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Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism

Decline of middle class in the USA under neoliberal regime
and rise of Economic Royalists ("Let them eat cake ")

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"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1? ... That’s almost certainly false... Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality greased the wheels of progress. Wealth Inequality in America Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels. ... Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources”

Samuel Bowles,
cited from Economist's View: Inequality and Guard Labor

From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT, November 6, 2010

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods

Guard Labor Why is Inequality Bad

If labor is a commodity like any other, who is the idiot in charge of inventory management?.

Economist's View '


Introduction

As aptly noted Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems ( The Guardian,  April 15, 2016)

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, rejection of the current neoliberal elite by majority of American people and the rise of candidates like Donald Trump . But we respond to these developments as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalyzed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly? 

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes. This fate is reserved for bottom 99% of population.

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations, In other words neoliberal economic model uses "unable to compete in the labor market" label for poor people in the same way Nazi used concept of Untermensch for Slavic people.

That also mean that for those outside top 20% of population the destiny is brutal exploitation not that different then in slave societies. It victimizes and artfully creates complex of inferiority among poor people trying to brainwash that they themselves are guilty in their status and that their children do not deserve better. This is why subsidies for colleges are cut. Unfortunately now even lower middle class is coming under tremendous pressure and essentially is moved into poverty. Disappearance of well-paid middle class "white collar" jobs such as IT jobs and recently oil sector jobs  and conversion of many jobs to temp or to outsourcing/off-shoring model is a fact that can't be denied. Rise in inequality in the USA for that last twenty years of neoliberalism domination is simply dramatic and medial income per family actually dropped.

Everything is moving in the direction of a pretty brutal joke: poor Americans just got a new slave-owners. And now slaves are not distinguished by  the color of their skin.

The economic status of Wal Mart employees (as well as employees of many other retailers, who are predominantly women) are not that different from slaves. In "rich" states like NY and NJ Wal-Mart cashiers are paid around $9 an hour. That's around $18K a year if you can get 40hours a week (big if),  You can't survive on those money living alone and renting an apartment. Two people might be able to survive if they share the apartment costs.  And forget about that if you have a child (aka "single mothers"  as a new face of the US poverty). You can survive only with additional social programs like food stamps. In other words the federal state subsidizes Wal-Mart, increasing their revenue at taxpayers expense.

Piketty thinks a rentier society (which is another definition of neoliberal society) contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies and is toxic for democracy as it enforces "one dollar one vote" election process (corporation buy politicians; ordinary people just legitimize with their votes pre-selected by elite candidates, see Two Party System as Polyarchy):

 “…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by which I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death.” p. 422

A neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism is that if a fortune has been made through no injustice, then it is OK. So we should not condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be. That that's not true, as such cases always involve some level of injustice, if only by exploiting some loophole in the current laws. Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it. The astronomical pay of "super-managers" cannot be justified in meritocratic terms. CEO's can capture boards and force their incentive to grow faster then  company profits. Manipulations with shares buyback are used to meet "targets". So neoliberal extreme is definitely bad.

At the same time we now know the equality if not achievable and communism was a pipe dream that actually inflicted cruelty on a lot of people in the name of unachievable utopia. But does this means that inequality, any level of inequality, is OK. It does not look this way and we can actually argue that extremes meet.

But collapse of the USSR lead to triumph of neoliberalism which is all about rising inequality. Under neoliberalism the wealthy and their academic servants, see inequality as a noble outcome. They want to further enrich top 1%, shrink middle class making it less secure, and impoverish poor. In other words they promote under the disguise of "free market" Newspeak a type of economy which can be called a plantation economy. In this type of the economy all the resources and power are in the hands of a wealthy planter class who then gives preference for easy jobs and the easy life to their loyal toadies. The wealthy elites like cheap labor. And it's much easier to dictate their conditions of employment when unemployment is high. Keynesian economics values the middle class and does not value unemployment or cheap labor. Neoliberals like a system that rewards them for their loyalty to the top 1% with an easier life than they otherwise merit. In a meritocracy where individuals receive public goods and services that allow them to compete on a level playing field, many neoliberal toadies would be losers who cannot compete.

In a 2005 report to investors three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest … In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer", or indeed the “Russian consumer”.

In other words there are analysts that believe that we are moving to a replay of Middle Ages on a new, global level, were there are only rich who do the lion share of the total consumption and poor, who does not matter.

We can also state, that under neoliberal regime the sources of American economic inequality are largely political. In other words they are the result of deliberate political decision of the US elite to shape markets in neoliberal ways, and dismantle New Deal.

Part of this "shaping the markets in neoliberal ways" was corruption of academic economists. Under neoliberalism most economists are engaged in what John Kenneth Galbraith called "the economics of innocent fraud." With the important correction that there is nothing innocent in their activities. Most of them, especially "neoclassical" economists are prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So their prescription and analysis as for the reasons of high unemployment should be taken with due skepticism.

We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That means that existence of aristocracy might not be optimal for society "at large". But without moderating influence of the existence of the USSR on appetites of the US elite, they engage is audacious struggle for accumulation as much power and wealth as possible. In a way that situation matches the situation in 1920th, which was known to be toxic.

But society slowly but steadily moves in this direction since mid 80th. According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov , 40% of the US work force earned less than $20,000, 53% earned less than $30,000, and 73% earned less than $50,000. The median US wage or salary was $27,519 per year. The amounts are in current dollars and they are "total" compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.

In other word the USA is now entered an inequality bubble, the bubble with the financial oligarchy as new aristocracy, which strives for absolute control of all layers of the government. The corruption has a systemic character. It take not only traditional form of the intermarriage between Wall street and DC power brokers (aka revolving doors). It also create a caste of guard labor to protect oligarchy.

Redistribution of wealth up as the goal of neoliberalism makes it unsustainable social system

As George H.W. Bush once  said (can't find exact quote):   Neoliberalism is about redistribution of wealth into fewer, higher and tighter hands. Until approximately 2008  the increasing disparity between rich and poor has, largely been non-disruptive in the USA because the lower 90% have been placated enough, by way of the proverbial bread and circuses, not to cause any waves. Sure, there have been little movements here and there, such as Occupy Wall Street, but they were quickly crashed by enormous national security state intelligence agencies.

But just imagine another financial crisis and its consequences

The public mindset might quickly turn against the neoliberal "The New Class" -- neoliberal nomenklatura. Even under Trump with his fake promises social tension had risen significantly because:

Can you imagine the backlash against the Neoliberalism in such circumstances? I suspect it might be larger then in 2008 despite the power of national security state and the fact that the Americans are too dumbed down and drugged to revolt.

As one ZeroHedge commenter put it: "It's not rich against poor. It's FIRE sector parasites vs. earned income hosts."

New global caste structure and stratification of the US society

Some researchers point out that neoliberal world is increasingly characterized by a three-tiered social structure(net4dem.org):

This process of stratification and fossilization of "haves" and "haves-not" is now pretty much established in the USA. The US population can be partitioned into five distinct classes, or strata:

  1. Lower class (poor) bottom 20%. Those folks have income close to official poverty line, which varies from state to state. In "expensive states" like NJ and NY this category ranks much higher then national level, up to 40%. Official figures from a Census Bureau that state that in 2010 twelve states had poverty rates above 17%, up from five in 2009, while ten metropolitan areas had poverty rates over 18%. Texas had the highest poverty rate, at 33.4%, followed by Fresno, California, at 26.8%.

    According to figures published by the Social Security Administration in October 2011, the median income for American workers in 2010 was $26,364, just slightly above the official poverty level of $22,025 for a family of four. Most single parent families with children fall into this category. Many single earner families belong to this category too.

    The median income figure reflects the fact that salaries of 50% of all workers are less then $26,364 and gives a much truer picture of the real social conditions in the United States than the more widely publicized average income, which was $39,959 in 2010. This figure is considerably higher than median income because the distribution of income is so unequal—a relative handful of ultra-high income individuals pulls up the average.

  2. Lower middle class (60%). Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households. Typically includes households with incomes above $46,326 (all households) or $67,348 (dual earners households) per year. The latter is more realistic. In order for two earners family to qualify each earner should get approximately $34K a year or more ($17 per hour wage with 40 hours workweek). Per household member income is around $23.5K
    The lower middle class... these are people in technical and lower-level management positions who work for those in the upper middle class as lower managers, craftspeople, and the like. They enjoy a reasonably comfortable standard of living, although it is constantly threatened by taxes and inflation. Generally, they have a Bachelor's and sometimes Masters college degree.

    —Brian K. William, Stacy C. Sawyer and Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2006 (Adapted from Dennis Gilbert 1997; and Joseph Kahl 1993)[4]

  3. Upper middle class (top 20%). The includes households with incomes above 91K per year.
  4. Upper class (elite): top 1%. Annual comes (AGI) for this group exceed $380K per year. Commonly called multimillionaires (net worth two millions or more). In 2010 controlled at least 25% of total nation income (23.5% in 2007, 8.9% in 1979) . Top 1% owns more than 90% of combined or 33.8% of the nation private wealth.
  5. Super rich (top 0.01%, oligarchs, super-elite, or top 1000 families). A close to this category of super-rich are billionaires. US is home of 425 billionaires, while Russia and China have 95 and 96 correspondingly. The average worth of the world's billionaires is now $3.5 billion, or $500 million more than last year.( Forbes)

Share of consumption for families outside upper middle class (with income, say, below $91K per year (80% of US households) is much less then commonly assumed. That means that in the USA consumer spending are driven by upper class and as such is pretty much isolated from decline of wages of lower 80% of population. The median household income in the United States is around $50K.

Possibility of the return to the clan society

The danger of high level of inequality might be revival of nationalism and return to clan (mafia) society in the form of corporatism or even some form of national socialism. Mark S. Weine made this point in his book The Rule of the Clan. What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom . From one Amazon review:

Weiner's book is more than worth its price simply as an armchair tour of interesting places and cultures and mores, deftly and briefly described. But he has a more serious and important point to make. While the social cohesion that the values of the clan promote is alluring, they are ultimately at odds with the values of individual autonomy that only the much-maligned modern liberal state can offer.

Even the state's modern defenders tend to view it, at best, as a necessary evil. It keeps the peace, upholds (somewhat) international order, and manages the complexity of modern life in ways that allow individuals to get on with their journeys of personal fulfillment.

Weiner shows (in too brief but nevertheless eloquent ways) that this reductive view of the state is insufficient to resist the seductive appeal of the clan, and that it will be for the worse if we can't find ways to combat this allure within the legal structures of modern liberalism.

Read alongside James Ault's masterful participant study of fundamentalist Baptism, Spirit and Flesh, and draw your own conclusions.

Dramatic increase in the use of guard labor and conversion of the state into National Security State

Of course the elite is worried about security of their ill-gotten gains. And that's partially why the USA need such huge totally militarized police force and outsize military. Police and military are typical guard labor, that protects private wealth of the US plutocrats. Add to this equally strong private army of security contractors.

Other suggested that not only the USA, but the global neoliberal society is deeply sick with the same disease that the US society expected in 20th (and like previously with globalism of robber barons age, the triumph of neoliberalism in 1990th was and is a global phenomenon).

High inequality logically leads to dramatic increase of guard labor and inevitable conversion of state into National Security State. Which entail total surveillance over the citizens as a defining factor. Ruling elite is always paranoid, but neoliberal elite proved to be borderline psychopathic. They do not want merely security, they want to crush all the resistance.

Butler Shaffer wrote recently that the old state system in the United States is dying before our very eyes:

A system that insists on controlling others through increasing levels of systematic violence; that loots the many for the aggrandizement of the few; that regulates any expressions of human behavior that are not of service to the rulers; that presumes the power to wage wars against any nation of its choosing, a principle that got a number of men hanged at the Nuremberg trials; and finally, criminalizes those who would speak the truth to its victims, has no moral energy remaining with which to sustain itself.

Low mobility created potential for the degeneration of the elite

It is pretty clear that the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty. In the form of the strata which Roosevelt called "Economic royalists". Jut look at third generation of Walton family or Rocafeller family.

Remember the degenerative Soviet Politburo, or, for a change, unforgettable dyslexic President George W Bush ? The painful truth is that in the most unequal nations including the UK and the US – the intergenerational transmission of income is very strong (in plain language they have a heredity-based aristocracy). See Let them eat cake. In more equal societies such as Denmark, the tendency of privilege to breed privilege is much lower but also exists and is on the rise. As Roosevelt observed in a similar situation of 30th:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

High inequality undermines social cohesion

Neoliberalism and its ideology(Randism) undermined social cohesion, making society members more hostile to each other and as such less willing to defend the country in case of real danger. Betrayal of the country is no longer an unspeakable crime.

The purpose of government should be to foster a "civil society". The slogan of the "oligarchic right" is "me first", or, as in Paul Ryan's adoration of Ayn Rand, greed is good. Objectivism became kind of new civic religion, with the goal of maximizing the wealth of a single individual at the expense of the civil society is a virtue. And those new social norms (instilled by MSM) allow the fat cats simply to stole from everybody else without fear of punishment. See an outburst from Stephen Schwarzman. If there are two societies inside of the country with bridges burned, the bottom part is less willing to spill blood for the upper part. And having a contractual army has its own set of dangers, as it spirals into high level of militarism (being in war is a new normal for the USA during the last 30 years or so), which while enriching part of the elite bankrupts the country. The quality of roads is a testament of this process.

Countervailing mechanisms and forces are destroyed. Plutocrats now can shape the conversation by buying up newspapers and television channels as well as funding political campaigns. The mousetrap of high inequality became irreversible without external shocks. The more unequal our societies become, the more we all become prisoners of that inequality. The key question is: Has our political system been so degraded by misinformation and disinformation that it can no longer function because it lost the touch with reality? The stream of outright falsehoods that MSM feed the lemmings (aka society members) is clearly politically motivated. But a side effect (externality) of all that brainwashing efforts is that nobody including players at the top of the government now understands what's going on. Look at Obama and Joe Biden.

As the growth of manufacturing base slowed down and return on capital dropped, the elite wants less government social spending. They wants to end popular government programs such as Social Security, no matter how much such cuts would cause economic dislocation and strains in the current social safety net. The claims are that these programs are "Waste" and could be cut without anyone, but the "moochers" noticing the effects. They use the economic strain felt by many in the economy to promote these cuts. They promise that cuts to vital programs will leave more money in the pockets of the average person. In reality, the increase in money will be marginal, but the effects on security and loss of "group purchasing power" economy of scale will make the cuts worse than worthless (Economist's View Paul Krugman Moment of Truthiness)

Two party system makes the mousetrap complete

The US system of voting (winner take all) leads inexorably to Two party system. Third parties are only spoilers. Protest votes in the current system are COUNTERPRODUCTIVE (i.e. they help the evil, not the merely bad). Deliberate and grotesque gerrymandering further dilutes protest votes.

Again, I would like to stress that rich consumers, few in number, getting the gigantic slice of income and the most of consumption (that's why the US consumption was so resilient during two last financial crises). There are the rest, the “non-rich”, accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The question arise "Why we should care?". Most of the readers of this page are not at the bottom bracket anyway. Many are pretty high up. Here is one possible answer:

But should we care? There are two reasons we might: process and outcome.

Creating a strata of the outcasts aka permanently unemployed

It is very difficult to understand the real situation with inequality in the USA today without experiencing long term unemployed.

Or if you forced into job of a WalMart cashier or other low paid employee. Job that does not provide a living minimum wage. You need to watch this YouTube video Wealth Inequality in America to understand the reality. The video was posted anonymously by someone using the YouTube handle politizane. It is pretty clear that not only the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty, economic royalty but also a strata of people completely deprived. An Outcaste.

And the royalty became recklessly like it should promoting to the top the likes of recovered alcoholic Bush II or "private equity shark" Romney (and remember who Romney father was).

See Over 50 and unemployed

Education is no longer the answer to rising inequality

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, at least in some cases, became more of a social trap. This is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk. Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was a hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and tale of graduates working as bartender, willing) to pay infated tuition fees. That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit minted during dot-com boom expensive private colleges, who hunt for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces). It remains viable only in elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

University presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollar salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change you specialization late in the education cycle. But early choice entail typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008. That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: this is a kind of "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in a particular specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet you are done.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities bacem appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first of all assume that it is functioning not to their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such selaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sence parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial respource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. That means at least since 1980. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

See Slightly Skeptical View on University Education

New generation of robber barons: US oligarchy never was so audacious

As Jesse aptly noted at his blog post Echoes of the Past In The Economist - The Return of the Übermenschen the US oligarchy never was so audacious.

And it is as isolated as the aristocracies of bygone days, isolation reinforced by newly minted royalty withdrawal into gated estates, Ivy League Universities, and private planes.

They are not openly suggesting that no child should rise above the status of parents, presumably in terms of wealth, education, and opportunity. But their policies are directed toward this goal. If you are born to poor parents in the USA, all bets are off -- your success is highly unlikely, and your servile status, if not poverty is supposedly pre-destined by poor generic material that you got.

This is of course not because the children of the elite inherit the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life from their parents. Whatever abilities they have (and regression to the mean is applicable to royalty children too), they are greatly supplemented, of course, by the easy opportunities, valuable connections, and access to power. That's why the result of SAT in the USA so strongly correlated with the wealth of parents. And a virtual freedom from prosecution does not hurt either, in case they have inherited a penchant for sociopathy, or something worse, along with their many gifts.

The view that the children of the poor will not do well, because they are genetically inferior became kind of hidden agenda. These are the pesky 99% just deserve to be cheated and robbed by the elite, because of the inherent superiority of the top one percent. There is no fraud in the system, only good and bad breeding, natural predators and prey.

This line of thinking rests on the assumption that I succeed, therefore I am. And if you do not, well, so be it. You will be low-paid office slave or waiter in McDonalds with a college diploma as it is necessary for the maximization of profits of the elite. There is no space at the top for everybody. Enjoy the ride... Here is an typical expression of such views:

"Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates.

The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society

The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry."

Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

Mr. Clark is now a professor of economics and was the department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

And another one:

"During this time, a growing professional class believed that scientific progress could be used to cure all social ills, and many educated people accepted that humans, like all animals, were subject to natural selection.

Darwinian evolution viewed humans as a flawed species that required pruning to maintain its health. Therefore negative eugenics seemed to offer a rational solution to certain age-old social problems."

David Micklos, Elof Carlson, Engineering American Society: The Lesson of Eugenics

If we compare this like of thinking with the thinking of eightieth century and you will see that the progress is really limited:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.

There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.

It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

So all this screams of MSM about dropping consumer spending is just a smoke screen. In oligarchic republic which USA represents, consumption is heavily shifted to top 20% and as such is much less dependent of the conditions of the economy. And top 20% can afford $8 per gallon gas (European price) without any problems.

John Barkley Rosser, Jr. With Marina V. Rosser and Ehsan Ahmed, argued for a two-way positive link between income inequality (economic inequality) and the size of an underground economy in a nation (Rosser, Rosser, and Ahmed, 2000).

Globally in 2005, top fifth (20%) of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption (20:80 Pareto rule). The poorest fifth just 1.5%. I do not think the USA differs that much from the rest of the world.

Citigroup Plutonomy Research reports

There was two famous Citigroup Plutonomy research reports (2005 and 2006) featured in in Capitalism: A Love Story . Here is how Yves Smith summarized the findings (in her post High Income Disparity Leads to Low Savings Rates)

On the one hand, the authors, Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, and Narendra Singh get some credit for addressing a topic surprisingly ignored by mainstream economists. There have been some noteworthy efforts to measure the increase in concentration of income and wealth in the US most notably by Thomas Piketty and Edmund Saez. But while there have been some efforts to dispute their findings (that the rich, particularly the top 1%, have gotten relatively MUCH richer in the last 20 years), for the most part discussions of what to make of it (as least in the US) have rapidly descended into theological debates. One camp laments the fall in economic mobility (a predictable side effect), the corrosive impact of perceived unfairness, and the public health costs (even the richest in high income disparity countries suffer from shortened life spans). The other camp tends to focus on the Darwinian aspects, that rising income disparity is the result of a vibrant, open economy, and the higher growth rates that allegedly result will lift help all workers.

Yet as far as I can tell, there has been virtually no discussion of the macroeconomy effects of rising income and wealth disparities, or to look into what the implications for investment strategies might be. One interesting effect is that with rising inequality the share of "guard labor" grows very quickly and that puts an upper limit on the further growth of inequality (half of the citizens cannot be guards protecting few billionaires from the other half).

Now the fact that the Citi team asked a worthwhile question does not mean they came up with a sound answer. In fact, he reports are almost ludicrously funny in the way they attempt to depict what they call plutonomy as not merely a tradeable trend (as in leading to some useful investment ideas), but as a Brave New Economy development. I haven't recalled such Panglossian prose since the most delirious days of the dot-com bubble:

We will posit that:

1) the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time…..Most “Global Imbalances” (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy. The risk premium on equities that might derive from the dyspeptic “global imbalance” school is unwarranted – the earth is not going to be shaken off its axis, and sucked into the cosmos by these “imbalances”. The earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur-plutocrats, like it, or not..

Yves here. Translation: plutonomy is such a great thing that the entire stock market would be valued higher if everyone understood it. And the hoops the reports go through to defend it are impressive. The plutomony countries (the notorious Anglo-Saxon model, the US, UK, Canada and Australia) even have unusually risk-seeking populations (and that is a Good Thing):

…a new, rather out-of-the box hypothesis suggests that dopamine differentials can explain differences in risk-taking between societies. John Mauldin, the author of “Bulls-Eye Investing” in an email last month cited this work. The thesis: Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, is linked with curiosity, adventure, entrepreneurship, and helps drive results in uncertain environments. Populations generally have about 2% of their members with high enough dopamine levels with the curiosity to emigrate. Ergo, immigrant nations like the U.S. and Canada, and increasingly the UK, have high dopamine-intensity populations.

Yves here. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”? Were the Puritans a high dopamine population? Doubtful. How about the Irish emigration to the US, which peaked during its great famine?

Despite a good deal of romanticization standing in for analysis, the report does have one intriguing, and well documented finding: that the plutonomies have low savings rates. Consider an fictional pep rally chant:

We’re from Greenwich
We’re invincible
Living off our income
Never touch the principal

Think about that. If you are rich, you can afford to spend all your income. You don’t need to save, because your existing wealth provides you with a more than sufficient cushion.

The ramifications when you have a high wealth concentration are profound. From the October 2005 report:

In a plutonomy, the rich drop their savings rate, consume a larger fraction of their bloated, very large share of the economy. This behavior overshadows the decisions of everybody else. The behavior of the exceptionally rich drives the national numbers – the “appallingly low” overall savings rates, the “over-extended consumer”, and the “unsustainable” current accounts that accompany this phenomenon….

Feeling wealthier, the rich decide to consume a part of their capital gains right away. In other words, they save less from their income, the wellknown wealth effect. The key point though is that this new lower savings rate is applied to their newer massive income. Remember they got a much bigger chunk of the economy, that’s how it became a plutonomy. The consequent decline in absolute savings for them (and the country) is huge when this happens. They just account for too large a part of the national economy; even a small fall in their savings rate overwhelms the decisions of all the rest.

Yves here. This account rather cheerily dismisses the notion that there might be overextended consumers on the other end of the food chain. Unprecedented credit card delinquencies and mortgage defaults suggest otherwise. But behaviors on both ends of the income spectrum no doubt played into the low-savings dynamic: wealthy who spend heavily, and struggling average consumers who increasingly came to rely on borrowings to improve or merely maintain their lifestyle. And let us not forget: were encouraged to monetize their home equity, so they actually aped the behavior of their betters, treating appreciated assets as savings. Before you chide people who did that as profligate (naive might be a better characterization), recall that no one less than Ben Bernanke was untroubled by rising consumer debt levels because they also showed rising asset levels. Bernanke ignored the fact that debt needs to be serviced out of incomes, and households for the most part were not borrowing to acquire income-producing assets. So unless the rising tide of consumer debt was matched by rising incomes, this process was bound to come to an ugly end.

Also under Bush country definitely moved from oligarchy to plutocracy. Bush openly claimed that "have more" is his base. The top 1% of earners have captured four-fifths of all new income.

An interesting question is whether the extremely unequal income distribution like we have now make the broader society unstable. Or plebs is satisfied with "Bread and circuses" (aka house, SUV, boat, Daytona 500 and 500 channels on cable) as long as loot from the other parts of the world is still coming...

What is the upper limit of inequality?

Martin Bento in his response to Risk Pollution, Market Failure & Social Justice — Crooked Timber made the following point:

Donald made a point I was going to. I would go a bit further though. It’s not clear to me that economic inequality is not desired for its own sake by the some of the elite. After all, studies suggest that once you get past the level of income needed for a reasonably comfortable life – about $40K for a single person in the US - the quest for money is mostly about status.

Meeting your needs is not necessarily zero sum, but status is: my status can only be higher than yours to the extent that yours is lower than mine.

The more inequality there is, the more status differentiation there is. Of course, there are other sources of status than money, but I’m talking specifically about people who value money for the status it confers. This is in addition to the “Donner Party Conservatism” calls to make sure the incentives to work are as strong as possible (to be fair, I think tolerating some inequality for the sake of incentives is worthwhile, but we seem to be well beyond that).

For example currently the USA is No.3 in Gini measured inequality (cyeahoo, Oct 16, 2009), but still the society is reasonably stable:

Gini score: 40.8
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 13,751.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 29.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.9

What is really surprising is how low the average American salary is: just $26,352 or ~$2,200 a month. This is equal approximately to $13 an hour.

At the same time:

Some interesting facts about upper class (top 1% of the US population). First of all this is pretty self-isolated group (a nation within a nation). They associate almost exclusively with members of their own social and economic standing, few members of the bottom 90% of Americans have ever even personally met a member of the upper class.

Now about top 400:

Here are some interesting hypothesis about affect of inequality of the society:

Higher inequality is somewhat connected with imperial outreach. As Kevin de Bruxelles noted in comment to What collapsing empire looks like - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

I’m surprised a thoughtful guy like Glenn Greenwald would make such an unsubstantiated link between collapsing public services for American peasants and a collapse of America’s global (indirect) imperial realm. Is there really a historic link between the quality of a nation’s services to its citizens and its global power? If so the Scandinavian countries would have been ruling the world for the past fifty years. If anything there is probably a reverse correlation. None of the great historic imperial powers, such as the British, Roman, Spanish, Russian, Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese, Islamic, or Persian, were associated with egalitarian living conditions for anyone outside of the elite. So from a historic point of view, the ability to divert resources away from the peasants and towards the national security state is a sign of elite power and should be seen as a sign increased American imperial potential.

Now if America’s global power was still based on economic production then an argument could be made that closing libraries and cancelling the 12th grade would lower America’s power potential. But as we all know that is no longer the case and now America’s power is as the global consumer of excess production. Will a dumber peasantry consume even more? I think there is a good chance that the answer is yes.

Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell. But so far that is far from the case. Even a facile gesture such as voting for any other political party except the ruling Republicrats seems like a bridge too far for 95% of the peasants to attempt. No, the sad truth is that American elites, thanks to their exceptional ability to deliver an ever increasing amount of diverting bread and circuses, have plenty of room to further cut standards of living and are nowhere near reaching any limits.

What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential. This, along with an increasingly ruthless elite, should assure that into the medium term America’s powerful position will remain unchallenged. If one colors in blue on a world map all the countries under de facto indirect US control then one will start to realize the extent of US power. The only major countries outside of US control are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent converts to the blue column but it far from certain whether they will stay that way. American elites will resist to the bitter end any country falling from the blue category. But this colored world map is the best metric for judging US global power.

In the end it’s just wishful thinking to link the declining of the American peasant’s standard of living with a declining of the American elite’s global power. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this proven in an attack on Iran in the near future.

High inequality and organized crime

Higher pay inequality feeds organized crime (and here we assume that banksters are different from the organized crime, which is probably a very weak hypothesis ;-). That's why Peter Drucker was probably right. He thought that top execs shouldn't get more than 25 times the average salary in the company (which would cap it around $2 millions). I would suggest a metric based on multiple from the average of lower 50% full time jobs for a particular firm (for example in Wal Mart that would cashers and cleaners, people who are living in Latin American style poverty, if they are single mothers as many are). One of the particular strengths of the idea of the maximum wage base on average of lower 50% of salaries is that if senior managers want to increase their own pay, they have to increase that of the lower-paid employees too.

And in a way financial industry itself became an organized crime. The notion of exorbitant wages prevalent in financial industry (and, before it, pioneered by in high-tech companies during dot-com boom via stock options) is based on the idea that some people are at least hundred times more productive then the others. In some professions like programming this is true and such people do exists. But any sufficiently large company is about team work. No matter what job a person does and no matter how many hours they work, there is no possible way that an single individual will create a whole product. It's a team effort. That means that neither skill nor expertise or intelligence can justify the payment of 200, 300 or even 400 times the wages of the lowest-paid 20% workers in any large organization.

This is especially questionable for financial professionals because by and large they are engaged in non-productive. often harmful for the society as whole redistribution activities, the same activities that organized crime performs. Moreover, modern traders are actually play a tremendously destructive role as subprime crisis (and before it saving and loans debacle) aptly demonstrated. which make them indistinguishable in this societal roles from cocaine pushers on the streets.

Drucker's views on the subject are probably worth revisiting. Rick Wartzman wrote in his Business Week article Put a Cap on CEO Pay' that "those who understand that what comes with their authority is the weight of responsibility, not "the mantle of privilege," as writer and editor Thomas Stewart described Drucker's view. It's their job "to do what is right for the enterprise—not for shareholders alone, and certainly not for themselves alone."

Large pay also attracts sociopathic personalities. Sociopathic personalities at the top of modern organizations is another important but rarely discussed danger.

"I'm not talking about the bitter feelings of the people on the plant floor," Drucker told a reporter in 2004. "They're convinced that their bosses are crooks anyway. It's the mid-level management that is incredibly disillusioned" by CEO compensation that seems to have no bounds. " This is especially true, Drucker explained in an earlier interview, when CEOs pocket huge sums while laying off workers. That kind of action, he said, is "morally unforgivable." There can be exceptions but they should be in middle management not in top management ranks.

Put it all together, and the picture became really discouraging. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation, watchdogs who are afraid to bark and guards on each and every corner. Mousetrap is complete.

Recommended Books

Winner-Take-All Politics How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker

Henry J. Farrell

Transforming American politics, September 16, 2010

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) This is a transformative book. It's the best book on American politics that I've read since Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others' work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don't have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.

The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political - the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public. The authors weave a historical narrative which Kevin Drum (who says the same things that I am saying about the book's importance) summarizes cogently here. This is not necessarily original - a lot of leftwing and left-of-center writers have been making similar claims for a long time. What is new is both the specific evidence that the authors use, and their conscious and deliberate effort to reframe what is important about American politics.

First - the evidence. Hacker and Pierson draw on work by economists like Picketty and Saez on the substantial growth in US inequality (and on comparisons between the US and other countries), but argue that many of the explanations preferred by economists (the effects of technological change on demand for skills) simply don't explain what is going on. First, they do not explain why inequality is so top-heavy - that is, why so many of the economic benefits go to a tiny, tiny minority of individuals among those with apparently similar skills. Second, they do not explain cross national variation - why the differences in the level of inequality among advanced industrialized countries, all of which have gone through more-or-less similar technological shocks, are so stark. While Hacker and Pierson agree that technological change is part of the story, they suggest that the ways in which this is channeled in different national contexts is crucial. And it is here that politics plays a key role.

Many economists are skeptical that politics explains the outcome, suggesting that conventional forms of political intervention are not big enough to have such dramatic consequences. Hacker and Pierson's reply implicitly points to a blind spot of many economists - they argue that markets are not `natural,' but instead are constituted by government policy and political institutions. If institutions are designed one way, they result in one form of market activity, whereas if they are designed another way, they will result in very different outcomes. Hence, results that appear like `natural' market operations to a neo-classical economist may in fact be the result of political decisions, or indeed of deliberate political inaction. Hacker and Pierson cite e.g. the decision of the Clinton administration not to police derivatives as an example of how political coalitions may block reforms in ways that have dramatic economic consequences.

Hence, Hacker and Pierson turn to the lessons of ongoing political science research. This is both a strength and a weakness. I'll talk about the weakness below - but I found the account of the current research convincing, readable and accurate. It builds on both Hacker and Pierson's own work and the work of others (e.g. the revisionist account of American party structures from Zaller et al. and the work of Bartels). This original body of work is not written in ways that make it easily accessible to non-professionals - while Bartels' book was both excellent and influential, it was not an easy read. Winner-Take-All Politics pulls off the tricky task of both presenting the key arguments underlying work without distorting them and integrating them into a highly readable narrative.

As noted above, the book sets out (in my view quite successfully) to reframe how we should think about American politics. It downplays the importance of electoral politics, without dismissing it, in favor of a focus on policy-setting, institutions, and organization.

In Hacker and Pierson's account, these three together account for the systematic political bias towards greater inequality. In simplified form: Organizations - and battles between organizations over policy as well as elections - are the structuring conflicts of American politics. The interests of the rich are represented by far more powerful organizations than the interests of the poor and middle class. The institutions of the US provide these organizations and their political allies with a variety of tools to promote new policies that reshape markets in their interests. This account is in some ways neo-Galbraithian (Hacker and Pierson refer in passing to the notion of `countervailing powers'). But while it lacks Galbraith's magisterial and mellifluous prose style, it is much better than he was on the details.

Even so (and here begin the criticisms) - it is not detailed enough. The authors set the book up as a whodunit: Who or what is responsible for the gross inequalities of American economic life? They show that the other major suspects have decent alibis (they may inadvertently have helped the culprit, but they did not carry out the crime itself. They show that their preferred culprit had the motive and, apparently, the means. They find good circumstantial evidence that he did it. But they do not find a smoking gun. For me, the culprit (the American political system) is like OJ. As matters stand, I'm pretty sure that he committed the crime. But I'm not sure that he could be convicted in a court of law, and I could be convinced that I was wrong, if major new exculpatory evidence was uncovered.

The lack of any smoking gun (or, alternatively, good evidence against a smoking gun) is the direct result of a major failure of American intellectual life. As the authors observe elsewhere, there is no field of American political economy. Economists have typically treated the economy as non-political. Political scientists have typically not concerned themselves with the American economy. There are recent efforts to change this, coming from economists like Paul Krugman and political scientists like Larry Bartels, but they are still in their infancy. We do not have the kinds of detailed and systematic accounts of the relationship between political institutions and economic order for the US that we have e.g. for most mainland European countries. We will need a decade or more of research to build the foundations of one.

Hence, while Hacker and Pierson show that political science can get us a large part of the way, it cannot get us as far as they would like us to go, for the simple reason that political science is not well developed enough yet. We can identify the causal mechanisms intervening between some specific political decisions and non-decisions and observed outcomes in the economy. We cannot yet provide a really satisfactory account of how these particular mechanisms work across a wider variety of settings and hence produce the general forms of inequality that they point to. Nor do we yet have a really good account of the precise interactions between these mechanisms and other mechanisms.

None of this is to discount the importance of this book. If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking. I cannot see how someone who was fair minded could come away from reading this book and not be convinced that politics plays a key role in the enormous economic inequality that we see. And even if it is aimed at a general audience, it also challenges academics and researchers in economics, political science and economic sociology both to re-examine their assumptions about how economics and politics work, and to figure out ways better to engage with the key political debates of our time as Hacker and Pierson have done. If you can, buy it.

Great Faulkner's Ghost (Washington, DC)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) Many people have observed that American politics and the American economy reached some kind of turning point around 1980, which conveniently marks the election of Ronald Reagan. Some also pointed to other factors such as the deregulation of stock brokerage commissions in 1975 and the high inflation of the 1970s. Other analysts have put the turning point back in 1968, when Richard Nixon became President on the back of a wave of white, middle-class resentment against the 1960s. Hacker and Pierson, however, point the finger at the 1970s. As they describe in Chapter 4, the Nixon presidency saw the high-water market of the regulatory state; the demise of traditional liberalism occurred during the Carter administration, despite Democratic control of Washington, when highly organized business interests were able to torpedo the Democratic agenda and begin the era of cutting taxes for the rich that apparently has not yet ended today.

Why then? Not, as popular commentary would have it, because public opinion shifted. Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, "When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it" (p. 112). In other words, it isn't public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it's what the rich want.

That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans-more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it's politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone's control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society's wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Citizen John (USA)

In Winner-Take-All Politics, two political science professors explain what caused the Middle Class to become vulnerable. Understanding this phenomenon is the Holy Grail of contemporary economics in the U.S.

Some may feel this book is just as polarizing as the current state of politics and media in America. The decades-long decline in income taxes of wealthy individuals is cited in detail. Wage earners are usually subjected to the FICA taxes against all their ordinary income (all or almost their entire total income). But the top wealthy Americans may have only a small percentage (or none) of their income subjected to FICA taxes. Thus Warren Buffett announced that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Buffett has cited income inequality for "poisoning democracy."

When you search the Net for Buffett quotes on inequality, you get a lot of results showing how controversial he became for stating the obvious. Drawing attention to the inequity of the tax regime won him powerful enemies. Those same people are not going to like the authors for writing Winner-Take-All. They say these political science people are condescending because they presume to tell people their political interests.

Many of studies of poverty show how economic and political policies generally favor the rich throughout the world, some of which are cited in this book. Military spending and financial bailouts in particular favor the wealthy. Authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson document a long U.S. policy trend favoring wealthy Americans. This trend resulted in diminished middle class access to quality healthcare and education, making it harder to keep up with the wealthy in relative terms. Further, once people have lost basic foundations of security, they are less willing and able to take on more risk in terms of investing or starting a business.

The rise of special interests has been at the expense of the middle class, according to the authors. Former President Carter talked about this and was ridiculed. Since then government has grown further from most of us. Even federal employees are not like most of us anymore. In its August 10, 2010 issue, USA Today discussed government salaries: "At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds."

An excellent documentary showing how difficult it is to address income inequality is One Percent, by Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed shows examples of what can happen when a society disregards a coming disaster until too late. I hope that Winner-Take-All will prompt people to demand more of elected officials and to arrest the growing income gap for the sake of our democracy.

Michael Emmett Brady "mandmbrady" (Bellflower, California ,United States)

4.5 stars-Wall Street speculators control both parties, September 19, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This book basically argues that Wall Street controls both political parties through the use of massive campaign contributions and lobbyists who buy off both the Republicans and Democrats in the White House,Senate and House.This is essentially correct but obvious.Anyone can go back to the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign and simply verify that the majority of his campaign funds and advisors came from Wall Street.This identical conclusion also holds with respect to Ronald Reagan,George H W Bush,Bill Clinton,George W Bush and Barack Obama. The only Presidents/Presidential candidates not dominated by Wall Street since 1976 were Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

For instance,it is common knowledge to anyone who carefully checks to see where the money is coming from that Wall Street financiers, hedgefunds, private equity firms and giant commercial banks are calling the shots. For example, one could simply read the July 9,2007 issue of FORTUNE magazine to discover who the major backers of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were. One could also have read Business Week(2-25-2008) or the Los Angeles Times of 3-21-2008.Through February, 2008 the major donors to the McCain campaign were 1)Merrill Lynch, 2) Citigroup, 3)Goldman Sachs, 4)J P Morgan Chase and 5)Credit Suisse

The major donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign were 1)Goldman Sachs, 2)Morgan Stanley, 3)Citigroup, 4)Lehman Brothers and 5)J P Morgan Chase.

Guess who were the major donors to the Obama campaign ? If you guessed 1)Goldman Sachs,2)UBS Ag,3)J P Morgan Chase ,4)Lehman Brothers and 5)Citigroup, then you are correct.

It didn't matter who became President-Hillary Clinton,Barack Obama or John McCain.All three had been thoroughly vetted by Wall Street. The campaign staffs of all three candidates ,especially their economic and finance advisors, were all Wall Street connected. Wall Street would have been bailed out regardless of which party won the 2008 election.

Obama is not going to change anything substantially in the financial markets. Neither is Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kerry or Sen. Schumer, etc. Nor is any Republican candidate going to make any changes, simply because the Republican Party is dominated even more so by Wall Street(100%) than the Democratic Party(80%). The logical solution would be to support a Third Party candidate, for example, Ross Perot .

One aspect of the book is deficient. True conservatives like Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs have been warning about the grave dangers of hallowing out and downsizing the American Manufacturing -Industrial sector, with the consequent offshoring and/or loss of many millions of American jobs, for about 20 years at the same time that the " financial services " sector has exploded from 3% of the total service sector in 1972 to just under 40% by 2007. This is what is causing the great shrinkage in the middle class in America .

Matt Milholland (California)

An Important Book, October 9, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This is a phenomenal book and everyone interested in how American politics works (or more accurately, doesn't work) should pick it up. It's both really smart and really accessible to a lay audience, which is rare for a political science book.

Extreme economic inequality and the near paralysis of our governing institutions has lead to a status-quo that is almost entirely indifferent to the needs of working families. Hacker & Pierson chronicle the rise of this corrupt system and the dual, yet distinct, roles the Republican and Democratic Parties have played in abetting it.

Seriously, it's top-notch. Read this book.

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" By(Phoenix, AZ.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Timely, but Also Off-Base in Some Regards, September 15, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) The thirty-eight biggest Wall Street companies earned $140 billion in 2009, a record that all taxpayers who contributed to their bailouts can be proud of. Among those, Goldman Sachs paid its employees an average $600,000, also a record, and at least partially attributable to our bailout of AIG, which promptly gave much of the money to Goldman. Prior to that, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of $892 million in 2007. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is framed as a detective story about how we got to inequality levels where the top 300,000 (0.1%) receive over 20% of national income, vs. 13.5% for the bottom 180 million (60% of the population).

Between 1947 and 1973, real family median income essentially doubled, and the growth percentage was virtually the same for all income levels. In the mid-1970s, however, economic inequality began to increase sharply and middle-incomes lagged. Increased female workforce participation rates and more overtime helped cushion the stagnation or decline for many (they also increased the risk of layoffs/family), then growing credit card debt shielded many families from reality. Unfortunately, expectations of stable full-time employment also began shrinking, part-time, temporary, and economic risk-bearing (eg. taxi drivers leasing vehicles and paying the fuel costs; deliverymen 'buying' routes and trucks) work increased, workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance fell from 69% in 1979 to 56% in 2004, and retirement coverage was either been dropped entirely or mostly converted to much less valuable fix-contribution plans for private sector employees. Some exceptions have occurred that benefit the middle and lower-income segments - Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Medicaid, and Medicare were initiated or expanded, but these have not blunted the overall trend. Conversely, welfare reform, incarceration rates rising 6X between 1970 and 2000, bankruptcy reform, and increased tax audits for EITC recipients have also added to their burden, Social Security is being challenged again (despite stock market declines, enormous transition costs, and vastly increased overhead costs and fraud opportunity), and 2009's universal health care reform will be aggressively challenged both in the courts and Washington.

Authors Hacker and Pierson contend that growing inequality is not the 'natural' product of market rewards, but mostly the artificial result of deliberate government policies, strongly influenced by industry lobbyists and donations, new and expanded conservative 'think tanks,' and inadequate media coverage that focused more on the 'horse race' aspects of various initiatives than their content and impact. First came the capital gains tax cuts under President Carter, then deregulation of the financial industry under Clinton, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the financial bailouts in 2008-09. The authors contend that if the 1970 tax structure remained today, the top gains would be considerably less.

But what about the fact that in 1965 CEOs of large corporations only earned about 24X the average worker, compared to 300+X now? Hacker and Pierson largely ignore the role of board-room politics and malfeasance that have mostly allowed managers to serve themselves with payment without regard to performance and out of proportion to other nations. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average $12.5 million, only one-third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives. Yet, the Europeans led larger firms - $65.5 billion in sales vs. $46.5 billion for the U.S. Asian CEOs commonly make only 10X-15X what their base level employees make. Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's largest), made $234,700 in 2008, less than 2% of the $19.6 million awarded Jamie Dimon, CEO of the world's fourth-largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.

"Winner-Take-All Politics" also provides readers with the composition of 2004 taxpayers in the top 0.1% of earners (including capital gains). Non-finance executives comprised 41% of the group, finance professionals 18.4%, lawyers 6%, real estate personages 5%, physicians 4%, entrepreneurs 4%, and arts and sports stars 3%. The authors assert that this shows education and skills levels are not the great dividers most everyone credits them to be - the vast majority of Americans losing ground to the super-rich includes many well-educated individuals, while the super-rich includes many without a college education (Sheldon Adelson, Paul Allen, Edgar Bronfman, Jack Kent Cook, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Wayne Huizenga, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg).

Authors Hacker and Pierson are political science professors and it is understandable that they emphasize political causes (PACs, greater recruitment of evangelical voters, lobbying - eg. $500 million on health care lobbying in 2009, filibusters that allow senators representing just 10% of the population to stop legislation and make the other side look incompetent, etc.) for today's income inequality. However, their claim that foreign trade is "largely innocent" as a cause is neither substantiated nor logical. Foreign trade as practiced today pads corporate profits and executive bonuses while destroying/threatening millions of American jobs and lowering/holding down the incomes of those affected. Worse yet, the authors don't even mention the impact of millions of illegal aliens depressing wage rates while taking jobs from Americans, nor do they address the canard that tax cuts for and spending by the super-wealthy are essential to our economic success (refuted by Moody's Analytics and Austan Goolsbee, Business Week - 9/13/2010). They're also annoyingly biased towards unions, ignoring their constant strikes and abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, major contributions to G.M., Chrysler, and legacy airline bankruptcies, and current school district, local, and state financial difficulties.

Bottom-Line: It is a sad commentary on the American political system that growing and record levels of inequality are being met by populist backlash against income redistribution and expanding trust in government, currently evidenced by those supporting extending tax cuts for the rich and railing against reforming health care to reduce expenditures from 17.3+% of GDP to more internationally competitive levels (4-6%) while improving patient outcomes. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is interesting reading, provides some essential data, and point out some evidence of the inadequacy of many voters. However, the authors miss the 'elephant in the room' - American-style democracy is not viable when at most 10% of citizens are 'proficient' per functional literacy tests ([...]), and only a small proportion of them have the time and access required to sift through the flood of half-truths, lies, and irrelevancies to objectively evaluate 2,000+ page bills and other political activity. (Ideology-dominated economic professionals and short-term thinking human rights advocates are two others.) Comments (2)

Brian Kodi

"Americans live in Russia, but they think they live in Sweden." - Chrystia Freeland, March 26, 2011 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

No one should doubt the rising income inequality in America, which the authors trace back to the late 1970s since the latter part of Carter's presidency in what they call the "30 Year War". Zachary Roth, in a March 4th Time magazine article stated "A slew of conservative economists of unimpeachable academic credentials--including Martin Feldstein of Harvard, Glenn Hubbard, who was President Bush's top economic adviser, and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke--have all acknowledged that inequality is on the rise."

And why should we care that most of the after tax income growth since 30 years ago has gone the way of the richest Americans in a "winner-take-all" economy? Because as Supreme Court justice biographer Melvin Urofsky stated, "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people." (p. 81) Because if unchecked, a new economic aristocracy may replace the old hereditary aristocracy America's Founders fought to defeat (p. 298). Because unequal societies are unhappy societies, and inequality can foster individual resentment that may lead to a pervasive decline in civility and erosion of culture.

And why should we be concerned that this trend in rising inequality may not experience the period of renewal the authors are optimistic about? Because unlike the shock of the 1930s' Great Depression that served as the impetus for the politics of middle class democracy, the potential shockwaves of the 2008 Great Recession were tempered by massive government stimulus, resulting in no meaningful financial reform, and an extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. And because of the lottery mentality of a large swath of the population which opposes tax increases on the rich. One day, they or their children too can share in the American dream. According to an October 2000 Time-CNN poll, 19 percent of Americans were convinced they belonged to the richest 1 percent. Another 20 percent thought they'd make the rank of the top 1 percent at some point in their lives. That's quite a turnover in the top 1 percent category to accommodate 20 percent of the population passing through.

Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson have put together powerful arguments on the root causes of income inequality in the U.S., its political and economic ramifications, and to a lesser extent, a roadmap to returning democracy to the masses. This is an eye opening and disturbing, yet informative book, even for readers who may disagree with their opinions.

J. Strauss (NYC)

3.0 out of 5 stars great history of big money influence on policy but needs more analysis of the ways policy affects the winner-take-all economy, September 21, 2011 See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

Writing:

A bit hokey and repetitive for the first couple chapters. Much better after that. Stick with it if you're interested in the subject.

Content:

This book does a very good job explaining how and why certain special interest groups (notably those that represent the wealthiest .1%) have come to have such a stranglehold on government, particularly Congress. I come away with a clear understanding of how the wealthiest citizens are able to exert their influence over legislative policy and enforcement at the federal level.

What I would have liked more of are better explanations of the mechanisms through which government policies exacerbate the winner-take-all economy. Tax policy (rates and loopholes) is the most obvious answer, and the book provides plenty of stats on the regression of tax policy over the past 30 years.

But complicated, interesting, and largely missing from public discourse is why PRE-TAX incomes have become so much more radically skewed during that time. This is certainly touched on - the authors are deliberate in saying it's not JUST tax policy that's contributing to increased inequality - but I would've liked much more analysis of the other policy-driven factors. "Deregulation" is too general an explanation to paint a clear picture.

The authors make it clear that they believe the increasing divide in pre-tax incomes (the winner-take-all economy) is not the inevitable result of technological changes and of differences in education ("the usual suspects"), but of policy decisions made at the state and, especially, federal levels. Personally, I wasn't fully convinced that technological change has little or nothing to do with the skew (though I agree that while education goes a long way toward explaining the gap between poor and middle class, it doesn't explain much of the gap between middle class and super rich). But I do believe, as they do, that public policy plays a large role in influencing the extent of inequality in pre-tax incomes, even beyond more obvious market-impacting factors like union influence, and mandates including the minimum wage, restrictions on pollution, workplace safety and fairness laws, etc.

Off the top of my head, here are some regulatory issues that affect market outcomes and can influence the extent of winner-take-all effects in the marketplace (a few of these may have been mentioned in the book, but none were discussed in detail):

And many more. I know regulatory issues like that play huge roles in the distribution of pre-tax "market" incomes, but I'd like to have a better understanding of how, and also to be better able to articulate how in response to those who seem to believe taxes (and perhaps obvious restrictions, such as on pollution or the minimum wage) are the only significant means through which governments influence wealth disparities.

There wasn't a whole lot of discussion of these or similar regulatory issues in the book. I would like to see another edition, or perhaps another book entirely, that does. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.


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[Oct 20, 2019] Growing Secularism Is Pushing Religion, Traditional Values Aside, AG Barr Warns by Janita Kan

Notable quotes:
"... "Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic," he said. ..."
Oct 12, 2019 | aim4truth.org
Share U.S. Attorney General William Barr raised concerns about the increase in secularism in society in a speech on Oct. 11, speaking about how that has contributed to a number of social issues plaguing communities across the nation.

Barr, who delivered his remarks to students at the University of Notre Dame's law school, drew attention to the comprehensive effort to drive away religion and traditional moral systems in society and to push secularism in their place.

"We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism," Barr said.

He said that the forces of secularism are using mass media and popular culture, the promotion of greater reliance on government intervention for social problems, and the use of legal and judicial institutions to eliminate traditional moral norms.

Barr explored several of the consequences of "this moral upheaval," highlighting its effect on all parts of society.

"Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic," he said.

"Over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses," he said. "But I won't dwell on the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has coincided, and, as I believe, has brought with it, immense suffering and misery."

Barr said religion has come under increasing attack over the past 50 years, underscoring how secularists are using society's institutions to systematically destroy religion and stifle opposing views.

"Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values. These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy but also to drown out and silence opposing voices," he said.

He said that people are moving away from "micro-morality" observed by Christians, a system of morality that seeks to transform the world by focusing on their own personal morality and transformation. Instead, he said the modern secularists are pushing a "macro-morality," which focuses on political causes and collective actions to address social problems.

"In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social costs of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct become so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path it is on," Barr said.

"But today, in the face of all the increasing pathologies, instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have cast the state in the role as the alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the state to mitigate the social costs of personal conduct and irresponsibility. So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility but abortion; the reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites."

"The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage, and while we think we are resolving problems, we [actually] are underwriting them."

He also pointed out how the law has been used to "break down traditional moral values and establish moral relativism as the new orthodoxy," giving the example of how laws have been used to aggressively force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith .

"The forces of secularism have been continually seeking to eliminate the laws that reflect traditional moral norms," he said.

Barr also highlighted the role of religion in society, saying it promotes moral discipline while it influences people's conduct.

"Religion also helps promote moral discipline in society. We're all fallen. We don't automatically conform our conduct to moral rules, even when we know that they're good for us. But religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what's good," he said.

"It doesn't do this primarily by formal laws -- that is, by coercive power -- it does this through moral education and by framing society's informal rules -- the customs and traditions which reflect the wisdom and experience of the ages. In other words, religion helps frame a moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline."

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

[Oct 15, 2019] the failure of the American Dream)

Oct 15, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , October 13, 2019 at 05:47 AM

Contrived generational wars disguise the failure of the American Dream https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2019/10/11/beware-labels-contrived-generational-wars-disguise-failure-american-dream/BwpcAnlGfHVsctTkpCX8tK/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

Margaret Morganroth Gullette -October 11

In a nation grappling with growing inequality, stagnating social mobility, crushing personal debt, and crumbling job security, efforts to set America's generations against one another persist. Don't blame the system, blame the "greedy" boomers. Or the "slacker" Gen Xers. Or "entitled" millennials. But who gains from such discourses?

Efforts to foment that warfare, intentionally or not, serve specific agendas. Numerous writers warn that age-group hostilities are "coming." And then, pitting generations against one another, aside from their war metaphors, writers reach for doomsday predictions, lachrymose empathy for "our kids," and questionable data. All this relies on the invention of mendacious attributes, conferring on millions of diverse people implausible character flaws or virtues. Karl Mannheim, the 20th-century sociologist known for explaining the uses of generational units, would be rolling over in his grave.

Here is the hidden history of a perverse political discourse: It started with the so-called boomers. As they aged toward peak midlife wages in the 1980s, they got saddled with a reputation for being rich and greedy. The media concocted a lie that made it seem as if they wouldn't ever need Social Security.

Bill Gates was born in 1955. That makes him what is commonly called a boomer. Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters. According to the principal investigator of a recent study, Dennis Culhane, many people of Lavoie's age are indeed part of a boom -- "a boom in aging homeless people." They were "less well educated people who faced economic challenges in their youth -- falling wages and rising housing costs -- and never recovered financially. ... Now in their 50s and 60s, they are biologically older than most people their age. ... The average lifespan for a homeless person is 64."

Unlike Gates's co-billionaires in the .01 percent, 29 percent of people 55 and over have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to the Government Accountability Office, and many of the rest have little. Ageism in the workforce is one reason they lose a job and then can't find an equally good one -- or find any work at all. Boomers are often treated as "deadwood." Corporations drop them by the thousands. Even Xers are now old enough to be at risk of having their resumes discarded. When people suffering from middle ageism stop looking for work they are omitted from the unemployment data. At midlife, some submit to deaths of despair.

Succeeding cohorts (all containing the same disparities -- of class, race, gender, and education) have also been treated as if they were a single human with a character flaw. During the 1990s recessions, when the so-called Xers couldn't find work, they too were branded with a slur -- "slackers" -- while boomers were represented as the horde bullies who held onto all the good jobs.

The baleful technique is still at work today. Given the same problem -- lack of decent jobs for all ages, especially people without college degrees and people over 50 -- it's the turn of the millennials. One of them complains about the stereotypes, defensively, in Vox: "We demand participation trophies, can't find jobs, and live with our parents until we're 30." His response is to bash -- you guessed it -- the boomers, who "have a ton of maladaptive personality characteristics."

In the Atlantic, pundits Niall Ferguson, from the Hoover Institution, and Eyck Freymann defend millennials because their "early working lives were blighted by the financial crisis" -- but ignore how home foreclosures, sluggish growth, and job losses also blighted people around Ferguson's own age (55).

Millennials are supposed to be so ignorant and cruel that they would dismiss old people's needs because of the boomers' alleged wealth. "Cutting old-age benefits for boomers would be an easy call if millennials are anywhere on the line of fire," write the original concoctors of the age-war distraction, Neil Howe and William Strauss, in their latest pandering assault, "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."

We frequently hear that our elders' retirement needs will "break the bank" despite their lifelong pay-ins. If Republicans manage to destroy the whole system of social trust, cutting Social Security could indeed be one of the dire outcomes of the lies of generational warfare. Otherwise, experts say, its financial failure is not remotely in the cards. For families it has always been the most popular government program, because it provides a measure of dignified independence for older people and a measure of relief for their adult children.

Younger people should support the expansion of Social Security for another reason, writes one millennial who doesn't take the bait. Nick Guthman argues in The Hill that because of student debt, "Millennials and Generation Z will need Social Security even more than our parents and grandparents do."

The 2100 Act, now before Congress, would raise the cap on taxable-wage contributions. Conservatives reject this easy fix, but it is overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Manipulating cohort characteristics damages far more than attitudes toward Social Security, bad as the effect of that contrived skepticism could be. Blaming an older generation that is already maligned allows many real perpetrators to smugly hide from their irresponsibility. Will the climate movement find youngsters blaming the boomers for ecological destruction, because some drove big cars? Wouldn't it be better to turn on the CEOs of Exxon, who hid the dangers of burning fossil fuels that their scientists discovered so thoroughly that few of us knew to stop flying?

Persistent precarity is indeed the historical issue that is obscured by these discourses. The fact of American decline is this: Most people in each generation have had it worse than their parents. According to a report on The State of Working America, the United States lags behind its peer countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in measurements of father-son mobility. In the United States, the "sons" have been receiving stagnant wages, fewer benefits, jobs in the insecure gig economy. Many women too have lost the progress narrative of rising expectations. That progress narrative, when upward mobility was more widespread, supported the American Dream. It gave hope that democracy would work for increasing numbers.

Don't blame your parents. Every article manipulating cohort stereotypes lets the government and corporations off the hook for outsourcing abroad, the crash of rust-belt industries, de-unionization, and the decades of cascading downward mobility we now endure. You can't even want to get justice until you know the true sources of injustice.

How do imaginary reputations and hostile emotions get nailed onto struggling groups, decade after decade, in this pernicious way? Naming each imagined age cohort makes it possible. The process is called reification. Naming makes vague temporal proximity into a thing.

Only the name baby boomers had an adequate demographic and historical reason to exist. These millions were born (from 1946 to 1964) of the relative affluence that spread after World War II. Their numbers did give them unifying experiences as they grew up -- made their elders build new schools for them, made their working lives more competitive. Now they are confronted by a president who, after promising not to, is cutting their security and health care in devious ways.

But, even undergoing historical events together, age-peers don't build the same memories, share the same beliefs, behave uniformly. During Vietnam, some young men were conscripted into the war while others fought to end it. Stark differences likewise mark the current group of young people (unimaginatively called "post-millennials"). Some of them are woke and ready to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, gun control, global warming. At the same age, neo-Nazis are setting fire to synagogues.

Once cohorts are reified by name, the labels become dog-whistles. Envy and fear can divide a nation and abet destructive political changes. Malice can turn one generation against another.

We could mitigate the divisiveness. Editors could stop soliciting age-war articles by second-rate phrasemakers. We ordinary people need to defy the lies, and build intergenerational bonds. Let us understand that capitalist and neoliberal choices have worsened life, for decades, for every later, unequal subculture. And a comforting, unifying cross-age coalition should eject politicians unwilling to maintain and repair our precious communal institutions.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:04 AM
The Social Security 2100 Act
https://larson.house.gov/social-security-2100

Social Security isn't in
crisis. It just needs a tune-up
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-13/social-security-2100-act-congress
LA Times - Nancy Altman - August 14

This bill could extend Social
Security's solvency for the rest
of this century. Here's what stands
in its way https://cnb.cx/2XRluSu
CNBC - June 1

The Personal and Fiscal
Impact of the Social Security 2100 Act https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/the-personal-and-fiscal-impact-the-social-security-2100-act via @
Heritage Society - June 11

Eight Revealing Numbers
from the Social Security 2100 Act
https://economics21.org/eight-revealing-numbers-social-security-2100-act
Manhattan Institute - July 22

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:17 AM
Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters.

Once on the street,
1,000 vets have found a home
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/05/26/once-street-vets-have-found-home-according-walsh/DteN0irryyLA3Acd3EII6J/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

[Oct 15, 2019] Economist's View The Opportunity Cost of Computer Programming

Oct 15, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

From Reuters Odd News :

Man gets the poop on outsourcing , By Holly McKenna, May 2, Reuters

Computer programmer Steve Relles has the poop on what to do when your job is outsourced to India. Relles has spent the past year making his living scooping up dog droppings as the "Delmar Dog Butler." "My parents paid for me to get a (degree) in math and now I am a pooper scooper," "I can clean four to five yards in a hour if they are close together." Relles, who lost his computer programming job about three years ago ... has over 100 clients who pay $10 each for a once-a-week cleaning of their yard.

Relles competes for business with another local company called "Scoopy Do." Similar outfits have sprung up across America, including Petbutler.net, which operates in Ohio. Relles says his business is growing by word of mouth and that most of his clients are women who either don't have the time or desire to pick up the droppings. "St. Bernard (dogs) are my favorite customers since they poop in large piles which are easy to find," Relles said. "It sure beats computer programming because it's flexible, and I get to be outside,"

[Oct 08, 2019] Job Growth Remains Slow in September

Oct 08, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , October 04, 2019 at 09:24 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-10

October 4, 2019

Job Growth Remains Slow in September, but Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.5 Percent
By Dean Baker

Manufacturing employment hit a record low as a share of private sector employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 136,000 jobs in September, after adding 168,000 in August. The 157,000 average for the last three months is considerably slower than the 179,000 average for the last year, but this slowing is expected in a tight labor market.

The September job growth led to a 0.2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate to 3.5 percent, a fifty-year low. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) rose 0.1 percentage point to 61.0 percent, a new high for the recovery that is 0.6 percentage points above the year-ago level.

The EPOPs for both prime-age (ages 25 to 54) men and women rose by 0.1 percentage point in September. The 74.0 percent rate for women is a new high for the recovery, although still below the peak of 74.9 percent hit in April of 2000. The 86.4 percent rate for men is 0.3 percentage points below the March level and 1.6 percentage points below the prerecession peak.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest on record, 0.6 percentage points below the year-ago level. The unemployment rate for workers without a high school degree also fell sharply to 4.8 percent, 0.8 percentage points below the year-ago level. The share of unemployment due to voluntary quits, a measure of workers' confidence in their labor market prospects, jumped 1.7 percentage points to 14.6 percent, a level more typical for a strong labor market.

Other data in the household survey were more mixed. While the mean duration of unemployment spells edged down 0.1 weeks to 22.0 weeks, the median duration rose 0.5 weeks to 9.4 weeks. The share of long-term unemployed also rose by 2.1 percentage points to 22.7 percent.

The number of involuntary part-time workers edged down by 31,000. The number of workers choosing to work part-time also fell, dropping by 124,000 in September. The percentage of the workforce choosing to work part-time has been dropping over the last year, after rising sharply following the implementation of the ACA. This likely due to workers having greater difficulty getting health care outside of employment.

Another negative item is an increase in the number of multiple job holders, especially among women. The share of employed women who have multiple jobs rose to 5.9 percent, 0.5 percentage points above the year-ago level. The vast majority of these women report that they work a second job in addition to a full-time job.

The picture on the establishment side is more negative. Slower job growth is to be expected in a tighter labor market, but it has virtually stopped altogether on the goods-producing side. The goods-producing sector has added a total of just 2,000 jobs over the last three months, with construction adding 8,000 jobs, manufacturing adding 4,000, and mining and logging losing 10,000. A big part of this is the fallout from the trade war and the resulting drop in investment. Also, lower world oil prices are a big hit to the mining sector. The manufacturing share of private sector employment sunk to a new all-time low in September of 9.96 percent.

On the service side, job growth in the high-paying professional and technical services sector has slowed sharply in the last two months, added an average of 13,900, compared to an average of 23,900 over the last year. Restaurant employment has also slowed sharply, with the sector adding an average of just 1,500 jobs over the last four months. This should be expected in a tight labor market, where workers have higher-paying options. Retail lost 11,400 jobs in September, bringing its losses over the last year to 60,900, just under 0.4 percent of total employment.

A big job gainer in recent months is health care, which added 38,800 jobs in September after adding 37,200 in August. The sector has accounted for almost a third of job growth in the private sector over the last two months.

In contrast to the evidence of a tight labor market in the household survey, wage growth appears to be slowing slightly. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent over the last year, although the annualized rate of wage growth, comparing the last three months (July, August, September) with the prior three months (April, May, June), was a slightly higher 3.4 percent.

[Graph]

This is a generally positive report with some serious warning signs. The goods sector is very weak and likely to get weaker, according to a wide variety of measures of manufacturing. The evidence of slowing wage growth is also striking in a labor market with 3.5 percent unemployment.

[Oct 06, 2019] Devop created huge opportunities for a new generation of snake oil salesman

Highly recommended!
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[Sep 29, 2019] Deng famously declared it's all right if some advance before others

Sep 29, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> Plp... , September 28, 2019 at 09:18 AM

Branko loves his
Metric inequality

But it has limits

And internal system inequality
is very different
From inter system inequality

Deng famously declared it's all right if some advance before others
Internally

He understood development involved greater internal inequality at not just one initial stage
But at various stages ie domestic inequality
Is not constantly subject to improving Gini
On the path to the technical frontier ...


[ This is a very important comment. ]

[Sep 25, 2019] Michael Hudson Asset-Price Inflation and Rent Seeking

Notable quotes:
"... The main culprit for the economy's falling growth rate and the general middle-class economic squeeze is debt - or more specifically, the burden of having to pay it back, with penalties, fees and lower credit ratings. The mainstream press depicts the rising market price of homes as a benefit to homeowners, a capital gam as if they almost were real estate speculators or capitalists in miniature, not wage-eamers running up debt. GDP statisticians include the rise hi valuation of owner-occupied real estate and the rising rents it saves homeowners from having to pay as adding to GDP. ..."
"... "What has occurred is an inversion of values about the proper aim of economies. Today, it is to get rich by means of a financialized rentier economy. From the point of view of rentiers and other investors, the production-and-consumption economy is the overhead. The costs of labor and capital are to be minimized by squeezing out more economic rent. By contrast, our approach treats the production-and-consumption sector as primary, and the FIRE sector and other rent extracting sectors as overhead." ..."
"... "Each debt is a credit on the other side of the balance sheet, because behind each borrower is a lender." ..."
Sep 25, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Those who praise the post-2008 economy as a successful recovery point to the fact that the stock market has soar ed to all-time highs, while the unemployment rate has fallen to a decade-low. But is the stock market a good proxy for how the overall economy is doing? The low reported unemployment rate sidesteps the predominance of minimum-wage jobs. part-time "gig'' work, and the fact that the Federal Reserve's Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 201S reports that 39% of Americans do not have $400 cash available for a medical or other emergency, and that a quarter of adults skipped medical care hi 2018 because they could not afford it. 1 The latest estimates by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that nearly half (48 percent) of households headed by someone 55 and older lack any retirement savings or pension benefits.2 Even in what the press calls an economic boom, most Americans feel stressed and many are chronically angry and worried. According to a 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association, financial worry is the "number one cause of stress in America today."3 The Fed describes them as suffering from '•financial fragility." What is fragile is their economic status and self-worth, teetering 011 the brink of downward mobility. Living hi today's fmancialized economy creates stresses that seem more damaging emotionally than living hi a poor country. America certainly is not a poor counfry, but it has become so debt-ridden, and its wealth and income growth so highly concentrated, that much of its population is emotionally worse off than that of almost any other country hi the world.

The U.S. economy's soaring wealth and income finds its counterpart on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. Rising stock prices have been fueled by corporate stock buyback programs and debt leveraging, not earnings from new tangible investment and employment. And rising real estate prices reflect the decline hi interest rates, enabling a given rental flow to be capitalized hito higher bank loans and market prices. Additionally, the wave of foreclosures 011 junk mortgages and debt- strapped new home buyers has reduced home ownership rates, forcing more of the population into a rental market, whose rising charges for housing have supported general real estate prices. Thus, these capital gains do not reflect a thriving economy, but a higher-cost one that is polarizing between creditors and debtors, property owners and renters, and the financial sector vis-a-vis the rest of the economy.

The main culprit for the economy's falling growth rate and the general middle-class economic squeeze is debt - or more specifically, the burden of having to pay it back, with penalties, fees and lower credit ratings. The mainstream press depicts the rising market price of homes as a benefit to homeowners, a capital gam as if they almost were real estate speculators or capitalists in miniature, not wage-eamers running up debt. GDP statisticians include the rise hi valuation of owner-occupied real estate and the rising rents it saves homeowners from having to pay as adding to GDP. But

2 William E. Gibson, "Nearly Half of Americans 55+ Have No Retirement Savings or Pension Benefits," AARP, March 28, 2019. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/retirement-savings/info-2019/no-retirement-money-saved.html

3 Source: American Psychological Association (2015). "American Psychological Association survey shows money stress weighing on Americans' Health Nationwide," February 4, 2015. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/02/monev-stiess.aspx.

Steve H. , September 25, 2019 at 8:17 am

"What has occurred is an inversion of values about the proper aim of economies. Today, it is to get rich by means of a financialized rentier economy. From the point of view of rentiers and other investors, the production-and-consumption economy is the overhead. The costs of labor and capital are to be minimized by squeezing out more economic rent. By contrast, our approach treats the production-and-consumption sector as primary, and the FIRE sector and other rent extracting sectors as overhead."

"Each debt is a credit on the other side of the balance sheet, because behind each borrower is a lender."

[Sep 25, 2019] The share of U.S. households making at least $100,000 has more than tripled since 1967, when just 9 percent of all U.S. households earned that much (all figures are adjusted for inflation).

Sep 25, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Paine , September 22, 2019 at 09:07 AM

"According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau,

The share of U.S. households making at least $100,000 has more than tripled since 1967, when just 9 percent of all U.S. households earned that much (all figures are adjusted for inflation).

In 2018, the share of households earning less than $50,000 (i.e., the lower class) dropped below 40 percent for the first time since the U.S. Census data on this metric started to be collected in 1967. Back then, 54 percent of households earned less than $50,000.

So the next time you hear someone allege that the economy is leaving an increasing share of American households behind or see a pundit bemoan the "shrinking middle class," take a closer look at the data and keep in mind that a "shrinking middle class" may actually be a sign of growing prosperity."

This is Cato crap. What are the real facts?

Plp -> Paine... , September 24, 2019 at 08:49 AM
No respondents

Well

First off the measure should be compensation per job hour, not per household

Households may increase income simply by selling more hours

[Sep 24, 2019] Education in the past and in neoliberal era

Sep 24, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

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The Failure of Higher Education: A Tale of Two Diplomas Posted on September 24, 2019 by Yves Smith By David Barber, a Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Martin and is the author of A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why it Failed

I am struck by the variety of ways in which the actual spiritual state of Americans is denied by people who have every reason to know what that state is: our educators, artists, and politicians. It is hard for me to believe, for example, that educators do not know the sorry truth behind the lack of real education here. It seems very clear to me that until the educators themselves believe in what they teach, there is no hope for their students. But the educators cannot accept this, because in order to do so they would have to overhaul every aspect of their private lives, which effort would hurl them forever beyond the bounds of the academic life.

James Baldwin, 1961

The catastrophe which is education in this country is not new. For the majority of students in the United States, black students in particular, education has never meant anything more than a training to stay in one's place. Over the past several decades, however, with the American Empire in an accelerating free-fall, American education, ever the handmaiden of society's rich and powerful, has in tandem spiraled downward: our schools endlessly drill our children with boring and meaningless "worksheets"; we subsidize and celebrate the digital economy by "teaching" children with computers and computer programs; we script our teachers to guarantee a minimum of human interaction in the classroom; we strip our schools of art and music, making sure that our students never see beauty or truth in the world; and, of course, we drill our students for weeks and months on end with testing, and more testing, and still more testing, lest our students find any joy whatsoever in learning. In short, our schools dull the intelligence and curiosity of our young people such that they will never question the meaningless and unpleasant lives they will be forced to lead in a society that is everywhere falling apart around them.

In higher education, too, we see this dramatic narrowing of the already slim chances that any of our students will achieve a real education. Our state legislatures, in the most telling example, cut state support for higher education requiring that university administrations jack up tuition, tuition that rises far more rapidly than does inflation. Higher tuition yields both higher student debt and more students working twenty, thirty, or forty hours a week in paying jobs while they attend school. Our indebted students then must hew as closely as they possibly can to career paths which enable them to minimize and pay back their debts; and the long hours of minimum wage work taken on by our students all but guarantee that they cannot be serious students, cannot devote the hours they need to study and reflection, cannot, in short, do the work most necessary for them to become educated, mature, human beings. But then educated, mature human beings do not fit well into our global economy.

In the face of this disaster, our university faculty refuse to take any stand against the strangling of education in this country. We mouth words in our classrooms about truth, and the search for truth, and the value and necessity of honesty and ethics, and democracy, and responsible citizenship. Privately, we condemn the various assessment schemes we're compelled to carry out; privately, we denounce the rapid multiplication of educationally meaningless administrative and compliance positions on our campuses. And privately, we bemoan the ignorance of our students, their lack of curiosity and their lack of academic preparation. But when it comes to denouncing all the various assaults upon education occurring across the entire spectrum of our educational landscape, when we are compelled to speak to the reasons why our students enter our universities uneducated, and still more seriously, why they leave our universities uneducated, we lose our voice. As more than one of my colleagues has said to me in explanation of his silence: "I don't want to stick my neck out."


ambrit , September 24, 2019 at 7:22 am

As one who never finished the 'official' "education" process, I can look back and see that I was reacting to an almost subconscious realization that I was 'there' for the wrong reasons, according to the received wisdom of that, and every other, time. This disconnect between the 'ideal' of education and the 'reality' of the "Paper Chase," is perennial.

Historically speaking, a 'proper' higher education serves the purpose of producing a 'well rounded' person. Traditionally, that process was reserved for those with a high amount of disposable income; the children of the wealthy. The "lower orders" beavered on in technical colleges and apprenticeships. The odd 'special' case was made in the 'proper' universities for the exceptionally bright and the token 'charity' student. Call it an institutional case of virtue signalling.

Today, those two disparite streams of education have been melded into one almost monolithic bloc. The original utilitarian view of education, previously reserved for the 'technical' fields has invaded and corrupted the "higher" educational sphere. Now, everything has a "price." Presumably, that formulation also applies to the students enmeshed in the new, magisterial 'education' instrumentality. Roughly speaking, the 'students' are now the 'product' of the universities, not the education.

Finally, all this might be a socially 'agreed upon' process to short circuit the production of intellectually and emotionally 'well balanced' individuals. There is nothing more fear producing in any ruling elite than the prospect of an 'aware' public.

John Mc , September 24, 2019 at 8:45 am

As a consumer, and producer of higher education curricula over 20 years in academia, this article is spot on in how it describes the bezzle. And the area of specialization for me (family finance – human ecology) is the prototypical example of the Neoliberal university coaxing students into believing that incremental change, small bits of knowledge/courses will change their lives for our students for the better -- while large institutions continue to cheat, obscure malfeasance, and promote the administrative culture. Its sickening on so many levels.

It is sickening to experience (teaching and learning). And if we remembered more than we forget, it would take about 20 seconds to remember how the market has changed higher education in terms content (what is studied), how we study (crammage), and why we study. Lastly, if we imagine the exact same degree type for two different eras we can see the main focus very clear:

1. Tuition at Cal Berkley in 1970? Around 1K 2019 – more like 1K per credit hour.
2. Paying for your future assumes that we have a future (climate change, job market opportunities)
3. Debt peonage and rentier education squatting requires the right mix of desperation and time

When I think about the time/money/energy that is wasted in this country (not just in universities – anyone just has to spend 1 minute with someone who participates in fantasy football or sports gaming to see how out of wack we are as a culture and as a people.

The hollowed out spaces in universities are now more about pretending to be competent, maintaining the status quo -- each unit within departments competing against one another for resources and students rather than we are all in this together (for the student).

If education can be seen in the lens of abuse, we have the profiteers abusers, and the admin enables with chaos for everyone else.

Crazy

As Regina Spektor says: Living in Den of Thieves – its contagious

Loneprotester , September 24, 2019 at 8:54 am

What Barber is saying: Teaching is hard, and my students aren't very bright (look in a mirror, sir, neither are you). Revolutions are fun. Let's do that instead.

DJG , September 24, 2019 at 9:02 am

Yes, most people are educated, especially these days, to be conformist, to adopt the current economic fantasies, and to be highly verbal.

But Barber does himself no favors: What can he possibly mean by the American Church? I am detecting someone who has spent too much time in the U.S. South (Tennessee) where the "church" is those nice Methodists down the street. Along with some required singing of Amazing Grace. So what he may think of as an insightful critique of Americans' flexible morals doesn't get to the center of the problem. The American "church" is utilitarianism. Whatever one can get away with one gets away with. Actions have no consequences among the perfected.

And the mention of the Greeks by Barber and Deneen is gratuitous. Neither of them has much use for the Greeks and Greek philosophy. Each of them likely considers Greek philosophy mainly to be the support that makes the American Church intellectually legitimate.

I understand the moral problem of anyone trying to get an education in the U S of A these days. My alma mater is one of the main cheerleaders for fundamentialist free-market fantasy. (Alma mater: What an idea.) Yet the diploma is only a start: Education has to go throughout one's life, and sentimental education (is that even a "thing" here in the U S of A?) has to go on everyday for the rest of one's post-diploma life.

Anon , September 24, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Actually, the diploma is the end of the beginning. The start is "the first five" years of life (talk, read, sing) which is likely to expose the growing brain to stimuli that allows for future "discovery". The beginning of formal education (K-12), unfortunately for many, starts with poverty (25% of all school children) and impoverished school resources (including underpaid, over-worked teachers) that conspire toward an assembly-line methodology (testing, and more testing). Those who make it to college (honestly) are well-versed in manufacturing "acceptable" papers on topics not understood. But then the college curricula (more demanding than H.S.) and the concept of "critical thinking" (ignoring the social implications of 18-20 y.o.'s on their own) makes the idea of "learning how to learn" a difficult grasp. Some get it, some don't.

It is after getting the college diploma, and maybe of few years of travel (for pleasure or a job) that a much broader, mature perspective of the world (Plato) emerges. (Hopefully those Classics, or an introduction to NC, comes across your path.) It is then the real learning starts.

John Hacker , September 24, 2019 at 9:07 am

Thanks Yves. Education has been a tender spot for me. All i have are complaints. Please point me in the direction of some solutions.

funemployed , September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am

I agree wholeheartedly with your diagnosis (not to mention greatly appreciate your lovely prose), however, I think your theory of change as stated here – "force the issue and meaning of education before American society" – misses the mark.

I have spent the better part of 2 decades studying, first history, then education, with the goal of becoming an educator (accumulating no small amount of debt in the process). So long as I stuck to diagnosing the problem as you did here, and keeping my calls to arms strictly in the rhetorical realm, I was welcomed as an "ally" and fellow traveler by a not insignificant portion of my colleagues.

Unfortunately for my career (not to mention mental health), I wasn't satisfied with that, and began to delve and a very focused and specific way into the actual structure of educational systems, and looking for levers to gain the power necessary to change them (or, more specifically, to shift power from those who hold it to those who do not). That was when I learned just how thin of a gruel "allyship" really is in academia.

I think you are assuming educators have real power. They do not. Power, real power, comes from control over the material necessities and niceties of life. The primary social function of our educational institutions, from pre-k through endowed chairmanship is to sort people into an unequal society. If the "real issue and meaning of education" (i.e. creating the conditions and connections necessary for truly democratic life) were to take hold in such an institution, it would either destroy the institution or turn it into something else entirely.

I agree "an educated people" is indeed our only hope, because to me an educated people is synonymous with a democratic people. Indeed, I think education is the inevitable result of people getting together to solve problems nonviolently with a coequal distribution of power. Where it has truly taken root (e.g. Freedom schools in the 60s, the meetings organized by populist party at the turn of the 19th/20th century), it has had a material function and base that is diametrically opposed to the way virtually all today's "educators" earn their daily bread.

IMO, the way people become true "educators" – those who "force the issue and meaning of education before American society" – is by serving the educational function in a democratic movement. They are people who are delegated authority democratically (i.e. without coercion) by those they serve because they, in essence, are effective hubs for the uninhibited flow of social information. In other words, they are authentically democratic leaders, whose power is entirely dependent on maintaining trust because trust is fundamental to the uninhibited flow of social information, and the temptation to violate social trust is, well, why human societies have more drama than ant colonies.

You are a professor, and no doubt do a great deal of good for a great many students (I did a brief stint of that as well, and in no way am trying to undermine how valuable and rewarding it can be), but you will never be, in that role, an "educator" in the truly democratic sense because every one of your students knows you could, if you wanted, completely screw them over and there's not a family blogging thing they could do about it.

You can, however, be a real educator (i.e. democratic leader) in your spare time, and are in a unique and special institutional position to prepare future (and support present) real democratic educator/leaders to manage one hell of a clusterfamilyblog of a global civilizational collapse that is coming whether we want it to or not. I hope you will do so with a hard-nosed evaluation of the relationship between power, information flows, democracy, and the material world, as I fear anything less will be far from adequate.

John Mc , September 24, 2019 at 10:00 am

These comments appear to me to be the epitome of neoliberal doctrine:

1. People have everything they need to excel
2. Its never been easier to study as information has been democratized
3. Invocation of Maslow, ambient culture (interesting view of life-stage development for young adults too
4. Individualistic lens – "addressing the big issues of your time"

Maybe I read this wrong, or it started with "NC folk" – but there is no mention of:

Debt peonage
Administrative culture
Global Labor Markets
Real Costs for Students – Tuition Inflation (higher than healthcare costs over last 30 years)
– Parking predation
– Textbook Bezzles
– Adjunct – itus
– Pay to Play Tenure
– Darwinian death struggle among college units in departments (Survival = Resources)
– Forgetting – a major theme (making meaning of one's education) – moving onto CV building
Social Costs of Expensive Higher Education (delay family formation)
Long term wealth implications for this generation's graduates

Education is not a solitary event, with isolated moments of brainstorming and individualistic memes of hardwork. It is a system with millions of parts -- and these parts have been bent to serve our neoliberal masters in about every domain imaginable.

And in my experience, (as Yves says) this is not a bug in the system -- it was a feature of a system reboot designed especially for these outcomes

Tom Pfotzer , September 24, 2019 at 10:38 am

Last year I went to the local library book sale, and bought a stack of college textbooks – chemistry, physics, elec engineering, calc, etc. The stack was 3′ tall, and it cost me $26.

A few months ago, I downloaded the latest Linux & Java development workbench onto the computer I built from components sourced from Ebay/Amazon. Full, up-to-date, latest edition of Java development workbench on killer hardware $650, including 21″ monitor. Software and how-to materials all free. I have done this several times during my career, and it's never been easier or cheaper to do.

To glean those textbooks, all I have to do is read, do the probs at the back of the chapter. To build salable skills, all I have to do is think up a problem to solve, and write the software to solve it. Effort. Those two things – ID useful problem, and the marshalling of components to solve it – gives me demonstrable evidence of competency, and I can parlay that into a good job.

When I look a the amount of time expended on smart phones, Facebook, etc. I become less sympathetic about people's plight – in general. One counter-example: the 450-year systematic repression of blacks is one issue that merits societal redress.

And whether this cultural malady of victimhood is by design (by the "elites", for ex), or by circumstance, it is not mandatory . No one is making people watch TV. There are choices, and some are making different, better choices, and benefiting from it.

Visit http://www.coursera.org . Tell my why I would go into debt to get what I need when it's available (from many of the elite schools and professors) for free.

So, if taking initiative to address my own needs is what you call NeoLiberal, then I'm all for neoliberalism. I get confused about all the political classifications afoot these days, so I'm not real sure what bin I fit into, exactly.

Lastly, I doubt anyone could name 100 parts (types, not instances) of their educational experience, let alone millions. It's not nearly as complex as all that.

Ankara Fuller , September 24, 2019 at 11:21 am

While there a many areas where the web and libraries do indeed offer the curious and disciplined an opportunity to better themselves with book knowlege of software. Much of what we hope to understand about our world – fundamental research, and many speciality areas of knowlege require a 'craft' or hands on component that no amount of book reading can replace. Skill crafts of cabinetmakers, tailors, chefs and and product designers, or in my field of biology. Lab 'bench craft' is fundamental to learning: microbiology, molecular biology and much of fundamental physics requires labs. I understand from engineering friends that trial test rigs during university are also fundamental to locking in skills. Many areas of STEM require significant funds to back the student, because the study work loads make academic excellence really challenging, and part time jobs nearly impossible. I know, I worked 20 hours in a lab on weekends during much of my undergraduate. At graduate school the extra hours 'spare' ideally are spent working on one's bench craft as free slave labour to the senior ranking (i.e. higher skilled, greater knowledgeable senior scientists). In biology labs, there is almost a medieval apprentice, journeyman, master craftsman route of skill acquisition. There is as much an art to casting an agarose gel as there is in knowing the tweak of the 'recipe' for the molecular attributes desired. It is with great relief that I am not part of the US system, but sitting in a well funded more democratic (free) educational system in Europe. Our world needs to radically think how to put much ore cash into STEM and fundamental research. Incentivise school students (everywhere on planet) to commit the insane hours needed for genetics, molecular biology and all the other emerging areas of life sciences. It requires countries to overhaul education to allow curious minds regardless of family finances. I agree with many NC readers that wide systematic overhaul is needed to untangle many of these difficult and decaying situations (not just US).

divadab , September 24, 2019 at 11:36 am

Yes. It is still possible to get an education if you are self-motivated and self-disciplined. Either inside or outside the academy – and which academy is secondary. But in my view education requires teachers – this is missing from your model and a very important part of the Academy.

However, Credentialling is only available if you pay the price of attaching yourself to the academy. DOn;t worry – credentials are becoming less and less important as changing times and institutional decay make truly educated and adaptable people more and more important and the obedient credentialled irrelevent and useless.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Only how many hundreds of job ads on Indeed use "do you have a bachelors degree" as a screening question? And straight into the circular disposal unit your digital submission goes if you don't.

Ah well pesky reality of the job market and all, sure does reduce philosophizing about "the pointlessness of credentials and formal education" down to size. And no my position is not that noone can succeed without credentials, just that it's obviously harder.

inode_buddha , September 24, 2019 at 11:40 am

I've never had an employer, in the last 35 years, who would give you any credibility for stuff you learnt on your own.

If it isn't on your school transcripts or a diploma, you don't get to negotiate with it. If you have great knowledge, acquired on your own, and use it on the job, you will get no mention of it, no credit, nada. They will keep taking until they are made to stop, and nary so much as a "thank you".

But that's just my experience of 35 years on the job.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 2:45 pm

"I've never had an employer, in the last 35 years, who would give you any credibility for stuff you learnt on your own."

+1 and most WILL NOT give any credibility for class you take either, under no circumstances.

There are two things employers give weight to:
1) on the job experience
2) credentialing, not taking a class in this or that but having a bachelors or a masters. And this #2 is only as a screening device, #1 is still paramount, #2 can be used to screen out but seldom is it by itself an "in". Now there are unique circumstances, if you are still in your 20s, some will let you start out with just a degree as "you have to start somewhere", but after that age, no you need #1 and best to have #2 as well.

Jesper , September 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm

+1 on this as well. My experience is that either you have the knowledge certified by diploma or you are considered to know nothing about the subject & that is even more true when dealing with people with neither diploma nor knowledge of/in the subject matter. They use what little they know and what they know is to look at a diploma.
Ignoring opinions/knowledge from non-certified people is something actively taught at universities and especially at business schools – if things go wrong then the defense can be: He/she was the expert and had the diploma to show for it. People in positions of responsibility are experts at avoiding responsibility, credentials help to deflect blame/responsibility so it is often used.

IT has been slightly different, in the older days, but now it is settling in and even IT recruiters no longer need to take chances on the uncredentialled.

AndrewJ , September 24, 2019 at 2:35 pm

Plinking away on a keyboard may feel like you're doing "real work", but there's a lot more that's necessary to keep any kind of civilization going than developing a new Java app. Training yourself to do any of these myriad other tasks takes more capital, financial and otherwise, than the $700 you've laid out above. Not to mention that staring at a computer screen is profoundly unhealthy and not suitable work for us jumped-up monkeys.
But that's where we are now, aren't we? The only work that Americans think of as "good real work" these days is on a family-blogging computer, and everything else that keeps things going has had the living wage taken away from it and the training ignored.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Everything is a waste of time if it's not improving one's usefulness to the economic system I guess you would argue. And whether it's spending time on facebook and smart phones, or taking care of old people, or raising kids, or engaging in political activism, or increasing one's understanding of the world, or volunteering, or hanging out with friends which Americans increasingly don't even have, or etc.. Because you know it's not just Facebook people spend time on.

This is the philosophy of a tool. Your soul was bought on the cheap and you don't even have the inner spirit to miss it.

Tom Pfotzer , September 24, 2019 at 10:14 am

As I re-read my piece a key question descended upon me. Since Maslow's hierarchy is a guide, or a possibility, it's not a given that someone ever will "self-actualize", or will do so in some socially- or ecologically-useful manner. So what happened to make you "self-acualize" in a direction that might include an NC and the values it espouses?

A parent? A book? A Ken Burns documentary? Did you decide one day to sail outside the safe harbors of conformity, and got swept – with malice afore-thought, and cocktail in hand – into the currents of worldliness?

This is a key question for you democratic educators, ref. funemployed above: "Where's the launch button?"

xkeyscored , September 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

When I first encountered Maslow, I was puzzled, thinking I was missing something profound. Now I'm simply amazed that he can be celebrated as an intellectual with penetrating insight for stating the obvious.
"Food, clothes and shelter
All the poor man asking for"
Misty in Roots

KiWeTO , September 24, 2019 at 12:47 pm

None of the answers I have received when younger, about how society was organized made any sense in justice or fairness. Thus, the quest for better answers began. If that is an awakening, then perhaps it is genetic. Some just seek to know more. Or perhaps more have had that curiosity defeated by society's need for conformity earlier. The quest for knowledge often is the lonelier path, for conforming to thr tribe brings fellowship and norms to follow. There is safety in the middle of the pack.

Now, having observed a better understanding of the intrinsic unfairness of societal arrangements and structures, the question turns to what nudges to the body may be possible to limit the damage we bring upon ourselves as a species to strive for better returns (profits? Benefits?) without the understanding of what "better" or "returns" means.

Smokers know smoking is bad, but the nicotine calls are here and now answered.
Feed scrollers know it doesn't improve their lives, but the hope for just a bit of pleasure keeps the finger scrolling.

As to the digital opiate of the masses, is it because they have been conditioned/addicted to lose their own agency to said opiate? Perhaps the very discussions here in NC is but a different flavour of the same digital opiate. Or to paraphrase Mulder, "The answer IS out there", and we just have to discover it.

Ted , September 24, 2019 at 10:15 am

The more things change Check out Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (1918) or John Dewey The Public and its Problems and other works. Formal education, divorced as it is from the practices of everyday life, presents these sorts of problems as a feature, not a bug. That said, it has been my experience over the past 35 years that education can be and is world opening for many young students. I have also found that the problem often rests with the educator as much as it does the system of education. Well recognized philosophies of education underlay a fundamental split teaching practice, (e.g., transmission of "facts" versus enlivenment of knowing). Those that don't take the time to learn how to teach end up frustrated that the "system" is failing. That a tenured full professor is lamenting thus, just as Veblen did a century ago, is suggestive.

flora , September 24, 2019 at 10:31 am

The prof can complain about students, but I think the students know what's going on better than does the prof. The problems are much higher up the ladder than lowly students readiness for college humanities courses. I expect the students are learning a great deal that's not in the official curriculum. See:

https://www.wbir.com/article/news/local/ut-buyouts-over-past-10-years-top-24-million/51-548254549

and

https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/politics/2018/01/02/congressman-duncan-disgusted-university-tennessee-buyouts/995413001/

Rod , September 24, 2019 at 11:04 am

tools for an economic system that prizes 'flexibility' (geographic, interpersonal, ethical
Learning tools to develope flexible ethics kind of creeps me out.
Yup, training up thinkers is tough, I agree.
I think this is corollary to the above article–and if you've been in the classroom any year for the past forty this should ring sickeningly familiar:

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

Susan the other` , September 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

I loved the book about Summerhill – the alternative education option in the UK (back in the 70s). Everyone was aghast because they thought it was remiss not to educate children rigidly. It never got traction here in the US. But last night there was a segment on alternative education in the UK, allowing children to go at their own pace, find their own interest and above all learn that they didn't need an intermediary (teacher basically) to learn – they could be successful autodidacts. It sounds like it is taking off in England. How nice. Summerhill is still alive and kicking – it advertises itself as a student democracy. Choose what you want to study. I certainly still like the idea because I had my nose in a book from about the age of 7. I always read what interested me and it has been a true pleasure. That's gotta be worth somthin.

Arizona Slim , September 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Permit me to add three more books to your recommendation:

1. The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn. I don't think this one's in print anymore.

2. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. Still in print. Here's the author's website: https://www.johntaylorgatto.com/

3. The Day I Became an Audidact by Kendall Hailey. As far as I can tell, no longer in print.

Enjoy your self-education outside the system, everyone!

xkeyscored , September 24, 2019 at 12:17 pm

From the OED:
educate, v. [f. L. ēducāt- ppl. stem of ēducāre to rear, bring up (children, young animals), related to ēdūcĕre to lead forth (see educe), which is sometimes used nearly in the same sense.] 1 To rear, bring up (children, animals) by supply of food and attention to physical wants. Obs. 2 To bring up (young persons) from childhood, so as to form (their) habits, manners, intellectual and physical aptitudes. b To instruct, provide schooling for (young persons). 3 To train (any person) so as to develop the intellectual and moral powers generally. 4 To train, discipline (a person, a class of persons, a particular mental or physical faculty or organ), so as to develop some special aptitude, taste, or disposition. b To train (animals).
It would seem that Prof. Barber bemoans the demise of meaning 3, if that ever was the purpose or function of our educational system.
Meanings 2 and 4 are alive and well. A special aptitude for narrow-minded submission is successfully cultivated, the more so as the academic ladder is scrambled up.

chuck roast , September 24, 2019 at 12:51 pm

But it's in Deneen's characterization of our students as "individuals without a past cultureless ciphers".
I get that.
Americans have no use for History (with a capital H). American History is trail of carnage and savagery on the scale of Attila and Hitler. Any discussion of History is replete with irony, exceptions and contradictions. Things that Americans do not do well, and things that you do not want rattling around in the heads of right-thinking citizens. Critical thinking could be the catastrophic result.
OK then! Well enculturated Americans know that we have an exceptional past and we are an exceptional people. But, History meh!
What we do have is a future. That's what America is all about. The wonderful, wonderful future with it's myriad fabulous possibilities. Really, you could wet your pants just thinking about it!

Walter Antoniotti , September 24, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Essay applies to the academically superior. One quarter the HS graduates. hat do you propose to do for the rest?

Paul Jurczak , September 24, 2019 at 2:41 pm

This is not a bug, it is a feature of modern Education-Industrial Complex. As per design, its product is indebted cubicle fodder.

Mike Gualario , September 24, 2019 at 3:58 pm

By 8th grade students are well versed in basic math and language arts. At that point the student and family should have a choice between a college bound liberal arts education or a technical education where they have a choice of several knowledge disciplines to choose to study during High school. That way kids who leave high school and are not college bound at least have one skill they can take anyplace in the USA and get a job.. Auto Mechanic, Diesel Mechanic, Marine Mechanic, Chef, Software Development, Website Development, Cosmetology, Adobe Creative Suite (video and photo editing), etc. Not all of those careers would be offered at every high school. But at least 2 or 3 at a minimum and more choices the better. After 12 years of state schooling students should have a skill or a plan to attend college to acquire that skill.

[Sep 22, 2019] Is the Unemployment Rate Tied to the Divorce Rate

Yes it is, but only for couples with low level of marital satisfaction.
Notable quotes:
"... They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage. ..."
"... When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job. ..."
Science of Relationships
The first study considers government data from all 50 U.S. states between the years 1960 and 2005.1 The researchers predicted that higher unemployment numbers would translate to more divorces among heterosexual married couples. Most of us probably would have predicted this too based on common sense-you would probably expect your partner to be able to hold down a job, right? And indeed, this was the case, but only before 1980. Surprisingly, since then, as joblessness has increased, divorce rates have actually decreased.

How do we explain this counterintuitive finding? We don't know for sure, but the researchers speculate that unemployed people may delay or postpone divorce due to the high costs associated with it. Not only is divorce expensive in terms of legal fees, but afterward, partners need to pay for two houses instead of one. And if they are still living off of one salary at that point, those costs may be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, it is not that uncommon to hear about estranged couples who can't stand each other but are still living under the same roof.

The second study considered data from a national probability sample of over 3,600 heterosexual married couples in the U.S. collected between 1987 and 2002. However, instead of looking at the overall association between unemployment and marital outcomes, they considered how gender and relationship satisfaction factored into the equation. 2

They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage.

When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job.

[Sep 22, 2019] Game of musical chairs became more difficult: the US economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs.

Notable quotes:
"... A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction. ..."
"... More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well. ..."
"... This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating) ..."
"... "backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~ ..."
"... Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, ..."
"... George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly." ..."
"... Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately. ..."
Nov 23, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com
Avraam Jack Dectis said...
A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction.

A bad economy moves people toward the margins, afflicts those near the margins and kills those at the margins.

This is what policy makers should consider as they pursue policies that do not put the citizen above all else.

cm -> Avraam Jack Dectis...
"A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction."

More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well.

This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating)

Dune Goon said...

"backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~

Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, not enough elbow room for Daniel Boone, let alone Jack Daniels! Not enough space in this county to wet a tree when you feel the urge! Every tiny plot of space has been nailed down and fenced off, divided up among gated communities. Why?

Because the 1% has an excessive propensity to reproduce their own kind. They are so uneducated about the responsibilities of birth control and space conservation that they are crowding all of us off the edge of the planet. Worse yet we have begun to *ape our betters*.

"We've only just begun!"
~~The Carpenters~

William said...

"Many of us know people who receive various public benefits, and who might not need to rely on these programs if they made better choices, if they learned how to not talk back at work, if they had a better handle on various self-destructive behaviors, if they were more willing to take that crappy job and forego disability benefits, etc."

George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly."

cm said in reply to William...

A valid observation, but what you are commenting on is more about getting or keeping a job than managing personal finances.

Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately.

[Sep 22, 2019] Paul Krugman: Despair, American Style

Notable quotes:
"... In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true. ..."
"... the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society... ..."
"... Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. ..."
"... What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution." ..."
"... The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here. ..."
"... Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end. ..."
"... there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007 ..."
"... Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles ..."
"... Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10% ..."
"... "You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place." ..."
"... Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices ..."
"... It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'état. Or as it often called "a quite coup". ..."
"... First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. ..."
"... The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. ..."
"... BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason). ..."
"... Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ... ..."
"... Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc. ..."
"... Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction. ..."
"... Credibility trap, fully engaged. ..."
"... The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html ..."
"... Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents. ..."
"... The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. ..."
"... When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary). ..."
"... When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes). ..."
"... Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues. ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com

"There is a darkness spreading over part of our society":

Despair, American Style, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are "down on America," and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

Yet there is a darkness spreading over part of our society. ... There has been a lot of comment ... over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999..., while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves... Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and ... drinking... But what's causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?...

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

That sounds like a plausible hypothesis..., but the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society...

I know I'm not the only observer who sees a link between the despair reflected in those mortality numbers and the volatility of right-wing politics. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. No, deporting immigrants and wearing baseball caps bearing slogans won't solve their problems, but neither will cutting taxes on capital gains. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair.

bakho said...

There are a lot of economic dislocations that the government after the 2001 recession stopped doing much about it. Right after the 2008 crash, the government did more but by 2010, even the Democratic president dropped the ball. and failed to deliver. Probably no region of the country is affected more by technological change that the coal regions of KY and WV. Lying politicians promise a return to the past that cannot be delivered. No one can suggest what the new future will be. The US is due for another round of urbanization as jobs decline in rural areas. Dislocation forces declining values of properties and requires changes in behavior, skills and outlook. Those personal changes do not happen without guidance. The social institutions such as churches and government programs are a backstop, but they are not providing a way forward. There is plenty of work to be done, but our elites are not willing to invest.

DrDick -> bakho...

The problem goes back much further than that. What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution."

The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here.

ilsm said...

Thuggee doom and gloom is about their fading chance to reinstate the slavocracy.

The fever swamp of right wing ideas is more loony than 1964.

Extremism is the new normal.

bmorejoe -> ilsm...

Yup. The slow death of white supremacy.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

If it wasn't for monetary policy things would be even worse as the Republicans in Congress forced fiscal austerity on the economy during the "recovery."

sanjait -> Peter K....

That's the painful irony of a comment like that one from Anonymous ... he seems completely unaware that, yes, ZIRP has done a huge amount to prevent the kind of problems described above. He like most ZIRP critics fails to consider what the counterfactual looks like (i.e., something like the Great Depression redux).

Anonymous -> sanjait...

You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place. Because preemptive monetary policy has gone out of fashion completely. And now we are going to repeat the whole process over when the present bubble in stocks and corporate bonds bursts along with the malinvestment in China, commodity exporters etc.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

sanjait -> Anonymous...

"You want regulation? I would like to see

1) Reinstate Glass Steagall

2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments."

Great. Two things with zero chance of averting bubbles but make great populist pablum.

This is why we can't have nice things!

"3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office."

This seems like a decent idea. Hard to enforce, as highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway.

likbez -> sanjait...

" highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway."

You are forgetting that it depends on a simple fact to whom political power belongs. And that's the key whether "highly intelligent and accomplished people" will accept those restrictions of not.

If the government was not fully captured by financial capital, then I think even limited prosecution of banksters "Stalin's purge style" would do wonders in preventing housing bubble and 2008 financial crush.

Please try to imagine the effect of trial and exile to Alaska for some period just a dozen people involved in Securitization of mortgages boom (and those highly intelligent people can do wonders in improving oil industry in Alaska ;-).

Starting with Mr. Weill, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Phil Gramm, Dr. Summers and Mr. Clinton.

Anonymous -> Peter K....

"2003-2005 didn't have excess inflation and wage gains."

Monetary policy can not hinge just on inflation or wage gains. Why are wage gains a problem anyway?

Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end.

You want regulation? I would like to see
1) Reinstate Glass Steagall
2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments.
3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office. Bernanke, David Warsh etc included. That includes Mishkin getting paid to shill for failing Iceland banks or Bernanke making paid speeches to hedge funds.


Anonymous -> EMichael...

Fact: there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007
Fact: Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles
Fact: Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10%

what facts are you referring to?

EMichael -> Anonymous...

That FED rates caused the bubble.

to think this you have to ignore that a 400% Fed Rate increase from 2004 to 2005 had absolutely no effect on mortgage originations.

Then of course, you have to explain why 7 years at zero has not caused another housing bubble.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FEDFUNDS

Correlation is not causation. Lack of correlation is proof of lack of causation.

pgl -> Anonymous...

"You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place."

You are repeating the John B. Taylor line about interest rates being held "too low and too long". And guess what - most economists have called Taylor's claim for the BS it really is. We should also note we never heard this BS when Taylor was part of the Bush Administration. And do check - Greenspan and later Bernanke were raising interest rates well before any excess demand was generated which is why inflation never took off.

So do keep repeating this intellectual garbage and we keep noting you are just a stupid troll.

anne -> anne...
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112

September 17, 2015

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

Abstract

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

ilsm -> Sarah...

Murka is different. Noni's plan would work if it were opportune for the slavocracy and the Kochs and ARAMCO don't lose any "growth".

Maybe cost plus climate repair contracts to shipyards fumbling through useless nuclear powered behemoths for war plans made in 1942.

Someone gotta make big money plundering for the public good, in Murka!

CSP said...

The answers to our malaise seem readily apparent to me, and I'm a southern-born white male working in a small, struggling Georgia town.

1. Kill the national war machine
2. Kill the national Wall Street financial fraud machine
3. Get out-of-control mega corporations under control
4. Return savings to Main Street (see #1, #2 and #3)
5. Provide national, universal health insurance to everyone as a right
6. Provide free education to everyone, as much as their academic abilities can earn them
7. Strengthen social security and lower the retirement age to clear the current chronic underemployment of young people

It seems to me that these seven steps would free the American people to pursue their dreams, not the dreams of Washington or Wall Street. Unfortunately, it is readily apparent that true freedom and real individual empowerment are the last things our leaders desire. Shame on them and shame on everyone who helps to make it so.

DeDude -> CSP...

You are right. Problem is that most southern-born white males working in a small, struggling Georgia town would rather die than voting for the one candidate who might institute those changes - Bernie Sanders.

The people who are beginning to realize that the american dream is a mirage, are the same people who vote for GOP candidates who want to give even more to the plutocrats.

kthomas said...

The kids in Seattle had it right when WTO showed up.


Why is anyone suprised by all this?

We exported out jobs. First all the manufacturing. Now all of the Service jobs.


But hey...we helped millions in China and India get out of poverty, only to put outselves into it.


America was sold to highest bidder a long long time ago. A Ken Melvin put it, the chickens came home to roost in 2000.

sanjait -> kthomas...

So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?

I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong.

Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff.

And while some services can be outsourced, the vast majority can't. Period.

Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices. The U.S. has one of the more closed economies in the developed world, so if globalization were the cause, we'd be the most insulated. But we aren't, which should be a pretty good indication that globalization isn't the cause.

cm -> sanjait...

Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. There has been growth in higher skill jobs in absolute terms, but when you adjust by population growth, it is flat or declining.

When people hypothetically or actually get the "higher skills" recommended to them, into what higher skill jobs are they to move?

I have known a number of anecdotes of people with degrees or who held "skilled" jobs that were forced by circumstances to take commodity jobs or jobs at lower pay grades or "skill levels" due to aggregate loss of "higher skill" jobs or age discrimination, or had to go from employment to temp jobs.

And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region. But that doesn't last long, especially if the outsourcers expend resources to train and grow the remote skill base, at the expense of the domestic workforce which is expected to already have experience (which has worked for a while due to workforce overhangs from previous industry "restructuring").

likbez -> sanjait...

"Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices."

It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'état. Or as it often called "a quite coup".

sanjait -> cm...

"Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. "

And that is *exactly my point.*

The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem.

"And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region."

You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades.

My point is that offshoring IS NOT THE CAUSE of stagnating wages. I'd argue that globalization is a force that can't really be stopped by national policy anyway, but even if you think it could, it's important to realize IT WOULD DO ALMOST NOTHING to alleviate inequality.

cm -> sanjait...

I was responding to your point:

"So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?"

With the follow-on:

"I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong."

Labor markets are very sensitive to marginal effects. If let's say "normal" or "heightened" turnover is 10% p.a. spread out over the year, then the continued availability (or not) of around 1% vacancies (for the respective skill sets etc.) each month makes a huge difference. There was the argument that the #1 factor is automation and process restructuring, and offshoring is trailing somewhere behind that in job destruction volume.

I didn't research it in detail because I have no reason to doubt it. But it is a compounded effect - every percentage point in open positions (and *better* open positions - few people are looking to take a pay cut) makes a big difference. If let's say the automation losses are replaced with other jobs, offshoring will tip the scale. Due to aggregate effects one cannot say what is the "extra" like with who is causing congestion on a backed up road (basically everybody, not the first or last person to join).

"Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff."

Are you kidding me? The world economy is less material based? OK maybe 20 years after the paperless office we are finally printing less, but just because the material turnover, waste, and environmental pollution is not in your face (because of offshoring!), it doesn't mean less stuff is produced or material consumed. If anything, it is market saturation and aggregate demand limitations that lead to lower material and energy consumption (or lower growth rates).

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, several nations (US and Germany among others) had programs to promote new car sales (cash for clunkers etc.) that were based on the idea that people can get credit for their old car, but its engine had to be destroyed and made unrepairable so it cannot enter the used car market and defeat the purpose of the program. I assume the clunkers were then responsibly and sustainably recycled.

cm -> sanjait...

"The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us taht offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem."

This doesn't follow. First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. Also consider that aside from time zone differences (which are of course a big deal between e.g. US and Europe/Asia), there is not much difference whether a job is performed in another country or in a different domestic region, or perhaps just "working from home" 1 mile from the office, for office-type jobs. Of course the other caveat is whether the person can physically attend meetings with little fuss and expense - so remote management/coordination work is naturally not a big thing.

The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. When the boomers retire for real in another 5-10 years, that may change. OTOH several tech companies I know have periodic programs where they offer workers over 55 or so packages to leave the company, so they cannot really hurt for talent, though they keep complaining and are busy bringing in young(er) people on work visa. Free agents, it depends on the company. Some companies hire NCGs, but they also "buy out" older workers.

cm -> cm...

Caveat: Based on what I see (outside sectors with strong/early growth), domestic hiring of NCGs/"fresh blood" falls in two categories:

Then there is also the gender split - "technical/engineering" jobs are overweighed in men, except technical jobs in traditionally "non-technical/non-product" departments which have a higher share of women.

All this is of course a matter of top-down hiring preferences, as generally everything is either controlled top-down or tacitly allowed to happen by selective non-interference.

cm -> sanjait...

"You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades."

I've written a lot of text so far but didn't address all points ...

My "hedging" is retrospective. I don't hypothesize what may eventually happen but it is happening here and now. I don't presume to present a representative picture, but in my sphere of experience/observation (mostly a subset of computer software), offshoring of *knowledge work* started in the mid to late 90's (and that's not the earliest it started in general - of course a lot of the early offshoring in the 80's was market/language specific customization, e.g. US tech in Europe etc., and more "local culture expertise" and not offshoring proper). In the late 90's and early 2000's, offshoring was overshadowed by the Y2K/dotcom booms, so that phase didn't get high visibility (among the people "affected" it sure did). Also the internet was not yet ubiquitous - broadband existed only at the corporate level.

Since then there has been little change, it is pretty much a steady state.

BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason).

Syaloch -> sanjait...

Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. What matters is that the jobs disappeared, replaced by a small number of higher skill jobs paying comparable wages plus a large number of low skill jobs offering lower wages.

The aggregate effect was stagnation and even decline in living standards. Plus any new jobs were not necessarily produced in the same geographic region as those that were lost, leading to concentration of unemployment and despair.

sanjait -> Syaloch...

"Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. "

Well, actually it does matter, because we have a whole lot of people (in both political parties) who think the way to fight inequality is to try to reverse globalization.

If they are incorrect, it matters, because they should be applying their votes and their energy to more effective solutions, and rejecting the proposed solutions of both the well-meaning advocates and the outright demagogues who think restricting trade is some kind of answer.

Syaloch -> sanjait...

I meant it doesn't matter in terms of the despair felt by those affected. All that matters to those affected is that they have been obsoleted without either economic or social support to help them.

However, in terms of addressing this problem economically it really doesn't matter that much either. Offshoring is effectively a low-tech form of automation. If companies can't lower labor costs by using cheaper offshore labor they'll find ways to either drive down domestic wages or to use less labor. For the unskilled laborer the end result is the same.

Syaloch -> Syaloch...

See the thought experiment I posted on the links thread, and then add the following:

Suppose the investigative journalist discovered instead that Freedonia itself is a sham, and that rather than being imported from overseas, the clothing was actually coming from an automated factory straight out of Vonnegut's "Player Piano" that was hidden in a remote domestic location. Would the people who were demanding limits on Freedonian exports now say, "Oh well, I guess that's OK" simply because the factory was located within the US?

Dan Kervick -> kthomas...

I enjoyed listening to this talk by Fredrick Reinfeldt at the LSE:

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=3253

Reinfeldt is a center-right politicians and former Swedish Prime Minister. OF course, what counts as center-right in Sweden seems very different from what counts as center-right in the US.

Perhaps there is some kind of basis here for some bipartisan progress on jobs and full employment.

William said...

I'm sure this isn't caused by any single factor, but has anyone seriously investigated a link between this phenomena and the military?

Veterans probably aren't a large enough cohort to explain the effect in full, but white people from the south are the most likely group to become soldiers, and veterans are the most likely group to have alcohol/drug abuse and suicide problems.

This would also be evidence why we aren't seeing it in other countries, no one else has anywhere near the number of vets we have.

cm -> William...

Vets are surely part of the aggregate problem of lack of career/economic prospects, in fact a lot of people join(ed) the military because of a lack of other jobs to begin with. But as the lack of prospects is aggregate it affects everybody.

Denis Drew said...

" At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair."


UNOINIZED and (therefore shall we say) politicized: you are in control of your narrative -- win or lose. Can it get any more hopeful than that? And you will probably win.

Winning being defined as labor eeking out EQUALLY emotionally satisfying/dissatisfying market results -- EQUAL that is with the satisfaction of ownership and the consumer. That's what happens when all three interface in the market -- labor interfacing indirectly through collective bargaining.

(Labor's monopoly neutralizes ownership's monopsony -- the consumers' willingness to pay providing the checks and balances on labor's monopoly.)

If you feel you've done well RELATIVE to the standards of your own economic era you will feel you've done well SUBJECTIVELY.

For instance, my generation of (American born) cab drivers earned about $750 for a 60 hour (grueling) work week up to the early 80s. With multiples strip-offs I won't detail here (will on request -- diff for diff cities) that has been reduced to about $500 a week (at best I suspect!) I believe and that is just not enough to get guys like me out there for that grueling work.

Let's take the minimum wage comparison from peak-to-peak instead of from peak-to-trough: $11 and hour in 1968 -- at HALF TODAY'S per capita income (economic output) -- to $7.25 today. How many American born workers are going to show up for $7.25 in the day of SUVs and "up-to-date kitchens" all around us. $8.75 was perfectly enticing for Americans working in 1956 ($8.75 thanks to the "Master of the Senate"). The recent raise to $10 is not good enough for Chicago's 100,000 gang members (out of my estimate 200,000 gang age minority males). Can hustle that much on the street w/o the SUBJECTIVE feeling of wage slavery.

Ditto hiring result for two-tier supermarket contracts after Walmart undercut the unions.

Without effective unions (centralized bargaining is the gold standard: only thing that fends off Walmart type contract muscling. Done that way since 1966 with the Teamsters Union's National Master Freight Agreement; the long practiced law or custom from continental Europe to French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

It occurred to me this morning that if the quintessential example of centralized bargaining Germany has 25% or our population and produces 200% more cars than we do, then, Germans produces 8X as many cars per capita than we do!

And thoroughly union organized Germans feel very much in control of the narrative of their lives.

cm -> Denis Drew...

"thoroughly union organized Germans"

No longer thoroughly, with recent labor market reforms the door has likewise been blown open to contingent workforces, staffing agencies, and similar forms of (perma) temp work. And moving work to nations with lower labor standards (e.g. "peripheral" Europe, less so outside Europe) has been going on for decades, for parts, subassembly, and even final assembly.

Denis Drew said...

Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ...

... putative minimum wage? -- might allow some slippage in high labor businesses like fast food restaurants; 33% labor costs! -- sort of like the Teamsters will allow exceptions when needed from Master agreements if you open up your books, they need your working business too, consumer ultimately sets limits.

Average raise of $200 a week -- $10,000 a year equals $5 billion shift in income -- out of a $170 billion Chicago GDP (1% of national) -- not too shabby to bring an end to gang wars and Despair American Style.

Just takes making union busting a felony LIKE EVERY OTHER FORM OF UNFAIR MARKET MUSCLING (even taking a movie in the movies). The body of laws are there -- the issues presumably settled -- the enforcement just needs "dentures."

cm -> Denis Drew...

Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc.

cm -> Denis Drew...

Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction.

cm -> cm...

It comes down to the collective action problem. You can organize people who form a "community" (workers in the same business site, or similar aggregates more or less subject to Dunbar's number or with a strong tribal/ethnic/otherwise cohesion narrative). Beyond that, if you can get a soapbox in the regional press, etc., otherwise good luck. It probably sounds defeatist but I don't have a solution.

When the union management is outed for corruption or other abuses or questioable practices (e.g. itself employing temps or subcontractors), it doesn't help.

Syaloch said...

There was a good discussion of this on last Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl5kFZ-SZq4

Surprisingly, I pretty much agree with David Frum's analysis -- and Maher's comment that Trump, with his recent book, "Crippled America", has his finger on the pulse of this segment of the population. Essentially what we're seeing is the impact of economic stagnation upon a culture whose reserves of social capital have been depleted, as described in Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone".

When the going gets tough it's a lot harder to manage without a sense of identity and purpose, and without the support of family, friends, churches, and communities. Facebook "friends" are no substitute for the real thing.

Peter K. said...

Jared Bernsetin:

"...since the late 1970s, we've been at full employment only 30 percent of the time (see the data note below for an explanation of how this is measured). For the three decades before that, the job market was at full employment 70 percent of the time."

We need better macro (monetary, fiscal, trade) policy.

Maybe middle-aged blacks and hispanics have better attitudes and health since they made it through a tough youth, have more realistic expectations and race relations are better than the bad old days even if they are far from perfect. The United States is becoming more multicultural.

Jesse said...

Credibility trap, fully engaged.

Jesse said...

The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html

Fred C. Dobbs said...

White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrockets
Psychology Today - May 6, 2013
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201305/white-middle-age-suicide-in-america-skyrockets

Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents.

The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. The rate for whites in middle-age jumped an alarming 40 percent during the same time frame. According to the CDC, there were more than 38,000 suicides (link is external) in 2010 making it the tenth leading cause of death in America overall (third leading cause from age 15-24).

The US 2010 Final Data quantifies the US statistics for suicide by race, sex and age. Interestingly, African-American suicides have declined and are considerably lower than whites. Reasons are thought to include better coping skills when negative things occur as well as different cultural norms with respect to taking your own life. Also, Blacks (and Hispanics) tend to have stronger family support, community support and church support to carry them through these rough times.

While money woes definitely contribute to stress and poor mental health, it can be devastating to those already prone to depression -- and depression is indeed still the number one risk factor for suicide. A person with no hope and nowhere to go, can now easily turn to their prescription painkiller and overdose, bringing the pain, stress and worry to an end. In fact, prescription painkillers were the third leading cause of suicide (and rising rapidly) for middle aged Americans in 2010 (guns are still number 1). ...

cm -> Fred C. Dobbs...

When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary).

When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes).

Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues.

[Sep 22, 2019] The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters by Benjamin Wallace-Wells

Notable quotes:
"... If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation. ..."
Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 12, 2017 at 06:41 AM
The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters

April 10, 2017

.....................

The arguments about Case and Deaton's work have been an echo of the one that consumed so much of the primary campaign, and then the general election, and which is still unresolved: whether the fury of Donald Trump's supporters came from cultural and racial grievance or from economic plight. Case and Deaton's scholarship does not settle the question. As they write, more than once, "more work is needed."

But part of what Case and Deaton offer in their new paper is an emotional logic to an economic argument.

If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation.

Whatever comes from the deliberations over Case and Deaton's statistics, there is within their numbers an especially interesting story.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/the-despair-of-learning-that-experience-no-longer-matters

[Sep 19, 2019] Form vs. substance in the neoliberal university

Highly recommended!
This is a classic catch 22 situation with this "oath" described below...
Also I think a lot of professors of neo-classical economics look like the member of Komsomol described below ;-) For them it is about opening new opportunities for advancement not about the truth and the level of corresponding to the reality of this pseudo-scientific neo-classical garbage, with the smoke screen of mathematics as a lipstick on the pig (mathiness)
Most such people will teach students complete garbage understanding that this is a complete garbage with a smile. Still, in in Soviet way it is possible for some to accept the position and work to undermine neo-classical economics acting within the institution using Aesopian language in lectures and papers.
The book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More The Last Soviet Generation (In-Formation) by Alexei Yurchak is a recommended reading for those who want to understand the perversion of neoliberal way of life in the USA today, as they mirror the perversions of Soviet life in a very uncanny way.
Notable quotes:
"... Consider an example from the contemporary United States. Today a number of private universities, colleges, and schools in several states require teachers and professors to take a "loyalty oath" to ensure that they do not "hold or foster undesirable political beliefs.... ..."
"... From a political standpoint she disagreed with the practice of taking loyalty oaths, and later, in her role as professor of the sociology of law, she voiced political positions counter to those mentioned in the oath and challenged the oath-taking practice itself. ..."
"... However, before she could do this, she first had to take the oath, understanding that without this act she would not be employed or recognized by the institution as a legitimate member with a voice authorized to participate in teaching, research, and the institution's politics (committees, meetings, elections, and so forth), including even the possibility to question publicly the practice of taking oaths. ..."
"... "The oath did not mean much if you took it, but it meant a lot if you didn't." ..."
"... However, "when a vote had to be taken, everyone roused -- a certain sensor clicked in the head: 'Who is in favor?' -- and you raised your hand automatically" (see a discussion of such ritualized practices within the Komsomol in chapter a). ..."
"... Participating in these acts reproduced oneself as a "normal" Soviet person within the system of relations, collectivities, and subject positions, with all the constraints and possibilities that position entailed, even including the possibility, after the meetings, to engage in interests, pursuits, and meanings that ran against those that were stated in the resolutions one had voted for. ..."
"... These acts are not about stating facts and describing opinions but about doing things and opening new possibilities. ..."
Sep 19, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More The Last Soviet Generation (In-Formation) by Alexei Yurchak

formal Shift

A general shift at the level of concrete ritualized forms of discourse, in which the formal dimension's importance grows, while the
informal, substantiative dimension opens up to new meanings, can and does occur in different historical and cultural contexts.

Consider an example from the contemporary United States. Today a number of private universities, colleges, and schools in several states require teachers and professors to take a "loyalty oath" to ensure that they do not "hold or foster undesirable political beliefs....

While the statutes vary, [these institutions] generally deny the right to teach to those who cannot or will not take the loyalty oath" (Chin and Rao 2003, 431 -32). Recently, a sociologist of law took such a loyalty oath at a Midwestern university when her appointment as a professor began.

From a political standpoint she disagreed with the practice of taking loyalty oaths, and later, in her role as professor of the sociology of law, she voiced political positions counter to those mentioned in the oath and challenged the oath-taking practice itself.

However, before she could do this, she first had to take the oath, understanding that without this act she would not be employed or recognized by the institution as a legitimate member with a voice authorized to participate in teaching, research, and the institution's politics (committees, meetings, elections, and so forth), including even the possibility to question publicly the practice of taking oaths.

Here, the informal, substantiative dimension of the ritualized act experiences a shift, while the formal dimension remains fixed and important: taking the oath opens a world of possibilities where new informal, substantiative meanings become possible, including a professorial position with a recognized political voice within the institution. In the sociologist's words, "The oath did not mean much if you took it, but it meant a lot if you didn't." 3 ^

This example illustrates the general principle of how some discursive acts or whole types of discourse can drift historically in the direction of an increasingly expanding formal dimension and increasingly open or even irrelevant informal, substantiative dimension. During Soviet late socialism, the formal dimension of speech acts at formal gathering and rituals became particularly important in most contexts and during most events.

One person who participated in large Komsomol meetings in the 1970s and 1980s described how he often spent the meetings reading a book. However, "when a vote had to be taken, everyone roused -- a certain sensor clicked in the head: 'Who is in favor?' -- and you raised your hand automatically" (see a discussion of such ritualized practices within the Komsomol in chapter a).

Here the emphasis on the formal dimension of organizational discourse was unique both in scale and substance. Most ritualized acts of "organizational discourse" during this time underwent such a transformation.

Participating in these acts reproduced oneself as a "normal" Soviet person within the system of relations, collectivities, and subject positions, with all the constraints and possibilities that position entailed, even including the possibility, after the meetings, to engage in interests, pursuits, and meanings that ran against those that were stated in the resolutions one had voted for.

It would obviously be wrong to see these acts of voting simply as informal, substantiative statements about supporting the resolution that are either true (real support) or false (dissimulation of support). These acts are not about stating facts and describing opinions but about doing things and opening new possibilities.

[Sep 18, 2019] Neoliberalism in action: Another School Leadership Disaster Private Companies Work an Insider Game to Reap Lucrative Contracts

Notable quotes:
"... By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. produced by Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. ..."
"... One of the first school districts to become entangled in the conglomeration of firms Wise and Sundstrom assembled was Nashville, which in 2016 chose Jim Huge and Associates to help with hiring a new superintendent. The following year the board hired Shawn Joseph, whom Huge had recommended. ..."
"... Shortly after Joseph arrived in Nashville, according to local News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, he began pushing the district to give $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to Performance Matters, a Utah-based technology company that sells "software solutions" to school districts. ..."
"... In addition to pushing Performance Matters, Williams reported, Joseph gave an "inside track" to Discovery Education, a textbook and digital curriculum provider and another company he and his team had ties to from their work in Maryland. ..."
"... By June 2018, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge was questioning Joseph about possible connections these vendors might have to ERDI. A district audit would confirm that ERDI's affiliated companies -- including Performance Matters, Discovery Education, and six other companies -- had signed contracts totaling more than $17 million with the district since Joseph had been hired. ..."
"... "Too often, national search firms are also driven by money-making motives and/or connections with those seeking profit," Frogge contended. That conflict of interest is a concern not only in Nashville but also in other districts where school leaders with deep ties to education vendors and consultants have resulted in huge scandals that traumatized communities and cost taxpayers millions. ..."
Sep 18, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on September 18, 2019 by Lambert Strether

Lambert here: More corruption in the professional class.

By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. produced by Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute.

In July 2013, the education world was rocked when a breaking story by Chicago independent journalist Sarah Karp reported that district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had pushed through a no-bid $20 million contract to provide professional development to administrators with a private, for-profit company called SUPES Academy, which she had worked for a year before the deal transpired. Byrd-Bennett was also listed as a senior associate for PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm run by the same individuals who led SUPES.

By 2015, federal investigators looked into the deal and found reason to charge Byrd-Bennett for accepting bribes and kickbacks from the company that ran SUPES and PROACT. A year-and-a-half later, the story made national headlines when Byrd-Bennett was convicted and sentenced to prison for those charges. But anyone who thought this story was an anomaly would be mistaken. Similar conflicts of interest among private superintendent search firms, their associated consulting companies, and their handpicked school leaders have plagued multiple school districts across the country.

In an extensive examination, Our Schools has discovered an intricate web of businesses that reap lucrative school contracts funded by public tax dollars. These businesses are often able to place their handpicked candidates in school leadership positions who then help make the purchasing decision for the same businesses' other products and services, which often include professional development, strategic planning, computer-based services, or data analytics. The deals are often brokered in secrecy or presented to local school boards in ways that make insider schemes appear legitimate.

As in the Byrd-Bennett scandal, school officials who get caught in this web risk public humiliation, criminal investigation, and potential jail time, while the businesses that perpetuate this hidden arrangement continue to flourish and grow.

The results of these scandals are often disastrous. School policies and personnel are steered toward products that reward private companies rather than toward research-proven methods for supporting student learning and teacher performance. School governance becomes geared to the interests of well-connected individuals rather than the desires of teachers and voters. And when insider schemes become public, whole communities are thrown into chaos, sometimes for years, resulting in wasted education dollars and increased disillusionment with school systems and local governance.

While media accounts generally frame these scandals as examples of corrupt school leaders who got caught and brought to justice, reporters rarely delve into the corporate-operated enterprises that undergird the whole system.

A Potent Business Model

Months before Byrd-Bennett's conviction, another individual connected to the Chicago scandal, SUPES co-owner Gary Solomon, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges related to a scheme that diverted over $5 million in public money from the Chicago contracts into his private pocket.

Solomon, who had been forced out of a previous job as a high school administrator after he was accused of racist comments and "preying" on female students, cofounded SUPES -- along with sister companies PROACT Search and Synesi Associates -- with his former student Thomas Vranas, who also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Chicago deals.

Although Solomon and Vranas got caught and were convicted for their scheme, they nevertheless stumbled on a potent business model that combined PROACT's superintendent search services with SUPES Academy professional development programs and consulting by Synesi Associates to help districts "implement reform strategies." Combining leader recruitment with leadership training and consulting gave Solomon and Vranas three ways into a business relationship with a school district and multiple ways to upsell clients into more expensive new contracts.

New administrators PROACT helped place in leadership roles could be reliable allies for pitching professional development services to the district. School districts that had employed SUPES might be more inclined to hire PROACT for a leadership search. And Synesi would have an inside track for its consulting services. Further, any of the firm's school leader contacts who became idle between full-time jobs, which often happens in this profession, would be able to work for the firm as "associates."

School districts may have welcomed this arrangement as a form of "one-stop shopping" for their needs, but it's not hard to see how it could lead to conflicts of interest and a veil for fraud.

Chicago was not the only district that fell for the pitch. Shortly after news of the Byrd-Bennett scandal broke, school districts in DeKalb County , Illinois; Fayette County (Lexington), Kentucky; and Lancaster , Pennsylvania ended their contracts with PROACT.

In Iowa City, Iowa, a local reporter found the district had a contract with Synesi Associates to conduct an audit of the district and then hired PROACT to recruit candidates for a vacant director position. At the same time, superintendent Stephen Murley took 34 days off work to do paid consulting for those two organizations and for SUPES Academy.

In St. Louis , superintendent Kelvin Adams started consulting for SUPES shortly after the school board awarded a $125,000 contract to the firm, Sarah Karp and Melissa Sanchez reported. The district also awarded a $16,500 no-bid deal to Synesi.

But Solomon and Vranas did not invent this money-making strategy, nor did it die when they were convicted and sent to jail.

From Retail Store to Mega-Mall

In June 2016, the Chicago Sun Times reported that in the wake of the Byrd-Bennett scandal, parts of SUPES Academy were purchased by Joseph Wise and his partner David Sundstrom. Their Chicago-based firm Atlantic Research Partners (ARP) had already gotten at least $5 million in recent business from Chicago schools. (Sundstrom would later contend ARP rescinded the agreement to acquire SUPES and that the "only remaining connection between the companies" was a licensing of training material.)

Wise founded ARP with Sundstrom in 2007 after both had been ousted from their jobs in the Duval County, Florida, school district due to alleged "serious misconduct." According to the ARP website, the project's mission was to launch a "teacher-training program focused on instructional coaching and school capacity-building."

Around the same time ARP was acquiring parts of SUPES, the company also merged with Jim Huge and Associates, a firm with deep experience in school superintendent and other talent searches. Huge had also served as chief strategy officer for PROACT Search. The announced rationale of the merger was "to maximize seamless delivery of the intensive executive services to schools and school leaders."

Undoubtedly, what Wise and Sundstrom assembled was similar to the three-part business model Solomon and Vranas put together. What was different, though, was Wise and Sundstrom would expand on the model with their subsequent acquisition of Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI).

According to Louisiana school teacher and wily blogger Mercedes Schneider , Sundstrom registered an entity called ERDI Partners as a business with a Florida address in 2017.

But an entity called ERDI had been in existence since at least 2005 when an article in Education Week described the company as an intermediary organization bringing together school administrators and education vendors to help companies improve the products and services they offer school systems. Specifically, ERDI arranged get-togethers by paying superintendents consulting fees plus expenses to travel to conferences at luxury resorts where they would meet with company representatives. The companies, in turn, underwrote the conferences with substantial fees paid to ERDI.

Critics of ERDI argue that the company's model for paying school administrators for their advice on education products inevitably leads to conflict of interest issues when those administrators are presented with offers to purchase products promoted by ERDI.

Byrd-Bennett had a relationship with ERDI dating back to at least 2014 and was listed as senior advisor on the firm's website while she was employed as Chicago schools' CEO.

With the acquisition of ERDI, Wise and Sundstrom could transform their business model from a lone retail operation to a mega-mall of education vendors of all kinds.

'The Search Was Manipulated'

One of the first school districts to become entangled in the conglomeration of firms Wise and Sundstrom assembled was Nashville, which in 2016 chose Jim Huge and Associates to help with hiring a new superintendent. The following year the board hired Shawn Joseph, whom Huge had recommended.

Shortly after Joseph arrived in Nashville, according to local News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, he began pushing the district to give $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to Performance Matters, a Utah-based technology company that sells "software solutions" to school districts.

Williams found Joseph had spoken at the company's conference and he had touted the company's software products in promotional materials while he was employed in his previous job in Maryland. Williams also unearthed emails showing Joseph began contract talks with Performance Matters two weeks before he formally took office in Nashville. What also struck Williams as odd was that despite the considerable cost of the contract, district employees were not required to use the software.

In addition to pushing Performance Matters, Williams reported, Joseph gave an "inside track" to Discovery Education, a textbook and digital curriculum provider and another company he and his team had ties to from their work in Maryland. With Joseph's backing, Discovery Education received an $11.4 million contract to provide a new science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) program even though a smaller company came in with a bid that was a fraction of what Discovery proposed.

By June 2018, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge was questioning Joseph about possible connections these vendors might have to ERDI. A district audit would confirm that ERDI's affiliated companies -- including Performance Matters, Discovery Education, and six other companies -- had signed contracts totaling more than $17 million with the district since Joseph had been hired.

Frogge also came to realize that all these enterprises were connected to the firm who had been instrumental in hiring Joseph -- Jim Huge and Associates.

"The search that brought Shawn Joseph to Nashville was clearly manipulated," Frogge told Our Schools in an email, "and the school board was kept in the dark about Joseph's previous tenure in Maryland and his relationships with vendor companies."

Frogge said some of the manipulation occurred when the search firm told school board members that disputes among current board members -- over charter schools, school finances, and other issues -- indicated the district was "'too dysfunctional' to hire top-level superintendents and therefore needed to hire a less experienced candidate."

But previous investigations of school leadership search firms conducted by Our Schools have found companies like these frequently forego background checks of prospective candidates they recommend, promote favored candidates regardless of their experience or track record, and push board members to keep the entire search process, including the final candidates, confidential from public scrutiny.

"Too often, national search firms are also driven by money-making motives and/or connections with those seeking profit," Frogge contended. That conflict of interest is a concern not only in Nashville but also in other districts where school leaders with deep ties to education vendors and consultants have resulted in huge scandals that traumatized communities and cost taxpayers millions.

In the Youngstown City School District in Ohio, CEO Krish Mohip became mired in questions about his role as a paid consultant for ERDI while the district had a $261,914 contract with a partner company of ERDI. Under calls for his resignation, Mohip left before his contract was up.

Beaufort County School District in South Carolina became the subject of an FBI investigation because of contracts with ERDI and 30 other companies connected to the firm while superintendent Jeff Moss worked as a paid consultant for ERDI. He resigned from the district two years before his contract was up.

In Pittsburgh, superintendent Anthony Hamlet drew scrutiny when reporters found the district spent more than $14 million on dozens of no-bid contracts to firms connected to ERDI at the same time Hamlet was serving as a paid consultant with the company.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, Shaun Dallas Dance made national headlines when he was convicted of perjury committed during his time as superintendent of the district. Dance had concealed $4,600 he'd been paid by ERDI. After Dance participated in confidential meetings with vendors at an ERDI conference, the district extended contracts from companies connected to the firm.

Obviously, school board members could avoid these conflicts by avoiding leadership search firms and consultants connected to ERDI. But that is easier said than done.

After Baltimore County's troubles with Dance, it hired the independent firm Ray and Associates to conduct a search to find an interim leader. The search resulted in six finalists, from which the board chose Verletta White. Shortly after she took the job, the board's ethics review panel found she had violated financial disclosure rules and "used the prestige of her office or public position for private gain" by accepting compensation from ERDI.

Indeed, superintendent search firms frequently fail to find conflicts of interest and other problems in the candidate background checks they conduct. And some of these firms operate side businesses that also lead to conflict of interest issues.

A Revolving Door of Business Deals Funded by Taxpayers

One of the largest superintendent search firms in the United States, Schaumburg, Illinois-based Hazard, Young, and Attea (HYA), is part of the ECRA Group , a consulting firm providing an array of services to schools.

ECRA claims to have worked with over 1,000 districts, but a close examination of how the company worked with a number of school districts in Illinois reveals how the firm uses a revolving-door business model in which its search service rotates administrators into and out of leadership positions while the company uses those leadership connections to successfully upsell districts into expensive long-term consulting contracts funded by taxpayers.

ECRA's business relationships with Oak Park Elementary District 97 in Illinois go back to at least 2010 when it was hired to help replace outgoing superintendent Constance Collins. With HYA's help , the district hired Albert Roberts. In 2013, during Roberts' tenure, school board minutes show the district considered a plan to hire ECRA to analyze the district's achievement data at a cost of $74,000 a year. The following year, the district hired ECRA to produce an analysis of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in the district. Board minutes from 2015 show the district continuing to work with ECRA.

When Roberts retired, District 97 used HYA again for a superintendent search that resulted in hiring Carol Kelley. Kelley currently appears in ECRA's marketing literature touting the firm's Strategic Dashboard, which District 97 apparently employs.

Former superintendent Collins was hired to lead Round Lake District 116, also in Illinois, just before HYA and ECRA acquired the district's superintendent search and strategic planning contracts. Under her tenure, Round Lake paid ECRA $75,918 for consulting services in 2016 , 2017 , and 2018 . Collins retired from Round Lake in 2018, but, according to her LinkedIn page, she became an HYA associate in 2017. She also serves on the advisory board of ECRA, according to her bio at a nonprofit for developing school leaders.

Another Illinois district, Niles Township High School District 219, placed its superintendent on administrative leave after it became known she was the daughter of the president of ECRA, which had a contract with the district worth $149,419 and $120,389 in the final two years of her tenure. (She claimed that relationship with ECRA dated to before she was made superintendent, but she decided to resign anyway.)

Huntley Community School District 158, also in Illinois, had contractual arrangements with ECRA dating to at least 2009 when John Burkey was superintendent. When Burkey resigned in 2017, District 158 hired HYA to find a new superintendent at a cost of $17,500. At the end of a hiring process in which HYA kept all finalists confidential , District 158 announced it had hired Scott Rowe. Under his leadership, District 158 spent $94,980.11 on ECRA in 2018 alone.

One more example in Illinois: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has hired ECRA for a variety of consulting services since at least 2010 when it paid the firm $22,737.50, according to state records, to survey the district's administrators. By 2013, Evanston/Skokie considered ECRA a "long-standing partner" and hired the firm to help pick its new superintendent. Outgoing superintendent Hardy Murphy also recommended the district hire the firm for teacher appraisal work.

Based on HYA's recommendations , Evanston/Skokie hired Paul Goren in 2014, and under his tenure, checks continued to flow to ECRA's consulting business, including $129,855.92 in 2015 . However, Goren's tenure was troubled and brief, and in 2019 he resigned with a $100,000 severance package. A local reporter noticed that unmentioned in the district's settlement statement was that under his leadership "the district's own progress reports [showed] declines in test scores across all groups of students and district losing ground against its own five-year targets."

ECRA's own leadership has also been embroiled in conflict of interest issues. Current ECRA president Glenn "Max" McGee resigned from his last superintendent job, in Palo Alto, California after an outside investigation found the district had mishandled claims of sexual assault. With a payout of roughly $150,000, McGee, on his way out the door, recommended the district hire HYA to conduct the search for his replacement, just after he had accepted the offer to become leader of ECRA. The district went with McGee's recommendation.

When asked whether this relationship among McGee, ECRA, and the Palo Alto district was a possible conflict of interest, McGee told Our Schools in a phone call that he "stayed out of the search" to fill his old position. Of his replacement, Don Austin from nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District in California, McGee admitted being an acquaintance of "many years."

Who's to Blame?

When controversies arise over superintendents and contracts with outside services, private firms that are responsible for pushing these hiring and outsourcing decisions are quick to blame school board members who signed off on the decisions. And critics of public schools frequently use these scandals to argue that democratically elected school boards are dysfunctional and need to be scrapped for other governance structures.

These criticisms leave a lot of context out.

First, being a school board member is customarily a part-time job paying very little money. And school board members are elected to serve as representatives of parents and voters, not to be experts on school finance and administration.

"School board members, although often well intentioned, are sometimes too unqualified and uninformed to exercise effective oversight of spending, and board members are not aware of the personal relationships and personal interests that may be driving decisions by administrative leaders," Nashville board member Frogge explained.

Also, there are multiple ways superintendents can keep board members in the dark about the inner workings of contractor relationships and district operations.

"From the beginning, Joseph surrounded himself with those who promoted him, including organizations he hired to 'train' the board," Frogge explained. "Joseph also prohibited all district employees from speaking to school board members, which prevented board members from recognizing leadership problems during the early days of his tenure. When board members finally began to confront Joseph about problems, including disturbing financial irregularities and his failure to follow board policy, Joseph lied to board members, exacted retribution from those questioning him, and stirred up controversy to distract from the issues at hand."

That said, Frogge noted school boards have alternatives to using private search firms that promote tainted candidates willing to feed the search firms' side businesses.

"School board members need to become better informed and more savvy about profit motives and organizations that seek to influence their selection," she wrote. "School boards can instead opt to hire a local school boards association (for example, the Tennessee School Boards Association) or a local recruiter with a reputation for personal integrity to conduct a search. They can also choose to hire from within."

How school boards decide to avoid conflicts of interest with school leaders and outside consulting firms is "critical" according to Frogge because decisions that are driven by these insiders "can lead to catastrophic outcomes for students and staff."

Among those negative outcomes are increased community acrimony, wasted education funds, and career debacles for what could perhaps have been promising school leaders.

In the case of Joseph and Nashville, controversies with his leadership decisions strongly divided the city's black community, and taxpayers were stuck with a $261,250 bill for buying out the rest of his contract. As a result of the fallout, Joseph lost his state teaching license, and he vowed never to work in the state again.

In the meantime, HYA continues to win contracts for high-profile superintendent searches, and ERDI's conferences bringing school leaders and vendors together continue to sell out .

[Sep 16, 2019] When Students Melt Down Over a 'B'

Sep 16, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

When Students Melt Down Over a 'B' Rampant grade anxiety is a reflection of deeper American social dysfunction, with our children the biggest victims. By David Masciotra September 17, 2019

By Marjan Apostolovic /Shutterstock The library on campus of a small Catholic university in Illinois was largely empty. Since the administrators had replaced most of the bookshelves with plush furniture, conference tables, and chairs, it better resembled an airport terminal just before a redeye. A handful of students were staring intensely into computer screens, while another pair talked loudly -- no more than 10 feet from the silent, visibly demoralized librarian -- about the rap song that one of them had just played moments earlier. Not one student was near a book. There wasn't a single newspaper or journal in sight. The university had canceled its subscriptions and removed the periodical section a few semesters earlier.

I was making my way toward the front door when one of the students from my Intro to Literature course stopped me, tears rolling down her cheeks, her body nearly convulsing as she attempted to suppress her sobs. Because any human contact is potentially criminal, I ignored my impulse to offer a consoling hand to the shoulder, and asked what was wrong. Expecting her to tell me about a personal tragedy -- perhaps the terminal diagnosis of a loved one -- I almost began to weep myself when she said, "You gave me a 'B' on the paper."

Her crying made the harangue that followed difficult to fully comprehend, but it seemed that she must maintain a certain GPA to remain in athletics. When I countered that a "B" is a good grade and that she would have plenty of time to aspire towards an "A" on other assignments, she began pleading with me for opportunities to "bring up the grade." I declined, and asked if some other, more personal factor was contributing to her stress over a passing grade on one paper in a course entirely unrelated to her major. She insisted that there was not. Helpless and baffled, I wished her well, offered her reassurance, and proceeded out of the library and into the parking lot.

Fielding an existential meltdown, complete with a crying jag, is not part of my professional training. Yet rarely does a semester go by without some kind of grade-related complaint, appeal for mercy, and panic attack. When a student appears as if he has just undergone a life-altering trauma because he's realized he is hanging over the edge of a "C," I think of my father, who at around the same age was in Vietnam. We all have our crosses to bear, whether surviving guerrilla warfare or dealing with a professor who will not give extra credit.

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"Grade anxiety," to use the more popular term, is not unique to my students or school of employment. Studies from Penn State and reports from Psychology Today , Boston University , and many other sources have confirmed that debilitating anxiety is now the leading mental health problem for college students. A quick Google search of "grade anxiety" reveals endless pages of advice to students apoplectic about their exam scores, the professors on the receiving end of their complaints and concerns, and the parents who cannot cope with anything other than perfection.

In all fairness, contemporary college students, contrary to Baby Boomer sanctimony, do have a tougher task than their predecessors. More of them work, often full-time, while completing their degree requirements, and must shoulder heavy financial burdens to acquire their education -- which they understand they will carry, in the form of student debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy, for the majority of their working lives.

Yet even acknowledging the peculiar injustice that exists in American higher education, there is no avoiding the conclusion that 20-year-old adults obsessing and crying over their grades is not a sign of societal health. It's a tornado siren blasting 100 yards away from a trailer park.

As tempting as it is to ridicule the students for their inability to put their lives in mature perspective, it's more instructive to recognize that they are products of American families, institutions, and culture. The overwhelming prevalence of severe grade anxiety indicts a society that is failing to strengthen children into thoughtful and resilient adults. As Gore Vidal once quipped, "I've never met a boring six-year-old in America, and I've never met an interesting 16-year-old."

Even before reaching the age of six, children are under the constant influence of their families. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff document in their important book The Coddling of the American Mind how "helicopter parenting" has weakened us all. Paranoid about safety, aggressively committed to their children's achievement, parents aspire to protect their sons and daughters from all potential hardship, pushing them into closely monitored extracurricular activities. They treat school work as an accountant treats an actuarial table. The wealthier the parents, the more likely they are to enter their children into the vigilant competition of meritocracy. Some families even send their kids to elite preschools, believing that failure to do so will keep them off the Ivy League university trajectory.

The self-esteem movement has ensured that children will not only aspire to the materialistic measurement of the "best," but believe that they are innately worthy of it. Hearing for their entire lives that they are flawless specimens of Da Vinci-esque brilliance and creativity leaves them unprepared for even the mildest form of criticism. One of the most common rebuttals to a low grade from a student is an indignant "I think I did a great job," spoken as if the teacher should receive a pupil's opinion about his own work as a Catholic priest receives a papal encyclical.

Since the move toward standardized testing as the ultimate metric for student and school success, educational institutions in both rich and poor neighborhoods have relegated the learning experience to high stakes exam preparation, indoctrinating children to believe that they can reduce the value of their intellectual pursuits to a number on a results sheet. The testing model of education complements the American adult's inevitable entrance into a consumer culture with a hierarchy of social status and purchasing power. The earning power of the Kardashians or Waltons allows them to accrue more political influence and cultural value than the typical family in a city without a "Real Housewives" franchise.

Too many conservatives insist on demoting education to nothing more than job training, encouraging the prevalent anti-intellectualism in the United States with suspicion, or outright derision, towards the "impractical" liberal arts. Liberals don't help matters by too often transforming the humanities into conduits of leftist social theory, and before that making elementary and secondary schools too bureaucratic. Formulaic lesson plans and mechanical approaches to pedagogy prevent teachers from developing fruitful bonds with their students, or adjusting their class agendas according to student need and interest.

The Atlantic has run informative but also demoralizing reports on how elementary schools in Finland allow children plenty of free time for play, while also encouraging them to indulge their curiosities in the classroom. In the United States, organic and unrestrained learning is a privilege for children whose parents pay the high prices of a Montessori school. An American kindergartener has an average of 30 minutes of homework per night.

One of my favorite assignments as a child, at the Lutheran elementary school I attended from first through eighth grade, was the book report. Our teacher would walk us to the library and tell us to pick any book, read it, and write a page on it. Depriving children of choice robs them of any joy they might associate with learning. I now teach students in perpetual panic over their grades, and more times than not, the only questions I receive after attempting to facilitate a discussion on a masterpiece of literature is "Will this be on the test?" or "How long does the paper have to be?"

Standards of evaluation are necessary. But I often try to inculcate in my students the knowledge that, in any walk of life and in comparison with the development of passions and the need to sharpen one's ability to look at a complex world, grades are not that important.

This is a tough sell -- pun intended -- in a country that has so thoroughly degraded its public vision of life to an endless quest for wealth and power. There is now a handy measurement of everything. Are you successful? Check your bank account. Are you important? Check your social media followers. Are you attractive? Check the likes on your latest profile picture.

Grades, with the weight of an institution behind them, act as a final judgment in the minds of too many students. They equate A's not only with immediate academic success, but also the chance of having a successful life. Anything less than the optimum might lead to unhappiness.

All lives have moments of failure, pain, and agony. Real adversity is not a "B" on a paper, but your best friend in a coffin, your child's frightening medical condition, your injury that leads to a permanent disability. Education at its best can bequeath what Albert Murray called "equipment for living."

Students who panic and cry over less than perfect grades demonstrate that America has not given them equipment that is helpful and durable. America, in that respect, is worthy of an "F."

David Masciotra is the author of four books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky) and Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing).

[Sep 15, 2019] Wall Street Ignores Cyclical Jobs Growth Downturn As Employment Indicator Hits Great Recession Levels

Notable quotes:
"... Most of the ads for good jobs are fake. ..."
"... Instead of submitting a general application, as used to be the case in the past, and have the ability to work with the company to find the role that works best. HR has ruined a lot of good companies and their recruiting processes by going to rigid job descriptions instead of just hiring smart people and letting them work. ..."
Sep 15, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The Economic Cycle Research Institute's (ECRI) Lakshman Achuthan recently sat down with CNBC's Michael Santoli to discuss the jobs growth downturn. Keep in mind, this conversation was held on Wednesday, several days before Friday's disappointing jobs report.

Achuthan told Santoli there's a " very clear cyclical downturn in jobs growth, there's really no debating that, and it looks set to continue ."

Achuthan said January 2019 marked the cyclical peak in jobs growth, has been moving lower ever since, and the trend is far from over. Both nonfarm payrolls and the household survey year-over-year growth are in cyclical downturns, he said. While the economic narratives via the mainstream financial press continue to cheerlead that the consumer will lift all tides thanks to the supposedly strong jobs market, Achuthan believes the downturn in jobs growth will start to "undermine consumer confidence." And it's the loss in consumer confidence that could tilt the economy into recession.

He also said when examining cyclically sensitive sectors of the economy, there are already "questionable jobs numbers," such as a significant surge in the construction unemployment rate.

Achuthan said nonfarm payroll growth has plunged to a 17-month low, and the household survey is even weaker. He said the top nonfarm payroll line would be revised down by half a million jobs in the coming months, which would underline the weakness in employment.

Achuthan emphasized to Santoli that ECRI's recession call won't be "taken off the table. We've been talking about a growth rate cycle slowdown. We're slow-walking toward -- some recessionary window of vulnerability -- we're not there today -- but this piece of the puzzle [jobs growth downturn] is looking a bit wobbly. This is the main message that Wall Street is missing."

As Wall Street bids stocks to near-record highs on "trade optimism" and the belief that the consumer will save the day, in large part because of solid jobs growth. ECRI's Leading Employment Index, which correctly anticipated this downturn in jobs growth, is at its worst reading since the Great Recession .

And Wall Street's bet today is that the Fed can achieve a soft landing – as in 1995-96 – when it started the rate cut cycle the same month the inflation downturn was signaled by the U.S. Future Inflation Gauge (USFIG) turning lower.

However, this time around, the inflation downturn signal arrived in September 2018, the moment when the Fed should have started the cut cycle. With a ten-month lag in the cut cycle, belated rate cuts have always been associated with recession.

And now it should become increasingly clear to readers why President Trump has sounded the alarm about the need for 100bps rate cuts, quantitative easing, and emergency payroll tax cuts - it's because he's been briefed about the economic downturn that has already started.


GotAFriendInBen , 15 minutes ago link

Actually, MSM cheerleads rate cuts as the cure-all, instead of throwing shoes at Powell

Keyser , 41 minutes ago link

How do you continue to have jobs growth when the country is at full employment?

Typical ******** from C-NBC...

Alex Droog , 19 minutes ago link

The network that employs dotards like Jim Cramer to cheerlead the lemmings.

Build-It-Well , 1 hour ago link

Have we learned anything?

https://soundcloud.com/daniel-sullivan-505714723/little-saigon-report-170-have-we-learned-anything

Art_Vandelay , 1 hour ago link

I don't agree with him that the Fed can do anything to correct this, nor do they have an incentive to do so. The Fed is not on the consumer's side. They will appropriate funds to whoever they want to, just like 08, and give the middle finger to everyone else.

pitz , 1 hour ago link

Job quality is horrible, particularly for US citizen STEM workers. This has been the case since the downturn that began in the late 1990s. Trump needs to fully cancel the OPT program and almost eliminate the H-1B program. Major employers don't even bother considering US citizen STEM talent before they hire foreign nationals.

pump and dump , 1 hour ago link

Most of the ads for good jobs are fake.

pitz , 1 hour ago link

Yes, but they don't bother to come out and tell you its a fake ad. One of the tragedies of the online job application process is that it forces a person, with little to no knowledge of a company and its internals, to pick, out of potentially hundreds of roles, which one would be best for them.

Instead of submitting a general application, as used to be the case in the past, and have the ability to work with the company to find the role that works best. HR has ruined a lot of good companies and their recruiting processes by going to rigid job descriptions instead of just hiring smart people and letting them work.

ZD1 , 1 hour ago link

Congress first established the H-1B program with the The Immigration Act of 1990. It was supposed to be temporary.

Congress needs to abolish it.

Future Jim , 2 hours ago link

This seems to contradict the labor participation rate.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART

J S Bach , 2 hours ago link

"Wall Street Ignores Cyclical Slave Growth Downturn As Enslavement Indicator Hits Great Recession Levels"

Ahhh... what truth a few seconds of editing can convoke.

The EveryThing Bubble , 2 hours ago link

It's all rigged folks

don't believe anything you read

[Sep 14, 2019] Is it better to be poor in a rich country or rich in a poor country?

Sep 14, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , September 13, 2019 at 06:31 PM

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-09-11/Should-we-worry-about-income-gaps-within-or-between-countries--JTDcnKWvII/index.html

September 10, 2019

Should We Worry About Income Gaps Within or Between Countries?
The rise of populist nationalism throughout the West has been fueled partly by a clash between the objectives of equity in rich countries and higher living standards in poor countries. Yet advanced-economy policies that emphasize domestic equity need not be harmful to the global poor, even in international trade.
By DANI RODRIK

At the beginning of classes every autumn, I tease my students with the following question: Is it better to be poor in a rich country or rich in a poor country? The question typically invites considerable and inconclusive debate. But we can devise a more structured and limited version of the question, for which there is a definitive answer.

Let's narrow the focus to incomes and assume that people care only about their own consumption levels (disregarding inequality and other social conditions). "Rich" and "poor" are those in the top and bottom 5 percent of the income distribution, respectively. In a typical rich country, the poorest 5 percent of the population receive around 1 percent of the national income. Data are a lot sparser for poor countries, but it would not be too much off the mark to assume that the richest 5 percent there receive 25 percent of the national income.

Similarly, let's assume that rich and poor countries are those in the top and bottom 5 percent of all countries, ranked by per capita income. In a typical poor country (such as Liberia or Niger), that is around 1,000 U.S. dollars, compared to 65,000 U.S. dollars in a typical rich country (say, Switzerland or Norway). (These incomes are adjusted for cost-of-living, or purchasing-power, differentials so that they can be directly compared.)

Now, we can calculate that a rich person in a poor country has an income of 5,000 (1,000 x 0.25 x 20) U.S. dollars while a poor person in a rich country earns 13,000 (65,000 x 0.01 x 20) U.S. dollars. Measured by material living standards, a poor person in a rich country is more than twice as well off as a rich person in a poor country.

This result surprises my students, most of whom expect the reverse to be true. When they think of wealthy individuals in poor countries, they imagine tycoons living in mansions with a retinue of servants and a fleet of expensive cars. But while such individuals certainly exist, a representative of the top 5 percent in very poor countries is likely to be a mid-level government bureaucrat.

The larger point of this comparison is to underscore the importance of income differences across countries, relative to inequalities within countries.

At the dawn of modern economic growth, before the Industrial Revolution, global inequality derived almost exclusively from inequality within countries. Income gaps between Europe and poorer parts of the world were small. But as the West developed in the 19th century, world economy underwent a "great divergence" between the industrial core and the primary-goods-producing periphery. During much of the postwar period, income gaps between rich and poor countries accounted for the greater part of global inequality.

From the late 1980s onward, two trends began to alter this picture. First, led by China, many parts of the lagging regions began to experience substantially faster economic growth than the world's rich countries. For the first time in history, the typical developing-country resident was getting richer at a faster pace than his or her counterparts in Europe and North America.

Second, inequalities began to increase in many advanced economies, especially those with less-regulated labor markets and weak social protections. The rise in inequality in the United States has been so sharp that it is no longer clear that the standard of living of the American "poor" is higher than that of the "rich" in the poorest countries (with rich and poor defined as above).

These two trends went in offsetting directions in terms of overall global inequality – one decreased it while the other increased it. But they have both raised the share of within-country inequality in the total, reversing an uninterrupted trend observed since the 19th century.

Given patchy data, we cannot be certain about the respective shares of within- and between-country inequality in today's world economy. But in an unpublished paper based on data from the World Inequality Database, Lucas Chancel of the Paris School of Economics estimates that as much as three-quarters of current global inequality may be due to within-country inequality. Historical estimates by two other French economists, François Bourguignon and Christian Morrison, suggest that within-country inequality has not loomed so large since the late 19th century.

These estimates, if correct, suggest that the world economy has crossed an important threshold, requiring us to revisit policy priorities. For a long time, economists like me have been telling the world that the most effective way to reduce global income disparities would be to accelerate economic growth in low-income countries. Cosmopolitans in rich countries – typically the wealthy and skilled professionals – could claim to hold the high moral ground when they downplayed the concerns of those complaining about domestic inequality.

But the rise of populist nationalism throughout the West has been fueled partly by the tension between the objectives of equity in rich countries and higher living standards in poor countries. Advanced economies' increased trade with low-income countries has contributed to domestic wage inequality. And probably the single best way to raise incomes in the rest of the world would be to allow a massive influx of workers from poor countries into rich countries' labor markets. That would not be good news for less educated, lower-paid rich-country workers.

Yet advanced-economy policies that emphasize domestic equity need not be harmful to the global poor, even in international trade. Economic policies that lift incomes at the bottom of the labor market and diminish economic insecurity are good both for domestic equity and for the maintenance of a healthy world economy that provides poor economies a chance to develop.


Dani Rodrik is Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Paine -> anne... , September 14, 2019 at 07:22 AM
Yes yes yes


Trade and income distribution are related but the relationship can be determinative lay shaped by domestic institutions and country wide foreign trade policy

We need institutions run by and for common workng people

And foreign trade policy to shape impact patterns on domestic households in a pro common working people pattern

Too many well meaning Cosmo humanists assume the corporate message to be binding

A r
Trade off between foreign poor and domestic wage earners
Was part of global progress

Nope
Not necessarily so

Dani has several popularly written papers on tis point

Let's hope Anne can link to some of hem for us

likbez -> anne... , September 14, 2019 at 06:38 PM
Dani Rodrik is wrong. The idea that poor in the USA live better then top 5% in the most poor counties is a kind of persistent neoliberal myth that needs to dispelled.

1. Purchase party essentially means that in poor countries dollar is overvalued twice or more. Which means that $5K in poorest countries is close to $10 or even $15K in the USA and other Western countries.

2. Access to education and medical care is incomparable. In the USA most poor live without medical insurance. That put them in severe disadvantage with top 5% of a poor country.

3. Top 5% in poor countries typically own very comfortable apartments, in many cases far superior to what is available in the USA even for middle income families. Cost of the rent on two bedroom apartment in the large city in poor countries is typically 5-10 times less then in the USA. Taking into account very low quality of apartment complexes in the USA, the apartments in poor countries for top 5% might well belong to luxury apartment class in the USA. I know for sure that in the capital of Tajikistan (2017 GDP per Capita: $777) they are better.

The low 5% in the USA actually live in the third world country with considerable level of segregation from the rest of population as for apartments in which they live (look housing of the low paid retail and WalMart employees for actual data; their standard of living is just horrible, especially for single mothers with children)

3. Level of education. Top 5% in poor country are mostly university educated or better. Low 5% in the USA and other Western countries usually are functionally illiterate.

https://brandongaille.com/us-literacy-rate-and-illiteracy-statistics/

1. 32 million adults can not read in the United States equal to 14% of the population.
2. 21% of US adults read below the 5th grade level.
3. 19% of high school graduates can not read.
4. 85% of juveniles who interact with the juvenile court system are considered functionally illiterate.
5. 70% of inmates in America's prisons can not read above the fourth grade level.

4. Military industrial complex and Wall Street had taken ordinary Americans for a ride much like in the UK during the days of British Empire.

Which for one thing means that due to lack of affordable public transportation you need to own a car outside major metropolises. Which drops you standard of living. You will be fleeced three times: first by used car dealerships, then by insurance companies (low credit rating and high risk of default means high premium) and then repair shops which in some cases are really criminal enterprises exploiting the most poor and vulnerable parts of the population. Parts who has no access to quality cars.

Top 5% in poor countries has access to new small and midsize Japanese models (like Corolla, Nissan Juke, etc )

Also Rodrik method of calculation of income of top 5% of population is highly questionable. He never tried to verify his calculation with actual statistic of distribution of incomes in say top 10 poorest countries in the world (the list includes three the xUSSR "stans"; for them top 5% earns probably at least $20K a year, if not more )

IMHO for poor countries the income of the top 5% is probably two to four times higher then Rodrick estimate due to extreme values of GINI coefficient for such countries. Top 5% on such countries are mostly represented by people working for foreign companies (compradors), high level professionals and high level government employees. For the latter the salary is just the top of the iceberg of the real income.

[Sep 13, 2019] Clowns, AI and layoffs

Sep 13, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Bugs Bunny , September 13, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Clowns should be increasingly used in redundancy (layoff, firing) meetings until it becomes the norm and employers start to compete with each other to offer the best clown redundancy experience and promote it as a benefit.

It would also create clown jobs, which would probably require more clown schools, meaning that the tuition prices would go through the roof and young people dreaming of becoming redundancy clowns would either have to come from wealth or take out massive clown loans to fund their education for clown universities and grad schools. Shareholders can only take so much top line costs and Wall Street pressure would force corporations to improve return on investment and reduce redundancy clown labor expenses. Sadly, redundancy clowns would find themselves training their own replacements – HB1 clowns from "low cost" countries. Employers would respond to quality criticisms of the HB1 clown experience by publishing survey results showing very similar almost ex-employee satisfaction with the new clowns.

Eventually, of course, redundancy clowns will be replaced by AI and robots. It's just the future and we will need to think about how to adapt to it today by putting in place a UBI for the inevitable redundant redundancy clowns.

[Sep 12, 2019] Amazing; I had no idea Betsy Voss advocate of for-profit charter schools (privatizing education) and The New Curriculum and Eric Prince (advocate for privatizing war) are brother and sister. Blood will tell.

Sep 12, 2019 | thenewkremlinstooge.wordpress.com

Mark Chapman September 3, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Amazing; I had no idea Betsy Voss – advocate of for-profit charter schools (privatizing education) and The New Curriculum – and Eric Prince (advocate for privatizing war) are brother and sister. Blood will tell.

Profiteering is naked and in the open now in the west, and public systems increasingly favour the wealthy – if you want better, you should be ready to pay for it. I guess that's what all those tax cuts were about – shifting a burden off of the wealthy, so that now public services are pay-as-you-go because the government can't afford to provide them for everyone. However, tax cuts also favoured the wealthy – gee, it almost makes you think the class system is coming back, dunnit?

Jen September 3, 2019 at 2:58 pm
I recall Jeremy Scahill mentioning in his book on Blackwater (before it started changing its name faster than you can change your socks) that Erik Prince was related to Betsy deVos. This was long before Scahill turned his own name and reputation into mud when he walked out of a London conference back in 2012 or 2013 because the Syrian nun Agnes Mariam de la Croix, who was known to support President Assad at the time, was a guest speaker at the conference.

[Sep 10, 2019] The Siren Song of Economic Opportunity

Notable quotes:
"... When the issues of poverty and inequality came up, a common neoliberal dodge was to invoke the Horatio Alger myth -- that in America, with hard work one can, or should be able to, raise oneself up by one' bootstraps. This switches the question from security ..."
"... As it happens, mobility has declined over the long term in the United States, but that aside, it's a two-way street. The escalator of life runs in both directions. Moreover, it's a separate issue from that of poverty or inequality. One can have more mobility and the same or worse poverty or inequality. The rising tide goes out as well as in. ..."
"... The neoliberal remedy for poverty and inequality is commonly held to be education, because workers lack the requisite skills to earn a living wage. It's kind of their fault. All that's needed is some reasonable public expenditure. No deeper structural factors are at issue. This mindset is contradicted now in two ways. ..."
Sep 10, 2019 | portside.org

Originally from: The Sunset of Neoliberalism

When the issues of poverty and inequality came up, a common neoliberal dodge was to invoke the Horatio Alger myth -- that in America, with hard work one can, or should be able to, raise oneself up by one' bootstraps. This switches the question from security made possible by the public sector to an individual responsibility for economic mobility.

As it happens, mobility has declined over the long term in the United States, but that aside, it's a two-way street. The escalator of life runs in both directions. Moreover, it's a separate issue from that of poverty or inequality. One can have more mobility and the same or worse poverty or inequality. The rising tide goes out as well as in.

The neoliberal remedy for poverty and inequality is commonly held to be education, because workers lack the requisite skills to earn a living wage. It's kind of their fault. All that's needed is some reasonable public expenditure. No deeper structural factors are at issue. This mindset is contradicted now in two ways.

First, the idea of education as an essential, missing ingredient is being supplanted by the idea that what's at issue is power , both political and economic . The wealthy control streams of income and institutions of credentialization that could be rerouted, via taxation, to finance education ("free college") that has an equalizing effect on wealth and enhances economic security.. .

[Sep 09, 2019] What's the True Unemployment Rate in the US? by Jack Rasmus

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The real unemployment rate is probably somewhere between 10%-12%. ..."
"... The U-6 also includes what the labor dept. calls involuntary part time employed. It should include the voluntary part time as well, but doesn't (See, they're not actively looking for work even if unemployed). ..."
"... But even the involuntary part time is itself under-estimated. I believe the Labor Dept. counts only those involuntarily part time unemployed whose part time job is their primary job. It doesn't count those who have second and third involuntary part time jobs. That would raise the U-6 unemployment rate significantly. The labor Dept's estimate of the 'discouraged' and 'missing labor force' is grossly underestimated. ..."
"... The labor dept. also misses the 1-2 million workers who went on social security disability (SSDI) after 2008 because it provides better pay, for longer, than does unemployment insurance. That number rose dramatically after 2008 and hasn't come down much (although the government and courts are going after them). ..."
"... The way the government calculates unemployment is by means of 60,000 monthly household surveys but that phone survey method misses a lot of workers who are undocumented and others working in the underground economy in the inner cities (about 10-12% of the economy according to most economists and therefore potentially 10-12% of the reported labor force in size as well). ..."
"... The SSDI, undocumented, underground, underestimation of part timers, etc. are what I call the 'hidden unemployed'. And that brings the unemployed well above the 3.7%. ..."
Sep 09, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org

The real unemployment rate is probably somewhere between 10%-12%. Here's why: the 3.7% is the U-3 rate, per the labor dept. But that's the rate only for full time employed. What the labor dept. calls the U-6 includes what it calls discouraged workers (those who haven't looked for work in the past 4 weeks). Then there's what's called the 'missing labor force'–i.e. those who haven't looked in the past year. They're not calculated in the 3.7% U-3 unemployment rate number either. Why? Because you have to be 'out of work and actively looking for work' to be counted as unemployed and therefore part of the 3.7% rate.

The U-6 also includes what the labor dept. calls involuntary part time employed. It should include the voluntary part time as well, but doesn't (See, they're not actively looking for work even if unemployed).

But even the involuntary part time is itself under-estimated. I believe the Labor Dept. counts only those involuntarily part time unemployed whose part time job is their primary job. It doesn't count those who have second and third involuntary part time jobs. That would raise the U-6 unemployment rate significantly. The labor Dept's estimate of the 'discouraged' and 'missing labor force' is grossly underestimated.

The labor dept. also misses the 1-2 million workers who went on social security disability (SSDI) after 2008 because it provides better pay, for longer, than does unemployment insurance. That number rose dramatically after 2008 and hasn't come down much (although the government and courts are going after them).

The way the government calculates unemployment is by means of 60,000 monthly household surveys but that phone survey method misses a lot of workers who are undocumented and others working in the underground economy in the inner cities (about 10-12% of the economy according to most economists and therefore potentially 10-12% of the reported labor force in size as well). The labor dept. just makes assumptions about that number (conservatively, I may add) and plugs in a number to be added to the unemployment totals. But it has no real idea of how many undocumented or underground economy workers are actually employed or unemployed since these workers do not participate in the labor dept. phone surveys, and who can blame them.

The SSDI, undocumented, underground, underestimation of part timers, etc. are what I call the 'hidden unemployed'. And that brings the unemployed well above the 3.7%.

Finally, there's the corroborating evidence about what's called the labor force participation rate. It has declined by roughly 5% since 2007. That's 6 to 9 million workers who should have entered the labor force but haven't. The labor force should be that much larger, but it isn't. Where have they gone? Did they just not enter the labor force? If not, they're likely a majority unemployed, or in the underground economy, or belong to the labor dept's 'missing labor force' which should be much greater than reported. The government has no adequate explanation why the participation rate has declined so dramatically. Or where have the workers gone. If they had entered the labor force they would have been counted. And their 6 to 9 million would result in an increase in the total labor force number and therefore raise the unemployment rate.

All these reasons–-i.e. only counting full timers in the official 3.7%; under-estimating the size of the part time workforce; under-estimating the size of the discouraged and so-called 'missing labor force'; using methodologies that don't capture the undocumented and underground unemployed accurately; not counting part of the SSI increase as unemployed; and reducing the total labor force because of the declining labor force participation-–together means the true unemployment rate is definitely over 10% and likely closer to 12%. And even that's a conservative estimate perhaps." Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, 'Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression', Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com .

[Sep 08, 2019] Academic freedom sometimes takes very perverted forms in a neoliberal university

Sep 08, 2019 | www.unz.com

Miro23 , says: September 7, 2019 at 9:28 am GMT

Speech is controlled by political correctness. Someone behind the scenes decides what is acceptable and what is not, what is desirable or not, and even what is permissible. You make one 'mistake' and you are out; from the teaching positions at the universities, or from the media outlets.

And what is permissible is becoming truly weird. These are comments on an article over at http://www.thecollegefix.com "Poll: 73 percent of Republican students have withheld political views in class for fear their grades would suffer".

https://www.thecollegefix.com/poll-73-percent-of-republican-students-have-withheld-political-views-in-class-for-fear-their-grades-would-suffer/

[MORE]

Blackbeagle Mark

I'm ABD (all but dissertation) in Econometrics because my adviser was a Marxist nutcase from the London School of Economics. I couldn't fight the communists forever; not when they held all the cards.

Reply: Medina-Merino

I left my PhD program in Anthropology when on a "field trip" , my advisor and his idiotic tie-dyed moron of a wife (former student of his) crawled into my tent on the first night of a 2 week research project in black leather bondage harnesses and informed me it was time for me to join them in a "night of pure pleasure".

Fast forward I got up, got into my car, drove through the night back to campus, parked outside of the Dean's office, stormed in with wide-blood-shot-eyes when he arrived in his 700-Series turbo-charged Special Edition BMW and told him I wanted to file a complaint against Professor "Bondo" and when he (Dean Bozo) did not respond to my request in over a week, I withdrew from my program (ABD also) before the "Drop Deadline" so I could get full refund of my hard-earned TENS OF THOUSANDS of tuition dollars and used the money to secure an attorney (who I later learned was on-the-take for the University's own legal counsel office of "Equity & Fairness") until I ran out of money and then left town to take a position in Scotland on a research team studying Celtic migrations to the Northern Coast of the Iberian Peninsula, known for centuries unofficially as the "Celtic Coast". I loved my work and worked with some amazing and HONEST and RESPECTFUL colleagues.

I learned a big lesson from this EFFIN nightmare be verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry careful of whose hands you find your career in there are a lot of filthy, abusive, corrupt "faculty" and even more dishonest and disingenuous and despicable "administrators" in the contemporary academy and many have brass name-plates on their doors and hold do-nothing-but-damage-to-the-lives-of those who are often powerless against their callous and deliberate abuses.

Even today, on my sleepless nights I can still hear Mr. Chips rustling in his grave

I went on to hold positions of academic renown in Europe and Latin America and eventually returned to the US when I knew I would be able to secure adjunct positions in the US and Canada and Puerto Rico to support myself and my family, whose lives I was able to maintain in a stable trajectory throughout this horror!

Revenge is sweet however today when I receive requests from my former "institution of higher learning" I respond in the SASE
"NEVER WILL I EVER GIVE YOU ONE CENT FOR NOT HAVING PROTECTED ME FROM ABUSE AT THE HANDS OF DR. "BONDO" YEARS AGO!" Even today, he is part of campus lore and is whispered about in hushed tones.

What happened to the "prof" he died of very painful brain cancer (poetic justice) and his idiot wife went full-tilt into drugs and is sitting in a pool of her own pee in a very dismal geriatric ward. And the "Dean"? He is likewise awaiting his last days in his luxury condo in Santa Barbara, CA surrounded by like-minded Lutheran do-gooders holding prayer circles and burning incense and rubbing crystals for each of their pathetic selves

[Sep 07, 2019] conservancy.umn.edu

Sep 07, 2019 | conservancy.umn.edu

Knuth: Well, certainly it seems the way things are going. You take any particular subject that you are interested in and you try to see if somebody with an American high school education has learned it, and you will be appalled. You know, Jesse Jackson thinks that students know nothing about political science, and I am sure the chemists think that students don't know chemistry, and so on. But somehow they get it when they have to later. But I would say certainly the students now have been getting more of a superficial idea of mathematics than they used to. We have to do remedial stuff at Stanford that we didn't have to do thirty years ago.

Frana: Gio [Wiederhold] said much the same thing to me.

Knuth: The most scandalous thing was that Stanford's course in linear algebra could not get to eigenvalues because the students didn't know about complex numbers. Now every course at Stanford that takes linear algebra as a prerequisite does so because they want the students to know about eigenvalues. But here at Stanford, with one of the highest admission standards of any university, our students don't know complex numbers. So we have to teach them that when they get to college. Yes, this is definitely a breakdown.

Frana: Was your mathematics training in high school particularly good, or was it that you spent a lot of time actually doing problems?

Knuth: No, my mathematics training in high school was not good. My teachers could not answer my questions and so I decided I'd go into physics. I mean, I had played with mathematics in high school. I did a lot of work drawing graphs and plotting points and I used pi as the radix of a number system, and explored what the world would be like if you wanted to do logarithms and you had a number system based on pi. And I had played with stuff like that. But my teachers couldn't answer questions that I had.

... ... ... Frana: Do you have an answer? Are American students different today? In one of your interviews you discuss the problem of creativity versus gross absorption of knowledge.

Knuth: Well, that is part of it. Today we have mostly a sound byte culture, this lack of attention span and trying to learn how to pass exams. Frana: Yes,

[Sep 06, 2019] Understanding Literacy Numeracy

Level 4/5 is the ability to read complex information and glean information from it, or in numeracy, the ability to do algebra and above. You will note that only about 1 in 10 function at this level. The vast majority function at about 6th to 8th grade competency.
Sep 06, 2019 | www.cdc.gov

this is from Understanding Literacy & Numeracy

[Sep 04, 2019] Starving Seniors How America Fails To Feed Its Aging naked capitalism

Sep 04, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

https://eus.rubiconproject.com/usync.html

https://acdn.adnxs.com/ib/static/usersync/v3/async_usersync.html

https://c.deployads.com/sync?f=html&s=2343&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nakedcapitalism.com%2F2019%2F09%2Fstarving-seniors-how-america-fails-to-feed-its-aging.html <img src="http://b.scorecardresearch.com/p?c1=2&c2=16807273&cv=2.0&cj=1" /> By Laura Ungar, who health issues out of Kaiser Health News' St. Louis office, and Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for more than 45 years, and a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Originally published by Kaiser Health News .

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Army veteran Eugene Milligan is 75 years old and blind. He uses a wheelchair since losing half his right leg to diabetes and gets dialysis for kidney failure.

And he has struggled to get enough to eat.

Earlier this year, he ended up in the hospital after burning himself while boiling water for oatmeal. The long stay caused the Memphis vet to fall off a charity's rolls for home-delivered Meals on Wheels , so he had to rely on others, such as his son, a generous off-duty nurse and a local church to bring him food.

"Many times, I've felt like I was starving," he said. "There's neighbors that need food too. There's people at dialysis that need food. There's hunger everywhere."

Indeed, millions of seniors across the country quietly go hungry as the safety net designed to catch them frays. Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were "food insecure" in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That's 5.5 million seniors who don't have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays.

While the plight of hungry children elicits support and can be tackled in schools, the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation's pride. The problem is most acute in parts of the South and Southwest. Louisiana has the highest rate among states, with 12% of seniors facing food insecurity. Memphis fares worst among major metropolitan areas, with 17% of seniors like Milligan unsure of their next meal.

And government relief falls short. One of the main federal programs helping seniors is starved for money. The Older Americans Act -- passed more than half a century ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society reforms -- was amended in 1972 to provide for home-delivered and group meals, along with other services, for anyone 60 and older. But its funding has lagged far behind senior population growth, as well as economic inflation.

The biggest chunk of the act's budget, nutrition services, dropped by 8% over the past 18 years when adjusted for inflation, an AARP report found in February. Home-delivered and group meals have decreased by nearly 21 million since 2005. Only a fraction of those facing food insecurity get any meal services under the act; a U.S. Government Accountability Office report examining 2013 data found 83% got none.

With the act set to expire Sept. 30, Congress is now considering its reauthorization and how much to spend going forward.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 45% of eligible adults 60 and older have signed up for another source of federal aid: SNAP, the food stamp program for America's poorest. Those who don't are typically either unaware they could qualify, believe their benefits would be tiny or can no longer get to a grocery store to use them.

Even fewer seniors may have SNAP in the future. More than 13% of SNAP households with elderly members would lose benefits under a recent Trump administration proposal.

For now, millions of seniors -- especially low-income ones -- go without. Across the nation, waits are common to receive home-delivered meals from a crucial provider, Meals on Wheels, a network of 5,000 community-based programs. In Memphis, for example, the wait to get on the Meals on Wheels schedule is more than a year long.

"It's really sad because a meal is not an expensive thing," said Sally Jones Heinz, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association , which provides home-delivered meals in Memphis. "This shouldn't be the way things are in 2019."

Since malnutrition exacerbates diseases and prevents healing, seniors without steady, nutritious food can wind up in hospitals, which drives up Medicare and Medicaid costs, hitting taxpayers with an even bigger bill . Sometimes seniors relapse quickly after discharge -- or worse.

Widower Robert Mukes, 71, starved to death on a cold December day in 2016, alone in his Cincinnati apartment.

The Hamilton County Coroner listed the primary cause of death as "starvation of unknown etiology" and noted "possible hypothermia," pointing out that his apartment had no electricity or running water. Death records show the 5-foot-7-inch man weighed just 100.5 pounds.

A Clear Need

On a hot May morning in Memphis, seniors trickled into a food bank at the Riverside Missionary Baptist Church, 3 miles from the opulent tourist mecca of Graceland. They picked up boxes packed with canned goods, rice, vegetables and meat.

Marion Thomas, 63, placed her box in the trunk of a friend's car. She lives with chronic back pain and high blood pressure and started coming to the pantry three years ago. She's disabled, relies on Social Security and gets $42 a month from SNAP based on her income, household size and other factors. That's much less than the average $125-a-month benefit for households with seniors, but more than the $16 minimum that one in five such households get. Still, Thomas said, "I can't buy very much."

A day later, the Mid-South Food Bank brought a "mobile pantry" to Latham Terrace, a senior housing complex, where a long line of people waited. Some inched forward in wheelchairs; others leaned on canes. One by one, they collected their allotments.

The need is just as real elsewhere. In Dallas, Texas, 69-year-old China Anderson squirrels away milk, cookies and other parts of her home-delivered lunches for dinner because she can no longer stand and cook due to scoliosis and eight deteriorating vertebral discs.

As seniors ration food, programs ration services.

Although more than a third of the Meals on Wheels money comes from the Older Americans Act, even with additional public and private dollars, funds are still so limited that some programs have no choice but to triage people using score sheets that assign points based on who needs food the most. Seniors coming from the hospital and those without family usually top waiting lists.

More than 1,000 were waiting on the Memphis area's list recently. And in Dallas, $4.1 million in donations wiped out a 1,000-person waiting list in December, but within months it had crept back up to 100.

Nationally, "there are tens of thousands of seniors who are waiting," said Erika Kelly , chief membership and advocacy officer for Meals on Wheels America. "While they're waiting, their health deteriorates and, in some cases, we know seniors have died."

Edwin Walker, a deputy assistant secretary for the federal Administration on Aging, acknowledged waits are a long-standing problem, but said 2.4 million people a year benefit from the Older Americans Act's group or home-delivered meals, allowing them to stay independent and healthy.

Seniors get human connection, as well as food, from these services. Aner Lee Murphy, a 102-year-old Meals on Wheels client in Memphis, counts on the visits with volunteers Libby and Bob Anderson almost as much as the food. She calls them "my children," hugging them close and offering a prayer each time they leave.

But others miss out on such physical and psychological nourishment. A devastating phone call brought that home for Kim Daugherty, executive director of the Aging Commission of the Mid-South , which connects seniors to service providers in the region. The woman on the line told Daugherty she'd been on the waiting list for more than a year.

"Ma'am, there are several hundred people ahead of you," Daugherty reluctantly explained.

"I just need you all to remember," came the caller's haunting reply, "I'm hungry and I need food."

A Slow Killer

James Ziliak , a poverty researcher at the University of Kentucky who worked on the Feeding America study, said food insecurity shot up with the Great Recession, starting in the late 2000s, and peaked in 2014. He said it shows no signs of dropping to pre-recession levels.

While older adults of all income levels can face difficulty accessing and preparing healthy food, rates are highest among seniors in poverty. They are also high among minorities. More than 17% of black seniors and 16% of Hispanic seniors are food insecure, compared with fewer than 7% of white seniors.

A host of issues combine to set those seniors on a downward spiral, said registered dietitian Lauri Wright , who chairs the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida. Going to the grocery store gets a lot harder if they can't drive. Expensive medications leave less money for food. Chronic physical and mental health problems sap stamina and make it tough to cook. Inch by inch, hungry seniors decline.

And, even if it rarely kills directly, hunger can complicate illness and kill slowly.

Malnutrition blunts immunity, which already tends to weaken as people age. Once they start losing weight, they're more likely to grow frail and are more likely to die within a year, said Dr. John Morley, director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.

Seniors just out of the hospital are particularly vulnerable. Many wind up getting readmitted, pushing up taxpayers' costs for Medicare and Medicaid. A recent analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that Medicare could save $1.57 for every dollar spent on home-delivered meals for chronically ill seniors after a hospitalization.

Most hospitals don't refer senior outpatients to Meals on Wheels, and advocates say too few insurance companies get involved in making sure seniors have enough to eat to keep them healthy.

When Milligan, the Memphis veteran, burned himself with boiling water last winter and had to be hospitalized for 65 days, he fell off the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association's radar. The meals he'd been getting for about a decade stopped.

Heinz, Metropolitan's CEO, said the association is usually able to start and stop meals for short hospital stays. But, Heinz said, the association didn't hear from Milligan and kept trying to deliver meals for a time while he was in the hospital, then notified the Aging Commission of the Mid-South he wasn't home. As is standard procedure, Metropolitan officials said, a staff member from the commission made three attempts to contact him and left a card at the blind man's home.

But nothing happened when he got out of the hospital this spring. In mid-May, a nurse referred him for meal delivery. Still, he didn't get meals because he faced a waitlist already more than 1,000 names long.

After questions from Kaiser Health News, Heinz looked into Milligan's case and realized that, as a former client, Milligan could get back on the delivery schedule faster.

But even then the process still has hurdles: The aging commission would need to conduct a new home assessment for meals to resume. That has yet to happen because, amid the wait, Milligan's health deteriorated.

A Murky Future

As the Older Americans Act awaits reauthorization this fall, many senior advocates worry about its funding.

In June, the U.S. House passed a $93 million increase to the Older Americans Act's nutrition programs, raising total funding by about 10% to $1 billion in the next fiscal year. In inflation-adjusted dollars, that's still less than in 2009. And it still has to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the proposed increase faces long odds.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat who chairs the Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, expects the panel to tackle legislation for reauthorization of the act soon after members return from the August recess. She's now working with colleagues "to craft a strong, bipartisan update," she said, that increases investments in nutrition programs as well as other services.

"I'm confident the House will soon pass a robust bill," she said, "and I am hopeful that the Senate will also move quickly so we can better meet the needs of our seniors."

In the meantime, "the need for home-delivered meals keeps increasing every year," said Lorena Fernandez, who runs a meal delivery program in Yakima, Wash. Activists are pressing state and local governments to ensure seniors don't starve, with mixed results. In Louisiana, for example, anti-hunger advocates stood on the state Capitol steps in May and unsuccessfully called on the state to invest $1 million to buy food from Louisiana farmers to distribute to hungry residents. Elsewhere, senior activists across the nation have participated each March in "March for Meals" events such as walks, fundraisers and rallies designed to focus attention on the problem.

Private fundraising hasn't been easy everywhere, especially rural communities without much wealth. Philanthropy has instead tended to flow to hungry kids, who outnumber hungry seniors more than 2-to-1, according to Feeding America.

"Ten years ago, organizations had a goal of ending child hunger and a lot of innovation and resources went into what could be done," said Jeremy Everett, executive director of Baylor University's Texas Hunger Initiative. "The same thing has not happened in the senior adult population." And that has left people struggling for enough food to eat.

As for Milligan, he didn't get back on Meals on Wheels before suffering complications related to his dialysis in June. He ended up back in the hospital. Ironically, it was there that he finally had a steady, if temporary, source of food.

It's impossible to know if his time without steady, nutritious food made a difference. What is almost certain is that feeding him at home would have been far cheaper.

[Sep 02, 2019] Discrimination thru stupid job descriptions is catching up to the economy

Jan 11, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
cocomaan, January 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Coulnd't get the JOLTS, November 2016 links to work, but the skills gap is wild.

At an institution of higher ed I'm familiar with, both faculty and administrative positions continue to be unfilled. There are very few candidates even for entry level positions. Failed searches are now the norm. It's feast or famine: either people are perfect for the job and have many options, or have no related experience at all.

I wonder if the labor force participation rate is starting to catch up with the job market. That is, there are a lot of healthy adults who have dropped out of the workforce who would be the people you'd want in those positions.

Or that the job market is not nearly as liquid as they'd have you believe, and people can't relocate from where they are because of adult children who live with them, or things of that nature. All kinds of weird things now in the job market. I know someone who commutes a significant distance to work that has to look for another job because their workplace's health care plan only covers a geographic area close to that job.

alex morfesis , January 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Discrimination thru stupid job descriptions is catching up to the economy paying $12 per hour five years experience required nonsense job descriptions designed to help the accredited and credentialed have a leg up

There seem to be three types of employment categories

IMUO it is not a skills gap it is the demanding of irrelevant capacities and experience that almost always have very little to do with the actual tasks required

[Sep 02, 2019] Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes, and leftists often agree because hey "free movement" and because after all the professional class jobs aren't at risk ..."
"... "I think Trump is afraid the imperial global order presided by the US is about to crash and thinks he will be able to steer the country into a soft landing by accepting that other world powers have interests, by disengaging from costly and humiliating military interventions, by re-negotiating trade deals, and by stopping the mass immigration of poor people." ..."
"... No one has literally argued that people should be glad to lose employment: that part was hyperbole. But the basic argument is often made quite seriously. See e.g. outsource Brad DeLong . ..."
"... To the guy who asked- poor white people keep voting Republican even though it screws them because they genuinely believe that the country is best off when it encourages a culture of "by the bootstraps" self improvement, hard work, and personal responsibility. They view taxing people in order to give the money to the supposedly less fortunate as the anti thesis of this, because it gives people an easy out that let's them avoid having to engage in the hard work needed to live independently. ..."
"... Attempts at repairing historical racial inequity read as cheating in that paradigm, and even as hostile since they can easily observe white people who are just as poor or poorer than those who racial politics focuses upon. ..."
"... The extent to which "poor white people" vote against their alleged economic interests is overblown. To a large extent, they do not vote at all nor is anyone or anything on the ballot to represent their interests. And, yes, they are misinformed systematically by elites out to screw them and they know this, but cannot do much to either clear up their own confusion or fight back. ..."
"... The mirror image problem - of elites manipulating the system to screw the poor and merely middle-class - is daily in the news. Both Presidential candidates have been implicated. So, who do you recommend they vote for? ..."
"... My understanding is trumps support disproportionately comes from the small business owning classes, Ie a demographic similar to the petite bourgeoisie who have often been heavily involved in reactionary movements. This gets oversold as "working class" when class is defined by education level rather than income. ..."
"... Eric Berne, in The Structures and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, proposed that among the defining characteristics of a coherent group is an explicit boundary which determines whether an individual is a member of the group or not. (If there is no boundary, nothing binds the assemblage together; it is a crowd.) The boundary helps provide social cohesion and is so important that groups will create one if necessary. Clearly, boundaries exclude as well as include, and someone must play the role of outsider. ..."
"... I am somewhat suspicious of leaving dominating elites out of these stories of racism as an organizing principle for political economy or (cultural) community. ..."
"... Racism served the purposes of a slaveholding elite that organized political communities to serve their own interests. (Or, vis a vis the Indians a land-grab or genocide.) ..."
"... Racism serves as an organizing principle. Politically, in an oppressive and stultifying hierarchy like the plantation South, racism not incidentally buys the loyalty of subalterns with ersatz status. ..."
"... For a time, the balkanization of American political communities by race, religion and ethnicity was an effective means to the dominance of an tiny elite with ties to an hegemonic community, but it backfired. Dismantling that balkanization has left the country with a very low level of social affiliation and thus a low capacity to organize resistance to elite depredations. ..."
Aug 01, 2004 | crookedtimber.org

Rich Puchalsky 08.04.16 at 11:40 am 177

fn: "Of course there is a subtext to these racist hate campaigns that someone else here raised and rich ran with a bit, which is the hatred of the unemployed. I think a lot of people voting leave imagine that the next thing on the agenda is slashing the dole to force poor white people to do the work the Eastern Europeans did. "

Yes, in part. In part, also, people imagine that poor citizens will get jobs that previously were done by migrants. This has a hatred of slackers element that is bad, but as economics, it's pretty well-founded that if you reduce the size of the labor pool relative to the population then unemployment will go down and wages will go up. Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes, and leftists often agree because hey "free movement" and because after all the professional class jobs aren't at risk. But strangely enough some people seem to resent this.

Layman 08.04.16 at 11:48 am 178

Lupita: "I think Trump is afraid the imperial global order presided by the US is about to crash and thinks he will be able to steer the country into a soft landing by accepting that other world powers have interests, by disengaging from costly and humiliating military interventions, by re-negotiating trade deals, and by stopping the mass immigration of poor people."

... ... ...

Rich Puchalsky 08.04.16 at 12:03 pm

"I can't recall any particular instance where someone made this argument."

No one has literally argued that people should be glad to lose employment: that part was hyperbole. But the basic argument is often made quite seriously. See e.g. outsource Brad DeLong.

engels 08.04.16 at 12:25 pm

While this may be the effect of some neoliberal policies, I can't recall any particular instance where someone made this argument

Maybe this kind of thing rom Henry Farrell? (There may well be better examples.)

Is some dilution of the traditional European welfare state acceptable, if it substantially increases the wellbeing of current outsiders (i.e. for example, by bringing Turkey into the club). My answer is yes, if European leftwingers are to stick to their core principles on justice, fairness, egalitarianism etc

http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/31/talking-turkey-over-welfare/

Lupita 08.04.16 at 2:42 pm

Large numbers of low-income white southern Americans consistently vote against their own economic interests. They vote to award tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations, to cut unemployment benefits, to bust unions, to reward companies for outsourcing jobs, to resist wage increases, to cut funding for health care for the poor, to cut Social Security and Medicare, etc.

The same thing has happened in Mexico with neoliberal government after neoliberal government being elected. There are many democratically elected neoliberal governments around the world.

Why might this be?

In the case of Mexico, because Peña Nieto's wife is a telenovela star. How cool is that? It places Mexico in the same league as 1st world countries, such as France, with Carla Bruni.


Patrick 08.04.16 at 4:32 pm

To the guy who asked- poor white people keep voting Republican even though it screws them because they genuinely believe that the country is best off when it encourages a culture of "by the bootstraps" self improvement, hard work, and personal responsibility. They view taxing people in order to give the money to the supposedly less fortunate as the anti thesis of this, because it gives people an easy out that let's them avoid having to engage in the hard work needed to live independently.

They see it as little different from letting your kid move back on after college and smoke weed in your basement. They don't generally mind people being on unemployment transitionally, but they're supposed to be a little embarrassed about it and get it over with as soon as possible.

They not only worry that increased government social spending will incentivize bad behavior, they worry it will destroy the cultural values they see as vital to Americas past prosperity. They tend to view claims about historic or systemic injustice necessitating collective remedy because they view the world as one in which the vagaries of fate decree that some are born rich or poor, and that success is in improving ones station relative to where one starts.

Attempts at repairing historical racial inequity read as cheating in that paradigm, and even as hostile since they can easily observe white people who are just as poor or poorer than those who racial politics focuses upon. Left wing insistence on borrowing the nastiest rhetoric of libertarians ("this guy is poor because his ancestors couldn't get ahead because of historical racial injustice so we must help him; your family couldn't get ahead either but that must have been your fault so you deserve it") comes across as both antithetical to their values and as downright hostile within the values they see around them.

All of this can be easily learned by just talking to them.

It's not a great world view. It fails to explain quite a lot. For example, they have literally no way of explaining increased unemployment without positing either that everyone is getting too lazy to work, or that the government screwed up the system somehow, possibly by making it too expensive to do business in the US relative to other countries. and given their faith in the power of hard work, they don't even blame sweatshops- they blame taxes and foreign subsidies.

I don't know exactly how to reach out to them, except that I can point to some things people do that repulse them and say "stop doing that."


bruce wilder 08.04.16 at 5:50 pm

The extent to which "poor white people" vote against their alleged economic interests is overblown. To a large extent, they do not vote at all nor is anyone or anything on the ballot to represent their interests. And, yes, they are misinformed systematically by elites out to screw them and they know this, but cannot do much to either clear up their own confusion or fight back.

The mirror image problem - of elites manipulating the system to screw the poor and merely middle-class - is daily in the news. Both Presidential candidates have been implicated. So, who do you recommend they vote for?

There is serious deficit of both trust and information among the poor. Poor whites hardly have a monopoly; black misleadership is epidemic in our era of Cory Booker socialism.


bruce wilder 08.04.16 at 7:05 pm

Politics is founded on the complex social psychology of humans as social animals. We elevate it from its irrational base in emotion to rationalized calculation or philosophy at our peril.


T 08.04.16 at 9:17 pm

@Layman
I think you're missing Patrick's point. These voters are switching from one Republican to another. They've jettisoned Bush et. al. for Trump. These guys despise Bush. They've figured out that the mainstream party is basically 30 years of affinity fraud. So, is your argument is that Trump even more racist? That kind of goes against the whole point of the OP. Not saying that race doesn't matter. Of course it does. But Trump has a 34% advantage in non-college educated white men. It just isn't the South. Why does it have to be just race or just class?


Ronan(rf) 08.04.16 at 10:35 pm

"I generally don't give a shit about polls so I have no "data" to evidence this claim, but my guess is the majority of Trump's support comes from this broad middle"

My understanding is trumps support disproportionately comes from the small business owning classes, Ie a demographic similar to the petite bourgeoisie who have often been heavily involved in reactionary movements. This gets oversold as "working class" when class is defined by education level rather than income.

This would make some sense as they are generally in economically unstable jobs, they tend to be hostile to both big govt (regulations, freeloaders) and big business (unfair competition), and while they (rhetorically at least) tend to value personal autonomy and self sufficiency , they generally sell into smaller, local markets, and so are particularly affected by local demographic and cultural change , and decline. That's my speculation anyway.

T 08.05.16 at 3:12 pm

@patrick @layman

Patrick, you're right about the Trump demographic. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/

Layman - Why are these voters switching from Bush et al to Trump? Once again, Corey's whole point is that there is very little difference between the racism of Trump and the mainstream party since Nixon. Is Trump just more racist? Or are the policies of Trump resonating differently than Bush for reasons other than race? Are the folks that voted for the other candidates in the primary less racist so Trump supporters are just the most racist among Republicans? Cruz less racist? You have to explain the shift within the Republican party because that's what happened.


Anarcissie 08.06.16 at 3:00 pm

Faustusnotes 08.06.16 at 1:50 pm @ 270 -

Eric Berne, in The Structures and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, proposed that among the defining characteristics of a coherent group is an explicit boundary which determines whether an individual is a member of the group or not. (If there is no boundary, nothing binds the assemblage together; it is a crowd.) The boundary helps provide social cohesion and is so important that groups will create one if necessary. Clearly, boundaries exclude as well as include, and someone must play the role of outsider. While Berne's theories are a bit too nifty for me to love them, I have observed a lot of the behaviors he predicts. If one wanted to be sociobiological, it is not hard to hypothesize evolutionary pressures which could lead to this sort of behavior being genetically programmed. If a group of humans, a notably combative primate, does not have strong social cohesion, the war of all against all ensues and everybody dies. Common affections alone do not seem to provide enough cohesion.

In an earlier but related theory, in the United States, immigrants from diverse European communities which fought each other for centuries in Europe arrived and managed to now get along because they had a major Other, the Negro, against whom to define themselves (as the White Race) and thus to cohere sufficiently to get on with business. The Negro had the additional advantage of being at first a powerless slave and later, although theoretically freed, was legally, politically, and economically disabled - an outsider who could not fight back very effectively, nor run away. Even so, the US almost split apart and there continue to be important class, ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts. You can see how these two theories resonate.

It may be that we can't have communities without this dark side, although we might be able to mitigate some of its destructive effects.


bruce wilder 08.06.16 at 4:28 pm

I am somewhat suspicious of leaving dominating elites out of these stories of racism as an organizing principle for political economy or (cultural) community.

Racism served the purposes of a slaveholding elite that organized political communities to serve their own interests. (Or, vis a vis the Indians a land-grab or genocide.)

Racism serves as an organizing principle. Politically, in an oppressive and stultifying hierarchy like the plantation South, racism not incidentally buys the loyalty of subalterns with ersatz status. The ugly prejudices and resentful arrogance of working class whites is thus a component of how racism works to organize a political community to serve a hegemonic master class. The business end of racism, though, is the autarkic poverty imposed on the working communities: slaves, sharecroppers, poor blacks, poor whites - bad schools, bad roads, politically disabled communities, predatory institutions and authoritarian governments.

For a time, the balkanization of American political communities by race, religion and ethnicity was an effective means to the dominance of an tiny elite with ties to an hegemonic community, but it backfired. Dismantling that balkanization has left the country with a very low level of social affiliation and thus a low capacity to organize resistance to elite depredations.

engels 08.07.16 at 1:02 am

But how did that slavery happen

Possible short answer: the level of technological development made slavery an efficient way of exploiting labour. At a certain point those conditions changed and slavery became a drag on further development and it was abolished, along with much of the racist ideology that legitimated it.


Lupita 08.07.16 at 3:40 am

But how did that slavery happen

In Mesoamerica, all the natives were enslaved because they were conquered by the Spaniards. Then, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas successfully argued before the Crown that the natives had souls and, therefore, should be Christianized rather than enslaved. As Bruce Wilder states, this did not serve the interests of the slaveholding elite, so the African slave trade began and there was no Fray Bartolomé to argue their case.

It is interesting that while natives were enslaved, the Aztec aristocracy was shipped to Spain to be presented in court and study Latin. This would not have happened if the Mesoamericans were considered inferior (soulless) as a race. Furthermore, the Spaniards needed the local elite to help them out with their empire and the Aztecs were used to slavery and worse. This whole story can be understood without recurring to racism. The logic of empire suffices.

[Sep 02, 2019] How Can Older Workers Compete In An Economy That Values Youth

May 28, 2016 | www.zerohedge.com

...

Workers of all ages are caught in a vice. Older workers need to keep working longer in an economy which values younger workers (and their cheaper healthcare premiums). Younger workers are caught in the vice of "you don't have enough experience" and "how do I get experience if nobody will hire me?"

Middle-aged workers are caught between the enormous Millennial generation seeking better jobs and the equally numerous baby Boom generation seeking to work a few more years to offset their interest-starved retirement funds. (Thank you, predatory and rapacious Federal Reserve for siphoning all our retirement fund interest to your cronies the Too Big to Fail Banks.)

Workers 55 and older are undeniably working longer. Here is the labor participation rate for 55+ workers:

... And here's why so many workers have to work longer--earned income's share of the GDP has been in a free-fall for decades as Fed-funded financiers and corporations skim an ever greater share of the nation's GDP.

I am 62, very much an older worker with a startling 46 years in the work force (first formal paycheck, 1970 from Dole Pineapple). (Thanks to the Fed's zero-interest rate policy, I should be able to retire at 93 or so--unless the Fed imposes a negative-rate policy on me and the other serfs.)

But I recall with painful clarity the great hardships and difficulties I experienced in the recessions of 1973-74, 1981-82 and 1990-91 when I was in younger demographics. My sympathies are if anything more with younger workers, as it is increasingly difficult to get useful on-the-job experience if you're starting out.

That said, here are some suggestions for 55+ workers seeking to find work in a very competitive job/paid work market.

1. Target sectors that haven't changed much. There's a reason so many older guys find a niche in Home Depot and Lowe's--power saws, lumber, appliances, etc. haven't changed that much (except their quality has declined) for 40 years.

The same can be said of many areas of retail sales, house-cleaning, caring for children, etc.

Everyone knows the young have an advantage in sectors dominated by fast-changing technology, so avoid those sectors and stick to sectors where your knowledge and experience is still applicable and valued by employers.

2. If at all possible, get your healthcare coverage covered by a spouse or plan you pay. Those $2,000/month premiums for older workers are a big reason why employers would rather hire a $200/month premium younger worker, or limit the hours of older workers to part-time so no healthcare coverage is required.

Telling an employer you already have healthcare coverage may have a huge impact on your chances of getting hired.

3. If you have any computer-network-social media skills, you can get paid to help everyone 55+ with fewer skills. Your computer skills may not be up to the same level as a younger person's, but they are probably far more advanced than other 55+ folks. Many older people are paying somebody $35/hour or more to help them set up email, fix their buggy PCs and Macs, get them started on Facebook, etc. It might as well be you.

4. Focus on fields where managerial experience and moxie is decisive. Even highly educated young people have a tough time managing people effectively because they're lacking experience. Applying biz-school case studies to the real world isn't as easy as it looks. (I found apologizing to my older employees necessary and helpful. Do they teach this in biz school? I doubt it.)

The ability to work with (and mentor) a variety of people is an essential skill, and it's one that tends to come with age and experience.

5. Reliability matters. The ability to roll with the punches, show up on time, do what's needed to get the job done, and focus on outcomes rather than process are still core assets in a work force.

Being 55+ doesn't automatically mean someone has those skills, but they tend to come with decades of work.

6. If nobody will hire you, start your own enterprise to fill scarcities and create value in your community. The classic example is a handyperson, as it's very difficult for a young person to acquire the spectrum of experience needed to efficiently assess a wide array of problems and go about fixing them.

#3 above is another example of identifying one's strengths and then seeking a scarcity to fill. Value, profits and high wages flow to scarcity. Don't try to compete in supplying what's abundant; seek out scarcities and work on addressing those in a reliable fashion.

Every age group has its strengths and weaknesses, and the task facing all of us is to 1) identify scarcities we can fill and 2) seek ways to play to our strengths.

Shizzmoney

That's easy: the elitist old people in power will start a war, force the young people into that war, where they will all be killed and the old people get their jobs.

Also, for those young people who protest the war, the government and corporate military security forces will detain and kill them, too.

Problem solved!

KnuckleDragger-X

Bob Seger: Ballad of the Yellow Berets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP6Xt3GBhdQ

Syrin

Exactly. Value youth? Is that why we saddle them with $250,000 worth of student loan debt and a degree in women's studies to find no jobs because we let in illegals and skilled workers with Visas from foreign countries? Seems like we hate our youth. Of course, they deserve it since they have been focused on being social justice fucktards rather than getting any marketable skills and paying attention to what the gov't is doing to their future. Schadenfreude.

deja

No, they are stupid enough to saddle themselves with $250,000 worth of student loan debt for a degree in womens' studies.

cougar_w

The OP doesn't make much sense to me. Most of the work people my age do, the young people either don't want or are not qualified for. Maintaining vital COBOL apps or air traffic controller software from the 70's? Really? And the ones are, they don't mind working with older employees and seem to enjoy our "gravity".

I work in IT so maybe things are a bit different. Grey beards are huge around here and always will be.

But this has been a challenge for centuries, young people have to find their own way and "their way" (being probably a dream from childhood or an inspiration from a college professor) might not be practical at first. They bounce around a little until marriage hits them and then they find something that works for supporting a family. Same as it ever was. The idea that "their way" is some kind of unswerving life's mission is usually part of the corporate "just do it" meme that sells $400 specialty running shoes. Yeah whatever, just figure it out actually, life will tell you what you are supposed to be doing, and who you are supposed to be doing it with.

GeezerGeek

The market for COBOL programmers had a sudden surge around Y2K, but only certain industries still maintain their old COBOL apps. Curiously, a certain computer/software has recently tried pushing a visual version of COBOL, much like Gates did when he came out with Visual Basic back in the early 1990s. I retired after 40 years in IT in 2011, so I am a bit out of touch where COBOL is concerned. Does anyone even teach it anymore in college? Maybe if someone modified it to create phone apps and games it would once again be popular.

Abbie Normal

Then it's a good thing I didn't follow my undergrad English Prof's advice and switch my major from science to arts, because he thought there was some "real intelligence" in my writing style that even his grad students lacked. Maybe I should look him up....

eatthebanksters

I have two buddies, one a 61 year old attonery who has never lost a case and the other a 59 year old facilities director. The lawyer has been seeking work for 6 years and has pretty much given up...he can't even get hired at lesser jobs because he is overqualified and 'will leave when something better comes along'. The facilities director has a great resume and knows his stuff but has been out of work for almost two years. He has come in 'second' more times than I can count. He is working od jobs and living with a friends mother, exchanging work on the house for rent and meals. Welcome to Obama's economy.

N0TaREALmerican

He'd work if he'd accept less money, but he feels "entitled to earn what HE thinks he's worth". Just another lazy old-fart who feels the world owns him something. Welcome to a competitive economy old-fart, nobody said life was fair. Stop bitching and work for less.

mary mary

If you ever need an attorney, you might look for an experienced attorney who worked so hard that he never lost a case.

If you ever inherit a zillion bucks and buy a bunch of properties, you might confer with an experienced facility manager who actually managed a bunch of properties.

I doubt an attorney who never lost a case achieved that record by going around saying, "somebody owes me something".

I doubt a facilities manager who managed a bunch of properties achieved that by going around saying, "somebody owes me something".

Baa baa

What a load of crap. Most will take anything. I know, I am one. Don't lecture me about being "entitled" you punk. Your post reeks of the entitlement generation. Slug through 50 years of working, rearing a family, kids to college... I am beginning to wonder if the hundreds of thousands spent on the education and well-being of your ingrate ass was a misallocation of funds.

corporatewhore

Give credit where credit is due. This inability to find work at an older age has been going on for years and can't be blamed on Obama. Senior buyers at Macy's, older workers at Monsanto or television weather people at KSDK in St Louis all suffer the same fate. Labor cost and benefits are all less for the younger generation no matter what level of experience or capability. We develop a mindset throughout our productive career that we are indispensable and worth it because of our knowledge, contacts and industry wherewithal. It's all an illusion and we are NOT prepared or equipped to face the reality at an older age that we are completely dispensable.

At an older age if you want meaning you have to find it and think out of the paradigm that you've been led to believe is real. No one owes you anything for your experience or wealth of knowledge. Figure it out and rethink yourself as to what you love to do and want to do not what you must do to make money.

At 58 in 2008 I was fucked over by my corporation and wallowed in miserableness and poverty while i worked every contact and firm I knew. Nothing resulted. I had to work 3 part time jobs until I earned 2 full time ones and work over 90 hours per week because I enjoy it. It is work that covers the bills and allows me to create what I want to work on for the future while I still can walk think and breathe.

Best advice to your children: Go in business for yourself because just as it happened to me, it will happen to you when you become 55.

Nobody For President

Thanks for that, corporate whore. That sounds like an honest reprise of an incredibly hard time in your life, and I totally agree. I'm telling all (4) my grandkids, from 7 to 20, to live your life, not someone else's. The oldest one gets it, and I think the other ones will also, if I live long enough, because I walked that walk.

I'm old, and work full time (more or less) and make a living - not a killing, but a living - at it.

nuubee

Good news old people, the economy currently doesn't value anything you can produce, unless you can print money.

Cautiously Pessimistic

You get up every morning
From your 'larm clock's warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There's a whistle up above
And people pushin', people shovin'
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train's on time
You can get to work by nine

... ... ...

mary mary

MSM says Baby Boomers "have stolen everything", but in fact Baby Boomers are having to extend their careers because they're broke. This is the easily foreseeable result of 20+ years of the Fed keeping interest rates artificially low, making Baby Boomers suffer the double-whammy of (1) not having their deferred income (pensions) grow, while (2) inflation in fact continued at 6% annual, thanks also to the Fed keeping interest rates artificially low.

Yes, someone "have stolen everything". That someone is the owners of the Fed.

[Sep 01, 2019] The Unsustainability of Inequality by James K. Galbraith

Notable quotes:
"... First, rising inequality reflects the economic rents captured in resource extraction and production, whether by the owners of those resources or by financiers acting as parasitic middlemen. Second, inequality fosters the extravagant excesses that some now call plutonomy – an economic system in which a small group, the ultra-wealthy, accounts for a large share of total consumption. Under such conditions, a rising tide lifts only yachts, and competitive consumption creates an escalating pattern of what Thorstein Veblen, perhaps the greatest American economist, called conspicuous waste. Lastly, rising inequality is a good indicator of financial instability, which increases the probability of an impending crash. ..."
nepal24hours.com

Rising inequality is symptomatic of a wide range of economic and political problems that are standing in the way of achieving a just and sustainable society. But for all the concern about the income and wealth gap within countries in recent years, there has been surprisingly little acknowledgement of the forces actually driving the trend.

"Sustainability" is a relatively new organizing principle in global policy. It is new partly because economists have long been largely hostile to the very idea. Postwar neoclassical growth theories deliberately ignored resource and environmental limits, disparaged and disdained ecologists, and promised what was effectively impossible: perpetual growth fueled by unlimited resources, the free disposal of wastes, and never-ending technological progress. Early warnings – notably the Club of Rome's pathbreaking 1972 report, The Limits to Growth – were ridiculed. More recently, the science of limits has gained acceptance, but most economists remain preoccupied with growth.

But there is at least one dimension of unsustainability that not even economists can overlook: inequality. Income and wealth disparities, along with other forms of inequality, are relevant to sustainability for at least three reasons.

First, rising inequality reflects the economic rents captured in resource extraction and production, whether by the owners of those resources or by financiers acting as parasitic middlemen. Second, inequality fosters the extravagant excesses that some now call plutonomy – an economic system in which a small group, the ultra-wealthy, accounts for a large share of total consumption. Under such conditions, a rising tide lifts only yachts, and competitive consumption creates an escalating pattern of what Thorstein Veblen, perhaps the greatest American economist, called conspicuous waste. Lastly, rising inequality is a good indicator of financial instability, which increases the probability of an impending crash.

For all these reasons, understanding and controlling the rise of inequality is an ecological, socioeconomic, and political imperative. It is, in other words, a sustainability issue.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

To get a grip on economic inequality, we must overcome two major sources of confusion. On the theoretical side, mainstream economics treats inequality largely as a byproduct of supply and demand in "labor markets." It is thus regarded as a "microeconomic" phenomenon, driven on the demand side by technological change, and on the supply side by a barely observable quantum that goes by the name of human skill.

When economists write about policies that affect inequality, they tend to work within this market framework. The labor market may be local, regional, or – at the very most – national. Proposed policies focus mainly on the characteristics and capabilities of individuals and how they can improve their positions in the market. These matters are undoubtedly important, particularly when it comes to education and health, but they ignore the broader "macroeconomic" forces – booms and busts, interest rates and debt, exchange rates and commodity prices – that affect individuals, firms, economic sectors, and entire countries.

On the empirical side, there is a question of information: What can we know from the available data? Most of the data we have come from surveys, and most surveys focus on households. These data are relevant for judging economic welfare – and also for thinking about how people with different characteristics (age, gender, race, education, and so on) interact with markets. Yet householders are not employees, and their income is not the same as the wages paid for particular kinds of work. So, data collected on households are several steps away from production, pay, and the forces of structural change.

When it comes to international and comparative analysis, there is yet another problem: surveys are expensive. More surveys are conducted in stable rich countries than in unstable poor ones. And they can be conceptually inconsistent, because the questions differ according to the choices made by those managing the surveys. Are we measuring income? Expenditure? Before or after tax? As with all surveys, the only answers one gets are to the questions asked.

An alternative approach that has become popular in recent years is to consult income-tax records. But these data are even more sparse and inconsistent than surveys, and such records are not available for all countries (indeed, not all countries have an income tax). So, in the effort to measure inequality within countries and around the world, there has long been less signal than noise.

INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS

For the past two decades, my students and I have been working on ways to address these measurement shortcomings. We have sought out payroll records that cover a diverse range of countries over many years, and in broadly consistent terms. With these data, we can measure economic inequalities in the structure of pay, which then allows us to estimate the associated inequalities of household income, both across countries and through time.

To explain the philosophy behind this approach, I often refer to a line from the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce's essay "The Fixation of Belief":

Kepler undertook to draw a curve through the places of Mars [ ] and his greatest service to science was in impressing on men's minds that this was the thing to be done if they wished to improve astronomy; that they were not to content themselves with inquiring whether one system of epicycles was better than another, but that they were to sit down to the figures, and find out what the curve, in truth, was.

We have attempted to follow this advice, and we have had a fair amount of success. Our measures have proven to be largely reliable and consistent with the existing survey record, while also sensitive to known historical events: wars, revolutions, and the like. Moreover, we have been able to look for patterns at the regional and even global level.

What would consistent patterns beyond the national level imply? I believe they are prima facie evidence that the main source of change in various forms of inequality lies in transnational developments, not in local conditions. To understand the problem of inequality, then, we need to study common developments across a continental or even global economic space.

As it happens, we have identified patterns showing a consistent gradient in levels of income inequality across both space and time. If one looks across space, there are not too many surprises. Income inequality within countries and regions rises as one moves from north to south, reflecting the concentration of advanced industry and middle-class welfare states in countries that were once the seats of empire. In Europe, inequality also rises as one moves from "East" to "West," reflecting the legacy of state socialism.

Moreover, countries in close proximity, and with similar income levels and neighborly diplomatic and trade relations, have relatively similar levels of inequality – as one can see very clearly in maps. Common sense tells us that if they did not have similar levels of inequality, regional migration patterns would sooner or later even things out.

Likewise, patterns of inequality change over time. In particular, there is a general movement toward higher inequality from the 1980s until 2000, after which inequality begins to stabilize. So far, all of this is what one would expect, which attests to the quality of the data. Our attempt to capture a much broader picture of inequality across the world has not been misguided.

WAVES OF INEQUALITY

These movements show, quite plainly, that levels of inequality once widely associated with the Third World are now quite generalized globally. The First World has not become poorer, but it has grown much less equal. There are a few exceptions, of course, and they should not come as a surprise. Measures of inequality in Denmark or Finland, for example, are not far from where they were a generation back. And some countries in Central and Eastern Europe – the Czech Republic stands out – have low levels of inequality (though higher than under their severe post-war communist regimes).

Now, consider another interesting pattern: the temporal movement of inequality within countries is very similar to that between countries. If one takes a standard measure of inequality between countries (not weighted for population, lest China and India dominate the data), one finds that it has risen both between and within countries at the same time. Again, this no surprise: rich countries comprise relatively wealthy people, whereas the people of poor countries are poorer. In a global economy, when inequality between people changes, it is natural that the inequalities between their respective countries change in a similar way.

But here it is important to remember that we are picking out the movement of inequality within countries, measured separately using national statistics, and standardized by an international statistical bureau. There are about 155 countries in our most recent data set, and the predominant patterns across all of them tell the essential story. From 1963 to 1971, no particular trend stands out. There is a bump in inequality within countries in 1973, followed by a modest decline. For much of the world – for poorer countries and poorer peoples alike, though not for the troubled rich – the 1970s were a time of growth and progress.

Then comes a key turning point. Beginning in 1981, inequality starts rising in waves around the world, increasing relentlessly until 2000, at which point the waves subside. In this era, the first major wave is dominated by Latin America and Africa, and subsequent waves are driven by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated regime changes in Eastern Europe. Finally, economic liberalization in Asia fuels another wave that culminates in the 1997 Asian financial crisis. From 2000, the rise in inequality slows, and inequalities even decline in parts of the world, including Latin America, China, and the Russian Federation.

A TALE OF FINANCIAL HISTORY

The message contained in these numbers is neither subtle nor obscure. This is a story about the relationship between debtors and creditors in the world economy. Under the post-World War II Bretton Woods framework, stability prevailed – until the system collapsed in 1971, when the United States ended the dollar's convertibility into gold. In 1973, the oil shock and a commodity boom led to a surge in credit in Latin America and elsewhere as countries took on commercial-bank debt to sustain growth in the face of higher fuel prices. As developing countries grew, their middle classes expanded and inequalities declined.

All of that ended in 1981 with the start of a worldwide debt crisis that emanated from monetary-policy changes in the US, where interest rates shot up to 22%. No longer able to pay their debts, developing countries were forced to pursue austerity measures and to abandon their independent industrial development strategies. Commodity prices collapsed, as did the Soviet bloc – much of it heavily indebted – a decade later. The Asian crisis of 1997 rounded out this period.

Inequality at the global level peaked in 2000. In the wake of the dot-com bust and the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates, and China, growing strongly and now a member of the World Trade Organization, increased its commodity purchases worldwide. Prices and credit conditions improved, and for a while global inequality stopped rising.

The trends in inequality over this period are in keeping with the commonsense insights of Simon Kuznets back in 1955. Kuznets surmised that inequality would rise sharply during the initial stages of economic development, and then decline at later stages. China and India reflect this pattern, but for other developing countries in Asia and Latin America, industrialization and urbanization have been far enough advanced for decades that rapid growth reduces inequality and depression increases it. In a very few rich countries – notably the US and the United Kingdom – rapid growth increases inequalities, because it concentrates income in globally dominant sectors, especially finance and high technology.

So, in the rough history presented above, there are two key elements to consider: the structure of the underlying economies and the effects of booms and busts on that structure. Global forces for boom and bust have tended to affect individual countries and their people in proportion to their ability to resist them. Countries with strong institutions that were able to maintain independence and manage their own affairs fared the best. Those that could not defend themselves against global forces were periodically ravaged by them. In our time, this is the difference between, say, China and Mexico.

These global forces can be identified by the big turning points. The first was the breakdown of Bretton Woods and the rush to private debt in the 1970s. The second was the debt crisis of the 1980s, which was followed by the collapse of oil and commodity prices, and then of Soviet-style socialist governments, and then by liberalization in Asia, culminating in the 1997 crisis – but not in China, which was poised for another decade of double-digit growth. The third big turning point occurred in 2000, when lower interest rates, higher commodity prices, and modest advances in social-welfare policies and national economic development strategies helped to reduce inequality and poverty in Latin America and Russia, while in China, too, inequalities peaked and started to decline.

In Europe, events played out somewhat differently. European countries did not reject neoliberal ideology and re-embrace social-welfare policies after 2000. The introduction of the euro was followed by nearly a decade of easy credit terms, which fueled a boom in housing and commercial construction in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Greece (where the boom included the 2004 Olympics, among other projects). This period was not unlike the 1970s in Latin America. But as Herbert Stein, a chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, famously observed, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." In 2009, the global financial crisis brought the happy early days of the euro to an abrupt end.

REIN IT IN

What the available evidence demonstrates is that economic inequality has been regulated over time by the behavior of global finance. The data even show that changes in levels of inequality within the smaller, open economies are closely related to exchange-rate movements. When currencies become overvalued, their countries are vulnerable to Dutch disease – eroding the competitiveness of industry – and to financial crisis. Financial crises and devaluations quickly reestablish the high level of inequality that human-development programs were meant to overcome.

Inequality is thus irreducibly a global and, contrary to what many economists like to think, macroeconomic issue. Labor-market considerations are secondary, crowded out by the dominant macro movements described above. As such, the only way to address inequality effectively is to bring the forces of financial instability, debt peonage, and predatory austerity under control. These forces can be tempered by financial regulation, a function of rich-country governments and central banks. But regulators are of course subject to capture by big finance, and central-bank mandates – whether to target full employment or only price stability – were drafted in an age of national economic policymaking. National central banks – as also the European Central Bank – are not set up to consider their policies' effects on peoples beyond their jurisdictional boundaries.

To be sure, there is still much that nation-states around the world can do to fight inequality when conditions permit. Useful measures include raising the minimum wage, strengthening trade unions, establishing social-insurance schemes, and building infrastructure and providing public goods. The problem is that these forms of progress can be – and regularly are – erased by financial crises and the subsequent imposition of severe austerity. This means that the capacity to reduce inequalities sustainably depends on the capacity for insulation from external financial pressures. However difficult it may be, the rest of the world needs to protect itself from the destabilizing forces of global finance.

In short, economic inequality is tied to the most unstable and unsustainable element of the world system, which is global finance. Achieving anything sustainably – especially, but not only, the reduction of extreme inequalities – requires a financial order that is broadly reformed and that can once again serve as a tool for other institutions and purposes, and not as their self-serving master. This is particularly important as humanity turns toward that other, more critical goal: the sustainability of human life on this planet. Global financial stability is a necessary step on the way to a clean-energy economy – as envisioned in the Green New Deal and similar proposals. At the end of the day, if we want to have a sustainable and civilized future, we need to get a grip on global finance.

James K. Galbraith is Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. His most recent books are Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know and Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.

[Sep 01, 2019] NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web by Bill Lessard

Notable quotes:
"... Being an unemployed techie myself, I cannot begin to describe what a godsend this book is. NETSLAVES finally reveals the truth about what it is to be part of what is likely the most under-appreciated sect of the working class. ..."
"... It is a comment on upper and middle management corporate business practices in general, and the dismal fate of the vast armies of workers used as cannon fodder since day one for the follies of unscrupulous robber barons; or morons who just happen to find themselves in the right place at the right time to make market killings; or Scrooges who will never learn what it is to have a heart. Baldwin and Lessard are heirs to the muckrakers of the early 20th Century. Corporate E-merica, take heed. ..."
Apr 16, 2003 | www.amazon.com
Arthur Lindsey III , April 16, 2003
A 246 Page "Support Group"

Being an unemployed techie myself, I cannot begin to describe what a godsend this book is. NETSLAVES finally reveals the truth about what it is to be part of what is likely the most under-appreciated sect of the working class.

The stale stories of "dorm-room success" have been supplanted by the pathetically sad/darkly humorous accounts of those who have been saddled with with million-dollar job titles, bleeding ulcers, and ramen noodle grocery budgets.

NETSLAVES is an entertaining and enligtening read, written by two men who have actually been passengers in every sewer pipe that is the new-media industry. This book is a must for every modern library, as it can be considered a "warning shot" for those with IT aspirations, or as a source of vindication for those of us who have been dismissed and trampled on. Bravo!

A customer, November 24, 1999

Handwriting on the Wall

NetSlaves tells it like it is for the millions of us on the business end of the IPO and monopoly screwdrivers. Apply these lessons to the law, publishing, automotive, chemical, airline industries, etc., etc. This book is not just a cerebral and satirical indictment of the internet industry.

It is a comment on upper and middle management corporate business practices in general, and the dismal fate of the vast armies of workers used as cannon fodder since day one for the follies of unscrupulous robber barons; or morons who just happen to find themselves in the right place at the right time to make market killings; or Scrooges who will never learn what it is to have a heart. Baldwin and Lessard are heirs to the muckrakers of the early 20th Century. Corporate E-merica, take heed.

[Sep 01, 2019] On the continuing devaluation of the college degrees

Sep 01, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Andy Raushner , August 31, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Its just from slow growth and the Boomer deleveraging era. Its a global phenom and its impacts are global into the cultural realm. The college degree boom is a great example of this phenom. It was really based on the surge in consumer debt boom after WWII boosting these supply chains in the US to increased consumption to GDP and reduced manufacturing, which fell in real terms during the 1950-2000 period.

This created traditionally required college degree jobs into a nexus that was originally based around the Baby Boomer generation and strengthened afterwards. Once growth petered in 2007(and we developed a oversupply since 2000) we now have too many people with college degrees.

Even the rich aren't as rich as they were in 2007. Real profits are struggling this cycle and are showing up with weak job growth this year. The unemployment rates flaws are showing up this cycle as well, as total numbers mean little compared historically than the potential that is lowest unemployment can go.

Based on that, the current level of labor market saturation seems to be at a late 70's cycle level. In otherwards, if you adjust the population growth and total size this cycle is doing no better than the Carter era top in 1979 .then we see the whining.

Both the Reagan and Bush II era expansions were a bit better and probably onto a intro of a "boom".

Obviously it is noticeably the Korean, Vietnam and Tech era booms which would require unemployment to fall below 3% to reach, maybe down to 2.5%, which tells you something about potential unemployment drop peaks.

[Aug 31, 2019] US policy after WWII may not be corrupt in the sense of illegal, but it certainly seems corrupt in the sense of morally repugnant as it was designed to preserve welath disparty (especially with the USSR and Asia) which was the result of WWII

As it translated into similar impulses in internal policy, which led to neoliberalism and restoration of the rule of fiancial oligarchy within the USA. The USA experiment with democracy was actually over in 1945
Aug 31, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Ian Perkins , August 31, 2019 at 10:37 am

'Sanders has said that we live in a "corrupt political system designed to protect the wealthy and the powerful." Warren said it's a "rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else."'
Yet the rest of the article focuses almost entirely on internal US shenanigans. When it comes to protecting wealth and power, George Kennan hit the nail on the head in 1948, with "we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity."

This, which has underpinned US policy ever since, may not be corrupt in the sense of illegal, but it certainly seems corrupt in the sense of morally repugnant to me.

shinola , August 31, 2019 at 11:09 am

Approaching from the opposite direction, if someone were to say "I sincerely believe that the USA has the most open & honest political system and the fairest economic system in human history" would you not think that person to be incredibly naive (or, cynically, a liar)?

There has been, for at least the last couple of decades. a determined effort to do away with corruption – by defining it away. "Citizens United" is perhaps the most glaring example but the effort is ongoing; that Weiner op-ed is a good current example.

JBird4049 , August 31, 2019 at 8:35 pm

Shinola, I'm reminded of the statement "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." in the movie Manchurian Candidate . Much of what is said today just pops out as prepackaged propaganda.

It was possible twenty, thirty, forty years ago to make a reasonable case that the federal government, as well as many of the state and municipal ones, were fairly honest and functional. It is still possible that the writer believes what he wrote, but I think saying that the belief that our system is rigged is mere irresponsible cynicism is at best an example of charming naïveté and more likely cynical propagandistic fiction itself.

[Aug 31, 2019] Linux on your laptop A closer look at EFI boot options

Aug 31, 2019 | www.zdnet.com
Before EFI, the standard boot process for virtually all PC systems was called "MBR", for Master Boot Record; today you are likely to hear it referred to as "Legacy Boot". This process depended on using the first physical block on a disk to hold some information needed to boot the computer (thus the name Master Boot Record); specifically, it held the disk address at which the actual bootloader could be found, and the partition table that defined the layout of the disk. Using this information, the PC firmware could find and execute the bootloader, which would then bring up the computer and run the operating system.

This system had a number of rather obvious weaknesses and shortcomings. One of the biggest was that you could only have one bootable object on each physical disk drive (at least as far as the firmware boot was concerned). Another was that if that first sector on the disk became corrupted somehow, you were in deep trouble.

Over time, as part of the Extensible Firmware Interface, a new approach to boot configuration was developed. Rather than storing critical boot configuration information in a single "magic" location, EFI uses a dedicated "EFI boot partition" on the desk. This is a completely normal, standard disk partition, the same as which may be used to hold the operating system or system recovery data.

The only requirement is that it be FAT formatted, and it should have the boot and esp partition flags set (esp stands for EFI System Partition). The specific data and programs necessary for booting is then kept in directories on this partition, typically in directories named to indicate what they are for. So if you have a Windows system, you would typically find directories called 'Boot' and 'Microsoft' , and perhaps one named for the manufacturer of the hardware, such as HP. If you have a Linux system, you would find directories called opensuse, debian, ubuntu, or any number of others depending on what particular Linux distribution you are using.

It should be obvious from the description so far that it is perfectly possible with the EFI boot configuration to have multiple boot objects on a single disk drive.

Before going any further, I should make it clear that if you install Linux as the only operating system on a PC, it is not necessary to know all of this configuration information in detail. The installer should take care of setting all of this up, including creating the EFI boot partition (or using an existing EFI boot partition), and further configuring the system boot list so that whatever system you install becomes the default boot target.

If you were to take a brand new computer with UEFI firmware, and load it from scratch with any of the current major Linux distributions, it would all be set up, configured, and working just as it is when you purchase a new computer preloaded with Windows (or when you load a computer from scratch with Windows). It is only when you want to have more than one bootable operating system – especially when you want to have both Linux and Windows on the same computer – that things may become more complicated.

The problems that arise with such "multiboot" systems are generally related to getting the boot priority list defined correctly.

When you buy a new computer with Windows, this list typically includes the Windows bootloader on the primary disk, and then perhaps some other peripheral devices such as USB, network interfaces and such. When you install Linux alongside Windows on such a computer, the installer will add the necessary information to the EFI boot partition, but if the boot priority list is not changed, then when the system is rebooted after installation it will simply boot Windows again, and you are likely to think that the installation didn't work.

There are several ways to modify this boot priority list, but exactly which ones are available and whether or how they work depends on the firmware of the system you are using, and this is where things can get really messy. There are just about as many different UEFI firmware implementations as there are PC manufacturers, and the manufacturers have shown a great deal of creativity in the details of this firmware.

First, in the simplest case, there is a software utility included with Linux called efibootmgr that can be used to modify, add or delete the boot priority list. If this utility works properly, and the changes it makes are permanent on the system, then you would have no other problems to deal with, and after installing it would boot Linux and you would be happy. Unfortunately, while this is sometimes the case it is frequently not. The most common reason for this is that changes made by software utilities are not actually permanently stored by the system BIOS, so when the computer is rebooted the boot priority list is restored to whatever it was before, which generally means that Windows gets booted again.

The other common way of modifying the boot priority list is via the computer BIOS configuration program. The details of how to do this are different for every manufacturer, but the general procedure is approximately the same. First you have to press the BIOS configuration key (usually F2, but not always, unfortunately) during system power-on (POST). Then choose the Boot item from the BIOS configuration menu, which should get you to a list of boot targets presented in priority order. Then you need to modify that list; sometimes this can be done directly in that screen, via the usual F5/F6 up/down key process, and sometimes you need to proceed one level deeper to be able to do that. I wish I could give more specific and detailed information about this, but it really is different on every system (sometimes even on different systems produced by the same manufacturer), so you just need to proceed carefully and figure out the steps as you go.

I have seen a few rare cases of systems where neither of these methods works, or at least they don't seem to be permanent, and the system keeps reverting to booting Windows. Again, there are two ways to proceed in this case. The first is by simply pressing the "boot selection" key during POST (power-on). Exactly which key this is varies, I have seen it be F12, F9, Esc, and probably one or two others. Whichever key it turns out to be, when you hit it during POST you should get a list of bootable objects defined in the EFI boot priority list, so assuming your Linux installation worked you should see it listed there. I have known of people who were satisfied with this solution, and would just use the computer this way and have to press boot select each time they wanted to boot Linux.

The alternative is to actually modify the files in the EFI boot partition, so that the (unchangeable) Windows boot procedure would actually boot Linux. This involves overwriting the Windows file bootmgfw.efi with the Linux file grubx64.efi. I have done this, especially in the early days of EFI boot, and it works, but I strongly advise you to be extremely careful if you try it, and make sure that you keep a copy of the original bootmgfw.efi file. Finally, just as a final (depressing) warning, I have also seen systems where this seemed to work, at least for a while, but then at some unpredictable point the boot process seemed to notice that something had changed and it restored bootmgfw.efi to its original state – thus losing the Linux boot configuration again. Sigh.

So, that's the basics of EFI boot, and how it can be configured. But there are some important variations possible, and some caveats to be aware of.

[Aug 30, 2019] Over 50, Unemployed, Depressed and Powerless by D. A. Wolf

Notable quotes:
"... I know what it feels like to be marginalized because you're out of work. To be judged by others as if there's something wrong with you. To grow increasingly depressed, demoralized and despairing as three months turns into six months and that goes on for a year or more; as rejection after rejection becomes crushing, humiliating, and leaves you feeling worthless. ..."
"... All money-related impacts aside, you lose confidence. You wear out. You start to give up ..."
"... Now and then, an acquaintance will make an off-hand remark about those who borrow money or live on credit cards. The assumption is that credit purchases are frivolous, or that the person who racks up consumer debt does so out of irresponsibility and poor judgment. ..."
"... Never assume. Yours truly? I borrowed to put food on the table. I borrowed to pay for school supplies for my kids. I borrowed to enable them to take advantage of academic opportunities that they earned through their own hard work. I also counted my blessings. While I had no family to assist, my kids were healthy and doing well, I was basically healthy despite chronic pain, and I was able to use credit. Borrowing is a double-edged sword of course, especially if it continues for an extended period. But for my little household, debt was the only path to survival. For all I know, it will be again. ..."
"... These days? I still live on a tight budget, I dream of recovering from the years of financial devastation "someday," and I take every gig I can get. Willingly. I've gained new skills along the way and continue to refine them, I'm always looking for another project and thrilled when I nab one, and I'm accustomed to a 12- to 14-hour workday. I put in long hours throughout my corporate career and I have no problem doing so now. In fact, I'm grateful for these workdays and I take none of them for granted. Moreover, I suggest that few of us should take our sources of income as a given ..."
"... The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being," says the study. "About one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression - almost double the rate among those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less. ..."
"... To be in this position - wanting to work, needing to work, knowing you still have much to contribute but never getting a foot in the door - is deeply frustrating, horribly depressing, and leaves us feeling powerless. Add up these elements and you have the formula for despair. ..."
"... One small act of compassion can breathe new hope into the worst situation. And here's what I know with 100% certainty. We may be unemployed, we may be depressed but we aren't powerless if we come together and try to help one another. ..."
Apr 30, 2016 | Daily Plate of Crazy

Are you over 50, unemployed, depressed and feeling powerless? For that matter, are you any age and feeling hopeless because you can't seem to land a job?

Frustrated Middle Age Man

The recession may be officially over, and for some segments of the population, things are looking up. But too many are still sinking or hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Long-term unemployment or underemployment has become a way of life.

This issue, for me, is personal.

I know what it feels like to be marginalized because you're out of work. To be judged by others as if there's something wrong with you. To grow increasingly depressed, demoralized and despairing as three months turns into six months and that goes on for a year or more; as rejection after rejection becomes crushing, humiliating, and leaves you feeling worthless.

All money-related impacts aside, you lose confidence. You wear out. You start to give up. And you don't even make it into the "statistics." It's been too long since your last employment relationship.

Overqualified, Over-Educated, Over 50

Despite my fancy educational background and shiny corporate career history, for a number of years I was unable to obtain work that was even remotely close to using my skills. Paying me a living wage? Let's not even discuss it. I must have applied to 100 positions over the course of several years, attended the usual networking events, and schmoozed every contact I could come up with.

No go. I suffered from the three O's: Overqualified, Over-educated and Over 50, though I may not have looked it. That last? If you ask me, age was the kicker. Throughout that period, as post-divorce skirmishes continued to flare (further complicating matters), I nonetheless took every project I could eke out of the woodwork, supplemented by debt.

Hello, bank bail-out? How about a few bucks for those of us who foot the bill in tax dollars?

The Borrowing Trap

Now and then, an acquaintance will make an off-hand remark about those who borrow money or live on credit cards. The assumption is that credit purchases are frivolous, or that the person who racks up consumer debt does so out of irresponsibility and poor judgment.

Never assume. Yours truly? I borrowed to put food on the table. I borrowed to pay for school supplies for my kids. I borrowed to enable them to take advantage of academic opportunities that they earned through their own hard work. I also counted my blessings. While I had no family to assist, my kids were healthy and doing well, I was basically healthy despite chronic pain, and I was able to use credit. Borrowing is a double-edged sword of course, especially if it continues for an extended period. But for my little household, debt was the only path to survival. For all I know, it will be again.

Fighting Your Way Back

These days? I still live on a tight budget, I dream of recovering from the years of financial devastation "someday," and I take every gig I can get. Willingly. I've gained new skills along the way and continue to refine them, I'm always looking for another project and thrilled when I nab one, and I'm accustomed to a 12- to 14-hour workday. I put in long hours throughout my corporate career and I have no problem doing so now. In fact, I'm grateful for these workdays and I take none of them for granted. Moreover, I suggest that few of us should take our sources of income as a given.

You know the expression - "There but for the grace of God go I." Misfortune can visit any one of us. Layoff. Accident or illness. Gray divorce. The phone call or email with no warning, saying "you're done" as you're replaced by someone 20 years younger.

And yes, I've internalized the wisdom of this little gem: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." But I also know it isn't always possible, and the secret to success is not as simple as hard work. It's aided by the assistance of others, not to mention - luck.

Unemployed and Depressed

Forbes reminds us of the clear links between unemployment and depression, which isn't to say that underemployment or hating your job is a picnic.

Forbes staff writer Susan Adams cites a Gallup poll as follows:

The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being," says the study. "About one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression - almost double the rate among those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less.

She goes on to note:

The long-term unemployed, unfortunately, have good reason to be depressed. They suffer plenty of discrimination in the job market. A 2012 study by economist Rand Ghayad found that employers preferred candidates with no relevant experience, but who had been out of work for less than six months, to those with experience who had been job hunting for longer than that.

.... ... ...

I'm certain that many of you have fought your way back; I'm still fighting after years, but I have seen progress. Slower than I'd like, but progress all the same.

If someone helped you out, have you paid it forward by making connections for others?

Please do read this comment from Cindy. I have responded as best I can. I'm sure she would welcome your suggestions.

A Note on Despair

To be in this position - wanting to work, needing to work, knowing you still have much to contribute but never getting a foot in the door - is deeply frustrating, horribly depressing, and leaves us feeling powerless. Add up these elements and you have the formula for despair.

It's brutally hard to fight your way back from despair. But sometimes, an act of compassion can help.

I've been on the receiving end of those incredible kindnesses - from strangers, from readers, and from one friend in particular, herself too long living on the edge.

One small act of compassion can breathe new hope into the worst situation. And here's what I know with 100% certainty. We may be unemployed, we may be depressed but we aren't powerless if we come together and try to help one another.

... ... ...

[Aug 30, 2019] Over 50 and unemployed: Don t panic!

Highly recommended!
Don't panic is always a good advice. Following it is another story...
Notable quotes:
"... Using contacts, no matter how far in the past they rest, is nothing to be ashamed of! You've probably spent most of your life working, and meeting a lot of people along the way. ..."
"... Your resume should be tailored to each and every job you apply for. While it is important to showcase your talent and skills, how you present the information is equally important. ..."
Jan 03, 2012 | Palmetto Workforce Connections

When you find yourself over 50 and unemployed, the thought of finding another job may seem daunting and hopeless.

It is quite easy to become discouraged because many people fear being stereotyped because of their age, the tough job market, or the prospect of being interviewed by someone half their age. However, there are some things the older unemployed should keep in mind while on the job search. Using the following tips will increase your chances of a short job search and create an overall more pleasant experience.

  1. Quit telling yourself that no one hires older workers. This is simply just not true. In some cases older workers have to exert more effort to overcome discrimination, but this is certainly not the case for every employer. There are even entire websites with jobs posted specifically for older workers, and a quick Google search will render you a list of those websites. Take advantage of such resources!
  2. Take advantage of new technology. Learn to blog and micro-blog, via Twitter, about your profession and interests. You should even create a LinkedIn profile (a website similar to Facebook yet has a more career oriented function) to assist it meeting people in your desired field. All of which will help you stay fine tuned on your skills, while developing new ones. Learning to use social networking will indicate to potential employers that you can adapt to change and learn new things, particularly technology, fairly quickly.
  3. Use all those hard earned contacts. Using contacts, no matter how far in the past they rest, is nothing to be ashamed of! You've probably spent most of your life working, and meeting a lot of people along the way. It is completely acceptable to reach out to former colleagues, class mates, co-workers and employers for job possibilities. Using resources like Facebook or LinkedIn are great ways to find those long lost contacts as well. Chances are they would love to hear from you and help you out if possible.
  4. Don't clutter your resume. Your resume should be tailored to each and every job you apply for. While it is important to showcase your talent and skills, how you present the information is equally important. This means keep it straight to the point and relate your past experience to the skills necessary for the job you are applying for. Essentially, don't do a history dump of every job you've ever had, instead, make each word count!
  5. Don't act superior to the interviewer. It is likely that the people interviewing you will be younger than you. But this does not mean you should look down upon them. Obviously they have earned their position, and if you play your cards right, in due time, you will earn yours! Even if you've worked more years than your interviewer has been alive, it's not okay to tell him or her that you can "teach" them anything. A better idea would be to state your experience working in a multi-generational work place.

Use these tips to help make your job search less stressful and more positive. Whatever you do, don't throw in the towel before you've even tried. Your experience and knowledge will be recognized. All you need is the right employer to identify it.

[Aug 29, 2019] Over 50 and out of work Program seeks to help long-term unemployed

This is essentially a scam. Help in landing $13 per hour job is not a big achievement.
Notable quotes:
"... Older workers like Lane make up a larger percentage of the persistently jobless than ever before. Nearly 40 percent of unemployed workers are over the age of 45 - a 30 percent rise from the 1980s. ..."
"... P2E is an intensive, individualized five-week bootcamp that teaches job skills and works to build job-seekers' confidence and emotional health. "We acknowledge that there are serious emotional issues for people who'd been unemployed for that long," Carbone said. ..."
"... The privately-funded program makes deals with businesses who hire P2E graduates for "internships," a few-week trial period for the would-be employee, whose salary is subsidized by the WorkPlace. Often, it leads to full-time work. According to P2E, 80 percent of their participants have been granted trial periods, and of those, more than 85 percent have been hired by employers. ..."
"... This acceptance of a new economic reality is at the heart of P2E; the program isn't solving the problems of precarity, real-wage decline, or manufacturing losses so much as doing damage control. ..."
"... "I'd say 100 percent of the people who went through Platform are making less than they did previously," said Carbone. "We get them prepared for the fact that their standard of living will go down, that they probably have to change careers." ..."
Nov 16, 2013 | NBC News
When Bret Lane was laid off from his telecommunications sales job after 16 years, he wasn't worried. He'd never been unemployed for more than a few days since he started working as a teenager. But months passed, and he couldn't find a job. One day, he heard the Purina plant in his Turlock, Calif., neighborhood was hiring janitors for $14 an hour. When he arrived early at 4 a.m., he counted more than 400 people lined up to interview.

"That's when I realized things had gotten serious," said Lane, 53, who called being out of work "pure hell."

Lane's experience is hardly unique. As of September 2013, 4 million people had been unemployed for six months or more. The economy has been slow to regain the 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession, making prospects grim for many of the long-term unemployed.

Older workers like Lane make up a larger percentage of the persistently jobless than ever before. Nearly 40 percent of unemployed workers are over the age of 45 - a 30 percent rise from the 1980s. And for this group, the job hunt can be particularly long and frustrating. Unemployed people aged 45-54 were jobless for 45 weeks on average, and those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks, according to an October 2013 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

Younger workers didn't have such a hard time, perhaps because many employers perceive them to be more energetic or productive than older workers, said Linda Barrington, an economist at Cornell University's Institute for Compensation Studies. Employers "acting on such inaccurate assessments or stereotypes is what benefits younger workers and disadvantages older workers," she said.

Addressing the emotional side of unemployment

An innovative program based in Bridgeport, Conn., is helping to get those who are over 50 and unemployed for long periods back into the market. Platform to Employment started in 2011 when a Connecticut job center called the WorkPlace was overwhelmed by calls from "99ers"-people who had been unemployed for 99 weeks, exhausting their unemployment benefits-many of whom were older workers.

The exact number of 99ers across the country is unknown; the Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn't distinguished between 99ers and those out of work for a year since 2010, an oversight that some say renders this group even more politically invisible. Already, the long-term unemployed face biases in hiring. It's both legal and common for employers to write "unemployed need not apply" on job postings.

There has been virtually no public policy tackling long-term unemployment since the recession hit, said P2E founder Joe Carbone, and his program seeks to fill that gap. "These people have lost access to opportunity, which is a basic American tenet," said Carbone. "We find a way to make them competitive and feel hopeful."

P2E is an intensive, individualized five-week bootcamp that teaches job skills and works to build job-seekers' confidence and emotional health. "We acknowledge that there are serious emotional issues for people who'd been unemployed for that long," Carbone said.

The privately-funded program makes deals with businesses who hire P2E graduates for "internships," a few-week trial period for the would-be employee, whose salary is subsidized by the WorkPlace. Often, it leads to full-time work. According to P2E, 80 percent of their participants have been granted trial periods, and of those, more than 85 percent have been hired by employers.

Accepting a new economic reality

Bret Lane washes out his coffee pot at his home after a shift at a call center in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 31. Lane was laid off after 16 years as a salesman in telecommunications and was unemployed until he got a job at a call center. Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images for NBC News

The program has spread to 10 other cities across the United States, including San Diego, where Lane, a P2E graduate, has been employed full-time at a call center since May. After a year and nine months of unemployment, Lane sold his two-bedroom house, pared down his possessions to fit in a 5x10 storage unit, and drove to San Diego to live with his sister. That's when he saw an ad in the paper for Platform to Employment.

He learned how to make his online resume more searchable by adding keywords, as well as how to create an impressive LinkedIn profile. "It also occurred to me that I was being discriminated against" because of age, rather than being rejected for not being good enough. Lane now makes about half of his previous salary and still lives with his sister, but he's "happy to be working again."

This acceptance of a new economic reality is at the heart of P2E; the program isn't solving the problems of precarity, real-wage decline, or manufacturing losses so much as doing damage control.

"I'd say 100 percent of the people who went through Platform are making less than they did previously," said Carbone. "We get them prepared for the fact that their standard of living will go down, that they probably have to change careers."

This guidance is necessary, Barrington said. "A lot of [the long-term unemployed] came into the workforce still thinking you could work for the same company for your whole life," she said. "Someone has to sit you down and tell you that's not going to happen."

She added that businesses need to be reminded of the value of older workers, who often bring intangible skills, such as punctuality, responsibility, and "being able to write a memo," that younger employees may not yet have.

Heidi DeWyngaert, President of Bankwell, a holding company of several banks in Connecticut, said one of her banks hired an older worker from P2E who is succeeding on the job precisely for these reasons. "She's mature, reliable and responsible with a great attitude," said DeWyngaert.

The program has gained so much prominence that it's become competitive in its own right. Early last year, after P2E was featured on 60 Minutes, the Bridgeport office was flooded with inquiries. The program routinely gets 1,000 applicants for around 20 spots.

Hoping to spark a national conversation

Vanessa Jackson, 57, saw the segment and kept track of P2E's growth until it expanded to her area in Chicago. Jackson had been unemployed off and on since 2008, when she lost her $100,000 job as a marketing manager during a corporate downsizing. "I thought, of course, I would get another comparable job," she said.

But it didn't happen. She decided to get an MBA to "ride out the recession," but that just landed her more debt. She finally got a part-time job as a deli clerk, until she broke her arm and went on disability for 10 months. Her $300,000 401(k) account dwindled to $60,000. She sold her house in the suburbs and moved in with her boyfriend on the South Side of Chicago.

"It was the most desperate thing in the world," Jackson said. It pained her to remember the days when recruiters would tell her she was one of "the top African-American women in marketing."

P2E "revived my energy," she said. "It lifted the depression that was very much there."

Jackson now works part-time as a project coordinator at a home care service agency for $13 an hour, which she admits is inadequate for her level of education. Still, she almost missed out on the opportunity. When P2E came to Chicago earlier this year, she wasn't selected at first. "It felt like applying for a job in itself," she said. "I beseeched [Chicago program manager Michael Morgan]. He said 'I admire your ambition' and let me in."

Carbone is all too aware of P2E's limited reach. "We've helped hundreds of people, but that doesn't put even a small dent in the amount who need help," he said. Carbone hopes to spark a national conversation and, eventually, get the attention of Washington.

"Let's be clear," Carbone said. "I wouldn't be doing this if there were appropriate and relevant government policies."

[Aug 28, 2019] My Top 5 Movies About Unemployment

Apr 30, 2016 | Christianity Today
Erin Brockovich

2000 | Rated R
directed by Steven Soderbergh
Based on the true story of an unemployed mother of three who forced her way into a job as a legal clerk and built an anti-pollution case against a California utility company. Erin Brockovich has become a name for someone with tenacity and perseverance.

The Journey of Natty Gann

1985 | Rated PG
directed by Jeremy Kagan
Disney's family-friendly adventure demonstrates how tough the Great Depression was on kids, namely the teenage girl of the title who journeys across America to reunite with her father. Grounded by strong performances, including a young John Cusack, this gem serves as a fine introduction of a difficult subject to younger viewers.

Tootsie

1982 | Rated PG
directed by Sydney Pollack
This light-hearted, quirky comedy stars Dustin Hoffman as an unemployed actor who pretends to be a woman for a full-time role in a soap opera. Beneath the hilarity is a sobering reminder that landing a job sometimes requires thinking outside the box, to say the least.

Up in the Air

2009 | Rated R
directed by Jason Reitman
George Clooney is stellar as a veteran hatchet man who has lost his ability to form meaningful relationships, living a life on the road. Ultimately this is a poignant drama about identity and what defines us. If we are nothing more than our occupation, what remains when that is gone?

Russ Breimeier, a freelance film critic who lives in Indianapolis, was unemployed for two years until recently landing a part-time job.

[Aug 28, 2019] What do you call a 50 year old engineer?

Mar 03, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Synoia , March 3, 2016 at 10:25 am

Q: What do you call a 50 year old engineer?

A: Unemployed.

[Aug 27, 2019] The Death of the Professional: Are Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants Becoming Obsolete

Probably not. But the quantities necessary might diminish considerably...
Notable quotes:
"... Adapted from the new book The Future of the Professions by Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind (Oxford University Press, 2015).Originally published at Alternet ..."
"... The proof is in how there is one premium cost if the medical provider is on their own and magically it is cheaper if theu are part of a group or hospital.. Same doctor same practices lower rates prima facia evidence of insurance company rate fraud ..."
"... Re solidarity, you might be surprised. One reason law school enrollments are down is that it is becoming public knowledge that employment for graduates in upwardly mobile career positions is way down ..."
"... Many are shunted into low level proletarian type legal work, churning out evidence for use in lawsuits owned and managed by large firms. Lawyers who do this earn less then a good paralegal with less job security and no benefits. ..."
"... So much of the 'grunt work' of professions – once the entry and training province of new graduates – is now being done overseas by shops that specialize in legal research, or reading x-rays, or accounting and tax preparation. ..."
"... The 'grunt work' that grounds one in the full knowledge of the profession and how it works is slowly removed from the profession. That omission leaves future practitioners with an incomplete understanding. ..."
"... This loss makes them more reliant on big data as both assistant and excuse/defense, and makes them less master craftsmen (if I may use the term without giving offense) and more the front-end interface of one-size-fits-all processes. Very good for corporate profits. Not so good for the professions or their clients. ..."
"... Long ago, firms started off-shoring basic, tedious, repetitive tasks, generally considered as unrewarding, such as software testing or error correction to India. The idea was to focus on "high added-value" jobs such as system architects or project management, and leave low-level operations, supposedly requiring less qualifications, to cheaper Indian contractors. Decades later, there is a shortage of qualified people for those high-skilled jobs - precisely because fewer and fewer young people have had the possibility ..."
"... The result? It is now necessary to import expensive project managers and system architects from foreign countries. ..."
"... Bottom line: the race to the bottom for wages is "on". ..."
"... Professionals would be the next logical choice of squeezing cost out of work; unions, middle management, big industry, airlines, manufacturing and construction have all paid their price at the alter of the 1%. ..."
"... I also agree with the concept of there being less for the bottom 90% to spend. And as more automation kicks in, there will be even less bad choice jobs for these folks to scramble for. Just waiting for truck drivers to be slowly replaced with auto-drive trucks. ..."
"... " . Prefer a fence at the top of the cliff to an ambulance at the bottom " ..."
"... The rich and the truly rich will always have skilled, artistic human professionals to serve their personally tailored bespoke needs. It is the rest of us who will be assigned the doctorobots, the lawyer machines, etc. ..."
"... Part of the "crapification of everything" except for managers and owners, it is part of their cost cutting plan. ..."
"... First they came for the blue collar workers, and I did nothing? Then they came for the white collar workers, and I did nothing? Now they are coming for the professionals, and they are laughing at my passivity? ..."
"... They have played all the classes, higher than the one they are currently discarding, and the remaining consumers are happy to throw their neighbors under the bus. But your turn will come. Karma. ..."
"... Once corporations start setting guidelines and dictating the drugs you can and can't use for treatment, do you think they'll do it according to what's cost effective and least risky for the patient based on current science or do you think they'll do it based on their own profits? ..."
"... The shift from reactive to proactive ..."
"... Proactive cannibalism ..."
Jan 09, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on January 9, 2016 by Yves Smith Yves here. Many members of the top 10% regard their role in society as relatively secure, particularly if the are in a niche that serves the capital-deploying 1% or better yet, 0.1%. But a new book suggest their position is not secure. And trends in motion confirm this dour reading, such as the marked decline in law school enrollments, and the trend in the US to force doctors to practice out of hospitals or HMOs, where they are salaried and are required to adhere to corporate care guidelines. For instance, my MD is about to have her practice bought out, and is looking hard as to whether she can establish a concierge practice. Mind you, she appears regularly on TV and writes a monthly column for a national magazine [not that is how I found her or why I use her]. Yet she has real doubts as to whether she can support all the overhead. If someone with a profile can't make a go at it solo in a market like Manhattan, pray tell, who can?

Adapted from the new book The Future of the Professions by Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind (Oxford University Press, 2015).Originally published at Alternet

The end of the professional era is characterized by four trends: the move from bespoke service; the bypassing of traditional gatekeepers; a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to professional work; and the more-for-less challenge.

The Move From Bespoke (Custom) Service

For centuries, much professional work has been handled in the manner of a craft. Individual experts and specialists-people who know more than others-have offered an essentially bespoke service ("bespoke" is British for "custom"). In the language of the tailor, their product has been "made-to-measure" rather than "off-the-peg." For each recipient the service has been disposable (used once only), handcrafted ordinarily by a solitary scribe or sole trusted adviser, often in the spirit of an artist who starts each project afresh with a blank canvas.

Our research strongly suggests that bespoke professional work in this vein looks set to fade from prominence, as other crafts (like tailoring and tallow chandlering) have done over the centuries. Significant elements of professional work are being routinized: in checklists, standard form materials, and in various sorts of systems, many of which are available online. Meanwhile, the work that remains for human beings to handle conventionally is often not conducted by individual craftspeople, but collaboratively in teams, sometimes collocated, but more often virtually. And, with the advance of increasingly capable machines, some work may not be conducted by human beings at all.

Just as we witnessed the "death of gentlemanly capitalism" in the banks in the 1980s, we seem to be observing a similar decline in bespoke professionalism.

The Bypassed Gatekeepers

In the past, when in need of expert guidance we turned to the professions. Their members knew things that others did not, and we drew on their knowledge and experience to solve our problems. Each profession acted as a "gatekeeper" of its own, distinct body of practical expertise. Today this set-up is under threat.

We are already seeing some work being wrested from the hands of traditional professions. Some of the competition is coming from within. We observe professionals from different professions doing each other's work. They even speak of "eating one another's lunch." Accountants and consultants, for example, are particularly effective at encroaching on the business of lawyers and actuaries. We also see intra-professional friction, when, for example, nurses take on work that used to be exclusive to doctors, or paralegals are engaged to perform tasks that formerly were the province of lawyers.

But the competition is also advancing from outside the traditional boundaries of the professions-from new people and different institutions. We see a recurring need to draw on people with very different skills, talents, and ways of working. Practicing doctors, priests, teachers, and auditors did not, for example, develop the software that supports the systems that we describe. Stepping forward instead are data scientists, process analysts, knowledge engineers, systems engineers, and many more. Today, professionals still provide much of the content, but in time they may find themselves down-staged by these new specialists. We also see a diverse set of institutions entering the fray-business process outsourcers, retail brands, Internet companies, major software and service vendors, to name a few. What these providers have in common is that they look nothing like twentieth-century doctors, accountants, architects, and the rest.

More than this, human experts in the professions are no longer the only source of practical expertise. There are illustrations of practical expertise being made available by recipients of professional work-in effect, sidestepping the gatekeepers. On various platforms, typically online, people share their past experience and help others to resolve similar problems. These "communities of experience," as we call them, are springing up across many professions (for example, PatientsLikeMe and the WebMD communities in medicine). We say more about them in a moment. More radical still are systems and machines that themselves generate practical expertise. These are underpinned by a variety of advanced techniques, such as Big Data and artificial intelligence. These platforms and systems tend not to be owned and run by the traditional professions. Whether those who do so will in turn become "new gatekeepers" is a subject of some concern.

The keys to the kingdom are changing. Or, if not changing, they are at least being shared with others.

Jim Haygood ,, January 9, 2016 at 8:57 pm

'medium and large corporations are also struggling to deal with increasing regulation'

My claim is that large corporations don't "struggle to deal with" regulation - they write it.

Case in point, Obamacare was drafted by Liz Fowler, formerly of WellPoint.

alex morfesis , January 10, 2016 at 12:05 am

You nailed it on medical professionals would like to add, that at least here in flori duh there seems to be massive pricing fraud by malpractice and liability insurance providers which state regulators allow to continue to force small or single practitioners to join groups by financial obliteration at least in floriduh, there is the usual massive distortion suggesting insurance companies are paying out huge amounts when there in fact seems to be collusion amongst insurance companies neglecting the legal requirement to try to settle on good faith and end up forcing people to settle for pennies on the dollar yet the insurance companies keep picking the pockets of medical professionals

The proof is in how there is one premium cost if the medical provider is on their own and magically it is cheaper if theu are part of a group or hospital.. Same doctor same practices lower rates prima facia evidence of insurance company rate fraud

jrs , January 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Yes some of it is only logical though, if masses of the population see their income declining and yet the costs of medical care keeps increasing eventually noone can afford to see the doctor never mind the ACA etc.. And it can get to be this way with a lot of professional services less urgent and distorted than medical care, like soon noone can afford an accountant, you use turbo tax, a lawyer – no middle class people start to make their own wills. Many professions seek ever further protections of government for their guilds (more and more requirements to practice to try to preserve their privilege) and yet with nothing protecting the income of the other 80% (read: unions, that would be their role) unless they plan to only serve the fellow 20%

So solidarity? Yea, but making the solidarity argument with many (not all) members of such professions is a waste of time as they instinctively side with the 1s.

Local to Oakland , January 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Re solidarity, you might be surprised. One reason law school enrollments are down is that it is becoming public knowledge that employment for graduates in upwardly mobile career positions is way down

Many are shunted into low level proletarian type legal work, churning out evidence for use in lawsuits owned and managed by large firms. Lawyers who do this earn less then a good paralegal with less job security and no benefits.

ilporcupine , January 9, 2016 at 4:33 pm

It has been said Paralegals are being squeezed out, to make way for the huge increase in law graduates from prior class booms. Why not use cheap lawyers, with better credential, and desperate for employment?

flora , January 9, 2016 at 5:39 pm

So much of the 'grunt work' of professions – once the entry and training province of new graduates – is now being done overseas by shops that specialize in legal research, or reading x-rays, or accounting and tax preparation.

There are 3 downsides to this, in my opinion. New college grads have fewer entry slots. The 'grunt work' that grounds one in the full knowledge of the profession and how it works is slowly removed from the profession. That omission leaves future practitioners with an incomplete understanding.

This loss makes them more reliant on big data as both assistant and excuse/defense, and makes them less master craftsmen (if I may use the term without giving offense) and more the front-end interface of one-size-fits-all processes. Very good for corporate profits. Not so good for the professions or their clients.

guest , January 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Big Data is not a solution.

Your first two points (no entry-level jobs for beginners, no acquisition of professional basics) are essential - and their detrimental effects are already painfully felt in some professions.

Case in point: software development.

Long ago, firms started off-shoring basic, tedious, repetitive tasks, generally considered as unrewarding, such as software testing or error correction to India. The idea was to focus on "high added-value" jobs such as system architects or project management, and leave low-level operations, supposedly requiring less qualifications, to cheaper Indian contractors. Decades later, there is a shortage of qualified people for those high-skilled jobs - precisely because fewer and fewer young people have had the possibility to

(a) start in the profession at entry-level positions (when job postings all require qualifications as senior software engineer and five years experience, what do you do?)

(b) learn the ropes and practice the skills from the ground up (the necessary step before rising in the professional hierarchy).

The result? It is now necessary to import expensive project managers and system architects from foreign countries.

From what I read, the UK has been especially hit by this phenomenon, because it was particularly enthusiastic about off-shoring IT to India.

polecat , January 9, 2016 at 8:18 pm

Uhm ..oh wait uh ..I know .uh Brondo's got what plants need ..right?

Phil , January 10, 2016 at 2:34 am

Attorney's work is being automated and outsourced. For more on one aspect of outsourcing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/business/global/05legal.html?_r=2

I can't find the cite, but last year I read that some of the Indian companies that American law firms have outsourced to are now moving offices "stateside" to hire American attorneys, here.

Bottom line: the race to the bottom for wages is "on". Add to this job automation that will only get more efficient, over time.
http://www.futuretech.ox.ac.uk/news-release-oxford-martin-school-study-shows-nearly-half-us-jobs-could-be-risk-computerisation

armchair , January 9, 2016 at 5:17 pm

The Washington State Bar has initiated a legal technician program , and I find the timing questionable, even if the premise of the program is good-hearted. As the market is awash in underemployed, licensed attorneys, the Bar is going ahead and turning veteran paralegals into the people to undercut the market even further. It seems like bad timing to let someone who has years of experience, and no law school debt get over on a bunch law school grads who are facing a life of being hounded for their debts. I spoke to someone at the Bar who made a good defense, that the legal technician is like an ARNP. Only later did it occur to me that there are very few out-of-work doctors.

From another perspective, the legal technician answers another problem of the collapsing paralegal market. Much of the collapse has been driven by advances in document management, especially scanning that 'reads' the text and makes it searchable. But hey, here is a shiny new program. Go ahead and set up a parenting plan with your abusive ex for $75! What could go wrong?

The key to really get the legal field de-humanized would be robot judges and robotic juries. I hope someone is already working on it.

polecat , January 9, 2016 at 8:26 pm

Don't worry what's old is new again. At some point in the future we'll all be scratching glyphs on clay tablets .once the 2nd law of thermodynamics really kicks in ..plenty of work then!

armchair , January 9, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Work! What about George Jetson? The go west value system we are stuck with these days is almost perfectly incompatible with a future that requires very little human labor.

MyWag , January 9, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Professionals would be the next logical choice of squeezing cost out of work; unions, middle management, big industry, airlines, manufacturing and construction have all paid their price at the alter of the 1%.

Public sector unions are hanging on but as the majority of local & state taxpayers have less to give, these wages, benefits and especially pensions will be cut. Those earning less and less will gleefully pull down those public employees who are 'living like kings'.

I also agree with the concept of there being less for the bottom 90% to spend. And as more automation kicks in, there will be even less bad choice jobs for these folks to scramble for. Just waiting for truck drivers to be slowly replaced with auto-drive trucks.

This leads us to an enhanced confrontation at the Federal level on how to go forward. The earned income tax credit, a good concept also under siege, I believe, will have to be supplemented with a minimum guaranteed income.

By this time, 20 years, the DEMs will be the party of business and the GOP will be entirely dependent on fed govt subsidies. Oh the irony.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

By this time 20 years, the GOP will be saying, "I told you so", regarding Global Warming.

Ptup , January 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Reading Rise of a The Robots right now, and the law and accounting profession have and will continue to be hurt hard by computers armed with big data, and the education and medical profession are next. Has to be. It's already a travesty that education and medical costs continue to rise as incomes stagnate and drop, and that just cannot continue. Well, maybe it can, until all of those guns out there are used by the people as they rise up. Look at the buffoon who many are considering for the Republican nominee, more out of blind, misinformed anger, than anything. Scary.

RBHoughton , January 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm

" . Prefer a fence at the top of the cliff to an ambulance at the bottom "

You have a delightful way with words Yves. Many thanks.

different clue , January 9, 2016 at 9:19 pm

The rich and the truly rich will always have skilled, artistic human professionals to serve their personally tailored bespoke needs. It is the rest of us who will be assigned the doctorobots, the lawyer machines, etc.

James Koss , January 10, 2016 at 11:13 am

The French phrase "Everything changes and remains the same" remains true today.

Whereas today the top of society has its professionals to isolate and protect them from the remainder of the population and the rules nobility and the church had its knights, nobles, obedient serfs and peasants to fight and protect "their" nobility. Names and titles changed but the rules remained. Those who have will get those who don't will not.

Inverness , January 10, 2016 at 11:29 am

Correct. The same applies in education. The wealthy know what kinds of schools serve their children best: those with better teacher to student ratios, rich arts curricula, and a progressive approach to instruction. Just see what Obama's kids got at their fancy Quaker school. The rest get standardized lesson plans, big class sizes, deep cuts in music and the arts, and high-stakes testing.

They can privatize their lives; we cannot.

Disturbed Voter , January 9, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Part of the "crapification of everything" except for managers and owners, it is part of their cost cutting plan.

Why would you trust a medical system run by politicians and insurance companies a system promoted by those same managers and owners. Like hiring the Three Stooges as your plumber, electrician and roofer. Gullibility will be the death of us that and malice.

First they came for the blue collar workers, and I did nothing? Then they came for the white collar workers, and I did nothing? Now they are coming for the professionals, and they are laughing at my passivity?

They have played all the classes, higher than the one they are currently discarding, and the remaining consumers are happy to throw their neighbors under the bus. But your turn will come. Karma.

flora , January 10, 2016 at 2:19 am

In Oregon some doctors are unionizing to resist medical assembly line medicine.
From NYTimes:

Doctors Unionize to Resist the Medical Machine

"Dr. Alexander and his colleagues say they are in favor of efficiency gains. It's the particular way the hospital has interpreted this mandate that has left them feeling demoralized. If you talk to them for long enough, you get the distinct feeling it is not just their jobs that hang in the balance, but the loss of something much less tangible - the ability of doctors everywhere to exercise their professional judgment."

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/business/doctors-unionize-to-resist-the-medical-machine.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

digi_owl , January 10, 2016 at 4:12 am

I find myself thinking about an episode of the original Connections series, that was produced in the 70s.

There it was mused about how corporate management would idle their days away waiting for the computer in the basement to crunch the numbers and come up with company decisions they were then to implement.

Instead what happened was that the professional managerial class, the MBAs, dug in while computers instead replaced the laborers via robotics.

Jesper , January 10, 2016 at 6:55 am

Or shorter: The common argument that 'we (by that I mean you) have to become more employable' is about to hit home among the people with long education. Will they recognize the similarity to what has already happened to others and/or will they themselves make themselves more 'employable'?

financial matters , January 10, 2016 at 8:11 am

I think one of the major consequences we are seeing as a result of a misguided professional system is the lack of basic legal services for millions of people. This resulted in people being thrown out of their homes as the result of very obvious fraud and yet having no recourse unless they were able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees.

I think the popular new series 'Making of a Murderer' emphasizes this problem. I don't think a show that emphasizes the problems that the very poor have with justice from the lack of being able to pay for legal services would have been this popular 10 years ago.

financial matters , January 10, 2016 at 8:17 am

I think this would require a 'single payer' legal system similar to the need for a single payer medical system.

Wade Riddick , January 10, 2016 at 8:53 am

Once corporations start setting guidelines and dictating the drugs you can and can't use for treatment, do you think they'll do it according to what's cost effective and least risky for the patient based on current science or do you think they'll do it based on their own profits?

What happens when they own their own pharmacies – as they're all scrambling to do right now – and try to jack up reimbursement through that unit too? Do you think patients were served when Philidor started (criminally) altering scripts and making substitutions?

For profit healthcare is really sickcare, isn't it? Why cure a disease when treating it brings in more revenue? Why sell cheap human insulin when you can patent a variety on the molecule, jack up the price and carve up the market?

Keep the sucker paying the vig

These guys aren't adopting better guidelines for treating chronic disease based on the best available science. In fact, as they corporatize they're getting worse. I've talked to these clowns. They're typically ten years behind the state of the art in their field. Patients do the reading and then they stare at us like we're morons. Fifteen years later they swear they knew the truth all along.

If these corporate suits are setting the guidelines for care, how come there's no common national board standard for care, no portfolio investment model approach where they model the disease with the best available experts, determine how to intervene in the various genetic pathways that are perturbed and then pick the simplest, cheapest methods/chemicals to try first?

That sounds like a pretty reasonable, scientific approach to treatment – but, if that's your standard, then these people are in breech of fiduciary duty left and right and it all has to do with that old canard "maximizing shareholder value." What about maximizing customer service? Corporate medicine will lead to tobacco-level deaths. I know doctors who have been personally injured in this system already. Corporations want to avoid risk to their profit – *not* their patient. Imagine what *those* mandatory arbitration clauses are going to look like. Imagine what the sequel to _Merchants of Doubt_ will look like in the era of corporate medicine and Supreme Court decisions that bust doctors' unions.

I'm still burning from Peter Thiel's comments on monopolies in the New York Times this morning. Does he have any clue how bad the service is in regional hospital cartels already and how fast prices are rising?

It's not even a matter of price in the drug markets now. It's basic availability. Aside from the persistent shortages of cheap, effective generics due to the kickback scheme in PMOs/PBMs, we now have explicit regulatory interference. The FDA has been moving to withdraw entire lines of medication from compounding pharmacies even when there's no rival big pharma product competing against them or any indication of patient risk. These are decades-old treatments. (It's the CDC's job to set treatment guidelines, by the way, not the FDA's).

It's just a knee-jerk reaction at this point to protect imaginary future profits, I suppose. You can't make up this stuff. The FDA has even imposed a 30% sales volume rule for "safety." It has nothing to do with purity or contamination of compounded products. If Tesla sold exploding cars, how would restricting 30% of their sales volume to California improve consumer safety? It's clearly a market-rigging reg – and it's because the corporate medicine lobby wants it.

What does this have to do with corporate medicine? Compounding pharmacies in big chain hospitals – which are often pitifully narrow in their professional scope – are all magically exempt (oligopolistic and more expensive too). Isn't that wonderful?

The current corporatization of medicine rests on the notion that the chief challenge faced by those of us with serious illnesses is that we simply don't read enough fine print or fill out enough paperwork.

If you think that corporations have done a fine job handling your retirement investments in this era of lax accounting standards, wait until you see what they do with your actual body.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Exceptional comment!

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

This article is based on the faulty perception that this is all normal benign efficiency working it's way out of an antiquated system, perhaps with a few -to be expected- hiccups. It isn't.

What we are experiencing is wholesale greed and corruption on an international scale working it's way into the core of our civilization like mold or cancer, and perverting technology as well as the process of social change and adjustment to that change – for it's exclusive benefit – as it goes. It is unconscionable that we could call this progress or adjustment in anything but the most cruelly ironic sense.

The shift from reactive to proactive my foot! 60 years ago doctors were getting out proactive messages far better than today via education, television, the media and so on. And they gave a damn!!! Today, insurance companies are devising ever new ways to minimize what they spend on your care, maximize what they charge you for it, and call it, "proactive." Proactive theft, or genocide for fun and profit, would be closer to the mark.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Proactive cannibalism also comes to mind

[Aug 26, 2019] Overshoot The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

Secular stagnation of the US economy might be parcially driven by high (above $50 per barrel) oil prices. That nessesarity generates high level of unemployment, especially chromic unemployment and "perma-temps".
Apr 08, 2005 | www.amazon.com

Amazon.com

By J. Mann on April 8, 2005

Masterpiece, offers solution for THE problem of our time/div> I am astonished at the quality of this book, which is about the eighth book in a personal reading program that included Paul Roberts' The End of Oil, Kenneth Deffeyes' Beyond Oil, Jared Diamon's Collapse, Cottrell's Energy and Society, Michael Klare's Blood and Oil, and others, all extremely good and relevant books.

The task this author undertakes is to help readers find a new perspective from which to constructively and usefully interpret inevitable and major changes the world around us. By taking this approach, the author is providing the very essential tool we need to cope with these changes.

The issue is our ecological footprint.

Catton uses the term "Age of Exuberance" to represent the time since 1492 when first a newly discovered hemisphere and then the invention of fossil-fuel-driven machines allowed Old-World humans to escape the constraints imposed by a population roughly at earth's carrying capacity, and instead to grow (and philosophize and emote) expansively.

He then reminds us that we are soon to be squeezed by the twin jaws of excessive population and exhausted resources, as our current population is utterly dependent on the mining and burning of fossil energy and its use to exploit earth's resources in general.

In spring 2005, the buzz about "the end of cheap energy" is reaching quite a pitch, and when and if the "peak oil" scenario (or other environmental limit-event) is reached, the impact on our social / political world will be enormous. Already the US is brandishing and using its superior weaponry to sieze control of oil assets; this same kind of desperate struggle may well erupt at all levels of society if we don't find a way to identify the problem, anticipate its consequences, and find solutions.

Catton offers a perspective based on biology / ecology -- not bad, since we are indeed animals in an ecology and we are indeed subject to the iron laws of nature and physics.

With this perspective we can avoid ending up screaming nonsense at each other when changes begin to get scary. My urgent recommendation is, read this G.D. book and do it now.

[Aug 25, 2019] Chronic unemployment should not >lead to despair. It is now a new normal. I recommend Stoicism , which is the way Greeks and Romans coped with their own decline

Notable quotes:
"... It has to be explained that Stoics believe that nothing external to the individual is secure, and thus the truly important thing is virtue, based on ethics and moral. ..."
"... Stoicism is the appropriate philosophy for what awaits us. It brings out the best of us and it eases the anguish. The illusion of control is our worst enemy. Matters are completely out of our control and Nature will deal with them as she pleases. ..."
Jan 09, 2016 | peakoilbarrel.com
Javier , 01/09/2016 at 5:29 am

I wholeheartedly agree that even a cursory look at things reveals the overwhelming scope of things and quickly leads to despair.

It doesn't have to lead to despair. I recommend Stoicism , which is the way Greeks and Romans coped with their own decline.

In the words of Seneca:

"Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes." (De Provid. v.8)

It has to be explained that Stoics believe that nothing external to the individual is secure, and thus the truly important thing is virtue, based on ethics and moral. Virtue can not be taken from an individual whatever the circumstances, and helps him deal with adversity. That is what Seneca means with "nothing of our own that perishes" .

Stoicism is the appropriate philosophy for what awaits us. It brings out the best of us and it eases the anguish. The illusion of control is our worst enemy. Matters are completely out of our control and Nature will deal with them as she pleases.

[Aug 23, 2019] Nobody here wants to hire an over 60 IT worker

Notable quotes:
"... I am lucky in that I lived very frugally my whole life as I have always feared what was coming, and what in my opinion has now come. I am retired, and have been for over 4 years, but not by choice. ..."
"... For me, the misery index is High. I am lucky that I am not in danger of homelessness, but I have to be very careful about what I spend as prices keep going up and up and most things I consume. Meaning, food, utilities, taxes, etc. These days food doesn't go up by cents, but rather usually a dollar at a time. Carrots at my local Costco just went from $6.99 to $7.99 for example. ..."
"... I think that for everyone but the top 10%, the Misery Index is High ..."
Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

BoulderMike , , August 23, 2019 at 4:19 pm

From just outside Boulder, CO: John Edwards said "there are two Americas". I am thinking he was more than correct, but that it should be 4 Americas: the top ,1%, the rest of the top 10%, the people who were prudent and saved and are older who are suffering but still can afford to live, and the truly poor who can't come up with $400 in an emergency, which would include the homeless. I am lucky in that I lived very frugally my whole life as I have always feared what was coming, and what in my opinion has now come. I am retired, and have been for over 4 years, but not by choice. Nobody here wants to hire an over 60 IT worker.

I measure the "economy" and the it's health by what I refer to as the "misery index". It isn't measured in numbers but rather in how one feels about their life and the world around them. For me, the misery index is High. I am lucky that I am not in danger of homelessness, but I have to be very careful about what I spend as prices keep going up and up and most things I consume. Meaning, food, utilities, taxes, etc. These days food doesn't go up by cents, but rather usually a dollar at a time. Carrots at my local Costco just went from $6.99 to $7.99 for example.

I think that for everyone but the top 10%, the Misery Index is High . But, around here, it is I believe one of the more affluent areas of the country. People are buying up $1.5 million dollar houses like crazy, and tearing down $1 million dollar old houses to build new custom houses. Tesla's and Mercedes are everywhere. Google has taken over Boulder and the young Tech workers are numerous. My little town of about 10,000 people is building new homes on every square inch of available land. They are talking about another 500 new homes of close to a million dollars to well over a million dollars. Traffic is outrageous, and bad air pollution days seem to be more and more numerous these days.

So, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Depends on who you are.

I think though that we are in the midst of a class war. The racial issues we are experiencing are to distract people and divide people. Divide people on race, divide people on age, divide people on ideology. No matter what, just divide people so while the common "man" is fighting each other, the rich plunder more and more.
Finally, from my perspective, as a student of history, especially Nazi Germany, and Russia under Stalin, I am more and more frightened each day by the acceptance of the Trump rhetoric. It is messianic and dangerous.

[Aug 23, 2019] There has always been a lot of poverty in the US

Notable quotes:
"... I actually walked out of a Popeyes chicken place last month over the treatment I received. I am usually extremely laid back concerning service, having done a lot of it over the years. Recently though, the service workers have become actively hostile, in several places. This low wage economy is finally having some deleterious effects on the society at large. ..."
"... Fricking BS neoliberal greed masquerading as public policy. ..."
"... The bigger problem is the multi dimensional conflict with China. If its rate of acceleration is not brought down a lot, it will do some real damage to businesses who clean up by exploiting cheap and efficient Chinese industry while selling widgets into wealthy western markets. All such businesses, could get hurt, real bad (and their Chinese counterparts too). Will this happen? I think there will be warning shots. Huawei being the elephant in the room. ..."
"... I thought the quote from Business Insider that dole queues have been replaced by low paid part-time work was insightful. In a few words it explains why poor life conditions for many people are invisible. They are working somewhere not hanging around at street corners. It also explains how the situation may be just bearable for those with the low paid jobs since they do earn some income. It also explains why they don't turn their difficult conditions into political demands for a better life. They don't have the time as they are too busy and tired just surviving. ..."
"... The low interest rates are needed for bigger stock buybacks to prop up the overinflated housing and stock markets. Float those fantasies of fake wealth. It's alll that's left of their dystopian dream ..."
"... One thing has been proven beyond denial and that is that neoliberalism doesn't work. Infusions of money are still going to the rich, connected people mostly for frivolous justifications. Recession and ecological devastation plague the rest of us. ..."
"... IMO the US economy is a house of cards. What is the US economy currently? In my view it is the FIRE (Finance, IT, Real Estate, and Energy) sector, Education, and Health Care. ..."
"... Many people are living large at the expense of education and healthcare and have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. What happens when the bubble bursts?? Many small cities are going to be ghost towns. ..."
"... Anecdotally, where I live in central WA I know quite a few young people in their 30s and 20s who patch together various crummy jobs to make ends meet. None of them can afford a house and it's hard to see much of a future for them other than endless part-time, low paying jobs ..."
"... The county I live in has an official poverty rate of 14%, about 1 out of every 7 people, but I think the actual amount is higher. We have a lot of Mexican immigrant workers here who likely are not counted, and in any case the federal definition of poverty is not very realistic. Same applies to official inflation stats. I would say that things are mixed, but for many under 40 the future isn't bright. ..."
Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

jrs, August 23, 2019 at 10:39 am

I think much is just stuff that was ever thus and not new, there has always been a lot of poverty in the U.S.. Now that poverty may be creeping more into the middle class more and so becomes more noticeable, and homelessness has grown some places, but there was always much poverty.

This economic system especially without even a measly safety net, will not ever eliminate poverty and share the wealth. And of course it's going to destroy life on earth pretty soon if it keeps going.

Local experience: people who have not had an easy time getting stable jobs or sometimes work at all even recently are getting some now. But there are still perfectly decent people that can't find work.

ambrit, August 23, 2019 at 8:34 am

Here in the North American Deep South, "things" are sliding slowly down that slippery slope. The "Street Signs" I see about me are signaling a growth in the population of the truly impoverished. People with their belongings carried about in backpacks are now a regular sight on our streets. Panhandlers abound on the street corners. So much so that the local City Council has just passed an ordinance practically outlawing the practice. One of the local salvage store outlets, of which we have four in this town now, representing three corporations, now has some regular parking lot and front door panhandlers. A store assistant manager told me that it was "too much of a hassle" to run the panhandlers off, so the store tolerates their presence.

One of these panhandlers has a shtick of opening the front door to the store for customers with his hand out, as if he was a legitimate doorman. Five years ago, such now common sights were unknown around here.

On the small business front, today is the last day for our friendly local small vitamin and health food shop. She has given up after thirteen years. She has said that the internet killed her business off. For the last two months she has been looking for work. With her business background, she has had no "legitimate" offers of employment to date.

Another person who worked at the store while going to the local college just graduated with a Business and Communications major and minor. A sharp person, he told me two weeks ago before he went home to Gulfport to live with his parents again, he will be taking his little brother's room since the little brother just joined the military, that all he has received in the way of job offers in six months of searching are "bulls -- t job" offers, and one decent possibility over in Dallas. Even that job offer was on a recurring one year contract schedule. He would be a 'job shopper.'

I generally look at the faces of the people I pass by in shops and on the street to judge the tenor of the times. I have seen precious few smiling faces recently. Even the retail food workers are now surly and brusque.

I actually walked out of a Popeyes chicken place last month over the treatment I received. I am usually extremely laid back concerning service, having done a lot of it over the years. Recently though, the service workers have become actively hostile, in several places. This low wage economy is finally having some deleterious effects on the society at large.

Acacia, August 23, 2019 at 1:02 pm

FWIW, California cities have been working steadily on anti-homeless and anti-panhandling laws for years now. Some analysis here:

https://blogs.berkeley.edu/2018/10/18/business-improvement-districts-stop-punishing-the-homeless/

A primary vector of attack seems to be "Business Improvement Districts", i.e., the private control of formerly public spaces.

JBird4049, August 23, 2019 at 2:44 pm

What in the World is a "business improvement district?" And why does any California cities especially the large ones like L.A., San Diego, San Jose, or San Francisco? The smaller towns especially out in the peripheral Red areas could certainly use some economic help, but really housing is the single biggest problem state-wide with the possible exception of water, but that's only in long drought.

If people had dependable affordable housing, business would pick up.

Fricking BS neoliberal greed masquerading as public policy.

ptb, August 23, 2019 at 8:59 am

As another commenter said above, "fine" is a relative term. But I suppose this is in reference to this week's news-media theme of discussing recession fears. Thus the "fine" we are talking about means a combination of prices in stocks and real estate, and annual performance of big firms.

By that definition, the fears are a possibility, but just that. I mean the stock market is probably overvalued, but that isn't a crisis, and with the FED easing, what the heck they'll be overvalued more.

The bigger problem is the multi dimensional conflict with China. If its rate of acceleration is not brought down a lot, it will do some real damage to businesses who clean up by exploiting cheap and efficient Chinese industry while selling widgets into wealthy western markets. All such businesses, could get hurt, real bad (and their Chinese counterparts too). Will this happen? I think there will be warning shots. Huawei being the elephant in the room.

An even worse scenario for the rest of the world (but not the US) is if efforts to contain China succeed, and growth of Chinese industry is halted. The non-US world will have to pay significantly more for pretty much everything, and therefore economy will grow slower. Will this happen? I don't think so.

As far as locally in this reader's neck of the woods? I live in a locally wealthy college town, so kindof impossible to say from this vantage point, but I think things are actually going well. The place I work, a tiny scientific-industrial equipment maker in a very specialized niche, is looking at some of the bigger contracts we've had yet. My biggest fear in terms of external events is that we have an absolutely vital component supplier who is US-branded-made-in-China and a "dual-use" technology (we are the civilian use). That's a risk. There are Japanese-branded-Chinese alternatives but the US-branded-Chinese one is more advanced, I suspect due to patent protection, which should fortunately expire in a few years (reckoning based on how long it's been on the market).

a different chris, August 23, 2019 at 12:39 pm

>but I think things are actually going well.

Well duh. Your college has been suctioning money out of the pockets of kids for the last couple decades or so at a rate that is multiples of the general growth rate. Which means most (probably all) of the wealth you see around you is a shift from elsewhere, not a creation of such.

At best it is maybe repatriating some of the money going to Asia.

Heraclitus, August 23, 2019 at 9:15 am

I am also in the Deep South, but just barely. Our area is booming if you judge from the amount of construction taking place. However, there are loads more homeless people than there used to be, in a county that is hostile to them. It's easy to wind up doing thirty days in jail if you show up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with no money. I employ a homeless guy to do yard work. He has plenty of skills and works for others too, so money isn't a problem, theoretically. However, he has found there are few rooms available where the homeowners do not have substance abuse problems. He's been through four since I've been employing him -- about nine months. He used to have a drinking problem, but no longer does, as far as I can tell. Life sobered him up. He has pointed out to me how many homes are unoccupied and falling down, and could be used to house people.

ambrit, August 23, 2019 at 9:38 am

We have a similar problem with "abandoned/unsafe buildings." The local response to this is to tear the buildings down. Salvable housing stock becomes empty lots, with the demolition bill sent to the last owner of record.

Rentals for the really poor are difficult at best. Very few rooming houses here. Most house rental contracts around here prohibit co-renters. The main exceptions are the college student rentals, and many of them have premium rents, essentially, gouging the out of towners.

Criminalizing poverty is an old and much honoured tradition.

Louis Fyne, August 23, 2019 at 10:04 am

The entire country sorely needs more rooming houses -- impossible nowadays, even in "liberal" towns, either because of land-construction prices or zoning or both.

William Hunter Duncan, August 23, 2019 at 9:29 am

Economists this time around seem to be oblivious to the "everything" bubble, be it the stock market, fracking, those darling tech companies worth billions having never made a profit, housing, student debt, debt generally

They seem mostly oblivious to structural pathologies, like the unchecked growth of monopoly, gross income inequality, unchecked automation, unchecked AI, resource constraints, ecological blowback, systemic pollution, eternal privatized warprofiteering.

This economy seems to me an epic disaster in the making. But I am a lowly manual laborer, so never mind me .

neo-realist, August 23, 2019 at 11:15 am

Another structural pathology I would add is the lack of low income housing for the working poor: In Seattle, and I'm sure this problem is replicated in other medium sized and bigger cities across the country, e.g., NYC, LA., A lot of SRO's and cheap apartments have been destroyed or bought up by developers and turned into expensive luxury apartments for high earning professionals. Much of the working poor ends up being stuck living in RV's and tents in business districts and residential neighborhoods, and under bridges, as well as shelters all over the city. The pathology extends to our citizens as well -- many believe they are nothing more than losers who didn't prepare themselves for better careers, takers, drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals. Much of that fed by 40 years of corporate elite and media brainwashing: If you are poor in America, you deserve to die in the gutter; It's your fault.

Skip Intro, August 23, 2019 at 2:29 pm

I believe being oblivious is the main qualification for being a successful mainstream economist.

Mikerw0, August 23, 2019 at 9:48 am

As others have said, define good and define economy. We continue to stress "capital" doing well and ignore "labor". By that definition all is hunky dory until the pitchforks come out.

Don Cafferty, August 23, 2019 at 9:51 am

In southern New Brunswick, Canada the number of homeless has become a problem that municipal officials have not been able to ignore because of the attention that the public and advocates have brought to it especially during the past winter. In one municipality, a current news item suggests that the number of homeless has doubled during the past year. Aside from homelessness, it is difficult to measure the local economy because people who don't have money to spend are not visible.

Keith Newman, August 23, 2019 at 9:58 am

I thought the quote from Business Insider that dole queues have been replaced by low paid part-time work was insightful. In a few words it explains why poor life conditions for many people are invisible. They are working somewhere not hanging around at street corners. It also explains how the situation may be just bearable for those with the low paid jobs since they do earn some income. It also explains why they don't turn their difficult conditions into political demands for a better life. They don't have the time as they are too busy and tired just surviving.

tegnost, August 23, 2019 at 10:48 am

I think the dole queue's were replaced by food stamps. Still, plenty of people lined up at the food bank.

a different chris, August 23, 2019 at 12:53 pm

>It also explains why they don't turn their difficult conditions into political demands for a better life.

Yup. Thus the bourgeoisie drives all revolutions, not the poor.

cm, August 23, 2019 at 10:01 am

Food inflation hidden by reduced packaging size. Sugar, flour, coffee, ice cream all used to be sold by the pound. No more. 1% interest on savings accounts. Fed reducing interest rates.

Mike, August 23, 2019 at 10:04 am

Pennsylvania checking in. The growing divide in economic well-being is not as obvious in certain neighborhoods. While wealthy area of the state SEEM to be smiling, underneath is a growing debt to support such "lifestyle". Meanwhile, a household-by-household survey may be able to turn up factual evidence for this if only embarrassment could be avoided (snark, a little).

Poverty rates in formerly industrial areas are much higher, with depopulation occurring in central PA and those industrial suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as cities like Erie, Harrisburg, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, etc. (most of these small towns live by pension money from retirees, as young move away). Cannot forget the central issue of a "commonwealth" budgetary system that has not led to any such "commonwealth" since the dawn of the Industrial Age. You see many trucks and service vehicles not owned or leased by major businesses, but rather operated by individuals with craft ability working as day laborers and contracted whenever they can beat out the competition, which is fierce. Trucks, of course, are loaded with loan indebtedness, mouths at the nest are upturned and open

Banks are doing well -- of course, they loan and do business with pharmaceuticals, health providers, and out-of-state big actors with plenty of collateral or connections. Infrastructure erodes, public transportation is on its own and those few improvements where progressives have any influence are not income-related, thus leaving most with belief that Trump & cronies are fighting the fight against all this immiseration.

What a world. Pretty much as it is elsewhere, I reckon.

JCC, August 23, 2019 at 11:37 am

NY's Southern Tier along the PA Border is just as bad. Cities like Binghamton and Elmira are falling apart at the seams, and every year is a little worse than the previous year. There has been no "recovery".

rjs, August 23, 2019 at 10:39 am

a lot of fields around here didn't get planted because of the wet May/June. on the other hand, my trip to Middlefield (OH) revealed more than a dozen help wanted / 'now hiring' signs on a 2 mile stretch of RT 87 heading into town

Eclair, August 23, 2019 at 11:02 am

Here in Western New York, in beautiful Chautauqua County, stretching from the shores of Lake Erie to the Pennsylvania border, the statistics are woeful. Population is declining, both median age and median income are in the low 40's, and almost 20% of the population is under the poverty level. Unsurprisingly, the county ranks 59 (out of 62) in total 'health outcomes.' We have a lot of obesity, metabolic diseases, drug addiction and 'early deaths.'

At a meeting we attended this week, planning for an annual summer festival, the big 'problem' was diagnosed as the aging volunteer base. We have to hire people to do the heavy lifting of setting up, dismantling, etc., whereas 20 years ago the volunteers were young and hale enough to do it all. That, and only old people tend to come out for the festival.

However, the countryside is beautiful, at least in spring, summer and fall, with rolling hills, hundreds of acres of abandoned farmland that is 'reforesting,' and no traffic problems. No traffic, actually. You have to watch for deer and Amish buggies.

In the last few years, people have started 'fixing up' their houses. This spring I noticed a rash of new, big garages and outbuildings, for storing 'toys' such as ATV's, second and third trucks, monstrous riding lawn mowers. Others are adding on porches; front porches facing the street have become newly fashionable. Compared to 10 years ago, houses for sale seem to be selling. Or at least, the "For Sale" signs are coming down. Some wooded house lots, of several acres each, sold. They had been for sale for at least 5 years.

Downtown in the county's biggest city, Jamestown, the old brick buildings are still crumbling and boarded up. SRO's, better than tents, for sure, have filled the old hotels, and house people who would be homeless in Seattle. News releases touting the amazing success of the new National Comedy Center (heavily subsidized by State and local funds) are constant. There are more people about on Friday and Saturday evenings in downtown. And a new brewery just opened up.

Shopping at the area's three chain food markets, Wegman's, Aldi's and Top's, one notices the sharp class divide. Summer people from the Chautauqua Institute or those who have second homes on the lakes, hang out at Wegman's olive bar and extensive cheese counters. (But because this is a county with really really poor health outcomes, Wegman's bulk food section is almost all candy.) The Amish frequent Aldi's and the locals who are either carless or don't drive far, go to Top's.

We have water lots of water. We have natural gas wells, everywhere. Neighbors still get free gas, under decades old agreements with the producers. We have clean air (well, except when the gas pipelines spring a leak.) We have lots of land and timber (second or third growth.) We have old people who have inherited their grandfather's old diary farm, 100, 200, 300 acres, and are still sitting on the land. Our 95 year old neighbor, for instance. He still mows all the pastures regularly. Shhhh!

Fred, August 23, 2019 at 11:12 am

Personally as a retiree I'm OK with the economy. Low inflation is great. Wish the stock market was more stable, but with a slow down on it's way, not to mention an election, I can deal with it.

pretzelattack, August 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

if food prices go up and aren't counted as inflation, not sure it's great for most people.

Fred, August 23, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Core inflation doesn't include food or energy to eliminate seasonal changes. Overall inflation does include them. Often the press reports "inflation rate" without specifying. But you are right, my house is paid off, so I don't care that much about housing prices for now, it's mostly gas, food, utilities etc.

Oh, August 23, 2019 at 3:35 pm

The Fed's been looking out for you by controlling inflation. Yeah, right! The key components of inflation have been fiddled with to show little or no inflation.

Fledermaus, August 23, 2019 at 11:14 am

It is ironic how practitioners of the "dismal science" have turned into a hybrid of Pollyanna and Dr Pangloss

Summer, August 23, 2019 at 11:16 am

The Fed thinks the economy is fine? No way they can really think the economy is fine when there is so much begging for more low interest rates. The low interest rates are needed for bigger stock buybacks to prop up the overinflated housing and stock markets. Float those fantasies of fake wealth. It's alll that's left of their dystopian dream

Susan the other`, August 23, 2019 at 11:36 am

The Fed is functioning from an 1800s-liberal playbook in a 2019 post-neoliberal world. One thing has been proven beyond denial and that is that neoliberalism doesn't work. Infusions of money are still going to the rich, connected people mostly for frivolous justifications. Recession and ecological devastation plague the rest of us.

We have become complacent about homelessness. Hard to imagine being so oblivious. How quickly we regress to a less informed century without even a twitch of guilt on our part. When Putin blamed the world's dysfunction on liberal politics he wasn't far off. My how times don't change. If there is one thing we can look at and say, gee we really aren't a very good society after all, it is homelessness. In every big city in America. And congress? It is almost completely incapable of governing. We might as well be a feudal state again.

tegnost, August 23, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Thanks, yes, the "nothing to see here" about homelessness, which is dramatically worse than at any time in my 60 ish years, is notable.

timbers, August 23, 2019 at 11:46 am

Glancing at Powell comments today, it appears he and the Fed spend more time thinking and talking about the economic problems in China and Germany than he does here in America. That may explain a lot.

Badbisco, August 23, 2019 at 11:46 am

Just south of Portland, Maine:

Have been helping an in-law over the last 6 months find a house to move up here and got an interesting peek into the real estate market. Researched 80-100 different houses (3-4 BRs within 20 miles of Portland) and went to probably 30 open houses and personal showings.

General takeaways:

-- The market has been weirdly hot, with three separate all-cash offers at full list price rejected for other offers that were over ask.
-- People have noticed and a lot of houses have come on the market with elevated list prices as people try to cash in
-- Our own home's Zestimate on Zillow (no promise on how accurate this measure is) has increased almost 20% over the last year.
-- Tons of new houses built in last 2 years, typically of lower quality and on poor lots with houses close to each other and all trees removed
-- Quality of non-luxury or non-custom houses built from 1980's to now is generally poor; good example of crapification. Houses built in large numbers in sub-divisions in particular seem to have bad trim and obviously deteriorating siding/roofs/general conditions.
-- While the in-law isn't interested in a project, generally feel that solid older homes which can be relatively easily renovated would be the better long-term play.
-- Portland's real estate market, after the litany of "best City" and "Best restaurants" awards over the last few years and the advent of AirBnB, is out of the reach of most people. This has driven up the demand and prices in outlying towns as people look for housing close to the job center

Personally feel that the focus on dropping interest rates/protecting real estate values post the GFC has really hurt the country. Above and beyond favoring home-owners over younger people, the rising home prices increase property taxes that have to be paid and are hard to realize given selling your house requires buying a diff overpriced house. This is just leading to more and more debt being taken on to simply have a decent house.

Plenue, August 23, 2019 at 12:15 pm

One of the reliable signs that you're approaching the West Coast is the increasing number of homeless. They really start to appear around Spokane, and by the time you reach the Liberal strip along the Seattle-Portland-San Francisco line the tents are everywhere. And it's been this way for more than a decade. The real economy never recovered to begin with. Hard to be afraid of a new recession when you never left the old one.

justin synnestvedt, August 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Adding grist to the Austerity mill, here's a piece from Forbes trying to dismiss MMT, without even a pretext at providing an argument. Don't even think of those candidates who talk about MMT https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmauldin/2019/08/21/modern-monetary-theory-could-destroy-this-nation/#303c0d3f1dd3

Jerry B, August 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm

IMO the US economy is a house of cards. What is the US economy currently? In my view it is the FIRE (Finance, IT, Real Estate, and Energy) sector, Education, and Health Care.

My memory is failing me as to how Yves and Lambert described the Finance sector's contribution to the overall economy but to me it is not really "productive" and mostly casino capitalism.

The medium to large cities are living off of the FIRE sectors. If you travel to small cities and towns it seems that Rural America is surviving on Education(Universities) and Healthcare. Let's tease that out a bit:

Full disclosure: For the accuracy/facts police, I am trying to paint a picture in broad strokes here of how I see the US economy.

Education (i.e. universities) and their employees are living off of the government (Pell Grants etc.), student loans, and the wealthy. Let's pretend the government ends any educational assistance for college students and that student loans are no longer available. What happens to the University Industrial Complex? It seems that many universities would close or as they are doing now start marketing to foreign students.

Healthcare seems heavily subsidized by the government i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, and ObamaCare and the wealthy. Yes many people have health insurance through their employer. And the US population is getting older and needing more healthcare. But when I look around what I see is an over expansion and oversupply of healthcare facilities. And hospitals do not look like hospitals anymore. They look like massive hotels. It seems the healthcare industrial complex and the university industrial complex are both bubbles that at some point will burst.

What will happen to the healthcare industry when Single Payer/Medicare for All is started and there is significant cost controls?? I think the gravy train is going to end for many health systems.

And what about college tuition? Sanders is talking about free college. I hope by that he means that the government will not be an open checkbook for universities and there will be cost controls as well?

Lambert has talked about the US needing an industrial policy. In my view it can't happen soon enough because relying on education, health care, and finance to sustain an economy is asking for trouble.

Lastly the grift of the healthcare sector and education sector seem related to the Predatory Precarity excerpt from Water Cooler a couple of days ago.

https://www.interfluidity.com/v2/7263.html

Many people are living large at the expense of education and healthcare and have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. What happens when the bubble bursts?? Many small cities are going to be ghost towns.

The US economy is like a human body with no bones or decaying bones.

lordkoos, August 23, 2019 at 2:30 pm

The biggest city in our state (Seattle), is booming, so property values within a 75-100 mile radius have been increasing steadily for years. However Seattle also has thousands of homeless people, and things are definitely not booming for them.

Anecdotally, where I live in central WA I know quite a few young people in their 30s and 20s who patch together various crummy jobs to make ends meet. None of them can afford a house and it's hard to see much of a future for them other than endless part-time, low paying jobs . I know some others that are doing OK but most are just getting buy and I doubt they can amass any savings. The country kids around here with little education work agricultural jobs and deal drugs. A new thing around these parts is heroin, which 15 years ago was unheard of. The biggest employers in the area are local government and the university, and the student population helps some local businesses thrive.

The county I live in has an official poverty rate of 14%, about 1 out of every 7 people, but I think the actual amount is higher. We have a lot of Mexican immigrant workers here who likely are not counted, and in any case the federal definition of poverty is not very realistic. Same applies to official inflation stats. I would say that things are mixed, but for many under 40 the future isn't bright.

Fiery Hunt, August 23, 2019 at 4:16 pm

The view from a self-employed craftsman in the Bay Area: Local real estate is not dropping but there is a slight smell of realization that this might be the top o' the bubble so sellers are sweating to get on the market. Less readily agreeable to spending money on custom work..say 3 months delaying/hemming and hawing vs. "yes, let's do it."

My girl (who works in dental) her office has lost 3 people in the last year and are struggling to replaced them. The 3 Drs make $400,000 + each and just gave remaining staff a $1/hour raise to $24/per hour in an attempt to keep them. Full bennies and 401k contributions keep her there.

Future sis-in-law: works at a wholesale nursery up in Santa Rosa. Last couple of years they were working 6 days a week to keep up. This year? No longer working Saturdays and now Fridays have been cut. That's a 30% reduction in hours she's now on the brink. So, how's the economy? Depends who you are.

[Aug 23, 2019] Neoliberal colleges has been suctioning money out of the pockets of kids for the last couple decades

Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

a different chris , , August 23, 2019 at 12:39 pm

>but I think things are actually going well.

Well duh. Your college has been suctioning money out of the pockets of kids for the last couple decades or so at a rate that is multiples of the general growth rate. Which means most (probably all) of the wealth you see around you is a shift from elsewhere, not a creation of such.

At best it is maybe repatriating some of the money going to Asia.

[Aug 23, 2019] Neoliberalism and Education: more evidence of "crapification

Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

noonespecial , August 23, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Neoliberalism and Education
(To borrow a term often seen here at NC term – more evidence of "crapification")

In the new issue of the American Affairs Journal, the following article may be of interest to those who tune into scholastic matters. Two quotes are posted here in case the paywall obstructs.

"Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education"
https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/08/rotten-stem-how-technology-corrupts-education/

1. "But the technology pushed into schools today is a threat to child development and an unredeemable waste. In the first place, technology exacerbates the greatest problem of all in schools: confusion about their purpose. Education is the cultivation of a person, not the manufacture of a worker. But in many public school districts we have already traded our collective birthright, the promise of human flourishing, for a mess of utilitarian pottage called 'job skills.' The more recent, panicked, money-lobbing fetish for STEM is a late realization that even those dim promises will go unmet [E]ducational technology is a regressive political weapon, never just a neutral tool: it increases economic inequality, decreases school accountability, takes control away from teachers, and makes poorer students more vulnerable to threats from automation and globalization."

2. "Dumping gadgets on children is a win-win proposition in poor school districts. It's a win for tech billionaires looking to buy pro­gressive indulgences (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg in Newark), and it's a win for local mayors wanting to gesture toward needy schools with­out changing the underlying economic reality (e.g., Cory Booker in Newark, Pete Buttigieg in South Bend) The meanest trick of all is when funds allocated to bring struggling students "into the future" are used instead to banish them into the realm of for-profit programs called "online charter schools," which consist mostly of children watching lecture videos all day instead of being taught by a teacher. Online charter schools are a worsening catastrophe. Compared to the performance of peers in traditional public schools with similar income, race, gender, and first-language characteristics, the impact of online charter attendance on student reading is so bad, it's like miss­ing 72 days of school each year. In math, being afflicted by an online charter school is like being absent for 180 days!"

[Aug 23, 2019] Nearly 60% of those who said they grew up affluent now consider themselves to be in a lower class -- about half of this group said they're middle-class or upper-middle-class, while the other half said they're poor or working-class

Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

This is a clear lack of up mobility. In other words American Dream is now a fake for all but extremely talented or extremely lucky. .

Class Warfare

"6 findings that show the dire state of America's middle class" [ Business Insider ] (From May, still germane). "Nearly 60% of those who said they grew up affluent now consider themselves to be in a lower class -- about half of this group said they're middle-class or upper-middle-class, while the other half said they're poor or working-class. Nearly 60% of those who said they had an upper-middle-class upbringing identified with a lower class -- half of this group said they're middle-class, while the remaining half said they're poor or working-class. And while half of those who said they grew up in the middle class said they're still in it today, more than one-third identified with a lower class. Only about 12% said they're now part of a higher class." • Lover

[Aug 22, 2019] BOLD ENDEAVORS Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration

Notable quotes:
"... A lesson of use at job interviews, schools and even in families. I am thankful for an added knowledge and understanding of the many problems associated with these Endeavors. This book should be a "must" to all young people. ..."
Oct 16, 1999 | Amazon.com
Britta Sahlgren, October 16, 1999
An intriguing story of human relationships in the extreme.

Bold Endeavors by Jack Stuster proved to be a real page-turner! Since childhood reading about adventures and explorers had been my favorite literature. In this book the persons behind these endeavors came to life.

They were of flesh and blood and you as a reader took part of their everyday life, their hardships and personal problems. A thrilling experience. A lesson in the importance of relationships not only among people in isolation

A lesson of use at job interviews, schools and even in families. I am thankful for an added knowledge and understanding of the many problems associated with these Endeavors. This book should be a "must" to all young people.

[Aug 22, 2019] https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-purpose-of-life-is-not-happiness-it-s-usefulness

Aug 22, 2019 | getpocket.com

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Stories to fuel your mind. The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It's Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn't mean happiness itself is not attainable. Darius Foroux

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy.

Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way.

And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable.

I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness.

When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here.

Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.

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This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

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[Aug 21, 2019] Losing a job in your 50s is especially tough. Here are 3 steps to take when layoffs happen by Peter Dunn

Unemployment benefits currently are usually is just six month or so; this is the time when you can plan you "downsizing". You do not need to rush but at the same time do not expect that you will get job offers quickly, if at all. Usually it does not happen. many advertised positions are fakes, another substantial percentage is already reserved for H1B candidates and posting them is the necessary legal formality.
Often losing job logically requires selling your home and moving to a modest apartment, especially if no children are living with you. At 50 it is abut time... You need to do it later anyway, so why not now. But that's a very tough decision to make... Still, if the current housing market is close to the top (as it is in 2019), this is one of the best moves you can make. Getting from your house several hundred thousand dollars allows you to create kind of private pension to compensate for losses in income till you hit your Social Security check, which currently means 66.
$300K investment in A quality bonds that returns 3% per year is enough to provides you with $24K per year "private pension" from 50 to age of 66 when social security kicks in. That allows you to pay for the apartment and amenities. The food is extra but with this level of income you qualify for food assistance.
This way you can take lower paid job, of much lower paid job (which mean $15 per hour), of temp job and survive.
And if this are many form you house sell your 401k remains intact and can supplement your SS income later on. Simple Excel spreadsheet can provide you with a complete picture of what you can afford and what not. Actually the ability to walk of fresh air for 3 or more hours each day worth a lot of money ;-)
Notable quotes:
"... Losing a job in your 50s is a devastating moment, especially if the job is connected to a long career ripe with upward mobility. As a frequent observer of this phenomenon, it's as scary and troublesome as unchecked credit card debt or an expensive chronic health condition. This is one of the many reasons why I believe our 50s can be the most challenging decade of our lives. ..."
"... The first thing you should do is identify the exact day your job income stops arriving ..."
"... Next, and by next I mean five minutes later, explore your eligibility for unemployment benefits, and then file for them if you're able. ..."
"... Grab your bank statement, a marker, and a calculator. As much as you want to pretend its business as usual, you shouldn't. Identify expenses that don't make sense if you don't have a job. Circle them. Add them up. Resolve to eliminate them for the time being, and possibly permanently. While this won't necessarily lengthen your fuse, it could lessen the severity of a potential boom. ..."
Feb 15, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

... ... ...

Losing a job in your 50s is a devastating moment, especially if the job is connected to a long career ripe with upward mobility. As a frequent observer of this phenomenon, it's as scary and troublesome as unchecked credit card debt or an expensive chronic health condition. This is one of the many reasons why I believe our 50s can be the most challenging decade of our lives.

Assuming you can clear the mental challenges, the financial and administrative obstacles can leave you feeling like a Rube Goldberg machine.

Income, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, bills, expenses, short-term savings and retirement savings are all immediately important in the face of a job loss. Never mind your Parent PLUS loans, financially-dependent aging parents, and boomerang children (adult kids who live at home), which might all be lurking as well.

When does your income stop?

From the shocking moment a person learns their job is no longer their job, the word "triage" must flash in bright lights like an obnoxiously large sign in Times Square. This is more challenging than you might think. Like a pickpocket bumping into you right before he grabs your wallet, the distraction is the problem that takes your focus away from the real problem.

This is hard to do because of the emotion that arrives with the dirty deed. The mind immediately begins to race to sources of money and relief. And unfortunately that relief is often found in the wrong place.

The first thing you should do is identify the exact day your job income stops arriving . That's how much time you have to defuse the bomb. Your fuse may come in the form of a severance package, or work you've performed but haven't been paid for yet.

When do benefits kick in?

Next, and by next I mean five minutes later, explore your eligibility for unemployment benefits, and then file for them if you're able. However, in some states severance pay affects your immediate eligibility for unemployment benefits. In other words, you can't file for unemployment until your severance payments go away.

Assuming you can't just retire at this moment, which you likely can't, you must secure fresh employment income quickly. But quickly is relative to the length of your fuse. I've witnessed way too many people miscalculate the length and importance of their fuse. If you're able to get back to work quickly, the initial job loss plus severance ends up enhancing your financial life. If you take too much time, by your choice or that of the cosmos, boom.

The next move is much more hands-on, and must also be performed the day you find yourself without a job.

What nonessentials do I cut?

Grab your bank statement, a marker, and a calculator. As much as you want to pretend its business as usual, you shouldn't. Identify expenses that don't make sense if you don't have a job. Circle them. Add them up. Resolve to eliminate them for the time being, and possibly permanently. While this won't necessarily lengthen your fuse, it could lessen the severity of a potential boom.

The idea of diving into your spending habits on the day you lose your job is no fun. But when else will you have such a powerful reason to do so? You won't. It's better than dipping into your assets to fund your current lifestyle. And that's where we'll pick it up the next time.

We've covered day one. In my next column we will tackle day two and beyond.

Peter Dunn is an author, speaker and radio host, and he has a free podcast: "Million Dollar Plan." Have a question for Pete the Planner? Email him at AskPete@petetheplanner.com. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

[Aug 17, 2019] America is the richest country in the world, but it has more than half a million homeless and 28 million people without health insurance out of a population of around 325 million. Is America Crazy? by John Feffer

Decline of neoliberalism in not a pretty picture. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Greek version of this saying which appers in Sophocles’ play Antigone is more precise: "evil appears as good in the minds of those whom god leads to destruction". Oscar Wilde — 'When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.'
Aug 17, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org
The United States witnessed three mass shootings in one week recently in California, Texas, and Ohio. There have been more than 250 mass shootings so far in 2019, more than one a day. This year in America, more than 33,000 shooting incidents have killed more than 8,700 people.

America is the richest country in the world, but it has more than half a million homeless and 28 million people without health insurance – out of a population of around 325 million. The U.S. infant mortality rate places it 33rd out of wealthiest 36 nations.

... ... ...

People from other industrialized countries must think that the United States has simply gone insane. It is a nation of terrible extremes: grotesque wealth and horrific poverty, brilliant minds and widespread ignorance, high rates of volunteerism and endemic violence. America seems to be suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder with pockets of manic energy and large areas of deep depression.

It would be tempting to argue that America is only suffering from a bout of temporary insanity. But mass shootings, gross economic inequality, and corruption didn't begin when Donald Trump became president. He has made matters worse, to be sure. But these trends are longstanding.

So, why do Americans put up with such violence, economic inequality, and political nonsense?

... ... ...

Moreover, more than half of Americans have never traveled to another country. One in ten hasn't even gone outside the state in which he or she was born. Since most of the news about other countries is negative, Americans naturally believe that life is more dangerous outside their borders. They haven't actually seen what it's like in other countries, so there's no way for them to compare the craziness of life in America with life anywhere else.

Of course, plenty of countries experience considerable violence, economic inequality, and political corruption. But they are usually not powerful industrialized nations.

In the 2019 Global Peace Index , for instance, the United States ranks 128 th in the world, between South Africa and Saudi Arabia. Kosovo, Haiti, and Bangladesh all rank higher than America. Part of the reason that the United States ranks so poorly is the amount of military violence that the country inflicts around the world – through war, arms sales, and military bases. But the high homicide rate in the United States also dragged its score down.

The GINI index measures a country's economic inequality. The United States, according to OECD figures , is fourth from the bottom of the wealthiest countries in the world. Only Chile, Turkey, and Mexico have greater income inequality after taxes and transfers.

On corruption issues, the United States has generally been in the top twenty in terms of transparency. But in 2018, it dropped six places to number 22 in the Transparency International rankings. Here, the influence of the Trump administration has been significant. The problem is not ordinary corruption like bribery. Rather, Trump is challenging the very foundations of the rule of law. He promised to "drain the swamp" of political influence-peddling in Washington, DC. But he has only made the nation's capital swampier.

Individuals with mental disorders can seek professional help. They can take medications and enter psychotherapy. They can check themselves into a hospital.

But what happens when a country is crazy?

[Aug 17, 2019] Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009

Aug 17, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

im1dc , August 07, 2019 at 05:44 PM

"Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009"

Grim foreshadowing of what may come and quickly...

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/bankruptcies-cause-the-highest-number-of-job-losses-since-2009-when-the-us-was-in-the-depths-of-the-great-recession-2019-08-06

"Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009, invoking grim reminders of the Great Recession"

By Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor...Aug 7, 2019...8:24 p.m. ET

"The recent spate of bankruptcies in corporate America is taking its toll.

In the first seven months of the year, U.S.-based companies announced 42,937 job cuts due to bankruptcy, up 40% on the same period last year and nearly 20% higher than all bankruptcy-related job losses last year, a report released Tuesday concluded. Despite record-low unemployment, bankruptcy filings have not claimed this many jobs since the Great Recession.

"It is the highest seven-month total since 2009 when 50,258 cuts due to bankruptcy were announced," according to the report by outplacement and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "In fact, it is higher than the annual totals for bankruptcy cuts every year since 2009."...

[Aug 17, 2019] Life, Deferred Student Debt Postpones Key Milestones for Millions of Americans naked capitalism

Aug 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

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https://acdn.adnxs.com/ib/static/usersync/v3/async_usersync.html <img src="http://b.scorecardresearch.com/p?c1=2&c2=16807273&cv=2.0&cj=1" /> By Natalia Abrams, the Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis, and Cody Hounanian, the Program Director of Student Debt Crisis. Originally published at openDemocracy

Student debt has been solely responsible for the majority of my decision-making as an adult
(Erin – Portland, Maine)

The student debt crisis is not the burden of a single generation. It impacts Baby Boomers in their 60s and 70s; Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s; Millennials in their 20s and 30s – as well as Gen Z high school students still planning for college. Thus it's a grave mistake to frame student loan debt as exclusively or even primarily a "Millennial problem." At the same time, Millennials have borne the brunt of the astounding rise in college costs. They are the first generation to experience a life shaped by the near-certainty of student debt.

Weighted for inflation, college costs (including tuition and fees) rose 81% between 2001 and 2009 – the decade when well over half of Millennials graduated high school.

Traditionally, when the price of a commodity rises rapidly, demand for that commodity drops. Necessities like food and shelter are usually exempt from that general rule. However, college has become one of those essentials, with the perceived cost of not attending growing at least as fast as the actual costs themselves. As a result, student loans make the essential, attainable.

Not everyone saddled with a tremendous debt burden ends up with a degree. Whether a borrower receives a degree or not, few are in a position to rapidly repay their student loans. While a college degree may or may not expand opportunities; as we're finding, student loan debt absolutely shuts doors that might have otherwise remained open.

Lower Homeownership rates

Growing up I was told by my parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to go to college because it would give me a better life. I graduated in 2013 with a Master's Degree in English with the hopes of being a teacher myself. There are no teaching jobs in high schools or colleges and I owe over $100,000 in student debt. I now work a job that doesn't even require a degree, and was turned down for a mortgage because my debt to income ratio was too high. Not a day goes by where I don't think about my debt
(Danielle – Roseville, California)

If homeownership is fundamental to the 'American dream', then student loan debt puts that dream out of reach for millions of Americans. After years of growth, homeownership rates noticeably declined in 2017. While partly due to factors unrelated to student debt (such as rising housing prices , particularly in urban areas), the rate of Millennial homeownership has fallen faster than that of the general population.

In a January 2019 study, the Federal Reserve revealed the connection between lower homeownership rates and the Millennial generation most burdened by student debt: "our estimates suggest that increases in student loan debt are an important factor in explaining (young people's) lowered homeownership rates." The study went on to conclude that "a little over 20 percent of the overall decline in homeownership among the young can be attributed to the rise in student loan debt. This represents over 400,000 young individuals who would have owned a home in 2014 had it not been for the rise in debt."

While the Federal Reserve study focused on the decade between 2005-2014, a 2019 survey by Bankrate of nearly 4,000 American borrowers found that 31% of Millennial respondents postponed buying a home because of student loan debt. By comparison, when the Baby Boomers were entering the housing market 40 years ago, only 15% delayed a purchase because of student loan debt.

It's also worth noting that the real number of Millennials unable to purchase a home because of student debt is likely much higher. While 31% of Millennial respondents reported that student debt directly delayed homeownership, this figure only accounts for potential buyers who still consider future homeownership a real possibility. Thus it does not reflect the unknown number of those whose debt to income ratio is so high that they don't expect to ever afford a home. As Forbes noted in 2019, "no matter how many possible solutions are tossed around Washington and beyond on reducing the crushing burden of student loan debt, it remains one of the top reasons millennials are putting off buying a home."

Historically, home mortgages defined middle-class debt. Yet due to pre-existing debt, student loan borrowers face difficulty qualifying for a mortgage. In tandem with rising housing prices, and stringent mortgage qualification requirements adopted in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, those with already exorbitant levels of student debt face a near-perfect storm for obtaining a mortgage: placing a key component of the 'American dream' out of reach for millions of young Americans.

A 2018 study by Summer and Student Debt Crisis found that 56% of respondents reported that student loan debt made it more difficult to buy a home. That figure excludes those who consider homeownership so unattainable that they have preemptively "given up." The same study notes that 58% of those surveyed experienced a decline in their credit score as a direct result of their student debt. Credit scores, based on past payment habits as well as debt-to-income ratios, are pivotal to mortgage qualification. Even borrowers who haven't yet considered buying a home are keenly aware that their student-debt-burdened credit scores have put a mortgage out of reach.

Fewer Marriages

I have put off having children, marrying, or purchasing a home due to the high costs of student debt repayment. Regularly, I contemplate selling everything and living in my car to help free up money to pay off the debt sooner.
(Melissa – Granbury, Texas)

Homeownership is not the only dream deferred, or abandoned altogether, because of crushing student loan debt.

One theme in the stories we've collected – and in our studies – is that student debt is an overwhelming factor in declining marriage and birth rates. Millennial borrowers like Melissa, regularly told us that there were three central dreams that debt had put out of reach: buying a home, getting married, and having children.

In 1990, 26% of adults under 65 were never married – by 2018, that number rose to 36%. Today, only one in five adults are married before the age of 30 – and the average age of first marriage has risen by more than six years since 1960. There are a host of factors that have driven the marriage rate to record lows – and we do not suggest that student debt is the sole (or even primary) driver of delayed marriage. Evolving and elevated expectations for romantic partnership, economic shifts, greater equality for women and increased acceptance of premarital sex all play critical roles in changing marriage habits. One cause of social transformation however, doesn't negate the impact of another.

Student loan debt delays marriage in several ways. One way is through a sheer misunderstanding of the law regarding debt. Several borrowers told us they were reluctant to marry and "make my spouse responsible for my debt." Though the laws concerning spousal responsibility vary by state, the fears of saddling a partner with one's debts are not unfounded. Similarly, if a spouse with pre-existing debt returns to school after marriage, both the debt incurred before and during marriage gets lumped together as a shared liability.

Practically, the legal responsibility for the liability is a nominal matter. Most couples cannot simply isolate one partner's debt. The money spent each month on student loans could be