreneurial manner of, say, Calbuzz, a privately-held partnership, plenty of free parking.

Turns out, however, there are some practical reasons that this wealth concentration business is a real bummer, even for those of us who long ago left behind their obsession with dialectical materialism. Pearlstein again:

There are moral and political reasons for caring about this dramatic skewing of income, which in the real world leads to a similar skewing of opportunity, social standing and political power. But there is also an important economic reason. Too much inequality, just like too little, appears to reduce global competitiveness and long-term growth, at least in developed countries like ours…

The biggest problem with runaway inequality…is that it undermines the unity of purpose necessary for any firm, or any nation to thrive. People don’t work hard, take risks and make sacrifices if they think the rewards will all flow to others. Conservative Republicans use this argument all the time in trying to justify lower tax rates for wealth earners and investors, but they choose to ignore it when it comes to the income of everyone else.

It’s no coincidence that polarization of income distribution in the United States coincides with a polarization of the political process. Just as income inequality has eroded any sense that we are all in this together, it has also eroded the political consensus necessary for effective government…

Political candidates may not be talking about income inequality during this election, but it is the unspoken issue that underlies all the others.

And thank you for that.