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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

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