Showing posts with label Economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Economy. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Winners and Moochers, 2017 Edition

photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters                  "Monopoly Guy" on the Hill, CNBC story
























"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." John Steinbeck

(Today's CNBC story about "Monopoly Man" photobombing the senate Banking Committee hearing on the Equifax data breach reminded me of a post I made back in 2012. Here it is, updated for 2017.)

Do you remember playing the board game Monopoly back when kids did not have awesome hand-held devices to play with? Do you remember how the "banker" carefully doled out an equal sum of money to every player so they all had equal "chances" before the first roll of the dice? Equal opportunity ended at this point, because the capricious odds of rolling the right number to land on the best spaces was entirely down to chance. As soon as one player had bought the best group of properties, his fortunes would steadily rise.

Sure, the other players would remain hopeful for another 20-30 minutes - after all, they, too, had managed to land on and purchase a few properties and who knew? Their luck could change at any minute and they might land on Free Parking and claim the pot of cash in the middle of the board! Meanwhile, the luckiest player on the board - the one who had the luckiest rolls of the dice in the early minutes of the game - would steadily add houses and hotels, steadily increase his holdings, as other players sold out to him to stay alive in the game. Inexorably, the player with the earliest advantage wound up winning the game - not merely winning a game with other players still respectably turned out - but overwhelmingly and singularly winning: raking in total ownership of the properties, the utilities, and the contents of the bank while every other player sat bankrupted; wiped off the board.

Republicans: If you start out in poverty, with
the dice fixed in favor of the rich kids uptown 

- and you fail - 
you only have yourself to blame, 
you lazy, shiftless moocher!
It turns out that what your dad told you is true: in many ways life really is like a Monopoly game. (Except for that part about starting the game off with an equal share of the available resources). Wealth builds on wealth. As the wealth of an elite few increases, the wealth of everyone else tends to decrease because in a world of finite resources,  the continued growth of wealth for those at the top of the social ladder inevitably means that they control more and more resources and property, buying or forcing out those people with fewer resources and less capital - and "those people" are the vast majority of people.

Monopoly rules at least give every player a fighting chance to win against the fickle finger of fate by starting them off with equal wealth and a clear playing board. In real life, this is tragically never the case. Societies do not provide a level playing field for all children to start out with equal opportunities in life.  Poverty, social stratification, racial and gender discrimination and destruction of public education mean that most children in our country are born disadvantaged, sometimes grossly so. Economic and personal success in life is closely linked to the economic status of one's parents.  Children of the poor are likely to remain poor, while children of the rich are likely to remain rich regardless of the personal efforts of the children from either socio-economic group. The elites who intend to ensure that their own children can ascend to even loftier perches over everyone else's children have myriad strategies to keep the game of life in America rigged in that way, and they have the economic resources to buy the political power to make those strategies the law of the land.

So, when Paul Ryan or Jason Chaffetz or Ron Johnson or Mitt Romney claim that 47% of the people in the United States are mooching "takers", think of Monopoly. For most Americans, the dice are loaded against them and they don't even get to start the game with an equal share of the bank. Republican claims that the struggling middle class and the disenfranchised poor have had just as much opportunity as the children of the wealthiest Americans, but simply are too lazy to work for the American dream is an appeal to the worst part of human psychology; the part that tells us we deserve our blessings and other people deserve their hardships. It is a lie. And it is a very convenient lie for the Republicans hoping to pass tax cuts for the wealthy since so many people are willing to believe it.

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities, Isabel V. Sawhill, Scott Winship, and Kerry Searle Grannis, The Brookings Institute, September 20, 2012.

Americans have an unusually strong belief in meritocracy. In other nations, circumstances at birth, family connections, and luck are considered more important factors in economic success than they are in the U.S. This meritocratic philosophy is one reason why Americans have had relatively little objection to high levels of inequality—as long as those at the bottom have a fair chance to work their way up the ladder. Similarly, Americans are more comfortable with the idea of increasing opportunities for success than with reducing inequality. When the American public is asked questions about the importance of tackling each, a far higher proportion is in favor of doing something about ensuring that more people have a shot at climbing the economic ladder than is in favor of reducing poverty or inequality.

Being Poor Is Too Expensive, Eric Ravenscraft, LifeHacker, October 20, 2015.

When you’re poor, you can’t afford to think about the “long run.” I knew that it was smart to buy some stuff from big membership stores, but I couldn’t even get past the membership fees. I knew that eating gas station hot dogs and ramen was going to kill me some day, but as long as that day wasn’t before rent was due, I had to live with it. I probably could’ve done marginally better if I planned to cook more meals ahead of time but I, like 6.8 million Americans according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had to work multiple jobs to get by. I didn’t have enough time to be healthy, and I didn’t have enough money to save money.

Some Are More Unequal Than Others, Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York TImes, October 26, 2012.

Source: Congressional Budget Office
That American inequality is at historic highs is undisputed. It’s not just that the top 1 percent takes in about a fifth of the income, and controls more than a third of the wealth. America also has become the country (among the advanced industrial countries) with the least equality of opportunity. Meanwhile, those in the middle are faring badly, in every dimension, in security, in income, and in wealth — the wealth of the typical household is back to where it was in the 1990s. While the recession has made all of this worse, even before the recession they weren’t faring well: in 2007, the income of the typical family was lower than it was at the end of the last century...
America is fast becoming a country marked not by justice for all, but by justice for those who can afford it. (Just one of many examples is that no banker has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for banks’ systematic lying to the court regarding the fraudulent practices that played so large a role in the 2008 crisis.) And with the increasing influence of money, especially notable in this election, the outcomes of our political process are becoming more like one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. It’s even worse, because political inequality leads to economic inequality, which leads in turn to more political inequality, in a vicious spiral undermining our economy and our democracy.

Why We're In A New Gilded Age, Paul Krugman, The New York Review of Books, May 8, 2014.

The general presumption of most inequality researchers has been that earned income, usually salaries, is where all the action is, and that income from capital is neither important nor interesting. Piketty shows, however, that even today income from capital, not earnings, predominates at the top of the income distribution. He also shows that in the past—during Europe’s Belle Époque and, to a lesser extent, America’s Gilded Age—unequal ownership of assets, not unequal pay, was the prime driver of income disparities. And he argues that we’re on our way back to that kind of society.

Here is a photo of no Monopoly game ever.  Like the myth of the American Dream, it advertises a carefully staged image of equal distribution of wealth that is impossible to achieve when actually playing the game - or living in America - under the current rules.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Buffet Rule Redux - Wait, Isn't That The Reagan Rule?


















Warren Buffet rocks. I'm just going to come right out and say that. In the spring, the New York Times' Dealbook editor, Andrew Ross Sorkin, reported that when a shareholder complained to Buffet that his 84 year-old father refused to invest in Berkshire because of Buffet's publicly stated position on taxes:

"Mr. Buffett replied with a zinger: “Sounds like your father should buy stock in Fox.”"

This week, Mr. Buffet's Op Ed piece in the New York Times expands on the topic of rational tax policy. In a few short paragraphs, he recaps the history of how the much higher tax rates of the past paved the way for economic expansion and a prosperous, growing middle class. As those tax rates were gradually reduced, financial inequality in American society began to grow again. With ever more drastic cuts to the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans since the Reagan administration, the gulf between rich and poor has rapidly widened, while manufacturing and other middle class jobs have dried up resulting in a steadily shrinking middle class.

Someone's sitting in the shade today 
because someone planted a tree a long time ago.  
Warren Buffett
Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.

Under those burdensome rates, moreover, both employment and the gross domestic product (a measure of the nation’s economic output) increased at a rapid clip. The middle class and the rich alike gained ground.


So let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities. 

Warren E. Buffet, A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy, New York Times, November 25, 2012.

Warren Buffet has earned popular respect for more than just his quick wit and feisty defense of his principles. Although he is one of the richest and most successful businessmen in the world, Buffet broke ranks with most of the super rich when he said that he did not think that rich people like himself should be paying less in taxes than the middle class. That pronouncement probably cost him a few friends (though probably not business followers) in the rarefied world of the super wealthy.      

Debbie Bosanek
The reality is that the current micro-fraction of superrich Americans have accumulated a rapidly growing portion of the wealth pie due to their ability to influence legislation to favor their own interests. Warren Buffet seems to have reached a point in his life where personal ambition and business pragmatism no longer justify turning a blind eye to or remaning silent about immoral wealth inequity and increasing plutocratic control of government and the economy.

The Oracle of Omaha went on the record saying that he is uncomfortable about the fact that his secretary - earning considerably less than $100,000 per year - pays a higher tax rate than the Berkshire Hathaway legend himself pays. That was the anecdote cited by President Obama when he put forward his suggestion for a more fair and balanced tax structure - featuring a minimum 30% tax rate on high incomes - aptly named the Buffet Rule.

On April 16, the Buffet Rule was killed by the Senate, thanks to determined Republican obstructionism.  Later that same week, the Republicans planned to vote on a bill handing out yet another 20% deduction on business income. That bill was passed by the Republican-controlled House on April 19. It has not yet been passed by the Senate. While braying about class warfare - by which they mean envy of the productive rich by the shiftless, lazy not-rich -  the Republicans managed once again to champion tax advantages for the wealthiest Americans, while heaping more of the tax burden onto the middle class and the poor.

via Charles H. Smith
How ironic it is that while the incredibly wealthy Warren Buffet speaks out in defense of the 99.9%, Republicans in Congress appear to live in an alternate universe where the extremely wealthy never use roads or shipping infrastructure to move their goods across the country and around the world. They appear to have missed completely the fact that workers - many who have endured wage freezes or at best wage increases which have barely kept up with the cost of living: inflated health care costs, rents and mortgages, college tuitions and gas prices - enable the production of goods and services which provide the enormous profits that line the pockets of the wealthiest Americans. (Yes, Paul Ryan, there are makers and takers: the workers - too few of them unionized - make the goods and services while the plutocrat elites take the profits).

Republicans appear to have been asleep while banks, mortgage companies and brokerage houses played fast and loose with the economy, enriching the tiniest sliver of the population while the other 95% or more fell farther and farther behind in the income gap. When the housing and stock market bubbles burst, most of this same extremely wealthy and privileged few escaped prosecution - and escaped serious financial damage - and were soon recouping their losses from the crash by buying up stocks in more companies at extremely discounted post-crash prices. Meanwhile, the middle class and the poor ate the cost of the crash - losing jobs, losing homes, losing livelihoods - and still kept paying taxes, on income, on goods and on services.

Yes, Paul Ryan, there are makers and takers: the workers - too few of them unionized - make the goods and services while the plutocrat elites take the profits.

It's also interesting that Warren Buffet isn't the first person to depart from the received "wisdom" of his overwhelmingly conservative peer group. Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the progressive Republican movement, had to break away from the Republican party as his goals for social justice became increasingly at odds with the plutocratic ambitions of party hardliners. Similarly, though he courted the support and votes of conservative hardliners, Ronald Reagan - the demi-god of the right wing - expressed views which today would see him kicked unceremoniously to the curb by the party "base". 




Via Upworthy

Last fall, Think Progress published a great article comparing the class warrior presidents - Reagan and Obama - with supporting video. As the White House and Congress continue negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, it is interesting to consider that the current party of No has its roots in progressive social justice, ideals that were apparently shared by their idol, Ronald Reagan, even as his ambition led him to an unholy alliance with the right wing fringes of his party thus enshrining himself as the father of the current economic nightmare.

Once more, history offers compelling evidence of just how fanatical and extreme the conservative movement has become in this country. Jay Bookman, Atlantic Journal-Constitution, October 3, 2011.

Some days, the irony meter spins way up on bust.

via Mother Jones, It's the Inequality, Stupid
























Friday, October 26, 2012

Winners And Moochers

Here is a photo of no Monopoly game ever. Like the myth of the American Dream, it advertises a carefully staged image of equality that is impossible to achieve when actually playing the game by the current rules.




























"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." John Steinbeck

Do you remember playing the board game Monopoly back when we did not have awesome hand-held devices to play with? Do you remember how the "banker" carefully doled out an equal sum of money to every player so they all had equal "chances" before the first roll of the dice? Equal opportunity ended at this point, because the capricious odds of rolling the right number to land on the best spaces was entirely down to chance. As soon as one player had bought the best group of properties, his fortunes would steadily rise. Sure, the other players would remain hopeful for another 20-30 minutes - after all, they, too, had managed to land on and purchase a few properties and who knew? Their luck could change at any minute and they might land on Free Parking and claim the pot of cash in the middle of the board! Meanwhile, the luckiest player on the board - the one who had the luckiest rolls of the dice in the early minutes of the game - would steadily add houses and hotels, steadily increase his holdings, as other players sold out to him to stay alive in the game. Inexorably, the player with the earliest advantage wound up winning the game - not merely winning a game with other players still respectably turned out - but overwhelmingly and singularly winning: raking in total ownership of the properties, the utilities, and the contents of the bank while every other player sat bankrupted; wiped off the board.

Romney and Ryan: If you start out in poverty, with
the dice fixed in favor of the rich kids uptown 

- and you fail - 
you only have yourself to blame, 
you lazy, shiftless moocher!
It turns out that what your dad told you is true: in many ways life really is like a Monopoly game. (Except for that part about starting the game off with an equal share of the available resources). Wealth builds on wealth. As the wealth of an elite few increases, the wealth of everyone else tends to decrease because in a world of finite resources,  the continued growth of wealth for those at the top of the social ladder inevitably means that they control more and more resources and property, buying or forcing out those people with fewer resources and less capital - and "those people" are the vast majority of people.

Monopoly rules at least give every player a fighting chance to win against the fickle finger of fate by starting them off with equal wealth and a clear playing board. In real life, this is tragically never the case. Societies do not provide a level playing field for all children to start out with equal opportunities in life.  Poverty, social stratification, racial and gender discrimination and destruction of public education mean that most children in our country are born disadvantaged, sometimes grossly so. Economic and personal success in life is closely linked to the economic status of one's parents.  Children of the poor are likely to remain poor, while children of the rich are likely to remain rich regardless of the personal efforts of the children from either socio-economic group. The elites who intend to ensure that their own children can ascend to even loftier perches over everyone else's children have myriad strategies to keep the game of life in America rigged in that way, and they have the economic resources to buy the political power to make those strategies the law of the land.

So, when Bishop Romney or lyin' Paul Ryan claim that 47% of the people in the United States are mooching "takers", think of Monopoly. For most Americans, the dice are loaded against them and they don't even get to start the game with an equal share of the bank. Republican claims that the struggling middle class and the disenfranchised poor have had just as much opportunity as the children of the wealthiest Americans, but simply are too lazy to work for the American dream is an appeal to the worst part of human psychology; the part that tells us we deserve our blessings and other people deserve their hardships. It is a lie.

And it is a very convenient lie for the Romney and Ryan since so many people are willing to believe it.



Some Are More Unequal Than Others, Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York TImes, October 26, 2012.

That American inequality is at historic highs is undisputed. It’s not just that the top 1 percent takes in about a fifth of the income, and controls more than a third of the wealth. America also has become the country (among the advanced industrial countries) with the least equality of opportunity. Meanwhile, those in the middle are faring badly, in every dimension, in security, in income, and in wealth — the wealth of the typical household is back to where it was in the 1990s. While the recession has made all of this worse, even before the recession they weren’t faring well: in 2007, the income of the typical family was lower than it was at the end of the last century...
America is fast becoming a country marked not by justice for all, but by justice for those who can afford it. (Just one of many examples is that no banker has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for banks’ systematic lying to the court regarding the fraudulent practices that played so large a role in the 2008 crisis.) And with the increasing influence of money, especially notable in this election, the outcomes of our political process are becoming more like one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. It’s even worse, because political inequality leads to economic inequality, which leads in turn to more political inequality, in a vicious spiral undermining our economy and our democracy.

The one tax graph you really need to know, Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, September 19, 2012.

For most Americans, payroll and state and local taxes make up the majority of their tax bill. The federal income tax, by contrast, is our most progressive tax — it’s the tax we’ve designed to place the heaviest burden on the rich while bypassing the poor. And we’ve done that, again, because the working class is already paying a fairly high tax bill through payroll and state and local taxes.
But most people don’t know very much about the tax code. And the federal income tax is still our most famous tax. So when they hear that half of Americans aren’t paying federal income taxes, they’re outraged — even if they’re among the folks who have a net negative tax burden! After all, they know they’re paying taxes, and there’s no reason for normal human beings to assume that the taxes getting taken out of their paycheck every week and some of the taxes they pay at the end of the year aren’t classified as “federal income taxes.”

Romney in Fantasyland, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, September 20, 2012.

Describing his own path, Romney noted that he gave away the money his father left him. “I have inherited nothing,” he said. “Everything I earned I earned the old-fashioned way.”

There’s only one thing wrong with this cozy, self-satisfied worldview: It omits the enormous advantages accruing to those born on third base. It ignores the grim reality that those born to less-privileged families are far less likely than the Bushes or Romneys of the world to secure their place in the middle class or above.

It imagines an America where economic mobility is far more fluid than it is in reality. Being born in America is an advantage, to be sure, but some spoons are a lot more sterling than others.
(Ruth Marcus)

The Poor Do Have Jobs, Tami Luhby, CNNMoney, September 21, 2012.

Romney lashed out at people who believe they are victims and are entitled to health care, food and housing. However, many entitlement programs are not for the nation's poor, said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. Among the largest entitlements are Social Security and Medicare, and the beneficiaries of those programs are mainly retirees.

Many of the poor who receive income-based benefits do work, Tanner added.


Nearly half of households with children that received food stamps in 2010 also had a working family member, more than three times the number who relied solely on welfare, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To qualify for food stamps, families must generally have a total monthly income at or below 130% of the poverty line.
(Tami Luhby)

on Chairman Ryan's Budget Plan, Robert Greenstein, President - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 21, 2012.

The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids.  It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).  It also would stand a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s report on its head — that policymakers should reduce the deficit in a way that does not increase poverty or widen inequality. (Robert Greenstein)



Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Obama Now




From the creator of the Simpsons, Lucas Gray, Why Obama Now.

A quick and easy-to-understand distillation of "trickle down economics" through tax cuts for the rich, and why it isn't the answer for America's economic situation (now or ever).

I am Nifty, and I approve this message!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt Romney And His "Binders Full Of Women"

Within minutes of the infamous remarks being uttered, this Facebook page was launched. 

























“And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can't we—can't we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” Mitt Romney, October 16, 2012.

There are good reasons why the interweb was abuzz last night about Mitt Romney's "binders full of women", all of them pointing to a bad, though perfectly justified, debate outcome for the Republican candidate. While it was hardly the only misstep in Romney's testy, truth-challenged performance, it was the distillation of everything that he - and the Republican party - believes about the intrinsic inequality of women to men that makes him the worst possible candidate for women voters.

Before we take a closer look through the window into Mitt's attitude toward women, let's look at what he did not say in his remarks.

Katherine Fenton, a participant in the Town Hall audience, asked this question:

In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

In response, Governor Romney had this to say:

Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about (but not nearly enough, apparently), particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some — some women that are also qualified?".

"Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some
— some women that are also qualified?"
Gee, Governor, can we?
(Fact check: Governor Romney succeeded a woman governor, Jane Swift;  his lieutenant governor was a woman, Kerry Healey, and his opponent in that gubanatorial race was a woman, Democrat Shannon O'Brien - (fun fact!) whom Romney portrayed literally as a dog in his ads during that campaign. His claim of not being able to "find" qualified women rings particularly hollow in light of his equally false claim of bi-partisanship).

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.

(Fact check: 'What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected'. David S. Bernstein, The Phoenix, October 16, 2012.)

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

(Fact check: a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office. Bernstein)

Or, let's have pay equality and improved
access to decent child-care for families
so that parents (usually mothers)
are less burdened and can actually
focus on the careers they love without
being forced to "choose" work or family.
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce (like, if you really, really, must have women in the workforce and not, you know, at home with 5 or 6 children, right, Mitt?) that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

(For this nugget of horse hocky, Romney plumbed the depths of cultural gender discrimination by conflating two popular myths about the reasons for wage inequality: the myth that female employees are inherently less reliable and not "team players" like their male counterparts and the myth that unless an enlightened employer hands out special privileges and accommodations, women won't even try for demanding, highly-paid jobs, so they don't deserve them. This is a corollary to the ever-popular "women don't ask for equal pay" myth which studies have proven are false).

We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We're still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.

This is not a "women's issue". Bad Republican policies
hurt women, men and the families that both women and
men are trying to support. 
(Indeed. The Great Recession caused by the Bush administration and the financial policies - which both enriched Mitt Romney and continue to be the foundation of his financial vision for the country - have been hard on both men and women. Women, who typically have been relegated to the poorest-paying and least secure jobs (except, at least for now, those in the public sector) have always suffered greater job insecurity. In both single-parent families and in families where women and their partners are struggling together to make ends meet, this is a serious issue for both men and women, and for most American families. Legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act might have helped prevent thousands of women and their families from slipping further into poverty, but the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, does not support these efforts, and his party blocked them in Congress).

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.

(Got that, American women? The Guv promises that if you will just quit asking awkward questions about fair pay and reproductive security and let him get back to business, he will create such a great economy that all those employers out there will overlook your deficiencies and special needs and hire even you! Awesome.).


This is what I have done. It's what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy.

(Really? "I know what it takes to make an economy work" What is that, exactly? The question was "How are you going to address inequalities in the workplace?" and you have neither answered that question, nor explained how you expect to create your "new economy". Governor, you're a little too long on "just trust me, you don't need to know what I know",  and much too short on specifics).

Actually, Governor, women already know what they need
to succeed: affordable education, wage parity, reproductive
freedom and social support for American families.
Wait, we already have a president who understands that! 
I'm going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.

(You still haven't answered the question, Governor. How are you going to float this "stronger economy" within which, we presume, all boats (even those with flighty female skippers) will be lifted? And, again, what are your new ideas to address pay inequity?).

Mitt Romney may or may not actually "know" what needs to be done to fix the economy and to address the inequalities in the workplace, not just for women but also for millions of men who have also been denied a level playing field in the workplace. He may know, but he has no intention of doing what it will take.

Working toward economic equality for women - and for most men, too - is not Mitt Romney's goal. It never has been his goal, and it certainly is not the goal of his backers in the moneyed elites. This is a continuation of the 47 % narrative. Romney believes that like his 47% who will never "take personal responsibility and care for their lives", women are not getting good jobs because they don't try hard enough to get them. Romney thinks that like the 47% whom he says "believe they are victims...who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing", women want everything handed to them. He barely hid his opinion that women demand special treatment in the workplace - like the right to leave the office before 7 or 8 in the evening to care for small children; forcing employers to provide "flexibility" like fewer than 60 or 70 hours of time spent in the office each week. "See?" the Governor seemed to say, "I did everything for them, while they did nothing to help themselves."

Romney's blindness to the qualified women who surrounded him during the Gubanatorial race itself and then in the office when he was presented with the "binders" containing resumes of a long list of qualified women - gathered proactively by women's groups in Massachusetts and not by his own people at his request as he claimed - speaks to his apparent habit of neither seeing nor hearing women as peers in his professional life. His claim that his record of hiring female staff was due to his efforts to "recruit" women, not to the initiative and qualifications of the women themselves, and his whining that one of his female staffers asked for what he clearly considered to be special treatment (shockingly, she wanted a workday that ended before 7 or 8PM!) speaks to both Romney's disrespect for women's abilities and his dismissal of the workplace challenges of parents. Presumably no male staffer would have dared to talk about family obligations at all, of course. In the conservative Romney culture of rigid patriarchal roles for women and men, it is women who annoyingly demand special treatment to balance work and family, while men at work must behave as if they have no family obligations at all.

Mitt Romney did not misspeak at that private fund-raiser for his wealthy supporters. He really does believe that at least 47% of Americans are lazy takers who sit around waiting for their government to bail them out of their sloth. Last night, as he struggled to sugarcoat his disdain for women and his disinterest in the question Ms. Fenton asked, everything about Romney - his halting, careful remarks, his patronizing demeanor, his refusal to actually answer the question - pointed to a deeply contemptuous attitude not only toward women, but toward all Americans who are being crushed between the competing demands of scarcer job opportunities (thanks Mr. CEO of Bain, et al) and family responsibilities.

The final irony is that, in a bid to secure more women's votes, Romney threw out the bone of pointedly boasting that he "recruited" women for great jobs in his Massachusett's administration. Such affirmative action goes against not only the Governor's own professed views, but it flies in the face of the ideology and agenda of the conservative right wing that supports him. Mitt Romney has attempted to dodge the issue recently, in the latest of his notorious "flip-flops" - although to be fair, his silence on affirmative action (except when holding it out as a carrot to lure women voters) cannot really be called change.  In this case, it is more like concealment of his true intentions while hoping the issue will go away. Too bad that glib tongue ran away with you last night, Governor!

Why the Republican gender gap mirrors women's pay disparity, Moira Herbst, The Guardian, September 6, 2012.

Mind the Binder, David. Bernstein, The Phoenix, October 16, 2012.

Presidential debate transcript, questions, October 16, 2012. Politico staff, October 16, 2012.

Mitt Romney to Gubanatorial Staff: "Find some women that are qualified", Christina Wilkie, HuffPost Business, October 17, 2012.

Mitt Romney's "Binders Full of Women" Comment Sets Internet Ablaze, Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast, October 17, 2012.

ETA:

Mitt Romney's Binders Full of Women is a Trapper Keeper Full of Lies, Sarah Jones, PoliticusUsa, October 17, 2012.

In Debate, Romney Struggled on Substance, Ezra Klein, Washington Post, October 17, 2012.

Romney and the Women Who Still Don't Love Him, Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, October 17, 2012.

The frat boy bully Mitt Romney is coldly furious that he was schooled by that ... oops!  Is that a camera?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Economic Specifics - Reproductive Rights Are An Economic Issue

The Republican War on Women:  It's real.























This election could literally be pivotal for women.

9 Clues That Reproductive Policy is Economic Policy, Valerie Tarico, HuffPost Politics, October, 11, 2012.

Anybody who says that talking about reproductive rights is a distraction from talking about economics is not running the numbers. On October 4, a study of 9,000 women showed that access to free contraception radically dropped the rate of unintended pregnancies, two-thirds of which according to the Guttmacher Institute are paid for on the public dime. Unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated 11 billion a year in obstetric costs and neonatal care. But that's just the beginning...  Valerie Tarico.

For Women, Reproductive Rights Are Economic Issues, Christine Adams, The Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2012.

Even when times are good, a woman who faces multiple unwanted pregnancies during her child-bearing years has little time to appreciate the security that a burgeoning economy with good jobs promises. There is no factor that more strongly correlates with rising educational attainment and economic advancement among women than the new availability of birth control in the 1960s, along with access to safe and legal abortion since the 1960s and 1970s. For most women, contraception is our greatest health concern and expense during our childbearing years. Again, what is more "real" than that? Telling women that their health insurance will cover everything except birth control is like telling a diabetic that her health insurance will cover everything except insulin and the other necessities of diabetes care and then berating the patient when she becomes seriously ill from a lack of access to insulin. Christine Adams.

Contraception is an economic issue, Amanda Marcotte, Slate, September 27, 2012.

The reality is that, for women, reproductive rights and protection from discrimination cannot be separated from "jobs and the economy and raising their families." Women need their rights protected in order to hold down jobs and raise their families. Two recent news items show how it's more important than ever for women to have their rights protected, for economic reasons above all... Amanda Marcotte.

Hiding Pregnancies: Reproductive Freedom is an Economic Issue, Robin Marty, RH Reality Check, October 8, 2012.

Birth control is expensive. Day care is expensive. Children are expensive. Yet somehow people continue to argue that reproductive rights aren't an economic issue—like unemployment, household debt, or housing...Those who can least afford to get pregnant unintentionally are the ones who most need access to contraception. When being pregnant affects your ability to find work, how can you see reproductive health care as anything other than an economic issue? Robin Marty.

Romney/Ryan Too Extreme on Women's Health, ENews Park Forest, Fact Check, October 12, 2012.

As Congressman Ryan highlighted last night, he and Mitt Romney are too extreme on the critical issue of women’s health. In the House, Ryan worked with Todd Akin to narrow the definition of rape and outlaw abortion for rape and incest victims. And Romney-Ryan believe women’s health care decisions should be put into the hands of their employers, would defund Planned Parenthood, and endorsed the Republican Party platform that includes a constitutional amendment to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

Veep Debate Reveals Hints of the GOP War on Women, Amy Gehrt, Gatehouse News Service, October 16, 2012.

Whomever wins the White House will hold the fate of a host of other women’s issues in his hands, too. In the past two years alone, there have been nearly 2,000 anti-choice provisions introduced in legislation. Among other things, Republican lawmakers have attempted to redefine rape, supported a bill that would let hospitals watch a woman die rather than perform a needed abortion and tried to take away all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. South Dakota GOP members even attempted to make it legal to murder doctors who provide abortion care. Even the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been stalled in Congress — all because protection was expanded to include gays and American Indians. Amy Gehrt.

The Hits, They Keep on Coming, Stephanie Schriock, HuffPost Politics, October 16, 2012.

Forcible rape. I don't think many people would have guessed that it would be one of the defining phrases of the 2012 elections. But, there's not much about today's Republican Party that any one of us could have seen coming.
Todd Akin, House Republicans, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The hits, they keep on coming.
For the sake of American women I wish I could say these instances were outliers. But they're just not. This is a Republican Party that has more than 200 members who co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape so that some are worse than others, and continues to support a constitutional ban on abortion - with no exceptions - in its national platform. So it's getting harder for them to argue that the Todd Akin's of the world don't fall right into line with their political views. Stephanie Schriock.

The Faux Mommy Wars, Dahlia Lithwick and Jan Rodak, Slate, April 20, 2012.

A few precatory observations on this language of choice: For one thing, it has become so bound up with the fight over reproductive rights in this country that it never really means just “choice” anymore. You can almost hear the silent “unfortunate” that precedes it every time it’s mentioned in political discourse. For another, not all women have all the choices they are alleged to be pondering. Most of us simply don’t have the luxury of a “choice” to stay home, or a choice to work part-time. Most women, like most men, do what they have to do. “Choice” is usually a misnomer, especially during a recession, for women as much as it is for men.
But talking about women in the language of choice is also a political trap. Because it suggests that while men are free to optimize their lifestyle decisions, women are always forced to “choose.” Men may design their lives. Women’s lives are a sequence of impossible trade-offs, made even more complex when they must mesh with the custom designs of the men with whom they marry and co-parent. Dahlia Lithwick and Jan Rodak.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Admit It GOP: Obama's New Deal Worked

President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act while VP Joseph Biden looks on.
February 17, 2009,  Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, Colorado.




























Foreign Policy magazine has published this detailed and very interesting article by Michael Grunwald:

Think Again: Obamas's New Deal , Michael Grunwald, Foreign Policy Magazine, Sept/Oct 2012.

For starters, there is voluminous evidence that the stimulus did provide real stimulus, helping to stop a terrifying free-fall, avert a second Depression, and end a brutal recession. America's top economic forecasters -- Macroeconomic Advisers, Moody's Economy.com, IHS Global Insight, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and the Congressional Budget Office -- agree that it increased GDP at least 2 percentage points, the difference between contraction and growth, and saved or created about 2.5 million jobs. The concept of "saved or created" has inspired a lot of sarcasm -- Obama joked after his 2009 Thanksgiving pardon that he had just saved or created four turkeys -- but it simply means 2.5 million more people would have been jobless without the Recovery Act. The unemployment rate might still be in the double digits. (Michael Grunwald)

Another interesting bit of economic news last week was the report that a survey of economists shows that most economists think the stimulus approach to solving the economic problems caused by the Great Recession is the correct approach:

The National Association for Business Economics has put out its new policy survey, and there are some interesting tidbits in there: most economists, for example, are happy with current Federal Reserve policy. And they'd rather the government focus on stimulus for the time being, and save the real deficit cutting for a year or two down the road. Survey: Economists happy with Fed action, NPR Marketplace, September 24, 2012.

Also, here is an older but equally interesting analysis of non-partisan studies of the effect of the ARRA on the economy:

Did the stimulus work? A review of the nine best studies on the subject, Dylan Matthews, Washington Post wonkblog, August 24, 2011.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Public Education - Public Enemy #1? Business Says Yes, Too!












Note: This is the second post in a series on public education. The first post in the series can be found here.

(Noah) Webster echoes the belief that proper education is the first defense against tyranny. “In despotic governments, the people should have little or no education, except what tends to inspire them with a servile fear. Information is fatal to despotism . . . In our American republics, where [government] is in the hands of the people, knowledge should be universally diffused by means of public schools.” He believed that “the more generally knowledge is diffused among the substantial yeomanry, the more perfect will be the laws of a republican state.” Minneapolis News Blog, September, 2011.

Public education levels 
the social playing field.
The ultimate result of good public education is a population which will not willingly allow itself to be subjugated and oppressed. Educated people are empowered people. Those who can not only read and write but have access to history, math, science and technology, are better able to think independently, to face challenges without the fearfulness that ignorance brings, and to come up with innovative ideas built on their education which can potentially elevate any person to a position of leadership in a society. 

Education increases opportunities for the common people while it pushes aside the veil of ignorance which has always been used to hide the agenda of the elites who have historically controlled society. The American public school system, imperfect though it is, has managed to foster an astonishing and prolonged era of unprecedented national intellectual growth, creative and scientific innovation and technological progress.

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”  John Adams, 1785.

" ...the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not
 more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to 
kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us
if we leave the people in ignorance." Thomas Jefferson
The ultimate goal of good public education is a society where the self-interest of millions of well-educated citizens will provide an effective counter-balancing effect against the potential tyranny of powerful religious and wealthy elites. The great American experiment was the attempt to build a society where liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness by the common people would be made possible for the first time in human history because an informed and educated population would have at its disposal the tools for success which were formerly reserved for the privileged few.

In short: the ultimate goal of good public education is to create the conditions wherein the American Dream might actually become a reality.

At first blush, it would seem logical then, that business and industry would welcome and support a system of public education which has become the engine for innovative ideas and economic growth. But, they do not. They favor limited public access to education, preferably privatized for greater control by special interests, and never subsidized by public taxation.

There are at least three good reasons why the business sector, like the church, hates and fears public education: 1.Educated people can see through false, manipulative ideologies which have long been used to control and abuse them. 2. Educated people are more cognizant of their human worth and will insist on the personal respect to which they are entitled as citizens in a putatively egalitarian society. 3. Educated people know how to organize themselves to fight for a political voice, for better arrangements to encourage more social equality and for fair pay for their labor as the producers of the goods and services that provide the growth and wealth which drives the economy.

...and we can't have that!
The truth is that the American Dream - and especially the attempts to provide people with the means to fulfill it through public education - has always been more of a nightmare to wealthy and religious elites, even though they use this language today to convince their supporters that what is good for the elites will be good for everyone. Business and industry want a pool of uneducated or poorly educated workers whose cheap labor can produce the goods that create wealth for the elite. When public education reduced the number of Americans who were willing to work like serfs, Big Business simply took its production jobs offshore, where - wait for it - there are large pools of uneducated or poorly educated people whose cheap labor can produce the goods that create wealth for the elite.

“Learned Institutions . . . throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” James Madison, 1822.

The power, influence and wealth of elites depends upon a large population of ignorant, dependent and obedient poor workers and a small, well-controlled pool of talented staff who have been given a narrowly targeted indoctrination "education" in only the highly-focused areas cherry-picked for maximum utility to Big Business. People who are lifted out of the cycle of poverty and ignorance by freely accessible education will be none of these things. Graduates of a classical, broad, liberal college education are inclined to think too much and want to make the world a better place - lofty ideals which are in direct opposition to the ideal corporate environment. It is not for nothing that colleges all over the country are being "gifted" with attractive, brand spanking new business schools underwritten and overseen by wealthy donors.
What does a college degree
mean today?

A good, liberal, free public education system is inimical to the ambitions of wealthy elites, and therefore has always been the target of attacks from business and industry. Like religion, Big Business cannot realize its ambitions for power and wealth unless there is a large, permanent underclass of uneducated people to use as producers and consumers of their products and services. Like religion, Big Business favors a private (expensive) education model which will ensure that access to real education is limited to the privileged few, while the majority will receive just enough education to be of use to wealthy business and religious elites.

Thus was born an unlikely and unholy alliance between profit-driven, amoral Big Business and the elite upper echelons of the church of the most radical liberal of them all - the Christ who preached the moral virtues of poverty, humility and tolerance - the Christian right.

Recommended Reading (Did I merely say recommended?  Read these!)

Articles:

Founding Fathers: On the Importance of Public Education, Minneapolis Newsvine, September, 2011.

The Assault on Public Education, Noam Chomsky, readersupportednews.org

ALEC & Battle Over Public vs. Private Education, Bob Sloan, dailykos.com

Education and technology: Supply, demand and income inequality, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz.

Prolonged Attack on Public Education and Unions Leaves Teaching Profession Woeful,  commondreams.org

The Price of a Free Society, Paul Starr, The American Prospect, May 2005

Which MBA? Paying the Piper, The Economist, July 2012

Books:

Righteous, Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, Lauren Sandler, 2007.

What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Thomas Frank, 2005.

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Kevin Phillips, 2007.

God's Politics, Jim Wallis, 2005

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond, 1999 (Pulitzer Prize winner).


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rich People Are Job CREATORS?



via Upworthy

The language is not accidental.  The wealthy have been lionized as "job creators" quite deliberately by their political arm, the Republican Party. It is a lie. This video explains why it is a lie.

An excellent TED talk, by Nick Hanauer.  Please - watch (it is a brief 6 minutes) and share.