recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : middleclass   53

On the Tragedy of Paul Volcker
“The Volcker Rule

In 2009, when the world was falling apart, a lot of people were asking new President Barack Obama to turn to Paul Volcker, the tall and prestigious former central banker whose reputation was of near God-like stature. Obama did, asking Volcker for advice. But Larry Summers, key advisor to Obama, sabotaged the relationship. Volcker encouraged Obama to stop banks from gambling with internal hedge funds, but Summers wanted banks to keep gambling with internal hedge funds. Summers won the bureaucratic fight.

Volcker’s titanic reputation was by then decades old. But so too was Volcker pursuing honesty in finance, and getting pushed out because of it. In 1986, Ronald Reagan essentially fired Volcker from his position as the head of the Federal Reserve because Paul Volcker was trying to crack down on the junk-bond fueled mergers craze that was clearly corrupting America’s savings and loan banks. Felix Rohatyn, a Democratic fixer and Lazard investment banker, pleaded with the Republicans, “if we sacrifice Paul Volcker for the junk-bond mania, we will clearly show the world that we’ve lost any sense of financial responsibility.”

Here’s a story from 1986, at the height of the frenzy.

Volcker lost the battle at the Fed, and ultimately Alan Greenspan, who was on the payroll of one of the largest corrupt savings and loan banks, took over. Volcker, in pursuing financial rectitude, had no allies except the ‘respect’ of the financial world, which, as it turns out, isn’t worth much at all. And the reason, ironically, is because Volcker killed his greatest would-be allies.

I first ran into Volcker’s career while researching Penn Central, the train system that went bankrupt in 1970 in the greatest then-collapse in American history. It was like the Enron of its time. The Nixon administration tasked the conservative Volcker with overseeing the fiasco, and he was a fairly honest broker. He tried, not very hard, to get a bailout, but when Congressman Wright Patman said no, that was that.

In 1979 Jimmy Carter nominated Volcker to be the head of the Fed. Carter’s advisor warned him that Volcker was the “candidate of Wall Street.” In an era of red-hot inflation, Volcker’s goal was to cut the growth of prices, with the ultimate end of keeping the dollar strong globally. He had popular backing, Americans saw inflation as the most pressing economic problem. Volcker went straight at the auto sector, the unionized pace setting industry which set the informal wage growth patterns of the entire country since the 1950s.

His goal was to crush wages, straight out. To give you a sense of how strongly he felt about this goal, consider that during this period, from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Volcker walked around with a card of union wages in his pocket to remind himself that his goal was to crush the middle class. Volcker even angered Reagan officials by keeping interest rates too high for too long. When they complained, he would pull “out his card on union wages” and note that inflation would not come down permanently until labor “got the message and surrendered.” Volcker said that the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was a “hall of mirrors” and that the “standard of living of the average American must decline.”

Volcker was a deeply conservative, but not corrupt, official. I think the speech that best exemplifies how he thought was one he gave in 1981 before the Economic Club of New York, lauding the bankruptcy and turnaround of the city.

Five years ago, when I last addressed the Economic Club, the preoccupation of the day was the acute financial distress of this great City and State. That big black headline in the Daily News—”Ford to New York: Drop Dead”—was not quite accurate. But in its bold and brazen way, it did carry an essential message. Any lasting solution to our economic problems would have to begin, and end at home.

A month or so ago, I was struck by another headline, this time in a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The Supply Side Saves New York.” Somehow, in five years, New York had become an example for the rest of the country to follow.”

Volcker, in other words, was an ardent fan of austerity. And in his speech, he explicitly noted that New York City had no printing press to get out of the fiscal jam it had been in. That was, as Volcker put it, “fortunate.” Instead, the city had to slash expenditures, particularly on the poor. Volcker hoped that the America would take this lesson to heart nationally, and since he ran the printing press, that’s what he made sure happened. He also believed strongly in slashing taxes, government spending, and in deregulation, as he said to businessmen in Kansas City that year.

Volcker raised interest rates radically, crushing small businesses, farms, banks, and credit unions. To many of his fans, and even his opponents, this was simply what had to be done to get inflation out of the system. But there was a brief experiment, if forgotten, experiment in trying a different path, In the spring of 1980, Jimmy Carter encouraged Volcker not to raise interest rates, but to place “credit controls” onto consumer borrowing. Credit controls are direct public rules on specific lending institutions that make it more or less expensive to lend or borrow, and were a major mechanism to keep inflation out of the system during World War Two and the Korean War. And the Fed had the authority to make it more expensive for banks and financial institutions to issue credit cards and lend money to consumers.

Volcker used these tools incredibly poor, clumsily even, with some suspecting he was intending to sabotage the use of regulatory tools he didn’t like. Inflation collapsed, as did interest rates and the economy slid rapidly. Within a few months, Volcker and the bankers got rid of credit controls. Inflation and interest rates jumped right back up, and Volcker was able to discredit credit controls. He then inflicted massive pain on the middle class instead of the banking system by using interest rates and monetary policy, instead of explicitly telling big banks to stop lending.

At the same time as Volcker was destroying unions, small banks, small farms, and small businesses, he was structuring the Too Big to Fail model of finance. In 1980, Nelson and Bunker Hunt, two oil billionaire heirs, tried to corner the silver market in league with Arab interests. Volcker organized a bailout. By 1980, Wall Street had gotten the message. Economist Albert Wojnilower explained, “It is now everywhere taken for granted that no monetary authority will allow any key financial actor to fail.”

In the middle of the 1980s, Volcker’s strategy looked like a success. Inflation was gone, the economy was growing, technology seemed to be restructuring society, and the workforce had largely been de-unionized. But there was a something of a mirage, as a bubble in financial leverage through savings and loan banks and junk bonds emerged. Volcker tried to crack down on this bubble, to block the use of junk bonds for certain kinds of seedy transactions. He knew a scumbag when he saw one, and the junk bond peddlers and M&A artists were scum. But by then, his allies against financial corruption, notably the small banks, small business, and unions, were dead or dying. So it was Paul Volcker and all his vaunted respect, versus an army on Wall Street.

There was no contest. The predatory bankers won, as they did again in 2009.

Towards the end of his life, Volcker railed against the corruption he saw everywhere. But he never connected the dots between his own actions destroying public institutions and the inability to constrain the financial corruption he despised. Many people in finance have fond memories of an incorruptible Paul Volcker standing up against financial corruption and reigning in inflation. Which is true. But Volcker really wasn’t on the side of democracy, and that’s why he oversaw nothing but decline.

I ran into Paul Volcker a few years ago at a conference when I was a Democratic Congressional staffer. He harangued me and said ‘why are you Democrats so weak?’ I wish I had responded, ‘because you killed the unions.’

And that is the tragedy of Paul Volcker.”
mattstoller  paulvolcker  2020  economics  middleclass  finance  us  policy  toobigtofail  labor  employment  unemployment  inflation  richardnixon  jimmycarter  corruption  democracy  work  banking  unions  smallbusiness  farming  albertwojnilower  austerity  creditunions  wages  responsibility  savingsandloancrisis  felixrohatyn  barackobama  larrysummers 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The progressive case against Obama | Salon.com
"So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he's a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he's a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it's just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it's important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings -- home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama's policies severed this link, completely.

This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see "The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship" in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama's oligarchy.

The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn't fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what's best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.

While life has never been fair, the chart above shows that, since World War II, this level of official legal, political and economic inequity for the broad mass of the public is new (though obviously for subgroups, like African-Americans, it was not new). It is as if America's traditional racial segregationist tendencies have been reorganized, and the tools and tactics of that system have been repurposed for a multicultural elite colonizing a multicultural population. The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That's right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. And if you look at the chart above, most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it's not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

This is the shape of the system Obama has designed. It is intentional, it is the modern American order, and it has a certain equilibrium, the kind we identify in Middle Eastern resource extraction based economies. We are even seeing, as I showed in an earlier post, a transition of the American economic order toward a petro-state. By some accounts, America will be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia. This is just not an America that any of us should want to live in. It is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.

Many will claim that Obama was stymied by a Republican Congress. But the primary policy framework Obama put in place - the bailouts, took place during the transition and the immediate months after the election, when Obama had enormous leverage over the Bush administration and then a dominant Democratic Party in Congress. In fact, during the transition itself, Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson offered a deal to Barney Frank, to force banks to write down mortgages and stem foreclosures if Barney would speed up the release of TARP money. Paulson demanded, as a condition of the deal, that Obama sign off on it. Barney said fine, but to his surprise, the incoming president vetoed the deal. Yup, you heard that right -- the Bush administration was willing to write down mortgages in response to Democratic pressure, but it was Obama who said no, we want a foreclosure crisis. And with Neil Barofsky's book "Bailout," we see why. Tim Geithner said, in private meetings, that the foreclosure mitigation programs were not meant to mitigate foreclosures, but to spread out pain for the banks, the famous "foam the runway" comment. This central lie is key to the entire Obama economic strategy. It is not that Obama was stymied by Congress, or was up against a system, or faced a massive crisis, which led to the shape of the economy we see today. Rather, Obama had a handshake deal to help the middle class offered to him by Paulson, and Obama said no. He was not constrained by anything but his own policy instincts. And the reflation of corporate profits and financial assets and death of the middle class were the predictable results.

The rest of Obama's policy framework looks very different when you wake up from the dream state pushed by cable news. Obama's history of personal use of illegal narcotics, combined with his escalation of the war on medical marijuana (despite declining support for the drug war in the Democratic caucus), shows both a personal hypocrisy and destructive cynicism that we should decry in anyone, let alone an important policymaker who helps keep a half a million people in jail for participating in a legitimate economy outlawed by the drug warrior industry. But it makes sense once you realize that his policy architecture coheres with a Romney-like philosophy that there is one set of rules for the little people, and another for the important people. It's why the administration quietly pushed Chinese investment in American infrastructure, seeks to privatize public education, removed labor protections from the FAA authorization bill, and inserted a provision into the stimulus bill ensuring AIG bonuses would be paid, and then lied about it to avoid blame. Wall Street speculator who rigged markets are simply smart and savvy businessmen, as Obama called Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, whereas the millions who fell prey to their predatory lending schemes are irresponsible borrowers. And it's why Obama is explicitly targeting entitlements, insurance programs for which Americans paid. Obama wants to preserve these programs for the "most vulnerable," but that's still a taking. Did not every American pay into Social Security and Medicare? They did, but as with the foreclosure crisis, property rights (which are essential legal rights) of the rest of us are irrelevant. While Romney is explicit about 47 percent of the country being worthless, Obama just acts as if they are charity cases. In neither case does either candidate treat the mass of the public as fellow citizens."
2012  mattstoller  barackobama  policiy  inequality  economics  elitism  larrysummers  mittromney  flagunisheth  governance  democrats  corporatism  wealth  financialcrisis  finance  greatrecession  equity  inequity  rights  housingbubble  housingcrash  bailouts  oligarchy  georgewbush  nafta  labor  work  us  politics  barneyfrank  hankpaulson  middleclass  hypocrisy  socialsecurity  medicare  propertyrights 
november 2019 by robertogreco
'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
october 2019 by robertogreco
These 3 Policy Failures Are Killing the American Dream
"In sum: The “middle-class crunch” is a choice. The American Dream isn’t dying of natural causes. We know what must be done to revive it. The problem is simply that a lot of powerful people would rather pull the plug than pay for the cure."
policy  inequality  economics  taxes  history  us  ericlevitz  2019  middleclass  wages  work  wealth  wealthinequality  income  housing  healthcare  highered  highereducation  socialwelfare  socialsafetynet 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/09/student-debt-is-transforming-the-american-family ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/us/college-cheating-papers.html ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Or:
Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
september 2019 by robertogreco
oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Misplaced Pride: Most of the "Middle Class" Is Actually Working Class
"If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described below.

The conventional definition of working class is based on income and education:the working class household earns between $30,000 and $69,000 annually, and the highest education credential in the household is a two-year community college degree or trade certification.

The definition of the middle class is also based on on income and education, but adds financial security as a metric: the middle class household earns $80,000 or more, holds 4-year college diplomas or graduate degrees, owns a home, has a 401K retirement account and so on.

(My own definition is much more rigorous, as I reckon "middle class" today should have the same basic assets as the "middle class" held 40 years ago: What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013.)

But in some key ways, income and education are misleading metrics: the key attributes that actually define the working class are:

1. Stagnant incomes: incomes that over time barely keep up with real-world inflation or even lose purchasing power.

2. Income insecurity: wages, benefits and pensions are not as guaranteed as advertised.

3. Not enough ownership of financial capital to be meaningful. Financial capital excludes household items, vehicles, etc. Financial capital includes stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, ownership of a profitable business, equity in real estate, precious metals, bitcoin, etc.

By meaningful I mean enough to:

-- augment Social Security benefits in a way that greatly improves the household's lifestyle and retirement options

-- equity that is significant enough to fund college educations so one's children do not have to become debt-serfs to attend college

-- enough capital to fund (or help with) a down payment for a house, i.e. inheritable wealth that transforms the children's lives while the parents are still alive

-- income from capital, i.e. income isn't dependent on a government agency or government transfer.

How many U.S. households qualify to be middle class if that means:

-- the household income has outpaced real-world inflation over the past 20 years

-- the household's financial capital/assets have grown to become meaningful (as defined above) in the past 20 years

-- the household doesn't depend on government transfers for much of its income / spending

-- the household income and wealth are not dependent on financial bubbles, corporate guarantees, local government pensions on the verge of insolvency, etc.

While tens of millions of households qualify as "middle class" based on college diplomas and income, far fewer qualify when wealth and financial security are the key metrics. Plenty of households earn well in excess of $100,000 annually, but their financial status is as precarious and threadbare as any working class household.

They don't own enough assets or capital to move the needle, and what they do own is generally dependent on financial bubbles or speculative gambles.

Feeling like we belong to the "middle class" because we have a college diploma and make a good income offers up a false sense of pride and progress.If we're realistic about the financial wealth and security of "middle class" households, most qualify as working class: stagnant incomes, precarious financial circumstances, very little meaningful wealth and even less meaningful wealth that isn't dependent on the bubble du jour or promises that might not be kept.

If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described above.

What sort of society do we have if the bottom 20% of households are poor, the next 60% are working class/precariat and only the top 20% (at best) have any of the core attributes of "middle class" financial security and wealth?

[charts]

If we take off our rose-colored glasses, we have a much more stratified economy and society than we might like to believe: there's the top 1%, the next 4% "upper middle class," the next 10% "middle class," the next 65% working class, and the bottom 20% poor, those largely dependent on government transfers.

The "middle" has eroded away, leaving the top 15% who are doing very well in the status quo and the bottom 85% who are struggling to maintain a meaningful sense of prosperity and progress.

Personally, I'm proud to be working class in terms of my skillsets and values. Labels mean nothing. What counts is having skills, drive, agency, curiosity, frugality, integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Those forms of wealth cannot be taken from you when the bubble du jour pops and all the phantom "wealth" vanishes like mist in Death Valley."
charleshighsmith  middleclass  inequality  us  workingclass  education  class  2019  wealth  precarity 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Better Public Schools Won’t Fix Income Inequality - The Atlantic
"Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."

...


"Long ago, i was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem."

...

"However justifiable their focus on curricula and innovation and institutional reform, people who see education as a cure-all have largely ignored the metric most predictive of a child’s educational success: household income.

The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools. For many children, though—especially those raised in the racially segregated poverty endemic to much of the United States—the opportunity to attend a good public school isn’t nearly enough to overcome the effects of limited family income.

As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”

Indeed, multiple studies have found that only about 20 percent of student outcomes can be attributed to schooling, whereas about 60 percent are explained by family circumstances—most significantly, income. Now consider that, nationwide, just over half of today’s public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, up from 38 percent in 2000. Surely if American students are lagging in the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills our modern economy demands, household income deserves most of the blame—not teachers or their unions.

If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed, we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.

Today, after wealthy elites gobble up our outsize share of national income, the median American family is left with $76,000 a year. Had hourly compensation grown with productivity since 1973—as it did over the preceding quarter century, according to the Economic Policy Institute—that family would now be earning more than $105,000 a year. Just imagine, education reforms aside, how much larger and stronger and better educated our middle class would be if the median American family enjoyed a $29,000-a-year raise.

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime exemption; by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less."
economics  education  inequality  2019  labor  work  policy  poverty  history  nickhanauer  educationism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  trickledowneconomics  ronaldreagan  billclinton  canon  edusolutionism  us  unemployment  billgates  gatesfoundation  democracy  wages  alicewalton  paulallen  anandgiridharadas  middleclass  class  housing  healthcare  publicschools  publiceducation  schools  learning  howwelearn  opportunity  lawrencemishel  curriculum  innovation 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Inequality - how wealth becomes power (1/2) | (Poverty Richness Documentary) DW Documentary - YouTube
"Germany is one of the world’s richest countries, but inequality is on the rise. The wealthy are pulling ahead, while the poor are falling behind.

For the middle classes, work is no longer a means of advancement. Instead, they are struggling to maintain their position and status. Young people today have less disposable income than previous generations. This documentary explores the question of inequality in Germany, providing both background analysis and statistics. The filmmakers interview leading researchers and experts on the topic. And they accompany Christoph Gröner, one of Germany’s biggest real estate developers, as he goes about his work. "If you have great wealth, you can’t fritter it away through consumption. If you throw money out the window, it comes back in through the front door,” Gröner says. The real estate developer builds multi-family residential units in cities across Germany, sells condominium apartments, and is involved in planning projects that span entire districts. "Entrepreneurs are more powerful than politicians, because we’re more independent,” Gröner concludes. Leading researchers and experts on the topic of inequality also weigh in, including Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, economist Thomas Piketty, and Brooke Harrington, who carried out extensive field research among investors from the ranks of the international financial elite. Branko Milanović, a former lead economist at the World Bank, says that globalization is playing a role in rising inequality. The losers of globalization are the lower-middle class of affluent countries like Germany. "These people are earning the same today as 20 years ago," Milanović notes. "Just like a century ago, humankind is standing at a crossroads. Will affluent countries allow rising equality to tear apart the fabric of society? Or will they resist this trend?”"

[Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYP_wMJsgyg

"Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany. The son of two teachers, he has worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance and wants to step in. But can this really ease inequality?

Christoph Gröner does everything he can to drum up donations and convince the wealthy auction guests to raise their bids. The more the luxury watch for sale fetches, the more money there will be to pay for a new football field, or some extra tutoring, at a children's home. Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany - his company is now worth one billion euros, he tells us. For seven months, he let our cameras follow him - into board meetings, onto construction sites, through his daily life, and in his charity work. He knows that someone like him is an absolute exception in Germany. His parents were both teachers, and he still worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance. "What we see here is total failure across the board,” he says. "It starts with parents who just don’t get it and can’t do anything right. And then there’s an education policy that has opened the gates wide to the chaos we are experiencing today." Chistoph Gröner wants to step in where state institutions have failed. But can that really ease inequality?

In Germany, getting ahead depends more on where you come from than in most other industrialized countries, and social mobility is normally quite restricted. Those on top stay on top. The same goes for those at the bottom. A new study shows that Germany’s rich and poor both increasingly stay amongst themselves, without ever intermingling with other social strata. Even the middle class is buckling under the mounting pressure of an unsecure future. "Land of Inequality" searches for answers as to why. We talk to families, an underpaid nurse, as well as leading researchers and analysts such as economic Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger or the economist Raj Chetty, who conducted a Stanford investigation into how the middle class is now arming itself to improve their children’s outlooks."]
documentary  germany  capitalism  economics  society  poverty  inequality  christophgröner  thomaspiketty  brookehrrington  josephstiglitz  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  brankomilanović  worldbank  power  influence  policy  politics  education  class  globalization  affluence  schools  schooling  juttaallmendinger  rajchetty  middleclass  parenting  children  access  funding  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  status  work  labor  welfare  2018  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  berlin  immigration  migration  race  racism  essen  socialsegregation  segregation  success  democracy  housing  speculation  paulpiff  achievement  oligarchy  dynasticwealth  ownership  capitalhoarding  injustice  inheritance  charlottebartels  history  myth  prosperity  wageslavery  polarization  insecurity  precarity  socialcontract  revolution  sociology  finance  financialcapitalism  wealthmanagement  assets  financialization  local  markets  privateschools  publicschools  privatization 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid. - The New York Times
"There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.

Unfortunately, there are abundant signs that we are suffering the consequences, both in the United States and elsewhere. There is a reason that extremist, populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Xi Jinping of China and Viktor Orban of Hungary have taken center stage, all following some version of the same script. And here in the United States, we have witnessed the anger borne of ordinary citizens who have lost almost any influence over economic policy — and by extension, their lives. The middle class has no political influence over their stagnant wages, tax policy, the price of essential goods or health care. This powerlessness is brewing a powerful feeling of outrage."



"In recent years, we have allowed unhealthy consolidations of hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry; accepted an extraordinarily concentrated banking industry, despite its repeated misfeasance; failed to prevent firms like Facebook from buying up their most effective competitors; allowed AT&T to reconsolidate after a well-deserved breakup in the 1980s; and the list goes on. Over the last two decades, more than 75 percent of United States industries have experienced an increase in concentration, while United States public markets have lost almost 50 percent of their publicly traded firms.

There is a direct link between concentration and the distortion of democratic process. As any undergraduate political science major could tell you, the more concentrated an industry — the fewer members it has — the easier it is to cooperate to achieve its political goals. A group like the middle class is hopelessly disorganized and has limited influence in Congress. But concentrated industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, find it easy to organize to take from the public for their own benefit. Consider the law preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices: That particular lobbying project cost the industry more than $100 million — but it returns some $15 billion a year in higher payments for its products.

We need to figure out how the classic antidote to bigness — the antitrust and other antimonopoly laws — might be recovered and updated to address the specific challenges of our time. For a start, Congress should pass a new Anti-Merger Act reasserting that it meant what it said in 1950, and create new levels of scrutiny for mega-mergers like the proposed union of T-Mobile and Sprint.

But we also need judges who better understand the political as well as economic goals of antitrust. We need prosecutors willing to bring big cases with the courage of trustbusters like Theodore Roosevelt, who brought to heel the empires of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and with the economic sophistication of the men and women who challenged AT&T and Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s. Europe needs to do its part as well, blocking more mergers, especially those like Bayer’s recent acquisition of Monsanto that threaten to put entire global industries in just a few hands.

The United States seems to constantly forget its own traditions, to forget what this country at its best stands for. We forget that America pioneered a kind of law — antitrust — that in the words of Roosevelt would “teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.” We have forgotten that antitrust law had more than an economic goal, that it was meant fundamentally as a kind of constitutional safeguard, a check against the political dangers of unaccountable private power.

As the lawyer and consumer advocate Robert Pitofsky warned in 1979, we must not forget the economic origins of totalitarianism, that “massively concentrated economic power, or state intervention induced by that level of concentration, is incompatible with liberal, constitutional democracy.”"
timwu  economics  monopolies  history  bigness  scale  size  2018  telecommunications  healthcare  medicine  governance  democracy  fascism  government  influence  power  bigpharma  law  legal  robertpitofsky  consolidation  mergers  lobbying  middleclass  class  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
In Los Angeles, mansions get bigger as homeless get closer
"The capital of America's second Gilded Age is Los Angeles, where homes worth tens of millions of dollars look out over a city in which the middle class struggles to afford shelter and the number of homeless increases."
us  california  inequality  cities  losangeles  rickhampson  2018  economics  disparity  homes  housing  middleclass  homeless  homelessness 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Little Boxes - Tribute to Daly City, CA on Vimeo
"The song "Little Boxes" by Peter Seeger mocks Daly City, the large-tract suburb of San Francisco. This video shows what Seeger missed -- a look inside one of those little boxes."
dalycity  sanfrancisco  bayarea  california  peteseeger  music  songs  video  classideas  malvina  reynolds  henrydoelger  suburbia  conformism  middleclass  us  capitalism  nancyreynolds  westlake 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Little Boxes - Wikipedia
""Little Boxes" is a song written and composed by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, which became a hit for her friend Pete Seeger in 1963, when he released his cover version.

The song is a political satire about the development of suburbia, and associated conformist middle-class attitudes. It mocks suburban tract housing as "little boxes" of different colors "all made out of ticky-tacky", and which "all look just the same." "Ticky-tacky" is a reference to the shoddy material used in the construction of the houses.

Reynolds was a folk singer-songwriter and political activist in the 1960s and 1970s. Nancy Reynolds, her daughter, explained that her mother wrote the song after seeing the housing developments around Daly City, California, built in the post-war era by Henry Doelger, particularly the neighborhood of Westlake.
My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation. When Time magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn’t find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered.
"

[See also:
http://www.roomonethousand.com/little-boxes-high-tech-and-the-silicon-valley/
http://telstarlogistics.typepad.com/telstarlogistics/2006/11/americas_most_p.html
http://www.willemsplanet.com/2014/10/09/thursday-the-little-boxes-of-daly-city/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/sets/72157594414534853/
https://vimeo.com/224844379 ]
dalycity  malvina  reynolds  peteseeger  sanfrancisco  classideas  songs  music  henrydoelger  bayarea  california  suburbia  conformism  middleclass  us  capitalism  nancyreynolds  westlake 
january 2018 by robertogreco
John Lanchester · Brexit Blues · LRB 28 July 2016
"I once asked Danny Dorling why, when I was at school, geography was about the shapes of rivers, but now all the best-known geographers seem to be Marxists. He said it’s because when you look at a map and see that the people on one side of some line are rich and healthy and long-lived and the people on the other side are poor and sick and die young, you start to wonder why, and that turns you towards deep-causal explanations, which then lead in the direction of Marxism. Travelling around England, I’ve often had cause to remember that remark. We’re used to political analysis based on class, not least because Britain’s political system is arranged around two political parties whose fundamental orientations are around class. What strikes you if you travel to different parts of the country, though, is that the primary reality of modern Britain is not so much class as geography. Geography is destiny. And for much of the country, not a happy destiny.

To be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat – a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy. The people who grow up in these places come from a cultural background which equipped them for reasonably well-paid manual labour, un- and semi- and skilled. Children left school as soon as they could and went to work in the same industries that had employed their parents. The academically able kids used to go to grammar school and be educated into the middle class. All that has now gone, the jobs and the grammar schools, and the vista instead is a landscape where there is often work – there are pockets of unemployment, but in general there’s no shortage of jobs and the labour force participation rate is the highest it has ever been, a full 15 points higher than in the US – but it’s unsatisfying, insecure and low-paid. This new work doesn’t do what the old work did: it doesn’t offer a sense of identity or community or self-worth. The word ‘precarious’ has as its underlying sense ‘depending on the favour of another person’. Somebody can take away the things you have whenever they feel like it. The precariat, as the new class is called, might not know the etymology, but it doesn’t need to: the reality is all too familiar."



"As for the economics of the post-Brexit world, the immediate chaos was both predictable and predicted. The longer-term picture is much harder to discern. It’s not all bad news: the weakened pound is a good thing, and the likely crash in London property was long overdue. It might even make property in the capital affordable for the young again, which would be a strong overall positive for our national life. The uncertainties around the immediate future are quite likely to make demand slow down so much that it triggers another recession. The primary victims of that will be the working-class voters who voted Leave; the recessionary shrinking of the tax take will target them too. The faltering economy will cause immigration to slow, which will further damage the economy.

Once the particularities of our post-Brexit arrangement have been established, we’ll know a lot more about where we are. A great deal of economic uncertainty will attach not so much to the issue of trade – since the advantages of the freest trade possible are clear to all parties – as to the status of the City of London. Nobody outside the City loves the City, but the tax revenues raised by London’s global role in financial services are very important to the UK. At the moment, the City is the beneficiary of ‘passporting’, which allows it to deal freely in services across the EU. That passporting is likely, highly likely, to be the subject of an attack by the combined powers of Frankfurt and Paris (and English-speaking, low-business tax, well-educated Dublin too). Other anti-London regulatory moves can be expected. That could prove expensive for the UK.

A reduction in the dominance of finance might be a net positive; we would have a smaller GDP, probably, but the country wouldn’t be bent out of shape – or not to the same degree – by the supremacy of the City. There’s a lot to unpick here, though. For one thing, the anti-London moves might well have been coming anyway: one finance-world Brexiter of my acquaintance was in favour of Leave precisely because a narrow win for Remain (which is what he was expecting) would in his view have encouraged the regulatory bodies to gang up and crack down on London. There are likely to be all sorts of unintended consequences to exploit, and the City is full of people whose entire working lives revolve around exploiting unintended consequences. The biggest source of finance in the world is Eurodollars, the confusing name for dollars held on deposit outside the US. That entire market was an unintended consequence of US banking regulation in the 1960s and 1970s. The Eurobond (a bond denominated in a currency not native to the country where it is issued) was a huge new market created in the City in 1963, long before the Euro was even a glint in Frankfurt’s eye. The City is creative, opportunistic, experienced and amoral; if any entity has the right ‘skill-set’ to benefit from the post-Brexit world, it is the City of London.

In addition, nervous governments, desperate for revenue, are likely to bend even further backwards to give the City the policies it wants. An early sign of policy direction was George Osborne’s announcement that he wanted to cut corporation tax to 15 per cent to show that post-Brexit Britain is ‘open for business’. Osborne has gone; the policy probably hasn’t. The business press has been full of speculation that the government will backtrack on its plans to crack down on non-domiciled tax status for ultra-wealthy foreigners. The need for revenues makes it important not to drive non-doms out of the country, one City lawyer told the FT. ‘We need a friendly regime.’ There will be plenty more where that came from.

None of this is what working-class voters had in mind when they opted for Leave. If it’s combined with the policy every business interest in the UK wants – the Norwegian option, in which we contribute to the EU and accept free movement of labour, i.e. immigration, as part of the price – it will be a profound betrayal of much of the Leave vote. If we do anything else, we will be inflicting severe economic damage on ourselves, and following a policy which most of the electorate (48 per cent Remain, plus economically liberal Leavers) think is wrong. So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now."
brexit  johnlancaster  2016  politics  uk  inequality  globalization  london  immigration  finance  class  middleclass  workingclass  england  wealth  geography  marxism  destiny  upwadmobility  society  elitism  policy  precarity  precariat 
july 2016 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
7 Things Nordic Countries Are Totally Doing Right, According To 'The Nordic Theory Of Everything' | Bustle
"1. Balancing Federal Budgets …

2. Curbing Income Inequality …

3. Bringing Equity To Education …

4. Closing The Gender Gap …

5. Supporting Families …

6. Aiming For True Work-Life Balance …

7. Insuring Everyone …"
nordiccountries  scandinavia  policy  socialism  equality  us  inequality  education  gender  women  families  paternityleave  work-lifebalance  well-being  health  healthcare  universalhealthcare  finland  sweden  norway  iceland  denmark  2016  government  qualityoflife  anupartanen  middleclass 
july 2016 by robertogreco
TARP: A Love Story — The Billfold
"Regardless, even if I could explain my love of TARP, it was clear. Nobody else outside my banker friends liked it. They hated it.

They hated it with everything they had. Some hated it with rants. But most hated it with a knowing resignation. They had seen this shit before.

It was the extreme example of a rigged system. Truck driver: “It wasn’t the needle that broke the camel’s back. It was the anvil that broke it.”

I also saw first hand why it resonated so badly with them. They were right, the system was rigged. At every level.

There really were two Americas. Two opportunity sets. Two education systems. Two legal systems. Two sets of rules.

The elites (Sorry about that word) got the better of it all. Better opportunities. Better educations. Better laws. Better bailouts.

And TARP was just a continuation of that, regardless of the relative merits of it at the time.

It represented how shit plays out in America: If you have money, you get cut all the breaks. If you don’t, you suffer all the breaks.

Nobody wanted to hear, “You know TARP benefited you too…” They have heard that shit all their lives. Everything is spun that way.

Me: “Really, it was also the best policy for you.” Them: “Funny how the person telling us that is always sitting on a pile of gold while we stand in shit.”

So regardless of what I think about the past beauty of TARP. The reality is: TARP was all about maintaining two separate and unequal systems.

So I look back at that distant day on the trading floor, when I first fell in love with TARP. It was only a marriage of convenience. For me.

I look back at that young banker and think. Damn he had it good. Damn he had it so easy. Damn he was so naïve. Damn did he ever love that TARP.

And damn if that TARP didn’t ever love him back."
2009  tarp  bailouts  elites  elitism  chrisarnade  greatrecession  banking  finance  class  middleclass  financialcrisis  politics  policy  us  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
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
Is this what's really hurting the US middle class? | World Economic Forum
"The saving critique merits further analysis. The data show that countries with saving deficits tend to run trade deficits, while those with saving surpluses tend to run trade surpluses. The United States is the most obvious example, with a net national saving rate of 2.6% in late 2015 – less than half the 6.3% average in the final three decades of the twentieth century – and trade deficits with 101 countries.

The pattern also holds true elsewhere. The United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, France, Greece, and Portugal – all of which have large trade deficits – save much less than other developed countries. Conversely, high savers like Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, South Korea, Sweden, and Switzerland all run trade surpluses.

Saving imbalances can also lead to destabilizing international capital flows, asset bubbles, and financial crises. That was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when global saving imbalances, as measured by the disparities between countries with current-account deficits and surpluses, hit a modern record. The asset and credit bubbles fueled by those imbalances brought the world to the brink of an abyss not seen since the 1930s.

Here, too, there is considerable finger pointing. Deficit countries tend to blame the yield-seeking “saving glut” that sloshes around in world financial markets. As former US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke put it, if only countries like China had spent more, the bubbles that nearly broke America would not have formed in the first place. Others have been quick to point out that America’s supposed growth miracle probably could not have happened without the capital provided by surplus countries.

The prudent approach would be to strike a better balance between saving and spending. That is particularly important for the US and China, which together account for a disproportionate share of the world’s saving disparities. Simply put, America needs to save more and consume less, while China needs to save less and consume more. To succeed, both countries will have to overcome entrenched mindsets.

On this front, China has been leading the way, with a strategy of consumer-led rebalancing that it introduced five years ago. The results so far have been mixed, as inadequate funding of a social safety net continues to temper the support to household incomes provided by services-driven job creation and urbanization-led increases in real wages. But China has lately shown a commitment to addressing this shortcoming. Its recently enacted 13th Five-Year Plan aims to dampen fear-driven precautionary saving through interest-rate liberalization, the introduction of deposit insurance, the loosening of the hukou residential permit system (which would improve benefit portability), and relaxation of the one-child family planning policy.

The US, however, is headed in the opposite direction. There is no interest in debating the saving issue, let alone implementing policies to address it. A pro-saving US policy agenda should draw on the following: longer-term fiscal consolidation, expanded IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and 401Ks, consumption-based tax reform (such as value-added or sales taxes), and interest-rate normalization. Instead, US politicians continue to focus on keeping the consumption binge going, regardless of its implications for America’s saving imperative.

The asymmetrical response of the world’s two largest economies to their respective saving dilemmas has far-reaching consequences. To the extent that China makes progress on the road to consumer-led rebalancing, it will shift from surplus saving to saving absorption. Already, China’s gross national saving rate has declined from a peak of 52% of GDP in 2008 to around 44% this year. It should fall further in the years ahead.

The US, long locked in a codependent economic relationship with China, cannot afford to ignore this shift. After all, along with reduced current-account and trade surpluses, China’s consumer-led shift to saving absorption likely entails diminished accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves and reduced recycling of those reserves into dollar-based assets such as US Treasuries.

To the extent that America fails to boost its domestic saving, the lack of Chinese capital may well force the US to pay a steeper price for external financing, through a weaker dollar, higher real interest rates, or both. Such are the classic pitfalls of codependency: when one partner alters the relationship, there are consequences for the other.

No country can prosper indefinitely without saving. Holding the world’s reserve currency, America has gotten away with it, largely because the rest of the world let it. After all, the enablers – especially export-led economies like China, along with its resource-dependent supply chain – benefited from America’s consumption binge, as it drove an outsize expansion of global trade.

But those days are numbered. American voters – especially disenfranchised, angry middle-class workers – increasingly recognize that something does not add up. Yet US politicians continue to deflect the electorate’s anger outward, dismissing the growth subsidy that accompanies the “kindness of strangers.” It is time for politicians to own up to the uncomfortable truth: The saving deficit is the single greatest threat to the American Dream."
us  middleclass  society  china  2016  class  savings  economics  inequality  debt  politics  policy 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Specter of Trump | Jacobin
"Donald Trump speaks to an aggrieved and radicalized middle class with seemingly nowhere else to turn."
middleclass  politics  economics  society  2016  us  policy  inequality 
june 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism - Salon.com
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s New Philanthropy - The New York Times
"THE enduring credo of Silicon Valley is that innovation, not money, is its guiding purpose and that world-changing technology is its true measure of worth.

Wealth is treated as a pleasant byproduct, a bit like weight loss after rugged adventure travel.

The tech world is home to some of the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and most dynamic philanthropists, 21st-century heirs to Carnegie and Rockefeller who say they can apply the same ingenuity and zeal that made them rich to making the rest of the world less poor. San Francisco also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the nation, with the wealth distortion most concentrated among the very people who are driving the economy as a whole.

A similar paradox seeps into philanthropy. Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is. But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.

As Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist and philanthropist who invested in, among other things, Twitter and Airbnb, put it in a Twitter post: “Thanks to Airbnb, now anyone with a house or apartment can offer a room for rent. Hence, income inequality reduced.”

Increasingly, though, idealistic tech leaders find themselves giving back to a world that complains that they took too much in the first place. The skepticism is all the more wounding because some tech luminaries ardently believe their businesses can solve social ills."



"But second-guessing in Silicon Valley is a pesky inevitability. As Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, put it at a Vanity Fair tech conference in San Francisco in October, “Basically, everything impactful you want to do has some controversy.”

In Silicon Valley, there is pious disdain for Wall Street’s showy, status-seeking ways of giving. “The primary reason my wife and I give to charity is to accomplish some change in the world,” said Elie Hassenfeld, who quit his job at a hedge fund to help create GiveWell, a San Francisco-based charity-evaluating service that guides the philanthropical choices of, among others, Dustin Moskovitz, one of the founders of Facebook. “We don’t attend galas or give to my alma mater.”

Those may not be such big distinctions. “There is a bit of delusion in Silicon Valley that they are not like the other rich because their technology is ‘making the world a better place,’ ” said Steve Hilton, a former aide to Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and a co-founder of Crowdpac.com, a political start-up. “But McDonald’s and Walmart also think that their businesses help society. Walmart says it lowers the cost of living for poor families. All corporations think they are having a positive impact.”"



"“The techno-utopianism of hackers has already transformed our lives,” Mr. Parker wrote. “But the greatest contribution that hackers make to society may be yet to come — if we are willing to retain the intellectual and creative spirit that got us this far.”

Bay Area nonprofits pride themselves on efficiency and “scalability,” applying sophisticated metrics to assess the success of social programs. Give Directly, for example, is a charity that uses cellphones to give unconditional cash transfers to poor people in Africa without government bureaucracy, corruption or costly overhead. The program relied on a 2013 study in rural Kenya that used satellites to distinguish thatched roofs from tin ones, because villagers with thatched roofs are poorer. It also monitored how the income was spent and even how it made recipients feel: the villagers’ saliva was collected to see if their cortisol levels decreased, a sign of reduced stress. The report concludes: “We document a 0.19SD increase in happiness.”

Back home, happiness is in the eye of the beholder. “There’s a lot of giving and impact investment and caring, but those people are not looking to change the fundamental rules of how power operates,” said Michael Gast, a consultant for social justice nonprofits in Oakland.

The disaffection isn’t merely manifested in a few protesters blocking Google shuttle buses or in Tesla-hating, or in labor unions fighting the “sharing economy.” Nor is it just the economists who complain that tech companies like Google and Facebook are monopolies — the Standard Oils of the moment.

Academics and relief workers have been grumbling for a while about so-called philanthrocapitalists who try to micromanage their giving. The writer David Rieff questions the tech-centric approach to fighting global poverty of the Gates Foundation in a new book, “The Reproach of Hunger.” In “The Prize,” the journalist Dale Russakoff looks at what went wrong with Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark to resurrect its schools.

And the transformative power of Silicon Valley is slapped down by one of its own in “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology,” written by a Microsoft apostate, Kentaro Toyama.

Rob Reich, a political-science professor at Stanford who is also a co-director of the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, notes that the tax deduction that comes with a billionaire’s grant to charter schools is essentially money that won’t be spent on public schools, calling Silicon Valley largess “an exercise of power that is unaccountable, nontransparent and tax-subsidized.”

While tech titans champion efforts to strengthen the social safety net for the most disadvantaged, many express less concern for the stagnating middle class. Alec Ross, who was an innovation adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was secretary of state and is the author of “The Industries of the Future,” notes that entrepreneurs privately complain about workers, skilled and unskilled, who haven’t kept pace with the new tech-based economy.

“You hear derision for the working- and middle-class people who think that their education ends at the age of 22,” Mr. Ross said. “People who want their work to stay the same without doing anything to improve themselves.”

Nor is there much talk in these circles about taxing the rich to even the playing field. A few tech billionaires like Reed Hastings, a Netflix founder, have said they support raising taxes on the wealthy. There are many more who don’t publicly oppose a tax increase but feel they are paying plenty already. There is also a libertarian streak in parts of Silicon Valley that allows some to believe they can spend their tax dollars better than the government ever will.

There are, of course, some in Silicon Valley who blend tech savoir faire with old-school Carnegie-style philanthropy."
philanthropy  2015  siliconvalley  technolosolutionism  charity  nonprofits  inequality  middleclass  marbenioff  marcandreesen  marksukerberg  billgates  gatesfoundation  wallstreet  seanparker  economics  taxes  taxation  robreich  nonprofit 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich - I know a high school senior who can’t sleep...
"I know a high school senior who can’t sleep because she’s so worried about whether she’ll be accepted at the college of her choice. This is nuts. It’s also absurd that a four-year college education should be the only gateway into the American middle class. Not everyone is suited to college, nor does everyone need it. We desperately need a world-class system of vocational-technical education. Many of tomorrow’s good jobs will go to technicians who install, service, repair, and upgrade high-tech machinery. Even today, it’s hard to find skilled plumbers and electricians.

Yet we cling to a cultural conceit that four years of college is necessary for everyone, and look down on those who don’t have a college degree. Germany – whose median wage (after taxes and transfers) is higher than ours – trains many of its young people to be world-class technicians. Why can’t we?"

[via: https://www.facebook.com/thepathlesstakenblog/posts/880439552014830

"I'm not anti-college. College is the right path for certain individuals and for certain specific career choices, yes. But.... college is not the be-all, end-all; and college is not the path for everyone; and a college degree should not be a status symbol. It's a tool (an expensive tool), and the decision to go shouldn't be taken lightly. The antiquated notion that *everyone* should aspire to go to college baffles me. There are many many different paths one can take to a happy, healthy, and productive life, and many of them do not involve college at all."]
robertreich  colleges  universities  admissions  economics  education  highered  highereducation  vocational  culture  society  us  middleclass 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Empires Revolution of the Present - marclafia
"The film and online project brings together international philosophers, scientists and artists to give description and analysis to the contemporary moment as defined by computational tools and networks.

It states that networks are not new and have been forever with us in the evolution of our cities, trade, communications and sciences, in our relations as businesses and nation states, in the circulation of money, food, arms and our shared ecology.

Yet something has deeply changed in our experience of time, work, community, the global. Empires looks deeply to unravel how we speak to the realities of the individual and the notion of the public and public 'good' in this new world at the confluence of money, cities, computation, politics and science."

[Film website: http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org/ ]

[Trailer: https://vimeo.com/34852940 ]
[First cut (2:45:05): https://vimeo.com/32734201 ]

[YouTube (1:21:47): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaTw5epW_QI ]

"Join the conversation at http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org

Summary: The hope was that network technology would bring us together, create a "global village," make our political desires more coherent. But what's happened is that our desires have become distributed, exploded into images and over screens our eyes relentlessly drop to view.

REVOLUTION OF THE PRESENT examines the strange effects — on cities, economies, people — of what we might call accelerated capitalism. Set against a visually striking array of sounds and images, 15 international thinkers speak to the complexity and oddity of this contemporary moment as they discuss what is and what can be.

Documentary Synopsis:
Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.' One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world."

[See also: http://hilariousbookbinder.blogspot.com/2014/09/rethinking-internet-networks-capitalism.html ]

[Previously:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:ec1d3463d74b
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:9f60604ec3b3 ]
marclafia  networks  philosophy  politics  science  money  cities  scale  economics  capitalism  2014  kazysvarnelis  communication  communications  business  work  labor  psychology  greglindsay  saskiasassen  urban  urbanism  freedom  freewill  howardbloom  juanenríquez  michaelhardt  anthonypagden  danielisenberg  johnhenryclippinger  joséfernández  johannaschiller  douglasrushkoff  manueldelanda  floriancrammer  issaclubb  nataliejeremijenko  wendychun  geertlovink  nishantshah  internet  online  web  danielcoffeen  michaelchichi  jamesdelbourgo  sashasakhar  pedromartínez  miguelfernándezpauldocherty  alexandergalloway  craigfeldman  irenarogovsky  matthewrogers  globalization  networkedculture  networkculture  history  change  nationstates  citystates  sovreignty  empire  power  control  antonionegri  geopolitics  systems  systemsthinking  changemaking  meaningmaking  revolution  paradigmshifts  johnlocke  bourgeoisie  consumption  middleclass  class  democracy  modernity  modernism  government  governence  karlmarx  centralization  socialism  planning  urbanplanning  grass 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (Breakfast With My Mentor)
"A few days ago I had breakfast with a man who had been one of my mentors in college, who participated in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s and has devoted much of the rest of his life in pursuit of equal opportunity for minorities, the poor, women, gays, immigrants — and also for average hard-working people who have been beaten down by the economy. Now in his mid-80s, he’s still active.

I asked him if he thought America would ever achieve true equality of opportunity.

“Not without a fight,” he said. “Those who have wealth and power and privilege don’t want equal opportunity. It’s too threatening to them.They’ll pretend equal opportunity already exists, and that anyone who doesn’t make it in America must be lazy or stupid or otherwise undeserving.”

“You’ve been fighting for social justice for over half a century. Are you discouraged?”

“Not at all!” he said. “Don’t confuse the difficulty of attaining a goal with the urgency of fighting for it.”

“But have we really made progress? Inequality is widening. The middle class and the poor are in many ways worse off than they were decades ago.”

“Yes, and they’re starting to understand that,” he said. “And beginning to see that the distinction between the middle class and poor is disappearing. Many who were in the middle have fallen into poverty; many more will do so.”

“And, so?”

He smiled. “For decades, those at the top have tried to convince the middle class that their economic enemies are minorities and the poor. But that old divide-and-conquer strategy is starting to fail. And as it fails, it will be possible to create a political coalition of the poor and the middle class. It will be a powerful coalition! Remember, demographics are shifting. Soon America will be a majority of minorities. And women are gaining more and more economic power.”

“But the 400 richest Americans are now wealthier than the bottom 150 million Americans put together — and have more political influence than ever.”

“Just you wait,” he laughed. “I wish I had another fifty years in me.”"
robertreich  optimism  class  inequality  economics  comingrevolution  2014  middleclass  socialjustice  society  us 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The “middle class” myth: Here’s why wages are really so low today
"I first saw those sites on a labor history tour led by “Oil Can Eddie” Sadlowski, a retired labor leader who lost a race for the presidency of the USW in 1977. Sadlowski was teaching a group of ironworkers’ apprentices about their blue-collar heritage, and invited me to ride along on the bus. Oil Can Eddie had spent his life agitating for a labor movement that transcended class boundaries. He wanted laborers to think of themselves as poets, and poets to think of themselves as laborers.

“How many Mozarts are working in steel mills?” he once asked an interviewer.

In the parking lot of the ironworkers’ hall, I noticed that most of the apprentices were driving brand-new pickup trucks — Dodge Rams with swollen hoods and quarter panels, a young man’s first purchase with jackpot union wages. Meanwhile, I knew college graduates who earned $9.50 an hour as editorial assistants, or worked in bookstores for even less. None seemed interested in forming a union. So I asked Sadlowski why white-collar workers had never embraced the labor movement as avidly as blue-collar workers.

“The white-collar worker has kind of a Bob Cratchit attitude,” he explained. “He feels he’s a half-step below the boss. The boss says, ‘Call me Harry.’ He feels he’s made it. You go to a shoe store, they got six managers. They call everybody a manager, but they pay ’em all shit.”

The greatest victory of the anti-labor movement has not been in busting industries traditionally organized by unions. That’s unnecessary. Those jobs have disappeared as a result of automation and outsourcing to foreign countries. In the U.S., steel industry employment has declined from 521,000 in 1974 to 150,000 today.

“When I joined the company, it had 28,000 employees,” said George Ranney, a former executive at Inland Steel, an Indiana mill that was bought out by ArcelorMittal in 1998. “When I left, it had between 5,000 and 6,000. We were making the same amount of steel, 5 million tons a year, with higher quality and lower cost.”

The anti-labor movement’s greatest victory has been in preventing the unionization of the jobs that have replaced well-paying industrial work. Stanley was lucky: After Wisconsin Steel shut down in 1980, a casualty of obsolescence, he bounced through ill-paying gigs hanging sheetrock and tending bar before finally catching on as a plumber for the federal government. The public sector is the last bastion of the labor movement, with a 35.9 percent unionization rate. But I know other laid-off steelworkers who ended their working lives delivering soda pop or working as security guards."
unions  labor  work  us  middleclass  edwardmcclelland  2013  minimumwage  workingclass  history  class  poetry  poets 
january 2014 by robertogreco
To Less Efficient Startups - Anil Dash
"Some of the most interesting startups (the NYC chauvinist in me must point out that these are all New York companies) are not optimizing for raw market efficiency, but instead for opportunity for a broader community. Some examples:

• Kickstarter is explicitly building an economy to support the work of artists and creators, disciplines that are often not favored by the attentions of the tech industry.

• 20×200 has a complete structure of support for promotion and payment for artists, as Jen Bekman outlined at the XOXO festival.

• Etsy perhaps illustrates this best of all; I talked about this a bit when recording Chad Dickerson's talk at XOXO, but his slides from that talk outline their commitment as a B Corporation to many of these principles of helping an entire community, not just preferred shareholders:"



"I'm not saying existing companies necessarily need to radically change; It's great that many have succeeded with the model so far. But I'm hoping that people who are building and funding companies can put some thought into what success can look like for future tech companies if they also value creating lots of middle-class jobs and lots of opportunities to help blue collar or non-technical workers thrive with meaningful long-time work as their companies take off.

We tend not to think it's cool that Microsoft or IBM have hundreds of thousands of employees. But there's something meaningful, and important, and essential to our society for enormously valuable companies to also provide enormous value in the form of lots of jobs for regular folks. I'll be rooting for the next wave of startups to tackle this problem that has, so far, been too difficult for our biggest web companies."
anildash  business  economics  inequality  class  2013  middleclass  etsy  kickstarter  20x200  xoxo  jenbekman  chaddickerson  society  incomedistribution 
july 2013 by robertogreco
When Tokyo Was a Slum – The Informal City Dialogues
"Alongside the futuristic visage of skyscraper Tokyo, a human-scale city lies along rambling roads, where mom-and-pop stores sell soap and sandals, and private homes double as independent shops engaged in local trades like printmaking and woodworking.

This is incremental Tokyo, the foundation upon which the world’s most modern city is built.

Like much of the city, these small hamlets were smoldering ash pits 70 years ago, reduced to rubble by the bombs of Allied forces during World War II. When the war ended, Tokyo’s municipal government, bankrupt and in crisis mode, was in no condition to launch a citywide reconstruction effort. So, without ever stating it explicitly, it nevertheless made one thing clear: The citizens would rebuild the city. Government would provide the infrastructure, but beyond that, the residents would be free to build what they needed on the footprint of the city that once was, neighborhood by neighborhood."



"These mixed-use habitats and low-rise, high-density neighborhoods emerged by default, not design. But though the city didn’t plan them, it considered them legitimate and supported them. Sewage systems, water, electricity and roads were later infused into all parts of Tokyo, leaving no neighborhood behind, regardless of how slummy or messy it looked. Even the traditionally discriminated-against Burakumin areas were eventually provided access to state-of-the-art public services and amenities.

The notion that infrastructure must be adapted to the built environment, rather than the other way around, is a simple yet revolutionary idea. The Tokyo model, combining housing development by local actors and infrastructure from various agencies, explains why that city has some of the best infrastructure in the world today, not to mention a housing stock of great variety and bustling mixed-use neighborhoods.

The House Is a Tool

The relationship between the city’s urban form and its vibrant economy is best illustrated by the idea of homes as tools of production. Many of the houses built in the postwar period in Tokyo were based on the template of the traditional Japanese house, in which a single structure can serve as a shop, workshop, dormitory or family house — and possibly all of those things at once. Official statistics illustrate the scale of the home-based economy. As late as the 1970s, factories employing fewer than 20 employees accounted for 20 percent of the workers and 12.6 percent of the national output in Japan. In Tokyo alone, 99.5 percent of factories had fewer than 300 workers and employed 74 percent of all factory workers, according to economist Takeshi Hayashi. What these numbers tell us is that the Japanese miracle was built not only by large-scale factories, but also relied on a vast web of small producers that often worked from their neighborhoods and their homes."



"For the people who live in Dharavi, this is not only the best possible outcome, it’s their only option. Most residents of Dharavi cannot possibly afford to move to other parts of Mumbai. Their futures will rise or fall with the fate of their neighborhood, which is why the Tokyo model, which values and cultivates neighborhoods like theirs, is probably their best hope for economic and social advancement.

That prosperity, however, depends on the local authorities heeding the lessons of Tokyo. Neighborhoods like Dharavi are already served by various NGOs and foundations. The residents are doing their part. The only missing piece is the support of city authorities, whose attitude toward such settlements sets back the city of Mumbai as a whole.

What’s more, the Tokyo model is simply an elegant one that follows the path of least resistance, allowing order and mess to naturally combine as they would without top-down intervention. It’s hard to imagine a better example of “development” in its most holistic dimension: Houses, neighborhoods, economies and communities all rising in concert with one another. The environment is deeply connected to processes of collective growth, because people, objects and lived spaces are all knit together by the impulse to constantly improve and transform. Through this process, with very little capital, we see how user-generated neighborhoods invest in the idea of growth and mobility, where self-interest and successful urbanism are one and the same."

[Tagging this with Teddy Cruz because it reminds me of his study of Tijuana and his recommendation that we learn from patterns of growth and development there.]
postwar  mixeduse  lowrise  density  mimbai  takeshihayashi  cities  organic  organicism  home-basedeconomy  production  manufacturing  factories  openstudioproject  cafes  homeoffice  homefactory  homeworkshop  homes  infrastructure  redevelopment  development  dharavi  slums  mobility  economics  middleclass  collectivism  technology  neighborhoods  asia  informality  informal  cottageindustries  2013  urban  urbanism  growth  change  government  tokyo  japan  history 
july 2013 by robertogreco
How VCs Turned My Startup Into A Nightmare
"In the twenty-odd years of its existence, the Web has become the province of virtual monopolies (and the U.S. has become stuck at over 8 percent unemployment) for this exact reason: the inability of those in charge to realize the interconnectedness of the culture. Particularly, the false conviction among the rich that the middle class needs them more than they need the middle class, culminating, perhaps, in the ravings of Edward Conard and his cockamamie trickle-down-on-steroids theories.

So long as we continue to measure "success" — and allocate cultural and political influence — in dollars, we will remain at the mercy of those suffering the curse of Midas — the special gift of paralyzing all they touch through their thirst for gold."
middleclass  wealthdistribution  class  monopolies  finance  capitalism  money  success  edwardconard  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  vc  startups  technology  business  2012  mariabustillos 
december 2012 by robertogreco
The Forgotten: Example of an African Middle-Class |  African Digital Art
"A few months ago, while I was in Nairobi I had the pleasure of meeting photographers, Miguel Hang and Jan-Cristoph Hartung in the midst of their latest project. We had a conversation about this project and they were excited to capture the daily lives of a rarely seen subsection of the population in Africa, the middle class. Take a Look at their brilliant photo essay."
miguelhahn  jan-cristophhartung  photography  2012  middleclass  kenya  africa 
october 2012 by robertogreco
prosthetic knowledge: A Thousand Cuts
"A time-based sculpture / time-lapse video in a gallery garden - the words ‘MIDDLE CLASS’ made in ice, melting throughout the day. Uses an audio extract from Bernie Sanders’ filibuster speech on corporate greed"
berniesanders  middleclass  2011  greed  us  policy  capitalism  wealth  politics  money 
october 2011 by robertogreco
"To Hell with Good Intentions" by Ivan Illich
"Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders. Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or "seducing" the "underdeveloped" to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement. Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared."

"I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help."

[via: http://twitter.com/johnthackara/status/88500793115815936 ]

[Update 6 May 2013: An article came up today that brought me back to Illich's lecture: http://www.pioneerspost.com/news/20130410/letter-young-social-entrepreneur-the-poor-are-not-the-raw-material-your-salvation ]

[Update 27 July 2013: new URL for "Letter to a Young Social Entrepreneur: the poor are not the raw material for your salvation" http://www.pioneerspost.com/comment/20130410/letter-young-social-entrepreneur-the-poor-are-not-the-raw-material-your-salvation

and a pointer to Robert Reich's "What Are Foundations For? Philanthropic institutions are plutocratic by nature. Can they be justified in a democracy?" http://www.bostonreview.net/forum/foundations-philanthropy-democracy? ]

[Also available here: http://schoolingtheworld.org/resources/essays/to-hell-with-good-intentions/ ]

[Update 6 April 2016: referenced again http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/missionary-go-home
and an alternate link http://ciasp.ca/CIASPhistory/IllichCIASPspeech.htm ]
education  culture  politics  travel  activism  ivanillich  1968  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  mexico  do-gooders  goodintentions  middleclass  us  latinamerica  poverty  hypocrisy  blindness  self-importance  deschooling  charitableindustrialcomplex  liamblack  robertreich  gatesfoundation  plutocracy  democracy  robberbarons  power  control  warrenbuffet  billgates  georgesoros  foundations  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Losing Our Way - NYTimes.com
"So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers & police officers, & generally letting the bottom fall out of quality of life here at home.<br />
Welcome to America in the 2nd decade of 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, human fallout from the Great Recession & long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply…<br />
<br />
Overwhelming imbalances in wealth & income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So corporations & very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed.…wars never end…& nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.<br />
<br />
New ideas & new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed."<br />
<br />
"This is my last column for NYTimes…I’m off to write a book & expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor & others struggling in our society."
politics  economics  us  2011  bobherbert  ge  barackobama  disparity  wealth  power  greed  society  classwarfare  richeatpoor  poverty  middleclass  class 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Degrees and Dollars - NYTimes.com
"Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line…aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen."
education  economics  technology  work  paulkrugman  us  policy  2011  college  highered  schools  middleclass  inequality  offshoring  jobs  disparity  incomegap  society 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About
"It's not clear how this will get turned around. Unions, for better or worse, are history…

And yet: The heart & soul of liberalism is economic egalitarianism. Without it, Wall Street will continue to extract ever vaster sums from the American economy, the middle class will continue to stagnate, & the left will continue to lack the powerful political & cultural energy necessary for a sustained period of liberal reform.…

Over the past 40 years, the American left has built an enormous institutional infrastructure dedicated to mobilizing money, votes, & public opinion on social issues, & this has paid off with huge strides in civil rights, feminism, gay rights, environmental policy, and more. But the past two years have demonstrated that that isn't enough. If the left ever wants to regain the vigor that powered earlier eras of liberal reform, it needs to rebuild the infrastructure of economic populism that we've ignored for too long."
politics  left  us  policy  plutocracy  wealth  power  income  finance  wallstreet  unions  future  egalitarianism  history  reform  change  wisonsin  2011  disparity  stagnation  society  taxes  incomegap  labor  middleclass  wealthdistribution 
february 2011 by robertogreco
When Did Teachers Become Bums? | CommonDreams.org
"It’s pretty hard to teach a kid who has been raised by the television, when he hasn’t eaten breakfast, when the family has been kicked out of their home, when he has to work a job to help feed the siblings, when the parents have just gotten divorced or lost both of their jobs, when no-one at home speaks English, or when their most alluring role models are dope dealers, pimps, or gangsta rappers. Imagine, then, trying to teach a room full of such trauma cases…<br />
<br />
If you want better schools, work for more stable incomes, families and neighborhoods. Get involved in your schools. Fire the few bad teachers but support the overwhelming number of good ones. And don’t be suckered by those peddling venom in the guise of altruism. Your children are products to them, pieces of meat on an assembly line whose only purpose is to produce profits. We can be better than that."
education  policy  2010  learning  middleclass  disparity  wealth  incomegap  income  poverty  society  teaching  schools  us  rttt  forprofit  reform  wealthdistribution  charterschools 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Lawrence Lessig: Neo-Progressives
"every 100 years, body politic we call America swells with fever as it fights off a democracy-destroying disease [of] "Special Interest Government," government captured by economically powerful, as they find a way to convert economic into political power…now entered 3rd of these cycles…corruption of today is in plain sight…Some of us thought Obama was our Jackson…feels embarrassingly naive today…Arianna Huffington has become a leader…Along w/ scholar/activists such as Elizabeth Warren, Simon Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz & Robert Reich, & maybe even come-back-kid politicians like Eliot Spitzer…Progressivism in its best sense is not just a politics of Left…needs to be willing to put aside part of the agenda of each w/in movement, recognizing that no change, on Right or Left, will happen until the fever is broken…Mainstream parties have lost the credibility for reform. As in 1912, only a breakaway, trans-party movement, possibly with no single leader, could have an effect in 2012."
politics  progressive  2010  2012  history  classideas  us  neo-progressives  teaparty  elizabethwarren  eliotspitzer  simonjohnson  larrylessig  josephstiglitz  robertreich  ariannahuffington  barackobama  corruption  specialinterests  money  power  influence  middleclass  democracy  government  progressivism  via:cburell  republicans  democrats 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life: Thomas Geoghegan [via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/2010/08/one-of-many-great-lines.html who quotes "Pick up a skill other than learning how to submit."]
"Geohegan makes a passionate case for the high-tax, regulation-heavy model of life on the Continent. Using Germany as a model, he argues the middle class is the real beneficiary of European social democracy—its members reap free education, free child care, free nursing home care, guaranteed vacation time, & generous unemployment payments—while their white-collar US counterparts struggle to pay for the same. "Europe is set up for the bourgeois. America's a great place to buy kitty litter at Wal-Mart & relatively cheap gas. But it's not set up for me, a professional without a lot of money." While he's quick to acknowledge that critics seize on labor's costs & prominence as a potential path to the collapse of the system, he's convinced of the framework in place. The narrative unspools in a chatty, anecdotal style; it's jumpy, appealingly digressive, & winning, all the more so for being such an unabashed polemic that refuses to be resigned to rising rate of inequality in US."
books  us  europe  socialism  socialdemocracy  policy  middleclass  inequality  disparity  well-being  education  healthcare  bourgeois  society  submission  freedom  capitalism  busyness  money 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Our Coffee, Ourselves -- In These Times
"Like much of this literature, there is a confessional quality. We know we should not feel good about our participation in this system, but it is just so much fun. It is as if we who study the topic are involved in a process of self-criticism. This trend makes these books readable, perhaps, but it often dilutes their analytical force. Yet we still know too little about the middle class; with a defined working-class studies and history literature, we know far more about those lower on America’s economic ladder. Is the middle class too big and mystical to fully know? Or is it that most of the authors who write about the middle class are middle-class themselves, and thus uncomfortable with the self-reflection so necessary for thorough criticism?"
starbucks  coffee  food  books  culture  society  criticism  hypocrisy  middleclass 
january 2010 by robertogreco
the complications of examining other people's privilege (which maybe you're conferring upon them in the first place) - a grammar
"These two things — the accidental conferral of privilege upon the things that you just happen to privilege, and the endless eye-rolling of educated middle-class kids against other educated middle-class kids as too bourgeois and unresponsive to others — they strike me as going together, really. I wish I could say something more profitable about it than just pointing out a few gaps in the logic, but I suppose that’d run even longer than this post. For the time being, I’d like to be clear that I’m not sure how much I’m disagreeing with anything said here, or really “calling out” Sady or bmichael on anything — just noting, just observing."
class  society  perspective  privilege  taste  music  middleclass 
december 2009 by robertogreco
further to the previous posts, just a thought - a grammar
"musical taste is not just about music, & that this is a good thing. This has always struck me as one of the things that’s interesting about pop music, especially when you think about it in a sort of teenaged sense — the way our tastes & affiliations are informed by, or even trying to express, things about us. Where we fit in. Whose side we’re on. Where we stand on issues of style & culture & the politics of just being a person who likes things. When it comes to adults & music critics, though, this tendency can get out of hand; it can abstract itself & spin off to a level where we are only just barely using the mere pretense of music to air grievances about other things entirely....sometimes it can be way easier to start complaining about how everyone else around is boring & predictably middle-class and blinkered and insular than it is to admit that on some level you are choosing this environment, & that there are reasons you choose it instead of another one."
music  taste  class  politics  via:russelldavies  criticism  posturing  identity  society  teens  human  behavior  style  culture  middleclass  bourgeois 
december 2009 by robertogreco
YouTube - The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class
"Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class."
elizabethwarren  economics  middleclass  bankruptcy  collapse  statistics  health  money  finance  credit  debt  families  crisis  history  politics  culture  society  us  income  class 
may 2009 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read