This week I'm at the most wonderful place in the world – a mid-level academic conference! Your heart would burst to learn how much fun it is. Kidding aside, I am looking forward to spending a week around people who speak in sentences, occasionally read books, and do not patronize Golden Corral. Accordingly, content will be provided haphazardly this week. I do hope to bang out a few real posts between now and Sunday, but today you get salad. Delicious, leafy salad, loaded with croutons of knowledge.
1. Boy do I feel bad for anyone stuck living in Kansas, aka Brownbackistan. Sam Brownback is a crazy person, as evidenced by his residence with a creepy cult of ultraconservative Christians called "The Family" during his tenure in DC. Can you believe that the least insane name they could come up with was "The Family"? Me neither. Anyway, now-Governor Brownback is showing that the Romney/Ryan campaign strategy that worked so well in 2012 has staying power; rather than bothering to concoct a rationale for his actions and beliefs, he's simply lying his ass off. Kansas schools are badly underfunded and, in major cities, closing? No they're not! Just…tell everyone they're not. Because fuck it, that's why. This amusing Wichita Eagle editorial explores the differences between the Kansas described by Brownback in his role as a Republican Heavyweight (of last resort) and the actual Kansas inhabited by Kansans. The GOP is really embracing this Just Lying strategy. So much easier!
2. You've probably seen this NPR piece about the rise of disability – more accurately, the assignment of SSI disability benefits – in the U.S. over the past decade. Having worked in a field involving a lot of indigent people, I was aware that disability benefits can go to people who, by any vernacular definition of the term, are not disabled. It is staggering, though, to see the growth of SSI benefits in recent years as a sort of secret, de facto unemployment dole. It has become a place where we stash people who lack, or no longer have, marketable job skills and for whom the next step down on the socioeconomic ladder is homelessness or the illicit economy. I intend to say a lot more about this piece when time permits.
3. Look! Political science that isn't useless! Larry Bartels and colleagues have started to release some of the findings of their multi-year study of the attitudes and opinions of the super-wealthy. I had the good fortune of hearing Bartels talk about this project during the planning stages but not enough good fortune to get involved with it. It was clear from the beginning that this would end up being remarkably interesting. Indeed, some of the findings are exactly what you'd expect, but others paint The 0.1% in a more pragmatic, less Evil light than we often see. Here's a brief summary or, for masochists, the whole article from Perspectives on Politics2.