Exploring fiction allows readers to imagine themselves as someone else. It teaches them about the world around them and what it means to be a human being. To read things like the Odyssey, even though it is nearly 3000 years old, or the Aeneid, or the plays of Sophocles, or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, or Shakespeare’s plays, gives students a sense of the timelessness of some questions and traits.It gives us a gateway into discussing the meaning of honor, virtue, love and other things. It encourages us to ask questions, to explore, to be curious.It gives us the ability learn from mistakes without damaging consequences. These are skills that are useful in any endeavor in life, from the professional to the personal. To assert that this type of learning is less valuable than learning to decode a non-f text is to assert that the human and idealistic is less valuable.Moreover, no one can point to where inspiration comes from. Think for example of the role of a calligraphy class in Jobs’ development of the Apple aesthetic.The skills one learns in working with fiction texts are ones that can be transferred to any area. For example, if one could explore and analyze the meaning of violence in the Aeneid (I’m a Latin teacher, so I tend to cite fiction from my content area) and of Roman culture in general, one can certainly explore and analyze the meaning of violence in our entertainment and our society, a topic particularly relevant in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.The deepest thinkers are the ones who can draw from a variety of sources and areas to approach things in new ways; yet, by depriving our students of these rich cultural texts by whittling them down to very small portions, we deprive our students of that deep well.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Foolishly engaging in a short-sighted culture of thinking--only things that matter are “practical” & “measurable”.
Monday, December 24, 2012
The person most responsible for wrecking the economy is a part of the movement to take it out on Grandma...
Ever since the election the Wall Street gang has been trying to build up scare stories around the budget standoff between the President and the Republican House. The term "fiscal cliff" is a central part of this campaign since it implies that something ominous happens if there is no deal by the end of the year.
As every economist and budget analyst knows, it makes virtually no difference whatsoever if there is a deal 10 days before the end of the year or 10 days after. However if the Wall Street gang can build up enough fear then it will lead to more pressure to get a deal before the end of the year. Since President Obama will be on much better negotiating turf after the end of the year and the tax cuts have already expired, a deal struck this year will likely be more favorable to the Republicans.
The NYT seems to have joined in this effort, telling readers that we may "careen off the so-called fiscal cliff" if there is no deal. This sort of silly and inaccurate metaphor is best left for fiction. It has no place in a serious newspaper.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.
Friday, December 21, 2012
There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. The projections from the Social Security trustees show the program first facing a shortfall in 2033 after which point it will only be able to pay a bit more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits. While this date is still fairly far in the future, at some point it will likely be necessary to address a shortfall.It is reasonable to expect that the changes needed to keep the program fully funded will involve some mix of revenue increases and benefit cuts. However if the chained CPI is adopted as part of a budget deal unconnected to any larger plan for Social Security then it effectively means that there will have been a substantial cut to Social Security benefits without any quid pro quo in terms of increased revenue. This hardly seems like a good negotiating move from the standpoint of those looking to preserve and strengthen the program.
The appeal of chained CPI is its complexity, which allows politicians to pretend they’re making a technical change rather than a real cut. This is a perverse approach to choosing deficit-reduction policies, and I’d like to see it stop.
You have to focus on the entire deal, and right now we don’t know what the deal is. Even Paul Krugman was going back and forth on whether the rumored deal is good or bad (although this morning he seems more con than pro). If the tradeoff is Medicare age or SS CPI, the CPI may be the least of the two evils.
What took him so long? Krugman has been such a relief to those of us in the United States, because the public culture is so bereft of critical perspective, but the fact remains that he's an apologist for the capitalist system, just not as bonkers as some of the others. I quote from his recent posting on the implications of the displacement of human labor power by robots, which means profits go to those who own capital, not those who actually work:Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.
I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.
The public culture of the United States is obviously an embarrassment, so I don't want to knock Krugman too much, since he's been the most visible voice for civilization in recent years...BUT look what he wrote: "the capital/labor dimension of inequality....didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s." He at least does a mea culpa, so kudos to him for that. Now that the Repugs have been trounced in the latest national elections, we need a real revival of the labor movement in this benighted country to recapture a larger portion of capital from its current heirs, and insure that it meets human needs in the decades ahead.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
So, it appears that the reactionaries are out in force to shut up needed public discourse over a tragic event.
The Teamsters oppose the chained CPI for Social Security because it would most hurt the oldest and poorest retirees."Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit and should remain off the table in these year-end budget negotiations," Hoffa said. "Americans work all their lives to earn the Social Security benefits they were promised. It would be a terrible mistake to go back on that promise."Chained CPI is not an accurate measurement of inflation for the elderly, whose primary costs are housing and health care. Those expenses are rising faster than other costs. Using the chained CPI would result in a cut to Social Security benefits by $112 billion over 10 years."We are making sure our members are aware of this issue," Hoffa said. "We strongly oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and we will not waver from that position."Hoffa said the Teamsters also oppose any proposal that would increase the Medicare eligibility age.
The honest way to cut benefits is for Congress to explicitly vote to cut benefits, not to try to hide a cut behind a statistical manipulation. This is the sort of behavior that encourages public contempt for politicians and the political process.
This budget agreement is very dubious politics for Obama and the Democrats on several grounds. For starters, Social Security cuts, disguised or otherwise, should not be in this package at all. Politically, such a deal erases the bright line that is the Democrats’ single strongest distinction from Republicans: We defend Social Security; they are willing to sacrifice it. Further, the politics of allowing the struggling, not-quite-poor elderly to be played off against the very poor are just appalling.One other set of enablers are those liberals who say that at least a disguised cut in Social Security is not quite as bad as raising the Medicare eligibility age, a Republican demand that Obama has rejected. This chorus includes the sainted Paul Krugman, another resolute liberal who ordinarily earns nothing but our thanks and appreciation.But saying that cutting Social Security is not quite as bad as cutting Medicare sets a pretty low bar. Neither should be cut.What happens now? Progressives in and outside Congress need to shoot down this trial balloon. They need to keep the heat on Obama to consent to nothing of the sort.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
With this latest capitulation on Social Security, I guess Democrats are intent on reliving the glory days of 2010.— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) December 18, 2012
Thoughts on the Chained CPI, Social Security, and the Budget | CEPR Blog http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/thoughts-on-the-chained-cpi-social-security-and-the-budgetHow Obama aims to cut Social Security benefits by 10% « LBO News from Doug Henwood http://lbo-news.com/2012/12/17/how-obama-aims-to-cut-social-security-benefits-by-10/A Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security in the Fiscal Cliff? | Next New Deal http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/cost-living-adjustment-social-security-fiscal-cliff#.UM_SaCnlaqA.twitterHow Do the Elderly Spend Money and the Difficulty of Protecting Against Social Security Cuts | Next New Deal http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/how-do-elderly-spend-money-and-difficulty-protecting-against-social-security-cuts
Monday, December 17, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Where we have failed to defeat these attacks generally it has been because our enemies had generally been more determined than us to win. They have been willing to lie, cheat, steal, and suppress to achieve their agenda. This was true in Wisconsin , Indiana, and Florida and it is true today. Legal challenges notwithstanding, they beat us because they were willing to impose their will on us no matter the cost. They DID NOT beat us because we didn't mobilize. Incredible mobilizations were carried out in every state where we were attacked, most dramatically in Wisconsin where the capitol was occupied by thousands for a few weeks. We fought hard. But when push came to shove we as a movement choked when the question was called whether we would take the fight to the next level. Obviously some will disagree with me on this assessment, but the fact remains that labor was not only politically defeated we were also outmaneuvered by our opponent's intransigence and political will.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers in disputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research.
When scholars are most rigorous about separating out the impact of right-to-work laws from other factors, the evidencesuggests that right-to-work has no effect whatsoever on a state’s employment growth. One of the most recent andcomprehensive studies estimates the impact of RTW laws while controlling for a wide range of variables, includinggeneral economic features of the state economy such as the share of gross state product concentrated in manufacturingand the average wages and educational level of the workforce; state policies such as personal and corporate tax rates; anda range of labor-specific policies including state minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurancerates. When these various strands of the the state economy are separated out, the authors report that “right-to-worklaws…seem to have no effect on economic activity.”A second recent study compared states with and without right-to-work laws, while controlling for multipleeconomic variables, including a state’s general business climate, in order to separate the impact of right-to-work lawsfrom other economic policies of the state.When the question is thus refined, the author reports that right-to-worklaws, in and of themselves, have no statistically significant impact whatsoever on either the rate of job growth or thenumber of new businesses opened in a state. “An increase in the probability that a state is right-to-work,” the study finds,“has no influence on employment, is associated with a decrease in per-capita personal income and wages/salaries, isassociated with an increase in proprietors’ income, and has no effect on economic growth.”
The union hall couldn't hold all the nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions. Their families, retirees and pastors came too. The overflow crowd listened carefully to the civil disobedience trainer about what their rights are and what they should do when arrested. They were told to de-escalate confrontation, to keep cool heads in the front of the action and put hotheads in the back.The civil disobedience training, which is open to the news media, is one of a number of actions planned over the next few days. The actions will lead up to a large rally in Lansing on Tuesday to protest the right-to-work-for-less bill expected to become law that day. There will be flash mobs, rallies, fake auctions of the middle class and news conferences. They'll be held in Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo -- well, all over the state.
Friday, December 7, 2012
New job data is out (chart via Calculated Risk). Its a good reminder that we have currently have a jobs crisis not a "fiscal cliff" crisis on our hands.
Paul Solman make a really important point when he takes a closer look at the numbers--Great Jobs Numbers? U-7 Says It Ain't Necessarily SoThe unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November, its lowest level since December of 2008. However, the immediate cause was a drop of 350,000 in the size of the labor market as reported employment actually fell by 122,000. The establishment survey reported job growth of 146,000. With the prior two months growth revised downward by 49,000, this brings the average over the last three months to 139,000. This is somewhat worse than the 158,000 average rate of job growth over the last year.The private sector accounted for almost all the November job growth, adding 147,000 jobs. Average growth over the last three months has been 153,000. All the loss in public sector employment over this period was attributable to decline in employment of 50,000 in local government education. Without the loss of jobs in this sector, government employment would have been essentially flat over the last year........On the whole, the data in the November report show pretty much the same picture as what we have been seeing over the last six months. The economy is creating jobs at a rate that is a bit faster than what is needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor market. At the current pace, we would not see the economy returning to full employment for another decade. Furthermore, there are more downside risks than upside -- for example, if there were to be severe deficit reduction as a result of the current negotiations between President Obama and Congress.
And at first glance, the "household" survey of actual people made a similarly upbeat proclamation: unemployment dropping to 7.7 percent.But if the month-to-month payroll number means little, headline unemployment fluctuations may mean even less. Reported as "U-3" by the BLS, the headline unemployment percentage excludes anyone who didn't look for a job in the past 4 weeks. Counted as employed, therefore, is anyone who worked at least one hour in the past week, even if they said they were "part-time" for economic reasons and wanted, desperately even, full-time work.That's why we tally U-7, which totals everyone who says they want a job -- the BLS asks this very question each month -- and adds everyone who is working part-time but tells the survey taker that s/he wants to work full-time. U-7 dipped from 16.69 percent to 16.60 percent in November, hardly the headline drop from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. Without numbing you with the arithmetic, the U-3 drop is five times larger than what happened to U-7. So what explains the difference?The answer lies deeper in the data. The US "civilian noninstitutional population" grew by a couple of hundred thousand but the labor force shrank by more than a quarter of a million. That's a whole lot of people who didn't die, didn't emigrate. So where did they go? Given the BLS definition of "labor force," they were no longer laborers -- presumably because they hadn't looked for work in the past four weeks.This would jibe with another downbeat statistic. A full hundred thousand fewer Americans were reported as "employed" (even if only super-part-time, remember), though this could be Sandy related. And the shrunken labor force also corresponds to the "fact" that some 200,000 people were subtracted from last month's "unemployed" total. They are simply no longer "unemployed" by U-3 standards. But they almost surely consider themselves to be if you take seriously the "persons who want a job" number, which rose dramatically in November.Bottom line, today's "healthy" drop in U-3, it would appear, is nothing to write home about. As for the payroll survey surge, relative to low projections in the wake of Sandy, I don't know what to make of it except to proceed with caution. I can't count the number of times, over the years I've been looking at the BLS data, that the payroll and household surveys have contradicted one another. As economist Dean Baker wisely counseled me long ago, look at trends, not the latest monthly blips.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
As I noted two days ago, raising the Medicare age is about the worst thing you could do for your friends, family, and local community. It is a shell game that shifts the burden onto individuals, businesses, and state Medicaid roles. But does nothing in addressing the health care challenges we face over the long term--in both the public and private sectors.
Nobody serious will claim it [raising the eligibility age] fixes Medicare. Of course it does nothing for the broader health system. At best it’s a tweak. Yet some speak of it as if it is the most important thing we can do on entitlements today. Really, it is not.Moreover, it does nothing, absolutely nothing, to increase the efficiency of Medicare or the health system. Contrary to conventional wisdom and all the political hyperventilating, the real problems of the health system are not its cost to the federal government, but the degree of inefficiency of our spending on it, public and private. Shifting spending from one sector (public) to another (private) and piling additional spending on top of that — which is what raising the Medicare age would do — is orthogonal to efficiency enhancement. It has nothing whatsoever to do with it.Thus, it is not only small potatoes, it is huge distraction. It is not entitlement reform. In time, this will be proven. Mark my words, in no more than one year after a law is passed to raise the Medicare age, Medicare will be back in the spotlight. The words “entitlement reform” will be uttered again, and very soon. Will anyone mean it?
Politicians often try to obscure unpopular proposals in euphemisms. Reporters are not supposed to help them in this effort.
The NYT failed badly in this respect when it told readers:
"Republicans would demand deep concessions on spending and changes to Medicare and Social Security as a price to raise the debt ceiling a few weeks later."
Of course the Republicans are pushing for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, not generic "changes." They want the government to pay less money and for beneficiaries to get less money. The NYT should be pointing out this fact, not helping Republicans to conceal an agenda that polls consistently show is hugely unpopular even among Republican voters.
To all you hard-working Americans out there: Call 888-979-9806 TODAY and tell your Representative to make no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but end tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Republicans think you are bad at math---or why raising the Medicare age of eligibility is a really really bad idea...
Seems the GOP failed to notice that the middle class had their wealth wiped out after the last economic crisis created by the 1%. Not only that, now the GOP in DC are busy looking for clever ways to give the 1% a free ride and are hoping you won't notice.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Restrictions on organized labor
Yet another area where the government intervenes in the market at the behest of the well-off to diminish the well-being of workers and the disadvantaged is labor-management policy. The accepted view is that progressives want the government to intervene to protect workers, while conservatives would rather let workers and management sort things out for themselves. That’s not quite the story.Though labor law provides protections to workers and their unions, it also constrains workers’ power in important ways. For example, it is illegal to organize or honor a secondary boycott. If the workers at a restaurant go on strike and then arrange for the Teamsters to refuse to deliver food to honor the strike, the restaurant can enlist the government to deliver injunctions and impose fines against the Teamsters. If Teamsters officials ignore the injunction (e.g., they don’t tell their members that they cannot refuse to deliver food to the restaurant), they can face imprisonment. This is not the free market; this is the government intervening on behalf of employers.Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers indisputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research.