Posts Tagged ‘Only in America’

Georgetown

In Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, Craig Steven Wilder laid bare the uncomfortable truths about race, slavery, and the American academy. What he showed is that the founding of many of America’s revered colleges and universities―from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Rutgers, Williams College, and the University of North Carolina―came soaked in the sweat, tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color.

Now, we now that the list also includes Georgetown University.

At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.

Some of that money helped to pay off the debts of the struggling college.

“The university itself owes its existence to this history,” said Adam Rothman, a historian at Georgetown and a member of a university working group that is studying ways for the institution to acknowledge and try to make amends for its tangled roots in slavery. . .

What has emerged from their research, and that of other scholars, is a glimpse of an insular world dominated by priests who required their slaves to attend Mass for the sake of their salvation, but also whipped and sold some of them. The records describe runaways, harsh plantation conditions and the anguish voiced by some Jesuits over their participation in a system of forced servitude.

“A microcosm of the whole history of American slavery,” Dr. Rothman said.

con_democracy

It’s an issue that often comes up with my students. They believe the key problem in the country is the growing polarization between the two major political parties. Nothing gets done because politicians from opposing parties don’t seem to agree on anything.

But, as Robert Weissman [ht: ja] explains, “That story is not true.”

In fact, Americans overwhelmingly agree on a wide range of issues. They want policies to make the economy more fair and hold corporate executives accountable. They want stronger environmental and consumer protections. And they want to fix our political system so that it serves the interest of all, not just Big Money donors. These aren’t close issues for Americans; actually, what’s surprising is the degree of national consensus.

The problem isn’t that Americans don’t agree. The problem is that the corporate class doesn’t agree with this agenda, and that class dominates our politics.

DemCorps

The question in the table from a recent Democracy Corps/Roosevelt National questionnaire (pdf) is a good example. Fully 73 percent of those polled were (very or somewhat) convinced by the following story:

The rules that govern our economy no longer work for Americans. For 40 years, economic policies have rewarded large corporations and the wealthiest with the promise that their gains would “trickle down” to everyone else. It hasn’t worked. Instead we have faced sluggish growth and economic insecurity for more and more Americans with all the gains going to the top. It is time to rewrite the rules of our economy so small businesses and average American families have a chance too, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That starts with preventing corporations and CEOs from flooding the political process with money so they can manipulate the rules to their advantage. Then we can focus on policies that will grow our economy and level the playing field—rebalancing the tax code so those at the top pay their fair share like the rest of us, changing corporate governance so CEOs prioritize long term investments in workers and their companies over short-term gains and speculation, and ensuring banks do what they’re supposed to do and serve America’s families and provide loans to productive businesses. We can also raise wages for working people by guaranteeing equal pay for women and create more family-supporting jobs by investing in infrastructure and making college more affordable. We have the power to rewrite the rules of our economy.

The same is true on a wide variety of issues, from increases in the minimum wage to expanding Social Security.

American opinion is not divided. What is true is that the views of the average voter are trumped by a corporate elite that finances and writes the rules for political debate in the United States.

That’s the real gridlock that needs to be broken up.

Although, I understand, it’s actually produced elsewhere: it’s assembled in China and the parts are manufactured in many other countries. . .

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Yes, the subject today is toilet paper [ht: ja]?

Why? Because it’s just about the perfect illustration of poverty in America.

For low-income families, the discounts shoppers get from buying in bulk are often out of reach — forcing them to pay more for everyday items like toilet paper.

That’s one of the findings of a recent study from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which analyzed toilet paper purchases among 100,000 U.S. households over the course of seven years.

Researchers found that low-income families were less able to afford the higher upfront cost of buying items in bulk than households with higher incomes. For example, 36 rolls of two-ply paper might cost about $15, but an individual roll of one-ply paper might cost only $1.

The inability to buy in bulk can hurt a low-income family’s budget in more ways than one, researchers found. Because low-income families can’t afford to stock up, they have to shop more often. This means they miss out on sales — when the toilet paper runs out, you can’t wait for it to go on sale to buy more.

The researchers found that low-income households — those making below $20,000 a year — made just 28.3% of their toilet paper purchases on sale, while families making more than $100,000 took advantage of sales nearly 40% of the time.

One way low-income families did try to save on toilet paper was to buy cheaper brands. . .

Low-income families might benefit more from such things as sales at the beginning of the month or financing options, like a line of credit or payment plans. Unlike with TVs or other big ticket items, most stores don’t usually offer financing options for staples such as toilet paper.

Alternatively, we might consider actually eliminating poverty in America.

newspic_2180

This election was supposed to herald the appearance of a new—kinder, gentler, sympathetic-to-the-plight-of-the-working-class—Republican Party.

Instead, we got the racist, nationalist, right-wing populism of Donald Trump. And, in response, a full-scale attack on the American working-class by other conservatives, like Kevin Williamson and David French [ht: ja].

Here’s French quoting Williamson, and then adding his own choice words:

This weekend, my colleague Kevin Williamson kicked up quite the hornet’s nest with his magazine piece (subscription required) that strikes directly at the idea that the white working-class (the heart of Trump’s support) is a victim class. Citizens of the world’s most prosperous nation, they face challenges — of course — but no true calamities. Here’s the passage that’s gaining the most attention:

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.

Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

These are strong words, but they are fundamentally true and important to say. My childhood was different from Kevin’s, but I grew up in Kentucky, live in a rural county in Tennessee, and have seen the challenges of the white working-class first-hand. Simply put, Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it. The economy isn’t putting a bottle in their hand. Immigrants aren’t making them cheat on their wives or snort OxyContin. Obama isn’t walking them into the lawyer’s office to force them to file a bogus disability claim.

For generations, conservatives have rightly railed against deterministic progressive notions that put human choices at the mercy of race, class, history, or economics. Those factors can create additional challenges, but they do not relieve any human being of the moral obligation to do their best.

Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days — or perhaps even as little as a few hours — they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement.

And that’s where disability or other government programs kicked in. They were there, beckoning, giving men and women alternatives to gainful employment. You don’t have to do any work (your disability lawyer does all the heavy lifting), you make money, and you get drugs. At our local regional hospital, it’s become a bitter joke the extent to which the community is hooked on “Xanatab” — the Xanax and Lortab prescriptions that lead to drug dependence. . .

Kevin is right. If getting a job means renting a U-Haul, rent the U-Haul. You have nothing to lose but your government check.

All I can say is, now tell us what you really think!

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Only in America

Posted: 24 February 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

cool-billionaire-ruining-neighborhood-article

source [ht: sm]

Speaking of the billionaire class. . .

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Some people continue working late in life because they find their jobs rewarding. That’s fine. Me, I have a hard time imagining my life without teaching and writing. (As for many other aspects of my job, well, they can shove them.)

But it’s different when people continue to be forced to have the freedom to work in old age for other reasons—because they have more debt, less savings, and no pensions compared to workers of previous generations.

As it turns out, that’s what’s happening to many older Americans, especially women:

In 1992, one in 12 women worked past age 65. That number is now around one in seven. By 2024, it will grow to almost one in five, or about 6.3 million workers, according to Labor Department projections. . .

From the end of World War II to the 1980s, the share of older Americans in the workforce fell every year. That reversed by the mid-1990s, as companies shifted from traditional pension plans—which paid fixed benefits at specific retirement ages—to 401(k) savings plans, which transferred the responsibility of funding retirement to employees.

The past recession made things worse, forcing many workers out of jobs before they could afford to retire. While older workers were less likely to lose their jobs in the recession than younger workers, the older workers who did, particularly women, were hit hardest, according to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. . .

Older men and women are leaving the workforce more slowly than in the past, suggesting a greater potential labor supply—and more slack—than an unemployment rate below 5% would typically imply. Such economic slack must be cinched—by finding jobs for discouraged younger workers, for example—before wages can rise more broadly.

humanities

I often tell students that, if they don’t change their major five times before they settle on one, they’re not really taking advantage of what college has to offer. They need to try out different ideas and areas and see where it takes them. It’s my attempt to push back against pressure from many sources for students to choose a major quickly and stick with it, and to focus only on how much they’ll earn after graduating based on what they study.

As it turns out, performance-based funding [ht: mfa] is going to ramp up that pressure and shut down alternatives for many college students, especially in the humanities.

When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.

Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.

Most of the push toward performance-based funding in public education is coming from Republican governors and state legislatures. But it’s also coming from inside the academy itself. One example is Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University professor who apparently runs the Center on Education and the Workforce. Here’s his gem of an idea:

“You can’t be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner.”

And, yes, that is an example of sarcasm.

ct-3rdparty-bernie-sanders-aj-2-jpg-20150826

Bernie Sanders, right, a member of the Congress of Racial Equality steering committee, stands next to University of Chicago President George Beadle, who is speaking at a CORE meeting on housing sit-ins in 1962.

source

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an icon who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, claimed never to have met Bernie Sanders. Maybe he didn’t but. . .

ct-bernie-sanders-arrested-20160219

Chicago police officers carry protester Bernie Sanders, 21, in August, 1963 to a police wagon from a civil-rights demonstration at West 73rd Street and South Lowe Avenue in Chicago. He was arrested, charged with resisting arrest, found guilty and fined $25. He was a University of Chicago student at the time.

For what it’s worth, the Chicago Tribune has unearthed and published a photo from its archives of Sanders participating in a civil-rights demonstration.

The black-and-white photo shows a 21-year-old Sanders, then a University of Chicago student, being taken by Chicago police toward a police wagon. An acetate negative of the photo was found in the Tribune’s archives, said Marianne Mather, a Chicago Tribune photo editor.

“Bernie identified it himself,” said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to the campaign, adding that Sanders looked at a digital image of the photo. “He looked at it — he actually has his student ID from the University of Chicago in his wallet — and he said, ‘Yes, that indeed is (me).'” Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, was traveling Friday near Reno, Nev., on the eve of the state’s Democratic presidential caucuses.