“Rise up, O God, and save us from ourselves…”
A great nation brought low by its dysfunctional politics
Over the past 40 years, the United States has become a strange fantasy land where many politicians think deficits don’t matter, regulators are closely entwined with their charges, and the Federal Reserve manages the economy through high-stakes, high-risk experimentation. The financial turmoil of the past few years is just a glimpse of what lies at the end of the road we’re on, [David] Stockman warns….What Stockman has written is a book that makes clear we are that future generation of the past, inheritors of all the wishful thinking, simple illogic and flawed compromises that produced the near-term benefits our parents and grandparents worried about but ultimately wanted.
In 1864, Chaplain Lyman D. Ames wrote in his diary:
June 28— He [George Williams, 29th OVI] ran down fast during the day. I was with him in his last hour. Reason returned at last; he said “Chaplain do you think I’m going to die.” Being told he could not live but a short time he said, “Will you pray for me”? Prayer was offered, he appeared calm, clasped his arm around my neck like a child clinging to a father. Attempted to raise himself up, he had not strength & failed, not able to speak distinctly again, soon life ebbed out & the soldier boy’s spirit had fled forever from the Earth & all its scenes of war & strife & death.
“I was thinking of the irony that these men who fought to preserve the Union flew over a United States last night that they couldn’t even have comprehended in 1862…”
“To America, my new-found land: the man that hates you hates the human race.”
President should lead
Genuine negotiation on spending would avoid debt-ceiling fight
As noted in the Sunday Dispatch by reporters Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman, by 2025, Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and interest on the national debt will consume every tax dollar collected by the federal government. Everything else the government does, including national defense, education, housing, transportation — will have to be paid for on credit, supercharging the national debt.
The White House says that the delay is due to fiscal-cliff wrangling and the cumbersome process of updating discretionary spending numbers once the deal was struck. But the document ought to have been out by now — not because failing to have the president’s budget delays action on Capitol Hill but because the public is owed an overview of the president’s blueprint for governing.
Second, and related, how precisely does the president propose to rein in entitlement spending? The White House points to its offer from the last negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner and says that remains on the table. It cites earlier budget proposals on Medicare and puts it all together in a blog post that confirmed its willingness to change the formula for calculating Social Security cost-of-living increases. But, really, a blog post? What about a plan that the president himself explains, and sells, to the country?
“He never gives the public an honest account of what he’s willing to do on entitlements,” Ryan said of the president. “Trimming a statistic,” he sniffed of the proposed Social Security tweak, “is not entitlement reform.”
Obama’s ‘try anything’ bid to woo GOP moves from dinner to golf course
Turning on the charm, Obama tries to end gridlock
Cliff Owen/AP – From left, Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., left, Tom Coburn, R-Ok., Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., leave the Jefferson Hotel after a dinner meeting hosted by President Obama.
Obama to visit Capitol Hill four times next week
WASHINGTON | Fri Mar 8, 2013 4:36pm EST
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama rarely makes the short trip to Capitol Hill from the White House, but next week his motorcade will be tying up traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue as he tries to convince Congress to come to a deficit deal.
Based upon the available evidence from Chicago, I concluded in September 2008 that Barack Obama was not a leader. He did not get my vote. Leaders establish relationships to facilitate requisite trust and confidence in order to make deals. Like visiting at the same restaurant frequently, familiarity produces ease and good will.
The president’s claim that janitors at the Capitol would receive a pay cut and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s report that some teachers have already gotten pink slips both were awarded four Pinocchios by The Post’s “Fact Checker” columnist, Glenn Kessler. This roughly translates as “not even remotely true.”
Many of these claims were ultimately deemed false — but Obama didn’t give up on his “sequester” scare campaign. As students prepared for spring-break trips to the nation’s capital, the president hastily canceled self-guided White House tours. He didn’t cancel his own vacation to Hawaii or avoid golfing with Tiger Woods in February. But he did deny children the chance to see the White House for one reason: to ensure that sequestration hurt average Americans.
Neighbor: The national government, the factions, have let US down. In the real world in which we live, there is common sense. In DC, the Beltway Planet, there is the next election. One day the bond markets will say that’s enough, interest rates will rise to their historic levels, and the people will object to the oppressive tax burden thrust upon them.
And yet, the debt picture hasn’t improved. Interest payments and a contracting economy (gross domestic product) mean that the debt burden is worsening, notes Jeffrey Anderson of the Institute of International Finance, an industry think tank.
We laugh at the Italians, but give us another four years of fiscal cliffs, government shutdowns and debt limits, and the famously optimistic and forward-looking American people may surprise us with their cynical response to Washington’s refusal to govern rationally.
The week ended as it began, with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Obama trading sound bites rather than actual proposals.
By BILL KELLER
Published: March 3, 2013
Our feckless leaders may be incapable of passing a budget, but, boy, can they pass the buck. The White House spent last week in full campaign hysteria, blitzing online followers with the message that heartless Republicans are prepared to transform America into “Les Misérables” in order to protect “millionaires and billionaires, oil companies, vacation homes, and private jet owners.” Republicans retort that the budget-cutting Doomsday device called sequester was actually invented by the White House.
In fact, the conceptual paternity of sequester was bipartisan. Both sides agreed that Congress should set in motion an automatic deficit-cutting scheme so draconian that it would force a divided Washington to come together around some sane compromise. The scandal is that Washington is so incapable of adult behavior that it can do the right thing only if it is staring down the barrel of a shotgun — and, it turns out, not even then.
[But see below – Bob Woodward]
Prof.Jai Prakash Sharma, Jaipur, India
Behind all the fake ideological confrontation in Washington, that has led to the current sequester centric fiscal deadlock, the common pretense of concern seems to be the highly imbalanced fiscal situation of the state, and how to restore such balance. Put in a different way, the whole American politics has come to be defined by a manufactured politics of scarcity. But, isn’t it an open secret that, it was clearly the mega fiscal crisis of 2008, allowed to be built up beyond control under the Republican administration, that was at the back of this sudden fiscal meltdown, and resource crunch? In the current blame game on sequester, why this important question, the root cause of the current fiscal deadlock, seems to be going unanswered? If, it goes like this only, the sequester and its aftermath might not only prove socially disruptive, but also be indicative of an end of the democratic dialogue, rather the cessation of democratic politics
March 4, 2013 at 1:16 a.m.
Anetliner Netliner Washington, DC area
I agree that the White House and the Congress share the blame for the sequester, but my agreement with this piece stops short there.
The immediate problem facing America is economic growth and employment, an agenda item that is still pending. The U.S. economy is still stagnant and unemployment and underemployment stand at least 14% of the workforce. The safety net expenditures and reductions in federal tax revenues caused by the ongoing slump are a critical factor in the size of the deficit.
The logical course of action would be to focus on the economy and job growth first, and then turn to long-term deficit reduction. Instead, we’ve got both parties locked in a battle over the debt, while the sequester is poised to reduce employment by at least 700,000 jobs and quite possibly 1 million or more, as well as reduce the salaries of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.
Mr. Keller, many of his fellow pundits, and the nation’s leaders are focusing on the wrong problem. The immediate threat is economic contraction and growing unemployment– not deficit spending. It’s time for the chattering class to wise up.
March 4, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
T Straus Springfield Missouri
“Instead, he built a re-election campaign that was long on making the wealthiest pay more in taxes, short on spending discipline, and firmly hands-off on the problem of entitlements.”
Why do we consistently refer to Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements.”
Are the benefits from my Life Insurance policies “entitlements?’
Is my Medical Coverage through my employer an “entitlement?”
Social Security and Medicare are insurance policies that are funded from premiums that are paid by each and every paycheck a person receives from their first part time job to their last check before retirement.
A typical policy holder pays premiums for 40+ years before making their first “claim for benefits.”
These are not entitlements . . . they are fully negotiated contracts with few lapsed payments. In fact, these premium payments are absolutely the first in line as employee and employer deposits are made at the time each paycheck is cut.
March 3, 2013 at 11:02 p.m
Governing means getting things done. Common sense, the sense of the people, resides outside the Washington DC Beltway. Politicans, like CEOs who are programmed to look no further than quarterly profits, are conditioned to function for the next election, in their own self-interest — p-o-l-i-t-i-c-s. Their version of reality is like Picasso painting a battlefield. Politicians respond to the imperative for prudent change and action with reflexive orthodoxy in search of the short-term political advantage.
The national government must initiate a dialogue with the citizens residing in the several states. There must be a debate between the political class and the American people to determine the course of action that confronts unpalatable truth concerning taxes, spending, and the course of the economy. No more important problem exists than recovering the progress of the middle class. The opportunity to achieve the American Dream, a slice of the pie, begins with the real economy and that includes education as well as effort, exclusive of the paper economy — financialization, which re-distributes wealth. Manufacturing creates wealth.
Poll: Congress less popular than colonoscopies, cockroaches
Congress cannot seem to reach consensus on legislation to revamp the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service. But lawmakers sure have spent a lot of time on other urgent business involving the nation’s teetering mail agency: Naming post offices.
That’s the conclusion of an report Tuesday in the Courier Express and Postal Observer, which took data from 1973 to 2012 compiled by Noah Veltman and found a huge increase in the number of laws to name post offices and in their relative share of the legislation passed by recent congresses.
The postal blog says that more than 15 percent of all bills passed and signed into law in the last five congresses named a post office. The practice spiked after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and has continued during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The naming of post offices to honor American heroes is a powerful tradition. But its spike in recent years, as Congress has been unable to make postal reform a top priority because of ideological differences and other priorities (fiscal cliff, anyone?) is a delicious irony for some.
But then, on Sunday, the spell snapped when the knee snapped. Coach Mike Shanahan committed malpractice, letting a hobbled young quarterback lurch around “like a pirate with a peg leg,” as The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins wrote. The autocratic, crusty 60-year-old, who makes $7 million a year, risked the kid’s career and the team’s future trying to win a wild-card playoff game — the opposite of what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg. At that moment, the Redskins became like the rest of Washington, and the rest of our self-centered, grasshopper attention-span culture — going for short-term gain and avoiding long-term pain.
Everything they do on Capitol Hill is about getting through the next few months, or next few minutes, or next confrontation. John Boehner, after making a mess of the negotiations with the president, is now talking about raising the debt limit in monthly increments. What’s wrong with weekly, or how about hourly?
Like Congress patching gaping fiscal wounds, the Redskins didn’t seem to fathom that they were damaging the franchise long term. “Trying to win that game, they risked 120 victories over the next 10 years,” the writer David Israel told me. “That’s crazy.”
The late congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) used campaign money to pay for near-weekly grocery runs. Former senator Rick Santorum’s political action committee supported the Pennsylvania Republican’s prodigious Starbucks habit and various forms of retail therapy. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) spent more than $80,000 over five years at a Morton’s steakhouse in Washington.
Jackson’s problem was that he did what everybody else does — but he took it to a new level of excess. And that’s why he sat, in a fine blue suit, in court Wednesday in the matter of United States of America v. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. The judge made sure Jackson was fit to enter his guilty plea, asking him about his “employment experience” (his father’s presidential campaigns, 17 years in Congress) and his psychiatric care.
Obama was reelected less because he inspired the nation than because he discredited his opponent. Most Americans still think that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and just one in five trust their government to do the right thing.
Mexicans did not smell powder at Bunker Hill battling the Lobsterbacks or taste powder biting a cartridge at Shiloh — fighting Americans.
The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury and useless labor, he has passed to toils of a very different nature rewarded by ample subsistence. This is an American.
Here he beholds fair cities, substantial villages, extensive fields, an immense country filled with decent houses, good roads, orchards, meadows, and bridges where an hundred years ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated! What a train of pleasant ideas this fair spectacle must suggest; it is a prospect which must inspire a good citizen with the most heart-felt pleasure.
…I see the importance of the work for our times. This work provides useful information and understanding of the way America used to be centuries ago. This work is also maybe the first place where the unique American identity is tried to be created. This is also a first time when America’s innocence and simplicity is celebrated. Finally, Crevecoeur is the first writer to explore the concept of the American Dream and put forward the question about “Who an American is?”
Family farming is gone, yet democracy and Western civilization remain, the creations of agrarianism.
American farmers, black and white, settled, established, and developed this country, a nation conceived in liberty for self-determination. DeCrevecoeur describes the nascent American middle class, rooted in agriculture, like Western civilization, which is founded upon the New Testament, the individual freedom to choose a Spiritual path.
Western culture began with the rise of this ideology of agrarianism. It was the notion that communities of small farmers would craft their own laws, fight their own wars, and own land on which to do as they pleased, inventing the concept of a citizen and freedom itself. No other culture had free citizens before the city-state emerged—the very word “citizen” does exist in the non-Greek vocabulary of the Mediterranean world Few have had them since But within two centuries of the discovery of the polis, the Greeks were facing the contradictions of their own success. They were now free, increasingly prosperous, often educated—and not hungry. Agricultural surpluses and the stability of the countryside under this revolutionary decentralized and private regime thus gave way to trade, commerce, urbanism, and travel—and then the beneficiaries then in turn created leisure, affluence, and liberality as rural egalitarianism became radical urban democracy, freedom smugness and at times cynicism, independence self-centeredness, and prosperity over-indulgence—such are the wages when men are free to think, work, and prosper, by law safe from thug pharoah, or prophet.
Analysis: A nation moving further apart
11:29 AM, Nov 7, 2012
President Obama walks on stage with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to deliver his victory speech on election night in Chicago. / Win McNamee, Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama made history again.
Four years ago, he became the first African American elected president, riding a wave of hope and promises of change. On Tuesday – with victories in such crucial states as Iowa, Wisconsin and then Ohio – he became the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term when unemployment was so high and voters so uneasy about the nation’s future.
He achieved that by forging a coalition of America’s rising electorate: African Americans, Hispanics and young people from the Millennial generation, plus some whites, especially women. The fact that Republican rival Mitt Romney carried solid majorities of older voters and whites, and that he was preferred by voters on the economic issues that dominated the election, didn’t seem to be enough to carry this new day.
Indeed, Romney won the biggest majority of the white vote of any presidential candidate in U.S. history who then failed to win the White House.
Obama’s first election in 2008 demonstrated the possibilities of a coalition of this emerging electorate. His re-election shows that coalition is here to stay, says analyst Ruy Teixeira, co-author of The Emerging Democratic Majority. “Even in a pretty difficult economy, it’s got staying power; it sticks with the incumbent enough to re-elect him.”
The changing U.S. electorate split in two Tuesday – not only along lines of political party and ideology but also by race and ethnicity, gender and marital status, region and religion, education and age. The divisions are even sharper than they were four years ago, when Obama attracted broader support, especially among whites.
But this time the contest was much closer in a country that is undergoing tectonic shifts in its demography. “We have never had a more polarized electorate,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres says.
If there was one thing that seemed to unite the nation, it was a sense that the stakes were high and the election mattered. Voters stood in lines for hours in South Florida; polling places in some parts of Virginia were held open hours after the scheduled 7 p.m. closing to accommodate waiting voters.
“We’re all in this together,” Obama said in a tweet he sent just after 11:20 p.m., when the TV networks declared him the winner. “That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you. – bo”
The economy swamped every other issue. Six in 10 called it the most important issue in deciding their vote and 15% cited the federal budget deficit, according to surveys of voters as they left polling places. A majority of both sets of voters backed Romney.
So it was a testament to the strength of the president’s support that those economic concerns didn’t simply settle the election in Romney’s favor – although it was a much closer election than his easy victory over Republican John McCain four years ago.
On Obama’s side this time: More than nine of 10 African Americans and nearly seven in 10 Hispanics. A solid majority of women and two-thirds of unmarried women. About six in 10 of voters under 30. More than 90% of Democrats and nearly 90% of liberals. More than six in 10 of those who never attend religious services.
On Romney’s side: Six of 10 whites and nearly six of 10 seniors. A solid majority of men and of married women, and nearly two-thirds of white men. More than 90% of Republicans and of conservatives. He won high-income voters, evangelical Christians, and those who attend who attend religious services every week or more often.
The debate over the role of government was perhaps the starkest dividing line: Eight in 10 of those who believe “government should do more to solve problems” voted for Obama. An almost equal number of those who believe “the government is doing too many things” voted for Romney.
All that underscores the challenges ahead for governing in what will continue to be a divided government. Republicans were poised to maintain control of the House of Representatives. In the Senate, hopes Republicans once harbored to gain control were dashed as Democrats picked up GOP-held seats in Indiana and Massachusetts.
In some ways, nothing will change in Washington: President Obama facing a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate. Negotiations will instantly redouble over the “fiscal cliff” that looms at year’s end, threatening tax hikes and broad spending cuts.
Tuesday’s divisions in the electorate will resonate in those debates and others. Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution notes the battle between older and white voters on one side, younger and minority voters on the other. “That divide, you’ll see it every day in the House, and in the House vs. the Senate,” he predicts.
Here’s a look at some of the new realities of American politics.
Nobody is firmly in charge
Not in the past century has the country gone so long without giving a firm hold on power to one party.
Consider the narrow margins in the presidential race. Since 1920, when women got to vote, there hadn’t been more than three elections in a row without a candidate winning the White House by more than 10 points. But in the seven elections since 1984, not a single candidate managed to win by double digits.
Tuesday’s election was likely to be the third time in the past four elections that the race was decided by fewer than four points. Before that, only four elections in the past 100 years had been decided by such a narrow edge.
The House and Senate also have been more closely divided over the past two decades that at any point since 1920. In eight of the past nine elections, the minority party was able to garner at least 190 seats in the 435-seat House. In the previous 40 elections, that sort of strong standing for the opposition was the exception, occurring only 13 times.
Not happy, but better
There’s no consensus that happy days are here again, but the nation’s mood is considerably better than it was four years ago. Then, the nation was spiraling into the fiscal crisis.
In 2008, only 7% said the economy was excellent or good; now that number has tripled. Then, almost half said the economy was poor; now a third say that. Four years ago, only one in five said “things in this country are generally going in the right direction.”
Now close to half say things are heading in the right direction; more than nine of 10 of those voters backed Obama.
Even so, one in three voters said they were worse off than four years ago, more than the one in four who said they were better off. For the first time in several elections, the economy as an issue did not work in the Democrat’s favor.
Six in 10 called the economy the most important issue influencing their vote, and a majority of them favored Romney. In 2008, 63% named the economy as their main issue, and 53% had backed Obama.
The surveys of voters as they were left selected polling places were conducted for the Associated Press and the TV networks by Edison Research. They were supplemented by phone interviews with those who cast early or absentee ballots.
Hispanics on the rise
Latinos increased their share of the electorate, to 10% from 9% in 2008. They supported Obama even more solidly than they did four years ago, when 67% backed him. This time, 69% did.
Romney’s 29% share of the Hispanic vote was lower than that for any Republican presidential candidate since Bob Dole in 1996.
African Americans made up a record 13%; more than nine of 10 backed Obama, the nation’s first black president.
Put another way, 72% of the electorate was white, the lowest ever and a stunning drop in just two decades. In 1992, it had stood at 87%.
The rising number of minority voters will challenge the GOP.
“If Romney was going to win, it was by getting a larger and larger share of the white vote,” Ayres says. “At some point, you run out of votes to get that way. A larger-and-larger piece of a smaller-and-smaller share of the pie ultimately becomes a losing proposition. The only question is when it becomes a complete non-starter.”
“This may be the last ‘white’ presidential candidate – in the sense of a candidate appealing to only white voters,” Frey says of Romney.
White voters still majority
Whites still make up 73% of the electorate, though, and Democratic strategists express concern about the decline in the party’s standing with them. Obama’s share of the white vote, 43% in 2008, dropped about five percentage points.
“Republicans are the aging party; Democrats are the younger party built around the new demography of the country,” says Simon Rosenberg of the NDN, formerly called the New Democratic Network.
“You’d much prefer to be where the Democrats are, strategically. But clearly the Democrats have to be concerned about the erosion of white voters.”
Obama did well among highly educated white women, and a populist appeal against Romney as a corporate boss helped him hold a share of blue-collar whites in the battleground Midwest, Frey says. But he adds: “You can’t just get by on these very small segments of the white population and hope minorities will carry you through, at least in the short term.”
Seniors vs. Millennials
Then there’s age. Romney was backed by double digits among seniors, those 65 and older, while Obama carried voters under 30 by double digits as well.
Obama had focused on energizing younger voters; many of his campaign rallies took place on college campuses. Even so, he suffered his biggest drop-off among voters 18 to 29 years old.
Those under 30 had backed Democrat John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004 by 54%-45%, and the Democratic edge jumped to 66% for Obama in 2008.
This time, though, he got about six in 10 votes of these younger voters.
Among younger voters, African Americans and Hispanics slipped slightly in their support; the significant erosion was among whites under 30. In 2008, they had backed Obama by 10 points. This time, they support Romney by eight.
Overall, the country was divided between those under 40 (who supported Obama by double digits) and those over 40 (who supported Romney by nine points).
Super PACs trump parties
The new breed of super PACs and their billionaire backers shaped the presidential race at every point in the campaign.
In the GOP primaries, the groups that allow unlimited contributions from donors enabled Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to stay in the Republican nomination contest even after disappointing showings in primaries would have forced them out in previous times. Pro-Romney super PACs provided a crucial counterweight to Obama campaign ads in the summer. And they kept Romney competitive in ad spending in the fall.
“These outside groups, essentially acting as shadow campaigns of the candidates, are going to be a dominant part of election campaigning for the foreseeable future,” says Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert at Colby College in Maine. “You have party-aligned groups and non-profit organizations essentially approaching these elections as a team sport.”
That has undermined the political parties, which face legal limits that the super PACs don’t.
“Political parties are laughably anachronistic,” says Nathan Daschle, former executive director of the Democratic Governors Association and a founder of ruck.us, an online political engagement organization. “Voters are increasingly behaving like consumers, and modern-day consumers have far less brand loyalty than they did a decade ago.”
On that and other aspects of American politics, the times are changing.
Do Americans cause accidents that kill citizens of Mexico — Guatemala — El Salvador?
Wanted: Police are looking for Julio Acevedo, 44, in connection with the deaths of an expectant couple
Rep. Edward Acevedo is congratulated by Rep. Lisa Hernandez on the passage of his bill to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.(Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune/ January 8, 2013 )
Illegal immigrants cleared to hit the roads
By Rafael Guerrero and Antonio Olivo, Chicago Tribune reporters
January 9, 2013
The simple act of driving his 7-year-old daughter to school creates anxiety every morning for Juan Vicente Urbina, who has no driver’s license and knows getting behind the wheel could lead to being deported.
“It’s scary,” said Urbina, 29, who has been in the country illegally since 2001 and sees driving as a necessary risk. “If they stop us and we get arrested, we could lose everything, you know?
On Tuesday, Urbina was among many who expressed joy and relief upon learning that Illinois is poised to join a handful of states that offer legal driving privileges to those in the country illegally.
After failing by just two votes in 2007, legislation to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants passed the Illinois House by a vote of 65-46. Gov. Pat Quinn’s office issued a statement shortly afterward saying he plans to sign the bill, which cleared the state Senate in December.
The vote came after a lengthy debate that reflected the passions over illegal immigration nationwide. Supporters had mounted a monthslong campaign citing the dangers of allowing the estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants of legal age in Illinois to drive without passing tests to show they are qualified — and most likely without automobile insurance.
“Whatever your position on immigrant issues, what we can all agree on is there are millions and millions of undocumented people in this country living with us, working for us, driving for us,” said state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, who sponsored the measure in the House. “We have failed because some of these individuals cannot be trained to drive the roads of Illinois.”
Opponents voiced concerns that the licenses could lead to fraud and abuse and had said the measure should require fingerprints from applicants. Backers argued that such a requirement would cost too much money and deter people who are fearful of having their fingerprints recorded in a federal database.
“One has to wonder whether people are going to feel comfortable submitting to fingerprinting knowing that their fingerprints could wind up going to federal immigration authorities if all they’re applying for is a driving document,” said Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which spearheaded support for the measure.
“All this is good for is driving,” Tsao said. “It’s not even a valid ID.”
Under the legislation, Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses, already available for foreigners here legally, would also be available for illegal immigrants, Illinois secretary of state spokesman Dave Druker said. Those licenses, renewable every three years, could not be used for other identification purposes, such as boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting, Druker said.
To be eligible for a license, a person would have to live in Illinois for at least a year, a provision that would require applicants to provide a copy of a lease, utility bills or other proof that they’ve been in the state.
While cast primarily as a safety issue, the bill’s passage quickly took on the political overtones of broader efforts to pass federal immigration reforms in Congress, with advocacy groups on both sides of that debate either celebrating or sounding warning bells.
Within an hour, the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform sent out an email alert that urged constituents nationwide to phone Quinn’s office immediately with a list of reasons that it should not be signed into law.
“It all relies on less-than-reliable documentation to establish who they (license applicants) are,” said FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman, listing among his agency’s concerns a potential for would-be terrorists to get an Illinois license.
“The state of Illinois should not be in the business to make it easier for people to violate federal immigration law,” Mehlman said.
At an early evening rally in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood attended by about 100 people, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the bill’s passage should advance the argument for comprehensive federal immigration reform.
“We have been clear in setting a national pattern,” said Emanuel, who reflected on his grandfather’s passage to Chicago from Eastern Europe. “This will be noticed around the country.
“This is a great accomplishment to allow people on a very practical basis to take their kids to school, places of worship and get themselves to work,” the mayor said. “I want to take this victory, savor what it is and use it as the energy to move and bring comprehensive immigration reform.”
Yuridia Diaz, 29, originally from Mexico, stopped driving three years ago when she was pulled over by police. Fearing deportation, she chooses to take an hourlong bus ride to work instead.
With legal driving imminent, she said “a weight has been lifted off” her shoulders.
“Now my dreams are growing,” said Diaz, who lives in Little Village.
Ashley Moy-Wooten, an organizer at the Southwest Organizing Project, an immigrant advocacy group, said scores of people have phoned her office inquiring about the licenses after the measure cleared the Senate last month.
Martha Estrella, 47, of west suburban Stone Park, is among those eager to apply for a driver’s license. About six months ago, she was arrested for driving without one after she got into an accident with, of all vehicles, a police squad car, Estrella said.
Though the infraction only resulted in a fine, it scared Estrella enough to swear off driving until it’s legal, she said.
“I’ve lost a lot of jobs (as a temporary factory worker) because I can’t drive,” said Estrella, who has been in the country illegally for more than 20 years.
Before the accident, “I had 23 years driving and never had I been arrested,” including a few years in Washington state, where a state law there allowed her to drive legally.
Now, she said, “I’m going to start looking for a car.”
Gov’t spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement
January 7, 2013
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report on the government’s enforcement efforts from a Washington think tank.
The report on Monday from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group focused on global immigration issues, said in the 2012 budget year that ended in September the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US-Visit program, and Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol.
Immigration enforcement topped the combined budgets of the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service by about $3.6 billion dollars, the report’s authors said.
Since then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 — which legalized more than 3 million illegal immigrants and overhauled immigration laws — the government has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement. According to the report, “Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery,” federal immigration-related criminal prosecutions also outnumber cases generated by the Justice Department.
The 182-page report concludes that the Obama administration has made immigration its highest law enforcement priority.
“Today, immigration enforcement can be seen as the federal government’s highest criminal law enforcement priority, judged on the basis of budget allocations, enforcement actions and case volumes,” MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, a co-author of the report, said in a statement released with the report.
Critics are likely to bristle over its findings, especially those who have accused the administration of being soft on immigration violators.
“There has been some progress,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas. “But the bottom line is that we are far from having operational control of our borders, particularly the Southwest border, and there are no metrics to quantify progress.”
Meissner said since the 1986 law was passed, immigration enforcement “is a story of growth. The sum of its parts is growth.”
Demetrios Papademetriou, MPI’s president, said that the authors reviewed immigration enforcement policies and spending from 1986 on amid ongoing disagreements in Congress on whether border security and enforcement efforts needed to be solidified before reform could be tackled.
“No nation anywhere in the world has been as determined, has made as deep and expensive a commitment to or has had as deep a reach in its enforcement efforts as the U.S. has had,” Papademetriou said. “The reach spans from local court rooms and jails all the way to the ability of goods and travelers to the United States to actually be able to travel to the United States.”
According to federal budgets reviewed by MPI, CBP spent about $11.7 billion on its enforcement operations while ICE had a budget of about $5.9 billion in 2012. US-Visit accounted for about $307 million.
As spending has risen in recent years, the number of arrests at the border has steadily dropped. In 2011, agents made about 327,000 arrests at the southern border, the fewest in nearly 40 years. The Homeland Security Department also removed a record 396,906 immigrants that year. In 2012, nearly 410,000 people were removed from the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has repeatedly touted those statistics as evidence that the border is now more secure than ever.
Experts have attributed the drop in arrests to a combination of factors, including record numbers of Border Patrol agents stationed along the Mexican border. Meissner said that the growth of illegal immigration in the U.S. is now at a standstill.
The report also highlighted workplace enforcement changes from raids targeting illegal immigrants to paperwork audits designed to root out employers who routinely hire illegal immigrant workers and the volume of people removed annually.
The report by MPI’s Meissner, Muzaffar Chishti, Donald Kerwin and Claire Bergeron, comes amid renewed interest in immigration reform from Congress and the White House. In the immediate aftermath of the November election, congressional Republicans suggested the time was right to begin reform talks anew. President Barack Obama, who won a record share of Hispanic voters, renewed a previous pledge to make immigration reform a priority.
In Mexico, rising tension at shelter for migrants
Travelers from Central America keep coming, despite the danger of the journey and the lower odds of finding work in the U.S. And locals are feeling the strain.
Mexico town split over Central American drifters
Migrants fall prey to kidnappers and worse while the Mexican government does little to protect them, rights groups say. But others say the migrants are forming criminal bands and should be deported
By Tracy Wilkinson
October 15, 2009
Reporting from Tultitlan, Mexico—
Gathered below an overpass on Independence Avenue, dressed in the multiple layers typical of homeless travelers, the migrants watched for the next northbound freight train through Tultitlan.
Many of them, mostly young men and boys, prepared to hop aboard, hobo-style, on an ever-more-precarious trip that might get them as far as the United States.
But fewer migrants are achieving that goal. Central Americans who for years have passed through Mexico en route to the U.S. are increasingly cutting their trips short as they run out of cash or become discouraged by fewer opportunities farther away from home.
The lingering presence of the migrants in this town, about an hour’s drive outside Mexico City, is tearing the small community apart, with some residents providing migrants with food, clothes and aid and others complaining of their alleged crimes, plus a new local government maneuvering to get rid of them.
The treatment of immigrants has become a divisive and embarrassing issue for Mexico. A country that has historically sent millions of its own people to the U.S. and elsewhere in search of work, Mexico has proved itself less than hospitable to Central Americans following the same calling.
Church and human rights groups say the migrants passing through are falling prey to kidnappers, extortionists and killers while the Mexican government does little to protect them. The national Human Rights Commission says it has recorded, in the last three years, 10,000 kidnappings of migrants, who are most frequently seized by predatory gangs who demand money from the victims’ families in their home countries.
In Tultitlan, migrants also complain of being beaten, rousted and robbed, often by police officers.
Jose Juan Hernandez, a state human rights officer, said he is investigating 30 formal complaints from the first half of this year. Hernandez, who regularly visits the migrants in their squalid, temporary encampments, provides water and tips on how not to fall into the hands of kidnappers and thieves.
“Very few want to stay in Mexico,” he said, adding that he sometimes sees women or entire families with children as young as 5 trying to make their way north. “They suffer a lot and risk everything. They see the economic situation is bad here and they don’t like the way they are treated.”
But many migrants stay because they fear that life would be worse in the U.S., where they could be arrested if caught after entering illegally and where job opportunities have withered. Money often is tight and many relatives in Central America or in the U.S. who might have helped are themselves strapped.
Hernandez has seen the number of arriving migrants increase by about 30% in the last year, with a huge uptick in Hondurans after the coup d’etat on June 28 that ousted their president and threw their country into political turmoil.
Among some residents of Tultitlan, there is sympathy. Nearly every day, bread distributor Jose Manzano drives by the knots of men sheltering under the overpass. When he can, he stops and hands out pallets of surplus bread from the trunk of his car.
“I see hunger, I see need, and I see gratitude in their eyes,” said Manzano, 55. “If I can help a little, why not?”
Patricia Camarena, an activist who works with the advocacy group Apoyo al Migrante, or Migrant Support, also brings help and basic first aid. She scolded authorities for what she sees as historical inaction.
“I feel angry because how can Mexico ask for immigration reform [of the United States], as well as talk about human rights?” she said as she washed the feet of a young migrant and gave him a pair of fresh socks. “I cannot stay quiet about what’s happening.”
A new city administration that took office in August, however, feels differently. Mayor Marco Calzada said he wants the federal government to deport the migrants. When they were just passing through, it was a manageable problem, he said, but now large numbers are staying and forming criminal bands.
Officials say the Tultitlan municipality, with a population of more than 432,000, sees hundreds of immigrants arriving each week.
“The numbers are over the top,” Calzada said. “They have invaded neighborhoods. They steal, they kidnap, they rape.”
City Hall is fielding complaints, the mayor added, but neither he nor his public security director, Jose Luis Medina, could provide statistics. Asked about complaints from migrants about police harassment and robbery, Medina would say only that about 10% of the previous municipal administration’s police department was fired for abuse, corruption or other infractions.
Advocacy groups counter that the Central Americans are being made scapegoats for all local crime.
By the overpass, the migrants sit in small groups or around rudimentary campfires. Some beg, some use drugs and some pick up legitimate day labor.
“I don’t want to go to the U.S. They arrest you there,” said Edil Alberto Perdomo, 24, of Honduras, who gets by on handouts. “We aren’t bothering anyone. We only want respect, we don’t want problems. I want to remain here but be left in peace.”
Douglas Martinez, a 29-year-old Salvadoran with a green bandanna on his head, has stuck around to earn a bit of money working in a junkyard. He seemed to be something of a leader in the group, directing others to stand in line to receive donated water.
Martinez said he’s been deported from the U.S. twice but still wants to try to reach Los Angeles to see his wife and children, who live there. “You know the need to see your family,” he said.
Like Martinez, Kevin Eduardo, a 13-year-old Honduran, and many others said they were trying to reach the U.S. Whether they will make it is anyone’s guess.
On the Border, in a Fix
Nogales, Mexico, feels overrun by migrants: the ones booted by the U.S. Officials say they boost crime, fill shelters and strain services.
Mexicans are feeling the strain caused by Illegal Immigrants
In Mexico, rising tension at shelter for migrants
Travelers from Central America keep coming, despite the danger of the journey and the lower odds of finding work in the U.S. And locals are feeling the strain.
Mexico a hazardous path for migrants
Many Central Americans heading to the U.S. aren’t heard from again. Now gangs are upping the ante.
12 minutes ago
alfred doyle Wrote:
Of adult immigrants from Guatemala, 55% have not completed high school; 8% have college degrees. Only 40% are proficient in English. Over half speak indigenous dialects. Their median income is $17,000/yr, compared to $20,000 for all Hispanics, $32,000 for U.S. Whites, about $35,000 for U.S. Asians.
Of immigrant households from Mexico and Central America, 54% use some form of welfare, 45% food assistance, 43% Medicaid. Comparable figures for Asian immigrants, 23%, 10%, 19%; for U.S. Whites 18%, 10%, 14%. But the Hispanic cohort is not a monolith; the comparable figures for Colombian immigrants are 28%, 16%, 22%.
Over 70% of our 11-12 million illegal aliens are from Mexico and Central America. Amnesty will put a lot of them on welfare and Medicaid at considerable expense; right now they can generally access these programs only through their U.S.- born children, whom by legislative inertia we still deem citizens, or by their 350,000 pregnancies each year (citizens in the womb). The giant expense of amnesty will come decades from now when these low-income folks age into Medicare and Social Security.
Statistics on the voluntary returns of Mexicans from the U.S. to their homeland are in part from Mexican government employment surveys. Of interest, the 1.4 million Mexicans returning home from 2005-2010 brought (for the most part voluntarily), 300,000 U.S. born children with them. So it may not always be cruel to ask illegal immigrants in the U.S. to leave, even though their children may have been born here.
The truck with the Guatemalan illegal immigrants was traveling at high speed, and did not obey orders to stop. The agent in the helicopter shot out its tires, and in crashed into a ditch. The people in the truck were not shot.
Even in a lean year, 260,000 Mexicans were caught at the border. Some of these apprehensions, departing from usual terminology, were called deportations. When polled later, 80% said they would try to enter again. (Pew Hispanic Center).
The problem: demasiado Mexicanos in this country is one of our many self-inflicted problems. No longer a melting pot, Ameican culture has become a salsa salad bowl con sprouts. Or maybe a crockpot.
How Mexico Got Back in the Game
“Today, Mexico exports more manufactured products than the rest of Latin America put together,” The Financial Times reported on Sept. 19, 2012. “Chrysler, for example, is using Mexico as a base to supply some of its Fiat 500s to the Chinese market.” What struck me most here in Monterrey, though, is the number of tech start-ups that are emerging from Mexico’s young population — 50 percent of the country is under 29 — thanks to cheap, open source innovation tools and cloud computing.
Barely 49 percent of Montgomery’s 972,000 residents are non-Hispanic whites, down from almost 60 percent in 2000 and 72 percent a decade before that. Hispanics rose by two-thirds and make up about 17 percent of the county’s population.
Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group in the country and are expected to become the majority in the United States by 2043. They already are the majority in 28 large U.S. cities, according to the U.S. Census, and Ohio’s Latino numbers have grown 64 percent in the past decade.
U.S. Latino population up 47% in 11 years
The Latino population in the U.S. rose 47 percent from 2000 to 2011. By far the largest segment of Latinos are people of Mexican descent, representing about two-thirds of all Latinos.
GREAT link – view the status of your on state.
The 14th amendment has been manipulated to defend the putative rights of illegal immigrants and establish in law that corporations are persons. The intent of the 14th Amendment addressed the issue concerning the legal status of freed slaves appropriately.
A HuffPo citizen cited this case to defend illegal immigration but the legal reasoning does not include anchor babies.
IF as many believe that the 14th was ONLY meant for the benefits of freed slaves you might want to explain this already decided Supreme Court decision: The clause’s meaning was tested again in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark 169 U.S. 649 (1898). The Supreme Court held that under the Fourteenth Amendment a man born within the United States to Chinese citizens who have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States and are carrying on business in the United States—and whose parents were not employed in a diplomatic or other official capacity by a foreign power—was a citizen of the United States. Subsequent decisions have applied the principle to the children of foreign nationals of non-Chinese descent.
Outside of the rhetoric produced by the journalist in the mainstream press, the truth is our there? You cannot convince me as a Independent voter in any way, that the American people want to incessantly keep paying for the children smuggled across our borders or pregnant mothers who use the airlines to also smuggle their unborn past unsuspecting Customs and immigration officers. This situation is despicable because once reaching sovereign America the female claims citizenship for the child. Relating to food stamps these households have a combination of illegal aliens (often parents) and citizens (usually kids); only the citizens are technically entitled for the benefits of the program, but if groceries purchased by Food Stamps are on the table, the common-sense conjecture is that all those in the family circle will benefit from it. Large illegal alien families with two or three progeny, with even more citizen children can apply for a cornucopia of food stamps, free breakfast and lunch, free education, free medical care and other citizen entitlements.
The 14th Amendment has also been employed by the Supreme Court to promulgate personhood “extralegal manner” for corporations.
The Great Recession May Be Over, but American Families Are Working Harder than Ever
The large and growing wealth gap separating white and black families is the product of stubborn barriers that disproportionately consign African Americans to less-valuable real estate and lower-paying jobs, according to a new study.
Without a flourishing, growing and vital middle class, citizens who have a perceived stake in society, as opposed to the power elite who control and the poor who wish for balance, there is no democracy or a free market. Without economic freedom, life is unfair, unequal, and futile for the majority.
Manufacturing the weapons of war to combat the Axis Powers erased the Depression and following World War II, production, along with consumerism, generated a thriving middle class. The millions of jobs that have been sent to Mexico and China have sliced the middle class: people and their communities are suffering.
To Americans, some aspects of deglobalization will seem delicious. Take manufacturing. Globalization has sucked factory jobs from the United States. Now, the tide may be turning. Just recently, Apple announced a $100 million investment to return some Mac computer production home. Though tiny, the decision reflects a trend.
General Electric’s sprawling Appliance Park in Louisville once symbolized the United States’ post-World War II manufacturing prowess, with employment peaking at 23,000 in 1973. Since then, jobs have shifted abroad or succumbed to automation. But now GE is returning production of water heaters, refrigerators and other appliances to Appliance Park from China and Mexico. Year-end employment is reckoned at 3,600, up 90 percent from a year earlier, writes Charles Fishman in an excellent article in December’s Atlantic.
Nor is GE alone, Fishman notes. Otis is moving some elevator production from Mexico to South Carolina. Wham-O is shifting Frisbee molding from China to California.
The changes are harbingers, contends the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which predicts a manufacturing revival. China’s labor cost advantage has eroded, it argues. In 2000, Chinese factory wages averaged 52 cents an hour, but annual double-digit percentage increases will bring that to $6 an hour in high-skilled industries by 2015. Although wages of U.S. production workers average $19 an hour, BCG argues that other non-wage factors favor the United States. American workers are more productive; automation has reduced labor’s share of expenses; and cheap natural gas further reduces costs. Finally, higher oil prices have boosted freight rates for imports.
By 2015, China’s overall cost advantage will shrivel to 7 percent, BCG forecasts. As important, it says, the United States will maintain significant cost advantages over other developed-country manufacturers: 15 percent over France and Germany; 21 percent over Japan; and 8 percent over Great Britain. The United States will be a more attractive production platform. Imports will weaken; exports will strengthen. BCG predicts between 2.5 million and 5 million new factory jobs by 2020. (For perspective: 5.7 million manufacturing jobs disappeared from 2000 to 2010.)
China’s one-child policy, implemented in 1980, has already started to erode the labor supply. In 2005, there were 120.7 million Chinese people between the ages of 15 and 19, according to estimates from the United Nations. By 2010, the number had fallen to 105.3 million. By 2015, it is expected to drop to 94.9 million.
Recapturing the American dream starts with the manufacturing middle class: Carlos M. Cardoso
Gina Johnson performs leak tests on hydraulic fittings at the Eaton Corp. plant in Berea in January.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, manufacturing gross domestic product dropped 40 percent from 1980 to 2007. After-tax income for the middle 60 percent of Americans fell 7 percent during the same time period.”
In N.C., Obama starts his policy campaign by pledging to shore up manufacturing
12:14 AM EST
WASHINGTON, DC. — “Scott Wilson began his story today from intellectually deprived Washington, D.C., as he traveled outside the Beltway for the first time since he started shaving several years ago.”
And his lede was the most trite, incorrect, and laughable line I’ve read in the WaPo in years (and that’s saying something).
Asheville is hardly “economically depressed Appalachia.” It is a thriving, liberal city in the Blue Ridge Mountains, known as the Paris of the South as well as the Beer Capital of America (with its world-renowned microbrewery community and a new New Belgium brewery opening in 2014); a foodie’s paradise and one of the restaurant capitals of the country, where the locavore movement was born and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has created an heirloom vegetable industry that has spread across the country; home to a professional opera company as well as numerous theaters, a thriving book publishing industry, and superb art museum; and the home of the President’s favorite restaurant in the United States, 12 Bones barbeque. Its public university, UNC Asheville, has been listed at least six times as one of the “best buys” and “top colleges” for liberal arts in the country; its private college, Warren Wilson College, is renowned for its Master of Arts in Literature program; the local community college, praised by the president in his remarks today, has won or placed second in nearly every natilonal culinary competition held for the past dozen years, to say nothing of its degrees in mechatronics & mechanical engineering; its graduates are snapped up by restaurants and resorts all over the world. And if you ever travel to the Russian Tea Room, order some Mountain Trout caviar served there; they buy it from the local Sunburst Trout company. Oh, yeah, and Asheville has the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore House.
PLEASE hire a real reporter before you buy the next one a plane ticket to this “economically depressed Appalachian town.”
And the bigger problem – which both presidents and CEOs are uncomfortable admitting – is that the manufacturing jobs coming back pay $14 to $18 an hour. These are not the classic auto jobs of U.S. manufacturing’s heydey that paid $40 an hour plus ample health and pension benefits.
Two kinds of middle-class Americans are struggling today — people who can’t find any work or enough work, and full-timers who can’t seem to get ahead.
Weak job creation has become the new normal
There is no doubt that America’s manufacturing base has declined, peaking at 19.6 million jobs in 1979 and now at just over 11 million jobs. Despite this economic transition, however, U.S. manufacturing jobs are still worth having. On average, full-time manufacturing work pays 20 percent more than full-time service-sector jobs. In my recent travels across the country, I met electronic technicians with only a high school diploma who had risen through the ranks of manufacturing companies to earn more than $100,000 a year. High school grads in retail or service-sector jobs rarely reach six figures….Of course, manufacturing alone cannot solve our unemployment problem. For the foreseeable future, the lion’s share of America’s job growth will be in the service sector. By 2014, employment in services is expected to reach 129 million jobs, with education and health care growing most quickly.
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2012
Manufacturing rebounds, but is it a renaissance?
Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. — Don’t tell Michael W. McLanahan that manufacturing in the United States is dead. His family-owned, privately held company has made mineral processing and farm equipment since its founding way back in 1835 — and is enjoying a boom.
“It was our best year ever,” said McLanahan, during a tour of the busy factory in central Pennsylvania that illustrates why manufacturing is growing twice as fast as the broader economy.
McLanahan, 73, is the fifth generation of his family to run the capital-intensive company. It builds equipment to help mining companies separate product from waste, the dairy industry to remove manure from sand and the energy sector to segregate gravel from silica sand used in fracking — the process of drilling through shale deposits thousands of feet below ground to reach natural gas.
McLanahan Corp. boomed even as U.S. economy struggled to gain momentum in 2011 and the global economy was panicked and fearful that Europe’s debt problems would drag everyone down. One important reason for McLanahan’s success — and for U.S. manufacturing’s rising luster — is an export revival.
McLanahan Corp. is no outlier. The manufacturing sector as a whole bounced back in 2011, adding more than 287,000 new positions over the past 13 months and shifting into higher gear after a summer slowdown brought on by Europe fears.
During 2011, exports of U.S. goods and services were up by 14.5 percent over 2010, to a record $2.1 trillion, the Commerce Department reported Friday. And despite Europe’s economic problems, U.S. exports to Europe rose 3.6 percent in December.
In the 1990s, as environmental regulation stiffened on the U.S. mining industry, McLanahan refocused the company to take advantage of export opportunities. Back then, about 10 percent of the company’s product went overseas. Today it’s about 70 percent.
Mineral-rich Australia is a big customer, and McLanahan has benefited greatly from that country’s high labor costs and weaker manufacturing base.
“We can build here and ship into Australia for cheaper than they can make it there,” said McLanahan. He laments that mining in the United States has shrunk so much and with it, domestic sales opportunities. “I knew that the future of our company depended on a robust export effort.”
During a recent visit, the Pennsylvania manufacturer was busily filling orders from Iceland and Colombia, as well as actively building log washers for the timber industry and equipment for dairy farmers. It recently installed equipment in Glen Rose, Texas, to prepare fracking sand for shipment. Natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania are consuming so much silica sand, he said, that the price now varies between $240 a ton to $400 a ton, compared to $10 a ton for sand used in concrete mix.
Other data also signal a nationwide manufacturing rebound. December orders for durable goods — big-ticket items such as cars, refrigerators and industrial equipment — rose by a better-than-expected 3 percent. That was on top of November’s upward revision to a 4.7 percent increase.
Similarly, Federal Reserve data for December show manufacturing output rose nine-tenths of a percentage point. For the final three months of 2011, industrial production rose at an annualized rate of 3.1 percent, the 10th straight quarter of growth.
It’s good news for a sector that accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy but lost more than 6 million jobs over the past decade. There’s even anecdotal evidence that some companies that had shifted production overseas are beginning to come home, a process known as in-sourcing or re-shoring. Some orders for iron castings that McLanahan had lost to China are returning because of quality and supply issues.
How many firms are moving back? It’s hard to know.
“It’s a hard number to quantify — the notion of out-sourcing and in-sourcing. There’s a hype to both of those numbers,” said Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. “We have a lot of foreign companies that are locating here. It’s a global decision-making process right now.”
Right now many factors are combining to make American manufacturing more attractive than it’s been in quite a while. These include rising production costs in China, flat wage growth in the United States, corporate borrowing rates near historic lows, a weakening of the dollar against the currencies of competitors in hot emerging economies and a boom in U.S. natural gas production that’s lowering a key cost for U.S. factories.
“Labor cost is not the only factor that is under consideration when you are locating. Taxes, energy costs, the advantage of being closer to the customer,” said Moutray. “A sea-change in our thinking, at least globally, is that the U.S. is now on the map when it comes to these decisions.”
Not everyone buys the trend.
“I think it feels better than it is. The data itself looks to be very seriously flawed, and although dead-cat bounce is too strong a term, there is a kernel of truth in it,” said Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents smaller U.S. manufacturers who do not operate abroad.
Tonelson points to a widening deficit in manufactured goods, noting that even as exports grow, ground is being lost to foreign competitors. A USBIC study released Feb. 7 found that Chinese exporters had captured 7.5 percent of American purchases of 108 different capital-intensive segments of U.S. high-tech manufacturing in 2010.
“It is very difficult to see how the manufacturing sector could be excelling as it is losing market share in its own backyard,” said Tonelson, author of the book ‘Race to the Bottom.’
Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, an industry research group, sees conditions for sustained improvement for U.S. manufacturers.
“The exchange rate is 20 percent lower if you look at the broader trade-weighted dollar, cheapest natural gas prices in the world, modest compensation increases, unit labor costs declining over the five years,” he said. “You could expect that in a current decision, firms would be more likely to purchase domestic than from a foreign supplier. That’s, I think, the good news.”
A less-discussed factor in the rebound of American manufacturing is last year’s horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and devastating flooding in Thailand later in the year. The two natural disasters forced multinational corporations to rethink how they purchase parts from across the globe.
“The bigger issue is do you want long supply chains now,” said Meckstroth, pointing to the auto sector that normally gets shipments twice a day to allow for production in 12-hour cycles. The process is called just-in-time manufacturing. While popular over the past decade, it is now less so, since natural disasters exposed the weaknesses in holding skimpy inventory.
“You can’t afford a ship not getting there, being delayed. The ideal situation is to have a factory closer to your supplier,” he said.
While good numbers of late point to improvement in demand for U.S. manufactured goods, there’ve also been significant gains in productivity, or the per-hour output of U.S. workers. It increased by an average of about 4 percent annually during the past decade, and reached a 5 percent increase from June to September last year. For durable goods, manufacturing productivity was up 9 percent.
Put simply, manufacturers are doing a lot more with fewer workers. This helps explain why the bounce-back of manufacturing employment is less than it appears, partly because it comes off a very steep decline. The U.S. economy contracted by about 5 percent during the Great Recession, but had recovered the lost terrain by last September.
“Manufacturing has only half-recovered, it’s 56 percent recovered,” said Meckstroth, noting that his sector fell 20 percent and has recovered about 11 percentage points. “It has to grow another 9 percent to get back to where it was before the recession.”
Why U.S. economic policy is paralyzed
By Robert J. Samuelson, Published: July 8, 2012
Wondering why government can’t restart the sluggish economy? Well, one reason is that we are still paying the price for the greatest blunder in domestic policy since World War II. This occurred a half-century ago and helps explain today’s policy paralysis. The history — largely unrecognized — is worth recalling.
Until the 1960s, Americans generally believed in low inflation and balanced budgets. President John Kennedy shared the consensus but was persuaded to change his mind. His economic advisers argued that, through deficit spending and modest increases in inflation, government could raise economic growth, lower unemployment and smooth business cycles.
None of this proved true; all of it led to grief.
Chapter One involved inflation. Increases weren’t modest; by 1980, they approached 14 percent annually. Business cycles weren’t smoothed; from 1969 to 1981, there were four recessions. Unemployment, on average, didn’t fall; the peak monthly rate — reached in the savage 1980-82 slump — was 10.8 percent. Americans lost faith in government and the future, much as now. Confidence revived only after high inflation was quashed in the early 1980s.
Now comes Chapter Two: How the retreat from balanced budgets has weakened America’s response to today’s downturn, the worst since the Great Depression. It has limited government’s ability to “stimulate” the economy through higher spending or deeper tax cuts — or, at least, to have a meaningful debate over these proposals. The careless resort to deficits in the past has made them harder to use in the present, when the justification is stronger.
The balanced-budget tradition was never completely rigid. During wars and deep economic downturns, budgets were allowed to sink into deficit. But in normal times, balance was the standard. Dueling political traditions led to this result. Thomas Jefferson thought balanced budgets would keep government small; Alexander Hamilton believed that servicing past debts would preserve the nation’s credit — the ability to borrow — when credit was needed.
Kennedy’s economists, fashioning themselves as heirs to John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), shattered this consensus. They contended that deficits weren’t immoral and could be manipulated to boost economic performance. This destroyed the intellectual and moral props for balanced budgets
Norms changed. Political leaders and average Americans noticed that continuous deficits did no great economic harm. Neither, of course, did they do much good, but their charm was “something for nothing.” Politicians could spend more and tax less. This appealed to both parties and the public. Since 1961, the federal government has balanced its budget only five times. Arguably, only one of these (1969) resulted from policy; the other four (1998-2001) stemmed heavily from the surging tax revenue of the then-economic boom.
We are now facing the consequences of all these permissive deficits. The recovery is lackluster. Economic growth creeps along at 2 percent annually or less. Unemployment has exceeded 8 percent for 41 months. But economic policy seems ineffective. Since late 2008, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low. And budget deficits are enormous, about $5.5 trillion since 2008.
Only one group of economists has a coherent response: Keynesians. Led by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, they argue that the deficits haven’t been large enough. If consumers and businesses aren’t spending enough to revive the economy, government must substitute. Its support would be temporary until more jobs and profits strengthened private spending. Sounds convincing.
But it collides with the 1960s’ legacy. Running routine deficits meant that the federal debt (all past annual deficits) was already high before the crisis: 41 percent of the economy, or gross domestic product (GDP), in 2008. Huge deficits have now raised that to about 70 percent of GDP; Krugman-like proposals would increase debt further. It would approach the 90 percent of GDP that economists Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard and Carmen Reinhart of the Peterson Institute have found 015 is associated with higher interest rates and slower economic growth.
Since 1800, major countries have experienced 26 episodes when government debt has reached 90 percent of GDP for at least five years, they find in a study done with Vincent Reinhart of Morgan Stanley. Periods of slower economic growth typically lasted two decades.
Now, imagine that the country had adhered to its balanced-budget tradition before the crisis. Some deficits would have remained, but the cumulative debt would have been much lower: plausibly between 10 percent and 20 percent of GDP. There would have been more room for expansion. Balancing the budget might even have forced Congress to face the costs of an aging society.
The blunder of the Sixties has had a long afterlife. Economic policy is trapped between weak demand and the fears of too much debt. Yesterday’s Keynesians undercut today’s Keynesians. “In the long run we are all dead,” Keynes said. But others are alive — and suffer from bad decisions made decades ago.
The US economy and jobs: the basic arithmetic
Economics pundits veer wildly from elation to despair. The reality is that jobs and growth will improve – just not nearly enough
FOR RELEASE: March 1, 2013
|MANUFACTURING AT A GLANCE
|Customers’ Inventories||46.5||48.5||-2.0||Too Low||Faster||15|
|Backlog of Orders||55.0||47.5||+7.5||Growing||From Contracting||1|
*Number of months moving in current direction.
The following are the top-to-bottom rankings of America’s 102 major markets in terms of 2013 small-business vitality, as calculated by The Business Journals:
Feb 4, 2013, 1:00am EST
Salt Lake City
New York City
Des Moines, Iowa
Palm Bay-Melbourne, Fla.
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Baton Rouge, La.
El Paso, Texas
Little Rock, Ark.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
New Haven, Conn.
Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.
4:16 AM EST
“Growing the Middle Class?”
Manufacturing output rose in the fourth quarter at an Annual Rate of 1.9 percent. Barclays Capital estimate growth will likely pick up in the January-March quarter to an annual rate of 1.5 percent, analysts forecast. Still, unemployment remains high at 7.9 %. Americans are seeing smaller paychecks this year because of an increase in payroll taxes, which could offset any benefits from stronger hiring.
1.5 or even 1.9% AR is not what a recovery is supposed to look like. In the President’s 1st term Fed Quantitative Easing (QE-1, 2 and 3) of banking, energy, and auto industries have proven that government deleveraging of private debt doesn’t guarantee economic growth. In 2010, QE-2 did more for banks as printed money was used to strengthen balance sheets, rather than to provide business loans. Government backed loans given to emerging green energy projects for research and development did not create the immediate jobs Americans so desperately needed. Since QE-3 was established last September, the Feds continue to pump money into the system keeping short-term interest low indefinitely. This could threaten the fragile economy with destabilizing inflation, again stifling the middle class.
The middle class has traditionally benefited from business expansion and private investment. The President’s left leaning economic agenda will bring America down just like Japan, unless someone turns off Obama’s borrowing taps very soon. The depth of the recession was made longer by his wrong-headed use of Keynesian economic theory. Obama, and the Federal Reserve, think that the problem is that there is not enough money in circulation and that the answer is to create more by the latest Fed policy of buying gov- ernment bonds using interest from mortgage bonds in their portfolios. The very middle class Obama meant to help will be pushed down even further.
Updated February 2, 2013, 7:10 p.m. ET
America’s Baby Bust
The nation’s falling fertility rate is the root cause of many of our problems. And it’s only getting worse.
Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.
Without thriving families, generations that flourish based upon values and ecomomic opportunity, society decays. The nation suffers.
Census: U.S. Poverty Rate Spikes, Nearly 50 Million Americans Affected
November 15, 2012 10:01 AM
WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – As President Barack Obama is set to begin his second term, new statistics on America’s poverty rate indicate that nearly 50 million Americans, more than 16 percent of the population, are struggling to survive.
New figures released by the Census Bureau this week found a spike in poverty numbers last year, going from 49 million in 2010 to 49.7 million last year. The numbers may come as a surprise to Congress, which estimated in September that the poverty rate would drop to 46.2 million. One of the most startling findings showed that almost 20 percent of American children continue to live in poverty.
The Associated Press reports that the new figures are based on an updated formula devised by the Census Bureau to help give the government a better understanding for how to use safety-net programs.
The numbers found that Hispanics and people living in urban areas had a higher chance of struggling to make it financially. Poverty among full-time and part-time workers also saw a jump from its 2010 numbers.
Based on the formula implemented by the Census Bureau, California tops the list as the sate most likely to bring about poverty. The top five is rounded out by the District of Columbia, Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
“We’re seeing a very slow recovery, with increases in poverty among workers due to more new jobs which are low-wage,” Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison economist who specializes in poverty, told The Associated Press. “As a whole, the safety net is holding many people up, while California is struggling more because it’s relatively harder there to qualify for food stamps and other benefits.”
Adults in the age groups of 18 to 64 and 65 and older saw spikes in their poverty rates. Hispanics and Asians saw greater spikes than white people, according to the statistics. Black people saw a slight decrease in poverty, but still have a rate of 25.7 percent.
The age at which men and women marry is now at historic heights—27 for women, and 29 for men—and is still climbing. The age at which women have children is also increasing, but not nearly as quickly as the delay in marriage. Knot Yet explores the positive and negative consequences for twentysomething women, men, their children, and the nation as a whole of these two trends, as well as their economic and cultural causes.
Study: Delaying marriage hurts middle-class Americans most
By Carol Morello, Published: March 15
The tendency of young adults to put off marriage has taken a harsh toll on Americans without college degrees, according to a new study by a group of family researchers.
The study, titled Knot Yet, belies the mythology popularized on shows such as “Girls,” with characters spending their 20s establishing careers and relationships before deciding to settle down and have children. While that scenario portrays the experiences of many college-educated Americans, women with only high school degrees or a year or two of college are more likely to have their first child while cohabiting with a man who struggles to find a stable job that pays enough to support a family, the study said.
The study was conducted by researchers for the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the Relate Institute. It is part of a growing body of research into the impact of delayed marriage as the median age when people marry has risen to 27 for women and 29 for men.
The study found a large educational and class divide. College-educated women typically have their first child two years after marrying. The high school graduates as a group have their first child two years before they marry.
In a statistic that runs counter to the image of unmarried mothers as reckless teenagers, the study said 58 percent of first births to women who have graduated only from high school are out of wedlock.
“Everyone is pushing marriage to their late 20s and early 30s, the Wal-Mart cashier as well as the Wells Fargo executive,” said W. Bradley Wilcox of the University of Virginia, one of the authors of the study. “But the Wells Fargo executive is getting married in her late 20s and having her first child in her early 30s. The Wal-Mart checkout guy is having his first kid in his early 20s, and often marries in his late 20s, often to someone who is not the mother of his first child.”
The Knot Yet study says economic and cultural forces are responsible for current attitudes toward marriage.
The decline in real wages for men lacking college degrees has eroded the economic foundations of marriage. And young adults, many of them children of divorce themselves, are inclined to view marriage less as a cornerstone to their future lives than a capstone to put in place after they have built a foundation, the study said.
“Progressives stress the economics, conservatives stress the culture,” said Wilcox. “We say both matter. They both are undercutting the viability of marriage for young adults today.”
Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California at Hastings, said the trend for working-class Americans to delay marriage and have children before they marry echoes behavior that was noticed in lower-income people several decades ago. As did the Knot Yet study, Williams blamed it on the de-stigmatization of out-of-wedlock births and shrinking blue-collar wages.
“The people who used to have good-paying union jobs, those jobs are going, going gone,” she said. “As the missing middle was robbed of financial stability, it also has been robbed of stable family relationships, exactly as happened to the poor.”
Americans of all classes are more willing to hold out for the ideal, she said — even if it makes the goal more difficult to attain.
“Marriage is linked with the white picket fence in your head,” she said. “When they can’t get the white picket fence, and a certain level of stability,” they defer marriage and have higher rates of nonmarital births. That in turn fuels more poverty, and takes them further away from the white picket fence.”
March 6, 2013 at 10:20 AM
The Dow and our great divergence
Posted by Jon Talton
The Dow Jones Industrial Index is a great indicator of the great divergence facing America today. The Dow hit a new record on Tuesday — although adjusted for inflation, it’s still below its 2000 level — and was still rising this morning. The index has its critics simply as a market measure, but there’s no doubt that thanks to easy money from the Federal Reserve and record corporate profits, the stock market has enjoyed a good four years. So much for Obama “socialism.” Meanwhile, unemployment remains stubbornly high, middle-class wealth is devastated from the housing crash and years of stagnant wages, while economic mobility is largely stuck. The hangover from the Great Recession includes a $1 trillion gap in output. Nearly 48 million are on food stamps. Political paralysis makes it impossible to engage in the stimulus, especially infrastructure spending, that would help. Instead, we’re doing austerity, which has failed across Europe. Naked Capitalism comments:
The Fed has been trying to reflate asset values to goose the real economy. What it has done instead is goose the incomes of the top 1% while everyone else is on the whole worse off. But the central bank is suffering from a very bad case of “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” syndrome. It’s unwilling or unable to admit that its program is working only for a very few. It has convinced itself that if it just keeps on the same failed path long enough, things will turn around. As we can see from Japan, “long enough” can exceed 20 years, and it is not clear that the latest Japanese pump priming will finally pull the economy out of the ditch.
Stock ownership is heavily concentrated among the wealthy. About 21 million households own stocks directly. Most own stocks indirectly, through mutual funds, often from their 401(k) accounts, many of them small. According to the Investment Company Institute, an industry group, 44 percent of American households were invested in mutual funds in 2011 vs. a record 45.7 percent in 2000.
For this group that isn’t wealthy, that makes most of its money from wages rather than investments, the calculus is complicated. Each wears several hats: Investor, shareholder, employee, “consumer” and citizen. They often conflict. For example, that merger that makes the Dow go up might also cost you your job. Your vote by buying as a “consumer” might help proto-monopolies buy votes in Congress to further the power of the oligarchs, to your disadvantage. Meanwhile, you wonder what happened to that locally owned small business. And given the composition of most jobs being created now — part-time, few benefits — many Americans don’t wear so many hats.
And that’s if you can get a job. The shortfall between payroll employment and the number of jobs needed to keep up with growth in the labor force is 9.1 million. That’s a more important data point than the Dow.
Earnings are at record levels, and corporate balance sheets have never been stronger. Corporate insolvency, especially of the big, household name variety, is comparatively rare, making this a very unusual downturn by past standards. Normally, during a prolonged credit squeeze, companies go out of business in their thousands. Others slash their dividends to stay afloat. But it’s not happened this time on anywhere near the scale you’d expect for such a prolonged economic malaise.
Why? One reason is zero interest rates, allowing companies which, in a conventional recession, would have gone bust, to stay in business. At the same time, banks have been bailed out, so that bad debts have in effect been nationalised. Taxpayers rather than investors are being made to pay the price for past excesses. The insolvency problem has been transferred from the private to the public sector.
In this sense, action by policymakers has ensured that this time really is different. It’s labour rather than capital which has been most damaged by the downturn. In sending stock prices to record highs, investors are only just beginning to catch up with this reality.
Financialization of the economy has led to what economists call “rent seeking,” focusing on making government change the rules to make a business more profitable rather than investing in the production of real goods and services. It also offers the very wealthy a casino including $600 trillion worth of derivatives rather than having them invest in job-creating enterprises.
Highly consolidated industries also use their semimonopoly power to drive down wages and make unionization more difficult.
Intergenerational wealth has diverged, with the rich doing better than ever while most households, struggling since 2000, saw a huge part of their wealth destroyed in the Great Recession.
In addition, educational attainment has faltered since 1980. What’s our response? Lay off teachers and raise tuition for universities.
But none of this just happened because of a supposedly flawless free market. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in his book, “The Price of Inequality,” “Markets are shaped by laws, regulations and institutions.”
Whatever the causes, little is being done to correct our trajectory into historic high inequality that is greater than other advanced nations.
Things may have to get worse before change happens. One thing is clear: Our situation is unsustainable and un-American.
1 in 3 Illinoisans lives in or near poverty level: report
Baltimore’s poverty rate unchanged at 1 in 4 residents
Number of working poor families rises by 200,000 in one year
1/16/2013 12:13am by Chris in Paris
Not that many people in power are paying attention, but the problem of “the working poor” is serious, and growing.
Instead of continuing to focus on expensive military toys and free money for Wall Street, this deserves a lot more attention.
What’s interesting to note is that the problem is greater in the South and Southwest, which are typically Republican voting areas. (Not that that’s a surprise to most of us who have been paying attention.) It seems all that GOP concern over gay marriage, abortion, and Mexicans (though really, any Latino freaks them out) hasn’t done a lot to address the actual problems facing Red State families.
The big question remains: Will Red Staters ever figure out that the Republican party doesn’t represent their best interests?
The number of U.S. families struggling with poverty despite parents being employed continued to grow in 2011 as more people returned to work but mostly at lower-paying service jobs, an analysis released on Tuesday shows.
More working parents have taken jobs as cashiers, maids, waiters and other low-wage jobs in fast growing sectors that offer fewer hours and benefits, according to The Working Poor Project, a privately funded effort aimed at improving economic security for low-income families.
The result is 200,000 more such working families – the so-called “working poor” – emerged in 2011 than in 2010, according to the report, based on analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
Fathers disappear from households across America
Big increase in single mothers
By Luke Rosiak – The Washington Times Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Nicole Hawkins‘ three daughters have matching glittery boots, but none has the same father. Each has uniquely colored ties in her hair, but none has a dad present in her life.
As another single mother on Sumner Road decked her row-house stoop with Christmas lights and a plastic Santa, Ms. Hawkins recalled that her middle child’s father has never spent a holiday or birthday with her. In her neighborhood in Southeast Washington, 1 in 10 children live with both parents, and 84 percent live with only their mother.
In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.
America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro , vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.
People “look at a child in need, in poverty or failing in school, and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ But what we do is ask, ‘Why does that child need help in the first place?’ And the answer is often it’s because [the child lacks] a responsible and involved father,” he said.
The spiral continues each year. Married couples with children have an average income of $80,000, compared with $24,000 for single mothers.
“We have one class that thinks marriage and fatherhood is important, and another which doesn’t, and it’s causing that gap, income inequality, to get wider,” Mr. DiCaro said.
The predilection among men to walk away from their babies is concentrated in the inner cities. In Baltimore, 38 percent of families have two parents, and in St. Louis the portion is 40 percent.
The near-total absence of male role models has ripped a hole the size of half the population in urban areas. Tiny selfless deeds trickle in to fill that hole as the natural human desire for intimacy is fulfilled: One afternoon last week as a girl hoisted a half-eaten ice cream sandwich high over her pigtailed head, Larry McManus, the father of the girl’s sister, bent down to eat out of her hands as he picked up the girls from school.
“I know dads that say they ain’t their kids. I see dads being disrespectful of the mothers. And I see ones who take other men’s kids to football games because they know their fathers aren’t around,” said Mr. McManus , an ex-felon who said he is “trying to make a lot of changes right now.”
Asked his daughter’s age, he consults with her sister.
“Five. She’s in pre-K,” the girl answered.
“She’s 5,” he echoed. “Mmm, that was good,” he said gently of the ice cream sandwich. “Can I have another bite, please?”
“American society is dysfunctional, characterized by a faulty understanding of the male-female relationship,” reflected [Pat] Fagan.
The institute’s data is similar to that of the November Time-Pew Forum poll surveying Americans’ thoughts and behaviors related to marriage and family.
The three-part poll’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data showed that traditional experiences of marriage and family are changing to favor co-habitation and un-wedded families.
More than half of single respondents reported that they lived with, and in some cases are still living with, a partner. Among unmarried parents cohabitating with their partners, 62 percent believed marriage was obsolete.
Romney, Obama must address crisis of U.S. families
Both presidential candidates are now seeking to polarize, the author says. | AP Photos
By PATRICK H. CADDELL and DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN | 6/12/12 9:27 PM EDT
The decline of the American family is the hidden issue in our election. Sadly, neither presidential candidate is talking about our family structure or traditional values in any positive or constructive way. But we are now facing a crisis of serious proportions that affects all Americans, regardless of race and class.
Charles Murray details the breakdown of working-class white families in his recent book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” It amplifies what Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote almost 50 years ago about the implications of the disintegration of the black family for American life.
This problem requires affirmative policies that strengthen the nuclear family, enhance traditional values and develop inclusive social and economic policies. Yet both presidential candidates are now seeking to polarize on the basis of sexual preference, marital status or lifestyle.
We cannot achieve our national goals, much less reach a broad-based national sense of purpose, without addressing the issue of the family and the related challenges that flow from it. It is just not the Democrats and Republicans who have ignored the issue — our cultural institutions, the media and, in large measure, our elites have failed to address this problem, as well.
President Barack Obama has used his presidency only to be a governmental and political leader. He has failed to offer moral leadership, much less address the issue of the American family — an issue he successfully addressed in his own personal life.
Obama’s recent announcement of support for gay marriage was just his latest assertion of a Hollywood-Big Money-friendly campaign position. It follows his recent announcement that religious-affiliated health care institutions must condone contraception — notwithstanding the preference of those institutions or their leadership.
Yet the president has been virtually silent about the wide range of issues concerning family structure, education and job training, as well as youth unemployment. He has certainly not mentioned the high rate of black teenage unemployment.
Mitt Romney has similarly avoided offering a specific vision for America’s future — unlike Ronald Reagan. Romney has failed to suggest that his candidacy offers anything but a set of fiscal principles divergent from those Obama and the Democrats have advanced. In fact, Romney has said he is “not concerned about the very poor.” Though he tried to clarify his remarks the next day, Romney has not presented any comprehensive social and economic policies that could enhance family structure and benefit all Americans.
Romney’s support for traditional family values has been driven more by his attack on gay marriage and support for anti-abortion rights than any acknowledgement of the challenges facing families today. He has offered no new policies to strengthen and help families.
Both parties’ apparent willingness to ignore this major issue is disheartening. No one is discussing the fact that divorce, in large measure, is driven by the challenges families face trying to support themselves, their children and their aging parents. Neither party has acknowledged the challenges created by the disintegration of both black and white families, nor have they offered a pro-family agenda to strengthen and rebuild those families.
This crisis requires immediate attention, however. Only one in five U.S. households consists of a married mother, father and at least one child, according to the 2010 census. In 1950, 43 percent of households fit the traditional mold.
Marriage rates are down, divorce rates are up and more babies are being born out of wedlock. The proportion of married U.S. adults dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2009, the lowest percentage the Census Bureau has ever recorded. Meanwhile, U.S. divorce rates are between 40 percent and 50 percent.
Forty-one percent of U.S. babies are born out of wedlock, and more than half of all births to women younger than 30 are to single mothers. Out-of-wedlock childbearing varies by race, with 72 percent of black babies born out of wedlock, and this number exceeds 80 percent among low-income, inner-city blacks. For Latinos, 53 percent of births are out of wedlock; while among whites, 29 percent of births are outside marriage.
Census data show a high correlation of single parent homes to social, health and economic instability. Marriage rates have declined most steeply among young adults ages 25 to 34 whose education does not exceed a high school diploma. Approximately 45 percent of children raised by divorced mothers, and 69 percent of children raised by never-married mothers lived at or near the poverty line, with few prospects of economic success.
Growing up in a single-parent family can greatly affect children as they become teenagers and young adults. More than 50 percent of all youths put in jail for criminal behavior grew up in one-parent families. Three-quarters of teenage pregnancies are to adolescents from single-parent homes.
We need clear policies that emphasize the primacy of the nuclear family and encourage families to stay together. We also need policies that encourage young people to become responsible adults and successful employees by improving the overall quality of education and job training. Non-high school graduates are almost four times as likely to become unemployed as college graduates. For those who do find jobs, they will most likely make less than half of what college graduates do.
Such policies offer Americans the best chance for success in life — both individually and collectively. The first presidential candidate to address this issue in a way that seeks not to divide but to unite — based on the common goal of strengthening families and promoting family values — will likely gain a decisive advantage in a presidential race that is essentially deadlocked.
Monday, 31 Mar 2008 07:57 AM
By Pat Boone
Just a few days ago, I had the encouraging privilege of participating in the installation of Kenneth Canfield as the new executive director of the Boone Center for the Family, launched 12 years ago at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
The purpose of this Center is to analyze all the factors contributing to happy and productive families and to teach them in many ways to people who are already married, whose marriages and families may be in trouble and looking for help, and especially to young people who aren’t married, but who seriously want to create and nurture happy families.
Obviously, this is something very important to me, Shirley my wife of 54 years, and to a growing host of expert observers of America’s social fabric.
The meeting, attended by a large crowd of influential educators, business leaders, ministers, psychologists and counselors, started in a very upbeat manner. In its relatively brief existence, it’s already made significant strides and is being recognized as an important resource in the preservation of society’s basic foundation. And while the Center has had able leadership already, the new director has very impressive credentials and the endorsement of knowledgeable experts all the way to the upper reaches of our government.
As all these positives were underscored, there was a feeling of elation, of hope. But then we heard from Keith Phillips, founder and director of World Impact, an inner city organization.
Keith exudes an electric urgency whenever he speaks, but his short remarks shocked us a lot more than usual. We all knew that after the 1992 L.A. riots, Keith moved his all-white family into Watts, determined to do something himself to assuage the anger and poverty and deterioration of the whole social structure in the black community.
It had taken almost unthinkable courage — and faith. And since then, he and World Impact have moved into more of the worst, most run-down and needy cities in America, improving situations dramatically. He’s a genuine hero, and we looked forward eagerly to what he might say. But we weren’t ready for “75 percent of the children born in urban hospitals this year will be born out of wedlock.”
Or “50 percent of children born in inner-city hospitals will be born addicted.”
Or “There are more African American young men in prison in the U.S. than in colleges and universities. There are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S.”
Or for this: “In L.A. County there are 90,000 homeless; and close to 40 percent are women and children!”
We were all stunned. For a moment, many of us were tempted to feel “Well, then it’s over. What’s the use of our even going on with our efforts? We can’t undo this horrible situation; it’s totally out of hand, and getting worse every day. American society has developed a deadly cancer, and it’s spreading exponentially!”
But we caught our breath, prayed collectively and individually, and we responded something like King David, who, after his own family had been abducted by marauders, “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” We pressed on in our meeting, with renewed zeal and energy.
Shirley and I joined the already formed and active Center for the Family some years ago, convinced that the family is the center of God’s whole plan for man on this earth. He started with a nuclear family, and directed the first man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply, and populate the earth.”
When, after several hundred years, He saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” the Bible says “the Lord was sorry that He had made man; He was grieved in His heart.” But when He caused the great flood that all ancient civilizations record, He saved one family, eight people, to start all over again, and commissioned them to implement His plan.
Still later, in the days of Abraham, God determined to completely destroy the corrupt cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, raining fire and brimstone on all the inhabitants — except one family, Lot and his wife and two daughters. On and on the story goes, the creator working with and through families, fathers and mothers and their children to perform his will . . . and in the process, become the eternal family with whom he plans to dwell eternally.
These are my convictions, based on the best-selling book in the history of mankind, the Bible. I know some will scoff and reject the Bible accounts, but the scoffer is at a great disadvantage when confronted by eye-witness accounts. And then he must try to explain the continued, repeated corruption of society when the Bible is ignored; and he must try to conjure up some other solution for man’s failing, something other than returning to God’s original blueprint for humanity, the family.
And in this election year, I feel compelled to pass along some data just provided to me by Frances Rice of the National Black Republican Organization.
Quoting statistics combed from the 2004 University of Georgia Selig Center Study, the National Black Chamber of Congress, and the 2004 National Urban League’s “State of Black America” report: “In 1950, when most blacks were Republicans, 63% of blacks were married. By 2002, when most blacks were Democrats, only 35% of blacks were married.
“In 1960, when most blacks were Republicans, 80% of black children were born in wedlock. By 2002, when most blacks were Democrats, only 25% of black children were born in wedlock.”
There are many more sobering and revealing figures in these reports; but for this column the simple truth is that, in contemporary American politics, the party of Lincoln has always been the most committed to the traditional structure that made America great, most supportive of true civil rights and the black citizen—and most supportive of the family.
Back in Biblical Ziklag, recounted in I Samuel 30, after David and his men found their city burned to the ground and their wives and families taken captive, and after he “strengthened himself in the Lord” and sought His directions, he and his men attacked their attackers and “recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away” — most notably their families.
I’m convinced that the family is at the center of true conservative principles. Grounded in the eternal plan of our creator, they are our country’s only hope.
Now straight couples will want to be civil partners
The institution of marriage could be finished if cohabiters won equal rights, writes Cristina Odone
Wiz kid: Brilliant young programmer Zora Ball, created a video game in a class about a ballerina searching for a jewel
In my view, the purpose of education in the modern era of the nation-state serves to inculcate a national culture and common sense of identity that benefits the individual and society.
Long Term Unemployment at Highest Level Since WWII
While the unemployment rate for recent four year college graduates is 6.8%, according to researchers the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates is nearly 24%. Additionally, nearly 200,000 jobs for workers with at least a Bachelor’s degree were added during the recession; 2 million jobs for college-educated workers have been added during the recovery. At the same time, nearly four out of every five jobs destroyed by the recession were held by workers with a high school diploma or less.
Highly skilled: A McDonald’s outpost in Winchedon, Massachusetts, pictured, has just posted a call-out for a full time cashier – but insists only college graduates need apply
It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk
Rich Addicks for The New York Times
Megan Parker, right, a law firm receptionist, and Laura Burnett, a paralegal, are college graduates, as are all their co-workers.
ATLANTA —The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.
Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills.
This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office “runner” — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.
“College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck.”
Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites.
With Positions to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection
Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times
Paul Sullivan, a video editor, has been invited for numerous interviews from the same company, but has not been offered the job.
By CATHERINE RAMPELL
Published: March 6, 2013
American employers have a variety of job vacancies, piles of cash and countless well-qualified candidates. But despite a slowly improving economy, many companies remain reluctant to actually hire, stringing job applicants along for weeks or months before they make a decision.
If they ever do.
The number of job openings has increased to levels not seen since the height of the financial crisis, but vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to — an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009, according to a new measure of Labor Department data by the economists Steven J. Davis, Jason Faberman and John Haltiwanger.
Some have attributed the more extended process to a mismatch between the requirements of the four million jobs available and the skills held by many of the 12 million unemployed. That’s probably true in a few high-skilled fields, like nursing or biotech, but for a large majority of positions where candidates are plentiful, the bigger problem seems to be a sort of hiring paralysis.
“There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.”
As a result, employers are bringing in large numbers of candidates for interview after interview after interview. Data from Glassdoor.com, a site that collects information on hiring at different companies, shows that the average duration of the interview process at major companies like Starbucks, General Mills and Southwest Airlines has roughly doubled since 2010.
“After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say, ‘That’s it, I’m not going back,’ ” said Paul Sullivan, 43, an exasperated but cheerful video editor in Washington. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number. And besides, if I don’t go, they’ll just eliminate me if something else comes up because they’ll think I have an attitude problem.”
Like other job seekers around the country, he has been through marathon interview sessions. Mr. Sullivan has received eighth- and ninth-round callbacks for positions at three different companies. Two of those companies, as it turned out, ultimately decided not to hire anyone, he said; instead they put their openings “on hold” because of budget pressures.
At one company, while signing into the visitor’s log for the sixth time, he was chided by the security guard.
“He thought I worked there and just kept forgetting my security badge,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He couldn’t believe I was actually there for another interview. I couldn’t either! But then I put on a happy face, went upstairs and waited for another round of questions.”
The hiring delays are part of the vicious cycle the economy has yet to escape: jobless and financially stretched Americans are reluctant to spend, which holds back demand, which in turn frays employers’ confidence that sales will firm up and justify committing to a new hire. Job creation over the last two years has been steady but too slow to put a major dent in the backlog of unemployed workers, and the February jobs report due out on Friday is expected to be equally mediocre. Uncertainty about the effect of fiscal policy in Washington is not helping expectations for the rest of the year, either.
“If you have an opening and are not sure about the economy, it’s pretty cheap to wait for a month or two,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. But in the aggregate, those little delays, coupled with fiscal uncertainty, are stretching out the recovery process. “It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”
Employers might be making candidates jump through so many hoops partly because so many workers have been jobless for months or years, and hiring managers want to make sure the candidates’ skills are up to date, said Robert Shimer, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.
But there’s also little pressure to hire right now, so long as candidates are abundant and existing staff members are afraid to refuse the extra workload created by an unfilled position. Employers can keep dragging out the hiring process until they’re more confident about their business — or at least until they find the superstar candidate.
“They’re chasing after that purple squirrel,” said Roger Ahlfeld, 44, of Framingham, Mass., using a human resources industry term for an impossibly qualified job applicant.
An H.R. professional himself, Mr. Ahlfeld has been looking for work since August 2011, and has been frustrated to find himself the “silver medalist” for a couple of jobs after six separate rounds of interviews totaling 10 to 20 hours for each position, not including prep work and transportation time. For both of those jobs, though, there still has been no gold medalist. After eight months, they remain unfilled, with the companies intermittently posting a job ad, taking it down, and then posting it again.
In addition to demanding credentials beyond what a given position traditionally requires, employers have thrown up more hurdles as screening devices.
In his job hunt over the last year, Mr. Sullivan has taken several video-editing tests, which he says he aced. But he has also been subjected to a battery of personality and psychological exams, a spelling quiz and even a math test (including a question that began, to the best of his recollection, “If John is on a train traveling from New York at 40 miles per hour, and Susie is on a train from Boston…”).
He passed the math test with a 90 percent score, he said.
“Sister Callahan would be very proud that I was able to remember math problems I learned in prep school,” he said. “But what on earth does that have to do with the job I was applying for? It was like something out of ‘Seinfeld.’ ”
For the companies themselves, economists say, the gauntlets they have constructed may be wasting managers’ time and company resources. Besides, there are diminishing returns to interviewing candidates so many times; a recent internal analysis at Google, a company that developed a reputation for over-interviewing even when the economy was good, showed that the optimal number of interviews for any given candidate was four. But according to user reviews on Glassdoor.com, the average Google interview process has expanded in the last two years, to 30 days from 21. Google declined to comment.
And for applicants, the expenses add up fast.
Mr. Sullivan calculates that the three positions he applied for cost him $520.36 in parking fees, two parking tickets, gas and trips to Starbucks while waiting for his interviews. (He recently switched to taking a coffee thermos, he says.) That excludes the costs of producing and mailing his video work, dry-cleaning bills for the suits he dons for interviews and thousands of dollars of fees to become certified in new video-editing programs.
Job seekers just have to hope that the investment pays off.
Jameson Cherilus, 23, counts himself as one of the lucky ones. Since graduating at the top of his 2012 class at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, he has spent hundreds of dollars traveling from his home in Bridgeport to interview for jobs in New York. After about six weeks of interviews for an entry-level administrative position at a talent agency, he was finally offered the job in mid-December.
There’s just one catch.
More than two months later, he said, “They still haven’t given me my start date.”
I was given a third interview at a major retailer and told to bring a strategic plan for a particular issue they were facing. I prepared this plan. On the day of the interview, I got horribly lost and called the interviewer to apologize and say that I would be late and being late is unacceptable and a terrible first impression, so it was completely okay if she did not want to interview me. She said it was okay and that I should come ahead anyway.
We had what I thought was a good interview. She told me about the next steps that I would be asked to take and who I would next interview with. She said she would call me next week.
Long story short, there was no fourth interview. When next we spoke, she told me she could not hire me because I had not prepared what she had asked for–and then named a completely different assignment that was never mentioned to me. And then added, “And you were late.”
This is just a more recent experience. I’ve had plenty of others like it. When I am in a position to hire someone, I will NEVER treat people the way I have been treated.
March 6, 2013 at 4:15 p.m.
Laughingdragon SF Bay Area
“I was ….told to bring a strategic plan…”
This is a trick to have people consult on issues without paying them for their work. Then the lower level management presents it to upper management as their own work.
March 7, 2013 at 9:33 a.m
Job Vacancies Taking Longer To Fill, Even As Millions Are Unemployed, Study Finds
Posted: 03/06/2013 6:13 pm EST | Updated: 03/06/2013 6:18 pm EST
Millions of unemployed workers are struggling to find jobs and employers across the country are looking to hire — but they’re having trouble connecting, according to a new study.
The number of days a job vacancy sits unfulfilled has gone up since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. It currently takes an average of 23 business days for an employer to fill a job opening, compared to 15 days in 2009, according to an analysis of Labor Department data from economists at the University of Chicago and University of Maryland that was cited by The New York Times.
There are a variety of ways to explain why the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent, but jobs are staying unfilled. Many companies argue that they would love to hire more workers, but the applicants they’ve seen don’t have the skills required for their openings. Tech companies like Microsoft say the problem of an unskilled U.S. workforce is so severe that the U.S. should allow more highly-skilled immigrants into the country to fill openings in science and technology.
Still, U.S. companies could probably do more to ensure they get the types of workers they need. A July survey from the ManPower Group cited by Bloomberg found that American businesses were way less likely to train workers to fill job openings than their international counterparts.
And there’s another reason those job openings are going unfilled that companies probably aren’t highlighting. Corporate America is reaping record profits — but instead of investing the cash in hiring more workers, they’re sitting on it and squeezing more out of the employees they already have.
Mar 7, 10:17 AM EST
WEEKLY US UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS FALL TO 340,000
BY CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
AP ECONOMICS WRITER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 last week, driving down the four-week average to its lowest level in five years. The drop is a positive sign ahead of Friday’s report on February job growth.
Applications for benefits fell 7,000 in the week ended March 2, the Labor Department said Thursday. And the four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 348,750. That’s the lowest since March 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they fall, it suggests that companies are shedding fewer jobs. More hiring may follow.
The decline adds to other evidence that hiring may have been better last month than economists forecast. Analysts predict that employers added 152,000 jobs, according to a survey by FactSet. That’s about the same as in January. The unemployment rate is projected to fall to 7.8 percent from 7.9 percent.
“The improvement is still gradual, but at least things are moving in the right direction,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.
The economy generated an average of 200,000 jobs a month from November through January. That was up from about 150,000 in the previous three months. In January they added 157,000.
Several reports this week suggest hiring remained healthy last month. Payroll services provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 198,000 jobs in February, above most analysts’ expectations. And January’s hiring was revised higher by 23,000 to 215,000.
Services firms, including retailers, restaurants and construction companies added jobs at a healthy clip, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly survey. An index of hiring by service companies slipped but remained near January’s seven-year high.
The ISM’s manufacturing survey found that factories also added workers in February, too, though at a slower pace than the previous month.
The number of people receiving unemployment aid fell to 5.4 million in the week ended Feb. 16, the latest data available. That’s a drop of 362,000 from the previous week. Some of the decline is likely because people found work. But it is also because many have simply used up all the benefits available.
Strong auto sales and a healthy recovery in housing are spurring more hiring and economic growth. Builders started work on the most homes last year since 2008. New-home sales jumped 16 percent in January to the highest level since July 2008. And home prices, meanwhile, rose by the most in more than six years in the 12 months ending in January, according to real estate data provider CoreLogic.
Companies are laying off fewer workers despite concerns about the impact of higher taxes and government spending cuts. Social Security taxes rose two percentage points Jan. 1, reducing the typical household’s income by $1,000.
And $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts kicked in March 1 after the White House and Congress failed to reach a deal to avoid the reductions.
The cuts could slow economic growth and cost 700,000 jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They could also reduce unemployment benefit checks for those out of work for more than six months by about 11 percent, according to the National Employment Law Project. Benefits average about $320 per week nationwide.
Employers add a stunning 236,000 jobs in Feb.
February’s jobs report only looks good because our expectations are so low
Gender Studies addresses such issues as femininity and masculinity; gender and the body; gender and culture; gender and knowledge; current and historical inquiries into the relationships between the sexes; gender and aesthetics; gender as an organizing factor on social, political, and familial institutions and policy; gender role development and institutionalization; feminist theory; sexual orientation; sexual identity politics and history; queer theory, and lesbian cultural criticism and other interdisciplinary inquiries related to sex, gender, sexuality and reproduction, and feminist theory. It examines ideas of femininity and masculinity across cultures and historical perriods and how these concepts are represented within cultures (e.g., literature, popular culture, the arts, science, and medicine).
Higher education, from which much of such diversity and sensitivity nonsense trickles down, cries poverty while spending lavishly on administrative overhead irrelevant to its teaching and research missions. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that in 2011, while the University of California at San Diego was pruning academic offerings, it created a “ vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion” to augment a diversity apparatus that included an assistant vice chancellor for diversity; faculty advisers, staff, graduate and undergraduate diversity coordinators and liaisons; a director of development for diversity initiatives; the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues; the Diversity Council; the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion; and much more. Perhaps tens of millions could be diverted from progressive gestures to academic purposes by abolishing on every American campus every administrative position whose title contains the words “diversity,” “equity,” “race,” “ethnicity,” “sustainability,” “green,” “gender,” “inclusion,” “identity,” “interconnectivity,” “globalization,” “climate,” “campus climate,” “cross-cultural” or “multiculturalism.”
No corner of the country is immune to propaganda pretending to be pedagogy. Lincoln Brown of KVEL-AM in Vernal, Utah, says one student from the University of Utah showed him required reading that told students to “list ways your family may have colluded with or benefited from the exploitation of African-Americans.” Another reading was titled “White Privilege — Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Feminism in the day of Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer has resulted in more employment opportunity for women and a more robust consumer economy – e.g. – His and Her cars. The quotation above is not education but indoctrination.
Author and social critic Bruce Bawer, a homosexual who lives with his partner abroad, has produced a compelling work that examines identity politics taught in institutions of higher learning. His trenchant work examines Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Queer Studies, and.Chicano Studies. In sum, these clubs amount to collective intellectual masturbation and more importantly, in this time of fiscal scarcity and the need for education, an exemplary waste of resources.
Channing had her students read the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Their blog postings made it clear that they understood what was expected of them. Calling the Declaration “incredibly biased and slanted,” R. wrote that “when you scan the document all you see is ‘He.’…Immediately I think ‘Great, my founding fathers did not want to be apart [sic] of this nation.’” R. appeared not to notice that the reason why the word he recurs so frequently in the Declaration is that the document consists largely of a litany of charges against King George III, whom it refers to as “he”. “All people were not created equal when the Declaration of Independence was written,” R. lamented. H. seconded the condemnation: “The Declaration of Independence & the Bill of Rights…were written by a group of white, Christian, heterosexual males.”
Then again, hyperbole is superfluous when real life is so absurdly over the top. Thanks to Judicial Watch, the conservative-leaning watchdog group, and the Daily Caller, we recently have learned about the Agriculture Department’s magical diversity training programs — i.e., “professional development opportunities” — wherein employees learn how they ought really to “think” about things. Lessons include such angst-inspiring tropes as: The United States has destroyed other nations, we all commit sins of discrimination and America should repent and stop being so proud of itself.
…In other clips, Betances regales his audience with a little history lesson. Not only did the United States steal the lands that are increasingly being populated by illegal immigrants (Texas, California, Arizona) — hence, implicitly, they have a right to re-occupy — but also, America’s founding fathers took their governing cues from Native Americans. Oh, and they stole their symbol, too — the bald eagle.
To the extent he thinks about national security Obama is transfixed by liberal nostrums. The U.S. causes many of the world’s problems. Israel is an oppressor. We spend too much on defense.
Countering [Bill] Cosby, [Michael Eric] Dyson manintains that “body piercing and baggy clothes express identity among black youth. Yes, but what kind of identity—an individual identity marked by self-respect or a group identity marked by mindless copycatting? As for hip-hop, Dyson considers Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Russell Simmons good role models because they’ve “made millions from their clothing lines.” And he claims that “[n]ames like Shaniqua and Taliqua,” ridiculed by Cosby, “are meaingful cultural expressions of self-determination and allow relatively powerless blacks to fashion their identities out of the glare of white society.” Yes, and keeps them from finding jobs.
Indeed, the hostility that rises up from the pages of The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader—and there’s quite a lot of it—is directed far less toward heterosexuals than men of whatever orientation.
Should we care that US universities are ‘too liberal’?
America’s top universities seem to offer everything except conservative views. That’s not healthy for political debate
Eveleyn Alsultany, an assistant professor of American culture at the University of Michigan, cites as evidence of Ameica’s anti-Muslim bias a 2004 Cornell poll finding that “74 percent characterized Islamic countries as oppressive to women, ” and that “47 percent indicated that the ‘Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers.’” To Alsultany, these numbers do not reflect awareness of objective facts but “racism.”….She also complains about conservative criticism of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which she finds incomprehensible given its “work in condemning terrorism and educating the public about Islam.” (Never mind it’s a Hamas front group.)
…College and graduate school forced me to read things that I probably would never have dipped into otherwise—the more obscure ancient epics, some of the less familiar Elizabethean and Renaissance plays—and that I’m now glad I’ve read. My graduate school reading in nineteenth- and twentieth-century English and American literature was especially thorough, providing me with a wonderfully detailed picture of the subject….This is why the identity studies and other postmodern phenomena I have written about is so excerable. They are a perverse betrayal of a rich and beautiful legacy. They throw away a gift we should all be thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy. We have reached the top of the mountain, and they are taking our children by the hand and urging them to jump into the abyss. The people who “teach” these postmodern subjects talk about power, but what they have done as alleged educators is as despicable an abuse of power as one could imagine—because they have used their power to rob young people of their priceless legacy as heirs to the riches of human civilzation.
Children’s ignorance of British history has been laid bare in a survey today that shows one-in-20 pupils believe the Spanish Armada is a tapas dish.
…Such is the focus of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s new book The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. A respected historian and political advisor, Schlesinger passionately voices his concern for the future of the United States. Specifically, he fears that the “cult of ethnicity” manifested in ethnic awareness, Afro-centric curricula, and the continuing attack on the historical and literary canons will lead to increasing racial hostility, a loss of common values, and national disintegration. He wonders, “When does the obsession with difference begin to threaten the idea of an overarching American nationality?”
…Within the overarching poltical commitment, people are free to live as they choose, ethnically and otherwise. Differences will remain; some are reinvented; some are used to drive US apart. But as we renew our allegiance to the unifying ideals, we provide the solvent that will prevent differences from escalating into anagonism and hatred.
…Let us by all means in this increasingly mixed-up world [published in 1991] learn about those other continents and civilizations. But let us master our own history first. Lamentable as some may think it, we inherit an American experience, as America inherits a European experience. To deny the essentaillty European origins of American culture is to falsify history.
Our schools and colleges have a responsibilty to teach history for its own sake—as part of the intellectual equipment of civilized persons—and not to degrade history by allowing its contents to be dictated by pressure groups, whether ideological, economic, religious, or ethnic….Above all, history can give a sense of national identity. We don’t have to believe our values are better than the other fellow’s or the next country’s, but we have no doubt that they are better for us, reared as we are—and are worth living by and dying for. For our values are not matters of whim and happenstance. History has given them to us. They are anchored in our national experience, in our great national documents, in our national heroes, in our folkways, traditions and standards.
Common identity and values that distinguish Amercians is more dependent upon historical figures who achieved greatness, Washington and Lincoln, TR and FDR, Edison and Ford, than cultural figures like Lucy or the Brady Bunch. Understanding the trajectory of American history that begins with settlements in the future states of Virginia and Massachusetts is more important than learning about other cultures. Learning about the Pequot War in high school serves a smaller purpose than knowing the reasons that caused the French and Indian War, known as the Seven Years War in Europe. Exploring the lives of Americans — Jesse Owens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Washington Carver, and W.E.B. Dubois — serves a more united purpose than learning about Cesar Chavez, before college and advanced study. Elijah McCoy invented the “Real McCoy.” Mandatory multi-cultural enrichment must include black inventors who created products that made every day life easier
Latino Student Struggles Challenge Connecticut School Reformers
WINDHAM, Conn. — As a parent liaison in a school district with a fast-growing Hispanic majority, Ana Lozada navigates a deep cultural divide: Parents think teachers are racist. Teachers doubt parents’ commitment. And in many cases, one side speaks only English and the other only knows Spanish.
Experts see peril as Latino boys fall behind
According to the report, which examines data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often cited as the most reliable standard in academic testing, Hispanic students accounted for more than half of all eighth graders in California in 2011, the highest proportion in the country. But only 14 percent of those students were proficient on eighth-grade reading tests administered by the United States Department of Education.
In Florida, 27 percent of Hispanic students (who represent just over a quarter of its public school students) scored at the proficient level or above. And in Illinois, 23 percent of Hispanic eighth graders were proficient in reading.
In mathematics, Hispanic eighth graders in California similarly underperformed their peers in other states, with just 13 percent hitting the proficiency mark, compared with 22 percent in Florida and 31 percent in Texas, where Hispanics make up more than half the eighth-grade student population.
The situation is even more alarming when you look at California’s Latino population, which represents the future of the state. Hispanic students in California perform no better than the average student in Mexico, a level similar to that of the typical student in Kazakhstan, according to Hanushek’s research.
Basic education: reading, writing (minus cursive), and arithmetic, with a modicum of geometry and algebra, establishes the foundation for future learning and achievement. Knowledge of American history and world geography that demonstrates global inter-dependence should be taught. Music, The Last of the Mohicans, and art are part of the common culture. Students should be taught functions that are fundamental in daily life. Driving is an obvious example but there could be other lessons imparted that pertain to daily life, like getting a job. Creating a resume and interview techniques are important skills. Dressing appropriately, investigating the company and the position applied for can be decisive advantages. Role models, in particular for minorities, are also crucial. Some young people are unaware of the importance of arriving on time for work because they arrive late for class. Perhaps a good answer to the basic interview question, “Why should I hire you?” could be: “I am reliable, responsible, resourceful, and capable of working in a multi-task enivronment due to self-motivation.” A positive attitude in the work place and in daily life is vital.
To compete in the modern world, perhaps an individual and national advantage can be gained through more time in school.
1. South Korea
2. Hong Kong SAR
5. United Kingdom
7. New Zealand
Finland has an education system the US should envy – and learn from
Finland’s test scores top global charts, but the country doesn’t obsess about tests like the US, and it pays teachers adequately
Barack Obama at a charter school in Washington, DC. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 February 2013 10.17 EST
A new book has attracted much interest in the Washington DC, especially on Capitol Hill, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn From Educational Change in Finland?. The book arrives after Finland scored first in science and second in reading and math on the standardized test administered by the Program for International Student Assessment.
Conducted among industrialized nations every three years, American students finished 25th in math, 17th in science and 12th in reading on the latest PISA assessment. Obviously, in our global economy, this nation’s international educational attainment is discouraging for our future prospects.
What stands out to me is that Finnish students take only one mandatory standardized test, at age 16. Finland has the same number of teachers as New York City, but only 600,000 students compared to 1.1m in the Big Apple. Finnish teachers’ starting salaries are lower than in the US, but high-school teachers with 15 years’ experience make 102% of what other college graduates make. In the US, the figure is 62%.
Some of Finland’s students’ outcomes should be especially interesting to US policy makers. Fully 93% of Finns graduate from high school – 17.5 points higher than American students. And 66% of Finns are accepted to college, a higher rate than the US and every European nation. Strikingly, the achievement gap between the weakest and strongest students academically is the smallest in the world.
What might really interest some politicians is that Finland spends about 30% less per student to achieve these far-superior educational outcomes. For those who argue that a much smaller, less diverse country like Finland can’t easily be compared to the US, there is an inconvenient fact: Finland performs much better educationally when compared to similar Scandinavian nations with similar demographics. Plainly, something is right in the “Land of a thousand lakes”.
Fortunately, US education policy is evolving in the face of our relative global underperformance. Federal policy continues to move away from the rigid certainties of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind legislation. The NCLB law set a hopelessly unrealistic target for 100% student proficiency in every school by 2014. It’s clear that won’t be achieved.
Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have successfully applied for waivers from NCLB. To secure this flexibility, states had to have the US Department of Education approve credible plans to raise standards, strengthen accountability and undertake reforms to improve teacher effectiveness. Localizing education reform in this way should more effectively combine ambition and realism.
Additionally, President Obama’s Race to the Top program provides federal incentives for states to reform their public education offerings. These education reforms include lifting caps on the number of public charter schools, innovative policies to turn around failing schools, and improving teacher and principal effectiveness.
As an educator who opened one of the first public charter schools in Washington DC in 1998, — at the height of the crisis of our unreformed public education system — I’ve always had a different take on reform than the NCLB dogma. I could see that the predominantly disadvantaged students whom the status quo was failing would need more than standardized tests to ensure school success.
We decided to create a school that would help students develop the habits, knowledge and skills that would be required in this new century, rather than limiting our students to learning reading and math, the subjects that students are most often tested on. We require our pre-K through sixth grade students to speak, read, write and think in two languages — either French and English, or Spanish and English.
Our educational program invests in children early, to prepare them for the next step in their academic careers and beyond, into the world of work. We want them to gain the following: an understanding of how to use technology to enhance learning; an appreciation for, and facility in, the arts; scientific curiosity; an appreciation and knowledge of their cultures and those of others; and the capacity to think critically.
We are proud of our alumni, including those who have earned Posse Scholarships (college scholarships for students who exhibit strong leadership and academic potential), those who are enrolled in prestigious colleges; and those who are flourishing at high-performing high schools, such as Capital City and Washington Latin.
Our students — 69% of whom are economically disadvantaged — can perform at the highest-level academically. Traditional standardized tests fail to adequately assess our academically rich program. Yet our scholars outperform their traditional public school peers by 16% points, and charter peers by nine points. We’re not in Finland yet, but we are making progress.
Will longer school year help or hurt US students?
January 14, 2013 12:00 am Associated Press
Did your kids moan that winter break was way too short as you got them ready for the first day back in school? They might get their wish of more holiday time off under proposals catching on around the country to lengthen the school year.
But there’s a catch: a much shorter summer vacation.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a chief proponent of the longer school year, says American students have fallen behind the world academically.
“Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century,” he said in December when five states announced they would add at least 300 hours to the academic calendar in some schools beginning this year.
The three-year pilot project will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee.
Proponents argue that too much knowledge is lost while American kids wile away the summer months apart from their lessons. The National Summer Learning Association cites decades of research that shows students’ test scores are higher in the same subjects at the beginning of the summer than at the end.
“The research is very clear about that,” said Charles Ballinger, executive director emeritus of the National Association for Year-Round School in San Diego. “The only ones who don’t lose are the upper 10 to 15 percent of the student body. Those tend to be gifted, college-bound, they’re natural learners who will learn wherever they are.”
Supporters also say a longer school year would give poor children more access to school-provided healthy meals.
Yet the movement has plenty of detractors — so many that Ballinger sometimes feels like the Grinch trying to steal Christmas.
“I had a parent at one meeting say, ‘I want my child to lie on his back in the grass watching the clouds in the sky during the day and the moon and stars at night,’” Ballinger recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, my. Most kids do that for two, three, maybe four days, then say, ‘What’s next?””
But opponents aren’t simply dreamy romantics.
Besides the outdoor opportunities for pent up youngsters, they say families already are beholden to the school calendar for three seasons out of four. Summer breaks, they say, are needed to provide an academic respite for students’ overwrought minds, and to provide time with family and the flexibility to travel and study favorite subjects in more depth. They note that advocates of year-round school cannot point to any evidence that it brings appreciable academic benefits.
“I do believe that if children have not mastered a subject that, within a week, personally, I see a slide in my own child,” said Tina Bruno, executive director of the Coalition for a Traditional School Calendar. “That’s where the idea of parental involvement and parental responsibility in education comes in, because our children cannot and should not be in school seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Bruno is part of a “Save Our Summers” alliance of parents, grandparents, educational professionals and some summer-time recreation providers fighting year-round school. Local chapters carry names such as Georgians Need Summers, Texans for a Traditional School Year and Save Alabama Summers.
Camps, hotel operators and other summer-specific industries raise red flags about the potential economic effect.
The debate has divided parents and educators.
School days shorter than work days and summer breaks that extend to as many as 12 weeks in some areas run up against increasing political pressure from working households — 30 percent of which are headed by women. These families must fill the gaps with afterschool programs, day care, babysitters and camps.
“Particularly where there are single parents or where both parents are working, they prefer to provide care for three weeks at a time rather than three months at a time,” Ballinger said.
The National Center on Time & Learning has estimated that about 1,000 districts have adopted longer school days or years.
Some places that have tried the year-round calendar, including Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and parts of California, have returned to the traditional approach. Strapped budgets and parental dissatisfaction were among reasons.
School years are extended based on three basic models:
—stretching the traditional 180 days of school across the whole calendar year by lengthening spring and winter breaks and shortening the one in the summer.
—adding 20 to 30 actual days of instruction to the 180-day calendar.
—dividing students and staff into groups, typically four, and rotating three through at a time, with one on vacation, throughout the calendar year.
At the heart of the debate is nothing less than the ability of America’s workforce to compete globally.
The U.S. remains in the top dozen or so countries in all tested subjects. But even where U.S. student scores have improved, many other nations have improved much faster, leaving American students far behind peers in Asia and Europe.
Still, data are far from clear that more hours behind a desk can help.
A Center for Public Education review found that students in India and China — countries Duncan has pointed to as giving children more classroom time than the U.S. — don’t actually spend more time in school than American kids, when disparate data are converted to apples-to-apples comparisons.
The center, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, found 42 U.S. states require more than 800 instructional hours a year for their youngest students, and that’s more than India does.
Opponents of extended school point out that states such as Minnesota and Massachusetts steadily shine on standardized achievement tests while preserving their summer break with a post-Labor Day school start.
“It makes sense that more time is going to equate to more learning, but then you have to equate that to more professional development for teachers — will that get more bang for the buck?” said Patte Barth, the center’s director. “I look at it, and teachers and instruction are still the most important factor more so than time.”
The center’s study also found that some nations that outperform the U.S. academically, such as Finland, require less school.
Many schools are experimenting with the less controversial, less costly interim step of lengthening the school day instead of adding days to the school year.
Chicago’s public schools extended the school day from 5 hours and 45 minutes to 7 hours last year after a heated offensive by unionized teachers and some parents. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to Duncan’s boss, President Barack Obama, initially pushed an even longer school day — a major sticking point in this year’s seven-day teachers’ strike. He and other proponents argued that having the shortest school day among the nation’s 50 largest districts and one of the shortest school years had put Chicago’s children at a competitive disadvantage.
Wendy Katten, executive director of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, said opponents held back a push for a 7.5-hour school day, and got an extra staff person assigned to each school to handle the additional hour and 15 minutes of school time.
In San Diego, year-round school has been a reality since the 1970s.
District spokesman Jack Brandais said the concept was initially intended to relieve crowding, not improve performance test scores. The student body and staff were divided into four groups, with three attending school at any given time.
Through decades of fine-tuning, Brandais said the district now runs both traditional and year-round tracks simultaneously.
A 2007 study by Ohio State University sociologist Paul von Hippel found virtually no difference in the academic gains of students who followed a traditional nine-month school calendar and those educated the same number of days spread across the entire year.
Amid budget cuts and teacher layoffs, San Diego has cut five instructional days from both year-round and traditional schedules since last year.
Unorthodox approach working for Reynoldsburg schools
By Charlie Boss
The Columbus Dispatch Sunday December 16, 2012 10:50 AM
Reynoldsburg Superintendent Steve Dackin has his principals use innovative methods to improve student performance.
Ask Reynoldsburg Superintendent Steve Dackin what’s behind the innovation in his district, and he’ll point to a set of beliefs shared by the school board, teachers and administrators.
“You have to continue searching for what’s going to work for all kids,” he said.
At Reynoldsburg, that has meant funneling resources to the classroom and giving educators the freedom to take risks, while rewarding them for their successes and holding those who aren’t successful accountable.
“It’s really about having an unrelenting focus on results,” he said.
The district continues to break new academic ground in the state and nation with its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) efforts, its initiatives to boost college and career readiness and, most recently, its plan to use data analytics to personalize student learning, officials say.
Preliminary results on this year’s state report card affirm the schools’ work: The district earned an A-plus, its highest grade ever.
And Reynoldsburg has done it with a bare-bones central office. The district doesn’t have positions most districts have, such an assistant superintendent or an administrator who oversees curriculum. It is operating with fewer teachers and less money now than in 2006. At the same time, its student body has become more diverse and more impoverished.
How did Reynoldsburg do it? Dackin points to several things:
Principals are encouraged to think outside the box but prove that their efforts will benefit students.
“When you think about strategic risk-taking … it’s one of the most progressive practices employed anywhere,” said Bart Anderson, superintendent for the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio.
If students don’t make gains, Dackin will hold principals accountable.
“I’m not patient,” he said. “I removed six principals in five years.”
District leaders have a collaborative relationship with the employee unions, both of which have agreed to contracts that have helped curb costs and allow the district to be innovative.
For example, many teacher contracts stipulate that teachers can be reassigned based only on seniority. Reynoldsburg’s pact, however, doesn’t have that language and, as a result, allowed Hannah Ashton Middle School to match students to teachers who best serve their ability.
“As teachers, we’re constantly looking for what’s going to work the best for the students,” said David Schottner, president of the Reynoldsburg Education Association. “If there a way to access new innovation and be team players for the sake of our students, we’re certainly going to do that.”
Stable leadership in the superintendent’s office and on the school board has allowed the district to maintain its mission, Dackin said. Former Superintendent Richard Ross spent about 20 years at the helm before Dackin was hired.
Both are strong advocates of choice. Beyond sponsoring four charter schools, the district also allows students to decide whether to attend a traditional neighborhood school or a STEM elementary or middle school. High-school students can choose one of four career-based academies.
“Reynoldsburg has always had a sense of innovation,” Anderson said. “They are not afraid to try something before they’ve got the belief that it’s going to be perfectly implemented.”
For various reasons, some individuals are not capable of higher education at university and indeed many high-wage middle class jobs do not require a four-year degree. The middle class would expand through apprenticeships or other paid training offered by employers.
Surprising jobs with $100K salaries — after only a two-year degree
Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor | February 11, 2013
Think of some typical jobs that pay six-figure salaries, and you likely imagine careers that require four-year college degrees (if not four years plus advanced degrees). The common perception is that a traditional university degree is the only path to financial security and wealth for the average person.
But that’s not necessarily true. While some fields require that you have a four-year degree just to get a job interview, there are many other high-earning careers in which typical professionals have two-year degrees — often known as associate’s degrees. According to the compensation experts at PayScale.com, here are five of those fields in which the top 10 percent earn more than $100,000 a year.*
1. Executive Pastry Chef (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $45,100)
Talk about the sweet life. Executive pastry chefs work at exotic resorts, on cruise ships and for luxury hotels. They’re also found in fine restaurants, specialty patisseries, and the homes of the famous and powerful (including the White House) — anyplace where there’s a need to create delicious, beautiful baked goods on a large scale.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), formal training for chefs can take place at a community college, technical school or culinary school, and two-year degrees are common. Pastry chefs with little formal education can still advance through the ranks to lead a staff. A growing number of chefs participate in training and/or certification programs sponsored by independent cooking schools and organizations; many large hotel and restaurant chains operate their own training programs as well.
2. Master Plumber (90th Percentile Pay: $102,000; Median Pay: $60,000)
As long as we want running water in our homes and business, plumbers will be in demand — job-outlook forecasts for plumbers are usually very favorable. Whether they work as sole entrepreneurs or for larger companies, plumbers typically spend their time installing and repairing water, waste-disposal, drainage and gas systems and related appliances.
There are many paths to becoming a master plumber, but a common one is through a term of apprenticeship to another master plumber. According to the BLS, most plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters get their training in jointly administered apprenticeships or in technical schools and community colleges. Most states require that plumbers be licensed; licensing requirements vary, but most localities require workers to have a minimum of two years of experience and pass an examination on the trade and local plumbing codes.
3. Radiation Therapist (90th Percentile Pay: $104,000; Median Pay: $77,100)
Healthcare is commonly cited as an industry with high long-term growth potential, and healthcare jobs can be very rewarding for people who want to help others. Radiation therapists operate machines that help oncology teams diagnose and treat cancer. They work in hospitals or cancer-treatment centers, and unlike many people who work in healthcare, they normally work only during the day.
The BLS reports that professionals in this field generally complete an educational program in radiation therapy or radiography — many of these are two-year programs that include courses on human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, precalculus, writing, public speaking, computer science and research methodology. In 2009, there were 102 accredited radiation-therapy programs in the US, according to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
4. Intensive-Care Unit Nurse (90th Percentile Pay: $107,000; Median Pay: $71,100)
Some nursing specialties require more training and education than others. However, PayScale.com reports that the typical intensive-care unit (ICU) nurse holds an associate’s degree in nursing. ICU nurses are critical-care nurses, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). In working with critically ill or injured patients, all critical-care nurses serve as patient advocates “responsible for respecting and supporting the basic values, rights and beliefs of a critically ill patient,” the AACN says.
The BLS predicts that future job prospects for registered nurses will be excellent; currently, many employers report difficulty attracting and retaining an adequate number of Rns.
5. Sheet-Metal Worker (90th Percentile Pay: $122,000; Median Pay: $63,100
These workers make, install and maintain a wide variety of products made from metal sheets — heating and air-conditioning duct systems, roofs, siding, downspouts, restaurant equipment, railroad cars, precision equipment and much more. They do both construction-related work and mass production of sheet-metal products in manufacturing.
Besides having mathematical aptitude, sheet-metal workers need to be in good physical condition and have good hand-eye coordination. (Compared with other skilled-labor jobs, there is a relatively high risk of injury in this profession). According to the BLS, sheet-metal workers learn their trade through both apprenticeships and informal on-the-job training programs. Apprenticeships are more likely to be found in construction.
San Jacinto College ramps up maritime programs to meet demand
General Motors to open tech center in Roswell, Ga.
Ford, others step up hiring to meet demand
The costs of rising economic inequality
By Steven Pearlstein
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 2:51 AM
Although much of the Republicans’ “Pledge to America” is given over to a discussion of economic issues, there is one topic that is never mentioned: the dramatic rise in income inequality. As with global warming, Republicans seem to have decided that the best way to deal with this fundamental challenge is to deny it exists.
If you asked Americans how much of the nation’s pretax income goes to the top 10 percent of households, it is unlikely they would come anywhere close to 50 percent, which is where it was just before the bubble burst in 2007. That’s according to groundbreaking research by economists Thomas Piketty, of the Paris School of Economics, and Emmanuel Saez, of the University of California at Berkeley, who last week won one of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants.
It wasn’t always that way. From World War II until 1976, considered by many as the “golden years” for the U.S. economy, the top 10 percent of the population took home less than a third of the income generated by the private economy. But since then, according to Saez and Piketty, virtually all of the benefits of economic growth have gone to households that, in today’s terms, earn more than $110,000 a year.
Even within that top “decile,” the distribution is remarkably skewed. By 2007, the top 1 percent of households took home 23 percent of the national income after a 15-year run in which they captured more than half – yes, you read that right, more than half – of the country’s economic growth. As Tim Noah noted recently in a wonderful series of articles in Slate, that’s the kind of income distribution you’d associate with a banana republic or a sub-Saharan kleptocracy, not the world’s oldest democracy and wealthiest market economy.
In trying to figuring out who or what is responsible for rising inequality, there are lots of suspects. Globalization is certainly one, in the form of increased flows of people, goods and capital across borders. So is technological change, which has skewed the demand for labor in favor of workers with higher education without a corresponding increase in the supply of such workers. There are a number of other culprits that come under the heading of what economists call “institutional” changes – the decline of unions, industry deregulation and the increased power of financial markets over corporate behavior. Over time, more industries have developed the kind of superstar pay structures that were long associated with Hollywood and professional sports.
And then there is my favorite culprit: changing social norms around the issue of how much inequality is socially acceptable.
Economists spend a lot of time trying to quantify precisely how much responsibility to assign to each of these, but in truth the death of equality is much like Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”: They all did it.
There are moral and political reasons for caring about this dramatic skewing of income, which in the real world leads to a similar skewing of opportunity, social standing and political power. But there is also an important economic reason: Too much inequality, just like too little, appears to reduce global competitiveness and long-term growth, at least in developed countries like ours.
We know from recent experience, for example, that financial bubbles reduce equality by siphoning off a disproportionate share of national income to Wall Street’s highly-paid bankers and traders. What may be less obvious, but not less important, is that the causality also works the other way: Too much inequality can lead to financial bubbles.
The liberal version of this argument comes from former Labor secretary Robert Reich in his new book, “Aftershock.” Because so much of the nation’s income is siphoned off to the super-rich, Reich says, a struggling middle class trying to maintain its standard of living had no choice but to take on more and more debt. I have some problem with the argument that the middle class had no choice, but it’s certainly true that the middle class and the economy as a whole would be in better shape today if households weren’t burdened with so much debt.
The more conservative version of this argument comes from University of Chicago economist Raghuram Rajan. In his new book, “Fault Lines,” Rajan argues that in order to respond to the stagnant incomes of their constituents, politicians took a number of steps to keep the “American Dream” within reach, including subsidization of home mortgages and college loans. He might have added that politicians also were quick to cut taxes for the middle class even when it meant running up the national debt to pay for popular entitlement programs and government services.
Concentrating so much income in a relatively small number of households has also led to trillions of dollars being spent and invested in ways that were spectacularly unproductive. In recent decades, the rich have used their winnings to bid up the prices of artwork and fancy cars, the tuition at prestigious private schools and universities, the services of celebrity hairdressers and interior decorators, and real estate in fashionable enclaves from Park City to Park Avenue. And what wasn’t misspent was largely misinvested in hedge funds and private equity vehicles that played a pivotal role in inflating a series of speculative financial bubbles, from the junk bond bubble of the ’80s to the tech and telecom bubble of the ’90s to the credit bubble of the past decade.
The biggest problem with runaway inequality, however, is that it undermines the unity of purpose necessary for any firm, or any nation, to thrive. People don’t work hard, take risks and make sacrifices if they think the rewards will all flow to others. Conservative Republicans use this argument all the time in trying to justify lower tax rates for wealthy earners and investors, but they chose to ignore it when it comes to the incomes of everyone else.
It’s no coincidence that polarization of income distribution in the United States coincides with a polarization of the political process. Just as income inequality has eroded any sense that we are all in this together, it has also eroded the political consensus necessary for effective government. There can be no better proof of that proposition than the current election cycle, in which the last of the moderates are being driven from the political process and the most likely prospect is for years of ideological warfare and political gridlock.
Political candidates may not be talking about income inequality during this election, but it is the unspoken issue that underlies all the others. Without a sense of shared prosperity, there can be no prosperity. And given the realities of global capitalism, with its booms and busts and winner-take-all dynamic, that will require more government involvement in the economy, not less.
The jobs numbers: never mind the quantity, check the quality
Behind modest jobs growth, the real story is full-time jobs with good benefits are still disappearing. America’s going part-time
Technology taking toll on work force
DAVE MARTIN | ASSOCIATED PRESS
A robot paints brake drums at Webb Wheel Products in Cullman, Ala. Despite no new workers in three years, production is up 25 percent.
By Bernard Condon Associated Press
Paul Wiseman Associated Press
Sunday January 27, 2013 11:45 AM
NEW YORK — Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over.
Even worse, most of the jobs never will return, and millions more likely will vanish, labor experts say. What’s more, these jobs aren’t just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren’t just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They’re being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently many tasks that people always have done. For decades, science fiction warned of a time when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that time has arrived.
“The jobs that are going away aren’t coming back,” says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of Race Against the Machine. ‘‘I have never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years.”
The global economy is being reshaped by machines that generate and analyze vast amounts of data; by devices such as smartphones and tablet computers that let people work just about anywhere; by smarter, nimbler robots; and by services that let businesses rent computing power when they need it, instead of installing expensive equipment and hiring IT staffs to run it. Whole employment categories are disappearing.
“There’s no sector of the economy that’s going to get a pass,” says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote The Lights in the Tunnel, a book predicting widespread job losses. “It’s everywhere.”
The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession paid middle-class wages, ranging from $37,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are midpay. Nearly 70 percent are low-paying jobs; 29 percent pay well.
In the 17 European countries that use the euro, the numbers are even worse. Almost 4.3 million low-pay jobs have been gained since mid-2009, but the loss of midpay jobs has not stopped. A total of 7.6 million disappeared from January 2008 through this past June.
Experts warn that this “hollowing out” of the middle-class work force is far from over. They predict the loss of millions more jobs as technology becomes even more sophisticated. Maarten Goos, an economist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, says Europe could double its middle-class job losses.
Some occupations are beneficiaries of the march of technology, such as software engineers and app designers for smartphones and tablet computers. But, overall, technology is eliminating far more jobs than it’s creating.
To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.
The key findings:
Technology is replacing workers in developed countries regardless of their politics, policies and laws. Union rules and labor laws might slow the dismissal of employees, but no country is attempting to prohibit organizations from using technology that allows them to operate more efficiently — and with fewer employees.
The lingering pain of the Great Recession is not entirely a result of technology’s advances. Other factors are keeping companies from hiring — partisan gridlock in the United States, for example, and the debt crisis in Europe, which has led to deep government spending cuts.
In the United States, the economic recovery that started in June 2009 has been called the third straight “jobless recovery.” But that’s a misnomer. The jobs came back after the first two.
Most recessions since World War II were followed by a surge in new jobs as consumers started spending again and companies hired to meet new demands. In the months after recessions ended in 1991 and 2001, there was no familiar snap-back, but all the jobs had returned in less than three years.
But 42 months after the Great Recession ended, the United States has gained only 3.4 million, or 45 percent, of the 7.5 million jobs that were lost. The 17 countries that use the euro had 3.5 million fewer jobs last June than in December 2007.
This truly has been a jobless recovery, and the lack of midpay jobs is almost entirely to blame.
Fifty percent of the U.S. jobs lost were in midpay industries, but Moody’s Analytics, a research firm, says just 2 percent of the 3.4 million jobs gained are in that category. After the four previous recessions, at least 30 percent of jobs created — and as many as 46 percent — were in midpay industries.
Others studies that group jobs differently show a similar drop in middle-class work.
Some of the most-startling studies have focused on midskill, midpay jobs that require tasks that follow well-defined procedures and are repeated throughout the day. Think travel agents, salespeople in stores, office assistants and back-office workers like benefits managers and payroll clerks, as well as machine operators and other factory jobs. An August 2012 paper by economists Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich of Duke University found that these kinds of jobs comprise fewer than half of all jobs, yet accounted for nine of 10 of all losses in the Great Recession. And they have kept disappearing in the economic recovery.
Webb Wheel Products makes parts for truck brakes, which involves plenty of repetitive work. Its newest employee is the Doosan V550M. It can drill holes on both sides of a 130-pound brake drum without missing a beat, and it doesn’t take vacations or “complain about anything,” says Dwayne Ricketts, president of the Cullman, Ala., company.
Webb Wheel hasn’t added a factory worker in three years, though it’s making 300,000 more drums annually, a 25 percent increase.
“Everyone is waiting for the unemployment rate to drop, but I don’t know if it will much,” Ricketts says. “Companies in the recession learned to be more efficient, and they’re not going to go back.”
In Europe, companies couldn’t go back even if they wanted to. The 17 countries that use the euro slipped into another recession 14 months ago, in November 2011. The current unemployment rate is a record 11.8 percent.
European companies had been using technology to replace midpay workers for years, and now that has accelerated.
“The recessions have amplified the trend,” says Goos. “New jobs are being created, but not the middle-pay ones.”
Developing economies have been spared the technological onslaught — for now. Countries like Brazil and China still are growing middle-class jobs because they’re shifting from export-driven to consumer-based economies. But even they are beginning to use more machines in manufacturing.
One example is Sunbird Engineering, a Hong Kong firm that makes mirror frames for heavy trucks at a factory in southern China. Salaries at its plant in Dongguan have nearly tripled from $80 a month in 2005 to $225 today. “Automation is the obvious next step,” says Bill Pike, the company’s managing director.
“By automating, we can outlive the labor-cost increases inevitable in China,” Pike says. “Those who automate in China will win the battle of increased costs.”
Candidates for U.S. president last year never tired of telling Americans how jobs were being shipped overseas. But many jobs cut in the United States and Europe weren’t moved. They vanished. “ It doesn’t have political appeal to say the reason we have a problem is we’re so successful in technology,” says Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University. “There’s no enemy there.”
What hope is there for the future?
Historically, new companies and new industries have been the incubator of new jobs. Start-up companies no more than 5 years old are big sources of jobs in developed economies. In the United States, they accounted for 99 percent of new private-sector jobs in 2005, according to a study by the University of Maryland’s John Haltiwanger and two other economists.
But even these companies are hiring fewer people. The average new business employed 4.7 workers when it opened its doors in 2011, down from 7.6 in the 1990s, according to a Labor Department study released last March.
Technology probably is to blame, wrote the report’s authors, Eleanor Choi and James Spletzer. Entrepreneurs no longer need people to do clerical and administrative tasks to help them get their businesses off the ground.
Best-Paying College Majors Are Mostly In Engineering: Forbes List
Undeclared students may want to take another look at engineering, according to a new survey.
Graduation, dropout rates are improving
Fewer students dropped out of high school in 2009-10 than the previous year, and more students overall graduated.
That’s according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
Public School Graduates and
Dropouts from the Common Core of
Data: School Year 2009–10
Degrees Employers Hate And Love
Job seekers line up at a job fair last week in New York City. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.
4 Job Skills That No Longer Impress Recruiters
6 Most Costly Career Mistakes New College Grads Make
Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor
Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/education/scholarly-poor-often-overlook-better-colleges.html
People are the number one asset of any business. the number one asset; and if you get only one takeaway from this book, I hope it is that. because if you don’t get that aspect right – the people part – you will fail.
One nation, under one God, with equality of opportunity based upon merit to achieve self-determination.
Even in its third century, America is still the most meritocratic nation in the world. Unlike the caste system of India; the class considerations of Europe; the racial homogeneity of China, Japan or Korea; the tribalism of Africa; or the religious orthodoxy of the Middle East, America is still a place where one can offer a new idea, invention or protocol that is judged on its merits, rather than on the background, accent, race, age, gender or religion of the person who offers it.
After high school, I spent an unedifying year in college. The year culminated in money problems, considerably less than a year of credits, and a joint decision with the school that I should pursue my happiness elsewhere. Next came what my parents affectionately called my “gap decade,” during which time I made my living as a musician. By my late 20s I was ready to return to school. But I was living in Spain, had a thin bank account, and no desire to start my family with a mountain of student loans.
Fortunately, there was a solution — an institution called Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. This is a virtual college with no residence requirements. It banks credits acquired through inexpensive correspondence courses from any accredited college or university in America.
I took classes by mail from the University of Washington, the University of Wyoming, and other schools with the lowest-priced correspondence courses I could find. My degree required the same number of credits and type of classes that any student at a traditional university would take. I took the same exams (proctored at local libraries and graded by graduate students) as in-person students. But I never met a teacher, never sat in a classroom, and to this day have never laid eyes on my beloved alma mater.
And the whole degree, including the third-hand books and a sticker for the car, cost me about $10,000 in today’s dollars.
LYNCHBURG, Va. — The small Baptist college that television preacher Jerry Falwell founded here in 1971 has capitalized on the online education boom to become an evangelical mega-university with global reach.
MOOCs take a step toward college credit
Elite education for the masses
In September, Jennifer Hunt of Brown County, Ind., was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey without ever taking a Thomas Edison course. She was one of about 300 of last year’s 3,200 graduates who managed to patch together their degree requirements with a mix of credits — from other institutions, standardized exams, online courses, workplace or military training programs and portfolio assessments.
Dr. Benjamin Carson receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2008 (Photo Credit: AP)
Maybe financing can help you.
Smart, Poor Kids Are Applying to the Wrong Colleges
How an information mismatch is costing America’s best colleges 20,000 low-income students every year.
By Matthew Yglesias | Posted Monday, March 11, 2013, at 4:01 PM
Each year, middle-class American high-school seniors with good grades go through a familiar ritual of the college application process. They file a bunch of applications—perhaps after visiting several schools—submitting test scores, grades, essays, and letters of recommendation. They apply to a “reach” school or two and a “safety” school or two along with some in the middle. The idea is to see where you can get in and then decide where you want to go after researching both the quality of the schools on offer and the actual financial cost of attending. It’s a system that’s a bit stressful and annoying, but it basically works. Students get matched with schools that roughly suit their level of academic preparation and people have a chance to shop around a bit for the myriad forms of financial aid that make college attendance feasible.
But it doesn’t work for poor kids. It turns out that over and above all the other disadvantages one faces growing up poor in America, the majority of high-achieving kids from low-income backgrounds fail to apply to any selective colleges.
This grim discovery comes from Caroline Hoxby of Stanford’s economics department and Christopher Avery from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It adds to our understanding of structural inequality in America and the striking barriers to social mobility. But in a sense it’s an optimistic story, suggesting that there continues to be plenty of low-hanging fruit in American education. Relatively simple reforms could unlock a great deal of currently wasted talent, with big payoffs for poor kids and society at large.
Most high-achieving students—defined as those with SAT or ACT scores in the top 10 percent—come from high-income families. Thirty-four percent are from the top quartile, and 27 percent are in the next quartile. Just 17 percent of high-achieving students are from families estimated to be in the bottom quartile of the income distribution. But while low-income students are underrepresented among high achievers, 17 percent is still a lot of people—something like 25,000 to 35,000 per year. Of those, about 70 percent are white, 15 percent Asian, and 15 percent black or Hispanic.
High-income, high-achieving students generally do what you’d expect. Most of their applications are to schools where the median admissions test score is similar to what they got. But they apply to some reach schools and most to a safety school. Generally they apply to the local flagship state university campus, which is sometimes a match and sometimes a reach depending on the state.
Low-income students are very different. Fully 53 percent of them apply to zero schools whose median SAT or ACT scores are similar to their own. Many of these smart, poor kids apply only to a single unselective school. Only a very small percentage of these kids—8 percent of them, the authors estimate—act the same as high-achievement kids from prosperous families by applying to selective schools, including some reaches and safeties.
Hoxby and Avery label the 53 percent “income-typical” and the 8 percent “achievement-typical.” They find that that small minority of students who exhibit achievement-typical application behavior do just as well as higher-income students at actually enrolling in and graduating from college. When poor kids apply to good schools, in other words, they’re just as likely to get in as more affluent ones are. The selective colleges deliver enough financial aid to make it possible for achievement-typical kids to attend, and they’re able to do the work and graduate.
But income-typical and achievement-typical students seem to come from very different places. Statistically speaking, the achievement-typical are more likely to live in core municipalities than suburbs or rural areas. They’re more likely to come from larger metro areas than smaller ones. Income-typical students’ schools are smaller and are less likely to feature any teachers who’ve attended selective colleges or have other students who attended such colleges recently.
The mismatch, in other words, is double-sided. Selective schools looking to recruit low-income students with strong test scores are looking at a few hot spots with unusually high densities of such kids and ignoring the long tail of smart kids in smaller cities, in rural areas, and outside magnet programs. Selective schools also seem disproportionately focused on their own areas, such that a small city that’s near highly selective colleges (Providence, R.I., or even Portland, Maine) sends more kids to selective schools than a much larger city such as Atlanta, Miami, or Phoenix. Meanwhile many low-income students simply don’t encounter teachers or other school personnel who’d be in a position to inform them about available financial aid and encourage them to apply to more selective institutions.
There are some logistical barriers to improving recruiting—it’s cheaper to recruit nearby and in bigger high schools—but they hardly seem insurmountable. If colleges start to realize how many high-achieving low-income students they’re missing, they might send their recruiting staff further afield. What’s more, written communications can easily target students regardless of location. The key is that written outreach needs to be specially tailored to the circumstances of low-income students whose personal networks don’t include graduates of selective schools. That means emphasizing the real cost of attendance rather than headline tuition, and the fact that there are gradations of school quality beyond Harvard vs. Other. And success could build on itself. If selective schools did a better job of reaching out to lower-income students, they’d build more diverse alumni networks.
State governments (or Washington, D.C.) could also play a role, committing to targeting top-performing students in low-income districts. Either way, compared with the other dilemmas involved in improving the education system, tackling undermatching seems relatively straightforward. The main barrier is that most people have no idea how widespread it is. Each year, 10,000 or 20,000 of America’s brightest high-school graduates don’t go to a great college not because they can’t afford one but because they don’t realize they should apply.
Shereef Bishay, co-founder of Dev Bootcamp, center, talks with student Ryan Guerrettaz during a class at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. Dev Bootcamp is one of a new breed of computer-programming schools that’s proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These “hacker boot camps” promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
By The Associated Press
on April 12, 2013 at 12:33 PM
By TERENCE CHEA
SAN FRANCISCO — Looking for a career change, Ken Shimizu decided he wanted to be a software developer, but he didn’t want to go back to college to study computer science.
Instead, he quit his job and spent his savings to enroll at Dev Bootcamp, a new San Francisco school that teaches students how to write software in nine weeks. The $11,000 gamble paid off: A week after he finished the program last summer, he landed an engineering job that paid more than twice his previous salary.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life,” said Shimizu, 24, who worked in marketing and public relations after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. “I was really worried about getting a job, and it just happened like that.”
Student David Wen works during a class at Dev Bootcamp.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Dev Bootcamp, which calls itself an “apprenticeship on steroids,” is one of a new breed of computer-programming school that’s proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These “hacker boot camps” promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation.
“We’re focused on extreme employability,” said Shereef Bishay, who co-founded Dev Bootcamp 15 months ago. “Every single skill you learn here you’ll apply on your first day on the job.”
These intensive training programs are not cheap — charging $10,000 to $15,000 for programs running nine to 12 weeks — and they’re highly selective, typically only admitting 10 to 20 percent of applicants. And they’re called boot camps for a reason. Students can expect to work 80 to 100 hours a week, mostly writing code in teams under the guidance of experienced software developers.
“It’s quite grueling. They push you very hard,” said Eno Compton, 31, who finished Dev Bootcamp in late March. Compton is finishing his doctorate in Japanese literature at Princeton University, but decided he wants to be a software engineer instead of a professor.
“For people who are looking to get involved in software in a big way and don’t want to set aside four years for a computer-science degree, this nine-week program is a terrific alternative,” Compton said.
One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student’s first-year salary. Graduates who can’t find jobs don’t have to pay, but so far nearly all of them have.
“When I started it, people thought we were crazy. Why would you do something like that? But in practice it’s worked out well so far,” said Ned Ruggeri, who co-founded App Academy last summer.
Over the past year, more than two dozen computer-coding schools have opened or started recruiting students in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. The programs are attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. Most students haven’t formally studied computer science, but have tried to learn to code on their own.
“What we’ve learned in the last nine weeks would have taken at least a year, if not years, on my own,” Ravasio said. “I knew I wanted to learn how to code, and I tried to on my own before and it was really hard and really frustrating.”
But as more boot camps open, backers worry low-quality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters.
“I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats,” said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. “If they mess up, they kind of ruin it for everybody. Then students have to worry about whether these schools can actually deliver on their promise.”
The coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry, which has been lobbying Congress to issue more visas for engineers and other skilled immigrants.
The boot camps are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts.
The new schools say they are teaching students the real-world skills that employers want but colleges have failed to provide. “Our school is a lot shorter, cheaper and more applicable to the work they’d like to do than universities,” said Shawn Drost, who co-founded Hack Reactor in San Francisco six months ago.
This intensive-learning model can also be used to train workers for other professions for less time and money than what traditional colleges require, Staton said. “We think this is the beginning of a really large movement that will happen across industries,” he said.
Bishay, an Egyptian-born engineer who sold his first software company to Microsoft in 2001, started Dev Bootcamp as an experiment. He wanted to see how quickly he could teach his friend and other non-techies how to write code.
“I used about 10 percent of what I learned in college in my first job, and I figured I could teach that 10 percent in two and a half months,” Bishay said.
Dev Bootcamp has trained about 400 students, and 95 percent of them have been hired as software developers with an average salary of about $80,000, Bishay said. It’s now opening a campus in Chicago.
The school doesn’t just teach technical skills. It teaches students how to work in teams, communicate better and interview for jobs. On graduation day, it invites tech recruiters to meet students at a “speed-dating” job fair.
“Finding engineering talent is a big challenge right now, and Dev Bootcamp is addressing a really important problem,” said Felicia Curcuru, who was recruiting engineers for FundersClub, a San Francisco company that connects investors with tech startups. “There are not enough people studying computer science.”
How to Get a Job
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: May 28, 2013
Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?
One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt ( https://www.hireart.com/): Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.
“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”
The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt culls through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.
With 50,000 registered job-seekers on HireArt’s platform, the company receives about 500 applicants per job opening, said Sharef, adding: “While it’s great that the Internet allows people to apply to lots of jobs, it has led to some very unhealthy behavior. Job-seekers tell me that they apply to as many as 500 jobs in four to five months without doing almost any research. One candidate told me he had written a computer program that allowed him to auto-apply to every single job on Craigslist in a certain city. Given that candidates don’t self-select, recruiters think of résumés as ‘mostly spam,’ and their approach is to ‘wade through the mess’ to find the treasures. Of these, only one person gets hired — one out of 500 — so the ‘success rate’ is very low for us and for our candidates.”
How are people tested? HireArt asks candidates to do tasks that mimic the work they would do on the job. If it is for a Web analytics job, HireArt might ask: “You are hired as the marketing manager at an e-commerce company and asked to set up a Web site analytics system. What are the key performance indicators you would measure? How would you measure them?”
Or, if you want to be a social media manager, said Sharef, “you will have to demonstrate familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, HTML, On-Page SEO and Key Word Analysis.” Sample question: “Kanye West just released a new fashion collection. You can see it here. Imagine you had to write a tweet promoting this collection. What would your tweet be?” Someone applying for a sales job would have to record a sales pitch over video.
Added Sharef: “What surprises me most about people’s skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can’t get the basics right, there is a real problem.” Still, she adds, HireArt sees many talented people who are just “confused about what jobs they are qualified for, what jobs are out there and where they fit in.”
So what does she advise? Sharef pointed to one applicant, a Detroit woman who had worked as a cashier at Borders. She realized that that had no future, so she taught herself Excel. “We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”
People get rejected for jobs for two main reasons, said Sharef. One, “you’re not showing the employer how you will help them add value,” and, two, “you don’t know what you want, and it comes through because you have not learned the skills that are needed.” The most successful job candidates, she added, are “inventors and solution-finders,” who are relentlessly “entrepreneurial” because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your résumé, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do.
Thin Snowpack in West Signals Summer of Drought
Light snow in Colorado, where the state has declared “extreme drought” around Vail and Aspen.
Matthew Staver for The New York Times
By JACK HEALY
Published: February 22, 2013
DENVER — After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the parched Western states had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.
Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.
Reservoir levels have fallen sharply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The soil is drier than normal. And while a few recent snowstorms have cheered skiers, the snowpack is so thin in parts of Colorado that the government has declared an “extreme drought” around the ski havens of Vail and Aspen.
“We’re worse off than we were a year ago,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.
This week’s blizzard brought a measure of relief to the Plains when it dumped more than a foot of snow. But it did not change the basic calculus for forecasters and officials in the drought-scarred West. Ranchers are straining to find hay — it is scarce and expensive — to feed cattle. And farmers are fretting about whether they will have enough water to irrigate their fields.
“It’s approaching a critical situation,” said Mike Hungenberg, who grows carrots and cabbage on a 3,000-acre farm in Northern Colorado. There is so little water available this year, he said, that he may scale back his planting by a third, and sow less thirsty crops, like beans.
“A year ago we went into the spring season with most of the reservoirs full,” Mr. Hungenberg said. “This year, you’re going in with basically everything empty.”
National and state forecasters — some of whom now end phone calls by saying, “Pray for snow” — do have some hope. An especially wet springtime could still spare the Western plains and mountains and prime the soil for planting. But forecasts are murky: They predict warmer weather and less precipitation across the West over the next three months but say the Midwest could see more rain than usual.
Water experts get more nervous with each passing day.
“We’re running out of time,” said Andy Pineda of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We only have a month or two, and we are so far behind it’s going to take storms of epic amounts just to get us back to what we would think of as normal.”
Parts of Montana, the Pacific Northwest and Utah have benefited from a snowy winter. But across Colorado, the snowpack was just 72 percent of average as of Feb. 1, which means less water to dampen hillsides and mountains vulnerable to fire, less water for farms to use on early season crops, and less to fill lakes and reservoirs that ultimately trickle down into millions of toilets, taps and swimming pools across the state.
Heavy rains and snow have recently brought some hope to the parched states of Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, where the drought is easing. But 55.8 percent of the United States remains locked in drought, according to the government’s latest assessments. And states like Nebraska and Oklahoma are facing precipitation deficits of as much as 16 inches.
Without damp soil, many wheat crops will have trouble growing come March and April when they should be in full bloom, and corn and soybeans could be stunted after they are planted this spring. In a year when farmers are planning another record planting, some might be forced to sow fewer seeds because there is not enough soil moisture to go around.
In southwestern Kansas, Gary Millershaski said the wheat on his 3,000 acres was as dry as it had ever been after two years of drought. But as snow fell around him, he was smiling, a guarded optimist for this year’s planting. “If we get above average rainfall from here on, we’re going to raise a wheat crop,” he said. “But what are the odds of that?”
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, put it this way: “Mother Nature is testing us.”
But Washington is also posing a challenge.
Mr. Udall, Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and other members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation are seeking $20 million in emergency funds to help restore watersheds in Colorado ravaged by last year’s wildfires. So far, there has been little action on the measure. Western politicians are also urging the Forest Service to move more quickly to modernize the shrinking and aging fleet of tanker planes it uses to douse wildfires.
If Congress does not head off the looming across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect March 1, financing for the Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management program will be cut by $134 million. As many as 200,000 acres — an area about the size of Kansas City, Mo. — would not be treated to remove dry brush, dead wood and other tinder for wildfires.
In dry states like Colorado, officials are already preparing for the worst. Wildfires did $538 million in damage last year, burning hundreds of homes and driving away summer tourists. As late as December, when the high country should be blanketed by snow, a 4,000-acre fire continued to burn in Rocky Mountain National Park. To some officials, it was a harbinger of longer, fiercer fire seasons that may come with climate change. “It’s just so dry here,” said Tom Grady, the emergency manager in Aspen and the surrounding county, which is already meeting to fine-tune its fire plans for the summer.
Denver Water, which serves 1.3 million people, depleted many of its reservoirs after last year’s dry winter and an unrelenting spree of 90- and 100-degree summer days. Those basins never fully recovered, and are now an average of 63 percent full. The agency has already idled one water treatment plant to conserve its reservoir supplies, and officials say they are likely to declare a Stage 2 drought, limiting when people can water their lawns.
In Northern Colorado, a combination of drought and wildfire is shutting off the spigot for scores of farmers. Cities are worried about ash and sediment flowing from the burn areas into the rivers that supply their water, so they are holding onto every drop possible this year and not selling any water to local farmers.
In 2011, the Northern Colorado city of Greeley alone leased enough water to irrigate 13,000 acres of farmland — representing millions of dollars in wages for farmhands, seed money, fertilizer sales and profits for farmers. Every year, just after midnight on Jan. 1, farmers start calling the city to sign up to lease the surplus water. This year, Greeley had to call them all back to say there was none to be had.
Eldon Ackerman, who grows sugar beets, pinto beans and alfalfa on his farm in Wellington, said he had water supplies for only about one-third of his fields. He was praying the spring snow and rains would come to save him. If they do not, he said he might have to let 1,000 acres lie fallow this year.
“There isn’t any more water to get,” Mr. Ackerman said.
Water is our most precious natural resource. Without water, farmers and ranchers can not produce food and fiber for the domestic or export market. Factories can not operate. Families can not wash their clothes or clean their kids. Schools can not educate children, in short, potable water is essential for life.
Forested watersheds are the generally accepted benchmark of quality for water resources.
Our Coming Food Crisis
By GARY PAUL NABHAN
Published: July 21, 2013
TUCSON, Ariz. — THIS summer the tiny town of Furnace Creek, Calif., may once again grace the nation’s front pages. Situated in Death Valley, it last made news in 1913, when it set the record for the world’s hottest recorded temperature, at 134 degrees. With the heat wave currently blanketing the Western states, and given that the mercury there has already reached 130 degrees, the news media is awash in speculation that Furnace Creek could soon break its own mark.
Such speculation, though, misses the real concern posed by the heat wave, which covers an area larger than New England. The problem isn’t spiking temperatures, but a new reality in which long stretches of triple-digit days are common — threatening not only the lives of the millions of people who live there, but also a cornerstone of the American food supply.
People living outside the region seldom recognize its immense contribution to American agriculture: roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the country normally comes from the 17 Western states; cattle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons, hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits. The current heat wave will undeniably diminish both the quality and quantity of these foods.
The most vulnerable crops are those that were already in flower and fruit when temperatures surged, from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. Idaho farmers have documented how their potato yields have been knocked back because their heat-stressed plants are not developing their normal number of tubers. Across much of the region, temperatures on the surface of food and forage crops hit 105 degrees, at least 10 degrees higher than the threshold for most temperate-zone crops.
What’s more, when food and forage crops, as well as livestock, have had to endure temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the long-term averages, they require far more water than usual. The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and groundwater supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.
If these costs are passed on to consumers, we can again expect food prices , especially for beef and lamb, to rise, just as they did in 2012, the hottest year in American history. So extensive was last year’s drought that more than 1,500 counties — about half of all the counties in the country — were declared national drought disaster areas, and 90 percent of those were hit by heat waves as well.
The answer so far has been to help affected farmers with payouts from crop insurance plans. But while we can all sympathize with affected farmers, such assistance is merely a temporary response to a long-term problem.
Fortunately, there are dozens of time-tested strategies that our best farmers and ranchers have begun to use. The problem is that several agribusiness advocacy organizations have done their best to block any federal effort to promote them, including leaving them out of the current farm bill, or of climate change legislation at all.
One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields. By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.
And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distributed to nearby farms.
Second, we need to reduce the bureaucratic hurdles to using small- and medium-scale rainwater harvesting and gray water (that is, waste water excluding toilet water) on private lands, rather than funneling all runoff to huge, costly and vulnerable reservoirs behind downstream dams. Both urban and rural food production can be greatly enhanced through proven techniques of harvesting rain and biologically filtering gray water for irrigation. However, many state and local laws restrict what farmers can do with such water.
Moreover, the farm bill should include funds from the Strikeforce Initiative of the Department of Agriculture to help farmers transition to forms of perennial agriculture — initially focusing on edible tree crops and perennial grass pastures — rather than providing more subsidies to biofuel production from annual crops. Perennial crops not only keep 7.5 to 9.4 times more carbon in the soil than annual crops, but their production also reduces the amount of fossil fuels needed to till the soil every year.
We also need to address the looming seed crisis. Because of recent episodes of drought, fire and floods, we are facing the largest shortfall in the availability of native grass, forage legume, tree and shrub seeds in American history. Yet current budget-cutting proposals threaten to significantly reduce the number of federal plant material centers, which promote conservation best practices.
If our rangelands, forests and farms are to recover from the devastating heat, drought and wildfires of the last three years, they need to be seeded with appropriate native forage and ground-cover species to heal from the wounds of climatic catastrophes. To that end, the farm bill should direct more money to the underfinanced seed collection and distribution programs.
Finally, the National Plant Germplasm System, the Department of Agriculture’s national reserve of crop seeds, should be charged with evaluating hundreds of thousands of seed collections for drought and heat tolerance, as well as other climatic adaptations — and given the financing to do so. Thousands of heirloom vegetables and heritage grains already in federal and state collections could be rapidly screened and then used by farmers for a fraction of what it costs a biotech firm to develop, patent and market a single “climate-friendly” crop.
Investing in climate-change adaptation will be far more cost-effective than doling out $11.6 billion in crop insurance payments, as the government did last year, for farmers hit with diminished yields or all-out crop failures.
Unfortunately, some agribusiness organizations fear that if they admit that accelerating climate change is already affecting farmers, it will shackle them with more regulations. But those organizations are hardly serving their member farmers and ranchers if they keep them at risk of further suffering from heat extremes and extended drought.
And no one can reasonably argue that the current system offers farmers any long-term protection. Last year some farmers made more from insurance payments than from selling their products, meaning we are dangerously close to subsidizing farmers for not adapting to changing climate conditions.
It’s now up to our political and business leaders to get their heads out of the hot sand and do something tangible to implement climate change policy and practices before farmers, ranchers and consumers are further affected. Climate adaptation is the game every food producer and eater must now play. A little investment coming too late will not help us adapt in time to this new reality.
Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie
Brenda Culler/ODNR Coastal Management
Algae blooms, like this one in 2011, are threatening Lake Erie.
By MICHAEL WINES
Published: March 14, 2013
TOLEDO, Ohio — For those who live and play on the shores of Lake Erie, the spring rains that will begin falling here soon are less a blessing than a portent. They could threaten the very future of the lake itself.
Lake Erie is sick. A thick and growing coat of toxic algae appears each summer, so vast that in 2011 it covered a sixth of its waters, contributing to an expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry that generates more than $10 billion in revenue annually.
The spring rains reliably predict how serious the summer algae bloom will be: the more frequent and heavy the downpours, the worse the outbreak. And this year the National Weather Service predicts a wetter than usual March and April throughout the region.
It is perhaps the greatest peril the lake has faced since the 1960s, when relentless and unregulated dumping of sewage and industrial pollutants spawned similar algae blooms and earned it the nickname “North America’s Dead Sea.” Erie recovered then, thanks to a multibillion-dollar cleanup by the United States and Canada that became a legendary environmental success story.
But while the sewage and pollutants are vastly reduced, the blooms have returned, bigger than ever.
Once, fisheries and sports anglers pulled five million walleye from the rejuvenated lake every year. Today the catch is roughly one-fifth that, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Commercial fisheries’ smelt catch is three-fifths of past levels. The number of charter fishing companies has dropped 40 percent. Sport fish like walleye and yellow perch are deserting the lake’s center and moving shoreward in search of oxygen and food.
“We’ve seen this lake go from the poster child for pollution problems to the best example in the world of ecosystem recovery. Now it’s headed back again,” said Jeffrey M. Reutter, who directs the Sea Grant College Program at Ohio State University.
The algae problem is hardly isolated. Similar blooms are strangling other lakes in North America and elsewhere, including Lake Winnipeg, one of Canada’s largest, and some bays in Lake Huron.
The algae are fed by phosphorus, the same chemical that American and Canadian authorities spent billions to reduce — for good, they believed — in the 1970s and ‘80s. This time, new farming techniques, climate change and even a change in Lake Erie’s ecosystem make phosphorus pollution more intractable.
Like plants, algae thrive on a phosphorus diet. Decades ago, some 64 million pounds of phosphorus flowed into Lake Erie each year from industrial and sewer outfalls, leaky septic tanks and runoff from fertilized lawns and farms.
The United States and Canadian governments responded by capping household detergent phosphates, reining in factory pollutants and spending $8 billion to upgrade lakeside sewage plants. Phosphorus levels plunged by two thirds, and the algae subsided. But in the mid-1990s, it began creeping back.
“2002 was the last year that we didn’t have much of a bloom,” said Thomas Bridgeman, a professor at the Lake Erie Center at the University of Toledo. “2008, ’09 and ’10 were really bad years for algal blooms.
“And then we got 2011.”
2011 was the wettest spring on record. That summer’s algae bloom, mostly poisonous blue-green algae called Microcystis, sprawled nearly 120 miles, from Toledo to past Cleveland. It produced lake-water concentrations of microcystin, a liver toxin, that were 1,200 times World Health Organization limits, tainting the drinking water for 2.8 million consumers.
Dead algae sink to the lake bed, where bacteria that decompose the algae consume most of the oxygen. In central Lake Erie, a dead zone now covers up to a third of the entire lake bottom in bad years.
“The fact that it’s bigger and longer in duration is a bad thing,” said Peter Richards, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University in Ohio. “Fish that like to live in cold bottom waters have to move up in the thermocline, where it’s too warm for them. They get eaten, and that tends to decrease the growth rates of a lot of the fish.”
Last spring, the rains arrived amid a record drought, and the algae retreated to waters near Toledo. “We had two extremes in two years,” Mr. Bridgeman said. “The lake responded exactly the way we thought it would.”
But no one hopes for a drought. To cut phosphorus levels this time, scientists say, the habits — and the expensive equipment — of 70,000 farmers along the Erie shore must change. Most of the phosphorus that feeds algae these days comes from farmland.
Much of the phosphorus originates near Toledo, where the Maumee River completes a 137-mile journey and empties into the lake’s shallow western basin.
The Maumee watershed is Ohio’s breadbasket, two-thirds farmland, mostly corn and soybeans. Farming there is changing radically, said Steve Davis, a watershed specialist with the United States Agriculture Department’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Dr. Tom Bridgeman
Tom Bridgeman, a professor at the University of Toledo, stood deep in deposits of algae, whose growth is encouraged by the runoff of agricultural fertilizers.
Plowing is declining; 55 percent of farmland is planted using anti-erosion methods promoted by the Resource Conservation Service, like no-till farming, in which seeds are inserted into small holes in unplowed ground. Fertilizing is now contracted to companies that cast pellets onto the bare ground from trucks, or to “factory farms” that spray liquefied animal waste on their cropland.
Mr. Davis has analyzed his watershed almost to the last cornstalk. Animal waste makes up 14 percent of all fertilizer. The rest is fertilizer pellets, 48 pounds per acre. In past days, most pellets sank into plowed soil and stayed there. Now, rain and snowmelt wash an average 1.1 of those 48 pounds off unplowed soil. Much winds up in the Maumee, then in Lake Erie.
The Maumee supplies only about 5 percent of Erie’s water, but half its phosphorus. And while algae struggle to digest ordinary phosphorus — only about 30 percent gets taken up — fertilizer phosphorus is designed for plants to use instantly.
Two other recent changes make matters still worse.
One is the zebra mussel, a foreign invader that has dominated Erie since its discovery in 1988. Millions of mussels feast on nontoxic green algae, removing competitors to the toxic Microcystis algae and decimating the base of the food chain that supports Erie’s fish. Then in a vicious cycle, mussels excrete the algae’s phosphorus, providing the Microcystis a ready-made meal.
The other is climate change. Only heavy rains wash fertilizer off farmland, and since 1940, Mr. Richards said, heavy spring rainstorms have increased by 13 percent.
The Maumee’s phosphorus can be limited, Mr. Davis says, but only if farmers change their approach. More soil testing and new G.P.S.-guided machinery can ensure that crops receive the minimum fertilizer they need. Other new equipment can put fertilizer in the ground during planting instead of pellets being broadcast in the winter. Leaving land fallow beside streams reduces runoff.
The catch is that fertilizing is already efficient: that wasted 1.1 pounds is but 2 percent of all pellets spread on Maumee-area farms. “When you’re only losing a pound per acre,” Mr. Davis said, “how do you cut it to a half?”
Since Earth Day was established with high hopes in 1970 and brought needed legislation to protect air, water and land, the system has reverted to the form that made Lake Erie a poster child for the abuse of nature. Here are some examples culled from the annals since Earth Day 2012:
EPA report: More than half nation’s rivers in poor shape
Sean Gardner/Reuters – Barges sit along the banks of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Miss., in this photo taken May 13, 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency sampled nearly 2,000 locations in 2008 and 2009 and found more than 55 percent of them in poor condition.
By Dina Cappiello, Published: March 26
More than half of the country’s rivers and streams are in poor biological health, unable to support healthy populations of aquatic insects and other creatures, according to a nationwide survey released Tuesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency sampled nearly 2,000 locations in 2008 and 2009 — from rivers as large as the Mississippi River to streams small enough for wading. The study found more than 55 percent of them in poor condition, 23 percent in fair shape, and 21 percent in good biological health.
The most widespread problem was high levels of nutrient pollution, caused by phosphorus and nitrogen washing into rivers and streams from farms, cities and sewers. High levels of phosphorus — a common ingredient in detergents and fertilizers — were found in 40 percent of rivers and streams.
Another problem detected was development. Land clearing and building along waterways increases erosion and flooding and allows more pollutants to enter waters.
“This new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator of the EPA’s water office. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers, as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities and play a critical role in the economy.”
Conditions are worse in the East, the report found. More than 70 percent of streams and rivers from the Texas coast to the New Jersey coast are in poor shape. Streams and rivers are healthiest in Western mountain areas, where only 26 percent were classified as in poor condition.
The EPA also found some potential risks for human health.
In 9 percent of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds protective of human health. And mercury, which is toxic, was found in fish tissue along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based standards. Mercury occurs naturally but also can enter the environment from coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes.
The Obama administration finalized regulations to control mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants for the first time in late 2011.
Based upon the recent facts, Hurricane Sandy, the New England Blizzard and persistent drought, only a fool (ditto-head) or rich asshole would deny the evidence – Global Warming is here.
Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks
Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science
Drought Drives Down Cattle Count
Drought Takes Its Toll on a Texas Business, a Town and Its Families
Its cattle supply diminished by drought, the Cargill beef processing plant, the largest employer in Plainview, Tex., shut down on Feb. 1, leaving more than 2,000 people out of work.
Every Saturday morning, a group of residents and laid-off workers gather outside the plant off Interstate 27 to walk four miles around the perimeter of Cargill. They do it not as a protest, and not strictly for the exercise. They encircle the plant with prayers.
Plainview, 47 miles north of Lubbock, gets its name from the West Texas topography – flat, big-sky country surrounded by acres of cotton. It is a slow-paced town that cherishes its old-fashioned feel.
Cracks in the earth from summer drought are shown near the base of soybean plants on Friday, July 27, in Jacob. Cracks that close to the plants can cause them to suffer or die completely. (Paul Newton / The Southern)
January 12, 2013 7:00 am • Associated Press
For farmers such as Earl Williams, last year couldn’t have started out better or ended much worse as a warm, sunny spring that let him plant early gave way to record heat and drought that devastated his corn.
Williams ended up with about two-thirds of the crop he expected, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Friday showed most corn farmers didn’t fare much better. The final report on the 2012 growing season showed farmers harvested 10.78 billion bushels of corn, less than three-fourths of what the agency predicted last spring.
“I’ve yet to run into anyone around me that wasn’t ready for 2013 to come,” he said.
Yet things could have been worse. Because demand remained strong and corn prices remained high — above $7 a bushel for much of the summer and fall — the 2012 crop was the most valuable ever produced, with a value of around $85 billion, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist with Iowa State University.
The harvest also was the eighth largest in U.S. history, a reflection of a big increase in recent years in the number of acres planted and crop technology that has improved plants’ ability to withstand drought.
In some areas, farmers got yields that require 40 percent more water than was available in the top few feet of their soil, Wilson said. That means plant roots were driven deeper to reach the subsoil.
While the drought eventually spread to cover two-thirds of the nation, its impact varied widely from one region of the corn belt to another. Some Iowa farmers saw decent results, while those in parts of Illinois and Indiana could only watch as plants withered and died after months of drought.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, said a farm bill could make a huge difference.
“The problem has been that the (Speaker of the House John Boehner) has refused to bring the farm bill to a vote.”
Enyart said there is enough uncertainty in the agriculture business as is.
“What it (the farm bill) is going to do, it’s going to provide some stability in government policy and in government programs” such as crop insurance.
Enyart said the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been an issue in passing a new farm bill, but it is not the only issue holding up the bill.
“There’s been an issue over crop insurance,” Enyart said. “There’s been an issue over direct payments to farmers.”
Friday’s reports showed that Illinois, typically the nation’s second-largest corn producer, fell to fourth place behind Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Iowa, coming off of its driest year since 1989, remains the largest corn producer with 1.87 billion bushels, down 20 percent from the year before. Minnesota was second with 1.37 billion bushels, followed by Nebraska with 1.29 billion and Illinois with 1.28 billion.
Corn production in Illinois fell 34 percent from 2011 and Nebraska’s production was off 16 percent. Minnesota, where the drought was not as severe as in other states, produced 14 percent more corn last year than the year before.
The USDA had predicted a record average yield of 166 bushels per acre of corn when warm weather got farmers in the fields early. But the government began scaling back estimates as the drought spread across two-thirds of the nation. The year-end average was 123.4 bushels per acre.
Report sounds alarm on global warming
Climate change will have drastic effects in U.S.
By Dave Golowenski
For The Columbus Dispatch Sunday February 3, 2013 6:01 AM
Calling climate change “the biggest single threat to wildlife in this country,” the National Wildlife Federation last week issued a report that attempts to convey the extent of that threat.
“This isn’t about making predictions,” said federation senior scientist Amanda Staudt, one of the report authors, during a teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s happening here and now.”
Entitled “Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis,” the 48-page report describes how weather extremes that include heat, drought and anomalous precipitation are affecting the plants and animals in eight regions of the United States.
At least three sections of the report — Great Lakes, Appalachian Mountains and, to a lesser extent, the Great Plains — address impacts related to Ohio and its residents.
Although the report contains few surprises, it assembles evidence of an unfolding calamity whose scope might not be known to a public that generally gets its information in TV sound bites and disconnected news briefs.
“Many of these things have been around piecemeal before,” Staudt said. “Our aim was to put them together into a coherent story.”
Change always has been a fact of life. Whenever change has occurred at a geological pace, animals and plants have adapted, sometimes by the slow transformation into different species.But a 7- to 11-degree warming of global temperatures during a period of 100 years would guarantee the demise of many species as they are forced into an evolutionary dead end.
Many species already are under stress. For instance, 177 of 305 bird species in North America have shifted their range northward by an average of 35 miles during the past four decades as warming has become pronounced. Forests are moving north into the Arctic tundra, broadleaf trees are replacing conifers in Vermont, and pine beetles have ravaged enormous tracts of forest in the West.
Some plants and animals have been extending their range across North America by up to 12 miles each year since 1990. For most of the 20th century, species movement averaged about 0.4 of a mile annually, the report says.
Areas in the West, Southwest and Plains affected by a prolonged drought in 2012 could lose a third of their trees.
“This is just beginning,” Janna Beckerman, a plant pathologist at Purdue University, told USA Today. “I suspect we’ll see trees still dying for the next two or three years” because of the 2012 drought.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center predicts another dry, hot summer for much of the United States already hard hit.
Last month, a report by U.S. Forest Service scientists said more troubles lie ahead for the endangered Indiana bat, which the service said is likely to be pushed out of its Midwest breeding territory, including Ohio, by rising temperatures. If Indiana bats are to survive, the service said, they will have to grab a foothold in the higher Appalachians and the northeast states.
Also close to home, algae blooms on Lake Erie in 2011 can be tied to an unusually rainy spring that year that washed tremendous amounts of agricultural fertilizers into the water column. The blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, produce deadly toxins. When the algae masses die, their decomposition sucks oxygen from the water, contributing to so-called “dead zones” where fish and other oxygen-dependent creatures can perish if they can’t escape.
Climate models suggest that the Great Lakes region, while hotter and drier overall, will experience a general increase in spring rains during the coming decades, Staudt said, which means the runoff/algae problem will need fixing.
Diminished periods of winter ice will make the Great Lakes warmer and increase evaporation. Such change will favor warm-water species, such as carps, sheepshead, catfish, white bass and white perch, and be less friendly toward trout, walleye, yellow perch, whitefish and salmon.
Thousands of northern pike, also a cool-water species, went belly up last summer when river temperatures climbed to as high as 90 degrees in southern Michigan.
Ohio’s Black River, a Lake Erie tributary largely given over to the steel industry near its mouth during the 20th century, gets special mention in the federation report. Although the river has undergone a slow recovery as the result of costly cleanup efforts, gains remain fragile. The river could lose half its species by mid-century as a result of the changing weather patterns.
Duck hunters could be facing tougher times if heat and drought shrink the prairie potholes on the summer breeding grounds in the Upper Midwest and Plains.
Any solution to climate change will involve diminished use of fuels that pump carbon into the atmosphere, the federation report said.
To download a copy of the report, Wildlife in a Warming World, visit the National Wildlife Federation website at nwf.org.
Global warming: passing the ‘tipping point’
Our special investigation reveals that critical rise in world temperatures is now unavoidable
BY MICHAEL MCCARTHY , ENVIRONMENT EDITOR SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2006
A crucial global warming “tipping point” for the Earth, highlighted only last week by the British Government, has already been passed, with devastating consequences.
Research commissioned by The Independent reveals that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has now crossed a threshold, set down by scientists from around the world at a conference in Britain last year, beyond which really dangerous climate change is likely to be unstoppable.
The implication is that some of global warming’s worst predicted effects, from destruction of ecosystems to increased hunger and water shortages for billions of people, cannot now be avoided, whatever we do. It gives considerable force to the contention by the green guru Professor James Lovelock, put forward last month in The Independent, that climate change is now past the point of no return.
The danger point we are now firmly on course for is a rise in global mean temperatures to 2 degrees above the level before the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.
At the moment, global mean temperatures have risen to about 0.6 degrees above the pre-industrial era – and worrying signs of climate change, such as the rapid melting of the Arctic ice in summer, are already increasingly evident. But a rise to 2 degrees would be far more serious.
By that point it is likely that the Greenland ice sheet will already have begun irreversible melting, threatening the world with a sea-level rise of several metres. Agricultural yields will have started to fall, not only in Africa but also in Europe, the US and Russia, putting up to 200 million more people at risk from hunger, and up to 2.8 billion additional people at risk of water shortages for both drinking and irrigation. The Government’s conference on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, held at the UK Met Office in Exeter a year ago, highlighted a clear threshold in the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which should not be surpassed if the 2 degree point was to be avoided with “relatively high certainty”.
This was for the concentration of CO2 and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, taken together in their global warming effect, to stay below 400ppm (parts per million) in CO2 terms – or in the jargon, the “equivalent concentration” of CO2 should remain below that level.
The warning was highlighted in the official report of the Exeter conference, published last week. However, an investigation by The Independent has established that the CO2 equivalent concentration, largely unnoticed by the scientific and political communities, has now risen beyond this threshold.
This number is not a familiar one even among climate researchers, and is not readily available. For example, when we put the question to a very senior climate scientist, he said: “I would think it’s definitely over 400 – probably about 420.” So we asked one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of greenhouse gases on climate, Professor Keith Shine, head of the meteorology department at the University of Reading, to calculate it precisely. Using the latest available figures (for 2004), his calculations show the equivalent concentration of C02, taking in the effects of methane and nitrous oxide at 2004 levels, is now 425ppm. This is made up of CO2 itself, at 379ppm; the global warming effect of the methane in the atmosphere, equivalent to another 40ppm of CO2; and the effect of nitrous oxide, equivalent to another 6ppm of CO2.
The tipping point warned about last week by the Government is already behind us.
“The passing of this threshold is of the most enormous significance,” said Tom Burke, a former government adviser on the green issues, now visiting professor at Imperial College London. “It means we have actually entered a new era – the era of dangerous climate change. We have passed the point where we can be confident of staying below the 2 degree rise set as the threshold for danger. What this tells us is that we have already reached the point where our children can no longer count on a safe climate.”
The scientist who chaired the Exeter conference, Dennis Tirpak, head of the climate change unit of the OECD in Paris, was even more direct. He said: “This means we will hit 2 degrees [as a global mean temperature rise].”
Professor Burke added: “We have very little time to act now. Governments must stop talking and start spending. We already have the technology to allow us to meet our growing need for energy while keeping a stable climate. We must deploy it now. Doing so will cost less than the Iraq war so we know we can afford it.”
The 400ppm threshold is based on a paper given at Exeter by Malte Meinhausen of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Dr Meinhausen reviewed a dozen studies of the probability of exceeding the 2 degrees threshold at different CO2 equivalent levels. Taken together they show that only by remaining above 400 is there a very high chance of not doing so.
Some scientists have been reluctant to talk about the overall global warming effect of all the greenhouses gases taken together, because there is another consideration – the fact that the “aerosol”, or band of dust in the atmosphere from industrial pollution, actually reduces the warming.
As Professor Shine stresses, there is enormous uncertainty about the degree to which this is happening, so making calculation of the overall warming effect problematic. However, as James Lovelock points out – and Professor Shine and other scientists accept – in the event of an industrial downturn, the aerosol could fall out of the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, and then the effect of all the greenhouse gases taken together would suddenly be fully felt.
Plastic debris reaches Southern Ocean, previously thought to be pristine
Researchers on 70,000-mile voyage to investigate climate change say effect of humans is now ‘truly planetary’
Too Few Fish in the Sea
In January, officials recommended drastic cuts to the commercial harvest of cod along the Atlantic coast
Fiddling while Rome burns – the £3trn cost of climate delay
Expert warns that Doha agreement to wait until 2020 to tackle global warming is a mistake
TOM BAWDEN SUNDAY 13 JANUARY 2013
The Doha climate summit agreement which delayed vital action to tackle global warming for another seven years will cost $5 trillion (£3.1trn) to remedy, according to research by one of the world’s leading climate change scientists.
Delaying until 2020 measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions enough to give the world a fair chance of containing global warming would cost 25 per cent more than taking action to achieve the same reduction now, according to the first research to quantify the financial impact of deferring remedial measures. The increase would take the cost from $20trn if action started today to $25trn if it began in 2020, as agreed in Doha last month.
“It was generally known that costs increase when you delay action. It was not clear how quickly they change,” said Dr Keywan Riahi, of the renowned International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria (IIASA), which conducted the research.
“With a 20-year delay, you can throw as much money as you have at the problem, and the best outcome you get is a 50-50 chance of keeping the temperature rise below two degrees,” said Dr Riahi, a lead author of the last two influential “assessment reports” for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as the next one, due out in 2014.
Most experts agree that once global warming exceeds two degrees centigrade the consequences become increasingly devastating. Last month the world’s leading nations reaffirmed a goal of two degrees at the UN climate change conference in Doha and agreed to launch a co-ordinated global campaign to ensure the target was met.
However, they gave themselves until 2015 to finalise the details of the campaign and five more years to prepare for it, meaning action to combat global warming will not happen until 2020.
Dr Riahi’s calculations demonstrate the costs of such a delay. The $5trn, or 25 per cent, figure represents the increase in the total cost of ensuring emissions are reduced to a level that give the world a fair – 60 per cent – chance of keeping global warming to two degrees.
This includes the cost of switching from polluting coal-fired power stations to renewable energy sources and from petrol to biofuels – as well as areas such as introducing measures to improve energy efficiency.
“Climate is a cumulative problem and so the ‘headroom’ with respect to the emissions that can be vented into the atmosphere in order to stay below two degrees is limited,” said Dr Riahi, who calculated the cost of delay for The Independent, which he derived from research his organisation published in the journal Nature this month.
“Any lack of emissions reduction now needs to be compensated by more rapid and deeper emissions later on and this makes it more expensive ,” he added.The extra spending would be spread between 2020 and 2100, and much of will be needed by 2050, says the IIASA.
Inspired: Ohio teen Samantha Manns has set out on a mission to complete exactly 89 random acts of kindness in memory of her grandmother Virginia Booth’s 89 years of life, both pictured here
Paying it forward: Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, is the first female to join the Giving Pledge
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world through her successful shapewear line. Now, she is also the first female to join Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge.
Generous helping: One of CeCe’s regular customers left the $446 tip for her $5.97 order
Delighted: CeCe Bruce received the tip from a customer who comes in regularly for breakfast
Thrilled by Bushkill Park, ‘American Pickers’ fork over $5,000 for their finds
Years ago, when I attended Ohio State, a Bob Hope story reported that he was worth $200 million.
If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
That’s great, I thought. Another local story reported that a school system needed books. “Wish”: I was Bob Hope, or someone with money, to help out.
Company builds future with the homeless
JOHNNY CRAWFORD | ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
Carl Carlson sands wood used to make a bunk bed at Lamon Luther, a Georgia furniture maker that has put homeless men back to work.
By Shelia M. Poole
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION Sunday December 30, 2012 5:00 AM
ATLANTA — Brian Preston knows what it’s like to teeter on the edge of a financial cliff.
His residential construction business went belly up and he almost lost his home when the recession hit a few years ago.
Now he’s helping pull others back from that same ledge.
Preston is the founder and “chief storyteller” of Lamon Luther, a Douglasville, Ga., furniture designer and maker that has helped put formerly homeless and almost-homeless men back on their feet by giving them jobs and putting tools in their hands.
“I knew how easy it was to be in that kind of situation,” said Preston, 31, who started the business almost a year ago. “When everything went down with our family, it had gotten so bad we were having yard sales to make ends meet.”
I think that’s when my passion for poverty exploded.”
He said the business is working under a slim profit and expects to report $150,000 in sales for the first year. He pours the money “back into the guys and hiring more guys.” Lamon Luther, named after Preston’s grandfather, employs three full-time and three part-time workers. Preston considers the close-knit group as family.
Although he could have gone the nonprofit route, Preston said it was important to run Lamon Luther as a for-profit business and not be dependent on donations.
“I wanted us to create a substantial, legitimate opportunity for our guys,” he said. “They were so used to getting donations and handouts, I didn’t want this to be set up that way. I wanted it to be based on the hard work they are putting into the product.”
Clients for the tables, benches, beds, cabinets and other custom products have included a school, designers and a fast-food restaurant chain.
Preston, who left his job as a creative director at his church to start Lamon Luther, remembers the first time in 2009 that he went into “the Village,” a wooded area near downtown Douglasville that was home to about a dozen or so down-on-their-luck souls. Many were ex-carpenters and former construction workers.
Outside of a few church groups, most people avoided the woods and their struggling residents.
Preston was told it was too dangerous and he would only find trouble, but he wanted to find a way to give back to the community.
“I felt my life was too safe,” Preston said. “I got frustrated with myself because I felt I could be doing more to help.”
So he and his best friend went.
“We couldn’t believe that homeless people lived in our community,” he said. “You think it’s just in urban areas, but there are huge pockets of suburban homelessness.
They took firewood, clothing and batteries to the camps to make life a little easier. Over time, though, Preston started to feel that he was an enabler.
He asked one man, Mitch, what he could do to really help. The answer was simple: They wanted jobs and an opportunity to move out of the woods. Mitch said no one would hire them because they didn’t have identification or permanent addresses, or employers thought that the people in the woods would be unreliable or unskilled workers.
Their stories captivated Preston. He discovered that some of the men were carpenters and former construction workers, which fit well with his own background.
But the bottom line is really more about the men who work there — people such as Scott Miller, a 30-year-old former construction worker.
One recent afternoon, Miller and two others worked intently on an upended table’s legs and bunk beds. The air in the workshop was heavy with the smells of varnish and freshly sawed wood.
Miller lost his job when the economy tanked. Although his family offered to help, Miller said he didn’t want to feel like a burden, so he tried to wing it alone. Soon after, he was living in the woods.
It was tough. “Living there ain’t nothing nobody wants to do,” said Miller, who makes $7.50 an hour and has been able to move into a rental with shared facilities. He hopes to move into his own place one day. “I never thought I would see myself in that position.”
Another worker, Roger “T.C.” Anthony Curtis, 53, worked for years in home remodeling and decided to move from Florida back to Georgia when work dried up. He started out on foot, and it took him a month to make the journey.
But in his field it was rough everywhere. He wound up in the same encampment as Miller.
He started working for Lamon Luther in January. Within two months, he was out of the woods. “At least I know I can take a hot shower every day,” Curtis said.
Preston thinks his grandfather, who was an Alabama builder, mechanic and farmer, would be proud that the company bears his name.
“I think he would love it,” he said. “I remember as a kid he would share his crops with other people who didn’t have food. (The company) represents the generation of people that built with their hands, and it represents the generosity of his heart.”
Teenager spotted walking 10 MILES in the snow to interview for $7-an-hour job is given work on the spot by restaurant owner – who doubled his pay
Offer: Mr Bouvier told Jhaqueil that even if he was offered the Dairy Queen gig, he would double his salary if he came to work for him at Papa Roux instead
The Cleric Behind ‘Les Mis’
Author Victor Hugo was anticlerical, yet his tale’s hero is set on course by a Catholic bishop.
By DORIS DONNELLY
Fans of “Les Misérables” on film or stage may be surprised to know that not everyone in France was of good cheer when Victor Hugo published the book in 1862. The anticlerical set was especially offended by the pivotal role of the Bishop of Digne, who helped determine the course of the novel by resuscitating the soul of Jean Valjean.
As Hugo worked on the novel, his son Charles, then in his 20s, objected to the reverential treatment of the bishop. He argued to his father that the portrayal gave undeserved respect to a corrupt clergy, bestowing credibility on a Roman Catholic Church opposed to the democratic ideals that he and his father held. Charles instead proposed that the catalyst for Jean Valjean’s transformation be a lawyer or doctor or anyone else from a secular profession.
The pushback didn’t work. Not only did Hugo hold his ground, but he amplified the importance of Charles-François Bienvenue Myriel, affectionately known in the novel as Monseigneur Bienvenue (Bishop Welcome). The book’s first hundred pages or so are a detailed chronicle of Myriel’s exemplary life, showing that his intervention on behalf of Jean Valjean was part of a long track record and not a singular aberration. Apparently Hugo recognized no contradiction between his anticlericalism and the possibility—or certainty—that grace could be mediated by a just priest who was transparent to the divine and never betrayed the human.
Thirty years earlier, Hugo had solidified his anticlerical credentials by crafting the repulsive, licentious Archdeacon Claude Frollo in “Notre Dame de Paris.” It was time to try a new approach in “Les Misérables,” so he rendered an ideal priest against whom clergy could measure their fidelity to tenderness and mercy. His expectation—as we know from the contemporaneous diary of his wife, Adele—was that corrupt priests would be shamed and indicted by comparison with a good one.
With Bienvenue, Hugo created a no-frills bishop who lived in a modest cottage, having surrendered his episcopal palace to the hospital next door. There were no locks on the doors; a simple push of the latch allowed entry.
The bishop subsisted on less than one-tenth of his state entitlements, with the remaining funds dispensed to provide for the release of fathers in debtors’ prisons, meat for the soup of people in the hospital, and other unpopular charities. He had a sliding scale to officiate at marriages and preside at funerals. From the rich he exacted more, from the poor nothing at all.
Fearless, Bienvenue rode into territories overrun by bandits to visit his people. Without complaint, he assumed responsibilities that lazy curates chose not to. He agonized over the guillotine, and having accompanied a prisoner to his execution he was certain—as was Hugo himself—that anyone witnessing the death penalty would declare it a barbaric act unworthy of a civilized society.
The cleric in Hugo’s novel was without the entourage nurtured by other bishops. There were no opportunistic seminarians eager to latch onto his coattails and ride into the corridors of power. It was clear to everyone that his star wasn’t in ascendance. Bienvenue mused about seminaries that bred sycophants, where ambition was mistaken for vocation and upward mobility—from a modest biretta to a bishop’s mitre to a pope’s tiara—was the prized trajectory.
The greatest fear of young priest recruits, Hugo explains, was that merely associating with the virtuous Bienvenue could unwittingly cause one to convert to his lifestyle. It was widely known that virtue was contagious and no inoculation against it existed.
The trade-off for Bienvenue was that he was loved by his people. They had a bishop whose center of gravity was a compassionate God attuned to the sound of suffering, never repelled by deformities of body or soul, who occupied himself by dispensing balm and dressing wounds wherever he found them.
He found them in a town called Digne, a name conveniently derived from the Latin dignus, the root of the word we know in English as “dignity.” Bishop Bienvenue conferred dignity with abandon on those whose dignity was robbed by others. He had an endless supply of his own to share and a lot of practice when Jean Valjean knocked on his door.
During the night he spent at the bishop’s home, mere days after his release from serving 19 years as galley prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean stole six silver place settings, was apprehended, and returned the next morning under police guard to face the consequences of his crime. Unruffled, the bishop brushed off the police, added valuable silver candlesticks to the bundle, “bought” Jean Valjean’s soul from evil and claimed it for God. He redirected the life of a man chained to hatred, mistrust and anger, and he enabled Jean Valjean to emerge as one of the noblest characters in literature.
published Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
Employee benefits cut turnover for Chattanooga Steak ‘n Shake franchise
by Joan Garrett
Debbie Richman, right, and Matthew Richman stand in front of the Gunbarrel Road Steak N Shake restaurant. The mother and son team have recently been voted the best franchise in the country.
Photo by Tim Barber.
Debbie Richman offered health insurance for her full-time restaurant employees long before people talked about Obamacare.
When the recession hit and sales declined at her chain of five Steak ‘n Shake restaurants, she took out loans to keep the benefits.
She didn’t just provide health insurance. She offered workers 401(k) plans for retirement, dental, life and disability insurance benefits and vacation pay.
While other Steak ‘n Shake franchise owners weren’t offering such benefits, she did. Now most everyone in the chain is preparing to provide health care by 2014 under requirements of the new health reform law.
Many would expect the extra costs of such employee benefits might drain her business, Debo’s Diners Inc. But surprisingly, she said it strengthened the business.
The lessons of the economic downturn most widely discussed involve trimming and belt tightening. Everyone is learning to do more with less. But Richman, who runs Debo’s Diners Inc. with the help of her two sons, Michael, 23, and Matthew, 28, said she’s learned something else.
Employees treated right help grow a healthy business, she said.
“It has always been about people, not profits,” said Matthew Richman, who left Christian ministry work to help his mother’s business.
For years, her Gunbarrel Road Steak ‘n Shake location was ranked as the No. 5 store in the country for sales and service.
Now two of her stores are in the top five in the country. This year she was named the best franchise owner in the country because of her scores on cleanliness, customer complaints and sales.
In years past, employee turnover has been as high as 300 percent a year. Now it is closer to 75 percent.
And they did all of this with price cuts in place. Steak ‘n Shake redesigned menus and its price points. It started offering half-price milk shakes and drinks during certain times a day. Kids can eat free on Saturday and Sunday. Still, guest counts increased by double digits over the last few years, said Debbie Richman.
“We are in a good place now,” she said. “It is interesting because there are companies out there that try to cut costs in every way possible. We know of individuals who run restaurants that way. While we are growing, they aren’t. If profits are your first priority, they may not be there.”
Matthew Richman said his mom’s business decisions have always made him think of business differently. His mother started working as a Steak ‘n Shake waitress in Indianapolis at age 15.
In 1994, she moved her family to Chattanooga to start new restaurants. She employs 350 people at her five restaurants, including 150 full-time workers.
In the next year, Matthew Richman said they expect to hire even more. Debbie Richman had thought about selling the business, but decided to keep it when her sons got involved.
They also want to begin offering financial incentives for employees who participate in community work.
“I saw my mom and how she was making an impact on the people’s lives that worked for her. I want to help develop this business and find ways to give back,” Matthew Richman said.
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013
Shelters seeing more elderly homeless
Deb Gruver | Wichita Eagle
On the afternoon of Jan. 17, when the temperature dipped below freezing, a family from Kingman drove to Wichita, dumped a 78-year-old relative at the Inter-Faith Inn homeless shelter and quickly drove away.
They left her on the sidewalk with her wheelchair and a few suitcases.
“She wasn’t crying,” case manager Amanda Merritt recalled. “But she was upset about the situation. She said they were kicking her out.”
They left so quickly that no one from the shelter was able to talk to them, Merritt said. They didn’t even knock on the shelter door to make sure there was room at the inn.
“That’s unbelievable that someone would do that,” said Janis Cox, co-chairwoman of Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness, an area faith-based volunteer group.
Shelter staff took the woman, who was in poor health, inside.
To accommodate her frailties, the staff hustled to set her up with a room on the ground floor.
She stayed at the shelter more than two weeks until she found an out-of-state friend who agreed to take her in. She left Wichita a week ago.
The woman’s story may seem unbelievable, but it’s not that rare, said Sandy Swank, director of housing and homeless services for Inter-Faith Ministries.
A 2010 study by the Homeless Research Institute, an arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, projected that the number of elderly people who are homeless would increase by 33 percent, from 44,172 in 2010 to 58,772 by 2020, and would double to 95,000 by 2050.
“It seems like there are two main things going on,” said Nan Roman, president and chief executive of the alliance in Washington, D.C.
“One is that there’s a group of people who are homeless who are becoming older. They were younger homeless people, so the population is aging that way. The other thing is that our whole population is aging. Even though older people are less likely to be homeless than other people because they have more of a safety net, because there are more and more older people in general, we are going to have more and more elderly people vulnerable to homelessness.” Numbers up locally
Swank sees the numbers increasing locally.
“I’ve been working at Inter-Faith since October 1990,” she said. “In the beginning, we’d have an occasional elderly person come in, but if they came in, they came in with someone else. They always had someone to look after them. In the last 10 years, we have seen more elderly people, and each year it seems like the number increases.”
Swank remembers another woman left at the shelter. She arrived in a hospital gown with no shoes. There was snow on the ground. The front left wheel of her wheelchair was off.
“I was just outraged,” Swank said.
The woman eventually was able to move into an apartment of her own.
Inter-Faith’s winter shelter has served 13 people over age 62 this year, more than double last year’s total of five.
Swank points to a few theories about why the numbers are up – including, of course, the economy.
“Years ago, families did look after families,” Swank said. “Today, because of the economy, a lot of people are at risk themselves. I think families can’t afford to take care of each other like they used to. And we’ve become more mobile. We move away from our families of origin. We’re spread out.”
Inter-Faith is seeing mostly elderly people whose spouses have died, Swank said. Their spouses might have left behind a pile of medical expenses or credit card debt. She remembers one elderly woman whose husband died, leaving her with debt she didn’t even know about.
“They end up losing everything,” she said. “They’re pretty vulnerable. They don’t have a lot of experience, especially when the partner that’s deceased was in charge of decisions. So they’re pretty clueless about what to do.” Families ‘very stressed’
Public awareness about the increase in homelessness among the elderly is a good place to start, said Cox, chairwoman of the area task force.
“Families are very stressed,” she said. “With social services being cut by the government and nonprofits not receiving more donations, it just puts normal families under even more stress.”
The Homeless Research Institute recommended as part of its study that policymakers and leaders:
“We’re millions of units short of low-cost housing,” said Roman, with the national alliance.
“Not attending to it is not very smart because especially with older people, they’re going to get hospitalized, they’re going to get put in nursing homes, and those are very expensive things to happen. It’s much cheaper to keep them in regular housing.”
Roman also emphasized that people who are homeless age much faster. So a 50-year-old person without a home will have far more medical problems than a 50-year-old person who does have a place to call home.
The oldest person at Inter-Faith’s winter shelter was 83, Swank said.
She recalled a military veteran who didn’t have any living relatives.
“We sort of adopted him like a grandpa,” she said. “He had terminal lung cancer. We tore my office out of here and put a hospital bed in there. We’ve done extraordinary things. It’d be real easy to just say ‘no,’ but no can do.”
He stayed at the shelter until his pain became unbearable. He wanted to die at the shelter, Swank said, where he had some semblance of family.
“But we couldn’t administer pain meds,” Swank said. “We put him in an ambulance to the hospital.”
Dale Chilen recently landed in Inter-Faith’s winter shelter after a visit to the Robert J. Dole Veterans Administration Medical Center’s emergency room. A cab delivered the 78-year-old to the shelter on a Saturday night.
Swank just happened to see him arrive.
“He was so frail, in a wheelchair,” Swank said. “I paid the cab driver to get him to Safe Haven. He was too vulnerable anywhere else. We’re not a one-size-fits-all shelter, although sometimes I’d like to be.”
Chilen said he was born and raised in Kansas but most recently had been living in Reno, Nev.
He arrived in Salina at the beginning of the year, he said, “walked about 20 feet and fell and broke my hip.”
He said he went to a hospital in Salina and then to a senior center. He eventually came to Wichita.
Chilen stayed at Safe Haven, an Inter-Faith shelter for severely and persistently mentally ill or physically disabled people who are chronically homeless, for about a month.
The shelter “has been real good to me,” he said.
On Wednesday, he started moving into a low-income apartment for seniors with the help of Inter-Faith Ministries and the Veterans Administration.
The VA Center said it could not talk about specific patients because of privacy rules.
“We’re going to review the process to ensure we’re providing the best care for our veterans,” said Tyler Kilian, supervisor of ancillary services there.
Chilen, a Korean War veteran, said he has been homeless “off and on” for 20 years.
“I hate to admit it,” he said from his wheelchair, proudly looking at a brochure about his new apartment complex.
D.C., advocates at odds over homeless families; 900 people still in shelter
Hospital shoeshine who earns just $10,000 a year has donated astonishing $200,000 from tips to sick children over 30 years
How the NRA exerts influence over Congress
The National Rifle Association uses campaign expenditures and a rating system based on members’ voting histories to exert influence over members of Congress. Use this graphic to see who gets the most — and least – support.
WASHINGTON — First the White House and Congress created a potential fiscal crisis, agreeing more than a year ago to once-unthinkable governmentwide spending cuts in 2013 unless the two parties agreed to alternative ways to reduce budget deficits.
Now that those cuts are imminent — because compromise is not — they have created one of Washington’s odder blame games over just whose bad idea this was.
…What makes this debate over blame so odd is that both sides’ fingerprints — and votes — are all over the sequestration concept. The point of sequestration, in fact, was to define cuts that were so arbitrary and widespread that they would be unpalatable to both sides and force a deal.
For years, I wavered on the issue of term limits, couldn’t make up my mind on its utility for governance. At present, based upon watching and listening during the “fiscal cliff” nonsense, and now the “sequester” posturing, it is evident to me that re-election is the prime directive that motivates DC politicians, not prudent governance.
And I guaran-damn-tee you this: [Sen. Lindsay] Graham [R- SC] ’s antics have as much to do with events in Columbia, S.C., as with events in Washington. His sentiments are no doubt genuine, but the ferocity with which he has been attacking the Obama administration — taking a high-profile role on Benghazi, Susan Rice, Hagel and gun control — are helping him to repel a tea party primary challenge at home.
“His [Max Baucus] guiding principle has been to get reelected,” says one former Senate staffer, “not to lead and to educate.”
[Mitch] McConnell, like his equal across the aisle Harry Reid, is a rare politician well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. McConnell knows that his path to victory is not by telling a positive story about himself but by savaging the other guy.
It is a typically muggy summer evening on Capitol Hill. Senator Barbara Boxer has spent the past 12 hours attending committee meetings, casting votes and greetingconstituents.
But Boxer’s work is not done.
Curled up beside a telephone in her home’s study, Boxer dials the first number on a long list of California Democratic Party donors.
“Hello, this is Senator Boxer,” she says. “I bet you can guess why I am calling. I hate to ask you this, but. . . .”
Boxer cannot stand asking people for money. At times, it makes her physically ill. Nevertheless, she places call after call, sometimes for as long as four hours at a stretch, because she knows that’s what it takes to remain a senator.
“I feel terrible doing it,” Boxer said in an interview late last week. “Yet I know if I’m going to defend my record and defend my seat, I have to play by the rules.”
Fifteen months before she faces re-election, the Boxer money- raising machine is at full throttle. Boxer hopes to raise $20 million in her effort to win a second term. In order to reach her goal, she must raise about $33,000 every day, seven days a week, between now and November 1998.
Incumbent lawmakers enjoy a huge advantage over challengers, with the average incumbent Senator raising $11 million over a six-year term, a nearly 10-to-1 advantage over a Senate challenger’s average haul of $1.2 million.
Dialing For Dollars
Oct 20, 2007 9:11 AM EDT
Public financing for election campaigns may not be a panacea, but it’s got to be better than what we’re doing now.
But in what is both the most compelling and the most depressing part of the book, Gore fears that the U.S. political system isn’t up to the challenge. He can’t resist drawing on his techno-enthusiasm to describe the problem: “American democracy has been hacked.” That cute phrase is a little unfortunate, because his point is serious and bold: “The United States Congress, the avatar of the democratically elected national legislatures in the modern world, is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.”
President Obama recently suggested that he would ask Congress to close this loophole. Eliminating the carried-interest tax rate should be an easy sell. It should play to Republicans’ supposed hatred of government handouts and to Democrats’ commitment to social justice.
But because of the financial lobby’s clout, the loophole most likely won’t be closed. If it isn’t, shame on both parties for giving us another reason to distrust our democracy and our capitalist system.
While the tax legislation passed on Jan. 1 increased the top individual-income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent for couples making more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000, it left carried-interest income taxed at just 20 percent.
…This special tax treatment for carried interest protects the general partners of private equity, venture capital, real estate, hedge funds and other investment vehicles organized as limited partnerships. (The investment-holding company I run does not receive carried-interest income.)
Millions of general partners in investment funds receive carried-interest income when they earn profits for their clients. Since these partners do not have to risk any of their own capital, carried interest is really a taxpayer-subsidized fee for managing their clients’ money — often 20 percent of the profits generated in the fund, and sometimes significantly more than that.
Offering a blunt assessment of the extent to which private companies influence decision-making in the US, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “American politics has fallen into a state of disrepair,” in an interview to mark the publication of his new book, The Future.
Obama’s new political group to lure unlimited donations
In recent interviews, four former aides to Mr. Baucus said that their ties to him heightened their appeal to potential clients. The link also helped justify their salaries, in some cases $500,000 or higher, more than double or triple their Capitol Hill paychecks.
Former Senate aides who become lobbyists must wait a year before they can contact Mr. Baucus or his staff on behalf of a client, according to Senate ethics rules.
Staying active in their circle, one former aide said, also requires that they help Mr. Baucus’s political career, through fund-raising and other assistance.
Several of the lobbyists regularly fly to Big Sky, Mont., for weekend fund-raising retreats that Mr. Baucus hosts, or attend more intimate events in Washington like a gathering last month near the Capitol, where Paul Wilkins, Mr. Baucus’s chief of staff, talked about the millions of dollars Mr. Baucus will need to raise for his re-election campaign next year.
Among them, the top givers include Jeffrey A. Forbes, Mr. Baucus’s former Finance Committee staff director, who has donated a total of at least $25,000 to Mr. Baucus, his political action committee or the Montana Democratic Party. He attended the retreat in February at the Big Sky resort, which included skiing, snowmobiling and a big family dinner at Buck’s T-4 Lodge. The totals grow much bigger — to hundreds of thousands of dollars — when donations from Mr. Forbes’s clients, including Verizon and Altria, and other partners at his lobbying firm, are counted.
The picture is clear except for one salient set of facts: According to former Representative Bob Livingston (D-La.): “They’d come into Washington Tuesaday night, work Wedenesday, and leave Thursday….So what you had was ninety subcommittees, and all of the leadership committees, all meeting Wedenesday between nine and twelve. You can’t run the Congress like that. You can’t run any institution like that. And the institution broke down.”
Of the 56 days so far in 2013, the House has been in session for 20 — and a large chunk of those have been pro-forma sessions without votes, or with ceremonial bills. After a week’s recess, the chamber returned Monday with just a few items on the calendar. Lawmakers are scheduled to be out of town Friday, when the sequester is set to take effect. They’re planning another recess at the end of March, when the federal government is due to shut down for lack of funding.
Recess bell rings and Congress splits
WASHINGTON —Military readiness will be threatened. So will food inspections, teaching jobs, mental health services and more, all because of the automatic spending cuts due to take effect March 1.
Congress, though, has left the building.
Congress is off until Feb. 25 for its Presidents Day recess. That leaves four days to find a way to avoid automatic spending reductions, called a sequester, that the White House warns will “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”
Each side says it’s the other guy’s fault they’re not staying. Republicans aren’t being serious about finding solutions, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and “you need two willing partners.”
Republicans counter it’s those stubborn Democrats who won’t budge. Senate Democrats offered an alternative Thursday, and four hours later left for 10 days.
See, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Liberals sit on their hands until the last minute,” he said. “They offer some gimmicky tax hike bill designed to fail – then blame everyone else when it does.”
Congress’ approval rating has had trouble topping 15 percent, and members are hardly fatigued. The 113th Congress, which convened Jan. 3, spent 10 days in session last month.
Some get annoyed when asked why the recess is needed.
“It’s a perennial question and it’s a cheap shot,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “There’s no better place to be than with your constituents. A very small percentage of members go on vacation during these periods.”
One dissenting voice has been House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“The House should not recess and members of Congress should not go home until we finish our work, reach an agreement, and avert this crisis,” she wrote House Speaker John Boehner on Monday. The Ohio Republican didn’t respond.
Asked why the speaker did not respond, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, “I’m sure Rep. Pelosi is aware of the schedule.”
These one- to two-week recesses – they’re also scheduled around Easter and Passover, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and other holidays – are a modern creation. In the nation’s early days, Congress was a part-time matter, meeting from December through the spring.
That changed during the 20th century, and by the end of World War II, Congress came to Washington and stayed, forging friendships and trust that veterans maintain has been lost today. Members usually went home by summer – before the days of air conditioning.
But other than that, “No one expected them to go home during the session,” said Betty Koed, associate Senate historian.
The current stop-and-go system began to evolve in the 1960s. Airplane travel made it easier for everyone to go home. A new emphasis on family life meant members wanted more time back home with their families. And the need to raise lots of money meant more time away from Washington.
Recesses are rarely canceled. The most recent was in July 2011. For the first time in 37 years, the Senate gave up its post-Fourth of July break so it could deal with federal debt limit negotiations and U.S. involvement in Libya.
But even with the clock ticking toward sequestration, there’s little clamor to stay. When Congress returns, the Senate plans to take up other business Feb. 26 and 27, then probably turn to the Democratic package. The House will be waiting.
The Court took the opportunity to settle this issue, which was a pressing public policy concern, the right to ban certain types of weapons associated with criminal behavior. The Court prudently developed a two-prong test to evaluate a Second Amendment claim: weapons had to be of a type related to militia activity and had to be used in conjunction with participation in a well-regulated [legally sanctioned] militia. This test avoided the potentially absurd result of giving criminals the opportunity to claim that if their guns were used by the [de facto] National Guard [militia] and part of the ordinary equipment of the soldier they were entitled to Second Amendment protection.
States with weakest firearm laws lead in gun deaths: study
WASHINGTON | Wed Apr 3, 2013 3:03pm EDT
(Reuters) – Many states with the weakest firearms laws have the highest rates of gun-related homicides and suicides, according to a study released on Wednesday by a liberal think tank.
Alaska had the most gun deaths, with 20.28 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, twice the national average, the analysis by the Center for American Progress showed.
Louisiana and Montana, which followed with 19.06 and 16.58 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively, were among the 10 states with the weakest gun laws, according to the study, the latest to link gun laws to firearm deaths.
Eight of the states with the highest levels of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws, said the report, citing a study last year by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“This report – as others before it – demonstrates a strong link between state gun laws and gun violence,” it said, adding that this link didn’t imply cause and effect.
“Factors such as gun trafficking across state lines, overall crime patterns, and other socioeconomic issues in a state all play a role in gun-violence rates,” it said.
Louisiana, Alaska and Alabama have the highest levels of gun violence, based on measures that include firearm deaths, suicides, homicides, and police officials feloniously killed by guns.
Hawaii, Massachusetts and Connecticut had the lowest rates of gun violence, and were among the 10 states with the strongest gun laws, the study found.
Hawaii had the fewest firearm deaths in 2010, at 3.31 per 100,000 people.
Last month, researchers reported in the online journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, that more gun laws in a state were associated with lower firearm death rates.
Several states have moved to tighten gun laws following the massacre of 20 students and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.
President Barack Obama is seeking to pass the broadest gun control regulations in a generation, but faces stiff opposition from pro-gun groups.
The United States had about 31,300 firearms deaths in 2010, with two-thirds of them suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Vital Statistics Report.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bernadette Baum)
Commented 17 hours ago in Politics
“Gun Fundamentalists think like this: background checks lead to registration, registration leads to confiscation, confiscation leads to extermination – whacked.”
Gr8Scout February 12, 2013 at 5:49am
As a long time gun owner who [h]as seen the NRA move from being the only gun-safety organization to a well funded lobbying arm of the gun industry, I think Mr. Frey is mostly correct. Yes, long held position of the NRA is that background checks lead to registration, which is not true, as the background checks records are kept about 24 hours and then destroyed. Yes, long held stance of the NRA is that any registration will lead to confiscation.
Mr. Frey might be making a bit of an exaggeration on his last point, but not by much. HuffPost readers can see by the posts made by hard core proponents of the 2nd amend. that they do see themselves leading an insurrection against a tyrannical US government. This idea is held by NRA talking head Ted Nugent, who has made statements alluding to dying while fighting our present administration.
Hitler joins gun debate, but history is in dispute
By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer | Published: Mar 23, 2013 at 9:04 AM PDT
When the president of Ohio’s state school board posted her opposition to gun control, she used a powerful symbol to make her point: a picture of Adolf Hitler. When a well-known conservative commentator decried efforts to restrict guns, he argued that if only Jews in Poland had been better armed, many more would have survived the Holocaust.
In the months since the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, some gun rights supporters have repeatedly compared U.S. gun control efforts to Nazi restrictions on firearms, arguing that limiting weapons ownership could leave Americans defenseless against homegrown tyrants.
But some experts say that argument distorts a complex and contrary history. In reality, scholars say, Hitler loosened the tight gun laws that governed Germany after World War I, even as he barred Jews from owning weapons and moved to confiscate them.
Advocates who cite Hitler in the current U.S. debate overlook that Jews in 1930s Germany were a very small population, owned few guns before the Nazis took control, and lived under a dictatorship commanding overwhelming public support and military might, historians say. While it doesn’t fit neatly into the modern-day gun debate, they say, the truth is that for all Hitler’s unquestionably evil acts, his firearms laws likely made no difference in Jews’ very tenuous odds of survival.
“Objectively, it might have made things worse” if the Jews who fought the Nazis in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising in Poland had more and better guns, said historian Steve Paulsson, an expert on the period whose Jewish family survived the city’s destruction.
But comparisons between a push by gun control advocates in the U.S. and Hitler have become so common – in online comments and letters to newspaper editors, at gun rights protests and in public forums – they’re often asserted as fact, rather than argument.
“Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms,” former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker wrote in an online column in January.
After some gun advocates rallied at New York’s capitol in February carrying signs depicting Gov. Andrew Cuomo as Hitler, National Rifle Association President David Keene said the analogy was appropriate.
“Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to that history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here,” Keene, who was the lead speaker at the rally, told a radio interviewer March 1.
Those comparisons between gun control now and under Hitler joined numerous other statements, including the one by the Ohio school board president, Debe Terhar, on her personal Facebook page in January and by conservative commentator Andrew Napolitano, writing in The Washington Times.
The comparisons recently prompted the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, to call on critics of gun control to keep Hitler and the Nazis out of the debate.
The rhetoric “is such an absurdity and so offensive and just undermines any real understanding of what the Holocaust was about,” said Ken Jacobson, the ADL’s deputy national director. “If they do believe it, they’re making no serious examination of what the Nazi regime was about.”
But some gun rights advocates firmly disagree.
“People who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Charles Heller, executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, which has long compared U.S. gun control to Nazi tactics. “I guess if you’re pro-Nazi, they are right. But if you’re pro-freedom, we call those people liars.”
Comparing gun control activism to Hitler is not new. In a 1994 book, “Guns, Crime and Freedom,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre wrote that “In Germany, firearm registration helped lead to the Holocaust.”
But the history of civilian gun ownership under the Nazis, scholars say, is far more complicated than the rhetoric indicates.
After World War I, Germany signed a peace treaty requiring dismantling of much of its army and limiting weapons import and export. But many of the 1 million soldiers returning home joined armed militias, including a Nazi Party force that saw Communists as the leading threat.
“Technically, they (the militias) were illegal and the guns were illegal, but a lot of government officials didn’t care about right-wingers with guns taking on Communists,” said David Redles, co-author of “Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History,” a popular college text. By 1928, however, officials decided they had to get a handle on the militias and their weapons and passed a law requiring registration of all guns, said Redles, who teaches at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.
Soon after Hitler was named chancellor in 1933, he used the arson of the Reichstag as an excuse to push through a decree allowing for the arrest of many Communists and the suspension of civil rights including protections from search and seizure. But as the Nazis increasingly targeted Jews and others they considered enemies, they moved in 1938 to loosen gun statutes for the loyal majority, said Bernard Harcourt, a University of Chicago professor of law and political science who has studied gun regulations under Hitler.
The 1938 law is best known for barring Jews from owning weapons, after which the Nazis confiscated guns from Jewish homes. But Harcourt points out that Hitler’s gun law otherwise completely deregulated acquisition of rifles, long guns and ammunition. It exempted many groups from requiring permits. The law lowered the age for legal gun ownership from 20 to 18. And it extended the validity of gun permits from one year to three years.
“To suggest that the targeting of Jews in any of the gun regulations or any of the other regulations is somehow tied to Nazis’ view of guns is entirely misleading,” Harcourt said, “because the Nazis believed in a greater deregulation of firearms. Firearms were viewed, for the good German, were something to which they had rights.”
With the 1938 law, Nazis seized guns from Jewish homes. But few Jews owned guns and they composed just 2 percent of the population in a country that strongly backed Hitler. By the time the law passed, Jews were so marginalized and spread among so many cities, there was no possibility of them putting up meaningful resistance, even with guns, said Robert Gellately, a professor of history at Florida State University and author of “Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany.”
U.S. gun rights advocates disagree, pointing to the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising by about 700 armed Jews who were able to fend off a much larger force of German troops for days until retreating to tunnels or fleeing. The Nazis won out by systematically burning the ghetto to the ground, house by house.
“Once the Germans began adopting that strategy there really wasn’t very much that people armed with pistols, or even rifles and machine guns, could do,” said Paulsson, the historian and author of “Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw.”
Paulsson said it is possible that if Polish Jews had limited their resistance, Nazi troops might not have destroyed the ghetto, allowing more to survive in hiding or escape. When armed Jews shot at mobs or troops at other times in 1930s and 1940s Poland, it incited more vicious counter-attacks, he said.
But to Heller, the gun rights activist, the Warsaw uprising is proof of power in firearms. Giving Jews more guns might not have averted the Holocaust, but it would have given them a fighting chance, enough that perhaps a third of them could have shot their way out of being marched to the concentration camps, he said.
“Could they have fought back? They did (in Warsaw). You know why they (the Nazis) destroyed the ghetto? Because they were afraid of getting shot,” he said. “Now, will it get to that in the U.S.? God, I hope not. Not if (U.S. Attorney General Eric) Holder doesn’t start sending people to kick doors down.”
But Paulsson, whose mother was freed from the Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of the war, dismisses that argument as twisting the facts.
“Ideologues always try to shoehorn history into their own categories and read into the past things that serve their own particular purposes,” he said.
During a public hearing on gun violence in Hartford, Conn. on Monday, a legal immigrant by the name of Henson Ong issued a passionate defense of the Second Amendment and argued that gun control simply “does not work.” The video of Ong’s testimony has already surpassed 130,000 views on YouTube.
“Forgive me, English is not my first language. I am a legal immigrant and I am an American by choice,” he began, prompting applause from the audience.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my opinion and give my testimony in opposition to the majority of the proposed bills, which do nothing to deter future crimes,” he added. “Gun control doesn’t work.”
Ong then launched into a impassioned diatribe about what he considers to be the real problem fueling gun gun violence — “societal decay.”
“Your own history is replete with high school rifle teams, boy scout marksmanship merit badges,” he explained. “You could buy rifles at hardware stores, you could order them… your country was awash in readily available firearms and ammunition, and yet in your past you did not have mass school shootings*.”
“What changed?” he asked. “It was not that the availability of guns suddenly exploded or increased, it actually was decreased. What changed was societal decay,” he added, resulting in more applause.
Ong pointed to the Washington, D.C. and Chicago as two cities with some of the strictest gun laws but also “the highest crime and murder rates.”
“If gun control actually did work, Washington, D.C. and Chicago would be the safest cities in your nation. But [they are] not, they have the toughest gun laws and the highest crime and murder rates,” he said.
Ong also defended Americans’ right to own so-called “assault rifles,” which are really just semi-automatic rifles. Citing a recent purchase of 7,000 5.56x45mm NATO “personal defense weapons” by the Department of Homeland Security, he noted how the agency described the weapons as “suitable for personal defense use in close quarters.”
He went on: “Had the Koreans in the LA riots not had AR-15s and AK-47s with 30-round magazines — and Ruger 30s — their businesses would have burnt to the ground like all the other businesses in their neighborhoods. Theirs stood because they stood their ground.”
Driving a point home that many U.S. lawmakers don’t even seem to fully understand, the legal immigrant stated definitively that the Second Amendment’s purpose was not for hunting.
In closing, Ong quoted a famous statement by Judge Alex Kozinski in his dissent on the case of Silveira v. Lockye in 2002.
“My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime usually do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed only for those exceptionally rare circumstances when all other rights have failed. A free people can only afford to make this mistake once.”
Ong ended his testimony to applause from the audience.
Strict Gun Laws in Chicago Can’t Stem Fatal Shots
Scott Olson/Getty Images
The funeral for a 14-year-old boy who was killed Jan. 11 in Chicago, where there were more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013.
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: January 29, 2013
CHICAGO — Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.
And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.
To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. “The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,” said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite — a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.
“Chicago is like a house with two parents that may try to have good rules and do what they can, but it’s like you’ve got this single house sitting on a whole block where there’s anarchy,” said the Rev. Ira J. Acree, one among a group of pastors here who have marched and gathered signatures for an end to so much shooting. “Chicago is an argument for laws that are statewide or, better yet, national.”
Chicago’s experience reveals the complications inherent in carrying out local gun laws around the nation. Less restrictive laws in neighboring communities and states not only make guns easy to obtain nearby, but layers of differing laws — local and state — make it difficult to police violations. And though many describe the local and state gun laws here as relatively stringent, penalties for violating them — from jail time to fines — have not proven as severe as they are in some other places, reducing the incentive to comply.
Lately, the police say they are discovering far more guns on the streets of Chicago than in the nation’s two more populous cities, Los Angeles and New York. They seized 7,400 guns here in crimes or unpermitted uses last year (compared with 3,285 in New York City), and have confiscated 574 guns just since Jan. 1 — 124 of them last week alone.
More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store, Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits.
Efforts to compare the strictness of gun laws and the level of violence across major American cities are fraught with contradiction and complication, not least because of varying degrees of coordination between local and state laws and differing levels of enforcement. In New York City, where homicides and shootings have decreased, the gun laws are generally seen as at least as strict as Chicago’s, and the state laws in New York and many of its neighboring states are viewed as still tougher than those in and around Illinois. Philadelphia, like cities in many states, is limited in writing gun measures that go beyond those set by Pennsylvania law. Some city officials there have chafed under what they see as relatively lax state controls.
In Chicago, the rules for owning a handgun — rewritten after the outright ban was deemed too restrictive in 2010 — sound arduous. Owners must seek a Chicago firearms permit, which requires firearms training, a background check and a state-mandated firearm owner’s identification card, which requires a different background review for felonies and mental illness. To prevent straw buyers from selling or giving their weapons to people who would not meet the restrictions — girlfriends buying guns for gang members is a common problem, the police here say — the city requires permitted gun owners to report their weapons lost, sold or stolen.
Still, for all the regulations, the reality here looks different. Some 7,640 people currently hold a firearms permit, but nearly that many illicit weapons were confiscated from the city’s streets during last year alone. Chicago officials say Illinois has no requirement, comparable to Chicago’s, that gun owners immediately report their lost or stolen weapons to deter straw buyers. Consequently those outside the city can, in the words of one city official, carry guns to gang members in the city with “zero accountability.”
And a relatively common sentence in state court for gun possession for offenders without other felonies is one year in prison, which really may mean a penalty of six months, said Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, who said such punishments failed to serve as a significant enough deterrent for seasoned criminals who may see a modest prison stint as the price of doing business.
“The way the laws are structured facilitates the flow of those guns to hit our streets,” Garry F. McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent, said in an interview, later adding, “Chicago may have comprehensive gun laws, but they are not strict because the sanctions don’t exist.”
In the weeks since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president, has introduced a countywide provision requiring gun owners beyond the city limits to report lost or stolen guns, though a first offense would result simply in a $1,000 fine. In the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pressed for increased penalties for those who violate the city’s gun ordinance by failing to report their guns missing or possessing an assault weapon.
“Our gun strategy is only as strong as it is comprehensive, and it is constantly being undermined by events and occurrences happening outside the city — gun shows in surrounding counties, weak gun laws in neighboring states like Indiana and the inability to track purchasing,” Mr. Emanuel said. “This must change.”
State lawmakers, too, are soon expected to weigh new state provisions like an assault weapons ban, as Chicago already has. But the fate of the proposals is uncertain in a state with wide-open farming and hunting territory downstate.
“It’s going to be a fight,” said State Representative Jack D. Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, 60 miles outside Chicago. Complicating matters, an appellate court in December struck down the state’s ban on carrying guns in public, saying that a complete ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional. Illinois is seeking a review of the ruling, even as state lawmakers have been given a matter of months to contemplate conditions under which guns could be allowed in public.
Many here say that even the strictest, most punitive gun laws would not alone be an answer to this city’s violence. “Poverty, race, guns and drugs — you’ve got to deal with all these issues, but you’ve got to start somewhere” said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who was arrested in 2007 while protesting outside Chuck’s Gun Shop, the suburban store long known as a supplier of weapons that make their way to Chicago.
At the store, a clerk said the business followed all pertinent federal, state and local laws, then declined to be interviewed further. Among seized guns that had moved from purchase to the streets of Chicago in a year’s time or less, nearly 20 percent came from Chuck’s, the analysis found. Other guns arrived here that rapidly from gun shops in other parts of this state, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Iowa and more.
“Chicago is not an island,” said David Spielfogel, senior adviser to Mr. Emanuel. “We’re only as strong as the weakest gun law in surrounding states.”
The weapons straight out of Skyfall: The Bond-like ‘personalized smart guns’ that only fire when held by their rightful owners
You can’t ban crazy.
Moi • 7 hrs ago Report Abuse
In 35+ years as an ER nurse I’ve seen more than enough people who were FC (as we called them). Trying to get someone committed, even on a 72 hour watch, nearly takes an act of Congress. Most people (mental health workers) don’t want to wake a judge up in the middle of the night to sign the papers. I can’t tell you how many people we had to release from the ER because of that.
Guns are part of the problem, but not the entire problem. I’ve been saying for years it’s the PITIFUL, PATHETIC POOR excuse for a mental health care system we have here. You can take away all the guns, but the mentally ill WILL find another way.
In District of Columbia v. Heller,
554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court affirmed the right of citizens to defend themselves.
Law-abidng citzens tend to DEFEND themselves with pistols legally and lawfully.
911 tape: ‘Shoot him again!’ husband tells wife hiding from home intruder
The family had fled through three locked doors, into a bathroom and then to an upstairs crawl space, but the intruder busted the doors open to stalk the family, police said.
A 72-year-old homeowner immediately retrieved his handgun when he heard several home intruders attempting to gain entry to his Las Vegas residence early Monday morning. And when the criminals entered his bedroom, he opened fire, killing one of the suspects and sending the rest fleeing, KLAS-TV reports.
See also: The 1934 Federal Firearms Act
Miller v. United States, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (U.S.Ark. 1939),
China school knife attack leaves 23 injured
Tide shifting on pro-gun beliefs
Newtown tragedy prompts lawmakers to reconsider stances
Gun Owners Surveyed By Frank Luntz Express Broad Support For Gun Control Policies
More gun laws = fewer deaths, 50-state study says
By LINDSEY TANNER
AP Medical Writer / March 6, 2013
CHICAGO (AP) — States with the most gun control laws have the fewest gun-related deaths, according to a study that suggests sheer quantity of measures might make a difference.
But the research leaves many questions unanswered and won’t settle the debate over how policymakers should respond to recent high-profile acts of gun violence.
In the dozen or so states with the most gun control-related laws, far fewer people were shot to death or killed themselves with guns than in the states with the fewest laws, the study found. Overall, states with the most laws had a 42 percent lower gun death rate than states with the least number of laws.
The results are based on an analysis of 2007-2010 gun-related homicides and suicides from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers also used data on gun control measures in all 50 states compiled by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a well-known gun control advocacy group. They compared states by dividing them into four equal-sized groups according to the number of gun laws.
The results were published online Wednesday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
More than 30,000 people nationwide die from guns every year nationwide, and there’s evidence that gun-related violent crime rates have increased since 2008, a journal editorial noted.
During the four-years studied, there were nearly 122,000 gun deaths, 60 percent of them suicides.
‘‘Our motivation was really to understand what are the interventions that can be done to reduce firearm mortality,’’ said Dr. Eric Fleegler, the study’s lead author and an emergency department pediatrician and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital.
He said his study suggests but doesn’t prove that gun laws — or something else — led to fewer gun deaths.
Fleegler is also among hundreds of doctors who have signed a petition urging President Barack Obama and Congress to pass gun safety legislation, a campaign organized by the advocacy group Doctors for America.
Gun rights advocates have argued that strict gun laws have failed to curb high murder rates in some cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C. Fleegler said his study didn’t examine city-level laws, while gun control advocates have said local laws aren’t as effective when neighboring states have lax laws.
Previous research on the effectiveness of gun laws has had mixed results, and it’s a ‘‘very challenging’’ area to study, said Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy. He was not involved in the current study.
The strongest kind of research would require comparisons between states that have dissimilar gun laws but otherwise are nearly identical, ‘‘but there isn’t a super nice twin for New Jersey,’’ for example, a state with strict gun laws, Webster noted.
Fleegler said his study’s conclusions took into account factors also linked with gun violence, including poverty, education levels and race, which vary among the states.
The average annual gun death rate ranged from almost 3 per 100,000 in Hawaii to 18 per 100,000 in Louisiana. Hawaii had 16 gun laws, and along with New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts was among states with the most laws and fewest deaths. States with the fewest laws and most deaths included Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
But there were outliers: South Dakota, for example, had just two guns laws but few deaths.
Editorial author Dr. Garen Wintemute, director the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, said the study doesn’t answer which laws, if any, work.
Wintemute said it’s likely that gun control measures are more readily enacted in states with few gun owners — a factor that might have more influence on gun deaths than the number of laws.
Background Checks Overwhelmingly Supported By Gun Owners In 4 States (UPDATE)
Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Jan. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON — More than nine in 10 voters in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania support some form of background check on gun buyers, according to three separate Quinnipiac polls taken during the month of January, with roughly equal support among gun owners and all voters.
Overwhelming majorities of voters — 92 percent in Virginia and 95 percent in New Jersey — favor requiring background checks on people buying firearms at gun shows, Quinnipiac found, with support for the proposal also topping 90 percent among gun owners.
Pennsylvania voters, who were instead asked about a broader universal background check on gun buyers, gave that measure 95 percent support, as did the state’s gun owners.
Poll: 89% of Hoosiers support checks on gun buyers
While searching a man after his arrest in Broad Ripple in August 2012, Indianapolis police found this unlicensed .380 semiautomatic handgun. A poll from a coalition of mayors has found 89 percent of Hoosiers favor background checks on all gun buyers. / Danese Kenon / The Star
Mar 6, 2013
Written by Chris Sikich
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition of mayors has released a poll showing 89 percent of Hoosiers favor background checks on all gun buyers.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 850 mayors, released the data from a survey conducted in more than 60 states and congressional districts.
Bloomberg co-chairs the coalition with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Bloomberg has been calling for gun control, including spending his own money to influence a primary race in Illinois over the issue.
“Newtown broke our hearts,” said John Feinblatt, chief policy adviser to Bloomberg, in a prepared statement. “Two months later, it’s time for Washington to hear the call coming from Indiana, and from every corner of the country, to close the loopholes in the background check system. Even with major loopholes, the system blocks more than 70,000 felons and other dangerous people from buying guns every year. We can reform the system and save many lives – and Americans are virtually unanimous in demanding that Congress do it now.”
Licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on potential buyers, but about 40 percent of gun transfers are conducted by unlicensed private sellers who are not required to conduct a federal check, according to the news release.
“That 89 percent of Indiana residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check speaks volumes about the changing public mood on guns,” Schoen said in a prepared statement. “This margin is unlike any I’ve seen on this issue, and it marks a real sea change. Voters want their elected officials to fight gun violence, and after Newtown, they’re demanding it.”
Pollster Doug Schoen conducted the poll of 785 voters Jan. 26-28. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The cost was not released.
Pro-Gun Lawmakers Are Open to Limits on Size of Magazines
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Senator Chris Murphy spoke in front of a display of assault weapons during a news conference in January
At Hill hearing, Wayne LaPierre tries to manhandle facts and logic
By Dana Milbank, Published: January 30
Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, arrived for his hearing on Capitol Hill in the organization’s trademark fashion: violently.
When he and his colleagues stepped off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning and found TV cameras waiting in the hallway, LaPierre’s bodyguards swung into action. One of them, in blatant violation of congressional rules, bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked.
“You don’t have jurisdiction here!” a cameraman protested as an NRA goon pushed him against a wall. After the melee, congressional officials informed the NRA officials that, in the halls of Congress, they had to follow congressional procedures — which prohibit manhandling.
This must have come as a surprise to the gun lobbyists, whose swagger seems to suggest that they are, in fact, in control of Congress. In their world, nothing trumps the Second Amendment — not even the First Amendment.
From beginning to end, LaPierre’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a study in vainglory. The written testimony he submitted to Congress came with a biography describing him as a “Renaissance man,” a “skilled hunter,” and an “acclaimed speaker and political force of nature” as he preserved freedom. “There has been no better leader of this great cause than Wayne LaPierre!” the bio boasted.
After his decades with the group, LaPierre is the public face of the NRA, and the man gun-control advocates most love to hate. His unsmiling manner, his snarling statements and even his memorable name are from villainy central casting. “Mr. LaPierre, it’s good to see you again,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said from the dais, recalling bygone fights with her nemesis. “We tangled — what was it? — 18 years ago. You look pretty good, actually.”
Usually, LaPierre comes out the victor in these tangles, and on Wednesday he was so confident of another win that he boldly declared that the NRA would oppose the most innocuous of proposals to reduce gun violence: criminal background checks.
Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) reminded LaPierre that the NRA once supported checks with “no loopholes anywhere, for anyone.” So does the NRA favor closing the “gun-show loophole” that allows people to avoid background checks?
“We do not,” LaPierre replied.
His reasoning, as always, is that existing gun laws aren’t being enforced — but he seems to have pulled the evidence out of his gun barrel. “Out of more than 76,000 firearms purchases supposedly denied by the federal instant check system, only 62 were referred for prosecution,” LaPierre declared in his opening statement.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) looked up the actual statistic. “In 2012 more than 11,700 defendants were charged with federal gun crimes,” Whitehouse said, “a lot more than 62.”
LaPierre had been caught. “So those — the 62, senator, statistic, was for Chicago alone,” he clarified, a salient fact omitted from his original testimony.
His logic failed him as badly as his facts. “My problem with background checks is you’re never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks,” he argued, unwilling to admit that deterring criminals from buying guns is a good thing, even if some eventually get theirs on the black market.
Surely LaPierre understands that, but much of his performance was about concealing inconvenient realities. When former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a brief and emotional plea for gun control at the hearing, LaPierre was hidden away a few rows back, in the last seat of the row. This minimized the chance that he’d be in the camera shot with the popular Giffords, who lost much of her ability to speak and walk when a gunman with a history of psychiatric disorders shot her in the head.
The NRA chief made all the well-known arguments against gun laws; he reminded senators that the founders didn’t want Americans to “live under tyranny,” and he agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) that the proposed ban on assault weapons merely targets “cosmetic features” of guns. LaPierre also added the novel idea that people may need guns if they are “abandoned by their government if a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits.”
Most people don’t have such apocalyptic paranoia. But LaPierre’s job is to stir up the active minority who are frightened and resentful. “If you’re in the elite, you get bodyguards,” he told the senators. “You get high-cap mags with semiautomatics protecting this whole Capitol. The titans of industry get the bodyguards.” He said it’s only “the hardworking, law-abiding, taxpaying American that we’re going to make the least capable of defending themselves.”
Minutes after that denunciation of the well-protected elites, LaPierre rejoined his bodyguards, who were waiting in a back room.
NRA-backed federal limits on gun lawsuits frustrate victims, their attorneys
TParrish on Feb 8, 2013 at 07:18:18
“Assault weapons” is a misnomer. A more accurate description of what you are talking about would be “tactical-style” weapons, or “indoor-adaptable human target design-centric” (a term I just came up with) weapons. EVERYBODY in this discussion knows what weapons are being discussed, but the gun rights activists will attempt to muddy the water by pointing out the inaccuracy in terminology.
The fact of the matter is that the statistics support the gun rights advocates point of view concerning these weapons. If an American is murdered by a gun in the US, the statistical probability is that they were killed by an ILLEGALLY PURCHASED semi-automatic handgun equipped with a standard capacity magazine. Mass killings happen, but are statistically rare. Revolvers do get used, but less than semi-automatics. Extended capacity magazines do get used, but are also statistically less common than standard magazines.
The measures being proposed to reduce the number of illegal gun sales are they way to go. Supported by the vast majority of legal gun owners, they are designed not to infringe upon the 2nd Amendment rights so carefully guarded by gun rights advocates.
There will be resistance to these laws by people who are suspicious of the government, and of laws, and, well, of everything. They may not get their way, and in that eventuality we need to make sure that they find that their fears are unfounded.
This is the America that Obama will govern in his second term: A place divided not only by ideology, race and class but also by the very perception of reality. Four years since Obama first took office, is the country better or worse off? Safer or more at risk? Principled or desperately lost?
louweegie272 at 8:42 AM February 1, 2013
You never read about fixing NAFTA, which was supposd to end illegal immigration. Instead it displaced 2 million Oxacan farmers. Obama said he would revisit it in his first term and never mentioned it again. You never read about the role the Chamber of Commerce plays in hiring illegal workers. They fight the hardest against mandatory E Verify, which would shut off the jobs magnet for illegal workers, no fences required. The reporting and the debate has been framed by politicians, big business and the media as a civil rights issue and we are supposed to believe the Republican party is against cheap, compliant labor.http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_ave_yea_of_sch_of_adu-education-average-years-schooling-adults
Ali Alexander at 6:46 AM February 4, 2013
louweegie, you never read about the AMERICAN factory workers in places like Detroit who were displaced when the auto industry and others set up shop in Mexico under NAFTA.
You also should realize that the US Chamber of Commerce was assisted by the SEIU, ACLU, LaRaza, and the AFL CIO in opposing the mandatory use of SS no match letters to remove illegal aliens from jobs. The US Chamber now supports eVerify, but only because it’s afraid that the states would come up with a patchwork of laws requiring its use that would be more difficult and expensive to comply with.
BOTH parties have elements in it that are willing and eager to put thei interests of illegal aliens, especially Hispanics, ahead of those of AMERICANS.
Frances Dial, Lenoir City
I have been living since Warren Harding was president. I don’t remember him or Calvin Coolidge, but I remember all the others from Herbert Hoover to the present time. President Barack Obama is the absolute worst we have ever had. He is well on his way to destroying the United States as a land of opportunity. It will take years to undo the damage he has done. He is on his way to destroying the best medical system in the world. He is making it easy for millions of illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship and have voting privileges. He is developing a generation of able-bodied people who find it easier to take a government handout than to earn a living, and they are voters, too. If anyone is able to earn a few dollars, he has all sorts of ways to take it away from them. If those people who have money are sensible, they will take their money and move somewhere else more friendly to industrious people. The present people who control the use of our tax money have proved they do not care that we have a $16 trillion debt that is increasing daily.Obama does not care about taxpayers, as long as he can spend, spend, spend.
Now is the time — today — that this bloated government starts downsizing.
We have a president who is a very accomplished organizer. A commander in chief he is not. He is working his way to being a dictator. When are the judicial and legislative branches going to rein him in? Our country was not intended to be run by executive privilege.
“Last month, MSNBC’s Al Sharpton conducted a a spirited debate about whether Obama belongs on Mount Rushmore or instead deserves a separate monument to his greatness (just weeks before replacing frequent Obama critic Cenk Uygur as MSNBC host, Sharpton publicly vowed never to criticize Barack Obama under any circumstances: a vow he has faithfully maintained). Earlier that day on the same network, a solemn discussion was held, in response to complaints from MSNBC viewers, about whether it is permissible to ever allow Barack Obama’s name to pass through one’s lips without prefacing it with an honorific such as “President” or “the Honorable” or perhaps “His Excellency” (that really did happen).”
MSNBC HOST SWOONS: ‘I LOOK AT OBAMA AS A PERFECT AMERICAN’
“What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term? Would he tell us? What’s he going to do in the second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going? Are we going to do something the second term? He has yet to tell us. He has not said one thing about what he would do in the second term. He never tells us what he is going to do with reforming our healthcare systems, Medicare, Medicaid, how is going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, Commander, give us our orders and tell us where we’re going, give us the mission. And he hasn’t done it.
And I think it’s the people around him, too many people around, they’re little kids with propellers on their heads. They’re all virtual. Politics, this social networking, I get these e-mails, you probably get them. I’m tired of getting them. Stop giving them to me. I want to meet people. Their idea of running a campaign is a virtual universe of sending e-mails around to people. No it’s not. It’s meetings with people, it’s forging alliances. It’s White House meetings and dinner parties that go on till midnight, and he should be sitting late at night now with senators and members of Congress and governors working together on how they‘re going to win this political fight that’s coming.
AGAIN? SECOND TIME IN TWO DAYS WASHINGTON POST HAMMERS TEAM OBAMA FOR FALSE CLAIMS
Obama’s new political group to lure unlimited donations
The New York Times reported last week that donors who contribute at least $500,000 to the advocacy group are guaranteed a seat at quarterly meetings with the president. It was formerly known as Organizing for America, the president’s campaign operation.
Carney declined to comment directly on the quarterly meetings or say whether donating that much money would guarantee access to the president.
Chuck Todd on OFA Fundraising: ‘This Just Looks Bad’
OFA donors who give $500,000 get quarterly meetings with Obama
Why it’s become clear that Obama’s White House is open to the rich and closed to the poor
President Obama’s pledges to open up the White House are going in reverse, says Mark McKinnon
In 2010 the Supreme Court made a controversial ruling known as Citizens United that allowed unlimited corporate and individual donations to so-called “super political action committees”, which at least have to disclose their donors, and to social welfare organisations, which do not.
At the time, Obama loudly criticised the decision, saying: “That’s one of the reasons I ran for president: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamour of a privileged few in Washington.”
But then he reversed course, giving his blessing to a super PAC supporting his 2012 re-election, and now to OFA. What has changed?
Obama is looking to his legacy. And his eye is on the 2014 Congressional elections. If he can maintain his appeal among the masses and help Democrats win back a majority in the House of Representatives, while maintaining control of the Senate, there will be no stopping his agenda.
Unlimited outside money
By Editorial Board, Published: March 3
BLITHELY IGNORING his own past warnings, President Obama is wading ever deeper into a campaign and politics quagmire filled with potential hazard for his second term. He ought to come to his senses. If he doesn’t, it won’t be easy to clean this muck off his shoes later on.
The president’s team has formed Organizing for Action, a group intended to advance his priorities using the potent grass-roots technology and troops from his winning reelection campaign. According to a summary prepared for donors and reported by The Post’s Tom Hamburger, this includes 2.2 million volunteers, 33 million Facebook friends, 22 million Twitter followers and 17 million e-mail subscribers. We see nothing wrong with that.
But how the Obama people are going about it stinks. They have registered the group as a 501(c)4 organization, under a section of the Internal Revenue Code that provides tax-exempt status for “social welfare” organizations, a broad category that was originally envisioned for civic leagues and the like but which has become a favored dark alley for political operators. Such groups are not required to publicly disclose donors or amounts of contributions, as they would be if they operated under the rules of the Federal Elections Commission. As “social welfare” groups, they must pledge that their work is not “primarily” electoral politics, but that has been left ill-defined by tax authorities. Some electoral and political activity is allowed.
These “social welfare” groups seemed to blossom in the last election cycle, with Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS at the forefront. Big money given in secret is a corrupting influence on our politics. But it is even more worrisome for a sitting president to be fielding such a group. It seems to be an open invitation to donors who want access and influence on policy decisions.
Judging by recent reports, Organizing for Action should be renamed Paying for Access. The Obama team has been talking about raising half the group’s money through $500,000 donations from the president’s top supporters. They will apparently be offered a spot on an advisory board with the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president. The White House has confirmed that while the president and his aides won’t directly raise money for the group, they will appear at its events. That will give big donors the chance to ask Mr. Obama about a pet project or appointment, behavior that has become all too common in this town and carries more than a whiff of influence-peddling.
Moreover, Mr. Obama’s team says that donations will not be listed precisely; rather, they will be listed but rather “in ranges.” This affords the donors a useful veil.
The president ought to resist the sweet perfume of this money and grab the smelling salts. He was the one who a few years ago warned us of “a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics.” Now Mr. Obama seems to be leading the stampede.
Pay-to-play politics reach the Oval Office
Carney defends Obama’s record on limiting role of money in politics
During briefings for potential donors this month, OFA chairman Jim Messina and executive director Jon Carson laid out plans to invite fundraisers who bring in $500,000 a year for the new group to quarterly meetings with the president, as the Los Angeles Times first reported.
The arrangement triggered questions from reporters Monday at the White House after the New York Times reported Saturday that the group hopes to raise $50 million, with half coming from major bundlers.
“Look, this is an independent organization,” Carney said. “I would point you to that organization for how it raises its money.”
In Oklahoma, tiny airport attracts federal money, but few planes
This is Lake Murray State Park Airport, one of the least busy of the nation’s 3,300-plus public airfields. In an entire week here, there might be one landing and one takeoff — often so pilots can use the bathroom. Or none at all. Visiting pilots are warned to watch out for deer on the runway.
So why is it still open? Mostly, because the U.S. government insists on sending it money.
Every year, Oklahoma is allotted $150,000 in federal funding because of this place, the result of a grant program established 13 years ago, in Congress’s golden age of pork. The same amount goes to hundreds of other tiny airfields across the country — including more than 80 like this one, with no paying customers and no planes based at the field.
Lake Murray, as it turns out, is an ATM shaped like an airport.
It’s also an example of the kind of spending — wide-ranging, constituent-pleasing giveaways — that Washington has struggled to swear off in this time of austerity. Once again, for example, Congress voted to continue giving money to local airports last year.
Will Rogers said, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” Today we are not paying for all the government we are getting, and the political class benefiting from this practice should be thankful for the Fed’s low interest rate policy, which makes running deficits inexpensive. In addition to making big government cheap, this causes a flight of investors from interest-paying assets into equities — the rising stock market primarily benefits the wealthy — and commodities, rather than job-creating investments.
Updated February 14, 2013, 7:43 p.m.
Generational Theft Needs to Be Arrested
A Democrat, an independent and a Republican agree: Government spending levels are unsustainable.
The social and economic reasons for Generation Squeezed
By Robert J. Samuelson, Published: August 5, 2012
I worry about the future — not mine but that of my three children, all in their 20s. It is an axiom of American folklore that every generation should live better than its predecessors. But this is not a constitutional right or even an entitlement, and I am skeptical that today’s young will do so. Nor am I alone. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll finds that nearly 60 percent of Americans are also doubters. I meet many parents who fear the future that awaits their children.
The young (and I draw the line at 40 and under) face two threats to their living standards. The first is the adverse effect of the Great Recession on jobs and wages. Even if this fades with time, there’s the second threat: the costs of an aging America. It’s not just Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — huge transfers from the young to the old — but also deferred maintenance on roads, bridges, water systems and power grids. Newsweek calls the young ”generation screwed”; I prefer the milder “generation squeezed.”
Already, batteries of indicators depict the Great Recession’s damage. In a Pew survey last year, a quarter of 18-to-34-year-olds said they’d moved back with parents to save money. Getting a job has been time-consuming and often futile. In July, the unemployment rate among 18-to-29-year-olds was 12.7 percent. Counting people who dropped out of the labor market raises that to 16.7 percent, says Generation Opportunity, an advocacy group for the young. Among recent high-school graduates, unemployment rates are near half for African Americans, a third for Hispanics and a quarter for whites, notes the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
The weak labor market hurts even job holders. From 2007 to 2011, “real” (inflation-adjusted) wages fell nearly 5 percent for recent college graduates and 10 percent for recent high-school graduates, says EPI. Among college grads, only four in 10 said their jobs required a four-year degree, reports a survey by the John J. Heldrich Center at Rutgers University. If the economy doesn’t fully recover, slack labor demand will continue to depress employment and wages for years.
Of course, generalizations can be overdone. Countless millions of young people are doing — and will do — fine. History can’t be predicted. The mass retirement of baby-boom workers may create job scarcities and raise wages. Still, some setbacks will endure. Some skills that would have been learned on the job won’t ever be. Life decisions are deferred. Among 18-to-29-year olds, the weak economy is causing 18 percent to postpone marriage and 23 percent to delay starting a family, reports a survey by Generation Opportunity.
And then there are the costs of aging. Gains in productivity — from new technologies or better skills — that would normally flow into paychecks will be siphoned off to pay for retiree benefits, underfunded state and local government pensions and infrastructure repair. Taxes will rise; if not, public services will fall. Or both. Population change can’t be repealed. The ratio of workers to retirees, 5-to-1 in 1960 and 3-to-1 in 2010, is projected at nearly 2-to-1 by 2025.
It’s often said that today’s young will ultimately benefit from this lopsided tax-and-transfer system. Old themselves, they will be similarly subsidized by their young. Doubtful. Sooner or later, the system’s oppressive costs will become so obvious that future benefits will be curbed. Chances are the young will still pay for today’s elderly without themselves receiving comparable support.
As a parent, all this rattles me. We judge our success by how well our children do. We love them and want them to succeed, even if most of us recognize — at some point — that our ability to influence and protect them has expired. Peering into the unfathomable future, we don’t like what we think we see. We’re dispatching them into a less secure and less prosperous world. These parental anxieties, I think, are the presidential campaign’s great, unacknowledged issue. Many voters will decide based on a calculus of which candidate would minimize the economic perils for their grown children.
But the calculus will be selective. To aid the young, we could tighten Social Security and Medicare, raising eligibility ages and reducing payouts for wealthier retirees. Unlikely. Younger voters seem clueless about advancing their economic interests. In 2008, 18-to-29-year-olds supported Barack Obama by 34 percentage points. They love his pseudo-youthfulness. Or his positions on other issues (immigration, gay rights) trump economics. As president, Obama has done nothing to improve generational fairness.
If the young won’t help themselves, their parents and grandparents might. They might champion revising retirement programs. Dream on. Parents and grandparents may be worried about their offspring’s prospects, but they’re not so worried as to sacrifice their own. There are real conflicts between the young and old; so far, the young are losing.
‘Sandwich generation’ vents about struggle to care for aging parents, still-needy kids
President Barack Obama argues that “the sequester” will harm citizens — and the economy. He’s right.
Congress and the Obama administration never thought it would come to this. Now, they must get beyond mindless cuts.
I’m no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis. As I’ve written often, he needs to provide the presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.
Instead, Obama has chosen to be co-dependent, as psychologists describe those who foster the destructive behavior of others. He double-dared the reckless Republicans by proposing the sequester back in 2011. And rather than stepping up to leadership since being reelected, he has triple-dared the GOP hotheads with a partisan inaugural address and weeks of what the Republicans rightly have called a “road show” of blame-game politics. Doesn’t the president see that the GOP is addicted to this showdown at Thunder Road? This is all the power the GOP has these days, really — the ability to scare the heck out of everybody and run the car into the ditch….Obama tries everything to gain control — except a clear, firm presidential statement that speaks to everyone onboard, those who voted for him and those who didn’t — that could get the country where it needs to go.
The weird thing is that, politics aside, there is every reason to be optimistic about America’s future. The country’s financial markets are resilient; the housing slump finally seems to be ending; a new era of low-cost shale oil and gas is beginning and, as a result, the United States is becoming a competitive manufacturing economy again.
There’s one ruinously dysfunctional part of the American story, and that’s the breakdown of our political system. It’s time for an intervention, to take the keys away.
President Obama’s sequester blame game ignores the real issues
If the US economy goes back into recession, don’t blame the sequester, blame the tax increases
guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 February 2013 14.00 EST
President Obama has been so busy proactively blaming Republicans for the allegedly dire consequences of the 1 March sequester that he has failed to notice something far more damaging to the American economy. The tax increases already enacted on 1 January by Congress and the president, coupled with the “tax” of higher fuel prices, altogether mean that about $275bn worth of economic drag is already in the pipeline for 2013.
These tax increases are far more economically and politically burdensome than the spending cuts mandated by the sequester. They get little attention now, but politicians won’t be able to ignore them by the summer.
As a quick refresher, the direct tax increases, amounting to $175bn per year, were enacted by the Congress on 1 January as a means to avert the “fiscal cliff” that would have mandated even larger tax increases. The legislation rescinded the $110bn payroll tax reduction that was part of the 2010 stimulus package. Virtually all households pay the payroll tax to finance the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Then the president’s tax increases on “the rich” boosted income tax rates for households earning over $450,000 per year, thereby garnering another $65bn per year in revenue. On top of this, if fuel prices prices stay at this sharply higher level, there will be another $100bn in lost disposable income for households. The total, $275 billion, or nearly 2% of GDP, dwarfs the $44bn in actual spending cuts mandated by the sequester.
Sequester math, like most budget math, works in mysterious ways. The sequester mandates $85bn in reduced budget appropriations for the balance of the 2013 fiscal year. Given the lag between changes in appropriations and actual outlays, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that actual spending cuts in the current fiscal year will be only $44bn. Thereafter, the sequester mandates annual $116bn in across-the-board cuts every year for 10 years. Total outlays will fall by $1.16tn over the next decade, resulting in a slower rise in US government debt by that amount. It a desirable outcome given the unsustainable deficits and debt increases.
Instead of talking about the numbers, the president has engaged in a sequester blame game. Few have realized how badly this blame game will end. The US is likely looking at a recession, probably to start in the summer. Consider that the past four years (2009-2012) have each seen stimulus packages equal to a 2.5 to 3 percentage point boost to the economy. That comes on top of whatever modest boost has come from repeated rounds of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. For all the talk of how great the stimulus programs have been, remember that all that fiscal thrust produced only a moderate growth rate of 1.9% since 2008. Now that stimulus is going away, and Americans have a bigger hit on their pocketbooks from the tax increases.
A post-sequester recession will present both Republicans and Democrats, especially the president, with some knotty problems. Obama chose to emphasize the inconvenience tied to alleged sequester-induced, reduced government services – airport delays, no federal meat inspection, defense cuts, no tax refunds. Soon he will be forced to “pivot” to decrying economic costs – slower growth, higher unemployment – of deficit reduction. But it’s a flawed argument. Obama will likely blame the sequester when the real issues come from higher tax burdens.
It will be difficult indeed for the president to press for more tax increases given the obvious link that a recession would underline between higher taxes and slower growth.
Republicans will also be in a challenging position if a summer recession emerges. The president will, probably, with some success, try to blame the Republicans for the recession, citing their support for the spending cuts in the sequester while omitting mention of his own support for more targeted spending cuts along with his always-insistent call for higher taxes “on the rich”. But neither spending cuts nor higher taxes makes economic or political sense in a recession.
If past behavior is any guide, the one thing a summer recession will produce is bipartisan support for a sharp reversal from austerity to stimulus, lower taxes and higher spending, in a repeat of the stimulus packages of 2009, 2010, and 2011. Democrats will intone that the reversal from austerity to stimulus is necessitated by the Republican’s irresponsible spending cuts, while Republicans will cite the Democrat’s reckless tax increases. Both will bellow about the urgent need to get serious about deficit reduction – next year. And the nation will be worse off in both the short and long term.
A better approach, as I have argued before, is to proceed with the budget cuts while doing revenue-neutral tax and entitlement reforms. There is a path to growth and a more sustainable fiscal picture, but it means moving beyond blame to wise action.
Why job creation is so hard
By Robert J. Samuelson, Published: February17
President Obama and the Democrats want more jobs. So do Republicans. Heck, everyone does. Yet, job creation is weak. It’s true that the economy has generated 5.5 million jobs from its low point. Still, there are 3.2 million fewer jobs now than at the previous high. The official unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, but it would be 14.4 percent if it included part-timers who would like full-time work and discouraged workers who have stopped looking, notes Janet Yellen, vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Scarce jobs are the nation’s first, second and third most important economic and social problem.
What’s especially disheartening and mystifying is that, until now, job creation was considered an inherent strength of the U.S. economy. Despite some years of recession-induced joblessness, unemployment averaged 5.6 percent from 1950 to 2007. The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t expect it to fall below 7.5 percent until 2015. That would make six years above 7.5 percent — the longest stretch of high joblessness in 70 years. It has defied massive budget deficits and ultra-low interest rates.
Something’s changed in how the economy works. One theory is “deleveraging”: Americans paying down their high debt. The economy won’t accelerate until this process is complete, the argument goes; the fact that debt-service ratios have dropped to early 1990s levels is considered a good omen. Another approach is to examine the economy by sectors and see which ones are lagging compared with past recoveries. Yellen did this and indicted housing (its deep slump) and state and local governments (spending cuts). Again, there are said to be encouraging signs. Home construction, prices and sales are up; state and local spending is stabilizing.
This analysis helps but misses the main story. To overgeneralize slightly: We have gone from being an expansive, risk-taking society to a skittish, risk-averse one. Before the 2008-09 financial crisis, the bias was toward more spending. The inclination was to surrender to immediate gratification. Want a new car? Sure, why not? More meals out? Great idea! Businesses behaved similarly. Banks made the next loan; companies hired the next worker and approved the next investment project. An ever-expanding economy justified optimism, and optimism supported an ever-expanding economy. Hello, bubble.
The psychology has now reversed. The bias is against extra spending. Eat out? Try leftovers. Remodel the basement? Oh, leave it alone. In the boom years, the personal saving rate (savings as a share of after-tax income) fell from 10.9 percent in 1982 to 1.5 percent in 2005. Now it’s edging up; from 2010 to 2012, it averaged 4.4 percent. It could go higher, imposing a further drag on the economy.
Businesses have also retreated. They resist approving the next loan, job hire or investment. Since 1959, business investment in factories, offices and equipment has averaged 11 percent of the economy (gross domestic product) and peaked at nearly 13 percent. It’s now a shade over 10 percent, reports economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight.
Note that these attitudes govern sectors accounting for roughly four-fifths of the economy: Consumer spending is about 70 percent of GDP; business investment is the rest. They dwarf housing construction, which is about 2.5 percent of GDP. The caution and risk-aversion aren’t so great as to cause a recession, but on the margin they have limited the economy’s expansion to rates — lately, 1 percent to 2 percent — too weak to absorb most jobless. Pessimism produces a sluggish economy; a sluggish economy produces pessimism. That’s the main explanation of poor job creation.
As I’ve written before, this psychological shift stemmed from the fact that the financial crisis and Great Recession were largely unpredicted. Americans aren’t just deleveraging. They’re also building wealth to protect themselves against unknown dangers. Perhaps the stock market’s recent assault on record highs signals restored confidence, but remember: The market is simply regaining levels of late 2007. A report from Credit Suisse argues that returns to stocks will average about 3.5 percent annually (after inflation) in the next 20 years, down sharply from 6 percent since 1950. To compensate for lower returns, companies would need to contribute more to pensions. Wages would suffer. Consumption spending would weaken.
We are hostage to a stubborn, restraining psychology. There’s no obvious fix for slow job growth, precisely because it requires a change in public mood or some autonomous source of added demand — a burst of exports, investment in new technologies — not easily predicted or controlled. It could happen but is hardly guaranteed. Politics does matter, to a point. Constant budget and tax feuds between the White House and Congress spawn uncertainty and subvert confidence. Obamacare’s disincentives to hiring hurt, though how much is unclear. But grandiose solutions, say infrastructure spending, founder on practicality. A meaningful level of projects would take time to start and add excessively to budget deficits. We are waiting and hoping.
Never mind the rich and poor, what about the middle classes?
Why Barack Obama must make the middle class the centre of his campaign
Since 1980, the middle class has not shared in US prosperity. They will vote for raising taxes on those earning above $250,000
Incomes Flat in Recovery, but Not for the 1%
Wal-Mart outlook gives glimpse of economy
Wal-Mart offered a weak outlook for the coming months as the poor and middle class struggle with higher gas prices, delayed tax refunds and higher payroll taxes.
By Anne D’innocenzio, The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) As the fortunes of many Americans go, so goes Wal-Mart, so goes the economy.
Even as the world’s largest retailer on Thursday reported an 8.6 percent rise in fourth quarter profit during the busy holiday shopping season, it offered a weaker forecast for the coming months. The problem? The poor and middle-class Americans Wal-Mart caters to and who are big drivers of spending in the U.S. are struggling with rising gas prices, delayed income tax refunds and higher payroll taxes.
Melanie M. Burkhardt, a mother of two teenagers who shops at Wal-Mart, is one of those people. Burkhardt, a Waycross, Ga., resident, said she’s been hit with a double whammy: the payroll tax hike, which has cut her household monthly income by $260, and higher gas prices.
“We had to do a flip on our budget,” said Burkhardt, a legal assistant who plans to cut back on her trips to Wal-Mart. “This is money we used for things like going to a movie or splurging at Olive Garden. Not anymore.”
It’s widely known that Americans in the lower income brackets continue to struggle even as higher earners benefit from improved housing and stock markets, but Wal-Mart’s results signal that matters may be getting worse for the nation’s poor and middle-class. Wal-Mart is the latest in a string of big-name companies from Burger King to Zale to say those Americans are being squeezed by new challenges. But since Wal-Mart accounts for nearly 10 percent of nonautomotive retail spending in the U.S., it is a bellwether for the economy.
“Wal-Mart moms are the barometer of the U.S. household,” said Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions who follows Wal-Mart. “Right now, they’re afraid of higher taxes and inflation.”
Indeed, while wealthier households have seen their stock portfolios grow, poor and middle-class Americans have struggled to regain their financial footing since the recession ended more than 3 ½ years ago.
Stocks have roughly doubled since June 2009. Dividends and capital gains from stocks, which disproportionately benefit higher-income Americans, are taxed at lower rates compared with ordinary income.
And while incomes for most Americans have failed to keep pace with inflation since the recession, that’s been particularly true for middle and lower-income earners.
Median household income, adjusted for inflation, fell 1.5 percent to $50,054 in 2011 compared with 2010, the latest periods for which figures are available, according to the Census Bureau. That was down 8.1 percent from 2007, just before the recession began. (The median is the point halfway between the highest and lowest levels.)
But lower and middle-income households fared worse: The share of overall income earned by the bottom 80 percent of households shrank in 2011, while the income for the top 20 percent grew. And in 2012, inflation-adjusted hourly pay barely rose, inching up 0.3 percent.
Another hurdle for lower- and middle-income Americans has been the jump in gas prices since mid-January. The average price for a gallon of gas rose 47 cents in the past month to $3.78 on Thursday, according to AAA.
Tax changes also have hit the nation’s lowest earners especially hard. On Jan. 1, Social Security payroll taxes rose 2 percentage points after a temporary tax cut expired. That sliced about $1,000 from the take-home pay of a household earning $50,000. Since the Social Security tax is levied against income only up to $114,000, it disproportionately affects middle- and lower-income households.
An even larger challenge for many lower-income Americans has been the government’s delay in processing income taxes and paying refunds. That’s because income tax rates weren’t set until a last-minute deal between the White House and Congress on Jan. 1. So the IRS pushed back the start of tax-filing season to Jan. 30, two weeks later than usual.
As a result, by Feb. 14 the government had paid only $55 billion in refunds, down from $77 billion at the same time last year, according to an estimate by UBS. That drop of $22 billion is more than twice the impact of the higher payroll tax. Refunds have accelerated recently and will eventually be paid out, but the impact still can be felt by many taxpayers: About 78 percent of taxpayers receive refunds, and the figure rises to 82 percent for those reporting income below $50,000.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., said while its business has been volatile since December, the month of February, in particular, has been “slower than planned” largely due to the tax refund delay. The company said that resulted in Wal-Mart customers cashing about $1.7 billion in income tax refunds year to date, compared with $3 billion for the same period a year ago.
Bill Simon, president of Wal-Mart’s U.S. namesake division, said shoppers used their refund money last year to buy TVs ahead of the Super Bowl. This year, the retailer said it isn’t sure how customers will use the additional money when they get it, but some analysts say the most likely scenario is that they’ll save it.
Wal-Mart said it’s also unclear how the payroll tax will affect customers’ spending habits, although Simon said shoppers are “talking about it.” JP Morgan estimates that the payroll tax increase will equate to $70 a month less in take home pay for Wal-Mart shoppers, assuming an average annual income of $42,500. As a result, Wal-Mart is offering smaller packaging and less expensive products.
Wal-Mart earned $5.6 billion, or $1.67 per share, during the fourth quarter that ended Jan. 31, up from $5.16 billion, or $1.50 per share, a year earlier. Results were helped by a lower tax rate, which was 27.7 percent, compared with the rate of 30.9 percent a year ago. Net sales rose 3.9 percent to $127.1 billion.
Earnings topped Wall Street estimates of $1.57 per share, but sales fell short of the $127.8 billion analysts were expecting.
During the current quarter, Wal-Mart says it expects earnings to range from $1.11 to $1.16 per share, below the $1.18 per share analysts polled by FactSet are expecting. For its namesake U.S. business, Wal-Mart expects first-quarter revenue at stores open at least a year, a measure of a retailer’s health, to be unchanged from a year ago. The pace of revenue growth has slowed in recent quarters, and some analysts believe Wal-Mart’s forecast could be too optimistic.
For the year, Wal-Mart expects earnings of between $5.20 and $5.40 per share, while analysts expect $5.38 per share.
Despite the subdued forecast, investors were bracing for a weaker report after Bloomberg published a story Friday that leaked an email from an executive characterizing the first two weeks of February as “a total disaster.” Shares fell that day, but investors appeared to be relieved on Thursday that Wal-Mart’s outlook wasn’t worse. Shares rose about 1 percent, or $1.05 per share, on Thursday to close at $70.26.
By Joe Scarborough and Jeffrey D. Sachs, Published: March 7
Joe Scarborough, a former congressman (R-Fla.), hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute and author of “The Price of Civilization.”
Dick Cheney and Paul Krugman have declared from opposite sides of the ideological divide that deficits don’t matter, but they simply have it wrong. Reasonable liberals and conservatives can disagree on what role the federal government should play yet still believe that government should resume paying its way.
It has become part of Keynesian lore in recent years that public debt is essentially free, that we needn’t worry about its buildup and that we should devote all of our attention to short-term concerns since, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “in the long run, we are all dead.” But that crude interpretation of Keynesian economics is deeply misguided; Keynes himself disagreed with it.
When President Obama came into office in January 2009, he inherited an economic mess, including a deficit of more than $1 trillion. Yet he soon piled up even more debt by tripling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and pushing through Congress a shortsighted stimulus bill and a health-care package that did not fundamentally address the excessive costs of the health-care system. After his party took a midterm drubbing from Republicans, the Obama White House then supported the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and other “stimulus” items, adding another trillion dollars or so of red ink to Washington’s ledger.
Not so long ago, Keynesians guaranteed that Obama’s stimulus plan would move the U.S. economy more quickly toward growth by providing full employment and lowering deficits. We both were skeptical from the start, for good reason. In May 2009, the White House forecast 4.6 percent growth in 2012, an unemployment rate of 6 percent and a budget deficit of $557 billion. The actual outcomes were much worse: growth of 2.3 percent, unemployment at 8.1 percent and a budget deficit of nearly $1.1 trillion.
Both of us opposed the stimulus package, the increased spending in Afghanistan and Washington’s fixation on short-term thinking. We said that the only result of this short-termism would be exploding deficits. And well before Obama acknowledged the point, we said that there was no such thing as “shovel-ready” projects worthy of public investment in the 21st century.
Sadly, our concerns have been borne out. Public debt was around 41 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008. Today it is around 76 percent and still rising. Yet the economy continues to languish.
Nevertheless, a few hardy Keynesians urge the president to raise deficits still further. We respectfully disagree. Doubling down on this dubious policy will move the United States only more quickly towardexcessive indebtedness and a possible economic crisis.
Keynes worried about the long-term buildup of public debt and called for balancing the budget over the course of a business cycle — allowing deficits during downturns to be offset by surpluses during good times. Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats spent the past decade supporting reckless tax cuts, irresponsible wars and budget commitments without supporting revenue. That shortsightedness has created a crisis, soon to be exacerbated by an aging population and rising health-care costs.
Krugman, an economist and New York Times columnist, agreed not so long ago with our position that demographic challenges demanded fiscal restraint. In 2001, he wrote that deficits mattered as he inveighed against President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. With the gross federal debt then at a mere $5.6 trillion, Krugman nervously Congressional Budget Office’s February budget outlook showed just how much rising public debt service will crowd out needed public investments and other programs later this decade. When that happens, conservatives will complain about the squeeze on defense spending; liberals will bemoan funding limits placed on education, job training and renewable-energy programs. And both sides will see how the high cost of servicing the debt will harm students in the classrooms, soldiers on the battlefield and drivers on America’s highways.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Republicans and Democrats can still find common ground to address our long-term debt. Military spending can be reduced, and our decade-long wars can be brought to an end. The Pentagon should move beyond a defense strategy based on a Cold War threat that no longer exists. Americans also know that costs for Medicare, Medicaid and private health services must be brought under control. A recent study by the prestigious Institute of Medicine puts the waste in total health-care spending — both public and private — at $750 billion per year. And a bipartisan tax reform plan could close egregious loopholes, promote fairness and economic efficiency and align revenues with spending.
There are, of course, real differences in how liberals and conservatives would approach spending cuts and tax increases. One would prefer lower tax rates and less spending in Washington. The other would prefer higher taxes to pay for higher spending. Yet we both agree that, regardless of the direction policymakers choose, Washington must start paying for its priorities. Failing to do so will burden our children and limit our ability to thrive in the future.
This blog strives to be fair by including various viewpoints. In that spirit, you may read what Mr. Krugman believes for yourself.
Dwindling Deficit Disorder
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: March 10, 2013
After the Flimflam
Jim Miller Irvington, NY
The reason the Democrat’s have failed to be a forceful counterbalance to Republican ideology is that they are only slightly less “regressive” than the Republicans. Their views supporting social justice are only enough to propagandize their “differences” from the Republicans. I am not saying they are necessarily hypocritical, but their power base is basically the same as the Republicans. They get most of their money from affluent donors and, therefore, they cannot come to grips with the real issue facing the United States (and the World) which is the ever increasing accumulation of wealth by the very rich.
March 15, 2013 at 8:55 a.m
seth borg rochester
Mr. Ryan, a giant in his own mind, and for a short time, a beacon for the Republicans, has once again shown that saying the same thing over and over and louder and louder, doesn’t make the message true.
I was astonished that he got traction the first time around, am minimally reassured that the voices we hear in support of Ayn Rand-light concepts seem muted.
We are in an interesting point at the beginning of Mr. Obama’s second term. There is sufficient time between now and the next Congressional elections, that all concerned, must realize that some actions are required to move this country forward. The Democrats can no longer use Bush 43, and his debacles, as sufficient excuse to ram policy through. At the same time, there remains almost two years during which Republicans must demonstrate some willingness to govern constructively and leave the silly and hostile factors aside.
There is a sense emerging that some form of collaborative effort is underway. Our government my be dysfunctional but I hold some hope that none involved truly wish us to be the victim of our own utter stupidity and intransigence.
I’ve been wrong before.
March 15, 2013 at 8:40 a.m.
Sunday March 3, 2013 6:46 AM
The more I learn about what is happening in Washington D.C., the more I am concerned about the future of our country. My head is spinning from the effect of the constant political spin.
The United States is caught in the web of a changing society. Some describe it as a culture of procrastination and entitlement. The present administration promotes an agenda of higher taxes, deficit spending and “social justice.”
With all due respect to the office of president of the United States, I suggest that President Barack Obama is as naked as the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fable. The emperor thought he was wearing a suit of fine new clothes, when in fact he was wearing nothing.
Obama continues to promote his policies for returning our country to prosperity, when in fact these policies are not working. The sooner Obama is exposed for what he really is, the sooner America can reverse the current trend of kicking the can down the road.
Many citizens of our country are choosing to cast a blind eye on what is happening. Those who believe the present course of government will generate jobs and economic recovery are going to be sadly disappointed.
We are subjected to a constant barrage of fear-mongering political rhetoric from the liberal left. This is a tactic for deceiving the American people and it is hastening the day when we declare that we have had enough.
Thankfully, there is an elephant in the room (Oval Office) at the White House. He represents a conservative philosophy, constitutional government, free enterprise and traditional values of God, country and family.
As President Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
DAVID E. GRUBE
KEN WALLACE (KINETICS)
I read this whole letter waiting for a single bit of substance. Alas, I was disappointed. Apparently it’s just a “feeling” David has that Obama has to be at fault somehow. Of course, the Dispatch feels compelled to publish their daily Obama bashing article/letter. It’s funny how these letter writers feel everyone else is uninformed yet they can’t mount the least argument. Thanks, but I’ll line the bird cage with this one.
The sequester was never supposed to happen because it was a stupid idea —what does that tell ‘ya? The political calculation was Republican defense hawks would never allow un-targeted cut to happen. Grand Bargain. Supercommitte. Fiscal Cliff. Failure. A scalpel instead of a cleaver is more prudent to cut the budget. Absent the butcher, who is the Surgeon?
Both sides agree: Looming budget cuts are stupid
Sequester threat prompted little planning
The conventional wisdom at the time was that Republicans would cry uncle, agreeing to higher taxes to spare the Pentagon. Instead, Democrats and supporters of domestic programs such as higher education and scientific research are ringing the alarm bells.
At the time, the cuts were so unimaginable, so arbitrary, that most agreed they’d never happen. Even after the committee collapsed, President Barack Obama vowed during the 2012 presidential campaign that they wouldn’t happen.
They did anyway.
SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2013 10:29 AM
Obama’s sequester deal-changer
By Bob Woodward, Published: February 22
Bob Woodward (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor of The Post. His latest book is “The Price of Politics.” Evelyn M. Duffy contributed to this column.
Misunderstanding, misstatements and all the classic contortions of partisan message management surround the sequester, the term for the $85 billion in ugly and largely irrational federal spending cuts set by law to begin Friday.
What is the non-budget wonk to make of this? Who is responsible? What really happened?
…In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.
So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.
Recall the Democrats’ original theory of the case: Sequestration was supposed to be so threatening that Republicans would agree to a budget deal that included tax increases rather than permit it to happen. That theory was wrong. The follow-up theory was that the actual pain caused by sequestration would be so great that it would, in a matter of months, push the two sides to agree to a deal. Democrats just proved that theory wrong, too.
The D.C. Dubstep
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: February 21, 2013
On July 26, 2011, Jack Lew, then the White House budget director, went to Harry Reid’s office for a budget strategy session. According to Bob Woodward’s book, “The Price of Politics,” Lew told the Senate majority leader that they had come up with a trigger idea to force a budget deal.
“What’s the idea?” Reid asked.
“Sequestration,” Lew responded.
Reid folded himself over with his head between his knees, as if he were going to throw up. Then he came upright and gaped at the ceiling. “A couple of weeks ago,” he exclaimed, “my staff said to me there is one more possible” enforcement method: sequestration. Reid said he had told his staff at the time, “Get the hell out of here. That’s insane. The White House surely will come up with a plan that will save the day. And you come to me with sequestration?”
Sequestration may have seemed insane back then. But politicians in both parties are secretly discovering that they love sequestration now. It allows them to do the dance moves they enjoy the most.
Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country that their proposal is the best approach.
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.
He does have a vague and politically convenient concept. (Tax increases on the rich!) He does have a chance to lead the country into a budget showdown with furloughed workers and general mayhem, for which people will primarily blame Republicans. And he does have the chance to achieve the same thing he has achieved so frequently over the past two years, political success and legislative mediocrity.
Republicans also secretly love the sequester. It allows them to do their favorite dance move, the Suicide Stage Dive. It was pioneered by Newt Gingrich in 1995 and has been repeated constantly since.
In this dance, the Republicans mount the stage and roar that they are about to courageously cut spending. In this anthem they carefully emphasize cuts to programs the country sympathizes with, such as special education, while sparing programs that actually created the debt problem, like Medicare.
Then, when they have worked themselves up into a frenzy of self-admiration, they sprint across the stage and leap into what they imagine is the loving arms of their adoring fans. When they are 4 feet off the ground, they realize the voters have left the building in disgust and they land with a thud on the floor.
Sequestration allows the Republicans to do the Suicide Stage Dive to perfection. Voters disdain the G.O.P. because they think Republicans are mindless antigovernment fanatics who can’t distinguish good government programs from bad ones. Sequestration is a fanatically mindless piece of legislation that can’t distinguish good government programs from bad ones. Sequestration carefully spares programs like Medicare and Social Security that actually contribute to the debt problem. Sequestration will cause maximum political disgust for a trivial amount of budget savings.
So, of course, the conservative press is filling up with essays with titles like “Learning to Love Sequestration.” Of course, Republican legislators are screwing up their courage to embrace it. Of course, after the cuts hit and the furor rises, they are going to come crawling back with concessions as they do after every Suicide Stage Dive.
These two dance moves, the P.C. Shimmy and the Suicide Stage Dive, when combined, are beautifully guaranteed to cause maximum damage to the country. What’s America’s biggest problem right now? It is that business people think that government is so dysfunctional that they are afraid to invest and spur growth. So what are the parties going to do? They are going to prove that government is so dysfunctional that you’d be crazy to invest and spur growth.
In a normal country, the politicians would try some new moves. For example, if they agreed to further means test Medicare they could save a lot of money. Democrats would be hitting the rich. Republicans would be reforming entitlements.
But no. Both parties love their current moves. It’s enough to make Harry Reid put his head between his legs and throw up.
Postscript: February 22, 2013
The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president’s approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.
One problem is that no matter how bad the situation in Congress gets the members are still beholden to the special interets from whence they derived the campaign contributions that sent them there. Hence, they must serve their masters at the peril of popular displeasure.
The other problem is an electorate so willing to let others think for them that they have no ability to discern the disingenuity thrust upon them and willingly join with those who have nothing but distain for them.
How to deal with these is not intuitively obvious.
Feb. 22, 2013 at 8:52 a.m
The reason for pessimism is simple: The parties are deeply divided over the right path forward when it comes to healing the economy and lowering the debt. Obama continues to advocate for a mixed package of tax increases and spending cuts. Republicans believe that Obama has already received his requested tax increases — in the “fiscal cliff” deal — and that the only thing that needs to be done now is to cut.
“It’s time for the president and Senate Democrats to get serious about the long-term spending problem that we have,” Boehner told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory.
And, it’s not just the leaders of the two parties who don’t see eye to eye. In a Gallup survey that asked an open-ended question of what one word people would use to describe the sequester, “bad” was the most mentioned term but “good” was the second-most mentioned. (Worth noting — 44 percent of the overall responses were negative while just 11 percent were positive; in the very depressing category, roughly one in five people had “no opinion.” Good times.)
Those genuine disagreements over policy are exacerbated by political realities that — surprise, surprise — the two sides view very differently.
“Boehner doesn’t have a governing majority and isn’t willing to take a bold stand that could cost him the speakership,” said Jen Crider, a longtime Democratic House operative. “[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell sees this as a way to win the majority.”
Neil Newhouse, who handled polling for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, insisted that when “the stated goal of the president is to overturn GOP control of Congress” and “the White House [is] scapegoating Republicans for the sequester,” the blame shouldn’t lie with his side.
Here’s what Crider and Newhouse do agree on: Partisan gridlock is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.
“It’s in-tractable,” Crider said.
“You have a recipe for stalemate between Obama and Republicans that’s unlikely to be bridged anytime soon,” Newhouse added.
In short, if you think this is as bad as things can get, just wait awhile.
Michael Barone: For Obama, politics always trumps governing
March 2, 2013 | 8:00 pm
Do we have a president or a perpetual candidate? It’s not an entirely unfair question.
Even as Barack Obama was warning of the dreadful consequences of the budget sequester looming on March 1, he spent days away from Washington, apparently out of touch with Democratic as well as Republican congressional leaders.
In the meantime, Obama fans were lobbing verbal grenades at none other than the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.
His offense: He’s continuing to make it clear, as he did in his book “The Price of Politics,” that it was Obama’s then-chief of staff and now Treasury Secretary Jack Lew who first proposed the dreaded sequester.
This inconvenient fact threatens to interfere with the ready-for-teleprompter narrative that the Republicans want to cut aid to preschoolers in order to save tax breaks for corporate jets.
It appears that Obama prefers delivering such messages to crowds of adoring supporters over actually governing.
His theory seemed to be that if he kicked his job approval rating up a few points, Republicans would agree to the revenue increases he is promoting, just as they agreed to a tax rate increase in the “fiscal cliff” showdown.
But his job rating continues to hover just above 50 percent. That’s not nearly high enough to compel cooperation.
In addition, his campaign rhetoric undercuts his credibility with politicians of the opposite party and perhaps of his own.
It’s not that these people resent being criticized. They understand that that is part of the game.
But the substance of the criticism suggests the president is not serious about public policy.
Take that old chestnut about corporate jets. The actual issue here is about depreciation — over how many years can a purchaser deduct the cost of a corporate jet?
Do you have to spread out the deduction over seven years? Or can you take it all in five?
No doubt, serious arguments can be made for one view or the other. As they can for the depreciation schedules of hundreds or thousands of products. Lawyers and lobbyists can make a living doing this.
But the bottom line is that the amount of revenue at stake is small, pathetically small next to trillion-dollar federal budget deficits.
Obama keeps talking about corporate jets because it tests well in polls.
And that’s the reason, I think, he keeps talking about universal preschool, not just for disadvantaged children.
Polls show that large majorities of Americans would be willing to have more government money spent for preschool for disadvantaged children. The impulse to help adorable but needy little kids is very strong.
Unfortunately, the evidence that preschool programs do any permanent good for such children is exceedingly weak.
Preschool advocates point to a 1960s program in Ypsilanti, Mich., and a 1970s North Carolina program called Abecedarian. Research showed those programs produced lasting gains in learning.
But no one has been able to replicate the success of these very small programs staffed by unusually dedicated people. Mass programs like Head Start staffed by more ordinary people don’t work as well.
Kids in such programs seem to make no perceptible lasting gains. That’s too bad, because disadvantaged kids need help.
So why is Obama emphasizing universal preschool, which would cost a lot more than preschool for the disadvantaged? The reason, I suspect, is that you would have to hire lots more credentialed teachers, which means you would get lots more teacher union members.
Teacher union leaders would love to see more dues money coming in, and to channel more to the Democratic Party.
To my suspicious eye, the preschool proposal doesn’t make much sense as policy, but it makes a lot of sense as politics.
Demagoguery about preschool and corporate jets is not going to convince Republicans that Obama can be a reliable negotiating partner.
Instead, it reinforces the evidence that he never will be. This is the president who, in his grand bargain negotiations with Speaker John Boehner, agreed on $800 billion in more revenue — and then, in a phone call, told Boehner he wanted $1.2 trillion instead.
And it’s the president who first proposed the sequester, then promised it would never happen and then denounced it when it seemed clear it would.
We need serious changes in public policy, as Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended. But this president doesn’t seem much interested in that kind of governing.
Athens, under the leadership of Pericles, engaged in a fruitless, devastating war of choice. Defeated by Spartan naval power, the Athenians were conquered, vanqiushed, and crushed. Folly had over-taken and enveloped the Athenians.
At the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles uttered immortal, golden words, that shine truth across the centuries.
“Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. “If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.
Learning to come home from war: no one said ‘thank you’ to Vietnam vets
The experiences of Vietnam veterans remind us that civilians and soldiers have roles to play to aid each other