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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 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Zombie Neoliberalism | Dissent Magazine
"For someone who demands that Democrats return to the questions of class that once supposedly drove the party, Frank has a fraught relationship with the radical left. Perhaps it’s to be expected of someone who cut his political teeth in the decades when the idea of socialism was all but dead. His books are peppered with denigrations of communists past that feel particularly dated in a post–Cold War era where many of today’s Bernie Sanders supporters and new Democratic Socialists of America members scarcely remember the USSR. He often draws equivalencies between left and right, positioning himself, like any good New Dealer, as the compromise keeping the commies at bay—the only reasonable position between two wildly irrational poles. This leads, at times, to a curiously apolitical reading of politics, one that strikes an above-the-fray pose that ignores the realities of struggle.

Frank is sharper when he examines the Democratic establishment. Listen, Liberal is a biting diagnosis of the cult of smartness that has become liberalism’s fatal flaw. Given his own weakness for pretending to float above partisan conflict, the book is a self-critique as much as anything. In previous books he glanced at the failures of liberalism, only to return to pointing out how very bad the right is. When he notes today that “Nothing is more characteristic of the liberal class than its members’ sense of their own elevated goodness,” this is an unsubtle rebuke to his own earlier assumptions.

Criticizing the fetish for smartness within the liberal class (the term that he uses for what others have called the “professional-managerial class”) puts Frank in familiar territory. His skewering of tech-fetishists from the first dot-com era turns into a skillful reading of Obama’s turn toward Silicon Valley (and the fact that so many former Obama staffers have wound up there). The failure of the “knowledge economy” has been a subject of Frank’s since way back. There is, he notes, a difference of degree, not kind, between the Republican obsession with entrepreneurs and business and the “friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans.”

Since Trump’s win, Democratic strategists have doubled down on the idea that victory lies with Frank’s “well-graduated” professional class, the “Panera Breads” or the suburban voters of Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell’s famed predictions that Democrats would make up any losses with blue-collar voters who defected to Trump by gaining ground in affluent suburbs. The most obvious problem with this strategy is that it does not approach a majority: only a third of the country has a bachelor’s degree, and only 12 percent an advanced degree beyond that. The other, and more significant, problem is that this assumption encourages a belief in meritocracy that is fundamentally anti-egalitarian, fostering contempt for those who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and Republicans already give us far too much of that.

Liberalism’s romance with meritocracy has also fostered an obsession with complexity for its own sake—a love of “wonky” solutions to problems that are somehow the only realistic way to do anything, even though they require a graduate degree in public policy just to comprehend. Politics by experts gives us a politics that only experts can understand. Complexity allows people to make things slightly better while mostly preserving the status quo and appearing to have Done Something Smart.

In Frank’s description of Hillary Clinton we see where all this leads: a feeling of goodness that replaces politics. This isn’t entirely fair, of course—for the millions of Clinton voters (and there were, we should remember, some 3 million more of them than Trump voters), one can assume that at least as many of them were motivated by her actual stated policy goals as Trump voters were by promises of jobs and a wall. Yet Clinton came up short in the key states that lost her the Electoral College as much because poor and working people stayed home than because of any sizable flip of the mythical “White Working Class,” those bitter non-degree-havers of the coastal media’s imagination, to Trump.

Feeling good about voting for Clinton because she was less crass than Trump—the campaign message that the Clinton campaign seemed to settle on—was not enough to inspire a winning majority at the polls. Feelings, Frank would agree, are no substitute for politics.


What is left of liberalism these days, then? Surveying the wreckage of the Democratic Party, one is tempted to answer: not much. On the other hand, the 2016 election (and the 2017 elections in the United Kingdom and France) show us the rise of a current presumed dead for decades. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the United States has seen the awakening of socialist politics, breathing life into the kind of class talk that Frank has yearned for his entire career. It is important, then, that we take note of the limitations of longing for a vanished past, that we salvage the lessons from recent history that Frank offers in order to move forward.

Frank’s books presume that a return to the New Deal is the best we can hope for. His frequent invocations of FDR demonstrate the problems with Frank’s take on “culture.” Many New Deal programs, after all, excluded workers who were not white men, and while the best parts of the New Deal have resisted right-wing attempts to take them down, nostalgia for its peak is similar to that which motivates right-wing populism. It is the left’s version of “Make America Great Again.”

The echoes of Kansian arguments have returned to a left grappling with the best way to respond to Trump; some have forthrightly said that pandering to presumably cultural-reactionary Trump voters is necessary, that Democrats should discard “identity liberalism,” in Mark Lilla’s words. In Kansas, Frank wrote, “If basic economic issues are removed from the table . . . only the social issues remain to distinguish the parties.” But this is also true in reverse: when Trump ran to the left on trade, denouncing deals that Hillary Clinton had backed, few people were able to successfully explain why Trump’s racism and sexism made him, still, a bad deal for working people.

Frank demonstrates both liberalism’s promise and its limitations—which are also the limitations of Bernie Sanders and those who, in trying to defend the left against its more disingenuous critics, wind up casting the New Deal–state as the apotheosis of all possible politics rather than as one temporary phase in the class war.

For it is class war that we are in, whether we like it or not, and we will not win it with smartness or with better billionaires. It is a power struggle in which the right will aim to divide and conquer, to mobilize racism and sexism to maintain a hierarchy, and the center will attempt to smooth the roughest edges in order to hold onto its own power or, what’s worse, because it genuinely believes that there is still No Alternative.

“Liberalism,” Frank notes in The Wrecking Crew, “arose out of a long-ago compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests.” In most of his books there is a brief acknowledgment of this kind of struggle—nods to what Kansas refers to as “decades of movement building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, advocating, and thankless organizing.” We need that kind of fight once again, if we are to hope for things to get better.

John Feltner of Rexnord knew; he joined his union comrades on the picket line even as he was preparing to lose his own factory job. Feltner told me about his time at “union school,” held on the grounds of the great labor leader and five-time Socialist presidential candidate’s home, and how compared to Debs’s day, neither political party spoke to him.

We need to ensure that our politics are not just a welfare-state version of Make America Great Again, a kinder fetishizing of the industrial working class that leaves so-called “social issues” out of the picture. For that hope, we need to turn to the social movements of recent years, to the growth of the Movement for Black Lives and the promise of the Women’s March and particularly the Women’s Strike, to the activists sitting in and disrupting town halls to save healthcare and even improve it, as well as the burgeoning membership of socialist organizations and the rise of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi. The groundwork is being laid, but as Frank notes, no benevolent leader is going to bring us the change we need.

That is going to be up to all of us."
2017  neoliberalism  sarahjaffe  donaldtrump  thomasfrank  hillaryclinton  meritocracy  smartness  elitism  politics  us  elections  newdeal  economics  workingclass  class  classism  berniesanders  socialism  capitalism  chokweantarlumumba  liberlaism  unions  labor  activism  organizing  chokwelumumba 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Get Real | Tarence Ray
"What liberals like Paul Krugman still don’t understand about rural America"



"This question of why the rural working class often votes against its interests has been bugging liberals for a few decades now, and you can’t really blame them. Democrats still held a lot of sway in rural America for the first half of the twentieth century, but then things started to change. Neoliberal economics tore rural regions apart. Both jobs and people left in short order. Now these regions swing predominantly conservative, and liberals are left scratching their heads.

Today, rural America is largely viewed as politically and culturally “a world apart,” when in reality the picture is bleaker: conservatives simply maintain a stronger grasp on power in rural areas than liberals do. Liberals think that the majority of people in rural areas see this as a desirable state of affairs. Many of us don’t. It’s just that our voices have been erased by the overwhelming might of power and industry.

Krugman would do better to skip the psychoanalysis and examine the way power is actually constituted in rural America: to look at why and how ideology is formed, who does the forming, and what material interests are served by it. But he knows his audience, and he knows that they don’t really want to know the answers to those questions because that would mean they would have to actually believe in and fight for something. And they’re not going to do that. They’d rather be at brunch.

*****

As good Marxists, let’s state up front that the primary function of rural areas within the larger national economy is as a supply source of raw materials: food, oil, natural gas, coal, timber, and other resources. To keep these goods flowing out of rural areas —and profit flowing into capitalists’ pockets—freethinking dissent within the extractive regions must be squashed at all costs. Compare this with urban areas, where a greater productive capacity and larger middle classes can absorb and dilute a great deal of dissent. In rural areas, those impulses have to be stamped out before they can really take off; nothing less than the unchallenged flow of profit and resources is at stake. Conservatives understand this, and it’s why one of their foremost political strategies in rural areas is that of social control.

If you live in a rural community, extractive or not, you are likely confronted every day with an onslaught of images, dogmas, and various cultural reinforcements regarding your role within the national social structure. Perhaps the primary location for this “indoctrination” is the local school system. In many rural communities, it is well understood that while state power may be concentrated in the county courthouse, social power—the power to shape the ideological contours of the community, and therefore how it votes, prays, works, and obeys—is concentrated in the local school board."



"The only thing capable of breaking the conservative stranglehold on rural communities—and of breaking the power of their foot soldiers in the local school boards, chambers of commerce, and churches—is a nationwide political movement based in the actual interests of the working class: the service industry employees and care workers, the teachers and tenants. That’s because the right wing has their own institutions, programs, and forms of ideological preservation in rural areas. They have invested heavily in them for the last thirty years, and they will not stop until rural America is a useless ecological graveyard. Conservatives see their beliefs gradually losing support, and they have entered death cult mode. They want to squeeze as much profit and as many resources out of rural areas as possible, until we, too, have gone to the graveyard.

The result is a rapidly deteriorating economic landscape that stumps writers like Krugman. When he writes about the economic forces contributing to rural America’s decline “that nobody knows how to reverse,” the “nobody” he’s referring to is himself. Krugman’s liberalism, with its focus on slow incrementalism and social tinkering, has become incompatible with rural economies that are beholden to the whims of increasingly embattled industry. In the days when America’s economy was booming after World War II, when regulations meant to safeguard the financial interests of ordinary people didn’t necessarily threaten the immense wealth that was being produced throughout society, it was feasible that pro-business ideas could coexist with liberal doctrines like human rights and social welfare policies. But in the era of post-industrial capitalism, as wages decline, jobs are relocated, and the social safety net shrinks, it’s become impossible to square that contradiction.

So the best Krugman can offer is a kind of liberal realism: progressive values are simply incompatible with the minds of backwards yokels living out in the provinces, and we need to get real about that. This allows Krugman to erase all forms of rural radicalism: he doesn’t see us as powerless, silenced by the authoritarian regime of conservative social control, because he doesn’t see power at all.

But we know that rural radicalism exists, and we know that the rural working class can exert a great deal of leverage on entrenched power structures. The statewide teacher strikes in predominantly rural West Virginia serve as the best recent example. Our power is growing. It may take some time and experimentation, but conservatives will not reign unchallenged in rural America for eternity. We’ve never stopped fighting back."
rural  us  paulkrugman  politics  economics  2019  power  taranceray  liberals  neoliberalism  capitalism  democrats  republicans  ideology  incrementalism  elitism  society  socialwelfare  welfare  radicalism  humanrights  work  labor  workingclass  class  teachers  tenants  coal  westvirginia  newmexico  oil  gas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Finding the Future in Radical Rural America | Boston Review
"It's time to rewrite the narrative of “Trump Country.” Rural places weren't always red, and many are turning increasingly blue."



"Rural spaces are often thought of as places absent of things, from people of color to modern amenities to radical politics. The truth, as usual, is more complicated."



"In West Virginia, what is old is new again: the revival of a labor movement, the fight against extractive capitalism, and the continuation of women’s grassroots leadership."



"Appalachia should not be seen as a liability to the left, a place that time and progress forgot. The past itself is not a negative asset."



"To create solidarity in the present, to make change for the future, West Virginians needed to remember their radical past."



"West Virginia’s workers, whether coal miners or teachers, have never benefitted from the state’s natural wealth due to greedy corporations and the politicians they buy."



"It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever."



"The 2016 election still looms over us. But if all you know—or care to know—about Appalachia are election results, then you miss the potential for change. It might feel natural to assume, for example, that the region is doomed to elect conservative leadership. It might seem smart to point at the “D” beside Joe Manchin’s name and think, “It’s better than nothing.” There might be some fleeting concession to political diversity, but in a way that makes it the exception rather than the rule—a spot of blue in Trump Country.

If you believe this, then you might find these examples thin: worthy of individual commendation, but not indicative of the potential for radical change. But where you might look for change, I look for continuity, and it is there that I find the future of the left.

It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever. And for all of these actions, it matters that the reasoning is not simply, “this is what is right,” but also, “this is what we do.” That reclamation of identity is powerful. Here, the greatest possible rebuke to the forces that gave us Trump will not be people outside of the region writing sneering columns, and it likely will not start with electoral politics. It will come from ordinary people who turn to their neighbors, relatives, and friends and ask, through their actions, “Which side are you on?”

“Listen to today’s socialists,” political scientist Corey Robin writes,

and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the ‘working class’—not ‘working people’ or ‘working families,’ homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

This is a language the left knows well in Appalachia and many other rural communities. “The socialist argument against capitalism,” Robin says, “isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.” Indeed, the state motto of West Virginia is montani semper liberi: mountaineers are always free. It was adopted in 1863 to mark West Virginia’s secession from Virginia, a victory that meant these new citizens would not fight a rich man’s war.

There are moments when that freedom feels, to me, unearned. How can one look at our economic conditions and who we have helped elect and claim freedom? But then I imagine the power of people who face their suffering head on and still say, “I am free.” There is no need to visit the future to see the truth in that. There is freedom in fighting old battles because it means that the other side has not won."
rural  westvirginia  politics  policy  us  economics  future  history  democrats  republicans  progressive  race  class  racism  classism  elizabethcatte  aaronbady  nuance  radicalism  socialism  unions  organizing  environment  labor  work  capitalism  inequality  appalachia  coalmining  coal  mining  coreyrobin  grassroots  alexandriaocasio-cortez  workingclass  classwars  poverty  identity  power  change  changemaking  josemanchin  2019 
february 2019 by robertogreco
The Birth of the New American Aristocracy - The Atlantic
[via: https://twitter.com/irl/status/998252910214549504 ]

"New forms of life necessarily give rise to new and distinct forms of consciousness. If you doubt this, you clearly haven’t been reading the “personal and household services” ads on Monster.com. At the time of this writing, the section for my town of Brookline, Massachusetts, featured one placed by a “busy professional couple” seeking a “Part Time Nanny.” The nanny (or manny—the ad scrupulously avoids committing to gender) is to be “bright, loving, and energetic”; “friendly, intelligent, and professional”; and “a very good communicator, both written and verbal.” She (on balance of probability) will “assist with the care and development” of two children and will be “responsible for all aspects of the children’s needs,” including bathing, dressing, feeding, and taking the young things to and from school and activities. That’s why a “college degree in early childhood education” is “a plus.”

In short, Nanny is to have every attribute one would want in a terrific, professional, college-educated parent. Except, of course, the part about being an actual professional, college-educated parent. There is no chance that Nanny will trade places with our busy 5G couple. She “must know the proper etiquette in a professionally run household” and be prepared to “accommodate changing circumstances.” She is required to have “5+ years experience as a Nanny,” which makes it unlikely that she’ll have had time to get the law degree that would put her on the other side of the bargain. All of Nanny’s skills, education, experience, and professionalism will land her a job that is “Part Time.”

The ad is written in flawless, 21st-century business-speak, but what it is really seeking is a governess—that exquisitely contradictory figure in Victorian literature who is both indistinguishable in all outward respects from the upper class and yet emphatically not a member of it. Nanny’s best bet for moving up in the world is probably to follow the example of Jane Eyre and run off with the lord (or lady) of the manor."



"You see, when educated people with excellent credentials band together to advance their collective interest, it’s all part of serving the public good by ensuring a high quality of service, establishing fair working conditions, and giving merit its due. That’s why we do it through “associations,” and with the assistance of fellow professionals wearing white shoes. When working-class people do it—through unions—it’s a violation of the sacred principles of the free market. It’s thuggish and anti-modern. Imagine if workers hired consultants and “compensation committees,” consisting of their peers at other companies, to recommend how much they should be paid. The result would be—well, we know what it would be, because that’s what CEOs do.

It isn’t a coincidence that the education premium surged during the same years that membership in trade unions collapsed. In 1954, 28 percent of all workers were members of trade unions, but by 2017 that figure was down to 11 percent."



"10.
The Choice

I like to think that the ending of The Great Gatsby is too down-beat. Even if we are doomed to row our boats ceaselessly back into the past, how do we know which part of the past that will be?

History shows us a number of aristocracies that have made good choices. The 9.9 percenters of ancient Athens held off the dead tide of the Gatsby Curve for a time, even if democracy wasn’t quite the right word for their system of government. America’s first generation of revolutionaries was mostly 9.9 percenters, and yet they turned their backs on the man at the very top in order to create a government of, by, and for the people. The best revolutions do not start at the bottom; they are the work of the upper-middle class.

These exceptions are rare, to be sure, and yet they are the story of the modern world. In total population, average life expectancy, material wealth, artistic expression, rates of violence, and almost every other measure that matters for the quality of human life, the modern world is a dramatically different place than anything that came before. Historians offer many complicated explanations for this happy turn in human events—the steam engine, microbes, the weather—but a simple answer precedes them all: equality. The history of the modern world is the unfolding of the idea at the vital center of the American Revolution.

The defining challenge of our time is to renew the promise of American democracy by reversing the calcifying effects of accelerating inequality. As long as inequality rules, reason will be absent from our politics; without reason, none of our other issues can be solved. It’s a world-historical problem. But the solutions that have been put forward so far are, for the most part, shoebox in size.

Well-meaning meritocrats have proposed new and better tests for admitting people into their jewel-encrusted classrooms. Fine—but we aren’t going to beat back the Gatsby Curve by tweaking the formulas for excluding people from fancy universities. Policy wonks have taken aim at the more-egregious tax-code handouts, such as the mortgage-interest deduction and college-savings plans. Good—and then what? Conservatives continue to recycle the characterological solutions, like celebrating traditional marriage or bringing back that old-time religion. Sure—reforging familial and community bonds is a worthy goal. But talking up those virtues won’t save any families from the withering pressures of a rigged economy. Meanwhile, coffee-shop radicals say they want a revolution. They don’t seem to appreciate that the only simple solutions are the incredibly violent and destructive ones.

The American idea has always been a guide star, not a policy program, much less a reality. The rights of human beings never have been and never could be permanently established in a handful of phrases or old declarations. They are always rushing to catch up to the world that we inhabit. In our world, now, we need to understand that access to the means of sustaining good health, the opportunity to learn from the wisdom accumulated in our culture, and the expectation that one may do so in a decent home and neighborhood are not privileges to be reserved for the few who have learned to game the system. They are rights that follow from the same source as those that an earlier generation called life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yes, the kind of change that really matters is going to require action from the federal government. That which creates monopoly power can also destroy it; that which allows money into politics can also take it out; that which has transferred power from labor to capital can transfer it back. Change also needs to happen at the state and local levels. How else are we going to open up our neighborhoods and restore the public character of education?

It’s going to take something from each of us, too, and perhaps especially from those who happen to be the momentary winners of this cycle in the game. We need to peel our eyes away from the mirror of our own success and think about what we can do in our everyday lives for the people who aren’t our neighbors. We should be fighting for opportunities for other people’s children as if the future of our own children depended on it. It probably does."



[earlier on]

"Nowhere are the mechanics of the growing geographic divide more evident than in the system of primary and secondary education. Public schools were born amid hopes of opportunity for all; the best of them have now been effectively reprivatized to better serve the upper classes. According to a widely used school-ranking service, out of more than 5,000 public elementary schools in California, the top 11 are located in Palo Alto. They’re free and open to the public. All you have to do is move into a town where the median home value is $3,211,100. Scarsdale, New York, looks like a steal in comparison: The public high schools in that area funnel dozens of graduates to Ivy League colleges every year, and yet the median home value is a mere $1,403,600.

Racial segregation has declined with the rise of economic segregation. We in the 9.9 percent are proud of that. What better proof that we care only about merit? But we don’t really want too much proof. Beyond a certain threshold—5 percent minority or 20 percent, it varies according to the mood of the region—neighborhoods suddenly go completely black or brown. It is disturbing, but perhaps not surprising, to find that social mobility is lower in regions with high levels of racial segregation. The fascinating revelation in the data, however, is that the damage isn’t limited to the obvious victims. According to Raj Chetty’s research team, “There is evidence that higher racial segregation is associated with lower social mobility for white people.” The relationship doesn’t hold in every zone of the country, to be sure, and is undoubtedly the statistical reflection of a more complex set of social mechanisms. But it points to a truth that America’s 19th-century slaveholders understood very well: Dividing by color remains an effective way to keep all colors of the 90 percent in their place.

With localized wealth comes localized political power, and not just of the kind that shows up in voting booths. Which brings us back to the depopulation paradox. Given the social and cultural capital that flows through wealthy neighborhoods, is it any wonder that we can defend our turf in the zoning wars? We have lots of ways to make that sound public-spirited. It’s all about saving the local environment, preserving the historic character of the neighborhood, and avoiding overcrowding. In reality, it’s about hoarding power and opportunity inside the walls of our own castles. This is what aristocracies do… [more]
class  us  politics  economics  inequality  2018  disparity  matthewstewart  education  labor  work  unions  highered  highereducation  nannies  governesses  workingclass  elitism  aristocracy  wealth  opportunity  power  privilege 
may 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Buenaventura Durruti - Wikiquote
"what anarchists had to do was understand the natural process of rebellion and not separate themselves from the working class under the pretext of serving it better. That would only be a prelude to betrayal and bureaucratization, to a new form of domination."



"No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges."
buenaventuradurruti  anarchism  bureaucracy  betrayal  domination  oppression  rebellion  poer  privilege  fascism  statusquo  centrism  workingclass  hierarchy 
september 2017 by robertogreco
How U.S. News college rankings promote economic inequality on campus
"Once ladders of social mobility, universities increasingly reinforce existing wealth, fueling a backlash that helped elect Donald Trump."



"America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.

The two are related: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.

Those criteria often serve as unofficial guidelines for some colleges’ admission decisions and financial priorities, with a deeply ingrained assumption that the more a school spends — and the more elite its student body — the higher it climbs in the rankings. And that reinforces what many see as a dire situation in American higher education.

“We are creating a permanent underclass in America based on education — something we’ve never had before,” said Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.

For instance, Southern Methodist University in Dallas conducted a billion-dollar fundraising drive devoted to many of the areas ranked by U.S. News, including spending more on faculty and recruiting students with higher SAT scores — and jumped in the rankings. Meanwhile, Georgia State University, which has become a national model for graduating more low- and moderate-income students, dropped 30 spots.

Among the factors in the U.S. News formula are:

—Students’ performance on standardized admissions tests, which correlate strongly with family income, more than high school grades, which have less of a correlation.

— Having a lower acceptance rate, which many colleges have sought to achieve by leaning more on early decision admissions; this hurts lower-income students who apply to more schools in order to compare financial aid packages.

— Performing well on surveys of high school guidance counselors from highly ranked high schools, while many high schools in less affluent areas have few or no counselors.

— Alumni giving, which creates incentives to appease alumni by accepting their kids.

Meanwhile, there is no measurement for the economic diversity of the student body, despite political pressure dating back to the Obama administration and a 2016 election that revealed rampant frustration over economic inequality. There is, however, growing evidence that elite universities have reinforced that inequality.

Recent studies have produced the most powerful statistical evidence in decades that higher education — once considered the ladder of economic mobility — is a prime source of rewarding established wealth. One report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that kids from the top quartile of income earners account for 72 percent of students at the nation’s most competitive schools, while those from the bottom quartile are just 3 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of those in the lowest quartile of income ever get a bachelor’s degree, research has shown.

The lack of economic diversity extends far beyond the Ivy League, and now includes scores of private and public universities, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, which used tax data to study campus economic trends from 2000 to 2011, the most recent years available. For instance, the University of Michigan enrolls just 16 percent of its student body from the bottom 60 percent of earners. Nearly 10 percent of its students are from the top 1 percent."



"Alexander noted that a key to success in the rankings is paying higher faculty salaries and spending more per student overall, which drives up tuition in an era when sticker price has kept many low-income students from even applying to college.

Much of the score “is about spending the most amount of money on the fewest amount of students — and generally, students you already know are going to succeed,” Alexander said. “We’re spending more money on students who need it the least — and U.S. News gives you high marks for that. I call it ‘the greatest inefficiency ranking in America.’”

Carol Christ, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley — perennially near the top of the rankings — said the extent to which U.S. News motivates schools to pick wealthier students is “mind-boggling.”

“At a time when we should all be concerned about the financial efficiency of higher education, U.S. News rankings certainly don’t reward for that,” Christ said. “It’s so troubling to me.”

Kirwan cast the problem in simpler terms, saying that U.S. News creates the false impression that schools with the wealthiest students are, based on their criteria, the best.

“If some foreign power wanted to diminish higher education in America, they would have created the U.S. News and World Report rankings,” he said. “You need both more college graduates in the economy and you need many more low-income students getting the benefit of higher education — and U.S. News and World Report has metrics that work directly in opposition to accomplishing those two things that our nation so badly needs.”

An elitist equation

Higher education in America is a fiercely competitive enterprise. It’s a market-based system in which status is largely based on perception — a university’s prestige has an inordinate effect on who applies and how easily students are able to get jobs with lucrative employers. And the mark of prestige, in recent decades, has been a ratings system begun by the nation’s third-largest news magazine.

Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford University sociologist who has studied college admission practices, said the U.S. News rankings have evolved into nothing less than “the machinery that organizes and governs this competition.”

“They’re kind of a peculiar form of governance,” he said. “They’re not states, they’re not official regulators, they don’t have the backing of a government agency. But they effectively serve as the governance of higher education in this country because schools essentially use them to make sense of who they are relative to each other. And families use them basically as a guide to the higher education marketplace.”"
highered  highereducation  2017  usn&r  rankings  us  economics  inequality  elitism  colleges  universities  politics  donaldtrump  class  workingclass  benjaminwermund  testing  sat  act  admissions  grades  grading  socialmobility 
september 2017 by robertogreco
The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy - The Atlantic
"The main source of meaning in American life is a meritocratic competition that makes those who struggle feel inferior."



"What is happening to America’s white working class?

The group’s important, and perhaps decisive, role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism, and, on the other, its various economic woes. While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote, was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”

That cuts right to it. The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and fast-food restaurants that the better-off rarely set foot in. And when other sources of meaning are hard to come by, those who struggle in the modern economy can lose their sense of self-worth.

This system of categorizing Americans—the logical extension of life in what can be called an extreme meritocracy—can be pernicious: The culture holds up those who succeed as examples, however anecdotal, that everyone can make it in America. Meanwhile, those who fail attract disdain and indifference from the better-off, their low status all the more painful because it is regarded as deserved. As research has shown, well-educated white-collar workers also sink into despair if they cannot find a new job, but among the working class, the shame of low status afflicts not just the unemployed, but also the underemployed. Their days are no longer filled with the dignified, if exhausting, work of making real things. Rather, the economy requires—as a white former factory worker I talked to described it—“throwing on a goofy hat,” dealing with surly customers who are themselves just scraping by, and enduring a precarious working life of arbitrary rules and dead-end prospects.

And the work people do (or don’t do) affects their self-esteem. When I was talking to laid-off autoworkers in Michigan for my book about long-term unemployment, I met a black man in Detroit who told me his job at the plant had helped heal a wound—one going back to his parents’ choice, when he was a baby, to abandon him. (As is standard in sociological research, my interviewees were promised confidentiality.) “My job was like my mother and father to me,” he said. “It’s all I had, you know?” Then the plant shut down. Now in his 50s, he was back on the job market, scrambling for one of the few good jobs left for someone without a college degree. In his moments of weakness, he berated himself. He should have prepared more. He should have gotten an education. “It’s all my fault,” he said—the company was just doing what made business sense.

For less educated workers (of all races) who have struggled for months or years to get another job, failure is a source of deep shame and a reason for self-blame. Without the right markers of merit—a diploma, marketable skills, a good job—they are “scrubs” who don’t deserve romantic partners, “takers” living parasitically off the government, “losers” who won’t amount to anything. Even those who consider themselves lucky to have jobs can feel a sense of despair, seeing how poorly they stand relative to others, or how much their communities have unraveled, or how dim their children’s future seems to be: Research shows that people judge how well they’re doing through constant comparisons, and by these personal metrics they are hurting, whatever the national unemployment rate may be.

When faced with these circumstances, members of the working class often turn inward. I witnessed this coping mechanism among the workers I got to know in Michigan. One of them, a white former autoworker, lost her home and had to move to a crime-infested neighborhood, where she had a front-row view of the nightly drug deals and fistfights. “I just am not used to that anymore,” said the woman, who grew up in poverty. “I want out of here so bad.” Interestingly, she dismissed any sort of collective solution to the economic misery that she and others like her now confront. For instance, she had no kind words to say about the union at her old plant, which she blamed for protecting lousy workers. She was also outraged by what she called the “black favoritism” at her Detroit plant, whose union leadership included many African Americans.

This go-it-alone mentality works against the ways that, historically, workers have improved their lot. It encourages workers to see unions and government as flawed institutions that coddle the undeserving, rather than as useful, if imperfect, means of raising the relative prospects of all workers. It also makes it more likely that white workers will direct their frustration toward racial and ethnic minorities, economic scapegoats who are dismissed as freeloaders unworthy of help—in a recent survey, 64 percent of Trump voters (not all of whom, of course, are part of the white working class) agreed that “average Americans” had gotten less than they deserved, but this figure dropped to 12 percent when that phrase was replaced with “blacks.” (Among Clinton voters, the figure stayed steady at 57 percent for both phrases.) This is one reason that enacting good policies is, while important, not enough to address economic inequality. What’s needed as well is a broader revision of a culture that makes those who struggle feel like losers.

One explanation for why so many come to that conclusion in the first place has to do with the widening of the gulf between America’s coasts and the region in between them. Cities that can entice well-educated professionals are booming, even as “flyover” communities have largely seen good-paying factory work automated or shipped overseas, replaced to a large extent with insecure jobs: Walmart greeters, independent-contractor truck drivers, and the like. It is easy to see why white voters from hard-hit rural areas and hollowed-out industrial towns have turned away from a Democratic Party that has offered them little in the way of hope and inspiration and much in the way of disdain and blame.

It should here be emphasized that misogyny, racism, and xenophobia played a major role in the election, helping whip up more support for Trump—as well as suppress support for Clinton—among the white working class. To be sure, those traits are well represented among other groups, however savvier they are about not admitting it to journalists and pollsters (or to themselves). But the white working class that emerged in the 19th century—stitched together from long-combative European ethnic groups—strived to set themselves apart from African Americans, Chinese, and other vilified “indispensable enemies,” and build, by contrast (at least in their view), a sense of workingman pride. Even if it’s unfair to wholly dismiss the white working class’s cultural politics as reactionary and bigoted, this last election was a reminder that white male resentment of “nasty” women and “uppity” racial and other minorities remains strong.

That said, many Americans with more stable, better-paid jobs have blind spots of their own. For all of their professed open-mindedness in other areas, millions of the well-educated and well-off who live in or near big cities tend to endorse the notion, explicitly or implicitly, that education determines a person’s value. More so than in other rich nations, like Germany and Japan, which have prioritized vocational training to a greater degree, a college degree has become the true mark of individual success in America—the sort of white-picket-fence fantasy that drives people well into their elder years to head back to school. But such a fervent belief in the transformative power of education also implies that a lack of it amounts to personal failure—being a “stupid” person, as one of the white Michigan workers I talked to put it. In today’s labor market, it is no longer enough to work hard, another worker, who was black, told me: “It used to be you come up and say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a strong back,’ and all that,” but nowadays a “strong back don’t mean shit. You gotta have dedication and you’ve gotta have some kind of smartness, or something.”



"One possible answer to the question Harrington posed about how to ease his own generation’s populist rage is the notion of grace—a stance that puts forward values that go beyond the “negatives” of the narrow secular creed and connect with individuals of diverse political viewpoints, including those hungry for more in the way of meaning than the meritocratic race affords. It moves people past the hectoring that so alienates the white working class—and, to be sure, other groups as well—who would otherwise benefit from policies that favor greater equality and opportunity.

The concept of grace comes from the Christian teaching that everyone, not just the deserving, is saved by God’s grace. Grace in the broader sense that I (an agnostic) am using, however, can be both secular and religious. In the simplest terms, it is about refusing to divide the world into camps of deserving and undeserving, as those on both the right and left are wont to do. It rejects an … [more]
victortanchen  meritocracy  2016  election  donaldtrump  capitalism  self-esteem  labor  work  culture  society  economics  losers  class  elitism  workingclass  hierarchy  richardsennett  jonathancobb  inequality  education  politics  competition  unions  status  grace  wealth  populism 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About - The New Yorker
"America has always been aspirational to me. Even when I chafed at its hypocrisies, it somehow always seemed sure, a nation that knew what it was doing, refreshingly free of that anything-can-happen existential uncertainty so familiar to developing nations. But no longer. The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king. Things that were recently pushed to the corners of America’s political space—overt racism, glaring misogyny, anti-intellectualism—are once again creeping to the center.

Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.

America loves winners, but victory does not absolve. Victory, especially a slender one decided by a few thousand votes in a handful of states, does not guarantee respect. Nobody automatically deserves deference on ascending to the leadership of any country. American journalists know this only too well when reporting on foreign leaders—their default mode with Africans, for instance, is nearly always barely concealed disdain. President Obama endured disrespect from all quarters. By far the most egregious insult directed toward him, the racist movement tamely termed “birtherism,” was championed by Trump.

Yet, a day after the election, I heard a journalist on the radio speak of the vitriol between Obama and Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.

Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory. Each mention of “gridlock” under Obama must be wrought in truth: that “gridlock” was a deliberate and systematic refusal of the Republican Congress to work with him. Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words. “Alt-right” is benign. “White-supremacist right” is more accurate.

Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about. “Climate contrarian” obfuscates. “Climate-change denier” does not. And because climate change is scientific fact, not opinion, this matters.

Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction. The election is not a “simple racism story,” because no racism story is ever a “simple” racism story, in which grinning evil people wearing white burn crosses in yards. A racism story is complicated, but it is still a racism story, and it is worth parsing. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning.

Now is the time to recalibrate the default assumptions of American political discourse. Identity politics is not the sole preserve of minority voters. This election is a reminder that identity politics in America is a white invention: it was the basis of segregation. The denial of civil rights to black Americans had at its core the idea that a black American should not be allowed to vote because that black American was not white. The endless questioning, before the election of Obama, about America’s “readiness” for a black President was a reaction to white identity politics. Yet “identity politics” has come to be associated with minorities, and often with a patronizing undercurrent, as though to refer to nonwhite people motivated by an irrational herd instinct. White Americans have practiced identity politics since the inception of America, but it is now laid bare, impossible to evade.

Now is the time for the media, on the left and right, to educate and inform. To be nimble and alert, clear-eyed and skeptical, active rather than reactive. To make clear choices about what truly matters.

Now is the time to put the idea of the “liberal bubble” to rest. The reality of American tribalism is that different groups all live in bubbles. Now is the time to acknowledge the ways in which Democrats have condescended to the white working class—and to acknowledge that Trump condescends to it by selling it fantasies. Now is the time to remember that there are working-class Americans who are not white and who have suffered the same deprivations and are equally worthy of news profiles. Now is the time to remember that “women” does not equal white women. “Women” must mean all women.

Now is the time to elevate the art of questioning. Is the only valid resentment in America that of white males? If we are to be sympathetic to the idea that economic anxieties lead to questionable decisions, does this apply to all groups? Who exactly are the élite?

Now is the time to frame the questions differently. If everything remained the same, and Hillary Clinton were a man, would she still engender an overheated, outsized hostility? Would a woman who behaved exactly like Trump be elected? Now is the time to stop suggesting that sexism was absent in the election because white women did not overwhelmingly vote for Clinton. Misogyny is not the sole preserve of men.

The case for women is not that they are inherently better or more moral. It is that they are half of humanity and should have the same opportunities—and be judged according to the same standards—as the other half. Clinton was expected to be perfect, according to contradictory standards, in an election that became a referendum on her likability.

Now is the time to ask why America is far behind many other countries (see: Rwanda) in its representation of women in politics. Now is the time to explore mainstream attitudes toward women’s ambition, to ponder to what extent the ordinary political calculations that all politicians make translate as moral failures when we see them in women. Clinton’s careful calibration was read as deviousness. But would a male politician who is carefully calibrated—Mitt Romney, for example—merely read as carefully calibrated?

Now is the time to be precise about the meanings of words. Trump saying “They let you do it” about assaulting women does not imply consent, because consent is what happens before an act.

Now is the time to remember that, in a wave of dark populism sweeping the West, there are alternative forms. Bernie Sanders’s message did not scapegoat the vulnerable. Obama rode a populist wave before his first election, one marked by a remarkable inclusiveness. Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this."
chimamandangoziadichie  culture  politics  us  race  racism  donaldtrump  class  classism  responsibility  resistance  freedom  populism  climatechange  identitypolitics  berniesanders  media  workingclass  economics  listening  sexism  gender  misogyny  rwanda  mittromney  words  howwespeak  communication  consent  2016  elections  hillaryclinton 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster | Hazem Salem | Opinion | The Guardian
"I am as frightened as everyone else about Donald Trump’s victory. But we must also recognize: this is a revolutionary moment"



"Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party – the party of FDR – away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers.

For three decades they have kept us in line with threats of a Republican monster-president should we stay home on election day. Election day has come and passed, and many did stay home. And instead of bowing out gracefully and accepting responsibility for their defeat, they have already started blaming it largely on racist hordes of rural Americans. That explanation conveniently shifts blame away from themselves, and avoids any tough questions about where the party has failed.

In a capitalist democracy, the party of the left has one essential reason for existing: to speak for the working class. Capitalist democracies have tended towards two major parties. One, which acts in the interest of the capitalist class – the business owners, the entrepreneurs, the professionals – ensuring their efforts and the risks they took were fairly rewarded. The other party represented workers, unions and later on other groups that made up the working class, including women and oppressed minorities.

This delicate balance ended in the 1990s. Many blame Reagan and Thatcher for destroying unions and unfettering corporations. I don’t. In the 1990s, a New Left arose in the English-speaking world: Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and Tony Blair’s New Labour. Instead of a balancing act, Clinton and Blair presided over an equally aggressive “new centrist” dismantling of the laws that protected workers and the poor.

Enough examples should by now be common knowledge. Bill Clinton signed the final death warrant of the Glass-Steagall Act (itself originally signed into law by FDR), removing the final blocks preventing the banking industry from gambling away our prosperity (leading to the 2008 recession). Bill Clinton also sold us on the promise of free trade. Our well-made American products were supposed to have flooded the world markets. Instead, it was our well-paid jobs that left in a flood of outsourcing. After the investment bankers gambled away our economy the New Democrats bailed them out against the overwhelming objection of the American people.

This heralded the Obama years, as the New Democrats continued to justify their existence through a focus on social causes that do not threaten corporate power. Or as Krystal Ball put it so powerfully: “We lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege.” Add to this that we did it while their life expectancy dropped through self-destructive behaviors brought on by economic distress.

This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump’s campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump’s success.

So let us be as clear about this electoral defeat as possible, because the New Democratic elite will try to pin their failure, and keep their jobs, by blaming this largely on racism, sexism – and FBI director Comey. This is an extremely dangerous conclusion to draw from this election.

So here is our silver lining. This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making. And their failure is our chance to regroup. To clean house in the Democratic party, to retire the old elite and to empower a new generation of FDR Democrats, who look out for the working class – the whole working class."
hazemsalem  2016  elections  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  billclinton  democrats  liberalism  neoliberalism  economics  policy  politics  government  revolution  elitism  dynasties  workingclass  poverty  us  inequality  race  racism  labor  populism  capitalism  ronaldreagan  barackobama  banking  finance  newdemocrats  xenophobia 
november 2016 by robertogreco
J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America | New Republic
"The bestselling author of "Hillbilly Elegy" has emerged as the liberal media's favorite white trash–splainer. But he is offering all the wrong lessons."



"We don’t need to normalize Trumpism or empathize with white supremacy to reach these voters. They weren’t destined to vote for Trump; many were Democratic voters. They aren’t destined to stay loyal to him in the future. To win them back, we must address their material concerns, and we can do that without coddling their prejudices. After all, America’s most famous progressive populist—Bernie Sanders—won many of the counties Clinton lost to Trump.

There’s danger ahead if Democrats don’t act quickly. The Traditionalist Worker’s Party has already announced plans for an outreach push in greater Appalachia. The American Nazi Party promoted “free health care for the white working class” in literature it distributed in Missoula, Montana, last Friday. If Democrats have any hope of establishing themselves as the populist alternative to Trump, they can’t allow American Nazis to fall to their left on health care for any population.

By electing Trump, my community has condemned itself to further suffering. The lines for RAM will get longer. Our schools will get poorer and our children hungrier. It will be one catastrophic tragedy out of the many a Trump presidency will generate. So yes, be angry with the white working class’s political choices. I certainly am; home will never feel like home again.

But don’t emulate Vance in your rage. Give the white working class the progressive populism it needs to survive, and invest in the areas the Democratic Party has neglected. Remember that bootstraps are for people with boots. And elegies are no use to the living."
sarahjones  jdvance  hillbillyelegy  race  racism  us  economics  politics  policy  elections  2016  donaldtrump  poverty  hillaryclinton  workingclass 
november 2016 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
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
Paper Pushers - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"For example, one might think that the proliferation of office jobs signals the achievement of a middle-class society, the white collar having long been a sign of respectability—and yet this is a time when the ground of middle-class stability is widely seen to be eroding, and when the average white-collar job earns you not much more, and often less, than a place on an automobile assembly line. Workplaces supposedly filled with "knowledge workers," with more potential control over their work, have not become more democratic or equal ones: Bosses fire workers, and more of them at once, with more impunity than ever before; the ones who don’t get fired are temps or contractors, who enjoy even less in the way of security. If the paradigmatic midcentury white-collar novel was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, in which one of the central struggles was whether the protagonist could successfully rezone his enormous inherited property, meant for four houses, into a suburban development for 80 houses (spoiler: he succeeds), the defining work of our era has been Mike Judge’s Office Space, a movie in which arbitrary layoffs, mindless work in gray cubicles, and desires for revenge and sabotage curdle the "middle class" atmosphere.

In the face of this onslaught, it has been hard to see the response of white-collar workers as anything but passive. No organizations fight against the culture of layoffs, at the same time that the social safety net has been allowed to erode. In academe, temporary work by adjunct professors is simply accepted as the new normal in a violently unstable "job market" (truly one of the more mealy-mouthed and ideological phrases of our time). The Occupy movement represented an exhilarating moment of political visibility for declassed white-collar workers, allied as they were with unions and other institutions of the even more embattled working class. One can only hope that the repression that the police visited on the movement has only stifled, and not killed, its calls for real autonomy in the workplace and for an end to the harried, fearful aspects of the life of the white-collar worker that Mills diagnosed in 1951, and whose political consequences he feared. The success of such movements may yet lay to rest Mills’s pessimism about the force and power of white-collar politics. So far, however, in this respect, as in so many others, C. Wright Mills has been sadly prophetic."
economics  jobs  worl  labor  1946  2014  nikilsaval  cwrightmills  workplace  knowledgeworkers  unions  ows  occupywallstreet  workingclass  whitecolarpolitics  politics  adjuncts  solidarity  via:ayjay 
april 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
Chris Hedges: As a Socialist, I Have No Voice in the Mainstream - Pt 6 of 7
"I think we’re in this kind of strange period when the language we use to describe our economic and political system no longer matches the reality. I mean, laissez-faire capitalism—we don’t live in a system of laissez-faire capitalism when the federal government bails out these institutions to the tunes of trillions of dollars and then keeps pumping out free money from the Fed and handing it to—that’s not laissez-faire capitalism. And yet I’m sure that if you went to Wharton or Harvard Business School, they would still be teaching this fictional system. And we haven’t yet moved into a period where the vocabulary we use to describe our reality matches that reality. And that’s always a revolutionary period, because there’s a disconnect between the way we speak about ourselves and the way we actually function. And that’s where we are. And so we in many ways are searching for the words to describe what’s happening to us and then to articulate another vision of where we want to go. And we haven’t gotten there yet."

[via: http://scudmissile.tumblr.com/post/56796659481/i-think-were-in-this-kind-of-strange-period-when ]

[The rest in the series at The Real News website with transcripts:
part 1 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10441
part 2 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10449
part 3 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10456
part 4 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10461
part 5 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10468
part 7 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10486

And on Youtube:
part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1JF94vovww
part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR0oGJ2yrmc
part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vWcyetC3CI
part 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCjMdOo7KkY
part 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff-G0DPkBv8
part 6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX6n861Gu6Q
part 7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNm_GAIXOWw ]
change  revolution  chrishedges  socialism  economics  language  capitalism  corporatism  environment  sustainability  2013  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  bailouts  corporatesocialism  businessschools  corruption  society  reality  transition  disconnect  nationalization  coldwar  neoliberalism  activism  socialunrest  socialactivism  movements  barackobama  trends  pauljay  elites  elitism  liberalelite  justice  gender  multiculturalism  identitypolitics  workingclass  nafta  outsourcing  stagnation  labor  wallstreet  finance  power  us  history  poverty  journalism  radicalism  radicalization  class  nytimes  socialjustice  goldmansachs  moralimperative  ralphnader  alternative  christiananarchism  anarchism  anarchy  richardnixon 
july 2013 by robertogreco

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