When you have a economy based on consumerism and no one makes enough to buy anything, the system fails. Give tax cuts to the rich won’t help one bit either. Yes the rich buy all kinds of absurd expensive bullshit. However, they don’t buy nearly enough to make up for the black hole that is made by reduced consumer spending due to low wages and shitty jobs. Eg, one rich guy buying 4 Porsches every year won’t make up for 100 people buying one new car each. This also shows how the idea of a “fair tax” and increasing sales taxes to save the economy is the stupidest idea that only the most Fox News propagandized fools would believe in. Additionally busting unions lowers wages for union workers and non union workers alike. Lower wages mean less spending, less spending means economic collapse. Funny to think that income inequality in the US is even worse than it was in the 1920’s. You know what came after the 20’s? The 30’s. You know what happened in the 30’s? The fucking Great Depression.
From NEA Today:
If many so-called education reformers really want to close the student achievement gap, they should direct their fire away from public school educators and take aim at the real issue—poverty. This was the consensus of a panel of policy advocates and academics that convened recently on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to discuss the impact of poverty on student learning over the past 40 years. The panelists presented data that showed the current state of student achievement and discussed what changes needed to be made to address the needs of students and schools in low socio-economic areas.
“It’s time to stop arguing whether schools prepare students for the future and launch a full scale attack on poverty,” said panelist Peter Edelman of the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy.
Joining Edelman on the panel were Sean Reardon, Professor of Education and Sociology at Stanford University School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center in Newark, New Jersey; Eric Rafael González an Education Policy Advocate for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.; and Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education.
The panel used their presentations to demonstrate how more affluent schools have made significant gains in academic improvement over the past 40 years while under-funded schools, despite making some strides, have been unable to close the achievement gap. The panelists urged lawmakers to avoid blaming the public school system and instead put programs in place to address the crippling poverty that obstructs student learning.
“We do have a responsibility to build a system of public schools that address poverty needs as soon as the students walk through the door,” Sciarra said.
The ability to reach and engage these students in an academic setting at an early age is obviously critical, but extreme funding shortages and misplaced priorities have prevented too many students from having access to a quality pre-kindergarten classroom. The panelists agreed that immersing students in education early would produce long-term, sustainable benefits for all students.
The stakes, Sciarra warned, are high.
“All 3 – 4 year olds need to be put in high-quality pre-schools or the achievement gap will never close,” he said
Unfortunately, a new report lays out how stark the funding picture is for early childhood education across the country. According to the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER), funding for state pre-K programs has plummeted by more than $700 per child nationwide over the past decade. Though enrollment in these programs has soared over the past 10 years, just 28 percent of all 4-year-olds and only 4 percent of all 3-year-olds are enrolled. NIEER also found that many states expanded enrollment without maintaining quality.
“Overall, state cuts to pre-K transformed the recession into a depression for many young children,” the report said.
NIEER’s report followed findings by the Schott Foundation for Public Education that detailed how lower-income students of color in New York City were being denied the critical resources needed to close the “opportunity gap” with more affluent students.
At the Capitol Hill forum, Sean Reardon of Stanford University demonstrated how the achievement gap between children from high-and low-income families is roughly 30 – 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than in 1976. If states received more financial assistance and listened to schools in determining how these funds should were allocated, the achievement gap between wealthier schools and struggling schools would slowly close.
Unless the funding course is reversed, financially strapped schools will continue to scramble to put together barely adequate programs and educational inequalities will only intensify.
“If we don’t discuss the poverty issue, we end up in a society where the American Dream becomes less and less possible,” said Reardon.
By Robert McNeely
Productivity and pay chart from 1949 to 2009. Seems like productivity kept rising, but wages took a nose dive from 1980ish on. Could it be due to the fact that union busting kicked into high gear right around then? Could it be due to the fact that it was around that time that far right Republicans took the helm of the US for the better part of 2nd 30 years?
Paul Krugman on Mitch Daniels, Obama, and the State of The Union.
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Mitch Daniels, the former Bush budget director who is now Indiana’s governor, made the Republicans’ reply to President Obama’s State of the Union address. His performance was, well, boring. But he did say something thought-provoking — and I mean that in the worst way.
For Mr. Daniels tried to wrap his party in the mantle of the late Steve Jobs, whom he portrayed as a great job creator — which is one thing that Jobs definitely wasn’t. And if we ask why Apple has created so few American jobs, we get an insight into what is wrong with the ideology dominating much of our politics.
Mr. Daniels first berated the president for his “constant disparagement of people in business,” which happens to be a complete fabrication. Mr. Obama has never done anything of the sort. He went on: “The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew.”
Clearly, Mr. Daniels doesn’t have much of a future in the humor business. But, more to the point, anyone who reads The New York Times knows that his assertion about job creation was completely false: Apple employs very few people in this country.
A big report in The Times last Sunday laid out the facts. Although Apple is now America’s biggest U.S. corporation as measured by market value, it employs only 43,000 people in the United States, a tenth as many as General Motors employed when it was the largest American firm.
Apple does, however, indirectly employ around 700,000 people in its various suppliers. Unfortunately, almost none of those people are in America.
Why does Apple manufacture abroad, and especially in China? As the article explained, it’s not just about low wages. China also derives big advantages from the fact that so much of the supply chain is already there. A former Apple executive explained: “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away.”
This is familiar territory to students of economic geography: the advantages of industrial clusters — in which producers, specialized suppliers, and workers huddle together to their mutual benefit — have been a running theme since the 19th century.
And Chinese manufacturing isn’t the only conspicuous example of these advantages in the modern world. Germany remains a highly successful exporter even with workers who cost, on average, $44 an hour — much more than the average cost of American workers. And this success has a lot to do with the support its small and medium-sized companies — the famed Mittelstand — provide to each other via shared suppliers and the maintenance of a skilled work force.
The point is that successful companies — or, at any rate, companies that make a large contribution to a nation’s economy — don’t exist in isolation. Prosperity depends on the synergy between companies, on the cluster, not the individual entrepreneur.
But the current Republican worldview has no room for such considerations. From the G.O.P.’s perspective, it’s all about the heroic entrepreneur, the John Galt, I mean Steve Jobs-type “job creator” who showers benefits on the rest of us and who must, of course, be rewarded with tax rates lower than those paid by many middle-class workers.
And this vision helps explain why Republicans were so furiously opposed to the single most successful policy initiative of recent years: the auto industry bailout.
The case for this bailout — which Mr. Daniels has denounced as “crony capitalism” — rested crucially on the notion that the survival of any one firm in the industry depended on the survival of the broader industry “ecology” created by the cluster of producers and suppliers in America’s industrial heartland. If G.M. and Chrysler had been allowed to go under, they would probably have taken much of the supply chain with them — and Ford would have gone the same way.
Fortunately, the Obama administration didn’t let that happen, and the unemployment rate in Michigan, which hit 14.1 percent as the bailout was going into effect, is now down to a still-terrible-but-much-better 9.3 percent. And the details aside, much of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address can be read as an attempt to apply the lessons of that success more broadly.
So we should be grateful to Mr. Daniels for his remarks Tuesday. He got his facts wrong, but he did, unintentionally, manage to highlight an important philosophical difference between the parties. One side believes that economies succeed solely thanks to heroic entrepreneurs; the other has nothing against entrepreneurs, but believes that entrepreneurs need a supportive environment, and that sometimes government has to help create or sustain that supportive environment.
And the view that it takes more than business heroes is the one that fits the facts.
I’ve been wondering about this being a possibility. The DPRK is so ridiculously poor, and so very strange. I recently watched the Nat Geo documentary on North Korea, it was amazing. The thing is, even if there was a Deng reformer around, it would only mean an improved economy, they would still have a complete totalitarian state.
Probably not under Kim Jong Un, but a Deng Xiaoping-style reformer could be around the corner
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures to several generals / Reuters
Not too long ago, a communist despot dominating a closed, nuclear-armed country died. His death caused an outpouring of grief within his society, where his cult of personality was all-encompassing. This despot was replaced by his handpicked successor, who had little experience and was unknown to the outside world. The successor was acclaimed by the people and the party and rapidly assumed all of the top positions and titles.
I’m not referring to recent events in North Korea. The despot in question was Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The similarities between then and now, China and North Korea, are striking.
On September 9, 1976, the closing of an era came when Mao, who had ruled China since the 1949 revolution he led, succumbed to various illnesses. Mao had always resisted naming a successor for fear of being overshadowed while still alive. Candidates who did emerge such as Liu Shaoqi or Lin Biao met with grisly ends. Future paramount leader Deng Xiaoping spent four years exiled in remote Jiangxi Province as Mao constantly vacillated between the need for competent leadership after his death and his desire to keep down anyone who might outshine him.
Mao’s solution came in the form of Hua Guofeng, a regional nabob from Hunan Province. Hua had neither international experience nor a power base in Beijing and posed no threat. After all, he would be completely reliant on Mao for his legitimacy. In 1973, Hua was hastily elevated to the Politburo and only became firmly established as Mao’s successor mere months before the leader’s death. Sound familiar?
The aura of Mao protected Hua’s position for a few years. As party discipline required, Hua was acclaimed as leader and showered with praise and titles. Owing everything to Mao, Hua confidently proclaimed his “Two Whatevers” policy: “We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.” But the ground rapidly shifted beneath his feet as other Chinese leaders realized the colossal scale of Mao’s failures. Despite retaining many of his titles, Hua was muscled out of real power by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and died in obscurity as China celebrated the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Deng would go on to usher in China’s storied economic opening and transform the country.
Is Kim Jong-un the next Hua Guofeng? If so, could a North Korean Deng Xiaoping and subsequent reform be just around the corner?
The new Kim suffers from the same drawbacks that doomed Hua. He has no independent power base. His military support is not deep. And, unlike Hua, who was at least a competent party official before his elevation, Kim Jong-un has no political experience to speak of. Unless North Korea’s generals have bought into the infallibility of the Kim brand, it is nothing short of fantastical to assume that this pudgy neophyte will be able to navigate the treacherous straits of Communist Party politics. The vigorous affirmations of the army, their pledges of loyalty, and the rush to titles are a sham and belie the fundamental weakness of Kim Jong Eun’s true power position. Hua Guofeng had titles too. He was the only person in the history of the People’s Republic to hold simultaneously the top three posts of party chairman, premier and chairman of the Central Military Commission. The experience of Hua should be instructive: titles matter only as much as the institutions they represent. In a nation like North Korea today or China in 1976 where institutions are immature, don’t expect an ambitious general to show deference to any leader on the basis of titles alone.
Of course, Kim will remain physically unharmed throughout his undoing. Like Hua, his position as “the chosen one” will insulate him from the worst of Stalinist purging. Indeed, his bodily safety is especially critical since (in full Louis XIV fashion) he is the state. The cult of personality that envelopes him has inexorably fused the fate of the Kim family with that of North Korea. There could never be any form of public Khrushchev-style renunciation as it would undermine the very raison d’être of the state itself.
However, the absence of public friction should not lead us to believe that serious disagreements do not exist in private. If the Chinese model is any guide, the question of reforms has most likely been simmering for years, waiting for an opening like the one provided by Kim Jong-il’s death.
A North Korean opening in the near future is probable for two reasons. First, it can be done. When Deng initiated his reforms in 1978, he was grasping in the dark. It wasn’t known how market economics would affect the communist monopoly on power. In 2012, the verdict of history seems clear. China’s three decades of economic growth and relative political stability have embarrassed more than a few Western Cassandras. If North Korea were to engage in a Chinese-style opening, it would have the entire Chinese experience as a road map, as well as an eager mentor and trading partner.
Second, Chinese pressure for an opening has increased powerfully in the last few years and likely will intensify with the new leadership. In his twilight, Kim Jong-il took numerous trips to China, and he wasn’t just visiting the Great Wall. He was there to see the fruits of China’s economic miracle. Beijing would stand to gain the most from a North Korean economic opening. Access to markets, cheap labor and investment opportunities are all tantalizingly within grasp just beyond the Yalu River. China would also benefit from the stability of having its neighbor not perennially on the brink of bankruptcy and famine.
Who could play the role of Deng? The most obvious candidates are those dubbed by The Economist “the troika of regents.” They are Kim Jong Eun’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui, her husband Jang Song-taek, and Army Chief of Staff General Ri Yong-ho. Their conspicuous presence behind the new king attests to their potential role in shaping the future. But there is room for skepticism.
At the time of Hua Guofeng’s elevation to the top job, Deng Xiaoping had been stripped of all leadership posts within the party and had come within a hair’s breadth of being expelled. Hua too had “guides,” such as Marshal Ye Jianying and Wang Dongxing, Maoists who helped him solidify his position. Though Deng had previously been in positions of prominence, few could have predicted his Phoenix-like return to power in 1977. In assessing North Korea’s future, we should be mindful of how little we know. If there is a North Korean reformer waiting in the wings, he may still be invisible to us now, like Deng was in 1976.
North Korea isn’t likely to collapse anytime soon. Too many actors, foreign and domestic, have vested interests in preventing that. Nor will North Korea face an internal rebellion such as those presently convulsing the Middle East. North Korea’s communication and transport systems are too primitive for effective mass mobilization. Democratic reform will also remain an “End of History” liberal pipe dream. The Chinese economic model should serve as abundant evidence that economic reform and political reform do not necessarily go hand in hand. Yet despite these factors, which would seem to favor stagnancy, change could be afoot. If history does indeed repeat itself, North Korea could be moving toward a new era.
This article originally appeared at NationalInterest.org, an Atlantic partner site.
Good article. I don’t understand how anyone can think the GOP is the party of family values for any reason. Their economic polices are driving us into poverty, and dragging down the marriage rate with it.
From the BBC magazine.
For the first time in memory, unmarried Americans will soon outnumber those who are married, according to the latest research. So is this a watershed moment?
At first glance it would appear that, in common with many Western countries, marriage is in terminal decline in the United States.
In 1960, 72% of all American adults were married; in 2010 just 51% were, according to the Pew Centre. The number dropped sharply by 5% in the most recent year, 2009-10.
“I think we are on the cusp of seeing marriage becoming less central to our life course and in framing the lives of our nation’s children. So I think it is a major moment in that regard,” says Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a sociology professor at the University of Virginia.
Americans are certainly waiting longer before they tie the knot - the average age for a first marriage is at an all-time high of 26.5 years for women and 28.7 for men - or else opting to cohabit, live alone or not re-marry when they get divorced.
In the UK, women are, on average, waiting until the age of 30 before getting married, while the average age of a UK bridegroom is 32. In both countries the number of weddings is at an all-time low.
Chicago Tribune syndicated advice columnist Amy Dickinson believes the increase in no-fault divorces and tougher child support laws are two reasons behind the falling popularity of married life in America.
“It is no longer necessary to be married to someone in order to pursue financial support and I believe this has had a huge impact on couples who have children together and, let’s say, 20 years ago would get married in order to establish legitimacy and then, hence, get financial support.”
In some communities single parenthood is now the norm, she argues, and Americans have become more comfortable with “non-traditional” households.
America also has the world’s highest divorce rate - and that has undoubtedly shaken the confidence of many young people in the institution of marriage.
Rhyan Romaine and her partner Seth have been together for six years but have resisted pressure from friends and family to rush into marriage.
“Seth comes from a family of divorce and has seen how it’s affected his life and his family.
“He says he couldn’t imagine even thinking about marriage until we had been together for 10 years and I said as long as we are happy together we will stay together,” says Miss Romaine.
“I think it’s a fear that I have too, even though my parents are married. It’s scary, having seen personal friends who have got married right out of college and who now are in their early thirties and dating again.”
But Miss Romaine, a regional grant director for the American Loan Association, believes there is still a “lot of pressure” on young women to get married in America, where the idealised, fairytale wedding remains a staple of Hollywood romantic comedies and reality TV shows.
“I call it the ‘marriage crazy’,” she says. “All of a sudden this fever comes over women at a certain age. They get to about 24 or 25 and they have to hurry up and get married.”
For many young people, marriage is simply the next item on their personal “checklist” after high school, college and career, she argues.
The Pew Centre research, which suggests marriage is falling out of favour far less quickly among college graduates than less educated groups, would appear to bear this argument out.
Nearly two-thirds of American adults with college degrees (64%) are married, compared with just 47% among those with a high school education. That is in sharp contrast to 1960, when the most educated and the least educated were about equally likely to be married.
“There has been a realisation among college-educated Americans that marriage is actually a pretty good idea, even if they don’t like to talk about it in public,” argues Bradford Wilcox.
“On things like abortion, on hot-button global social issues, Americans who are college educated are more liberal.
“But when it comes to thinking about how they are going to govern their own lives, their own family lives, our sense from the data is that they are more marriage-minded, they are more conventional about family life.”
Mr Wilcox, whose Virginia University team researched the impact of the recent recession on American marriages, is concerned that marriage is “withering” among middle and lower income groups, with potentially disastrous effects on American society and the economy.
“I think we are moving more towards a classically Latin model, where the powerful and the privileged have strong, stable families and access to decent income and decent assets. And everyone who is not in that upper third is worse and worse off.”
The traditional nuclear family is still held up as an ideal in American politics and society, certainly more so than in many other Western democracies such as the UK.
Mr Wilcox argues that it has been the key to America’s prosperity over the years.
He believes the decline in marriage is largely down to a sharp fall in the earning power and job prospects of non-college educated American men, many of whom now lack the means to get married, leaving their offspring “doubly disadvantaged” - lacking both assets and a stable home.
But perhaps it is a little premature to write the obituary for the American marriage just yet.
The sharp 5% decline in the number of new marriages in the US between 2009 and 2010, revealed by the Pew research, may simply be down to short-term economic factors.
With the cost of the average wedding running at about $20,000 (£12,946) many couples are opting for a longer engagement to give them more time to save up, according to Kyle Brown, of the American Bridal Association, which represents America’s multi-billion dollar wedding industry.
But, he adds, his members have noticed “an increase in the beginning process of wedding planning, on items such as gowns, in the past three months”.
“I would expect to see an uptick in the number of weddings in 2012 and 2013,” he says. “It is purely down to economics.”