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robertogreco : incomeinequality   26

💜🏳️‍🌈 ♿️✡️ Mx. Amadi Says Ban Nazis on Twitter: "Students eligible for Pell Grants are those most likely to have education interruptions because of ongoing financial issues. Forcing them to… https://t.co/blRHN9RvGu"
"Students eligible for Pell Grants are those most likely to have education interruptions because of ongoing financial issues. Forcing them to repay because they had to pause education would significantly reduce their chances of being able to resume it.

Ultimately we know Republicans want to eliminate Pell Grants entirely. This would be a first step toward that goal.

Couple this with the effort to make grad school tuition waivers taxable income, the disappearance of Title IX guidance & students with disabilities guidance and the Trump perspective on affirmative action programs & charter schools and it is an all out assault.

The end goal is to make access to all levels of education from kindergarten through graduate programs the privilege of the wealthy.

You can throw in the ending of broadband access programs for rural and highly impoverished areas as well. The GOP wants Americans stratified into educated haves and intentionally uneducated worker drones.

When you add in the destruction of any means of getting healthcare unless you have an employee or a benevolent enough to give you insurance (which may not be comprehensive) it becomes a larger, uglier picture.

It becomes: intentionally uneducated worker drones who cannot have any basic necessities of human existence without pledging their labor (without protections) to the owner class.

Add their perspective on the environment into the picture and it becomes intentionally uneducated worker drones who cannot have any basic necessities of human existence including clean air and water.

You’ll be buying water credits from your employer the same way some people earn time off now. Every month you work nets you 100 gallons of potable water.

The goal is the reformatting of the entirety of society to benefit — solely benefit — a minuscule number of uberwealthy people. There are FAR more of us than them. We cannot allow this.

8 people, 8 dudes, 4 of them old and frail have as much wealth as 162.5 million of us. Think 162.5 million could subdue 8 people and take their unearned surplus of blood money? I do. Just saying."
amadiaeclovelace  taxes  2017  policy  pellgrants  healthcare  capitalism  latecapitalism  gop  us  politics  inequality  wageslavery  education  wealth  wealthinquality  incomeinequality  plutocracy  labor  work  privatization  affirmativeaction  disabilities  highered  highereducation  schools  publicschools  charterschools 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
The American Dream Is Alive in Finland - The Atlantic
"If the U.S. presidential campaign has made one thing clear, it’s this: The United States is not Finland. Nor is it Norway. This might seem self-evident. But America’s Americanness has had to be reaffirmed ever since Bernie Sanders suggested that Americans could learn something from Nordic countries about reducing income inequality, providing people with universal health care, and guaranteeing them paid family and medical leave.

“I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president … of Sweden,” Marco Rubio scoffed. “We don’t want to be Sweden. We want to be the United States of America.”

“We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton clarified. “We are the United States of America. … [W]hen I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.”

Opportunity. Freedom. Independence. These words are bound up with American identity and the American Dream. The problem is that they’re often repeated like an incantation, with little reflection on the extent to which they still ring true in America, and are still exceptionally American.

Anu Partanen’s new book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, argues that the freedom and opportunity Americans cherish are currently thriving more in Nordic countries than in the United States. (The Nordic countries comprise Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.) But she also pushes back—albeit gently—against the trendy notion that Nordic countries are paradises.

Partanen is an unusual messenger. After all, her personal story is a testament to the Land of Opportunity’s enduring magnetism and vibrancy; she recently became a U.S. citizen, after moving from her native Finland to the United States in part because she felt she was more likely to find work as a journalist in New York City than her American husband was as a writer in Helsinki. But her time in America has also convinced her that Finland and its neighbors are doing a better job of promoting a 21st-century version of the American Dream than her adoptive country.

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?

“What Finland and its neighbors do is actually walk the walk of opportunity that America now only talks,” Partanen writes. “It’s a fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than is a citizen of the United States.” The United States is not Finland. And, in one sense, that’s bad news for America. Numerous studies have shown that there is far greater upward social mobility in Nordic countries than in the United States, partly because of the high level of income inequality in the U.S.

In another sense, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be Finland. As Nathan Heller observed in The New Yorker, the modern Nordic welfare state is meant to “minimize the causes of inequality” and be “more climbing web than safety net.” Yet the system, especially in Sweden, is currently being tested by increased immigration and rising income inequality. And it’s ultimately predicated on a different—and not necessarily superior—definition of freedom than that which prevails in America. “In Sweden,” Heller argued, “control comes through protection against risk. Americans think the opposite: control means taking personal responsibility for risk and, in some cases, social status.”

Last week, I spoke with Partanen about what she feels Nordic countries have gotten right, where they’ve gone wrong, and why, if Finland is really so great, she’s now living in America. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation follows.

Uri Friedman: You make an argument in the book that if you think about the American Dream in a certain way—if you define it in terms of opportunity, independence, and freedom—it is actually flourishing in the Nordic region more than in the United States. Why?

Anu Partanen: For a long time now, we’ve all, both in the United States and in Europe, thought that the United States is the land of freedom. For a long time, it was certainly true: American democracy was leading the way, the American middle class was the wealthiest. America was really the place where you could make your own life and you could decide who you wanted to be and pursue the dream.

When I moved to the United States in 2008, that was the idea I had. [But] when I came here, I was actually surprised [to learn that] people were very anxious. They were in many ways very dependent on their circumstances, the opposite of being a self-made woman or man. And a lot of this is related to family: if, [when] you were a child, your parents could provide opportunities, if they could offer you a life in a good neighborhood, offer you a life in a good school.

…"
culture  economics  europe  finland  us  policy  norway  denmark  sweden  iceland  freedom  independence  opportunity  denamrk  anupartanen  urifriedman  democracy  socialism  inequality  middleclass  income  incomeinequality  immigration  taxes  daycare  healthcare  health  qualityoflife  government  society  nathanheller  politics 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Brexit Stage Right: What Now? - @robfahey
"Fifth and finally, this isn’t just about the UK. Brexit has come about as a consequence not so much of the European Union or its policies, but as an expression of a general anger and dissatisfaction that has also reared its head across much of the developed world. It’s not unreasonable to compare the UK’s Leave campaign with Donald Trump in the USA, Le Pen in France or Wilders in Holland. Voting for Brexit was characterised by nationalist sentiment and a strong desire to “take back” Britain’s sovereignty from the ill-defined others who have appropriated it. It thrived in communities that have seen widening inequality and economic malaise even as they watched political leaders turn up on TV night after night to talk about economic recovery; communities that may have been delivered a mortal blow by the 2008 recession and the austerity policies which followed, but which had already been suffering from neglect and economic abuse for decades before that, as successive governments tore up more and more pages of the post-war social contract in favour of the shiny new religion of markets and efficiency. There was a time when those communities turned to left-wing movements for their salvation, to unions and to the Labour party; with much of the power of the unions broken and the Labour party pursuing aspirational middle class voters, opportunities have been opened for new and far less savoury political movements to take root. At their core is a deep dissatisfaction and anger not just with individual political actors but with the very institutions of democracy and representative government; a deep conviction that it is not merely that specific parties or policies that have caused people’s quality of life to decline, but that the whole system is stacked against them. Thus, anything that’s seen as part of the system – be it politicians, the media, or even academics and independent experts – is suspect. It is not an attitude that calls for political change, for a new party in power or a new prime minister; it is an attitude that calls for the tearing down of everything, and offers nothing with which to replace it. It is frightening precisely because, in its absolute conviction that the institutions of democracy themselves are a vast conspiracy against the common man, it ends up being insatiable; even if today’s Brexit leaders become Britain’s leaders, in doing so they will become part of “the system” and face the anger of the same people who now cheer them on. The cycle will continue until someone turns up with the capacity to tame the monster that has been conjured up by economic hardship, inequality and unthinking nationalism. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past tell us that such a person is unlikely to be benevolent.

None of this is unique to Britain, and none of it can be fixed by anything less than a fundamental rethink of how we have chosen to structure our society and our economies. Even as market capitalism and globalisation have done wonders at lifting the world’s poorest people out of poverty – an achievement for which capitalism does not get remotely enough credit – it has begun to run out of rope in the developed world. In nations from Japan to Western Europe to North America, inequality is growing and standards of living are slipping. Labour market reforms have turned whole generations into disposable people; I can’t blame British people for laughing off the notion that the EU has protected them in the workplace, when companies like Sports Direct have based their business model off exploiting every loophole, legal and otherwise, no matter how desperately cruel and inhumane, that might allow them to wring more money, more profitability out of their vulnerable, poorly paid staff. “If you leave the EU, you’ll lose your workers rights!” is no argument at all to someone whose zero-hours contract leaves them in desperate financial instability, or whose exploitation by an avaricious, unscrupulous employer has been rubber-stamped by the government itself in the form of a Workfare deal.

The Brexit vote wasn’t just a rejection of the EU; it was a rejection of the whole system, of the whole establishment, of the whole set of institutions and practices that make up the developed world. It was, in ways, a rejection of modernity – a demand to turn back the clock. Turning back the clock isn’t in anyone’s power to deliver. If we want to break this dangerous cycle of economic inequality, social cleavage and political extremism before it rolls out of control, though, it’s beholden upon our countries and institutions to start paying attention to inequality, to public services, to quality of life and to the huge swathe of the electorate for whom every mention of the phrase “economic recovery” in the past two decades has just been salt in the wound."
robfahey  2016  via:tealtan  brexit  elitism  government  policy  economics  europe  us  unions  labor  work  inequality  establishment  austerity  politics  eu  france  holland  netherlands  recession  2008  democracy  power  change  wealthinequality  incomeinequality  globalization  poverty  capitalism  japan  exploitation  organization  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Sobering IMF report on U.S. economy cites dwindling middle class, growing income equality | PBS NewsHour
"A new outlook issued Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund drew some startling conclusions about the U.S. economy. The report asserts that the American middle class is gradually shrinking, the seven-year economic recovery is starting to slow and the pronounced income equality divide may become worse without intervention. Judy Woodruff talks to Christine Lagarde of the IMF for more."
middleclass  cities  economics  us  2016  incomeinequality  inequality  disparity  urban  aging  consumption  poverty  participation  work 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Upper Middle Class, Lower Class And The Great Squeeze In The Middle | David Stockman's Contra Corner
"What does it take to be upper middle class? According to one analyst, the answer is: at least $100,000 a year for a family of three. The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class (Urban Institute).

The paper claims the upper middle class has grown from 12.9% of the population in 1979 to 29.4% in 2014–in essence, the shrinkage of the “middle class” is not just from households dropping down the ladder but millions of households climbing up to the upper middle class.

Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever (WSJ.com)

While the evidence broadly supports this secular shift–the concentration of income and wealth in the top 20% increases while the wealth and income of the bottom 80% stagnates–I think the claim that 30% of all U.S. households are upper middle class grossly overstates the reality, which is it’s become increasingly costly to even qualify as middle class, never mind upper middle class.

I’ve explored these topics in depth over the past few years:

How Many Slots Are Open in the Upper Middle Class? Not As Many As You Might Think (March 30, 2015) http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar15/few-slots3-15.html

What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013) http://www.oftwominds.com/blogdec13/middle-class12-13.html

If we measure financial characteristics of middle class status rather than income, we find $100,000 is borderline middle class, not upper middle class.The above essay lists the baseline of 10 minimum metrics of middle class status. In high-cost regions, $100,000 barely qualifies a household as middle class; to be upper middle class, households must earn closer to $200,000.

A household income of $190,000 is in the top 5% nationally. According to the Social Security Administration data for 2013 (the latest data available), individuals who earn $125,000 or more are in the top 5% of all earners. Two such workers would earn $250,000 together. The 2.8 million households with incomes of $250,000 or more are in the top 2.5%.

I think it is reasonable to define the 12% of households earning between $125,000 (top 15%) and $350,000 (the cut-off for the top 1%) as upper middle class. This is around 14.5 million households, out of a total of 121 million households.

This is a far cry from 30% of all households qualifying as upper middle class.What we’re seeing is the inflation of “middle class” to “upper middle class,” just as a B grade is now an A, and jobs that don’t require a university degree now nominally require a bachelors degree or higher.

The increasingly desperate effort to reach the upper middle class is evidenced by a slew of books and articles on what it takes to succeed in an increasingly winners-take-all economy, and on the anxieties of those trying to “make it”: note that most of the articles are published in magazines/media outlets that appeal to the very upper middle class that’s anxious about maintaining their tenuous hold on prosperity:

How to Save Like the Rich and the Upper Middle Class (Hint: It’s Not With Your House) (WSJ.com)

The Hidden Cost for Stay-At-Home American Parents (Bloomberg)

The War on Stupid People: American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth (The Atlantic)

The Limits of “Grit” (New Yorker)

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (via Ron G.)

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley (via Ron G.)

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (book)

I’ve laid out my own bootstrap blueprint in Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (hint: don’t cling to credentials and privilege as your strategy–acquire skills and entrepreneurial income streams).

What’s left unsaid in all these articles is much of the upper middle class is prospering due to privileged positions that are increasingly at risk of disruption–a topic I discussed in If You Want More Jobs and More Job Stability, Disrupt More, Not Less (June 21, 2016) and How Many Law Schools Need to Close? Plenty (June 20, 2016).

And just a reminder: of the supposed 30% of households who are upper middle class, only the top 10% have significant wealth-building assets: that tells us in no uncertain terms that two-thirds of the supposedly upper middle class 30% are only middle class."
charleshughsmith  middleclass  uppermiddleclass  society  income  incomeinequality  wealth  wealthinequality  disparity  inequality  economics  policy  politics  grit  precarity  2016  statistics 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Few quick thoughts on Brexit — Medium
"Brexit is pushback against huge social and economic changes that have devalued a great many people.

They are changes that have demanded many people give up long standing notions of who they are, what is their place in the world, and questioned how they find meaning.

That same anger, and the reasons for it, is here in the US also.

I work with addicts these days and have spent the last five years driving all across the country, spending weeks/months/years in places many live in, but few visit. Places filled with poverty and addiction.

What I learned is that addiction is on the same spectrum as suicide. It is a slower form, but comes from the same place.

It led me to one of the first books to study suicide, by Émile Durkheim who wanted to understand why people would kill themselves.

He suggests people needed a sense of integration and regulation, to feel part of something that worked. They needed strong bonds to larger society. Without that, they often took their own life. He called that sense of isolation or disruption, Anomie.

I see Anomie wherever I go. The things that used to give people meaning: Their work, their union, their family, their church, their bridge club, their elks club, whatever, have been eroded. And often mocked.

We over the last 50 years have replaced that, and now demand that people be valued by their intellect, and their wealth. We have further diminished whole groups of people by increasing the amount we reward the new and few “winners.”

To make things even worse, we often outright mock anyone who can’t keep up, or doesn’t fit in with the new order. We call them dumb. Idiots. Religious freaks. Rednecks. Thugs. Hoodlums. Ghetto trash. White trash.

The language we use to talk about those who have been left behind is rife with nasty attempts to turn them into lesser humans. We use the tactics of racist, and apply it to economic losers.

And often they respond by joining racist groups. Or latching onto racist policies and agendas.

Which makes it easier to demean them, because racism is bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. And as a kid of a German Jew who barely made it out of Nazi Germany, as a kid who grew up in a small southern town. As a kid who had our car windows shot out (while his dad was in it!) because my dad was a “Nigger loving Jew”. Yes racism is awful. Bad. Disgusting. Nasty.

But racism, and fascism, are very successful scams that sell to the desperate. Fascism understands that people want to feel valued and integral part of something larger. Racism is, sadly, the easiest and cheapest way to do that.

So, yes push back against the racism. Loudly.

But offer something else, a way for others to feel included. Provide a process, other than getting an education in an elite school, that gives people meaning, solidarity, and value.

Simply saying they are not valid, or lesser, or they are stupid. Or they are idiots. That is racism’s ugly cousin elitism, so don’t turn it into a fight of the ugly. You think that is going to help people feel included?

If you hate racism, then you really really really should hate any economic and social system that creates and rewards massive inequality. Because when you get that. You get racism.

And that is the system we have built and now have. That is the system that most everyone screaming about the dumb racists is part of, usually supports, and wins from."
elitism  racism  politics  us  uk  brexit  chrisarnade  2016  anger  inequality  understanding  winners  losers  winnertakeall  economics  society  integration  regulation  community  belonging  addiction  suicide  émiledurkheim  isolation  disruption  anomie  work  rednecks  religion  ostracization  fascism  desperation  rejection  inclusion  inclusivity  socialinequality  economicinequality  incomeinequality  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever - Real Time Economics - WSJ
[Notes:

The article references this study: "The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class"
http://www.urban.org/research/publication/growing-size-and-incomes-upper-middle-class
This report uses absolute income thresholds adjusted for inflation and family size to show that the size of the upper middle class grew from 12.9 percent of the population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014. In terms of shares of total income, the middle class controlled a bit more than 46 percent of all incomes in 1979, while the upper middle class and rich controlled 30 percent. By 2014, the rich and upper middle class controlled 63 percent of all incomes, while the middle class share had shrunk to 26 percent.

Many people (like @pmarca) cheered about the study as evidence of upward mobility. I disagree because the study:

1. does not look at wealth distribution
2. does not account for cost of living (housing mostly) differences from area to area
3. does not account for the differences in the cost of education and health care from 1979 to 2014 and how they consume a large share of income
4. does not account for the change in percentage from single and double income households from 1979 to 2014 and how a double income household also often brings the additional costs of childcare, more transportation, etc.
5. acknowledges problems of accounting for income:
As noted in the methodology section, the CPS income numbers understate various sources of income: for wealthy people, capital gains are excluded, and interest and dividend income are underreported; middle-income people are missing the value of what employers pay for their social security taxes and health and retirement benefits; and for lower- and moderate-income people, there is underreporting of pension and government transfer income plus the exclusion of the earned income tax credit and other noncash benefits, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. Overall, it is hard to know what the distribution would be if all the data for a wider definition of income were available.

Other articles referencing the study:

"America's upper middle class is thriving"
http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/21/news/economy/upper-middle-class/index.html

"Upper Middle Class Sees Big Gains, Research Finds"
http://www.wsj.com/articles/upper-middle-class-sees-big-gains-research-finds-1466554177?mod=e2tw

"The Upper Middle Class Has Gotten Richer"
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/277854

I am still looking for some debunking/interpretation of the study that isn’t just surface reinforcement of preexisting opinions.

Update: one such article
http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/what-does-it-take-to-be-upper-middle-class/ ]
middleclass  uppermiddleclass  inequality  incomeinequality  policy  politics  society  stephenrose 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Toward Humane Tech — Medium
"If you make technology, or work in the tech industry, I have good news for you: we won."

"We’re not nerds, or outsiders, or underdogs anymore. What we do, and what we make, shapes culture and society, deeply influencing everything from artistic expression to policy and regulation to the way we see our friends, family and selves.

But we haven’t taken responsibility for ourselves in a manner that befits the wealthiest and most powerful industry that’s ever been created. We fancy ourselves outlaws while we shape laws, and consider ourselves disruptive without sufficient consideration for the people and institutions we disrupt. We have to do better, and we will.

While thinking about this reality, and these problems, I’ve struggled with all the different dimensions of the challenge. We could address our profound issues around inclusion and diversity but still be wildly irresponsible about our environmental impact. We could start to respect legal processes and the need for thoughtful engagement with policy makers but still be cavalier about the privacy and security of our users’ data. We could continue to invest in design and user experience but remain thoughtless about the emotional and psychological impacts of the experiences we create. We could continue to bemoan the shortcomings of legacy industries while exacerbating issues like income inequality or social inequity.

I’m not hopeless about it; in fact, if there’s one unifying value that connects everyone in tech, no matter how critical or complacent they may be, it’s an underlying vein of optimism. I want to tap into that optimism, but direct it toward making sure we’re actually making things better, and not just for ourselves.

So I’m going to start to keep some notes, about the functional, pragmatic things we can do to make sure our technologies, and the community that creates those technologies, become far more humane. The conversation about the tech industry has changed profoundly in the past few years. It is no longer radical to raise issues of ethics or civics when evaluating a new product or company. But that’s the simplest starting point, a basic acknowledgment that what we do matters and actually affects people.

We have to think about inclusion, acceptance and diversity, to start. We need to think deeply about our language and communications, and the way we express what technology does. We need to question the mythologies we build around concepts like “founders” or “inventions” or even “startups”. We need to challenge our definitions of success and progress, and to stop considering our work in solely commercial terms. We need to radically improve our systems of compensation, to be responsible about credit and attribution, and to be generous and fair with reward and remuneration. We need to consider the impact our work has on the planet. We need to consider the impact our work has on civic and academic institutions, on artistic expression, on culture.

I’m optimistic, but I think this is going to continue to require a lot of hard work over a long period of time. My first step is to start taking notes about the goal we’re working toward. Let’s get to work."
anildash  2016  technology  siliconvalley  inclusion  inclusivity  diversity  acceptance  gender  language  communication  compensation  responsibility  attribution  environment  privacy  security  inequality  incomeinequality  law  legal  disruption  culture  society 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Why Affluent Parents Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids - The Atlantic
"With financial success ought to come some measure of relief—a chance to take in a deep breath, exhale, and survey the world from the top.

But, as Hanna Rosin’s recent Atlantic cover story on the high rate of suicide among high-school students in Palo Alto, California, captures, that’s not how things work. To the contrary, kids living in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country are stressed and miserable. As Rosin writes:
On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Arizona State professor Suniya] Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm.* They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Why is this? As Rosin reports, a major factor is “pressure”—from parents, teachers, themselves, whoever—to excel not just in school but in a host of other activities as well. All of that pressure and the resulting hyper-activity seem to leave kids feeling very tired, very inadequate, and very alone. No wonder they are miserable.

But that does little to answer the question of why there is so much pressure in the first place. It turns out that there is a pretty straightforward—and ultimately very troubling—answer: It’s because the competition for a place among the country’s well-off is so vicious. To secure one of those spots, kids must gain admission to a relatively small number of elite colleges and universities, which “essentially did not grow but rather became increasingly selective” since the 1970s. (By contrast, in Canada, where higher education “lacks a steep prestige hierarchy,” the admissions competition is less dire.)

In part, this is because of what sort of people make up America's elite today: not the owners of family businesses but professionals with impressive educations. Family businesses are heritable; education, by contrast, is not. No matter how successful parents are, their kids have to earn their own way in (albeit, of course, with the incredible advantages that come from having highly educated, well-off parents). As sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman put it in an interview with Jessica Grose at Slate, “If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or MBA—you can’t pass those on to your kids.”

All of this results in what the economists Garey and Valerie Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, brilliantly termed “the rug rat race.” As they wrote in a 2010 paper, “The increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, which takes the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities.” In their findings, the rug rat race takes place primarily among the most educated parents, because there simply aren’t enough spots at elite schools for less-educated parents to even really have a shot, especially as the competition accelerates. It’s for this reason that the most educated parents spend the most hours parenting, even though they are giving up the most in wages by doing so.

This intense competition does more than serve as a giant sieve for college admissions; it is also a intensive training process for the actual skills that it takes to succeed at the upper echelons of the American economy. As one soccer parent told Friedman during her research on parenting in such a competitive culture, “I think it’s important for [my son] to understand that [being competitive] is not going to just apply here, it’s going to apply for the rest of his life. It’s going to apply when he keeps growing up and he’s playing sports, when he’s competing for school admissions, for a job, for the next whatever.” Friedman concludes, “Such an attitude prepares children for winner-take-all settings like the school system and lucrative labor markets.”

This leaves affluent parents with little choice. Even for those who fear the consequences of the pressure on their kids, they may figure it’s worth getting through a few tough years for a lifetime of economic security. One thing that bolsters this rationale: the steep dropoff in incomes and wealth from the very, very rich to America’s struggling middle class. There is a lot to be gained by being among the very elite. If that's something you have a reasonable shot at, there’s a good argument for taking it.

The conversation about the intense pressure on kids is normally focused on parenting culture, on what parents are doing wrong. But this all needs to be considered in the broader context of the American economy. The pressure on kids may come from parents, but it’s the result of systemic forces so much bigger and so much more powerful than anything any household has control over.

In a sense, what wealthy parents are doing is working. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the richest and best-educated households will someday run their own high-earning, highly educated households.

Then again, it’s not working at all. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the poorest and least-educated households will someday run their own low-earning, poorly educated households. How is it that a country so prosperous shines its munificence on so few? And, for those who do find success, why does getting there leave them feeling so hopeless?"
education  affluence  precarity  economics  inequality  society  socialmobility  us  incomeinequality  fear  parenting  schools  learning  competition  fragility  hannahrosin  pressure  anxiety  stress  selectivity  colleges  universities  rebeccarosen  gareyramey  valerieramey  admissions  scarcity  jessicagross  suniyaluthar  paloalto  siliconvalley 
november 2015 by robertogreco
High-income Americans are more segregated than ever | Stanford Graduate School of Education
"“If advantaged families do not share social environments and public institutions with low‐income families, they may be less likely to support investment in these shared resources. Such a shift in collective commitment to the public good may have far‐reaching consequences for social inequality,” said Reardon."
inequality  seanreardon  kendrabischoff  segregation  2015  us  civics  socialgood  publicgood  incomeinequality 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

A: I think it’s great. It’s an acknowledgement that nobody else has the right to tell you what you can best contribute to the world, and it’s based on a certain faith — that people want to contribute something to the world, most people do. I’m sure there are a few people who would be parasites, but most people actually want to do something; they want to feel that they have contributed something to the society around them.

The problem is that we have this gigantic apparatus that presumes to tell people who’s worthy, who’s not, what people should be doing, what they shouldn’t. They’re all about assessing value, but in fact, the whole system fell apart in 2008 because nobody really knows how to do it. We don’t really know how to assess the value of people’s work, of people’s contributions, of people themselves, and philosophically, that makes sense; there is no easy way to do it. So the best thing to do is just to say, alright, everyone go out and you decide for yourselves."



"Q: So would you get rid of government programs?

A: It depends on which. The amounts of money that they’re now talking about giving people aren’t enough to take care of things like health care and housing. But I think if you guarantee those sorts of basic needs, you could get rid of almost all the programs on top of that. In huge bureaucracies, there are so many conditionalities attached to everything they give out, there’s jobs on jobs on jobs of people who just assess people and decide whether you are being good enough to your kids to deserve this benefit, or decide whether you’re trying hard enough to get a job to get that benefit. This is a complete waste. Those people [making the decisions] don’t really contribute anything to society; we could get rid of them.

Q: So you’d get rid of, say, the food stamp bureaucracy?

A: If we had a basic income, we wouldn’t need to decide who needs food and who doesn’t."



"Q: Are you surprised that there’s right wing support for this?

A: Not at all. Because I think there are some people who can understand that the rates of inequality that we have mean that the arguments [for the market] don’t really work. There’s a tradition that these people are drawing on, which recognizes that the kind of market they really want to see is not the kind of market we see today.

Adam Smith was very honest. He said, well obviously this only works if people control their own tools, if people are self-employed. He was completely rejecting the idea of corporate capitalism.

Q: Smith rejected corporate capitalism because it became crony capitalism.

A: Well, he rejected the corporate form entirely; he was against corporations. At the time, corporations were seen as, essentially, inimical to the market. They still are. Those arguments are no less true than they ever were. If we want to have markets, we have to give everybody an equal chance to get into them, or else they don’t work as a means of social liberation; they operate as a means of enslavement.

Q: Enslavement in the sense that the people with enough power, who can get the market to work on their behalf…

A: Right — bribing politicians to set up the system so that they accumulate more, and other people end up spending all their time working for them. The difference between selling yourself into slavery and renting yourself into slavery in the ancient world was basically none at all, you know. If Aristotle were here, he’d think most people in a country like England or America were slaves.

Q: Wage slaves?

A: Yes, but they didn’t make a distinction back then. Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

Q: So is this idea of a guaranteed basic income utopian?

A: Well, it remains to be seen. If it’s Utopian, it’s because we can’t get the politicians to do it, not because it won’t work. It seems like people have done the numbers, and there’s no economic reason why it couldn’t work.

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

A: It’s expensive, but so is the system we have now. And there’s a major savings that you’ll have firing all those people who are assessing who is worthy of what.

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.

But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.

So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

A: The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system.

Q: Because people need to be able to prove that they’ll get a return on the investment?

A: Exactly. So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.

Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality.

Q: And in the United States, the entire abstract expressionist movement, whatever you think of it — Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock — was all on the WPA [Works Progress Administration], on the dole.

A: Absolutely, look at social theory. I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that."

[See also: http://maymay.net/blog/2014/04/20/david-graeber-on-death-by-bureaucracy-if-we-had-a-basic-income-we-wouldnt-need-to-decide-who-needs-food-and-who-doesnt/ ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (Work and Worth)
"What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society.

Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?

On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year.

How much does society gain from personal-care aides who assist the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities? Likely more than their average pay of $9.67 an hour, or just over $20,000 a year.

What’s the social worth of hospital orderlies who feed, bathe, dress, and move patients, and empty their ben pans? Surely higher than their median wage of $11.63 an hour, or $24,190 a year.

Or of child care workers, who get $10.33 an hour, $21.490 a year? And preschool teachers, who earn $13.26 an hour, $27,570 a year?

Yet what would the rest of us do without these dedicated people?

Or consider kindergarten teachers, who make an average of $53,590 a year.

Before you conclude that’s generous, consider that a good kindergarten teacher is worth his or her weight in gold, almost.

One study found that children with outstanding kindergarten teachers are more likely to go to college and less likely to become single parents than a random set of children similar to them in every way other than being assigned a superb teacher.

And what of writers, actors, painters, and poets? Only a tiny fraction ever become rich and famous. Most barely make enough to live on (many don’t, and are forced to take paying jobs to pursue their art). But society is surely all the richer for their efforts.

At the other extreme are hedge-fund and private-equity managers, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, management consultants, high-frequency traders, and top Washington lobbyists.

They’re getting paid vast sums for their labors. Yet it seems doubtful that society is really that much better off because of what they do.

I don’t mean to sound unduly harsh, but I’ve never heard of a hedge-fund manager whose jobs entails attending to basic human needs (unless you consider having more money as basic human need) or enriching our culture (except through the myriad novels, exposes, and movies made about greedy hedge-fund managers and investment bankers).

They don’t even build the economy.

Most financiers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants are competing with other financiers, lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants in zero-sum games that take money out of one set of pockets and put it into another.

They’re paid gigantic amounts because winning these games can generate far bigger sums, while losing them can be extremely costly.

It’s said that by moving money to where it can make more money, these games make the economy more efficient.

In fact, the games amount to a mammoth waste of societal resources.

They demand ever more cunning innovations but they create no social value. High-frequency traders who win by a thousandth of a second can reap a fortune, but society as a whole is no better off.

Meanwhile, the games consume the energies of loads of talented people who might otherwise be making real contributions to society — if not by tending to human needs or enriching our culture then by curing diseases or devising new technological breakthroughs, or helping solve some of our most intractable social problems.

Graduates of Ivy League universities are more likely to enter finance and consulting than any other career.

For example, in 2010 (the most recent date for which we have data) close to 36 percent of Princeton graduates went into finance (down from the pre-financial crisis high of 46 percent in 2006). Add in management consulting, and it was close to 60 percent.

The hefty endowments of such elite institutions are swollen with tax-subsidized donations from wealthy alumni, many of whom are seeking to guarantee their own kids’ admissions so they too can become enormously rich financiers and management consultants.

But I can think of a better way for taxpayers to subsidize occupations with more social merit: Forgive the student debts of graduates who choose social work, child care, elder care, nursing, and teaching."
2014  robertreich  worlk  labor  inequality  incomeinequality  income  pay  economics  productivity  wages  capitalism  purpose  value  money 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Ivy League Schools Are Overrated. Send Your Kids Elsewhere. | New Republic
"Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify. The New York Times reports that there is now a thriving sector devoted to producing essay-ready summers, but what strikes one is the superficiality of the activities involved: a month traveling around Italy studying the Renaissance, “a whole day” with a band of renegade artists. A whole day!

I’ve noticed something similar when it comes to service. Why is it that people feel the need to go to places like Guatemala to do their projects of rescue or documentation, instead of Milwaukee or Arkansas? When students do stay in the States, why is it that so many head for New Orleans? Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselves—that is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?

If there is one idea, above all, through which the concept of social responsibility is communicated at the most prestigious schools, it is “leadership.” “Harvard is for leaders,” goes the Cambridge cliché. To be a high-achieving student is to constantly be urged to think of yourself as a future leader of society. But what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to. I don’t think it occurs to the people in charge of elite colleges that the concept of leadership ought to have a higher meaning, or, really, any meaning.

The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. As of 2010, about a third of graduates went into financing or consulting at a number of top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker. “What Wall Street figured out,” as Ezra Klein has put it, “is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, an incredible work ethic and no idea what to do next.”

For the most selective colleges, this system is working very well indeed. Application numbers continue to swell, endowments are robust, tuition hikes bring ritual complaints but no decline in business. Whether it is working for anyone else is a different question."



"Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” either—swooping down on a member of the college support staff and offering to “buy them a coffee,” as a former Yalie once suggested, in order to “ask them about themselves.”

Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any college—often precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”"



"More broadly, they need to rethink their conception of merit. If schools are going to train a better class of leaders than the ones we have today, they’re going to have to ask themselves what kinds of qualities they need to promote. Selecting students by GPA or the number of extracurriculars more often benefits the faithful drudge than the original mind.

The changes must go deeper, though, than reforming the admissions process. That might address the problem of mediocrity, but it won’t address the greater one of inequality. The problem is the Ivy League itself. We have contracted the training of our leadership class to a set of private institutions. However much they claim to act for the common good, they will always place their interests first. The arrangement is great for the schools, but is Harvard’s desire for alumni donations a sufficient reason to perpetuate the class system?

I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.

High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them—you know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognize—as we once did and as many countries still do—that the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy."
williamderesiewicz  education  class  academia  experience  society  us  socialwork  admissions  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  clergy  lifeofthemind  ivyleague  2014  leadership  servicelearning  glamor  ineqaulity  incomeinequality 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Changed Life of the Poor: Better Off, but Far Behind - NYTimes.com
"Two broad trends account for much of the change in poor families’ consumption over the past generation: federal programs and falling prices.

Since the 1960s, both Republican and Democratic administrations have expanded programs like food stamps and the earned-income tax credit. In 1967, government programs reduced one major poverty rate by about 1 percentage point. In 2012, they reduced the rate by nearly 13 percentage points.

As a result, the differences in what poor and middle-class families consume on a day-to-day basis are much smaller than the differences in what they earn.

“There’s just a whole lot more assistance per low-income person than there ever has been,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “That is propping up the living standards to a considerable degree,” he said, citing a number of statistics on housing, nutrition and other categories.

Decades of economic growth, however, have been less successful in raising the incomes from work of many poor families, prompting a strong conservative critique this year that hundreds of billions of dollars in antipoverty programs have failed to make the poor less dependent on government.

“That’s the crux of the problem,” Mr. Rector added. “What sort of progress is that?”

But another form of progress has led to what some economists call the “Walmart effect”: falling prices for a huge array of manufactured goods.

Since the 1980s, for instance, the real price of a midrange color television has plummeted about tenfold, and televisions today are crisper, bigger, lighter and often Internet-connected. Similarly, the effective price of clothing, bicycles, small appliances, processed foods — virtually anything produced in a factory — has followed a downward trajectory. The result is that Americans can buy much more stuff at bargain prices.

Many crucial services, though, remain out of reach for poor families. The costs of a college education and health care have soared. Ms. Hagen-Noey, for instance, does not treat her hepatitis and other medical problems, as she does not qualify for Medicaid and cannot pay for her own insurance or care.

Child care also remains only a small sliver of the consumption of poor families because it is simply too expensive. In many cases, it depresses the earnings of women who have no choice but to give up hours working to stay at home."
poverty  inequality  economics  materialism  consumerism  2014  possessions  wealth  incomeinequality  income  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
To Have and Have Not | Jedediah Purdy on Capital in the Twenty-First Century
"With that mission, Capital in the Twenty-First Century asks questions that blend empirical complexity and political urgency. How unequal is the division of wealth and income? How did it get that way, and where is it going? How worried should we be, and what can we do? And — check this out — are democracy and capitalism in conflict?

Spoiler alert: Yes. And Piketty’s answer spoils, in a different sense of the word, the longstanding conventional wisdom, supported by economics Nobel winners like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, plus lots of less controversial characters, that capitalism is democracy’s best friend. Free markets respect freedom by honoring personal choice, we’ve been told. They treat people as equals by tying economic rewards to social contributions and opening paths to social mobility. They check an overreaching government by dispersing power among owners, workers, and entrepreneurs. They create widely-shared wealth, so no one’s life needs to be hopeless or degraded.

Pretty to think so, but Piketty’s vast stockpile of new data, weaponized with some simple algebra, vaporizes that story. It shows a world getting radically more unequal, the return of hereditary wealth, and — at least in the US — an economy so distorted that much of what happens at the very top can be fairly described as class-based looting. And he gives some fairly strong reasons to suspect that this, not the relatively open and egalitarian economies of the mid-20th century, is what capitalism looks like.

Piketty’s book feels, itself, economical: it’s undramatic and almost always clear, and the French is handsomely translated by the indispensable Arthur Goldhammer. Reading it is like talking to a smart person who knows you’re smart and knows, too, that you’re not an economist. It’s a pleasure, but — and this is one measure of its success — it’s also a spur to frustration. Since Capital is economics on Piketty’s terms, it diagnoses, gives little comfort, and doesn’t pretend to offer a complete cure. So as it builds its case for an inexorable conflict between democracy and capitalism, it leads its reader to an urgent question it doesn’t, in itself, do all that much to answer: how can democracy prevail? After Piketty, this has to be our question."



"Suppose you care about civic equality, social mobility, the dignity of ordinary people, and the long-term prospects of democracies that need all these values. What to do in the face of rising inequality and oligarchy? Piketty recommends a small, progressive global tax on capital to draw down big fortunes and press back against r > g. He admits this idea won’t get much traction at present, but recommends it as a fixed point in political imagination, a measure of what would be worth doing and how far we have to go to get there.

It’s an excellent idea, but it also shows the limits of Piketty’s argument. He has no theory of how the economy works that can replace the optimistic theories that his numbers devastate. Numbers — powerful ones, to be sure — are what he has. He has counted things that were harder to count before now — income, asset value — and adorned the bottom line with some splendid formulas for holding onto their importance. But r > g, as Piketty readily admits, is not a theory of anything; it is a shorthand generalization of some historical facts about money’s tendency to make money. Those facts held in the agrarian and industrial societies of Europe and North America in the nineteenth century and seem to be holding in today’s industrial and post-industrial economies. But these are very different worlds. Is there something constant that unifies different versions of inequality — that unites plantation owners and Apple shareholders, in their shared privilege above bondsman and Best-Buy techs — or is the inequality itself the only constant? Without answers to these questions, we don’t have a theory of capitalism, just a time-lapse picture of it.

This is not only a theoretical problem. It bears on whether past is prologue, whether inequality yesterday forecasts inequality tomorrow. Without a theory of how the economy produces and allocates value, we can’t know whether r > g will hold into the future. This is essential to whether Piketty can answer his critics, who have argued that we shouldn’t worry much. They claim that rates of return on capital should fall rapidly toward that of the overall economy, as much mainstream theory would predict, or that the overall growth rate will spike with new technological innovations. Either would greatly blunt r > g. Piketty doesn’t really have an answer to these challenges, other than the weight of the historical numbers.

The lack of a general theory is a bit of an epistemic irony. Piketty’s work is a triumph of the Enlightenment aim to make the world intelligible, demystifying it by showing us the patterns that emerge from millions of facts. But by calling for economics to become a historical science, concerned with what has happened and is happening rather than with evermore refined mathematical models, he carries out a massive epistemic dethroning. History happens only once. Its “natural experiments” are few and highly incomplete. And casting light on big and inconvenient facts, he also points out an area of darkness; ignorance where we had been lulled into thinking we had knowledge."



"Piketty shows that capitalism’s attractive moral claims — that it can make everyone better off while respecting their freedom — deserve much less respect under our increasingly “pure” markets than in the mixed economies that dominated the North Atlantic countries in the mid-20th century. It took a strong and mobilized left to build those societies. It may be that capitalism can remain tolerable only under constant political and moral pressure from the left, when the alternative of democratic socialism is genuinely on the table. Piketty reminds us that the reasons for the socialist alternative have not disappeared, or even weakened. We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn’t it.

Reading Piketty gives one an acute sense of how much we have lost with the long waning of real political economy, especially the radical kind. As mentioned, Piketty does not expect his one real proposal, a modest wealth tax, to go far in this political environment. Ideas need movements, as movements need ideas. We’ve been short on both. In trying to judge what to do about Piketty’s grim forecasts, there is a crevasse between “write op-eds advocating higher tax rates” and “rebuild the left.” It isn’t Piketty’s job to fill that gap, but he does show just how wide it yawns, and how devastating is the absence it represents."
thomaspiketty  economics  inequality  democracy  capitalism  capital  2014  jedidiahpurdy  freedom  wealth  incomeinequality  inheritance  taxes  morality  democraticsocialism  time  history 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Anti-Government Left: Elizabeth Warren Is Stronger Than Bill de Blasio | New Republic
"De Blasio’s rhetoric sounds more leftist, implying a relentless competition between underclass and overclass. But the substance of Warren’s agenda is far more radical. She wants to upend a fundamentally corrupt system, one in which big banks and other interests have coopted the apparatus of government. By contrast, de Blasio implicitly accepts “the system”—which in New York means an economy built around the financial sector and the real estate industry—and wants to mitigate its least desirable effects.1

Or, put differently, de Blasio accepts that today’s rich and powerful will continue to be rich and powerful; he just thinks they should do more to help the rest of us. Warren questions the very legitimacy of their wealth and power. “I’ve been in the Senate for nearly a year and believe as strongly as ever that the system is rigged,” she said in a recent speech.

This difference of emphasis isn’t shocking: New York City would fall into a deep depression if the financial sector shrunk substantially. And I don’t mean to belittle de Blasio’s agenda, which I consider important. But neither is that agenda especially ambitious in any cosmic sense. As other politicians have demonstrated before him, there’s no particular tension between a concern for the poor and a deference to the rich.* It’s why some have begun to think of de Blasio’s worldview as “Bloombergism with a populist mask.” De Blasio helped nurture this impression himself by courting the lords of finance and real estate during his general election campaign, then making a handful of Bloomberg-esque appointments, like the Goldman Sachs executive he named as his deputy mayor for housing and development.2

But here’s the thing: In addition to being more radical substantively, Warren’s agenda is much more sale-able politically."



"Against this backdrop, the problem for de Blasio-style populism is not that reducing inequality isn’t a worthy goal, or even one that’s widely shared. It’s that support for government is so low that few outside the left are likely to believe government can achieve it. Warren-style populism, on the other hand, goes right to the source of the cynicism. In the same way that Middle America believed government was mostly benefiting the undeserving poor in the 1980s and early 90s, today they believe it mostly benefits undeserving rich and powerful. And, just as Democrats had to dispel the former belief before they could advance the rest of their agenda, today they must dispel the latter. Warren’s approach does that."
elizabethwarren  left  finance  financialcrisis  government  money  politics  2014  billdeblasio  noamscheiberpolitics  policy  populism  corruption  systemschange  us  inequality  banking  incomeinequality 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom : The New Yorker
"Around the country, there are the beginnings of a wage movement. A minimum-wage hike has passed the State Senate in Massachusetts, and similar efforts are under way in New York and numerous other towns and counties. (In this week’s issue of the magazine, Steve Coll writes about one in Washington State.) President Obama announced his support for a Senate bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over two years. Fast-food workers have been protesting low pay for months, and they plan to walk off the job in a hundred cities this coming Thursday, demanding fifteen dollars an hour. On Black Friday, more than a hundred people were arrested outside Walmart stores from coast to coast. This movement is the great social-justice cause of our time.

But who is paying attention? A YouTube clip of the arrests had a hundred and twenty-nine views by midafternoon on Monday. A video of a woman being arrested inside a Walmart during a Black Friday scuffle over heavily discounted twenty-three-inch TVs had more than six million views, along with more than fifteen thousand comments, many of them along the lines of “fighting over piece of shit tv’s ….Only in America.”

You would think that the major American retailers, keenly aware of the problem of “slow wage growth” and still smarting from their lousy Black Friday numbers, would be leading the protests in favor of higher wages. But one place where the new wage movement has made no inroads is Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart has its headquarters. Apparently, slow wage growth has nothing to do with Walmart, which is bitterly opposed to any legislation that would require it to pay its workers more. The other major American retailers feel the same way. They argue that higher wages would mean higher prices and fewer employees. Though there is very little evidence to support the notion that minimum-wage increases lead to layoffs and unemployment, and a great deal of evidence to refute it, the retailers are sticking to their story, which is the story of the American economy of the past generation: lower prices and lower wages—a race to the bottom.

During the civil-rights era, some moderate Southern businessmen spoke up in favor of equal opportunity on economic grounds: if department stores and other businesses were desegregated, they would have more customers, and, with expanded access to employment, those customers would have more spending power. This bottom-line thinking allowed the businessmen to land on the right side of history without explicitly identifying with the demands and aspirations of black Southerners.

Similarly, while no big-box executive can risk being seen by shareholders to be openly taking the side of the lowest-paid employees, there is a hardheaded argument to be made for doing so: the company’s revenues depend on higher hourly wages. While no one imagines that Republicans would allow the minimum-wage bill to pass the House of Representatives, corporate executives are paid to be ruthlessly practical. America is still waiting for the first retail C.E.O. to see what’s in front of his nose."
2013  georgepacker  minimumwage  walmart  wages  salaries  work  labor  economics  incomeinequality  inequality 
december 2013 by robertogreco
As Inequality Grows, Swiss To Vote On Curbing Executive Pay : Parallels : NPR
"Switzerland may be known for watches, wealth and secretive bank accounts, but increasingly people believe that not everyone is reaping their share of the country's economic well-being.

So on Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a referendum that would limit a CEO's pay to 12 times that of the company's lowest-paid worker.

The youth wing of the Social Democratic Party collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to turn the measure, known as the 1:12 initiative, into a national referendum.

David Roth, head of the party's youth wing, says that 25 years ago Swiss CEOs made six times more than the average worker; today, they earn more than 40 times as much. Roth says in a country of 8 million, 400,000 workers don't make enough to live on.

"I think we have to change something, because otherwise we'll go in a direction like the USA did in the last decade where people get homeless, for example, and other people had millions of dollars," he says. "It's a big problem if you have such inequality in a rich country."

To become law, the initiative needs to win a majority in the country's 26 cantons and among the total population.

"There is indeed a growing movement to at least rein in to some degree — there is a growing disgust, I think, with some of the excesses of corporate executive pay," says Jordan Davis, a reporter for Swiss public radio.

He says the opposition has been pouring money into a counter-campaign in the waning days.

"A lot of the posters you're seeing these days are from the business lobby, where they have these slogans saying it's a fake good idea, saying ... it sounds like a good idea to limit corporate salaries but indeed it's going to be actually terrible for the economy, it's going to force companies to leave and move to other countries," Davis says. "And so they're using, critics have said, scare tactics to get people to reject it."

Mood Across Europe

Anger at high corporate executive pay is flaring up elsewhere in Europe, including Spain.

In France, President Francois Hollande, on the campaign trail last year, promised to bring down the salaries of CEOs heading companies where the French state has a majority stake.

Effective last month, CEOs of French state firms cannot make more than 20 times what the lowest-paid employee earns. Their salaries are capped at around $600,000.

The opposition leader in France, Jean Francois Cope, scoffed at the measure, calling it ostentatious morality.

"How is lowering the salary of the head of the railroad going to change anything?" he said. "If you really want justice, then the average French worker should be earning more."

The latest polls show the Swiss salary measure has only about 36 percent support ahead of Sunday's vote, but proponents say don't count it out.

In March, Switzerland approved a referendum giving company shareholders a direct say in executive pay. That passed amid public anger over a proposed $78 million payout to a former executive of Swiss drug company Novartis."
switzerland  pay  income  incomeinequality  inequality  policy  executivepay  2013  europe  politics  economics 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User - Ian Bogost - The Atlantic
"Feeling overwhelmed online? Maybe it’s because you’re working dozens of jobs"



"When critics engage with the demands of online services via labor, they often cite exploitation as a simple explanation. It’s a sentiment that even has its own aphorism: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” The idea is that all the information you provide to Google and Facebook, all the content you create for Tumblr and Instagram enable the primary businesses of such companies, which amounts to aggregating and reselling your data or access to it. In addition to the revenues extracted from ad sales, tech companies like YouTube and Instagram also managed to leverage the speculative value of your data-and-attention into billion-dollar buyouts. Tech companies are using you, and they’re giving precious little back in return.

While often true, this phenomenon is not fundamentally new to online life. We get network television for free in exchange for the attention we devote to ads that interrupt our shows. We receive “discounts” on grocery store staples in exchange for allowing Kroger or Safeway to aggregate and sell our shopping data. Meanwhile, the companies we do pay directly as customers often treat us with disregard at best, abuse at worst (just think about your cable provider or your bank). Of course, we shouldn’t just accept online commercial exploitation just because exploitation in general has been around for ages. Rather, we should acknowledge that exploitation only partly explains today’s anxiety with online services.

Hyperemployment offers a subtly different way to characterize all the tiny effort we contribute to Facebook and Instagram and the like. It’s not just that we’ve been duped into contributing free value to technology companies (although that’s also true), but that we’ve tacitly agreed to work unpaid jobs for all these companies. And even calling them “unpaid” is slightly unfair, since we do get something back from these services, even if they often take more than they give. Rather than just being exploited or duped, we’ve been hyperemployed. We do tiny bits of work for Google, for Tumblr, for Twitter, all day and every day.

Today, everyone’s a hustler. But now we’re not even just hustling for ourselves or our bosses, but for so many other, unseen bosses. For accounts payable and for marketing; for the Girl Scouts and the Youth Choir; for Facebook and for Google; for our friends via their Kickstarters and their Etsy shops; for Twitter, which just converted years of tiny, aggregated work acts into $78 of fungible value per user.

Even if there is more than a modicum of exploitation at work in the hyperemployment economy, the despair and overwhelm of online life doesn’t derive from that exploitation—not directly anyway. Rather, it’s a type of exhaustion cut of the same sort that afflicts the underemployed as well, like the single mother working two part-time service jobs with no benefits, or the PhD working three contingent teaching gigs at three different regional colleges to scrape together a still insufficient income. The economic impact of hyperemployment is obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience of your car or toilet.

Staring down the barrel of Keynes’s 2030 target for the arrival of universal leisure, economists have often considered why Keynes seems to have been so wrong. The inflation of relative needs is one explanation—the arms race for better and more stuff and status. The ever-increasing wealth gap, on the rise since the anti-Keynes, supply-side 1980s is another. But what if Keynes was right, too, in a way. Even if productivity has increased mostly to the benefit of the wealthy, hasn’t everyone gained enormous leisure, but by replacing recreation with work rather than work with recreation? This new work doesn’t even require employment; the destitute and unemployed hyperemployed are just as common as the affluent and retired hyperemployed. Perversely, it is only then, at the labor equivalent of the techno-anarchist’s singularity, that the malaise of hyperemployment can cease. Then all time will become work time, and we will not have any memory of leisure to distract us. "
labor  2013  ianbogost  employment  economics  johnmaynardkeynes  leisurearts  work  leisure  hustling  wealth  income  incomeinequality  wealthdistribution  anxiety  hyperemployment  unemployment  time  artleisure 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Fallacy of Success
"In a book called All Things Considered published in 1915, G.K. Chesterton deftly skewers the glut of books by gurus, articles linked to from Hacker News, and conference talks by entrepreneurs about how to be successful.
That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful in being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey. Any live man has succeeded in living; any dead man may have succeeded in committing suicide. But, passing over the bad logic and bad philosophy in the phrase, we may take it, as these writers do, in the ordinary sense of success in obtaining money or worldly position. These writers profess to tell the ordinary man how he may succeed in his trade or speculation-how, if he is a builder, he may succeed as a builder; how, if he is a stockbroker, he may succeed as a stockbroker. They profess to show him how, if he is a grocer, he may become a sporting yachtsman; how, if he is a tenth-rate journalist, he may become a peer; and how, if he is a German Jew, he may become an Anglo-Saxon. This is a definite and business-like proposal, and I really think that the people who buy these books (if any people do buy them) have a moral, if not a legal, right to ask for their money back. Nobody would dare to publish a book about electricity which literally told one nothing about electricity; no one would dare publish an article on botany which showed that the writer did not know which end of a plant grew in the earth. Yet our modern world is full of books about Success and successful people which literally contain no kind of idea, and scarcely any kind of verbal sense.


Chesterton continues:
It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners.


That Chesterton's observations ring so true today is not an accident. The last time income inequality in the US was as high as it is today? The 1910s and 1920s."
gkchesterson  success  survivorshipbias  2013  1915  incomeinequality  inequality  business 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Wealth Inequality in America - YouTube
"Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is."
inequality  incomeinequality  wealth  us  wealthdistribution  video  2012  infographics  perception  fairness  income  economics  finance  reality 
march 2013 by robertogreco
YouTube - RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism
"In this RSA Animate, radical sociologist David Harvey asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane?"
davidharvey  capitalism  economics  politics  rsaanimate  homeownership  us  culture  germany  greece  policy  banks  finance  banking  canon  housing  worldbank  imf  neoliberalism  liberalism  alangreenspan  marxism  instability  systemicrisk  capitalaccumulation  crisis  labor  capital  1970s  1980s  unions  offshoring  power  wagerepression  wages  credit  creditcards  debt  personaldebt  2010  limits  greed  profits  industry  london  uk  latinamerica  wealth  india  china  inequality  incomeinequality  wealthinequality  hedgefunds 
june 2010 by robertogreco

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