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Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism

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

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

-- Abraham Lincoln

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

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

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

Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT, November 6, 2010

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

Guard Labor Why is Inequality Bad

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

Economist's View '


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But just imagine another financial crisis and its consequences

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

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

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

New global caste structure and stratification of the US society

Some researchers point out that neoliberal world is increasingly characterized by a three-tiered social structure(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possibility of the return to the clan society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low mobility created potential for the degeneration of the elite

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

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

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

High inequality undermines social cohesion

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

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

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

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

Two party system makes the mousetrap complete

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

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

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

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

Creating a strata of the outcasts aka permanently unemployed

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

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

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

See Over 50 and unemployed

Education is no longer the answer to rising inequality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University presidents became way too greedy

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

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

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

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

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

... ... ...

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

... ... ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I would like to defend Greg Clack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

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

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

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

kievite -> EC...

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

See Slightly Skeptical View on University Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

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

And another one:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

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

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

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

Citigroup Plutonomy Research reports

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

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

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

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

We will posit that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the upper limit of inequality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the same time:

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

Now about top 400:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High inequality and organized crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Books

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

Henry J. Farrell

Transforming American politics, September 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Faulkner's Ghost (Washington, DC)

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

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

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

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

Citizen John (USA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Milholland (California)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Kodi

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. Strauss (NYC)

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"You load 16 tons and whaddaya get??
Another day older and deeper in debt
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I owe my soul to the Company Store"

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[Aug 22, 2019] BOLD ENDEAVORS Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration

Notable quotes:
"... A lesson of use at job interviews, schools and even in families. I am thankful for an added knowledge and understanding of the many problems associated with these Endeavors. This book should be a "must" to all young people. ..."
Oct 16, 1999 |
Britta Sahlgren, October 16, 1999
An intriguing story of human relationships in the extreme.

Bold Endeavors by Jack Stuster proved to be a real page-turner! Since childhood reading about adventures and explorers had been my favorite literature. In this book the persons behind these endeavors came to life.

They were of flesh and blood and you as a reader took part of their everyday life, their hardships and personal problems. A thrilling experience. A lesson in the importance of relationships not only among people in isolation

A lesson of use at job interviews, schools and even in families. I am thankful for an added knowledge and understanding of the many problems associated with these Endeavors. This book should be a "must" to all young people.

[Aug 22, 2019]

Aug 22, 2019 |


Pocket Worthy


Stories to fuel your mind. The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It's Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn't mean happiness itself is not attainable. Darius Foroux

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy.

Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way.

And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable.

I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness.

When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here.

Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.


Darius Foroux

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This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

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[Aug 21, 2019] Losing a job in your 50s is especially tough. Here are 3 steps to take when layoffs happen by Peter Dunn

Unemployment benefits currently are usually is just six month or so; this is the time when you can plan you "downsizing". You do not need to rush but at the same time do not expect that you will get job offers quickly, if at all. Usually it does not happen. many advertised positions are fakes, another substantial percentage is already reserved for H1B candidates and posting them is the necessary legal formality.
Often losing job logically requires selling your home and moving to a modest apartment, especially if no children are living with you. At 50 it is abut time... You need to do it later anyway, so why not now. But that's a very tough decision to make... Still, if the current housing market is close to the top (as it is in 2019), this is one of the best moves you can make. Getting from your house several hundred thousand dollars allows you to create kind of private pension to compensate for losses in income till you hit your Social Security check, which currently means 66.
$300K investment in A quality bonds that returns 3% per year is enough to provides you with $24K per year "private pension" from 50 to age of 66 when social security kicks in. That allows you to pay for the apartment and amenities. The food is extra but with this level of income you qualify for food assistance.
This way you can take lower paid job, of much lower paid job (which mean $15 per hour), of temp job and survive.
And if this are many form you house sell your 401k remains intact and can supplement your SS income later on. Simple Excel spreadsheet can provide you with a complete picture of what you can afford and what not. Actually the ability to walk of fresh air for 3 or more hours each day worth a lot of money ;-)
Notable quotes:
"... Losing a job in your 50s is a devastating moment, especially if the job is connected to a long career ripe with upward mobility. As a frequent observer of this phenomenon, it's as scary and troublesome as unchecked credit card debt or an expensive chronic health condition. This is one of the many reasons why I believe our 50s can be the most challenging decade of our lives. ..."
"... The first thing you should do is identify the exact day your job income stops arriving ..."
"... Next, and by next I mean five minutes later, explore your eligibility for unemployment benefits, and then file for them if you're able. ..."
"... Grab your bank statement, a marker, and a calculator. As much as you want to pretend its business as usual, you shouldn't. Identify expenses that don't make sense if you don't have a job. Circle them. Add them up. Resolve to eliminate them for the time being, and possibly permanently. While this won't necessarily lengthen your fuse, it could lessen the severity of a potential boom. ..."
Feb 15, 2019 |

... ... ...

Losing a job in your 50s is a devastating moment, especially if the job is connected to a long career ripe with upward mobility. As a frequent observer of this phenomenon, it's as scary and troublesome as unchecked credit card debt or an expensive chronic health condition. This is one of the many reasons why I believe our 50s can be the most challenging decade of our lives.

Assuming you can clear the mental challenges, the financial and administrative obstacles can leave you feeling like a Rube Goldberg machine.

Income, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, bills, expenses, short-term savings and retirement savings are all immediately important in the face of a job loss. Never mind your Parent PLUS loans, financially-dependent aging parents, and boomerang children (adult kids who live at home), which might all be lurking as well.

When does your income stop?

From the shocking moment a person learns their job is no longer their job, the word "triage" must flash in bright lights like an obnoxiously large sign in Times Square. This is more challenging than you might think. Like a pickpocket bumping into you right before he grabs your wallet, the distraction is the problem that takes your focus away from the real problem.

This is hard to do because of the emotion that arrives with the dirty deed. The mind immediately begins to race to sources of money and relief. And unfortunately that relief is often found in the wrong place.

The first thing you should do is identify the exact day your job income stops arriving . That's how much time you have to defuse the bomb. Your fuse may come in the form of a severance package, or work you've performed but haven't been paid for yet.

When do benefits kick in?

Next, and by next I mean five minutes later, explore your eligibility for unemployment benefits, and then file for them if you're able. However, in some states severance pay affects your immediate eligibility for unemployment benefits. In other words, you can't file for unemployment until your severance payments go away.

Assuming you can't just retire at this moment, which you likely can't, you must secure fresh employment income quickly. But quickly is relative to the length of your fuse. I've witnessed way too many people miscalculate the length and importance of their fuse. If you're able to get back to work quickly, the initial job loss plus severance ends up enhancing your financial life. If you take too much time, by your choice or that of the cosmos, boom.

The next move is much more hands-on, and must also be performed the day you find yourself without a job.

What nonessentials do I cut?

Grab your bank statement, a marker, and a calculator. As much as you want to pretend its business as usual, you shouldn't. Identify expenses that don't make sense if you don't have a job. Circle them. Add them up. Resolve to eliminate them for the time being, and possibly permanently. While this won't necessarily lengthen your fuse, it could lessen the severity of a potential boom.

The idea of diving into your spending habits on the day you lose your job is no fun. But when else will you have such a powerful reason to do so? You won't. It's better than dipping into your assets to fund your current lifestyle. And that's where we'll pick it up the next time.

We've covered day one. In my next column we will tackle day two and beyond.

Peter Dunn is an author, speaker and radio host, and he has a free podcast: "Million Dollar Plan." Have a question for Pete the Planner? Email him at The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

[Aug 17, 2019] America is the richest country in the world, but it has more than half a million homeless and 28 million people without health insurance out of a population of around 325 million. Is America Crazy? by John Feffer

Decline of neoliberalism in not a pretty picture. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Greek version of this saying which appers in Sophocles’ play Antigone is more precise: "evil appears as good in the minds of those whom god leads to destruction". Oscar Wilde — 'When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.'
Aug 17, 2019 |
The United States witnessed three mass shootings in one week recently in California, Texas, and Ohio. There have been more than 250 mass shootings so far in 2019, more than one a day. This year in America, more than 33,000 shooting incidents have killed more than 8,700 people.

America is the richest country in the world, but it has more than half a million homeless and 28 million people without health insurance – out of a population of around 325 million. The U.S. infant mortality rate places it 33rd out of wealthiest 36 nations.

... ... ...

People from other industrialized countries must think that the United States has simply gone insane. It is a nation of terrible extremes: grotesque wealth and horrific poverty, brilliant minds and widespread ignorance, high rates of volunteerism and endemic violence. America seems to be suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder with pockets of manic energy and large areas of deep depression.

It would be tempting to argue that America is only suffering from a bout of temporary insanity. But mass shootings, gross economic inequality, and corruption didn't begin when Donald Trump became president. He has made matters worse, to be sure. But these trends are longstanding.

So, why do Americans put up with such violence, economic inequality, and political nonsense?

... ... ...

Moreover, more than half of Americans have never traveled to another country. One in ten hasn't even gone outside the state in which he or she was born. Since most of the news about other countries is negative, Americans naturally believe that life is more dangerous outside their borders. They haven't actually seen what it's like in other countries, so there's no way for them to compare the craziness of life in America with life anywhere else.

Of course, plenty of countries experience considerable violence, economic inequality, and political corruption. But they are usually not powerful industrialized nations.

In the 2019 Global Peace Index , for instance, the United States ranks 128 th in the world, between South Africa and Saudi Arabia. Kosovo, Haiti, and Bangladesh all rank higher than America. Part of the reason that the United States ranks so poorly is the amount of military violence that the country inflicts around the world – through war, arms sales, and military bases. But the high homicide rate in the United States also dragged its score down.

The GINI index measures a country's economic inequality. The United States, according to OECD figures , is fourth from the bottom of the wealthiest countries in the world. Only Chile, Turkey, and Mexico have greater income inequality after taxes and transfers.

On corruption issues, the United States has generally been in the top twenty in terms of transparency. But in 2018, it dropped six places to number 22 in the Transparency International rankings. Here, the influence of the Trump administration has been significant. The problem is not ordinary corruption like bribery. Rather, Trump is challenging the very foundations of the rule of law. He promised to "drain the swamp" of political influence-peddling in Washington, DC. But he has only made the nation's capital swampier.

Individuals with mental disorders can seek professional help. They can take medications and enter psychotherapy. They can check themselves into a hospital.

But what happens when a country is crazy?

[Aug 17, 2019] Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009

Aug 17, 2019 |

im1dc , August 07, 2019 at 05:44 PM

"Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009"

Grim foreshadowing of what may come and quickly...

"Bankruptcy-related job losses are rising at rates not seen since 2009, invoking grim reminders of the Great Recession"

By Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor...Aug 7, 2019...8:24 p.m. ET

"The recent spate of bankruptcies in corporate America is taking its toll.

In the first seven months of the year, U.S.-based companies announced 42,937 job cuts due to bankruptcy, up 40% on the same period last year and nearly 20% higher than all bankruptcy-related job losses last year, a report released Tuesday concluded. Despite record-low unemployment, bankruptcy filings have not claimed this many jobs since the Great Recession.

"It is the highest seven-month total since 2009 when 50,258 cuts due to bankruptcy were announced," according to the report by outplacement and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "In fact, it is higher than the annual totals for bankruptcy cuts every year since 2009."...

[Aug 17, 2019] Life, Deferred Student Debt Postpones Key Milestones for Millions of Americans naked capitalism

Aug 17, 2019 | <img src="" /> By Natalia Abrams, the Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis, and Cody Hounanian, the Program Director of Student Debt Crisis. Originally published at openDemocracy

Student debt has been solely responsible for the majority of my decision-making as an adult
(Erin – Portland, Maine)

The student debt crisis is not the burden of a single generation. It impacts Baby Boomers in their 60s and 70s; Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s; Millennials in their 20s and 30s – as well as Gen Z high school students still planning for college. Thus it's a grave mistake to frame student loan debt as exclusively or even primarily a "Millennial problem." At the same time, Millennials have borne the brunt of the astounding rise in college costs. They are the first generation to experience a life shaped by the near-certainty of student debt.

Weighted for inflation, college costs (including tuition and fees) rose 81% between 2001 and 2009 – the decade when well over half of Millennials graduated high school.

Traditionally, when the price of a commodity rises rapidly, demand for that commodity drops. Necessities like food and shelter are usually exempt from that general rule. However, college has become one of those essentials, with the perceived cost of not attending growing at least as fast as the actual costs themselves. As a result, student loans make the essential, attainable.

Not everyone saddled with a tremendous debt burden ends up with a degree. Whether a borrower receives a degree or not, few are in a position to rapidly repay their student loans. While a college degree may or may not expand opportunities; as we're finding, student loan debt absolutely shuts doors that might have otherwise remained open.

Lower Homeownership rates

Growing up I was told by my parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to go to college because it would give me a better life. I graduated in 2013 with a Master's Degree in English with the hopes of being a teacher myself. There are no teaching jobs in high schools or colleges and I owe over $100,000 in student debt. I now work a job that doesn't even require a degree, and was turned down for a mortgage because my debt to income ratio was too high. Not a day goes by where I don't think about my debt
(Danielle – Roseville, California)

If homeownership is fundamental to the 'American dream', then student loan debt puts that dream out of reach for millions of Americans. After years of growth, homeownership rates noticeably declined in 2017. While partly due to factors unrelated to student debt (such as rising housing prices , particularly in urban areas), the rate of Millennial homeownership has fallen faster than that of the general population.

In a January 2019 study, the Federal Reserve revealed the connection between lower homeownership rates and the Millennial generation most burdened by student debt: "our estimates suggest that increases in student loan debt are an important factor in explaining (young people's) lowered homeownership rates." The study went on to conclude that "a little over 20 percent of the overall decline in homeownership among the young can be attributed to the rise in student loan debt. This represents over 400,000 young individuals who would have owned a home in 2014 had it not been for the rise in debt."

While the Federal Reserve study focused on the decade between 2005-2014, a 2019 survey by Bankrate of nearly 4,000 American borrowers found that 31% of Millennial respondents postponed buying a home because of student loan debt. By comparison, when the Baby Boomers were entering the housing market 40 years ago, only 15% delayed a purchase because of student loan debt.

It's also worth noting that the real number of Millennials unable to purchase a home because of student debt is likely much higher. While 31% of Millennial respondents reported that student debt directly delayed homeownership, this figure only accounts for potential buyers who still consider future homeownership a real possibility. Thus it does not reflect the unknown number of those whose debt to income ratio is so high that they don't expect to ever afford a home. As Forbes noted in 2019, "no matter how many possible solutions are tossed around Washington and beyond on reducing the crushing burden of student loan debt, it remains one of the top reasons millennials are putting off buying a home."

Historically, home mortgages defined middle-class debt. Yet due to pre-existing debt, student loan borrowers face difficulty qualifying for a mortgage. In tandem with rising housing prices, and stringent mortgage qualification requirements adopted in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, those with already exorbitant levels of student debt face a near-perfect storm for obtaining a mortgage: placing a key component of the 'American dream' out of reach for millions of young Americans.

A 2018 study by Summer and Student Debt Crisis found that 56% of respondents reported that student loan debt made it more difficult to buy a home. That figure excludes those who consider homeownership so unattainable that they have preemptively "given up." The same study notes that 58% of those surveyed experienced a decline in their credit score as a direct result of their student debt. Credit scores, based on past payment habits as well as debt-to-income ratios, are pivotal to mortgage qualification. Even borrowers who haven't yet considered buying a home are keenly aware that their student-debt-burdened credit scores have put a mortgage out of reach.

Fewer Marriages

I have put off having children, marrying, or purchasing a home due to the high costs of student debt repayment. Regularly, I contemplate selling everything and living in my car to help free up money to pay off the debt sooner.
(Melissa – Granbury, Texas)

Homeownership is not the only dream deferred, or abandoned altogether, because of crushing student loan debt.

One theme in the stories we've collected – and in our studies – is that student debt is an overwhelming factor in declining marriage and birth rates. Millennial borrowers like Melissa, regularly told us that there were three central dreams that debt had put out of reach: buying a home, getting married, and having children.

In 1990, 26% of adults under 65 were never married – by 2018, that number rose to 36%. Today, only one in five adults are married before the age of 30 – and the average age of first marriage has risen by more than six years since 1960. There are a host of factors that have driven the marriage rate to record lows – and we do not suggest that student debt is the sole (or even primary) driver of delayed marriage. Evolving and elevated expectations for romantic partnership, economic shifts, greater equality for women and increased acceptance of premarital sex all play critical roles in changing marriage habits. One cause of social transformation however, doesn't negate the impact of another.

Student loan debt delays marriage in several ways. One way is through a sheer misunderstanding of the law regarding debt. Several borrowers told us they were reluctant to marry and "make my spouse responsible for my debt." Though the laws concerning spousal responsibility vary by state, the fears of saddling a partner with one's debts are not unfounded. Similarly, if a spouse with pre-existing debt returns to school after marriage, both the debt incurred before and during marriage gets lumped together as a shared liability.

Practically, the legal responsibility for the liability is a nominal matter. Most couples cannot simply isolate one partner's debt. The money spent each month on student loans could be collectively used for other essentials, like rent, car repairs, or childcare.

A study released in June 2019 by the think-tank Demos showed that those who start college after age twenty (or go back to college following a break) have a particularly hard time paying off loans. Twelve years after leaving school, the average borrower (who started college after the age of twenty) will have paid off only 5% of their student debt. If a borrower is determined not to bring their student debt into a marriage, research suggest that they will have to wait a very long before they wed.

Media coverage tends to ignore that finances, rather than changing social mores, are the primary driver of diminishing marriage rates. For every young person who "never wants to marry", statistics suggest there are far more who would like to wed someday but can't imagine ever being able to afford to do so. A Pew Organization study in 2017 found that nearly six out of ten unmarried American adults hope to marry someday. That same report noted that unmarried Millennials cited "not being financially stable" as one of the chief reasons why they haven't yet wed. 41% of those unmarried cited financial instability as a primary reason for remaining single, while 28% described it as a "secondary" reason. (By comparison, only 24% of young adults named "not being ready to settle down" as the primary explanation for not being married.)

The research is clear: the primary reason why Americans delay wedlock, or forego it altogether, is financial insecurity. Debt is reshaping our most intimate relationships, putting a profound source of happiness further and further out of reach.

Falling Birthrates

My wife and I have been married 3 years and she desperately wants kids. But paying out $350 a month to pay off my 45k in loans has shattered our dreams of family. We both work but it's not enough. I've paid my loans since 2004 and I'm not getting ahead.
(James – Kansas City, Missouri)

With less homeownership, along with fewer marriages – it's hardly surprising that the most debt-laden generation in history is also having far fewer babies than their parents and grandparents. Millennials are on track to have a lower birth rate than any generation in American history. In 2018, the overall birth rate in the United States fell to 59 births per 1000 women, the lowest on record and a 2% drop from the previous year.

The birth rate has fallen steadily since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. Yet even after the recovery, the birth-rate continued to decline.

There's a disagreement as to whether the birthrate decline can be attributed to women wanting fewer babies (or wanting them later), versus women being unable to afford children. Yet the survey data is fairly compelling: most young people have had (or expect to have) fewer children than they consider ideal. In a 2018 New York Times/Morning Consult survey , four of the top five reasons respondents cited for not having as many children as they wanted focused on financial concerns:

Child care is too expensive (64% of respondents) Want more time for the children I have (54%) Worried about the economy (49%) Can't afford more children (44%) Waited because of financial instability (43%)

Furthermore, a 2015 study by the National Institutes of Health examined the impact of debt on the decision to have children. The results were stunning. While mortgage holders were more likely than renters to have children, and credit-card debt had no impact among debtors, the study found that "holding student loans more significantly affects fertility at higher levels of indebtedness." Low levels of student loan debt reduced fertility only slightly; high levels of student debt sharply reduced the chances of having a baby.

Every generation reassesses priorities. Some pundits look at the lives of Millennials and conclude that they're simply less interested in homeownership, simply more suspicious of enduring monogamy, simply less interested in having children. The evidence shows that's a false narrative.

The research in fact reveals that a high percentage of Millennials want homeownership, marriage, and children. The chief obstacle is not the timeless problem of finding the right person, but financial insecurity. Student loan debt is a central driver behind this precarity – affecting the fundamental milestones of our lives.

Freshstart , August 16, 2019 at 6:05 am

I hear the phrase "student loan forgiveness " quite often these days. "Forgiveness" for being a victim of financial predators and a failed leadership class? No, that's not forgiveness. That's justice. Forgiveness comes from the victims, not the perpetrators. Personally, I'm not forgiving anybody involved. Politicians, schools, the "financial industry", etc. These are the folks that should be begging for forgiveness from the borrowers, not the other way around. These policies have destroyed lives. They then try to frame any corrective action as doing the victims a favor, "forgiveness", rescuing the borrowers from their own failures and poor choices. Right. This is basically a war on the poor. I wonder if it isn't a way to curb greenhouse emissions without inconveniencing the wealthy.

Carla , August 16, 2019 at 6:18 am

Excellent comment -- thank you! Let us never let our fellow Americans forget Joe Biden's central role in killing bankruptcy protection for student debtors.

Michael Fiorillo , August 16, 2019 at 7:27 am

Extremely perceptive and wise comment.

I also think your final point is very important, as I am increasingly convinced that "environmental footprint reduction" is likely to be used as a pretext for further austerity for the working class. Environmentalism has always been a mostly elite and middle class phenomena, and working class interests are often unmindfully ignored or disregarded. In fact, I don't think it's unduly paranoid to anticipate ostensibly radical environmentalists (Extinction Rebellion and the like) being used as cat's paws to extend Overclass policies of extraction and control.

Bugs Bunny , August 16, 2019 at 8:35 am

It's already happened in France – the Gilets Jaunes movement was a direct result of the radical neoliberal Macron government putting higher taxes on diesel – a regressive tax on the poor and rural working class.

Michael Fiorillo , August 16, 2019 at 9:14 am

Yes, of course: thanks for pointing that out.

bmeisen , August 16, 2019 at 10:27 am

No, penury and exploitation as a result of educational debt is not a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions without inconveniencing the wealthy. It's just another example of Americans being suckered by their own delusions and ignorance, just another example of wealthy Americans, many of whom are rich without being educated, ripping off poorer Americans, many of whom ernestly believe that going into long-term crippling debt in order to pay for a college degree is a good way to get up and out of living from week to week with maxed out credit cards.

The typical American university/college student has drunk the kool-aid. She believes that higher education is a personal choice, freely made, to invest in earning potential. The possibility that this is not necessarily the case apparently does not occur to her. She genuinely believes, or sometimes she is compelled to believe, that it makes sense to take on for example 100k in educational debt because the degree that should follow will allow her to earn a hopefully large multiple of that number. Such students and their parents are apparently blind to the fact that a country that struggles to defend a primitive form of democracy is doomed to dystopic horrors without an educated population. Education, including higher education, is not a personal choice alone – much more it is a national mission that compels the government to provide instruction to qualified candidates at a minimal cost to candidates. This is a not a utopian vision – this is reality in democracies that are not as primitive as the American.

The attempt to associate the diesel tax with French educational policy needs clarification: The French have free public higher education. Their free public higher education consists of institutions that are selective, some highly selective, as well as institutions that are not selective. The selective institutions are intended to provide a nominally meritocratic elite-building function at the service of both public and private beneficieries. Public transport infrasturcture is weak in the country, and the Gilets Jaunes (GJ) argue that that's becasue administrators and mangers, many of whom are graduates of tuition-free elite universities, have not only failed to improve it: they threw salt in GJ wounds by attempting to impose a diesel tax. Though for many the tax is a tax-deductable expense, there are enough economically non-rural residents of rural areas in France to make the salt really sting. The GJ should more aggressively criticize the meritocratic fallacy of (highly) selective public institutions and bring attention to the phenomenon of economically non-rural residents of rural areas. They are relatively heavy polluters (lots of driving, single-family homes). I wonder if public transport infrastructure in rural areas could be expanded or if economically non-rural residents of rural areas could be compelled to live in less isolation.

Keith Newman , August 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm

For bmeisen: Thanks for the interesting insights on the Gilets jaunes.

juliania , August 16, 2019 at 9:25 am

The most repressive and draconian indebtedness has been thrust upon the youth of America by its government. I say 'youth' because many of those suffering under this burden were young once but have struggled long enough to be middle aged and even beyond in the search for a quality education, not only so they could have a good job but also in order to develop their minds. This was not a foolish pursuit – – until it was.

Something has to be done about this. And if it has to be done, it will be done, to paraphrase what Professor Hudson has said: if a debt can't be paid it won't be paid. And also lest we forget, these neoliberal shenanigans came about as financiers figured they could layer everything into juicy offerings for the players on Wall Street. Tranches or trenches as with mortgages – you know, like layers of filo dough with yummy stuff sandwiched in between. (Hah, my spellcheck doesn't like the word 'neoliberal'. Phooey on you, spellcheck; it's a word!)

Thank you, Yves.

bmeisen , August 16, 2019 at 11:01 am

Hasn't been thrust upon the youth of America by its government – the student debt crisis is a result of predatory financial interests consorting with ignorant, anti-government ideologues to corrupt the wise support of state and federal governments for public education. Private non-profit as well as private for-profit "educators" have lobbied lobbied lobbied for example to expand government lending facilities for students while doing little to regulate the "institutions" that were convincing candidates to use the facilities to borrow funds to pay for the questionable degrees that the "institutions" were awarding. There should have been a major cultural effort to convince Americans that we need public education including virtually free higher education and to contradict the delusion that an investment in higher education was essentially an investment in earning potential. Free public education including effectively free public higher education is essential for the success of democracy. Sadly many Americans have forgotten a fundamental aspect of the American Way of Life.

JohnnySacks , August 16, 2019 at 10:09 am

Brother in law couldn't make the payments, went underground and worked for cash, then ultimately committed suicide in his 50's. Not saying he wasn't unstable to begin with, but will say that having a mountain of debt he was never going to be able to get out from under certainly was a major factor.

With an 81% increase adjusted for inflation in under a decade, why aren't schools being penalized? Why not stop writing any and all loans for those schools?

polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Schools WILL be penalized, by going out of business .. as many surely will !! .. especially the ones specializing in SJW studies

Medbh , August 16, 2019 at 9:11 am

That's an excellent point. I had burdensome student loans and eventually paid them off, but I support student loan forgiveness. However, from a political standpoint, I understand why some people are angry about the concept. They think they were smart and chose not to go to college because of the financial danger, and if loans are forgiven, they're being "punished" in the housing and job market for being "responsible."

Your "justice" framing could address both of these interest groups. Instead of just looking at the student loans alone, we'd consider all the ways in which the loans and the degrees have influenced people's lives. Maybe everyone could have access to "educational credit," which could be used to directly pay off existing loans, allow people to enroll in a degree program now, or be credited towards a new or existing mortgage. The program becomes a universal benefit, and depending upon one's situation, the money could be used in different, socially beneficial ways.

The main point is I like the "justice" framing, and it should be used to create a program that benefits everyone. Then the messaging is more about rectifying a dysfunctional system, then bailing out irresponsible spendthrifts (I don't believe this is true, but that is how loan forgiveness is framed).

Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 10:32 am

How about the government takes over all consumer debt and charges only the Fed rate in interest? And writes down any amount considered unpayable? Would anyone not connected to the financial industry be opposed?

Big River Bandido , August 16, 2019 at 5:05 pm

The arguments against student loan forgiveness on the basis of "I paid mine off, why can't you?" are short-sighted and ultimately injure the person making them.

Everyone is harmed by the toxic environment of debt that we're living in -- even those of us who never had student loans and those of you who paid them off. We are all suffering under a regime that has paralyzed people economically. The act of debt cancellation, as those whose incomes were locked up now get a little piece of it back to spend on other things, would have a stimulative effect on the economy.

Tyronius , August 16, 2019 at 11:50 am

We can start holding those responsible accountable by refusing to support Joe Biden for office!

The key is to tell everyone, including poll takers, the reason why we won't vote for him.

I graduated in 1995 and I'm still over $65k in debt. I'll vote for any politician who will fight to redress this injustice.

It's time Washington fights for We the People instead of the already outrageously wealthy.

Carla , August 16, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Hear, Hear!

timbers , August 16, 2019 at 8:26 am

I work with a lady who's only child entered college last year, and was exposed at work to her discussions with her daughter over the phone and with co workers what is on the list she choose for her student loans. Things like room and board/rent, etc. This lady has a killer personality that works smashingly well in corporate offices – only positive things may be talked about and she juggles her aging, ailing mom, her daughter off to college, and work quite well.

It wasn't my place to offer advice, but I got a bad feeling listening to the load up of student loan debt. Then I overhead her advice to her mother regarding what package from Comcast to get. She recommended the package for seniors with insurance that protects seniors from phishing and that sort of thing. I don't recall the fee, but she also has insurance for her smart phone screen.

The $$$ signs of how I could manager their budget and save them some money where dancing in my head.

I guess they call that being a Financial Advisor today. It used to be called common sense.

When I was with my former, much younger partner, I told him he would live free with me on condition he cut back his 60+hrs/week working at multiple Dunkin Donuts and go to school, take NO school debt and pay everything with his paycheck. He did, and got tax credits on top of that. He choose medical billing and coding at a school that has since gone bankrupt. But it got him in the door. He is now supervisor in the billing department at Boston Children's Hospital and they told him they are sending him to management training at their expense.

He too has a killer personality. Perfect for Facebook where only positive things are said. He will do well but I worry he will later be not so well off because he doesn't save, he spends everything he has.

My first year at University of Chicago undergrad was $4,000. Second year $5,000. Then I moved to Boston and my employer paid most of my school expense while I finished up at Northeastern University. Peanuts compared to today.

I would never pay for College education at todays prices. I'd take that same money and buy a house.

Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 8:57 am

Insurance for a smartphone screen? Yeesh!

And I say that as someone who just dropped a smartphone face-down on a hardwood floor.

I'm here to say that my screen protector, which cost something like 30 bucks, did its job. It took one for the Arizona Slim team and cracked in several places. The screen was intact. Hooray!

However, the replacement protector doesn't stick, so back to the phone repair shop I go. While I'm there, I think I'll strike up a conversation about the right to repair. Hey, I might just be able to turn another person on to Naked Capitalism.

Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 12:09 pm

Indeed I did. The phone repair guy was very interested in NC.

Matter of fact, I showed him how to pull up the site and read that recent article about Apple. Link:

And then I went down the street to a state senator's office. Said senator is very interested in fracking issues. So, another recruit to our site.

JohnnySacks , August 16, 2019 at 10:49 am

I'd say that a robust course in home economics would be valuable in public schools. But I'm guessing our owners would heavily attack that effort.

Fact is, if you want to have any professional career, an education is mandatory. I don't want my nurse practitioner or doctor to be the likes of the Trump children simply because they're the only ones who will be able to afford the education, same as all economics, political science, law etc. workers to only be the ones who can afford it. Sort of insures that our future leaders won't have any clue whatsoever about the lives of the 90% they'll be claiming to support. A crappy situation made even worse.

Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 8:44 am

The author claims that college costs (that term is not defined) rose 80% from 2001 to 2009. That is far higher than any figure I have seen. According to National Center for Education Satistics, the figure for tuition+fees is closer to 30% which is still outrageous. If the descrepancy means that aid is being cut back more or non-tuition/fee costs are increasing faster, that would be good to know. Defenders of high prices claim that aid is increasing (I doubt that but do not have figures).

Anyway, #freecollege

Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 8:53 am

Good discussion topic. Permit me to share a little tale from the Arizona Slim file:

As mentioned here before, I am learning the Russian language. After completing all 30 lessons in Mark Thompson's "Russian Made Easy" video series on YouTube, I decided that it was time for some classroom training.

So, off to look at the University of Arizona website. I couldn't easily find any information about enrolling as a non-degree student, so I sent an email to the department where I'd be taking an intro Russian class.

Reply: In order to become a UA non-degree student, I would have to complete an online application. And pay a $45 application fee.


Instead of paying the UA 45 bucks just to apply, I could spend that same money on a vocabulary builder course, which is taught by a native Russian speaker. From her home in Moscow, she has built a global business as a language teacher. So, look out, Real Russian Club, here I come. Link:

anonymous , August 16, 2019 at 10:23 am

Arizona Slim, take a look at the free Russian language courses on I've taken excellent Italian courses on EdX, but Coursera looks better now for conversational Russian. (EdX has a couple of classes on Russian for scientific work.) With foreign languages, the more practice and exposure, the better, so maybe Coursera could be useful in addition to your vocabulary builder course.

Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 12:10 pm


David Carl Grimes , August 16, 2019 at 11:48 am

I was wondering about the kids and parents who pay full freight for college. Can that cost ever be recouped? Even for top colleges? For instance, financial aid at Harvard maxes out at $110K in household income. So a high income family will have to pay full sticker price every year. Tuition and living expenses could be $70K per year or more. So a four year education could cost $280K to $350K. It's like buying a house in many parts of the country without buying a house. Yet the median salary for a Harvard graduate is $90K ten years after entering school (six years after graduation). If college costs are paid back in ten years, the college graduate will have to pay back $30K every year, on top of everything else. Not much left for savings, retirement, or a house. Even for Harvard College graduates.

Shiloh1 , August 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

I love these articles. At no point is it ever questioned or addressed why cost of college has gone exponential relative to the real economy (taking out real estate and healthcare) since the late 1970s,

It is because "financial aid", especially loans, spends the same as cash. The colleges will charge what the market will bear, Econ 101,taking account the new money those loans bring into the picture, driving up the price. Colleges have no skin in the game for repayment / default of loans.

Sorry, but I am cool with the whole system collapsing into itself and my bank account sitting this one out.

Please spare me the club med, lazy river, climbing wall stories. FULL DISCLOSURE: I went to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a garden spot of the city between 31st and 35th and State Street off the Dan Ryan Expressway in the late 70s. The place is a bigger dump now when I went there, full salute to the Mies Van Der Rohe flat roof glass shoe boxes and the post WWII housing project-like dorms.

polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Campus pizza and beer ain't cheap you know ..

Eudora Welty , August 16, 2019 at 9:39 pm

A friend invited me to lunch at the cafeteria in the university dorm building. Lunch was $11 50, but all-you-can-eat with a gourmet style, nice China tableware. I had pizza, hamburger , pasta al fredo, pudding, cookies, salad, soft drinks. Great opportunity to gain weight & spend $$$!

jrs , August 16, 2019 at 2:45 pm

well also probably due to both the decimation of the non-college job market, and credential inflation (a degree now being required for jobs it didn't use to be). of course college grads are now overproduced relative to demand as well.

Synoia , August 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I have some advice for the young with Student debt, as I have some acquaintances whose children have huge debts $400,000 to $600,000..

Emigrate. Don't look back.

polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Here's an educational experiance one can endeavor : Enter your local thrift/antique establishment/yard sale/dump, etc. and pick an item – any item .. and figure out how to rebuild/repair/make serviceable said item. Presto ! THERE'S your future, waiting in the wings of regression !
Not a bad place to be actually .. beats high penury, no ?

inode_buddha , August 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

My paleo-conservative dad likes to point out that student loans existed before the government started backing them. He took out a very large loan in 1950 to attend MIT in got his Masters there, PhD at SUNY Buffalo in 1970. He paid it off in 1985. Back then lending standards were based on reality and job market projections. When I went to school, all you had to do was fog a mirror Then in the 1990s prices started doubling and tripling, etcetc . Answer is to ban the government from backing loans, full stop.

Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Or we could do what many other countries do and abolish tuition and fees.

chuck roast , August 16, 2019 at 1:39 pm

I have a bunch of hoops to jump through for that!
Here's what my hoops look like:
One of them cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000.
Another hoop provides substantial debt cancellation for every person with household income between $100,000 and $250,000. The $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000, so, for example, a person with household income of $130,000 gets $40,000 in cancellation, while a person with household income of $160,000 gets $30,000 in cancellation. Pick you hoop!
I also have a non-hoop, hoop that offers no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000 (the top 5%).
For most Americans, cancellation will take place automatically using data already available to the federal government about income and outstanding student loan debt.
We also have a moving hoop private student loan debt is also eligible for cancellation, and the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief.
And our final hoop. Canceled debt will not be taxed as income.
E. Warren (the Hoop Queen)

Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Does anyone else find the idea that parents should pay for, and therefore have veto over, their adult children's college, offensively infantilizing?

jrs , August 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Well unless full room and board is paid for, that's how it ends up being though? I mean free tuition is simply not going to solve this, because how to pay for a roof over one's head while going to school?

1) live at the parents home and go to a nearby school, sure a bit infantalizing 2) get the bank of mom and dad to foot the dorm costs again mom and dad paying 3) take out debt for living expenses.

Haha, no you usually can't afford housing on or off campus (renting a room) with some low wage job!!! And if you had the capacity to get a well paying job without a degree (or other training) you might not be pursuing one anyway. Since a large number of students are homeless (actually true here, shocking numbers), I guess that's also an option.

shinola , August 16, 2019 at 3:31 pm

I'm surprised, this being NC, that no one has mentioned this yet – student debt is a modern form of indentured servitude.

While it does not directly tie the indebted (former) student to a single employer, it provides potential employers with leverage in regard to wages & working conditions. Quite simply, someone with a large debt hanging over their head is more likely to accept a job with lower pay, fewer raises and/or benefits than some someone who is debt-free and therefore can afford to be more picky, more demanding to be paid & treated decently.

Get 'em in more debt at an earlier age so they will be more docile and accepting of neoliberal crapification.

Anthony G Stegman , August 16, 2019 at 6:18 pm

At the same time it has become vastly more expensive a college degree has also become watered down and of less value. That is the true injustice. Many jobs that once required only a high school education now require a college degree. This is not because the job requirements have changed. This is due to the simple fact that many more people possess college diplomas, so employers now demand them for a greater number of occupations. However, the pay for these occupations has not risen to be commensurate with the additional costs incurred to gain the newly required credentials. Now these holders of costly credentials find themselves in a real bind. The author of this article offered no solutions.

[Aug 16, 2019] This Is How Epstein Manipulated Vulnerable Young Girls (And How You Can Protect Your Children From Predators)

Aug 16, 2019 |

This Is How Epstein Manipulated Vulnerable Young Girls (And How You Can Protect Your Children From Predators)

by Tyler Durden Fri, 08/16/2019 - 18:25 0 SHARES

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

This article contains content that some may find distressing.

Jeffrey Epstein "was" apparently a serial molester of children. He had manipulation down to an art form, as many molesters do. He seemed to be an expert at figuring out a girl's weak point, whether it was poverty, a deceased family member, or feeling alienated from her peers.

This is a common ploy. Many molesters seek out children or teens who have lost a parent and use this as a way to build a friendship. Then, because children don't think like adults, they are manipulated, coerced, or threatened into sexual activity.

The story below could be told a hundred thousand times with only tiny changes. The names and the faces would be different. The settings might not be a mansion in Manhattan or in Palm Beach but rather a quiet part of a church, a school, or some kind of activity for teens. The setting could be in the house next door to you, where someone with evil intent befriends a vulnerable young person with the stated goal of helping them, but an end result that couldn't be further from reality.

How 14-year-old Jennifer Araoz met Jeffrey Epstein

Jennifer Araoz was 14 years old when she first met her future rapist, Jeffrey Epstein. She wrote about how she was manipulated, first by his recruiter, then by Epstein himself. There are many powerful lessons that we as parents can learn from her story.

During my freshman year, one of Epstein's recruiters, a stranger, approached me on the sidewalk outside my high school. Epstein never operated alone. He had a ring of enablers and surrounded himself with influential people. I was attending a performing arts school on the Upper East Side, studying musical theater. I wanted to be an actress and a singer. ( source )

Another report based on court documents says that the recruiter befriended Jennifer, took her out to eat after school a few times, and learned more about her, such as the fact that Jennifer's father had died from an AIDs-related illness and her family could barely scrape by financially.

The recruiter told me about a wealthy man she knew named Jeffrey Epstein. Meeting him would be beneficial, and he could introduce me to the right people for my career, she said. When I confided that I had recently lost my father and that my family was living on food stamps, she told me he was very caring and wanted to help us financially. ( source )

The recruiter finally got Jennifer to go with her to meet Epstein. Court documents say that they all three met together for the first month or so.

The visits during the first month felt benign, at least at the time. On my second visit, Epstein also gave me a digital camera as a gift. The visits were about one to two hours long and we would spend the time talking. After each visit, he or his secretary would hand me $300 in cash, supposedly to help my family. ( source )

Epstein claimed he was 'a big AIDS activist' which you can imagine would mean a lot to a 14-year-old whose father died of the disease.

Soon the visits would take a dark turn.

By the second month of Jennifer's visits to the mansion, the recruiter no longer attended the visits., the manipulation began in earnest.

But within about a month, he started asking me for massages and instructed me to take my top off. He said he would need to see my body if he was going to help me break into modeling. I felt uncomfortable and intimidated, but I did as he said. The assault escalated when, during these massages, he would flip over and sexually gratify himself and touch me inappropriately. For a little over a year, I went to Epstein's home once or twice a week.

After that day, I never went back. I also quit the performing arts school -- the one I had auditioned for and had wanted so badly to attend. It was too close to his house, the scene of so many crimes. I was too scared I would see him or his recruiter. So I transferred to another school in Queens close to my home. Since I was no longer able to pursue my dream of performing arts I eventually lost interest and dropped out. ( source )

Sure, we can say that she knew things weren't right when he asked her to take her top off. By this point, she was 15 years old. Old enough to know right from wrong. But if she was getting $300 twice a week and helping her family with it, it's pretty easy to see how she would want to continue helping her family despite her discomfort. Epstein knew exactly what he was doing.

Epstein's wealth, power, and connections would have made going against him seem like an insurmountable feat for a vulnerable 15-year-old girl who had recently lost her father. Who would have believed her word against that of this presumed philanthropist?

A few days ago, Jennifer, now 32, filed a massive lawsuit against Epstein's estate, Ghislaine Maxwell, and 3 members of Epstein's household staff. The complaint alleges that Maxwell and the staff "conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff."

Some of Epstein's victims recruited new girls for him.

Epstein's indictment explains how he manipulated some of the girls he sexually abused to bring other girls to him.

Prosecutors say he lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his residences, promising them a cash payment in exchange for giving him a massage. Instead, he would sexually abuse them -- groping them, making them touch him while he masturbated, and using sex toys on the minors. Then, he would allegedly ask them to recruit other girls. ( source )

A detailed report in the Miami Herald referred to it as a "sexual pyramid scheme." One of Epstein's accusers, Courtney Wild, reiterates the theme of the story told by Jennifer Boaz.

"Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,'' said Courtney Wild, who was 14 when she met Epstein. ( source )

Courtney's time spent with Epstein nearly destroyed her.

Before she met Epstein, Courtney Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School.

After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden Correctional Institution in Florida's Panhandle.

Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14.

She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. ( source )

She began to recruit other girls for him in Palm Beach.

Wild said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those who were easy to manipulate into going further each time

"By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years," said Wild, who was released from prison in October after serving three years on drug charges.

The girls -- mostly 13 to 16 -- were lured to his pink waterfront mansion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house parties and other places where girls congregated, and told recruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man -- Epstein -- a massage, according to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation obtained by the Herald. ( source )

Epstein had it down to an art form.

Palm Beach police detective Joseph Recarey explains how Epstein insinuated himself into the girls' lives.

"The common interview with a girl went like this: 'I was brought there by so and so. I didn't feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn't feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,' '' Recarey said.

During the massage sessions, Recarey said Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls

Epstein could be a generous benefactor, Recarey said, buying his favored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more convenient for her to stop by and cater to him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the local high school after one of his girls starred in a stage production. The floral-delivery instructions and a report card for one of the girls were discovered in a search of his mansion and trash. Police also obtained receipts for the rental cars and gifts, Recarey said.

Epstein counseled the girls about their schooling, and told them he would help them get into college, modeling school, fashion design or acting. At least two of Epstein's victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report. ( source )

You may look at these stories and scorn the victims. After all, they kept going back, didn't they? They liked the money, didn't they?

But they were children. Many of them were isolated, vulnerable, and without support systems. Many of them felt ashamed but didn't know how to extricate themselves. They were confused and scared, and Epstein was a pro at taking advantage of these emotions and doubts.

The girls are not to blame here. The adults are.

Epstein is not the only predator out there.

While this article focuses on how Epstein was able to lure so many victims, as Dagny Taggert recently wrote , there are many more people in power out there preying on children. Clergy, priests, teachers, neighbors, musicians, and random people on the internet are out there preying on and trafficking children.

Dagny wrote:

According to The National Center for Victims of Crime , the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) is difficult to determine because it is often not reported. Experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities.

Statistics below represent some of the research done on child sexual abuse.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted (page 24).

Studies by David Finkelhor , Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center , show that:

According to Darkness to Light , a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse, only about one-third of child sexual abuse incidents are identified, and even fewer are reported .

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operates the CyberTipline , a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation.

In 2018 the CyberTipline received more than 18.4 million reports, most of which related to:

Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 48 million reports.

Those statistics are grim. ( source )

How do you keep your children safe?

When my children's father passed away, it wasn't too long afterward that I left my corporate job. I volunteered when the company began layoffs and took a small payment and my retirement fund to start a new life writing freelance. It wasn't long after that when I started this website.

I wanted to be home when they got back from school every day. I didn't want them to seem like prey to those looking for children with weak support systems. My own daughters could so easily have had a story like the one Jennifer has told.

I know that what I did is not possible for every family that suffers a loss. I was pretty fortunate to be able to find work from home that paid enough to allow me to be there.

What you, as a parent, must understand are the things that make your child seem vulnerable.

Some signs that your child could be getting abused or groomed.

Obviously, these lists are not comprehensive, nor are they sure signs of abuse. What teenager doesn't seem angry and withdrawn from time to time? But it's vital, no matter how hard they push you away, to stay involved, particularly after a traumatic event.

Here are some resources you may find helpful.

Teach your kids that some secrets should not be kept.

Predators manipulate children in all sorts of ways. One of the biggest ways is warning them to keep their "relationship" a secret or else.

Or else what?

Predators often put a burden on a child where they feel as though they must stay silent to protect the people they love.

Kids need to know that if anyone threatens them if they tell a secret, then they absolutely must tell that secret. Mom and Dad will be safe and will protect them. People who ask children to keep their presence in their lives a secret are never to be trusted.

And finally, make sure your children know that whatever they tell you, you will believe them and you know it's not their fault.

[Aug 15, 2019] Why the Rich Want to Bury Bernie, the Not-Really-Socialist

Notable quotes:
"... The reason the ruler's have decreed 'anybody but Bernie' is that Sanders' (and to a lesser perceived degree, Warren's) campaign proposals challenge the austerity regime that has been relentlessly erected since the 1970s precisely to set American workers and the whole capitalist world on a Race to the Bottom, in which each year brings lower living standards and more insecurity to the population at large. ..."
"... The obscene increases in wealth inequality are the desired result and true essence of austerity. ..."
"... "the top one-tenth of one percent (.1%) of the population -- households making $2.757 million a year -- now number almost 200,000 families, a cohort big enough to create and inhabit a large and coherent social world of its own. ..."
Aug 15, 2019 |

Sanders (D)(1): "Why the Rich Want to Bury Bernie, the Not-Really-Socialist" [Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report (CI)]. Really excellent.

Here's "why":

"The reason the ruler's have decreed 'anybody but Bernie' is that Sanders' (and to a lesser perceived degree, Warren's) campaign proposals challenge the austerity regime that has been relentlessly erected since the 1970s precisely to set American workers and the whole capitalist world on a Race to the Bottom, in which each year brings lower living standards and more insecurity to the population at large.

The obscene increases in wealth inequality are the desired result and true essence of austerity."

There's much more, but this on local oligarchies is important: "the top one-tenth of one percent (.1%) of the population -- households making $2.757 million a year -- now number almost 200,000 families, a cohort big enough to create and inhabit a large and coherent social world of its own.

From their rich enclaves in every state of the country, this formidable "base" of truly wealthy folks effectively dictate the politics of their regions for the benefit of themselves and the oligarchs at the top of the pyramid. "

[Aug 08, 2019] Revised Profit Data Are Good News But Don't Reverse Decades of Wage Stagnation

Notable quotes:
"... corporations were able to increase their share of income at the expense of labor, even with an unemployment rate below 4 percent. ..."
Aug 08, 2019 |

anne , August 05, 2019 at 11:03 AM

August 5, 2019

Revised Profit Data Are Good News But Don't Reverse Decades of Wage Stagnation
By Dean Baker

In July, the U.S. Department of Commerce released data showing GDP growth had slowed sharply in the second quarter. Most economic reporting appropriately highlighted the data showing that we were not getting the investment boom that the Republicans had promised would result from their tax cut.

But there was also an important item in the annual GDP data revisions that many overlooked in the report: The revised profit data for 2018 showed that the profit share of corporate income had fallen by 0.4 percentage points from the prior year. This is a big deal for two reasons: It means that workers are now clearly getting their share of the gains from growth, and it tells us an important story about the structure of the economy.

On the first point, we know that the wages of the typical worker have not kept pace with productivity growth over the last four decades. While productivity growth has not been great over most of this period (1995-2005 was the exception), wages have lagged behind even the slow productivity growth over most of this period.

The one exception was the years of low unemployment from 1996 to 2001, when the wages of the typical worker rose in line with productivity growth. With unemployment again falling to relatively low levels in the last four years, many of us expected that wages would again be keeping pace with productivity growth.

The earlier data on profits suggested that this might not be the case. It showed a small increase in the profit share of corporate income, suggesting that corporations were able to increase their share of income at the expense of labor, even with an unemployment rate below 4 percent.

The revised data indicate this is not the case. The low unemployment rate is creating an environment in which workers have enough bargaining power to get their share of productivity gains and even gain back some of the income share lost in the Great Recession.

This brings up the second issue. Most of the upward redistribution over this period was not from ordinary workers to profits, but rather to high-end workers. The big winners in the last four decades have been CEOs, hedge fund and private equity partners, and at a somewhat lower level, highly paid professionals like doctors and dentists.

The shift to profits takes place only in this century after much of the upward redistribution had already occurred. One obvious explanation was the weak labor market following the Great Recession. With unemployment remaining stubbornly high, wages were not keeping pace with productivity growth or even inflation. An alternative explanation was that growing monopolization of major sectors (think of Google, Facebook and Amazon) was allowing capital to gain at the expense of labor.

The revised profit data seem to support the first story. In the last four years, the profit share has fallen by 3.2 percentage points. (It had dropped another percentage point in the first quarter of 2019, although the quarterly data are highly erratic.) At this rate, in four more years, the run-up in profit shares in this century will be completely reversed.

If the weak labor market following the Great Recession is the story of the rise in profit shares, there is still the problem of the run-up in profit share in 2003-2007, the years preceding the Great Recession. One explanation is that the profits recorded in these years were inflated by phony profits recorded by the financial sector.

Banks like Citigroup and Bank of America were recording large profits in these years on loans that subsequently went bad. This would be equivalent to a business booking large profits on sales to customers that did not exist. Their books would show large profits when the sales were recorded, but then they would show large losses when the business had to acknowledge that the customer didn't exist, and therefore write off a previously booked sale.

Profits that are based on sales to nonexistent customers don't come at the expense of workers, nor do profits that are booked on loans that go bad. (The subsequent recession was, of course, very much at the expense of workers.) For this reason, we should be somewhat skeptical of the shift from wages to profits in the years of the housing bubble.

In any case, the revised profits data are good news. They show a tight labor market is working the way it is supposed to. But this doesn't mean everyone is doing great. You don't reverse four decades of wage stagnation with four relatively good years.

However, things are at least moving in the right direction now, and that is good news. That has not generally been the case over the last 40 years.

[Aug 06, 2019] Do you see how the caste system works in India? Same thing in US -- we have 4 castes.

Aug 06, 2019 |

Iohannes Livingston Seagull said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , August 03, 2019 at 01:18 PM

Joe Biden as a front-runner.

the upwardly-mobile are the voice for those left behind. do you see how the caste system works in India?

4 castes! same thing in US. we have 4 castes.

1. we have billionaires,

2. then we have the multi-millionaires those who have more than 50 million dollars per household but not as much as 1 billion,

3. then we have the millionaires who have more than 1 million dollars but not 50 million dollars

4. then we have everyone else, the poor, We the People if you like, We the 89%,

how can we prevent upward Mobility?

Ahh! Very simple! all we have to do is tax people back down to their own level; in other words, if we can simply tax the Billionaire's at a rate which is equal to 2% of the net worth each year, but tax poor people at a rate of 7% of their net worth each year then we can prevent upward Mobility. do you see how easy that is?

whoops we don't even have to do that. according to Elizabeth Warren we are doing that already. we can relax now.

was Joe Biden presiding over the Senate when all that ground work was being done on the tax code so that we don't have to do any of that anymore? well bless his bones! senile as he is, he was right there with it when we needed him the most.

I'm voting for Uncle Joe. hell! he's not

creepy; he is a

[Aug 03, 2019] State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

Aug 03, 2019 |

anne , July 23, 2019 at 02:55 PM

July 20, 2019

State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

Most states lean heavily on lower-income families. An Illinois referendum is a step toward correcting the problem.

Economic inequality is on the rise in Illinois, and the state government is part of the problem. Illinois taxes low-income families at much higher rates than high-income families, asking the most of those who have the least.

Low-income households in Illinois pay about 14 cents in state and local taxes from every dollar of income, while the state's most affluent households pay about 7 cents per dollar.

That gap between the poor and the wealthy in Illinois is one of the largest in any state, but the poor pay taxes at higher rates in 45 of the 50 states, according to a 2018 study * by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

It's a bipartisan phenomenon. The institute's list of the 10 states with the most regressive tax systems -- the states doing the most to increase inequality through taxation -- also includes conservative Tennessee and Texas, purple Nevada and Florida, and liberal Washington.

Now Illinois is trying to take its name off the list. The state plans to hold a referendum next year on a constitutional amendment that would authorize the state to tax higher incomes at progressively higher rates -- the system used by the federal government and 32 states.

Illinois currently taxes income at a flat rate of 4.95 percent. Under the proposed system, income below $100,000 would be taxed at a slightly lower rate. Income up to $250,000 would be taxed at the current rate. And income above that amount would be taxed at rates of up to 7.99 percent. There is also a kind of millionaire's tax: Individuals making more than $750,000, or couples making more than $1 million, would pay the 7.99 percent rate on all their income.

Moving Toward Tax Fairness

Illinois will hold a referendum next year on replacing its flat income tax with a system requiring higher-income households to pay higher rates. Even including sales and property taxes, the rich still would pay a smaller share of income in state and local taxes than lower-income people.

Economic inequality in the United States has reached the highest levels since the 1920s, and there is mounting evidence that the unequal distribution of income and wealth is contributing to the nation's economic and political problems. Reducing inequality ought to be a focus of public policy. Rewriting state tax laws to place the greater burden on those with greater means is an effective and sensible response.

Taxation in the United States remains progressive because the federal income tax remains the largest source of government revenue. But the distribution of the total burden has become much less progressive. In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. Half a century later, in 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study ** by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published last year. Over that same period, the bottom 90 percent of Americans, ranked by income, saw their tax burden increase from 22.3 percent of income to 26 percent of income.

Tax Cuts for the Affluent, More Taxes for Everyone Else

Over 50 years, federal tax cuts reduced the overall burden on the well-to-do, while others paid more because of increases in federal payroll taxation, and in state and local taxes.

(Since 2011, federal income taxation has increased under President Barack Obama and declined under President Trump. Data on the full impact of those countervailing changes is not yet available.)

The headline problem is that Congress sharply reduced taxation of the wealthy, cutting top income tax rates as well as corporate and estate taxation.

Meanwhile, the tax burden on everyone else has increased. One reason is the gradual rise of federal payroll taxation, the flat-rate income tax that provides funding for Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax is particularly regressive because it applies only to income up to $132,900. The relative scale of state and local taxation also has risen, partly because the federal government increasingly funds its operations with borrowed money rather than tax dollars.

State and local governments rely heavily on sales and property taxes, which impose a greater burden on less affluent households because wealthier people typically spend a smaller share of income on food, housing and other forms of consumption. In roughly one-third of states, this effect is partly offset by progressive income taxation. But even in most of those states, the overall burden still falls more heavily on those with lower incomes. Only a handful of states -- California, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia have written their tax laws so that those with the highest incomes pay the largest share of their incomes.

The Illinois plan is a step in the right direction rather than a complete corrective. Under current law, households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution pay 14.4 percent of their income in taxes on average, while those in the top 1 percent pay 7.4 percent of their income in taxes -- a difference of 7 percentage points. The proposed changes in the income tax would cut that gap to 4.3 percentage points, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Illinois is seeking to address longstanding fiscal problems, notably an underfunded pension system, so it is raising taxes on the rich without significantly reducing taxes for everyone else. Other states, however, could do better by raising taxes on the rich and using the money to reduce the taxation of low-income families.

Opponents of progressive taxation warn that wealthy people and businesses will flee to other states, and that those with the most money are the most mobile. People can vote with their feet, and some do prefer low-tax states like Florida. But a quick look at the list of states with progressive tax structures should make clear that plenty of rich people choose to stay put.

Indeed, the Cornell sociologist Cristobal Young has calculated that people with million-dollar incomes move across state lines less often than other Americans. They are more likely to be married, more likely to have children, more likely to be involved in civic and social groups -- and, in many cases, their wealth stems from their communities. A successful Springfield dentist cannot relocate her patients to Missouri. A man who owns a chain of gas stations around Peoria is likely to remain in Peoria. A company that relies on Chicago's highly educated work force may not be focused on finding the place with the lowest tax rates.

The potential cost of losing a few millionaires also needs to be weighed against the benefits of equitable taxation. By imposing a somewhat larger burden on high-income households, states can significantly improve the material circumstances of lower-income households and slow the troubling expansion of economic inequality.

At the very least, states ought to stop making things worse.



[Jul 31, 2019] Is Hiring Broken?

Notable quotes:
"... For example, as a Stanford graduate he nonetheless argues that "The skills required for getting into Stanford at 17 (extracurriculars, SAT prep etc) do not correlate to job success as a software developer ..."
"... How good a student you were at 17, is not very relevant to who you are at 25." References are flawed because "People will only ever list references who will say good things about them," and they ultimately punish people who've had bad managers. But asking for source code from past sides projects penalizes people with other interests or family, while "most work product is confidential." ..."
Jul 31, 2019 |

( 391

Posted by EditorDavid on Sunday July 28, 2019 @06:34AM from the if-it-is-broke-fix-it dept. DevNull127 writes: Hiring is broken and yours is too," argues a New York-based software developer whose LinkedIn profile says he's worked at both Amazon and Google, as well as doing architecture verification work for both Oracle and Intel. Summarizing what he's read about hiring just this year in numerous online articles, he lists out the arguments against virtually every popular hiring metric , ultimately concluding that "Until and unless someone does a rigorous scientific study evaluating different interviewing techniques, preferably using a double-blind randomized trial, there's no point in beating this dead horse further. Everyone's hiring practices are broken, and yours aren't any better."

For example, as a Stanford graduate he nonetheless argues that "The skills required for getting into Stanford at 17 (extracurriculars, SAT prep etc) do not correlate to job success as a software developer.

How good a student you were at 17, is not very relevant to who you are at 25." References are flawed because "People will only ever list references who will say good things about them," and they ultimately punish people who've had bad managers. But asking for source code from past sides projects penalizes people with other interests or family, while "most work product is confidential."

Brain teasers "rely on you being lucky enough to get a flash of inspiration, or you having heard it before," and are "not directly related to programming. Even Google says it is useless ." And live-coding exercises are "artificial and contrived," and "not reflective of practical coding," while pair programming is unrealistic, with the difficulty of the tasks varying from day to day.

He ultimately criticizes the ongoing discussion for publicizing the problems but not the solutions. "How exactly should we weigh the various pros and cons against each other and actually pick a solution? Maybe we could maybe try something novel like data crunch the effectiveness of each technique, or do some randomized experiments to measure the efficacy of each approach? Lol, j/k. Ain't nobody got time for that!"

[Jul 20, 2019] Love Literature Stay Away From Grad School

Notable quotes:
"... And ultimately, this is why I can't blame graduate students for figuring out that they need to be technocrats in order to survive. The job market is tough, there are very few tenure-track jobs available, and the people who make it are the people who don't do History for the love of it but who do it like...a career. ..."
Jul 20, 2019 |

Right now, for a creative or artistic or even just a curious person, I think over-exposure to academia is intellectual and spiritual poison.

But I should qualify that disillusionment by saying that academia also saved me. If I hadn't read Franz Kafka in community college and discovered (to my utter shock) that I had a gift for writing poetry in my first creative writing class, I have no idea what kind of bad roads I would've wandered down. So my disillusionment with academia was gradual and fairly late.

I can maybe explain if you'll indulge a mini-narrative of my academic career. After community college, I went to a very conservative Christian college in the Missouri Ozarks. It was a school for working class kids where you worked on campus to pay for your tuition and room and board. So for most students it was our one realistic chance at a full college education without crushing debt.

So, no matter how crazy the school's politics got in our eyes, we felt like we were stuck there. But when I was a student, the college also had a great English faculty who turned us on to William Butler Yeats, Flannery O'Connor, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Emily Dickinson, Faulkner, Hemingway. There was also a healthy theater department.

Little by little, my handful of weirdo artsy friends and I learned how to creatively thrive without institutional sanction or ideological kinship with our hyper-conservative college.

After my undergrad education, I went to the University of Arkansas's MFA program in creative writing to study poetry. And that was pretty amazing in its own feral way. I connected with this great generation of old school Southern writers in Arkansas, though that generation began phasing out during my four years in the program. They started getting replaced by writers who were more slick, more credentialed, more politically astute, less problematic but also infinitely less interesting than the generation that preceded them. [Emphasis mine -- RD]

... So I think my issues are less with Duke or that particular English department and more with this emerging academic generation, which to me seems to double-down on the older generation's worst trait (ideological certainty) while skimping out on its greatest strengths (genuine erudition and intellectual curiosity). As an academic, I generally felt like as soon as the older professors retired, I was going to be surrounded by people who all read the same ten theorists and who uniformly had pretty banal tastes in literature and who were all frothing to cancel and leap-frog each other into eternity and/or tenure. [Emphasis mine -- RD]

Peter 14 hours ago

If Cambridge decolonizes its curriculum then our heritage will be preserved at places like the College of the Ozarks.

I had a very similar experience in my PhD program, mine was in History. I did an MA in London and loved every minute of it. It was designed as a very international program, and I have so many fond memories of sitting in pubs after our seminars arguing in a good natured way about the topic of the day, and I thought "this is what I want to do with my life!" But graduate work for a career in academia is nothing like that. People have to specialize, and so you find quickly that in a room full of PhD candidate historians there is actually not that much to talk about because everyone's silo is so specific and so different. Politics plays a role too, I suppose. I was free to be an out and proud conservative in my MA program.

I did not feel that freedom in my PhD program, where you need good professional relationships in order to have a chance at a job.

And ultimately, this is why I can't blame graduate students for figuring out that they need to be technocrats in order to survive. The job market is tough, there are very few tenure-track jobs available, and the people who make it are the people who don't do History for the love of it but who do it like...a career.

Which is what they want it to be. They had the right approach and I had the romantic, and wrong, approach. It's not their fault. Being one of the few to carve out a career in such an industry takes determination and not a little joyless professionalism. If you aren't ready to turn your passion into a business, don't go to graduate school.

David J. White Peter 10 hours ago
I noticed when I was in graduate school in the 80s that one thing that seemed to characterize many of the students and professors in literature-oriented fields -- particularly Comp Lit -- was that they didn't really seem to enjoy reading very much. I'm not sure they were even capable anymore of just sitting and reading a book purely for enjoyment with trying to mine it for nuggets to support their pet theory.
Adamant 13 hours ago
"If you deeply love art or books or music, I really believe the last thing you should do is pursue a graduate degree studying that thing you love. "

They will beat that love right out of you, replace it with vapid ideology, and you'll never love those things with the same wide-eyed innocence as before.

This is unfortunate, as a cooler, more mature perspective on art is something we should all try to cultivate. But critique as murder + autopsy is the order of the day.

My American poetry professor in college (a proper reactionary, he spoke without irony of 'the War of Northern Aggression) inoculated me against 'interrogating the text' in the way the modern academy trains its cadres to do.

[Jul 01, 2019] Biden was a strong backer of a 2005 bankruptcy "reform" law that made it harder for people to file personal bankruptcy and to wipe out all of their debts by Keith Hoeller

Jul 01, 2019 |

Just in time for the 2020 presidential election, the Democrats have discovered that there is real economic inequality in the United States. But they have not yet fully addressed the role that the Democratic party and its leaders have played in creating this vast inequality that led to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

The presidential candidates have been slow to fully recognize the role that former President Bill Clinton's globalization policies (NAFTA and WTO) played in the outsourcing of American jobs or the lowering of wages for workers.

As the Democratic presidential debates have shown, Vice President Biden is having a hard time defending his long public record, especially as an opponent of federally mandated "forced" busing to integrate our public schools decades after the Supreme Court's overturning of racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). As a Senator Joe Biden was a free trade advocate as well.

But Senator Biden played a large role in creating inequality in two additional realms. He was a strong backer of a 2005 bankruptcy "reform" law that made it harder for people to file personal bankruptcy and to wipe out all of their debts. Given that perhaps as many as fifty percent of all personal bankruptcies in America are caused by debt incurred from health care not covered by insurance, this was an especially cruel blow to those seeking relief from their heavy debt loads.

Senator Warren has already criticized Biden for his support of this bill (" The Twenty Year Argument Between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren Over Bankruptcy, Explained ")

In "' Lock the S.O.B.s Up: Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration ," The New York Times documents his decades-long support of tough on criminals legislation, culminating in the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This bill, signed into law by President Clinton, has been blamed for the jailing of high numbers of African Americans and other minorities, in particular.

Unlike the Republicans whose goal is to increase inequality by lowering taxes on the wealthy, at least the Democrats seem sincere about reducing it. To do this, they have fallen all over themselves to offer free college tuition and to reduce student loan debt. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently proposed to eliminate all student loans entirely .

Why have Democrats focused on college as a means of solving economic inequality? Statistics have shown that in general the more education you have, the higher your lifetime earnings will be. For example, men with bachelor's degrees earn nearly a million more dollars in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates.

[Jul 01, 2019] The Real College Inequality Democrats Have Yet to Address by Keith Hoeller

Notable quotes:
"... As Curtis notes, full-time salaries are only one part of the faculty salary picture. Curtis' own research for the AAUP (published as an appendix to my Equality for Contingent Faculty documents that only twenty-five percent of professors now teach on the tenure-track, and only sixteen percent have tenure. Seventy-five percent of all college professors, one million in total, teach off the tenure-track, with fifty percent of all professors teaching part-time. ..."
"... While "free trade" agreements encouraged the closing of American factories and the loss of millions of American jobs, colleges and universities instituted their own brand of wage theft called by adjunct Ron Swift "inside-outsourcing." Even though the number of students was increasing, the colleges staunched the number of well-paid, secure, full-time tenure-track positions. They met rising enrollments by staffing classrooms with "contingent" faculty who teach off the tenure-track without the protections for free speech afforded their tenured brothers and sisters. ..."
"... The colleges save money by refusing to pay these contingent professors a living wage, in flagrant violation of the principle of equal pay for equal work. They are paid on a completely separate and lower pay scale than their full-time counterparts are paid for teaching the very same courses; they are paid on average only about fifty percent of what a full-timer would earn for teaching the same number of courses. See my " The Wal-Martization of Higher Education: How Young Professors Are Getting Screwed "). ..."
"... In " The Ph.D. Now Comes with Food Stamps ," the Chronicle of Higher Education has documented hundreds of thousands of people with graduate degrees receiving some form of public assistance, many of them contingent faculty. ..."
Jul 01, 2019 |
So are the Democrats right to try and solve the equality problem by making college more affordable, with tuition perhaps free? Or are these proposals simply the current version of the Herbert Hoover's 1928 Presidential campaign where he literally offered voters " A chicken for every pot."

But before we go spending trillions of dollars on college tuition and eliminating student debt, shouldn't we ask: What has been driving up the cost of attending college over the past few decades leading to the current lack of affordable college options?

In his run for re-election as Vice President in 2012, Joe Biden made clear that he blamed college professors' high salaries for the skyrocketing costs of tuition. This was an astonishing charge, especially given that his wife has long been a college professor. He was immediately admonished by faculty groups around the country. " Faculty Groups Try to Educate Biden on Salaries ".

John Curtis, former Director of Research for the American Association of University Professors, wrote a rebuttal to Biden on January 18, 2012. He took issue with Biden's claim, pointing out that full-time faculty salaries have been stagnant for a number of years. He noted that tuition rates, in contrast, had risen "between three and fourteen times as fast as full-time faculty salaries." (underlining added)

Curtis also cites " Trends in College Spending 1998-2008 by the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability ," which documented decreased spending on college teaching in favor of administration even before the Great Recession and wrote, "The common myth that spending on faculty is responsible for continuing cost escalation is not true."

As Curtis notes, full-time salaries are only one part of the faculty salary picture. Curtis' own research for the AAUP (published as an appendix to my Equality for Contingent Faculty documents that only twenty-five percent of professors now teach on the tenure-track, and only sixteen percent have tenure. Seventy-five percent of all college professors, one million in total, teach off the tenure-track, with fifty percent of all professors teaching part-time.

While "free trade" agreements encouraged the closing of American factories and the loss of millions of American jobs, colleges and universities instituted their own brand of wage theft called by adjunct Ron Swift "inside-outsourcing." Even though the number of students was increasing, the colleges staunched the number of well-paid, secure, full-time tenure-track positions. They met rising enrollments by staffing classrooms with "contingent" faculty who teach off the tenure-track without the protections for free speech afforded their tenured brothers and sisters.

The colleges save money by refusing to pay these contingent professors a living wage, in flagrant violation of the principle of equal pay for equal work. They are paid on a completely separate and lower pay scale than their full-time counterparts are paid for teaching the very same courses; they are paid on average only about fifty percent of what a full-timer would earn for teaching the same number of courses. See my " The Wal-Martization of Higher Education: How Young Professors Are Getting Screwed ").

In other words, though women are still paid only 82% percent of what men earn for doing the same work, with black men earning only 73% and Hispanics only 69%, most adjunct professors are paid at most 50% of what tenure-track faculty earn for teaching the same course.

Though possessing Master's and Doctorates and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, these college professors are not being paid for all of the hours they work outside of class preparing lectures, grading tests, and meeting with students. They often do not even have offices. Their work schedule is capped below full-time so they will not qualify for tenure. Their work varies from quarter to quarter and they are often denied unemployment when they are in fact unemployed. The adjuncts and other contingent professors usually do not have any health insurance or retirement benefits

In " The Ph.D. Now Comes with Food Stamps ," the Chronicle of Higher Education has documented hundreds of thousands of people with graduate degrees receiving some form of public assistance, many of them contingent faculty.

The treatment between the two tiers is so disparate that I have called it "faculty apartheid" because the tenure-track few control and dominate the contingent many. Indeed, the tenured faculty often serve as the direct supervisors of the contingents. I have called the kind of discrimination that exists in higher education "tenurism," the baseless but widespread stereotype that the tenured faculty are superior and warrant higher pay and better treatment and than the non-tenure-track faculty. (see my " Against Tenurism ").

In an interview with Shankar Vedantam on the NPR show "The Hidden Brain," Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist who has done research on inequality in education, says the best solution is to have "the best teachers in American classrooms."

But we are far from that solution, with the majority of the U.S. higher education teaching force earning much less than the vaunted $15 an hour minimum wage recommended by nearly all of the Democratic candidates. These contingent faculty are "apprentices to nowhere" with little realistic hope of escaping the academic ghetto as the contingents far outnumber the dwindling number of tenure-track professors.

But don't' the Democrats have a tight relation with the faculty unions (American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association)? Yes, they do. But the unions themselves have collectively bargained the contingents into poverty and income insecurity. The two-tier system exists within the unions too, which have long been run by and for the tenure-track faculty; these unions clearly have not apprised the Democrats of these inequalities, let alone insist they solve them.

Will the Democrats insist that these unions, upon whom they are so dependent for money and campaign workers, treat all of their members equally? Or will they continue to look the other way in order to keep union money flowing into their campaign coffers.

Will the Democrats insist that these colleges, upon whom they wish to build an equal society, treat their professors equally and offer them the same opportunities for a better life that they are offering their students?

If politicians are going to solve a problem, they must first have a clear diagnosis before offering a treatment. Before the Democrats spend tax money on free tuition and paying off student loans, they need to acknowledge the income disparity among the professoriate and make solving it an equal priority.

Keith Hoeller is the co-founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association and editor of Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System (Vanderbilt University Press).

[Jun 29, 2019] Millennials Blame Unprecedented Burnout Rates On Work, Debt Finances

Jun 29, 2019 |

The issue of Millennial 'burnout' has been an especially hot topic in recent years - and not just because the election of President Trump ushered in an epidemic of co-occurring TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) that sent millions of American twenty somethings on a never-ending quest for a post-grad 'safe space'.

For those who aren't familiar with the subject, the World Health Organization recently described burnout as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." As birth rates plunge and so-called deaths from despair (suicides and overdoses) climb, sending the US left expectancy lower for multiple consecutive years for the first time since the 1960s, many researchers see solving the problem of burnout as critical to fixing many of our societal issues.

To try and dig deeper into the causes and impact of millennial burnout, Yellowbrick , a national psychiatric organization, surveyed 2,000 millennials to identify what exactly is making a staggering 96% of the generation comprising the largest cohort of the American labor force say they feel "burned out" on a daily basis.

The answer is, unsurprisingly, finances and debt: These are the leading causes of burnout (and one reason why Bernie Sanders latest proposal to wipe out all $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt might be more popular with millennial voters than many other Americans realize).

Anthony Aaron , 1 hour ago link

The average student loan is $30,000

At 6% interest with a 6-year amortization, that works out to monthly payments of $497 -- about what many of these folks spend on eating at restaurants or on tattoos or on drugs per month.

It's a matter or priority -- and repaying the student loans isn't a priority for them which is why a report in '17 showed that at 7 years after graduation, more than 45% of them hadn't paid even one dollar of principle on their student loans.

Deadbeats whiners

kikrlbs , 1 hour ago link

This is becoming exhausting. The boomers and the like simply don't want to admit that it is much harder today making ends meet than it was when they were younger. That is a fact, inflation and asset inflation has made the value of a dollar half of what is was 40 years ago. Meaning, you would have to work 80 hours in today's money to match 40 hours in money from the late 70's. Now, millenials don't get off easy either because they think they deserve that same standard and since it does not and cannot exist in our monetary system, they try to usurp personal responsibility, at any level, by finger pointing and apathy. Our society is slowly collapsing.

[Jun 29, 2019] A Look at the Poor People's Campaign Theology and Ideology

Jun 28, 2019 |

... ... ...

Unlike Occupy, then, Barber has demands, both policy and geographical. Barber and Theoharis, having convened the "the first-ever Poor People's Moral Action Congress," write in The Hill , on policy:

We will present a national moral budget, outlining a plan to pay for real, systemic change as well a challenge to the lie of scarcity. And poor people who haven't seen a place for them in American public life will testify before the House Budget Committee, in a hearing to share their stories and address what the federal government can and must do now to address the real issues affecting everyday Americans.

And on geography:

We are building coalitions among poor people who are too often pitted against one another by the divide-and-conquer tactics of the Southern Strategy. In the so-called "red-states" of the South and Midwest, we are organizing people into a movement who will vote, take action and challenge the assumptions of candidates from both parties. We are organizing across race and other lines that too often divide us and lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

(Note that this strategy is very, very different from the strategy of liberal Democrats, who tend to regard citizens outside their coastal enclaves as " deplorables ," or as "bitter" people who "cling to guns and religion," and leave it at that.) Here is an extract from the PPC's "Moral Budget," created together with the Institute of Policy Studies (PDF):

The United States has abundant resources for an economic revival that will move towards establishing a moral economy. This report identifies:

$350 billion in annual military spending cuts that would make the nation and the world more secure; $886 billion in estimated annual revenue from fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street; and Billions more in savings from ending mass incarceration, addressing climate change, and meeting other key campaign demands.

The below comparisons demonstrate that policymakers have always found resources for their true priorities. It is critical that policymakers redirect these resources to establish justice and to prioritize the general welfare instead. The abundant wealth of this nation is produced by millions of people, workers, and families in this country and around the world. The fruits of their labor should be devoted to securing their basic needs and creating the conditions for them to thrive. At the same time, policymakers should not tie their hands with "pay-as-you-go" restrictions that require every dime of new spending to be offset with expenditure cuts or new revenue, especially given the enormous long-term benefits of most of our proposals. The cost of inaction is simply too great.

I think the left could get behind all of this (though sadly, MMT is not explicitly included, though it's certainly righteous to cripple PayGo).

So why can't we have nice things? The budget concludes on page 115:

For too long, we have turned to those with wealth and power to solve our most pressing social problems. We have been led to believe that those in positions of influence and authority will use the resources at hand in the best possible way for the betterment of our society. This orientation has justified tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and work requirements for the poor; it has secured environmental shortcuts for industry and military expansion around the world; and it has yielded very little for the 140 million people in this country who are still poor and struggling to meet their needs.

This is not an argument for charity or goodwill to the poor. It is, rather, a simple recognition that the poor are not only victims of injustice, but agents of profound social change. Rather than following the direction and leadership of the wealthy and powerful, it is time to follow the direction and leadership of the poor. Indeed, if we organize our resources around the needs of the 140 million, this Budget shows that we will strengthen our society as a whole.

This is why the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival continues to organize and build power among the poor today. It understands that those who have been cast out of the economy and who are living on the few remaining crumbs of its meager offerings are also articulating a way out of this wretched existence -- not just for themselves, but for us all.

That's the stuff to give the troops! If I have a criticism of PPC (and the budget) it's that who "those with wealth and power" might be is not crisply articulated (unlike, for example, " the billionaire class "). At this point, I realize I've shifted from saying the left should give an account to the PPC to saying that the PPC should give an account to the left. Be that as it may, Barber tweets:

... ... ...

Well, those Democrats who talk about "working people" use that phrase -- "working families" seems to have, mirabile dictu , vanished from the discourse -- probably started doing so only recently, having been pressured from their left, and as a replacement for "working class"; they don't take their bourbon neat, that is, but watered down. And yes, they may be scared of the "free stuff" argument that liberal Democrats deploy against the left. However, I think the left (very much as opposed to liberals) would view "the poor" as a subset of the working class, those who are coerced sell or give their labor to survive (forgive the crudity of this ahistorical analysis). If indeed the PPC/DSA/left are to move beyond a relationship of "endorsing partners" to something akin to co-operation, both tactical and strategic, then distinctions like this are going to have to be hashed out. For example, Barber tweets:

... ... ...

"Policy murder" is brilliant framing (and would provide one account of elite behavior on climate change). However, who is the murderer? Barber says "a legislator." But if you believe -- as most of the left does, and (I would say) most liberals do not, especially donor-dependent NGOs -- that we live in an oligarchy, then the murderer is not the legislator, but the person who hired or owns the legislator: Much more often than not, when all the threads are traced down, a billionaire. The billionaire class is surely composed of great sinners. And every billionaire is a policy failure , just as surely as every slaveowner was. Should this be hard to say? Should we not seek to remove the systemic occasion of sin?

Henry Moon Pie , , June 28, 2019 at 4:40 pm

This kind of discussion is something that is badly needed on the Left. Rev. Barber is doing an excellent job of making a class-based argument for reform based on Protestant theology. It's a matter of shame for American Protestantism that more pastors in affluent suburban congregations and mega-churches are not doing the same.

That said, the persuasiveness of Christian theology is shrinking, not growing. Other voices from other spiritual traditions are needed who can articulate the connections between their non-Abrahamic frames of reference and the suffering of the poor and the sacredness of the Earth and its creatures. This is especially true for making the case to the young who are constantly bombarded with materialism and individualism on the one side and find patriarchal religion on the other side too much to swallow, especially given the historical realities of how those patriarchal religions have conducted themselves in the past. That's one reason why I find Marianne Williamson's presence in the debates to be refreshing. At least she's bringing spirituality to the conversation where it's usually absent except for cliches.

I also think that James Fowler's stages of faith analysis is useful for understanding the impact of one's "faith" and political views. His argument is that everyone lives by "faith," which he defines as a worldview through which we encounter and interpret life and its experiences. The critical difference is not the content of the "faith" but the maturity level of the individual's faith development. My recent explorations of the thought of Gary Snyder, a counterculture, Peyote using Buddhist/animist, and Wendell Berry, a Kentucky born-and-raised Protestant, reveals that the contents of "faith" of each is very different -- they argue about it frequently -- but their way of interacting with the world and their fellow human beings is essentially the same because they both have a high level of spiritual maturity. In Fowler's system, both are at top of the pyramid.

The divisive encounters we have with others about spiritual matters are often more a result of differing levels of spiritual maturity than the content of the faith. The close-minded Fundamentalist reflexively citing Bible verses rather than truly engaging in dialog is someone who has not moved beyond the level of faith maturity achieved upon junior high confirmation training in a tradition. The sort of person who runs through an Eschaton thread repeating "THERE IS NO GOD!!!!!" over and over again has moved beyond the indoctrinated stage but has not attained the ability to re-integrate any spiritual aspects into what amounts to a barren, incomplete "faith" typical of the college freshman who throws aside his religious training because he's seen through the difficulties in the simplistic religion he was taught in Sunday School or confirmation class.

Stanley Dundee , , June 28, 2019 at 7:20 pm

This seems like a good prompt to revisit the the Pelagians, from around 400 AD, one of whom wrote in the marvellous essay On Riches :

Get rid of the rich man, and you will not be able to find a poor one. Let no man have more than he really needs, and everyone will have as much as they need, since the few who are rich are the reason for the many who are poor. (p. 194)

RBHoughton , , June 28, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Michael Hudson has advice for you old chap, if you have time to read his " .. and forgive them their debts." It turns out that the Catholics and Protestants of all flavors overlook an important part of the Christian message about debt jubilees. Overturning the money tables of the Rabbi-approved bankers in the temple was in pursuit of a fairer economic system such as had been common in the Bronze Age.

Hudson reveals the precedent cause of the collapse of first Athens, then Rome, then Constantinople and now us is the oligarchy of each civilisation favoring creditors and writing laws that advantage them and punish / enslave debtors. The result is the accumulation of global wealth on a small class of people with the rest of the population in poverty and careless of the country in which they live.

Its a great pleasure to see Mr Hudson is reading this NC article. Good luck to him. Any errors in this note are mine.

Susan the other` , , June 28, 2019 at 7:42 pm

The collapse of billionaire-ism.

notabanktoadie , , June 28, 2019 at 9:20 pm

This seems very different from "For ye have the poor always with you" (Matt 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8). lambert

This is not to excuse poverty but as an indictment of that generation since:

However, there will be no poor among you , since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. Deuteronomy 15:4-5 [New American Standard Bible (NASB) [bold added]

However obedience included the following:

"You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess. Deuteronomy 23:19-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [bold added]

Draw your own conclusion then as to whether government privileges for a usury cartel are Biblical.

Wombat , , June 28, 2019 at 11:10 pm

James could have been the first century PPC leader. Oddly missing from most sermons is this passage (instead we worship the rich for their "ingenuity" and "work ethic"):

James 5:1-5 (NIV)

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.

Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

[Jun 26, 2019] The Democratic electorate has shifted sharply to the left, taking many politicians along with it -- willingly and unwillingly by Thomas B. Edsall

Notable quotes:
"... The Democratic Party, thanks largely to the Clintons and their DLC nonsense, has certainly moved to the right. So far right that I haven't been able to call it the Democratic Party. ..."
"... Every Democrat should sign on to FDR's 1944 Economic Bill of Rights speech. It is hardly radical, but rather the foundation of the modern Democratic Party, or at least was before being abrogated by the "new Democrats." Any Dem not supporting it is at best one of the "Republican-lights" who led the Dem party into the wilderness. It would also behoove the party to resurrect FDR's Veep Henry Wallace's NY Times articles about the nature of big businesses and fascism, also from '44. Now that was a party of the people. 7 Replies ..."
Jan 23, 2019 |

In its most recent analysis, Gallup found that from 1994 to 2018, the percentage of all Democrats who call themselves liberal more than doubled from 25 percent to 51 percent.

Over the same period, the percentage of Democratic moderates and conservatives fell steadily, with the share of moderates dropping from 48 to 34 percent, and of conservatives dropping from 25 to 13 percent. These trends began to accelerate during the administration of George W. Bush and have continued unabated during the Obama and Trump presidencies.

... ... ...

The anti-establishment faction contributed significantly to the large turnout increases in Democratic primaries last year. Pew found that from 2014 to 2018, turnout in House primaries rose from 13.7 to 19.6 percent of all registered Democrats, in Senate primaries from 16.6 to 22.2 percent and in governor primaries from 17.1 to 24.5 percent.

... ... ...

The extensive support among prospective Democratic presidential candidates for Medicare for All , government-guaranteed jobs and a higher minimum wage reflects the widespread desire in the electorate for greater protection from the vicissitudes of market capitalism -- in response to "increasingly incomplete risk protection in an era of dramatic social change," as the political scientist Jacob Hacker put it in " Privatizing Risk without Privatizing the Welfare State: The Hidden Politics of Social Policy Retrenchment in the United States ." Support for such protections is showing signs of becoming a litmus test for candidates running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.

... ... ...

Sawhill looks at the ideological shifts in the Democratic electorate less from a historical perspective and more as a response to contemporary economic and social dislocation. Among both conservatives and liberals, Sawhill argued, there is "an intellectual awakening about the flaws of modern capitalism" -- a recognition of the failings of "neoliberalism, the idea that a market economy with a few light guardrails is the best way to organize a society." This intellectual climate may result in greater receptivity among voters to more radical proposals.

Rochester, NY Jan. 23 Times Pick

These "big, bold leftist ideas" pose a strategic problem for liberals and the Democratic Party," (sigh). Here we go again. I am an older guy (Caucasian). I attended Texas A&M University from 1978 to 1982. My tuition payments during that entire time was $4 per credit hour. Same for every Texas resident during that time. Roughly $128 per year. Had Texas A&M not offered education at this modest entry point financially, I would still be working in the Holiday Inn kitchen washing dishes. Like I was in high school. So, I don't understand why older guys who went to school on the cheap, like me, and probably like Mr. Edsall, are writing articles about "radical" proposals like "free" or at least "affordable" education for Americans. We could achieve this very easily if America refocused on domestic growth and health and pulled itself out of its continuous wars. America has spent $6 Trillion dollars on war since 2001. For what? Nothing. Imagine how much college tuition we could have paid instead. Imagine how that would change America. What is radical is killing people of color in other countries for no goal and no reason. Let's refocus on domestic USA issues that are important. Like how to get folks educated so they/we can participate in the US economy.

Mr. Edsall, what did you pay to go to school per year? Was that "radically" cheap? For me, it was not radical to pay $128 per year. It was a blessing.

Bruce Rozenblit Kansas City, MO Jan. 23 Times Pick
To the conservative, liberal means socialist. Unfortunately, they don't know what socialism is. They think socialism is doing nothing and getting paid for it, a freeloader society. Socialism is government interference in the free market, interference in production.

Ethanol is socialism. Oil and gas subsidies are socialism. Agricultural price supports are socialism. Tax breaks and subsidies are socialism. The defence industry is socialism. All of these socialist policies greatly benefit big business. What liberals want is socialism of a similar nature that benefits people. This would include healthcare, education, public transportation, retirement, and childcare. Currently, people work their tails off to generate the profits that pay for corporate socialism and get next to nothing in return. Daycare costs as much as many jobs pay.

Kids graduate from college $50,000 in debt. Get sick and immediately go bankrupt. They have to work past 70. Pursuing these policies is not some far out leftist agenda. They are the norm in most industrialized nations.

It's hard to live free or die if you don't have anything to eat. It's easy to be a libertarian if you make a million bucks a year. Liberals are not advocating getting paid for doing nothing. They want people to have something to do and get paid for it. That is the message that should be pushed. Sounds pretty American to me. 27 Replies

Ronny Dublin, CA Jan. 23 Times Pick
This old white (liberal) man regrets that I was born too late for the FDR New Deal era and too early to be part of this younger generation taking us back to our roots. I lived in America when we had a strong middle class and I have lived through the Republican deconstruction of the middle class, I much preferred the former.

Economic Security and FDR's second bill of rights is a very good place for this new generation to pick up the baton and start running. 4 Replies

Matthew D. Georgia Jan. 23
Are these really moves to the left, or only in comparison to the lurch further right by the republicans. What is wrong with affordable education, health care, maternal and paternal leave, and a host of other programs that benefit all people? Why shouldn't we have more progressive tax rates? These are not radical ideas. 6 Replies
MIMA heartsny Jan. 23 Times Pick
As a senior, who has been a healthcare provider for decades, I hope that people will not be afraid if they get sick, that people will not fear going bankrupt if they get sick, that they do not have to fear they will die needlessly if they get sick, because they did not have proper access to haeathcare treatment. If a 29 year old woman from Queens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can fulfill my hopes and dreams, and alleviate these fears, just to get humane healthcare - then I say "You Go Girl!" What a wonderful world that would be..... 9 Replies
chele ct Jan. 23 Times Pick
Moving to the left??? I'm 64 years old. I started out on the left and haven't moved leftward in all these years. I'm just as far left now as when I registered to vote as a Democrat when I was 18. We called it being liberal and the Democratic Party reflected my beliefs.

The Democratic Party, thanks largely to the Clintons and their DLC nonsense, has certainly moved to the right. So far right that I haven't been able to call it the Democratic Party. So far right that I have seriously considered changing my party affiliation. Right now, the only think keeping me in the party is this influx of vibrant new faces. One thing that will make me leave is any ascendancy of the corporate lapdog "New Democrat Coalition" attempting to keep my party in thrall to the Republicans. No. The electorate has not shifted sharply leftward. We've been here all along. Our party went down a wrong path. It had better get back on track or become a footnote. 12 Replies

Rich Pein La Crosse Wi Jan. 23
I work with young adults in a university setting. The university I work for used to be really inexpensive. It is still relatively inexpensive and still a bargain. Most of the students have student loans. They can not make enough money in the summer or during the term to pay for tuition, fees, housing, and food. They need jobs that will pay enough to pay for those loans. They also need portable health care. As the employer based health insurance gets worse, that portable health care becomes a necessity so they can move to where the jobs are. So if a livable wage and universal health care are far left ideas then so be it. I am a leftist. 1 Reply
stuart glen arbor, mi Jan. 23 Times Pick
Every Democrat should sign on to FDR's 1944 Economic Bill of Rights speech. It is hardly radical, but rather the foundation of the modern Democratic Party, or at least was before being abrogated by the "new Democrats." Any Dem not supporting it is at best one of the "Republican-lights" who led the Dem party into the wilderness. It would also behoove the party to resurrect FDR's Veep Henry Wallace's NY Times articles about the nature of big businesses and fascism, also from '44. Now that was a party of the people. 7 Replies
Ken New York Jan. 23
@Michael. Pell grants and cheap tuition allowed me to obtain a degree in aerospace engineering in 1985. I'd like to think that that benefited our country, not radicalized it.
C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh

I don't think that's entirely accurate, and even if true, leaving students to the predations of private lenders isn't the answer. Although I'm willing to entertain your thesis, soaring tuition has also been the way to make up for the underfunding of state universities by state legislatures.

At the same time, there's been an increase since the 70s in de luxe facilities and bloated administrator salaries. When administrators make budget cuts, it isn't for recreational facilities and their own salaries -- it's the classics and history departments, and it's to faculty, with poorly paid part-time adjuncts teaching an unconscionable share of courses. So universities have been exacerbating the same unequal division between the people who actually do the work (faculty) and the people who allocate salaries (administrators) -- so too as in the business world, as you say.

shstl MO Jan. 23 Times Pick
I have a friend who lives on the West Coast and is constantly posting on social media about "white privilege" and how we all need to embrace far left policies to "even the playing field" for minorities. I always bristle at this, not because I don't support these policies, but because this person chooses to live in a city with actually very few minorities. She also lives in a state that's thriving, with new jobs, new residents and skyrocketing real estate values. I, by contrast, live in a state that's declining....steadily losing jobs, businesses and residents....leaving many people feeling uneasy and afraid. I also live in a city with a VERY high minority crime rate, which also makes people uneasy and afraid. Coastal liberals like my friend will instantly consider anyone who mentions this a racist, and hypocritically suggest that our (assumed) racism is what's driving our politics. But when I look around here and see so many Trump supporters (myself NOT included), I don't see racists desperately trying to retain their white privilege in a changing world. I see human beings living in a time and place of great uncertainty and they're scared! If Dems fail to notice this, and fail to create an inclusive message that addresses the fears of EVERYBODY in the working/middle class, regardless of their skin color, they do so at their own peril. Especially in parts of the country like mine that hold the key to regaining the WH. Preaching as my friend does is exactly how to lose. 5 Replies
Bruce Shigeura Berkeley, CA Jan. 23
A majority of Americans, including independent voters and some Republicans favor Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, and higher taxes on the rich. While Trump has polarized voters around race, Ocasio-Cortez is polarizing around class -- the three-fourths of Americans working paycheck to paycheck against the 1 percenters and their minions in both parties. Reading the tea leaves of polls and current Democratic Party factions as Edsall does, is like obsessing about Herbert Hoover's contradictory policies that worsened the Depression. If Ocasio-Cortez becomes bolder and calls for raising the business taxes and closing tax incentives, infrastructure expansion, and federal jobs guarantee, she'll transform the American political debate from the racist wall meme to the redistribution of wealth and power America needs. 1 Reply
Stu Sutin Bloomfield, CT Jan. 23
Labels such as 'liberal" fail to characterize the political agenda articulated by Bernie Sanders. By style and substance, Sanders represented a departure from the hum-drum norm. Is something wrong about aspiring to free college education in an era when student debt totals $1.5 trilliion? His mantle falls to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her followers. One hundred years ago, American progressivism was spawned by Robert La Follette. As governor and senator from Wisconsin, and as failed third party candidate for president, La Follette called for laws to protect youth from horrendous labor practices. He called for laws to protect civil rights. In time, many of La Follette's positions became mainstream. Will history repeated itself? Maybe. The rise of "liberalism" in the Democratic Party is therapeutic, as evidenced by youthful audiences who attended the Sander's rallies. Increasing voter turnout will take back government from a minority that undermines the essence of a democratic system. A Democratic counterbalance to the Republican "Freedom Caucus" may appear divisive to some. To others, it offers a path to the future. 4 Replies
Tracy Rupp Brookings, Oregon Jan. 23 Times Pick
I am so proud of our youth today. They are the hope. I am a lifetime ashamed of my own demographic: Old white men. We really suck. 6 Replies
tom midwest Jan. 23
Ok, from the perspective of a rural white midwest retiree independent with post graduate education, the issues weren't the democrats moving to the left, it was the Republican party turning right (and they show no signs of stopping). Who is against an equal opportunity for an equal quality education for everyone? My college costs years ago could be met with a barely minimum wage job and low cost health insurance provided by the school and I could graduate without debt even from graduate school. Seeing what years of Republican rule did to our college and university systems with a raise in tuition almost every year while legislative support declined every year, who is happy with that? Unions that used to provide a majority of the apprenticeships in good jobs in the skilled were killed by a thousand tiny cuts passed by Republicans over the years. The social safety net that used to be a hand up became an ever diminishing hand out. What happened is those that had made it even to the middle class pulled the ladder up behind them, taking away the self same advantages they had in the past and denying future generations the opportunity. The young democrats and independents coming along see this all too clearly. 1 Reply
Ashley Maryland Jan. 23
These so-called liberal and progressive ideas aren't new. They work now in other countries and have so for many, many years, but the rich keep screaming capitalism good, socialism bad all the while slapping tariffs on products and subsidizing farmers who get to pretend that this is somehow still a free market. It's fun to watch my neighbors do mental gymnastics to justify why subsidizing soy bean farmers to offset the tariffs is a strong free market, but that subsidizing solar panels and healthcare is socialism AKA the devil's work. All of this underscores the reality that, much like geography, Americans are terrible with economics.
JABarry Maryland Jan. 23
The tensions between progressive and moderate positions, liberal and conservative positions in the Democratic Party and in independents, flow from and vary based on information on and an understanding of the issues. What seems to one, at first glance, radically progressive/liberal becomes more mainstream when one is better informed. Take just one issue, Medicare for all, a progressive/liberal objective. At first glance people object based on two main points: costs and nefarious socialism. How do you pay for Medicare for all? Will it add to the debt? Will socialism replace our capitalist economy? People who have private medical insurance pay thousands in premiums, deductibles, co-pays each year. The private insurance is for profit, paying CEO's million dollar salaries and returns to stockholders. People paying these private insurance premiums would pay less for Medicare and have more in their own pockets. Medicare for all is no more nefariously socialistic than social security. Has social security ended capitalism and made America a socialist country? I think not. Is social security or Medicare adding to the national debt? Only if Congress will continue to play their tribal political games. These programs are currently solvent but definitely need tweaking to avoid near term shortfalls. A bipartisan commission could solve the long term solvency issues. The more we know and understand about progressive/liberal ideas, the less radical they become. The solution is education. 17 Replies
James St. Paul, MN. Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Absolutely correct. According to the Bible of Saint Reagan, Socialism for corporations and the rich: Good. Socialism for the poor and working class: bad.
Midwest Josh Four Days From Saginaw Jan. 23
@Michael - cheaper tuition starts with getting the Federal Govt out of the student loan business, it's as simple as that. Virtually unlimited tuition dollars is what drove up tuition rates. Higher Ed is a business, make no mistake.
mrfreeze6 Seattle, WA Jan. 23
@Bruce, have you ever considered creating a new "reality" network where the truth about things could be told? You're quite good at articulating and defining how the world works, without all the usual nonsense. I really appreciate your comments.
Samuel Santa Barbara Jan. 23 Times Pick
Can we please, please stop talking about AOC? Sure, she's young and energetic and is worthy of note, but what has she accomplished? It's easy to go to a rooftop- or a twitter account- and yell "health care and education for all!' But please, AOC, tell us how you are going to not only pay for these ideas but actually get them through Congress and the Senate? It's just noise, until then, and worse, you're creating a great target for the right that will NOT move with you and certainly can label these ideas as leftist nutism- which would be fine, if we weren't trying to get Trump out of office ASAP.. Dreams are great. Ideals are great. But people who can get stuff actually done move the needle...less rhetoric, more actual plans please.. 10 Replies
c harris Candler, NC Jan. 23
Its ok for a far right bigoted clown to be elected to the president and a tax cut crazy party that wants to have a full scale assault against the environment and force more medical related bankruptcies to be in charge? The safe candidate protected by 800 superdelegates in 2016 was met with a crushing defeat. The Democratic establishment wants a safe neo con corporatist democrat. Fair taxation and redistribution of wealth is not some far out kooky idea. The idea that the wealthiest Americans getaway with paying tax at 15%, if at all, is ruinous to the country. Especially since there is an insane compulsion to spend outlandish trillions on "national security". Universal health care would save the country billions of dollars. Medicare controls costs much more effectively than private insurers. As with defense the US spends billions more on health care than other countries and has worse medical outcomes. Gentrification has opened fissures in the Democrats. The wealthy price out other established communities. The problems of San Francisco and Seattle and other places with gentrification need to be addressed before an open fissure develops in the party. 2 Replies
David Wahnon Westchester My Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh It's time for higher education to stop being a business. Likewise it's time to stop electing leaders who are businessmen/women. 38 Replies
T.R.I. VT Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Wow! Great points, why don't you run for office? I agree!
Michelle Teas Charlotte Jan. 23
One could argue that many of these ideas are not that far left - rather it's a result of more and more Americans realizing that WE are not the problem. Clean water and air, affordable health care and affordable education are not that radical.
don salmon asheville nc Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh Hmmm, how old are you Midwest Josh? There were student loans back in the 1970s when college cost me about $400 a year. Maybe something happened when that failed Hollywood actor spouted slogans like "Government is not the solution, government is the problem" (and, no, it was not taken out of context, he most definitely DID mean that government is the problem - look it up) 38 Replies
Matt Williams New York Jan. 23
You are studying this like it represents some kind of wave but in fact it is just a few districts out of 435. These young women seem extraordinarily simply because the liberal media says they are extraordinary. If the media attention on these new representatives were to cease, no one except their families, their staff, and maybe Stephen Colbert would notice. 9 Replies
Amanda Jones Jan. 23
Finally, the left came out of its hibernation. We have spent the last decade or more either sleeping or hiding, while at the same time, the Tea Party, the Freedom Caucus, Trump, and his minions were taking over our government---It is such a breath of fresh air to finally listen to airwaves filled with outrage over CEO's making millions of dollars an hour, of companies that have become monopolies, of tax plans that bring back the middle class---it took us a while, but we are back. 2 Replies
FunkyIrishman member of the resistance Jan. 23
For so long (40+ years) the political spectrum has been pulled wildly and radically to the right across so many issues. The Democratic party has for the most part ''triangulated'' their stances accordingly to essentially go along with republicans and corporate interests for a bargain of even more tax/corporate giveaways to hold the line on social issues or programs. It has now gotten to the point that continuous war has been waged for two (2) decades and all the exorbitant costs that go along with that. There has been cut, after cut after cut whereas some people and businesses are not paying any taxes at all now. Infrastructure, social spending and education are all suffering because the cupboard is now bare in the greatest and most richest country in the world. It just came out the other day that ONLY (26) people have as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire world's population. That amount of wealth in relation to dwindling resources of our planet and crushing poverty for billions is abjectly obscene on so many levels. Coupled with all of the above, is the continued erosion of human rights. (especially for women and dominion over their own bodies) People are realizing that the founding fathers had a vision of a secular and Progressive nation and are looking for answers and people that are going to give it to them. They are realizing that the Democratic party is the only party that will stand up for them and be consistent for all.
dudley thompson maryland Jan. 23 Times Pick
Democrats just don't like to win presidential elections. Go ahead. Move left. But remember, you are not taking the rest of the country with you. As a NeverTrump Republican, I'll vote for a moderate Democrat in 2020. No lefties. Sorry. Don't give the country a reason to give Trump four more years. Win the electoral college vote instead of complaining about it. The anti-Trump is a moderate. 5 Replies
Fourteen Boston Jan. 23
"These "big, bold leftist ideas" pose a strategic problem." No they don't. The Real Problem is the non-thinking non-Liberal 40% of Democrats and their simpatico Republicans who are programmed to scream, "How will we pay for all that?" Don't they know all that money will just be stolen? They were silent when that money was stolen by the 0.1% for the Tax Giveaway (they're now working on tax giveaway 2.0) and by the military-industrial complex (to whom Trump gave an extra $200,000,000,000 last year), various boondoggle theft-schemes like the Wall, the popular forever Wars (17 years of Iraq/Afghanistan has cost $2,400,000,000,000 (or 7 times WW2)), and the Wall Street bailouts. Don't those so-called Democrats realize whose money that was? First of all, it's our money. And second, our money "spent" on the People is a highly positive investment with a positive ROI. Compare that to money thrown into the usual money pits which has no return at all - except more terrorists for the military, more income inequality for the Rich, and Average incomes of $422,000 for Wall Street. When the People's money is continually stolen, how can anyone continue to believe that we're living in a democracy?
David Walker Limoux, France Jan. 23
Bruce, a succinct summary of your post is this: What we have now is socialism for the wealthy and corporations (who, as SCOTUS has made clear, are people, too) and rugged individualism for the rest of us. What we're asking for is nothing more than a level playing field for all. And I hope that within my lifetime SCOTUS will have an epiphany and conclude that, gosh, maybe corporations aren't people after all. We can only hope. 27 Replies
Loren Guerriero Portland, OR Jan. 23
Edsall writes with his normal studious care, and makes some good points. Still, I am growing weary of these "Democrats should be careful and move back to the center" opinions. Trump showed us that the old 'left-right-center' way of thinking is no longer applicable. These progressive policies appeal to a broad majority of Americans not because of their ideological position, but because so many are suffering and are ready to give power to representatives who will finally fight for working families. Policies like medicare for all are broadly popular because the health insurance system is broken and most people are fed up and ready to throw the greedy bums out. We've been trying the technocratic incrementalism strategy for too long, with too little to show for it. Bold integrity is exactly what we need. 1 Reply
Reilly Diefenbach Washington State Jan. 23
Outstanding post. America has to catch up with Europe. Democratic socialism is the only answer. 38 Replies
Jessica Summerfield New York City Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Thank you; as others have commented already, this is so well said. To build on your point: just yesterday, a commenter on a NYT article described AOC as a communist. Incredible. The extent to which decent, pragmatic and, in a bygone era, mainstream, ideas are now painted as dangerous, extreme, and anti-American is both absurd and disturbing. 27 Replies
A. Stanton Dallas, TX Jan. 23 Times Pick
If Hillary were President, there would never have been a shutdown. That is the lesson that Mrs. Pelosi, AOC and Democrats should carry forward to 2020. 5 Replies
BE Lawrence KS Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Once again reader comments are better than the editorial! This is the most concise explanation I've seen on these pages. 27 Replies
FunkyIrishman member of the resistance Jan. 23
@LTJ No one is promoting ''free stuff'' - what is being proposed is that people/corporations pay into a system Progressively upwards (especially on incomes above 10,000,000 dollars per year) that allowed them and gave them the infrastructure to get rich in the first place. I am sure you would agree that people having multiple homes, cars, and luxury items while children go hungry in the richest nation in the world is obscene on its face. Aye ?
Michael Los Angeles Jan. 23 Times Pick
Keep on keepin' on, AOC. Be the leader you (and we) know you are.
FJS Monmouth Cty NJ Jan. 23
@Ronny Respectfully, President Clinton had a role in the deconstruction of the middle class. My point is many of the folks in the news today were in congress that far back. Say what you will about President Trump and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez,I believe they both have exposed the left,the right,the press for what they are. Please choose your own example. I don't agree with all of her positions, but I can't express how I enjoy her making the folks that under their watch led us to where we find ourselves today squirm and try to hide their anger for doing what she does so well. I've been waiting 55 years for this. Thank you AOC.
G James NW Connecticut Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Bruce, spot on. The point of the New Deal was not to replace capitalism with socialism, but to save capitalism from itself by achieving the balance that would preserve a capitalist economic system but one in which the concerns of the many in terms of freedom from want and freedom from fear were addressed. In other words, the rich get to continue to be rich, but not without paying the price of not being hung in the public square - by funding an expanding middle class. A middle class that by becoming consumers, made the rich even richer. But then greed took over and their messiah Saint Reagan convinced this large middle class that they too could be rich and so cutting taxes for the wealthy (and in the process redistributing the wealth from the expanding middle class to the wealthy) would one day benefit them - when they were wealthy. Drunk on the promise of future wealth, and working harder than ever, the middle class failed to notice whose ox was being gored and voted Republican. And now finally, the pendulum swings. Amen. 27 Replies
C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 23
@Socrates I'm reminded of a poll I saw several years ago that presented positions on issues without attaching them to any individual politician or affixing labels of party or ideology. The pol aimed to express the issue in neutral language without dog whistles or buzzwords. When the pollsters had the data, they looked for the member of Congress whose positions best reflected the view of the majority of respondents. It was Dennis Kucinich, the scary liberal socialist bogeyman of his day.
Liz Chicago Jan. 23
I lived in Europe for a long time. Not even most right wing parties there wish to abolish universal healthcare, replace low or tuition-free colleges with college debt, etc. The US has politically drifted far to the right when the center Democrats were in charge. Now Trump is lurching the country to extreme raw capitalism at the cost of national debt, even our environment and climate, Democrats need to stop incrementalism. Simple as that. 1 Reply
Blackmamba Il Jan. 23
@Michael Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was opposed to the eternal triumvirate axis of inhumane evil aka capitalism, militarism and racism. King was a left-wing socialist community organizer. In the mode of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. And the Nazarene of Matthew 25: 31- 46. America's military and prison industrial complexes are the antithesis of America' s proclaimed interests and values. America is number one in arms, money and prisoners. MAGA? 38 Replies
Bob Taos, NM Jan. 23
Bernie and AOC don't seem all that radical to me for the reason this op-ed points out -- I grew up in a New Deal Democratic family. My Grampa was an electrician supervisor for the City of Chicago and my Granma was a legal secretary. They wanted universal health care and free education and jobs for all. Those things made sense then, and they make sense now. They provide solutions to the deep problems of our society, so who wouldn't want them? We've had a lab test -- other than actual jobs for all Northern Europe has these things and we don't. Neo-liberalism, its Pay-Go formula for government, and its benefits for the rich fails on most counts except producing massive inequality and concentrated wealth. Bernie voters want solutions to inequality and climate change, and they are readily available if government can be wrested from the hands of Republicans like Trump and neo-liberals.
Ellen San Diego Jan. 23
@Michael To me, the key sentence in your excellent post is that American needs to "refocus on domestic growth and health and pull itself out of its continuous wars." All policiticians hoping for our votes in the future need to make clear where they stand on this. As to those who say that making all those weapons creates jobs, is there any reason that we couldn't instead start producing other quality goods in the U.S. again? 38 Replies
Bill W Vancouver, WA Jan. 23
@chele Me too! I am 72 y/o, retired, college educated at a rather tough school in which to gain entrance. Lived below my means for over 40 years. Parents are both WW2 Marine Corps officers(not career), who voted Republican and were active in local elections. They would be shocked and disgusted at what that "party" represents now.
Thea NY Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Wish I could like this many more times. What you are saying is what is the truth. 27 Replies
walking man Glenmont NY Jan. 23
I think you look at all this in a vacuum. Democrats veered left because there was a need to counterbalance what was happening on the right. They see Republicans aggressively trying to undo all the gains the left had achieved the previous several decades. Civil rights, Womens' rights, anti-poverty efforts, and so on all not just being pushed to the right, but forced to the right with a bulldozer. It got to a tipping point where Democrats could clearly see the forest for the trees. A great deal of this was a result of Republicans inability to candy coat their agenda. Universal healthcare....not being replaced by affordable alternatives, but by nothing. Tax cuts that were supposed to help the middle class, but, as evidenced by the government shutdown, giving them no economic breathing room. And, in fact, making their tax cut temporary, something nearly impossible to reverse with such a high deficit. Attacking immigrants with no plan on who, actually, would do the work immigrants do. The list goes on and on. In the past, many social programs were put in place not so much to alleviate suffering as to silence the masses. Now Republicans feel the time has come to take it all back, offering easily seen through false promises as replacements. That the left should see the big picture here and say "Not so fast" should come as absolutely no surprise. All they need now is a leader eloquent enough to rally the masses.
allen roberts 99171 Jan. 23
I think the Democratic Party is finally returning to its roots. We are now engaging in the same politics which gave us control of the House for about fifty years. I went to my first International Union convention is 1972 at which Ted Kennedy was one of the featured speakers. One of the themes of the convention was healthcare for all. Now it treated as some sort of radical proposal from the left. I am not certain why clean air and water, affordable health care and housing, combating climate change, raising wages, taxing the highest income brackets, updating our infrastructure, solving the immigration issue, and providing aid not weapons to other nations, are considered liberal or socialistic. I think it represents the thinking of a progressive society looking to the future rather than living in the past. 1 Reply
bdfreund Ottawa Jan. 23
@David G. I would also say that many people think a cooperative economic enterprise, such as a worker owned factory, is Socialism. But this is blatantly wrong and is pushed by the rich business and stock owners to denigrate these types of businesses. Cooperatives have often proven themselves quite successful in navigating a free market system, while simultaneously focussing on workers rights and ownership. We need more if this in North America. 27 Replies
will b upper left edge Jan. 23
@Samuel She's been in office less than a month. You want to shut down the conversation that is finally bringing real hope & passion to average people, & is bringing a new set of goals (& more integrity) to the Democratic Party? Paying for single-payer has been rehashed many times; just look at all the other 'civilized' countries who have it. For once, try putting the savings from ending co-pays, deductibles, & premiums into the equation. Think about the savings from large-group bids, & negotiations for drug prices, & the savings from preventative medicine heading off more expensive advanced treatment. Bernie Sanders has been explaining all this for years now. 'Less rhetoric'? The conversation is (finally) just now getting started! You start by explaining what is possible. When enough people understand it, the needle will start to move. Watch.
David J NJ Jan. 23
@JBC, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was voted into congress and then the media took notice. It wasn't the other way around. My only hope is that she stays the course.
H. G. Detroit, MI Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit And don't forget the biggest socialist project of our time - the wall! And withholding 800k employee checks to do so? That's socialism at gun point. 27 Replies
Jean Cleary Jan. 23
There are two points left out of all of the analysis of both Pressley's and Ocasio-Cortez's campaigns. First of all, both women did old fashioned retail politics, knocking on doors, sending out postcards, gathering as many volunteers as they could and talking about the issues with voters face to face. They took nothing for granted. This is precisely what Crowley and Capuano did not do. Second, they actually listened to the voters regarding what they needed and wanted in Congressional representation. What both of the stand for is neither Liberal or Conservative. What they stand for human values. This is not to say that Capuano and Crowley did not stand for these same values, but they took the voter for granted. That is how you lose elections. The Democrats are going back to their roots. They have found that the Mid-terms proved that issues of Health Care, minimum wages, good educations for all despite economic circumstances, and how important immigration is to this country really matter to the voters. They need to be braver in getting this across before the next election And the press might want to start calling the candidates Humane, period. 1 Reply
APT Boston, MA Jan. 23
@MIMA Yes, absolutely. I'm retired from the healthcare field after practicing 38 years. It is unconscionable that we question the access of healthcare to everyone. The complaint usually heard from the right is about "the takers." Data I've seen indicates that the majority on "the dole" are workers, who can't make ends meet in the gig economy or the disabled. That some lazy grubbers are in the system is unavoidable; perfection is the enemy of the good.
Felix New England Jan. 23
@Michael Could not have said it better myself. 38 Replies
Billy from Brooklyn Jan. 23
@Stu Sutin I agree, "Liberal" is too broad a term, as so-called liberals do not agree on everything, especially the degree. We can be socially liberal, while economically moderate--or vice versa. Some believe in John Maynard Keynes economics, but appose abortion. Some want free college tuition, while others support public schools but do not support the public paying for higher education. Our foreign policy beliefs often differ greatly. What joins us is a belief in a bottom up economy, not top down--and a greater belief in civil liberties and a greater distribution of wealth. Beyond that, our religious and cultural beliefs often differ.
Robert Grant Charleston, SC Jan. 23
I think the Internet has provided an influx of new understanding for the American left. They've learned that things considered radical here are considered unexceptional in the rest of the developed world. There is a realization that the only reason these are not normal here is because of a lack of political will to enact them. That will is building as the ongoing inequities are splashed across the front pages and the twitter feeds. It is the beginning of the end for American exceptionalism (a term coined by Stalin as America resisted the wave of socialism spreading around the world in the early 20th century). Unbridled capitalism lasted longer than communism but only because its costs were hidden longer. We need to find the sustainable middle path that allows for entrepreneurship along with a strong social safety net (and environmental protection). This new crop of progressive Democrats (with strong electoral backing) might lead the way.
G. Slocum Akron Jan. 23
at 63, I was there. I don't want second Trump administration either, but the route to a Democratic victory is not cozying up to the corporations and the wealthy, but by stating clearly, like FDR, "they are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred." We need people who are willing to say that the rich deserve to be taxed at a higher rate, because they have benefited more from our society, that no income deserves to be taxed at a lower rate than the wages paid to working people, and that vast wealth needs to be earned, not inherited. Emmanuel Saez makes persuasive arguments, but they need to be made in the language of the working people. 12 Replies
Richard Grayson Brooklyn Jan. 23
@Michael Your $128 a year would be more like $414 or so in today's dollars. Still . . . I went to Brooklyn College, part of the tuition-free City University of New York from 1969-1973. We paid a $53 general fee at the start of every semester ($24 for a summer semester), and that was it. Wealthy or poor, everyone paid the same amount (about $334 in today's dollars). 38 Replies
Rob Ware Salt Lake City, UT Jan. 23
@JRS Democratic party leaders have been in favor of more border security and an overhauled immigration system for as long as I've been alive. The suggestion (clearly this comment's intention) that Democrats favor "open" borders, ports, etc., is a myth propagated by an ever more influential right wing. And it's working: it's been repeated so often that it's now virtually an assumption that Democrats favor open borders, despite that fact that any critical thought on the subjection indicates the opposite is true.
Cass Missoula Jan. 23
I'm a very moderate Democrat -liberal on social issues and very supportive of free global trade- who would vote for any of the current Democrats over Trump, but would leave the party if AOC's ideas became the norm. I don't have a problem in principle with a 70% top marginal tax rate or AOC's Green New Deal- Meaning, these aren't moral issues for me per se. I just believe they would bankrupt the economy and push us into a chaos far worse than what we're seeing under Trump. 5 Replies
magicisnotreal earth Jan. 23
@Michael The increase in fees for education to include the books along with the lowering of standards for the classes taken is part and parcel of the reagan revolution to remake American society. One of the most problematic things for those seeking to undo what FDR did was the plethora of well educated and well read people American had managed to create. How were they going to be able to overcome this? You can deduce whatever methods you may know but I saw them tank the economy on purpose and prey on the fear that it created with more and more radical propaganda. Once they got into office they removed the best and brightest of our Civil Service and began making legal the crimes they wanted to commit and changing laws and procedures for how things were done so that people would eventually come to think of this as the "right" way when it was in fact purpose designed to deny them their due. 38 Replies
OldBoatMan Rochester, MN Jan. 23
Younger candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, appeal to younger voters. John Kennedy appealed to WWII veterans, most of whom were in their 30s when they elected him. One of the reasons for Barack Obama's support in 2008 among younger voters is that he was a younger candidate and they identified with a younger candidate. That appeal to a younger electorate will play a larger role in future elections. Don't focus too strongly on issues. Democrats will win by a landslide in 2020 if they nominate a younger candidate that can inspire younger voters. November 3, 2020. 1 Reply
Barry McKenna USA Jan. 23
@Samuel Actually, running a campaign and getting elected is a significant accomplishment. Before anyone decides about what bills to promote and means of paying for them, we need a momentum of discourse, and promoting that discourse is another major accomplishment. You and many millions of others, also, have good reasons to be frustrated. Let's just try to actually "work" at talking the talking and walking the walk, and maybe we will--or maybe we won't--arrive some place where we can see some improvement.
Jason A. New York NY Jan. 23 Times Pick
The interesting part of this piece is the statement about politicians moving unwillingly. So some Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen are allowing their personal beliefs to be compromised for the glory of being elected or re-elected? Sounds like someone I would not care to support. 2 Replies
profwilliams Montclair Jan. 23
A great essay! The wild card in all this analysis, of course, is what happens when these (now) young voters, age, eventually partner, and have kids. As every generation has shown, the needs of a voter changes as they age. I'm surrounded by many new neighbors with little kids who moved out of Brooklyn and Jersey City who suddenly find themselves concerned about rising property taxes- they now see the balance between taxes and services. Not something they worried about a few years ago. 2 Replies
John Patt Koloa, HI Jan. 23
@Tracy Rupp I am a senior citizen heterosexual white male. I do not apologize for my race, gender, etc. In fact, I am proud of our accomplishments. I do apologize for my personal wrongs, and strive to improve myself.
D I Shaw Maryland Jan. 23
"This will be difficult, given the fact that what is being proposed is a much larger role for government, and that those who are most in need of government support are in the bottom half of the income distribution and disproportionately minority -- in a country with a long racist history." True enough, but if progressives want actual people in that bottom half to lead happier lives, the focus of any programs should not be to employ armies in left-leaning and self-perpetuating "agencies," but rather to devise policies to help people develop the self-discipline to: A) finish high school, B) postpone the bearing of children until marriage (not as a religious construct but as a practical expression of commitment to the child's future), and; C) Find and get a regular job. These are supported by what objective, empirical data we have. These have not struck me as objectives of the rising left in the Democratic party. Mostly, I see endless moral preening, and a tribal demonizing of the "other," just exactly as they accuse the "other." In this case the "other" is we insufficiently "woke" but entirely moderate white folks who still comprise a plurality of Americans. I see success on the left as based primarily on an ability to express performative outrage. But remember, you build a house one brick at a time, which can be pretty boring, and delivers no jolt of dopamine as would manning the barricades, but which results in a warm, dry, comfortable place to live. 4 Replies
Edward Wichita, KS Jan. 23
@Concerned Citizen For your information, Holiday Inns typically had a restaurant in the hotel in the days Michael is talking about so... whatever! 38 Replies
Warren Peace Columbus, OH Jan. 24
My father fought in Germany during WWII, then came home and went to college on the GI bill. Both my parents received federal assistance for a loan on their first house. Later, during retirement, they were taken care of by Medicare and given an income by Social Security. They worked hard, kept their values, lived modestly, and voted for Democrats. Apparently, they were wild-eyed, leftist-socialist radicals, and I never knew it.
617to416 Ontario Via Massachusetts Jan. 23
@Bruce Shigeura AOC in some ways is doing what Bernie was doing -- mobilizing people around class as you say -- but the difference is that AOC doesn't shy away from issues of racial justice. Bernie seemed to want to unite people by ignoring issues of race, as if he was afraid that mentioning race too much might drive Whites away. AOC seems able to hold whites on the class issue while still speaking to the racial justice issues that are important to non-Whites. She's an extraordinary phenomenon: smart, engaging, articulate and with personal connections to both the White and Non-White worlds, so she threatens neither and appeals to both.
harpla Jan. 23
@Stu Sutin "Is something wrong about aspiring to free college education in an era when student debt totals $1.5 trilliion?" Yes. If you're the Congressperson who gets his/her funding from the lenders.
Joshua Schwartz Ramat-Gan, Israel Jan. 23
A O-C has yet to open a district office. A O-C is more interested in "national" issues and exposure than those of her district. What A O-C may have forgotten is that it is her district and constituents that have to re-elect her in less than 2 tears (or not): "Would you rather have a Congress member with an amazing local services office, or one that leads nationally on issues?" she queried her 1.9 million followers on Instagram -- a number that is well over twice the population of her district. The results strongly favored national issues." As Mr. Edsall points out, her district is not necessarily progressive and liberal and while there may be national issues, at the bottom line, many of her instagram groupies are not her constituents. Democrats like to constantly point out that Ms. Clinton won the popular vote, and she was the non-liberal-progressive Democrat. I am sure that the Republicans pray for the success of the Democratic left. They seek to give voice to that left. That will bring the swing votes right back to or over to the Republicans, without, but possibly even with Mr. Trump (if the Democrats cross a left-wing tipping point). Bottom line, instagram is fine and likes are great, twitter is good for snappy answers, but representatives to the House have to deliver to their district and constituents. A O-C leads, but to the salvation of the Republican party. 6 Replies
Marc Vermont Jan. 23
@Joshua Schwartz M. Ocasio-Cortez explained on The Late Show the other night that the reason she has not opened her district office is due to the Government Shutdown. The people charged with setting up the office are on furlough, the money for the office is being held up and she staff or furnish the office.
Eric Bremen Jan. 23
Isn't this somehow the natural swing of things? Years of heavy-handed politics benefitting small minorities on the right have taken their toll, so now new ideas are up at bat. By the way, these ideas aren't really that bold at all - many countries have living minimum wages or mandatory healthcare, and are thriving, with a much happier population. Only in the context of decades-long, almost brainwash-like pounding of these ideas as 'Un-American' or 'socialist' can they be seen as 'bold'. American exeptionalism has led to a seriously unbalanced and dangerously threatened social contract. Tell me again, Republicans: why is a diverse, healthy and productive population living under inspiration instead of constant fear so bad?
jrd ny Jan. 23
The "experts" offering advice here seem to have forgotten that Hillary Clinton listened to them in 2016: the party decided that appealing to suburban Republicans and Jeb Bush voters was more important than exciting the Democratic party base. The other hazard of calculated politics is that the candidate is revealed to be a phony, believing in nothing but power or that it's simply "her turn" -- an uncompelling program for a voter. 1 Reply
H NYC Jan. 23
They will all face primary challengers in 2020. Tlaib and Omar didn't even win a majority of the primary vote. There were so many candidates running in those primaries, they only managed a plurality. And let's be honest about the demographic changes in the districts Pressley and Ocasio Cortez won. They went from primarily ethnic White to minority majority. Both women explicitly campaigned on the premise that their identity made them more representative of the district than an old White male incumbent. Let's not sugarcoat what happened: they ran explicitly racist campaigns. They won with tribalism, not liberal values. Democrats actually need more candidates like Lucy McBath, Antonio Delgado, and Kendra Horn if they want to retain Congressional control and change policy. And many minorities and immigrants aren't interested in the far left faction. We don't have a problem with Obama and a moderate approach to social democracy.
Len Charlap Printceton NJ Jan. 23
@JABarry - Some data: Canada has a program like Medicare for All, and its bottom line health care statistics are better than ours in spite of a worse climate. We paid $9506.20 per person for health care in 2016. In Canada, they paid $4643.70. If our system we as efficient as Canada's, we would save over $1.5 TRILLION each and every year. This is money that can be used for better purposes. If one uses the bottom line statistics, we see that both Canada and the UK (real socialized medicine) do better than we do: Life expectancy at birth (OECD): Canada- 81.9, UK - 81.1, US - 78.8 Infant Mortality (OECD)(Deaths per 1,000): Canada - 4.7, UK - 3.8, US - 6.0 Maternal Mortality (WHO): Canada - 7, UK - 9, US - 14 Instead of worrying how we would pay for it, we will have the problem of how to spend all the money we would save. BTW can you point to a period where too high federal debt hurt the economy? In 1837 the federal debt as a percentage of GDP was 0%; it was 16% in October of 1929. Both were followed horrendous depression. It was 121% in 1946 followed by 27 years of Great Prosperity.
UTBG Denver, CO Jan. 23
Best comment in some time. I work and live too much in the'big flat'. I am a very hard core Chicago Democratic Liberal from birth, but the distressed towns and small cities are facing extinction. then what?
Mercury S San Francisco Jan. 23
@In the know I'm formerly Republican, and female. I'm on the ACA, and while premiums were going up slowly, they've exploded in the past two years due to Republican sabatoge. They are certainly no reason to vote for Trump.
D.j.j.k. south Delaware Jan. 23
@Midwest Then the rich will only be eligible for college. Give me government intervention any time. I am retired military . Off base in Lewes De a mans hair cut is now 20.00 plus tips. Just a plain cut. On base with gov intervention it 12.00 . Capitalism you support is only for the 1 percent the 99 percent never gets ahead. 38 Replies
P New York Jan. 23
She has a massive throng of twitter followers, is completely unconcerned with facts, uses publicity to gain power and seems unwilling to negotiate on her positions. Remind you of anyone else? 3 Replies
FXQ Cincinnati Jan. 23
The establishment is trying so hard to spin the progressives push on the issues of Medicare for All, free state college and university tuition, a livable wage of $15/hr as ponies and fairy dust and an extreme "socialist" makeover/takeover of America. But from all the polls that I've seen, these policies are actually quite popular even with a majority of Republicans. Yes, a majority of Republicans. A Medicare for All would cover everybody, eliminate health insurance premiums for individuals and businesses ( which by the way are competing with businesses in other countries that have a single-payer system) and would save $2 trillion over ten years (Koch bothers funded study). The result would be a healthy and educated populace. But how to pay for this? Well, we spend over $700 billion on our military while Russia spends $20 billion and China spends $146 billion, so there seems to be plenty of money that is already being spent to be redirected back to us without compromising national security. A Medicare for All system supports a private healthcare system just as it is now, except instead of giving some insurance company our premium who then skims off a big chunk for their profit, we pay it to our government who then administers the payments to the healthcare provider(s). The system is in place and has been for people 65 years and older and works very well with high satisfaction rates. Just expand it to all. 2 Replies
Smartone new york,ny Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh Wrong!!! Tuition's have skyrocketed because for past 35 years States have slashed support for public universities. The Federal Government took over student loan business from predatory banks which was a very good thing but unfortunately have kept interest rates high ... Student loans is a profit center for Federal Government 38 Replies
Michael Rochester, NY Jan. 23
@Concerned Citizen Go ahead and check the holiday inn in Palestine Texas. It had a small restaurant in 1978. I was their dishwasher. There was no ford plant nearby. 38 Replies
FXQ Cincinnati Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Well put. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: "We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free market capitalism for the poor." 27 Replies
Glenn Ribotsky Queens Jan. 23
@stuart They used to call it the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party". I was glad when Thomas Edsall finally got around, in this piece, to mentioning that what is often thought of as a radical leftist turn today, due to just how far to the right our general political discussions had gone, was actually pretty much mainstream Democratic policy for much of the middle 20th century.
Fourteen Boston Jan. 23
@Len Charlap Quite simply Canada's healthcare quality is ranked 16th in the world, while ours is lower ranked at 23rd. And we pay twice as much. That indicates some funny business going on.
Westchester Guy Westchester, NY Jan. 23
It is remarkable that "big, bold leftist ideas" include - preserving the historical relationship between the minimum wage and the cost of living - lowering the cost of college to something in line with what obtained for most public colleges and universities in the 50s, 60s and 70s and exist in the rest of the Western world today - adapting our existing Medicare system to deliver universal coverage of the kind generally supported across the political spectrum in Canada and the UK Democrats should reject the "leftist" label for these ideas and explain that it is opposition to these mainstream ideas that is, in fact, ideological and extreme. 2 Replies
H NYC Jan. 23
@Marc Except that's outright false. Offices are open. All the other new Congress members from New York are setup and taking care of people. She doesn't care about constituent service. She revels in the media attention, but isn't getting anything done even in the background. NY has three Congress members (Lowey, Serrano, Meng) whose under-appreciated work on the appropriations committee actually helps ensure our region's needs and liberal priorities are reflected in federal spending. Meanwhile Ocasio Cortez is working on unseating Democrats incumbents she deems insufficiently leftist e.g. Cuellar, Jeffries. Who needs Republicans when you have Socialists trying to destroy the Democratic Party.
Eric The Other Earth Jan. 23
The NYT should consider getting some columnists who reflect the new (FDR? new?) trends in the country and in the Democratic party. The old Clinton/Biden/Edsall Republican lite approach -- all in for Wall Street -- is dying. Good riddens. BTW I'm a 65 year old electrical engineer. 1 Reply
rtj Massachusetts Jan. 23
You're missing something big here, sir. Capuano was a Clinton superdelegate in 2016 who declared well before the primaries (like all other Mass superdelegates, save for Warren who waited until well after the primaries.) Thereby in effect telling constituents that their vote was irrelevant, as they were willing to override it. Somerville went for Sanders 57% to 42%. Putting party over voters maybe isn't a great idea when 51% of voters in Massachusetts are registered Unenrolled (Independent) and can vote in primaries. Bit rich to signal that our votes don't matter, but then expect it later as it maybe actually does matter after all. Pressley was all in for Clinton, which is of course suspect. But like me, she had only one vote.
don salmon asheville nc Jan. 23
@C Wolfe Wow. Funky Irishman has been, for many months, writing about and presenting excellent data showing that the US is actually a center-left (if not strongly progressive) country. I used to present this evidence to Richard Luettgen (where has he gone??) who kept insisting we are center-right (but never, as was his custom, presented any evidence for this). your example is the best I've ever seen. I'm a member of a 4000-strong Facebook group, the "Rational Republicans" (seriously - a local attorney with a decidedly liberal bent started it and almost beat regressive Patrick McHenry here in Asheville). I've been making this point on the FB page for the past year and people are stunned when they see the numbers. I'm going to post your example as well. Excellent!
John LINY Jan. 23
It's funny to watch people shocked when she makes her proposal. Her ideas are very old and have worked in the past in various cultures. But the point that she can voice them is because she can. Her people put her there because she said those things with their approval. She reflects her community ideals. Just like Steve King.
rose atlanta Jan. 23
I'm already tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I'm a liberal and Hispanic...its constant overkill, everybody falling over her, total overexposure. The news media has found their darling for the moment. Let's see what she accomplishes, what bills she proposes and passes that is the work to be done not being in the news 24/7.
GregP 27405 Jan. 23
Until the left figures out that every single one of their most desired Policy Implementations are only feasible with controlled immigration and secured borders doesn't matter who the messenger is. Want Single Payer Healthcare? Can't have it and Open Borders too. Want free College? Can't have it and Open Borders too. Want Guaranteed Basic Income? Cannot have it in any form without absolutely controlling the Border. So, either you want that influx of new voters to win elections or you want to see new policy changes that will benefit all Americans. Pick one and fight for it. You seem to have chosen the new voters. 3 Replies
Fourteen Boston Jan. 23
@Matt Williams But they are extraordinary, relative to their bought and paid for colleagues. That came first and the media is reporting it. Their authenticity is naive, but it shouldn't be, and that's the story. It's a glimmer of hope for democracy that may be extinguished - let's celebrate this light in the darkness, while it lasts.
Erik Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit This is. Spot. On. The socialism of: Privatize the profits, socialize the losses. It's defined American economic and social policy for the last 30+ years and we can see the results today. 27 Replies
Deb Jan. 23
@shstl I agree and as a moderate Democrat, I already feel like an outsider, so imagine what independents are thinking. AOC stated that she wants to primary Hakeem Jeffries, who is a moderate. With statements like these, made before spending a day in congress, who needs the GOP to tear apart the Democratic party? Sanders didn't even win the primary and his supporters claim the primary was stolen. We lost the house and senate all by ourselves. I already have AOC fatigue and my rejoice for the blue wave is still there but fading.
Bill Terrace, BC Jan. 24
Since 1980, the US has veered sharply to the Right. A course correction is long overdue.
Kingfish52 Rocky Mountains Jan. 24
The Democratic party was shoved to the right with Bill Clinton's Third Way ideology that made its focus the same wealthy donor class as the Republicans, while breaking promises to its former base, the middle and working class. This led to the unchecked capitalism that produced the Crash of '08, and the subsequent bail out to Wall St. The powers running the DNC - all Third Way disciples, like Hilary - refused to take up any of these "socialist" causes because their wealthy donors didn't want to have their escalating wealth diminished. Meanwhile these Democrats In Republican Clothing were banking on continued support from those they had abandoned. And they got it for years...until now. Now, finally, we're getting candidates who represent those abandoned, and who are refusing to hew to the poobah's Third Way agenda. But the Old Guard is trying to retain their power by labeling these candidates as "socialists", and "far left". Well, if that's true, then FDR was a "socialist" too. Funny though how all those "socialists" who voted for FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ enjoyed such capitalistic benefits like good paying jobs, benefits, home ownership, good education, and the fruits of Big Guv'mint like the Interstate Highway system, electricity, schools, the Space Program and all the benefits that produced. It was only when we turned our backs on that success and relied on unchecked capitalism that most of America began their slide backwards. We need to go left to go forward.
Elfego New York Jan. 23
Why is the media lionizing this ignorant, undisciplined child? She should shut up, sit down, learn how to listen and learn from her elders in government. She is acting like a college student, who has no one to hold her accountable for her reckless, stupid behavior. Why does the media seem to be enamored of her?????
mj somewhere in the middle Jan. 23
@Michael Lucky for you. I went to the University of Michigan at roughly the same time and it was no where near that cheap--not even close. And housing? Don't get me started on that. Even then it took my breath away. 38 Replies
Quiet Waiting Texas Jan. 23
@chele That which you are pleased to call the DLC nonsense originated not with the Clintons, but with one of the worst presidential defeats the Democratic party ever suffered: the 1972 campaign of George McGovern. That debacle resulted in a second Nixon administration and I hope that the current trends within the Democratic party do not result in a second Trump administration.
Jack Shultz Pointe Claire Que. Canada Jan. 23
It is exceeding strange to me that "Conservatives" in the US consider Medicare for all and universal access to higher education as being radical, pie-in-the-sky, proposals. Here in Canada we have had universal medicare for a half a century and it has proven itself to be relatively effective and efficient and has not driven us into penury. As for free access to education beyond high school, I remember learning a while ago that the US government discovered that it had earned a return of 700% on the money spent on the GI Bill after WWII which allowed returning GIs to go to colleges and universities. The problem with American conservatives is that they see investments in the health, welfare and education of the citizenry as wasteful expenditures, and wasteful expenditures such as the resources going to an already bloated military, and of course tax cuts for themselves as investments.
Orangecat Valley Forge, PA Jan. 23
Note to the NYT and its contributors. Your sycophantic enslavement to promoting Ocasio-Cortez is beginning to fatigue some of your readers. 2 Replies
RedRat Sammamish, WA Jan. 23
@chele Amen to you! I too am old guy (79) and think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a savior of the Democratic Party! She is young and has great ideas. I agree with you about the Clintons, they led the party down a sinkhole. I agree with just about everything I have heard Alexandria espouse. She is refreshing. Glad she is kicking the butts of those old guard Democrats that have fossilized in place--they are dinosaurs. 12 Replies
Tintin Midwest Jan. 23
@Tracy Rupp The problem with blaming a group based on demographics, rather than behavior or ideology, is that you are likely to be disappointed. There are a lot of people who are not old white men who are just as seduced by money, power, and local privilege as was the old guard. Feminists writing letters to condemn a male student who made charges of being sexually harassed by his female professor; African American activists who refuse to reject the antisemitism of charismatic cult leaders. Human beings in charge will be flawed, regardless of their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. As the balance of power changes hands, corruption too will become more diverse. 6 Replies
Woof NY Jan. 23
Money is the mother's milk of politics, so let me comment on "many of whom did not want the Democrats to nominate a candidate with deep ties to party regulars and to the major donor community." Include me. Because the major donor community is Charles E Schumer, Leader Democrats, House Top Contributors, 1989 - 2018 1 Goldman Sachs 2 Citigroup Inc 3 Paul, Weiss et al 4 JPMorgan Chase & Co 5 Credit Suisse Group That is Wall Street Nancy Pelosi, leader Democrats, House Top Contributors, 2017 - 2018 1 Facebook Inc 2 Alphabet Inc (Google) 2 4 University of California 5 Intel Corp $13,035 That is Silicon Valley . The U of CA should spent its money on students What is the interest of these donors ? For Wall Street, it is maximizing profits by suppressing wages, outsourcing to of enterprises it owns to low wage countries, and immigration of people willing to work for less For Silicon Valley it is Mining your data, violating your privacy, and immigration of people willing to work for less via H1B To win general (not primary) elections you need large amounts of money. At in return for this money, you need to take care of your donors, lest you find you without money in the next election Until the Democratic Party frees itself of this system, it will spout liberal rhetoric, but do little to help average Americans As Sanders showed, it can do so, running on small donations. DNC, eye on frightened donors, killed his attempt. 1 Reply
Cwnidog Central Florida Jan. 23
"The most active wing of the Democratic Party -- the roughly 20 percent of the party's electorate that votes in primaries and wields disproportionate influence over which issues get prioritized -- has moved decisively to the left." Yet it seems that you feel that the party should ignore them and move to the center right in order to capture suburban Republican women, who will revert back to the Republican party as soon as (and if) it regains something resembling sanity. Do you seriously think that its worth jettisoning what you describe as "the most active wing of the party" for that? 2 Replies
Ron Cohen Waltham, MA Jan. 23
@shstl Right on!
Linda Miilu Chico, CA Jan. 23
@David G. See Norway, Denmark, Germany, England and Finland. Citizens have jobs and health care; education is affordable and subsidized. Not all young people attend universities; many go to vocational schools which prepare them for good jobs. We could do the same. 27 Replies
Lisa NYC Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh That is so NOT true Midwest Josh. The unattainable loans and interest problems are because the private sector has been allowed into the student loan game. The government should be the underwriter for all student loan programs unless individual schools offer specialized lending programs. Whenever the government privatizes anything the real abuse starts and the little guy gets hurt. 38 Replies
michaeltide Bothell, WA Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit, at the end of a long line of commenters, I add my congratulations for a well-articulated overview of our political dilemma. Both "trickle-down"economics and "neo-liberalism" have brought us to this pass, giving both Democrats and Republicans a way of rewarding their corporate masters. I believe both Cinton and Obama believed they could find a balance between the corporate agenda and a secure society. We see with hindsight how this has hailed to materialize, and are rightly seeking a more equitable system – one that addresses the common sense needs of all of us. I, for one, am overjoyed that the younger generation has found its voice, and has a cause to support. My recollection of demonstrating against the Viet Nam war (and the draft), marching for civil rights, and even trying to promote the (then largely inchoate) women's rights movement, still evokes a passionate nostalgia. We have witnessed an entire generation that lacked passion for any cause beyond their individual desires. It's good to have young men and women reminding us of our values, our aspirations, and our power as citizens. As the bumper sticker says, "If you think education is expensive – try ignorance." Thanks again for a fine post. 27 Replies
James Mullaney Woodside, NY Jan. 23
@Matt Williams Without the undue media attention we wouldn't be saddled with this cartoon character masquerading as a president.
Shirley0401 The South Jan. 23
@Quiet Waiting That was FIFTY YEARS AGO. People who fought in the Spanish-American War were still casting ballots, for heaven's sake. McGovern has been used by Third Way apologists as a cautionary tale to provide cover for doing what they clearly wanted to do anyway. The other reality is that the McGovern/Nixon race took place in a time when there was broad consensus that many of the social programs Republicans are now salivating over privatizing weren't going anywhere. 12 Replies
ann Seattle Jan. 23
Abolishing ICE is tantamount to having open borders. No modern country can allow all people who are able to get to its borders to just move in, and take advantage of its government services. If a country were to start offering Medicare for All, no or reduced college tuition, a universal jobs guarantee, a $15 minimum wage, and wage subsidies to the entire bottom half through an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, paid maternity/paternity leave, and free child care, it would need tax-payers to support these plans. It could not afford to support all of the poor, uneducated migrants who have been illegally crossing our borders, let alone all of those who would run here if ICE were to be abolished. Look at Canada which has more of a social safety net than is offered in our country. It has practically no illegal immigrants. (A long term illegal immigrant had to sue for the government to pay for her extensive medical care, and the court decisions appear to have limited government payment of her medical bills just to her and not to other illegal migrants.) It picks the vast majority of its legal immigrants on a merit system that prioritizes those who would contribute a special needed skill to the Canadian economy, who are fluent in English and/or French, and who could easily assimilate. Thus, most of Canada's immigrants start paying hefty taxes as soon as they move to Canada, helping to support the country's social safety net. 1 Reply
GAO Gurnee, IL Jan. 23
@Samuel To pay for universal health care you capture all the money currently being spent for the health care system. That includes all the employer insurance premiums, VA medical care costs, military medical costs, all out-of-pocket expenses, everything. That provides plenty of money for our health care needs as exemplified by the costs in other advanced countries with better systems. Also re-activate parts of the ACA that were designed to control and reduce costs but that have gone unfunded. Reduce hospital and hospital administration costs, which are exorbitant and provide little real health care benefit. There will be plenty of funds for actual provider salaries (physicians, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, etc). 10 Replies
Martin Kobren Silver Spring, MD Jan. 23
You have to accept some of this polling data with a grain of salt. Most of the population has no idea what "moderate," "slightly liberal," or extremely liberal mean. These tend to be labels that signify how closely people feel attached to other people on the left side of the ideological spectrum. The same is true, btw, of people on the right. The odd thing is that if you ask Trump voters about the economic policies they favor, they generally agree that social security ought to be expanded, that the government has an obligation to see that everyone has medical care, that taxes on the rich should be higher and that we ought to be spending more money, not less on education. Where you see a divergence is on issues tightly aligned with Trump and on matters that touch on racial resentment. Trump voters do not favor cuts in spending on the poor, though they do support cuts in "welfare." The moral of the story is that a strategic Democratic politician who can speak to these Trump voters on a policy level or at the level of values -- I'm thinking Sharrod Brown -- may be able to win in 2020 with a landslide.
jk ny Jan. 23
I saw AOC on the Colbert Show recently and one of her first statements was in regards to wearing red nail polish. I turned it off. Enough of the red lipstick as well. Please. Next she'll discuss large hoop earrings. 1 Reply
P McGrath USA Jan. 23
O'Cortez is a "Fantasy Socialist. She says the stupidest and most outlandish things so the media puts a microphone in front of her face. She hates when folks fact check her because nothing she is saying adds up. O'Cortez has all of the same "spread the wealth" tendencies as the previous president who was much more cunning and clever at hiding his true Socialist self.
Trebor USA Jan. 23
@chele Right on. I expect there is a very large contingent of us. It is disheartening to be associated by age and ethnicity with the corporatist financial elite power mongers who control both parties and the media. But we can still continue vote the right way and spread the word to fight corruption and corporatism. Eschew New Democrats like ORourke. The first commitment to find out about is the commitment to restore democracy and cut off the power of the financial elite in politics. All the other liberal sounding stuff is a lie if that first commitment is not there. Because none of it will happen while the financial elite are controlling votes. There will always be enough defectors against, for example, the mainstream support for medicare for all national health care to keep it from happening if New Democrats aren't understood as the republican lite fifth column corrupters they really are. 12 Replies
MDB Encinitas Jan. 23
I see a Trump victory in 2020. Thank you, AOC. 1 Reply
Odysseus Home Again Jan. 23
@David G. You mean like Scandinavia, right? 27 Replies
R. Law Texas Jan. 23
Chock full of very interesting data, but we tend to to believe Zeitz's conclusion that Dems are just returning to their roots, following the spectacular 2008 failures that saw no prosecutions - in starkest contrast to the S&L failure and boatload of bankers charged: To the extent this primary voter data is replicated across the country in Dem primaries, and not just the AOC and Ayana Pressley races, we could be convinced some massive swing is occurring in Dem primary results. Until then, we tend to believe that the cycle of 30-50 House seats which swing back and forth as Dem or GOP from time to time (not the exact same 30-50 districts each cycle, but about 30-50 in total per election cycle or two) is a continuation of a long-term voting trend. Unpacking the egregious GOP'er gerrymandering, as is the goal of Eric Holder and Barack Obama: which has blunted Dem voter effects, will be of far more consequence - get ready !
Odo Klem Chicago Jan. 23
@Michael Gig'em dude. Class of '88, and I feel the same way. And as far as I can tell, the increase has been almost totally because state support has fallen in order to fund tax cuts for the people, like us, who got the free education. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too? You just have to raid everyone else's plate. 38 Replies
Jay Orchard Miami Beach Jan. 23
I understand the Andy Warhol concept of everyone having 15 minutes of fame. But it's absurd that AOC's 15 minutes of fame coincide with her first 15 minutes in office.
Fred Up North Jan. 24
Ocasio-Cortez and the rest haven't been in Congress a month. Get back to me when anyone of them even gets a bill passed naming a Post Office. Until the, maybe you ought to learn your jobs?
mrfreeze6 Seattle, WA Jan. 23
@In the know, Your party invented the fundamental ACA program. It was the brainchild of the Heritage Foundation that started this fiasco that you'd like to blame on Dems. Also, you simply cannot argue that the Republicans attempted to implement the program in good faith. They have done everything they can to sabotage it. In the end, Republicans don't want people to have affordable health care. It doesn't fit their "family-unfriendly" philosophy. Furthermore, the only real business-friendly ideas Republicans embrace are a) eliminate taxes, b) remove regulations, c) pay employees nothing. If you as a woman believe these are notions that strengthen you or your family, I'm at a total loss in understanding your reasoning.
Len Charlap Printceton NJ Jan. 23
@Matt Williams - You are ignoring the many statistics in the article that apply to the Democratic party as a whole. For example: "From 2008 to 2018, the percentage of Democrats who said the government should create "a way for immigrants already here illegally to become citizens if the meet certain requirements" grew from 29 to 51 percent, while the share who said "there should be better border security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws" fell from 21 to 5 percent." There are many others.
SteveRR CA Jan. 24
" millennials and minorities become an ever-larger proportion of the party, it will have a natural constituency..." I would counter that as they start to actually pay taxes then the millennials will adopt the standard liberal plaint, 'raise the taxes on everybody except me'
Roger California Jan. 23
@D I Shaw I think the precise point is that would much easier to do A,B, and C if there were universal health care, job guarantees, and clean water to drink. It is much easier to make good long-term decisions when you aren't kept in a state of perpetual desperation.
Giacomo anytown, earth Jan. 23
These 'new' ideas are not new, nor are they 'progressive democrats'', nor are they even the democratic party's per se. More importantly, the 'issue', for which no one has come up with a solution, is the same -- how are we going to pay for this all? The GAO reported in '16 that Sander's proposal for payment was completely unsustainable. Similarly, Cortez's plan for a tax rate of 70% of earnings (not capital gains) over $10mm per annum does not come close to funding 'medicare for all', 'free collage/trade school', and 'the New Green Deal'. Our military is a 'jobs program' rooted in certain state's economy -- it is going to be very difficult to substantially reduce those expenditures any time soon. The purpose of government is governance -- what politician is going to have the integrity and cujones to tell the American people that we need these 'liberal' policies, but that every single one of us is going to have to contribute, even those at the far lower income strata? Are we all willing to work longer in life and live in much smaller houses/apartments to do what is necessary? If the answer is yes, then and only then can any of us claim the moral high ground. Until then, it's just empty rhetoric for political gain and personal Aggrandizement of so-called progressives. 5 Replies
Keith Texas Jan. 23
@chele I'm an "elder millennial" in my 30s. The first US election I really paid attention to was in 2000. Remember how all of the Democrats would gripe about, "oh I really *like* Nader, but the Green Party candidate is never going to win..." It's a party in dire straights when the ideological base doesn't even particularly love its candidates on the issues. Repeat in 2004 with Kerry. Obama managed to win based on charisma and the nation's collective disgust with the neocons, but then we did it again with Hillary. 12 Replies
Chris W Toledo Ohio Jan. 23
Sorry libs, but with the exception of the Left Coast, and Manhattan, there is not alot of attention given AOC and her silly class warfare 70% tax nonsense, that goes with the Dem/Lib territory--nothing new or exciting with her. Being a certain ethnicity or gender is not exciting or inherently "good" as Progressives attempt to convince others. Identity politics is nonsense. When she does something of merit, not simply engage in publicity stunts and class warfare nonsense then maybe she will get some attention outside of Lib/Wacko world. "With all the attention that is being paid to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib" Other than these opinion pages and the Lib coasts, not so much. 2 Replies
cgtwet los angeles Jan. 23
Since Reagan there has been a steady drumbeat to the right and far-right policies. We've lived so long in this bubble that we've normalized these For-the-Rich policies as centrist. So I don't accept the writer's premise that the Democratic party is moving to a radical left. The Democratic party is simply embracing pro middle class policies that were once the norm between 1935-1979. And I welcome the shift of the pendulum. 1 Reply
Andrzej Warminski Irvine, CA Jan. 23
@Giacomo That's right, this country can afford trillions for the Pentagon system--the military-industrial complex, to coin a phrase--and foolishly criminal wars, but it can't afford national health insurance, something that some industrialized countries have had since the late 19th century. Anybody who thinks these ideas are "radical" or "leftist" clearly understands nothing about politics.
just Robert North Carolina Jan. 23
The shift claimed by Mr. Edsall among democratic voters who claim to be liberal or progressive is more illusion than reality. With President Obama more democrats are willing and indeed proud that our party represents the cutting edge principle that we protect the needs and interests of those struggling to find a place in our society. For a long time Democrats bought into the notion that the word liberal was some how shameful. But now with the machinations of a McConnell and Trump it becomes obvious that Democratic principles of justice for all and fighting for economic equality are not outside ideas, but actually central to the growth of our country. No longer will we kow tow to a false stilted opinion, but stand up proudly for what we believe and fight for.
Shenoa United States Jan. 24
AOC behaves like a sanctimonious know-it-all teenager....entertaining for about 5 minutes, then just plain annoying and tiresome. Does not bode well for the Democratic Party,...
Nima Toronto Jan. 23
Actually, people like AOC or Bernie aren't that far left at all. Internationally, they'd be considered pretty centrist. They're simply seen as "far left" because the Overton window in DC is far to the right. Even domestically, policies like universal healthcare and a living wage enjoy solid majority support, so they're perfectly mainstream
Samuel Santa Barbara Jan. 23
I understand what you are saying, but please remember- half of this country thinks- rightly or wrongly- that AOC and many of her ideals are unobtainable and socialist. Whether they are or are not is NOT the point. We need ideas that are palatable to the mainstream, average American- not just those of us on the liberal wings. And I AM one of those. Since you bring up Bernie- how well did that work out? The country isn't ready for those ideas. And rightly or wrongly, pursuing them at all cost will end up winning Trump the next election.
Bob Guthrie Australia Jan. 23
@Jose Pieste Well here in Australia its 10 minute waits for appointments made on the same day. I have MS and see my specialist without a problem. And the government through the PBS prescription benefit scheme pays $78 of my $80 daily tablets. We are not as phenomenally wealthy a country as the USA and we mange it with universal health care. I pay about $30 Australian for each doctor's visit and sometimes with bulk billing that is free too. You reflect a uniquely American attitude about social services that is not reflective of what is done in other modern democracies. I really do feel for you my friend and for all Americans who have been comprehensively hoodwinked by the "can't afford it" myth. You can pay for trillion dollar tax cuts for people who don't need it. Honestly mate - you have been conned.
beberg Edmonds, WA Jan. 23
@Samuel Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has sponsored or co-sponsored 18 bills in the House, including original co-sponsor with Rep. Pressley of H.R.678 -- 116th Congress (2019-2020) To provide back pay to low-wage contractor employees, and for other purposes. 10 Replies
JBC NC Jan. 23
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, as is well documented here and throughout world media, prefers spotlights and baffling interviews to opening her district office and serving her electorate. As with every other media creation, the shiny star that it has made of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez will fade soon. The arc of her House career will as well. 4 Replies
ML Boston Jan. 24
"What pundits today decry as a radical turn in Democratic policy and politics actually finds its antecedents in 1944." This quote in the article should have been the lede. Instead, it appears 66 paragraphs into the article. What is now being called "left" used to be called "center." It used to be called the values and the core of the Democratic party.
jk NY Jan. 23
@Derek Flint There was a reason for the DLC's decision to be more center left. The Democrats were losing and this gave them a chance to win, which they did with Clinton, almost Gore, and Obama. 12 Replies
G. Michigan Jan. 23
@Jason A. Representatives should represent their constituents. For example, if most of the voters one represents want Medicare, perhaps that's a sign that one should reconsider their anti-Medicare views. And think about why constituents want Medicare.
fast/furious the new world Jan. 24
@A. Stanton Don't make anything about Hillary. That ship has sailed.
Christy WA Jan. 23
The leftward swing of the Democrats is in direct proportion to the rightward swing of the Republicans and a gut reaction to the GOP's failure to do anything constructive while in power -- i.e. failure to replace Obamacare with Trump's promise of "cheaper and better;" failure to repair our crumbling infrastructure, and yet another failed attempt at trickle-down economics by robbing the U.S. Treasury with a massive tax cut for the rich that provided absolutely no benefits for the middle class and the poor. As always, what the Republicans destroy the Democrats will have to fix.
ErikW65 VT Jan. 23
@Quiet Waiting, the DLC was officially formed after Mondale's loss, in '85. the DLC's main position is that economic populism is not politically feasible. But I don't recall either McGovern or Mondale's losses being attributed to being too pro-worker, too pro-regulation of capitalism, or making tax rates progressive again. Further, the idea that economic populism has no political value was just disproved by a demagogue took advantage of it to get elected. The RP's mid-term losses and other data points show that people in the middle are realizing Trump's not really a populist. Those economic Trump voters, some of whom voted for Obama twice, are up for grabs. Why would you be afraid that the DP's shift to raising taxes on the wealthy and being pro-worker will result in a Trump victory? 12 Replies
Tom New Jersey Jan. 23
@Michael The cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has increased as a fraction of tax receipts. Twice the as many people go to college as when you went, so the subsidies are spread more thinly. Colleges have more bureaucrats than professors because of multiple mandates regarding sex, race, income, sexual preference, etc. People have not been willing to see taxes raised, so things like college subsidies get squeezed. The US decided in the 1940s that the only way to avoid a repeat of WW1 and WW2 was to provide a security blanket for Western Europe and Japan (and really, the world), and prevent military buildups in either region while encouraging economic development. The world is as a result more peaceful, prosperous, and free than ever in human history, despite "its continuous wars" as you put it. For the US to pull back would endanger the stability that gave us this peace and prosperity, but Trump is with you all the way on that one, so it must be a good idea. Liberal reforms will mean tax increases, especially Medicare for all, but also more college subsidies, which largely benefit the middle class and up. Liberal reformers need to convince the public to send more money to the IRS, for which there is no evident support. Let's not confuse opposition to Trump with a liberal groundswell. 38 Replies
Skanik Berkeley Jan. 24
Why do Political Commentators and Analysts keep operating under the delusion that people vote their skin colour ? People vote their economic interests. I am all in favour of National Health Care Letting Immigrants who have not committed a crime stay and become citizens. But I am also in favour of stricter Border Control as I feel our duty is to the poor citizens of America. Send Economic aid to poorer countries, help them establish just governments. As for Ocasio-Cortez, she is aiming too high and has too many lies about her past to go much higher.
Martin New York Jan. 23
The meanings of these labels--liberal, left, center, conservative--, and of the spectrum along which they supposedly lie, changes year to year, and most pundits and politicians seem to use them to suit their own purposes. When you realize that a significant group of people voted for Obama and then for Trump, you realize how radically the politics of the moment can redefine the terms. The Democrats could create a narrative that unites the interests of all economically disadvantaged people, including white people. Doing so would create a broad majority and win elections, but it would arouse the fury of the oligarchs, who will demonize them as "socialists." But as Obamacare proved, if actually you do something that helps people across the board even the Republicans and the media will have a hard time convincing people that they are oppressed, for example, by access to health insurance. For the oligarchs, as for the Republicans, success depends on creating a narrative that pits the middle class against the poor. In its current, most vulgar form, this includes pitting disadvantaged white people against all the rest, but the Republicans have an advantage in that their party is united behind the narrative. Democratic politicians may be united against Trump, but that means nothing. The challenge will be uniting the politicians who run on economic justice with the establishment Democrats who have succeeded by hiding their economic conservativism behind identity politics.
Marc Adin Jan. 23
I applaude AOC. I am 72 white male. I have been waiting for someone like AOC to emerge. I wish her the best and will work for her positions and re-elections and ultimate ambitions. She is a great leader, teacher, learner, whip smart, and should not be taken likely. Go for it AOC! Realize your full potential.
Mario Quadracci Milwaukee Jan. 23
Enough about her, sheesh
Xoxarle Tampa Jan. 23
Someone as thoroughly imbedded in the establishment as this Op-Ed writer is necessarily going to need to be educated on what the political center of gravity really is. The Democrats have shifted RIGHT over the past few decades. Under Bill Clinton and Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein and Obama. They are not left, not center-left, not center, but instead center-right. They have pursued a center-right agenda that does not engage with the rigged economy or widening inequality, or inadequate pay, or monopolist abuse of power, or adequate regulation and punishment of corporate crime. They have enthusiastically embraced our deeply stupid wars of choice, and wasted trillions that could have been put to productive use at home. The new generation of progressive Democrats seek to move the debate BACK TO THE CENTER or Center-Left if you will. Not the Left or Far-Left. They want to address the issues the current Democrat Establishment have ignored or exacerbated, because they are in essence, the same rarified rich as the lobbyists and donors they mingle with. The issues that affect MOST of us, but not the FEW of them. The endgame of this shift is that Obama engineered a pseudo-recovery that saw the very rich recover their gains, but the poor become MORE impoverished. Such is the rigged economy, 21st Century style. Things have to change, the old guard have to be neutered. Too much wealth and power is concentrated in too few hands, and it's too detrimental to our pseudo-democracy.
JB Arizona Jan. 24
This is the difference between R & D's. OAC may get her support from well-to-do, educated whites, but her platform focuses on those left behind. Even her green revolution will provide jobs for those less well off. R's, on the other hand, vote only for candidates that further their selfish interests.
Panthiest U.S. Jan. 23
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her legislative cohorts are a much needed breath of fresh, progressive air for the U.S. Congress. And I say that as someone going on age 70 who was raised and educated in the conservative Deep South. Go left, young people!
Our road to hatred Nj Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit Unfortunately, the hot button on fox is the word socialism. so undo the negative press there and have a chance of implementing fairer policies. 27 Replies
Roger California Jan. 23
@Samuel "It's easy to go to a rooftop- or a twitter account- and yell "health care and education for all!'" Its not easy to get anyone to listen. The moral impetus precedes the "actual plans," which come out of the legislative process, Why would you be against this getting attention?Unless, of course, you oppose health care and education for all. 10 Replies
PLH Crawford Golden Valley. Minnesota Jan. 24
The further the Democrats go Left with all the cultural politics including white people bashing and calling Men toxic, the further I am heading towards the right. I personally can't stand what the Democratic Party has turned into. We'll see who wins in 2020. I think a lot of people forget what happens in mid term elections. People vote for change and then, after seeing what they wrought, switch back.
RVN '69 Florida Jan. 23
I am a old white male geezer and lifelong liberal living in complete voter disenfranchisement in Florida due to gerrymandering, voter suppression and rigged election machines (how else does one explain over 30,000 votes in Broward County that failed to register a preference for the Senate or Governor in a race where the Republican squeaked in by recount?). I am pleased to finally see the party moving away from corporatist and quisling centrists to take on issues of critical import for the economy, the environment and the literal health of the nation. As "moderate" Republicans come to a cognitive realization that they too are victims of the fascist oligarch billionaire agenda to end democracy; they too will move to the left. So, I for one am not going to worry an iota about this hand-wringing over something akin to revolution and instead welome what amounts to the return of my fellow New Deal Democrats.
ST New York Jan. 23
Too much attention here to this new cohort of self important attention seekers presenting as civil servants. Not one of them has had any legislative experience in their lives how can they do all they say they want. They have no grasp of policy economics and politics. Are they too good to recall the wise words of Sam Rayburn - "Those who go along get along" or is that too quaint outdated and patriarchal for them? Why dont journalists and other pols call them out. Example, AOC calls for 70% marginal tax rate - saying we had it before, ha ha. Yes but only when defense spending as percent of gdp was 20-40 percent, in the depth of WW2 and the cold war, life and death struggles - it is now 5%, no one has the stomach for those rates now, and no need for them to boot. Free school, free healthcare, viva la stat! yeah ok who will pay for it? Lots of ideas no plans, flash in the pan is what it is, it will die down then settle in for a long winter.
fred Miami Jan. 23
There is a difference between posturing as a leader and actually leading. So, there is another, and very direct, way for real Americans to end the shutdown: Recall petitions. With very little money, why not target Mitch McConnell. Laid off federal workers could go door-to-door in Kentucky. The message, not just to the Senate majority leader, would be powerful. And this need not be limited. There are some easy targets among GOP senators. Perhaps Ms. Ocasio-Cortez can achieve greater national standing with a clipboard and pen down on the hustings.
Kathy Oxford Jan. 24
All this fuss over a bright young person who stopped complaining and ran for office. She has a platform. Time will tell how effective she will be. Right now, she's connecting to those young and old who believe we can do better. If you had a choice who would you rather share a beer with?A Trump supporter who has no interest beyond building an ineffective wall or an Ocasio-Cortez supporter, full of ideas, some fanciful, some interesting but most off all energy and light versus fear and hate?
Tintin Midwest Jan. 23
I'm a liberal Democrat and I remain very skeptical regarding the platforms of these new members of Congress. Youthful exuberance is admirable, but it's not sufficient to address complicated issues related to fairness. Fairness does not always mean equity of wealth. Some people have more because they have worked more, worked longer, or took more risks with their money. Should the nurse who worked three jobs to make $150,000/year be made to sacrifice a significant portion for those who chose to work less? Such an anecdotal question may seem naive, but these are the kinds of questions asked by regular Americans who often value social programs, but also value fairness. The claim that only some tiny fraction of the 1% will bear the cost of new programs and will alone suffer increased taxation is simply untrue, and those who are making this claim know it. This tiny group of wealthy knows how to hide its money off-shore and in other ways, as documented in the Times last year. Everyone knows the low-lying fruit for increased taxation is the upper middle class: Those who work hard and save hard and are nowhere near the top of the wealth pyramid. It's that nurse with the three jobs, or the small business owner who now clears $200,000 a year, or the pair of teachers who, after 25 years of teaching, now bring home $150,000 combined. Those are the targets of the proposed "new" taxes. Don't believe the hype. I'm a liberal, and I know what's up with these people. 4 Replies
Woody Missouri Jan. 23
Ocasio-Cortez represents the success of a progressive in ousting a white liberal in a safely Democratic district. While interesting, that doesn't provide much of a blueprint for winning in 2020 in districts and states that voted for Trump. As noted elsewhere in this newspaper, of the roughly 60 new Democrats in Congress elected in 2018, two-thirds, were pragmatic moderates that flipped Republican seats. Progressives were notably less successful in flipping Republican seats.
nora m New England Jan. 23
Just keep in mind that what the author deems "radical" ideas are considered mainstream in the rest of the developed world. We are an extreme outlier in lacking some form of universal health care, for example. Also, while the NYT clearly saw Bernie's 2016 campaign as shockingly radical, the very people Edsall says we must court were wild about Bernie. His message about income inequality resonates with anyone living paycheck to paycheck and the only thing "radical" about it is that he said the truth out loud about the effects of unbridled capitalism. The neoliberal types that the NYT embraces are the milquetoast people who attract a rather small group of voters, so, I am not too eager to accept his analysis. I fully expect the Times to back Gillibrand and Biden, maybe even that other corporatist, Booker. They don't scare the moneyed class.
Tom J Berwyn, IL Jan. 23
Cortez has fire and I respect that. Time to have what WE want, not what they want.
David California Jan. 23
The Dems have been drifting to the right for decades, egged on by pundits who keep telling them to move to the center. Do the math: moving to the center just moves the center to the right. Frankly, Nixon was more liberal than most of today's Dems. A move to the left is long overdue.
Andrea Landry Lynn, MA Jan. 23
The Democrats are the party of the middle class and the poor, and the GOP is a party of the rich. That is the distinction most voters make. 3 Replies
Robert Migliori Newberg, Oregon Jan. 23
The rumblings in the Democratic party may represent a realization that WE THE PEOPLE deserve a bigger slice of the pie. Democrats such as Sanders, Warren and AOC are tapping into a reservoir of voters who have been excluded from the American Dream by design. The new message seems to be "fairness". I think that translates into government which does the most good for the greatest number of people. Candidates who embody that principle will be the new leaders. Ignore at your peril.
AACNY New York Jan. 23
The problem is AOC doesn't really know anything. Not everyone feels comfortable saying it, but it's pretty hard to miss. 1 Reply
Ole Fart La,In, Ks, Id.,Ca. Jan. 23
@Quiet Waiting: if voters believe republicans are helping them economically then follow them off the cliff. Hopefully enough voters will try a more humane form of capitalism. 12 Replies
Derek Flint Los Angeles, California Jan. 23
@chele Me, too!
Steve W Ford Jan. 23
Ms Ocasio Cortez is a partial illustration of Reagan's dictum that "The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so". In the case of AOC she is not only very ignorant but she believes many things that are actually not true. For her to actually believe that the "world will end in 12 years" and simultaneously believe that, even if true, Congress could change this awful fact is so breathtakingly ignorant one hardly knows where to start.
JoeFF NorCal Jan. 23
Maybe it's worth considering that a lot of those spooky millennials, the stuff of campfire scare stories, themselves grew up in the suburbs. They are the children of privilege who have matured into a world that is far less secure and promising than that of their swing-voter soccer moms. Health care, student debt, secure retirement, and the ability to support a family are serious concerns for them. And don't even get me started on climate change and the fossil fuel world's stranglehold on our polity.
ErikW65 VT Jan. 23
@dudley thompson, if you are one of those elite moderate liberals against the "lefties" concern about college and medical costs, protections for workers and the environment, and progressive taxation, then in the end getting your vote isn't worth sacrificing the votes of all the other people who do care about those things. Your "moderate" way may calm those swing voters who fear change, and allow them to vote for the Democrat, but it also demoralizes and disappoints the much larger group of potential Democratic voters that craves change.
Odysseus Home Again Jan. 23
@Jessica Summerfield ..."article described AOC as a communist." And I saw an article describe Ross Douthat as a "columnist"... equally misleading. Will the calumny never cease? 27 Replies
ML Boston Jan. 23
Thomas, this "left" used to be known as the middle. A commitment to housing instead of an acceptance of homelessness. Dignity. A tax system designed to tax wealthy people, not, as we have now, a tax system designed to tax the middle class and poor. Can we all just take a look at what is being promoted -- look at what AOC is proposing compared to Eisenhower era tax rates. We have lurched right so that event center-right is now considered left.
Raul Campos San Francisco Jan. 23
Rage is the political fuel that fires up the Left. Rage also is the source of some very bad ideas. Having bad ideas is the reason people don't vote for a political party in a presidential election. The democrats are now the party of socialism, open borders, very high taxes, anti-religious bigotry, abolishment of free speech, rewriting the constitution, stuffing the Supreme Court, impeachment of the President, and being intolerance of other views. They have also alienated 64 million Americans by calling them deplorables, racist and a host of other derogatory terms. Not a good strategy to win over voters in swing states. They also have attacked all men and white men in particular. They think masculinity is toxic and that gender is not biological but what a person believes themselves to be (noticed that I used the plural pronoun?). So far a long list of bad ideas. Let's see how it plays out in 2020. 1 Reply
Anthony Western Kansas Jan. 23
We need to be careful what we refer to as left. Is the concept that we have access to affordable housing, healthcare, and decent jobs really a position of the far left? Not really. The 1944 progressives saw access to basic life as a right of all people. This is why young educated progressives support policies that encourage success within the unregulated capitalist economy that has been created over the last 40 years. The evidence illustrates that federal and state governments need to help people survive, otherwise we are looking at massive amounts of inequality that affect the economy and ultimately affect the very people, the extremely rich, who support deregulation.
Stephen New Haven Jan. 23
Look at what's going on in Venezuela! Let's not go this direction. 1 Reply
Kathy Oxford Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit The Republicans great skill has been selling lies to the socially conservative to get their greedy financial agenda through. They have never cared about their voters other than how best to spin their rhetoric. 27 Replies
Kurt Pickard Murfreesboro, TN Jan. 23
Moving left takes a twitter account, a quixotic mentality and the word free. Its sedition arousing rhetoric is blinkered by the lack of a viable strategy to support and move it forward. Liberals thrive on the free media attention which feeds their rancor and aplomb. Liberals are the infants of the Democratic Party. They're young, cute and full of amusing antics. They have an idyllic view of what the world can be but without efficacy. When they are challenged, or don't get enough attention, they revert to petulance. As all mammals do, most liberals eventually grow up to join the Democratic median. Those that don't become the party regalers brought out when the base needs energized. They grow old and fade away, remembered only for their flamboyance and dystopian view of the world. The Democratic Party has never been more fractured since its inception. With close to thirty potential candidates for President, it is going to take a coalition within their party in order to put forth a viable nominee. Then the party infighting will commence which will lead the party into defeat. Democrats must focus on a untied party platform which is viable and will produce results for the American people. Enough of the loquacious hyperbole and misandrous language; it's time to stop reacting and start leading.
Larry Roth Ravena, NY Jan. 24
If it looks like the Democrats are moving strongly to the left, it's because they have stopped chasing the GOP over the cliff in a vain effort to meet them in some mythical middle. That's why the gap is widening; Republicans have not slowed in their headlong rush to disaster. In truth it is the Republican Party and its messaging machine that has been doing its best to drag America to the extreme right by controlling the narrative and broadcasting talking points picked up and amplified by the Mainstream Media. The Mainstream Media has its own issues. Increasingly consolidated under corporate ownership into fewer and fewer hands, it has developed a reflex aversion to anything that looks too 'left' and a suspicion of anything that looks progressive. The desperate battle for eyeballs in a fragmenting market has also taken a toll; deep journalism or reporting that risks alienating any part of the shrinking audience for traditional news is anathema to the bean counters who have financialized everything. Deliberate intimidation by the right has also taken a toll. Republicans have no answers; Democrats do - and that's the gist of it. The real challenge is to prevail against a party that has embraced disinformation, the politics of resentment and destruction - and the Mainstream Media that has failed to call them out on it.
Doremus Jessup On the move Jan. 23
We are looking at a future Speaker of the House. Watch out Republicans, this woman is not afraid of you white, stodgy, misogynistic and racist haters. Your party, once a viable and caring party, is dead.
Clark Landrum Near the swamp. Jan. 23
The Republican Party used to be a moderate political party that was fully capable of governing. Over the years, the right wing of the party assumed control and they became a radically conservative party that basically hated government and did nothing for the benefit of average Americans. As a result, many voters came to believe that a more liberal stance was preferred to what the Republicans had become. Basically, the Republican Party veered sharply to the right and went off and left a lot of their earlier supporters, like me.
Charlie Little Ferry, NJ Jan. 23
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the perfect foil to the Trump twitter fest we've been subjected to for the past 2 years. However, enough of the tit for tat -- I would still like to see the freshman representative put forth some legislation for a vote.
ray mullen Jan. 23
gentrification is bad. white flight is bad. so which is it?
Fred Baltimore Jan. 23
In terms of policies, this "sharp shift to the left" represents a return to the New Deal and the Great Society and a renewed commitment to civil rights. It is a return to things we never should have turned away from.
Larry Long Island NY Jan. 23
@Tracy Rupp Don't be so quick to condemn. The really old white men of today defeated Germany and Japan. Then those same old white men went into Korea and then Vietnam. Ok so maybe you have a point.
David Keys Las Cruces, NM Jan. 23
Shifted to the LEFT? After decades of movement to the Right, by the GOP and even assisted by Dems such as the Clintons, etc., this political movement is merely a correction, not a radical shift as your article contends.
RM Brooklyn, NY Jan. 23
Just as the reader comments from yesterday's opinion piece on the Covington School story by David Brooks reveal rampant confirmation bias, the comments here reveal an equally relevant truth: nobody, but nobody, eats their own like the left. The "Down With Us" culture in full effect.
Marc Vermont Jan. 23
I am confused about what message, what issues resonate with the "moderate" people who are disaffected from the liberal message of the Democrats on the left. What policies would bring them to vote Democratic, what is it about health care for all, a living wage and opening the voting process to all people are they opposed to. Is it policy or message that has them wavering?
ML Boston Jan. 24
@dudley thompson Do you consider Eisenhower leftist? (highest tax rates ever). How about Nixon? (established the EPA). We have lurched so far right in this country that the middle looks left. I'm sick of the labels -- listen to what these leaders are actually proposing. If you don't understand how the marginal tax rate works, look it up. If you don't realize we once didn't accept mass homelessness and mass incarceration as a fact of life in America, learn some history. We're living in a myopic, distorted not-so-fun-house where up is down and center is left. We need to look with fresh eyes and ask what our communal values are and what America stands for. 5 Replies
Blunt NY Jan. 23
Here is a thought I would like to share with the New York Times: Thomas Edsall's article is excellent. The corollary I draw from it that the paper that projects itself as the voice of the liberals in this county has to understand that it has fallen behind times. If the statistics and commentary accompanying it is a criteria to consider, The Times should move to a more progressive editorial platform. The sooner, the better! The support given by this paper to Hillary Rodham Clinton over Bernie Sanders in 2016 is unforgivable. The attitude exhibited towards Elizabeth Warren is hardy different. This has to change if you want to keep your relevance unless you believe publishing Edsall's essay is just part of your "diversity" policy. What the followers of AOC and other progressives are clamoring for are very basic human needs that have been delivered in affluent (and not so affluent) societies all over the globe. No need to name those countries, by now the list is well known. What do we need delivered: Universal Healthcare, Free Public Education K through College, No Citizens United, Total Campaign Finance Reform, Regulation of Wall Street, Regulation of Pharma, Regulation of Big Tech, Gender Equality, 21st Century Infrastructure. All paid for by cutting the Military and Defense Budget Waste (cf Charlie Grassley, a buddy of Karl Marx) and taxing the top percent at levels AOC cites and Professors Suez and Zucman concur with in their Times OpEd.
David Emmaus, PA Jan. 23
Democrats need to win elections first. Progressive ideas may have support on the coasts and cities but fall flat in red states where there is still widespread dislike for immigrants and minorities and strong opposition to "having my hard-earned tax money supporting free stuff for the undeserving who can't/won't take care of themselves." Because the Electoral College gives red states disproportionate representation the Democrats must win some red states to win a presidential election. Running on a strong progressive platform won't work in those Republican-majority states. What Democrats need is a "Trojan Horse" candidate. Someone who can win with a moderate message that has broad appeal across the entire country but who will support and enact a strong progressive agenda once he/she is elected. And on a local election level, Democrats need to field candidates whose message is appropriate for their local constituency -- progressive in liberal states, more moderate in conservative areas. Winning elections comes first. Let's do what it takes to win and not let our progressive wish list blind us to the importance of winning elections.
Joe Schmoe Brooklyn Jan. 23
@Westchester Guy: Leftists want amnesty and, eventually, open borders. This is utterly and totally incompatible with their push for "free" college, universal health care, and so forth. The fiscal infeasibility is so obvious that one could only believe in these coexisting policies if they were blinded by something, like Trump hatred, or just plain dishonest. The "leftist" label for the new Democrat party is entirely appropriate. You also have your own bigots to counter Trump. The difference is that their bigotry is sanctioned by most of the mainstream media.
MDCooks8 West of the Hudson Jan. 23
Has AOC or any other liberal offered any feasible policy to improve the lives of the people they claim to help? Just take a good hard look at NYC where AOC is from which for many years the Public Housing Authority cannot even provide adequate heat in the building the city owns. So while AOC dreams of taxing the wealthy 70% perhaps she needs to slow down and catch up to reality to realize what she offers is only building towards another Venezuela.
Kip Leitner Philadelphia Jan. 23
This article is half poison pill. By reading it, you learn a lot about Democratic Party voting patterns, but you also have to endure a number of false ideas, the worst of which is Edsall's warning that radical Democrats will foment internal chaos leading to electoral loss. The fact is, it is the corporate democrats, who in the last 40 years abandoned the base of working, blue collar democrats in favor of their Wall Street overlords. It is the corporate democrats who created the billionaire class by reducing corporate tax rates. It is the corporate Democrats who by reducing marginal tax rates created the plutocracy. It is the corporate democrats who gave *Trillions of Dollars* to Bush and Obama's perpetual wars and $70 Billion more than the defense department asks. This impoverishing the citizenry with debt is their legacy as much as the Republicans. This shoveling of money to the 1% who abandoned the middle class has been a train ridden by Corporate Democrats. It is the Corporate Democrats who caused all this friction by letting the middle class fall off the edge of the economic cliff -- all the while proclaiming how much they care. They show up on MLK day and read flowing speeches from the podium when what we really need is activism and changes in marginal tax rates, defense spending and the Medical Insurance and care oligopoly. So now there is revolution brewing in response to the Corporate Democrats' appeasement of the Oligarchy? Good. Bring it on.
Jeremiah Crotser Houston Jan. 23
Honestly, it is the centrist, neoliberal wing of the Democratic party that gave up on talking to the Midwest and focused on the coasts. That was the Clinton strategy and it didn't work. Although AOC comes from an urban area, her message is broad: she is for the struggling, working person. Edsall underestimates AOC's basis in economic thinking and her appeal to flyover country. She speaks carefully and justly to social issues, but she also speaks to the "kitchen table" issues that middle America is concerned with--in a much more real way than the neoliberal Dems have figured out how to.
MD Monroe Hudson Valley Jan. 23
Please end you outsized coverage of AOC. I really don't know how you justify all the news coverage. She is one of 435 representatives, and a new one at that. No accomplishments, just a large Instagram following.
Steve C Boise, Idaho Jan. 23
@John Patt Everybody over the age of 50 should apologize for giving our young people catastrophic climate change, endless wars, broken healthcare, crumbling infrastructure, ever widening income and wealth disparates, unaffordable post-secondary education, rampant gun violence, no voice for labor. We over 50 didn't care enough to vote and to make enough political noise to keep these things from happening. We over 50 all have personal responsibilities for this messed up world we're leaving the young. 6 Replies
Steve C Boise, Idaho Jan. 23
@Zor The answer is no. Remember Schumer saying that for every urban vote Democrats lost by running Hillary, they would gain 2 suburban votes. It didn't turn out that way. The centrist, corporatist Democrats (including Hillary and Biden) have no clue how to reach the working class of any race. The working class focus of AOC is the Democratic Party's best chance at a future. But of course the establishment, centrist, corporatist Democrats are still focused on helping their big money donors. Here's another question: Just how are establishment, centrist, corporatist Democrats different from Republicans?
Evan Walsh Los Angeles Jan. 24
Here's my thing- though I'm a deeply liberal person who shares a lot of political beliefs with Ocasio-Cortez, I'm am not the least bit interested in her. Why? Because she's one representative of a district all the way across the country from where I live. I care about about my newly flipped district in Sherman Oaks. I care about my solidly Democratic district in Santa Rosa. Just because one charismatic representative from Brooklyn has a good Twitter feed doesn't mean that I have to care or that she deserves a highly-placed role on an important committee. She's a freshman. Let her learn. And then, go ahead and tell me she deserves a seat.
Bob Guthrie Australia Jan. 23
There really is not a far left in America. You guys have this weird aversion to moderate sensible socialism that -as the saying goes- is only in America. Our conservative government in Australia accepts it as a given the things AOC is fighting for. There is nothing weird about universal health care in modern advanced countries. The conservatives have a magic word in the USA that they us as a bogeyman and the word is socialism. Ironically they don't mind Trump snuggling up to extreme left dictators like Kim and ex KGB Soviet operatives like Don's supervisor Vlad Putin who by definition had to be a card carrying communist to get to his position. But moderate socialism is all over northern Europe, NZ, UK and Australia. You people are oppressed by conservatives playing the "that's socialism" card at every turn. We never ask where does the money come from? here. The money seems to be there in all the countries that take care of the health of their citizens. America is a wonderful country with fantastic people- I love visiting... but to use an Aussie word - crikey I wouldn't want to live there. 1 Reply
Pono Big Island Jan. 23
A.O.C. Alexandria "Overexposure" Cortez. This young woman is talented but should pace herself a bit. It's not a marathon but it's not a sprint either. Let's call it "middle distance" in track terms. You need to save some breath for when it's really needed. Pace for long term influence on policy. Or be a "one hit wonder".
Cass Missoula Jan. 23
@Matt Williams Exactly. I'm a Democratic in a conservative area, and all my Democrat friends think this woman is nuts. Our Senator Jon Tester is wonderful. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Hard pass. 9 Replies
MikeG Left Coast Jan. 23
@Cass You may self-identify as a moderate but you sound like a conservative. Please go join the other party of no ideas if AOC strikes you as radical. The majority of Democrats don't agree with you.
Eero East End Jan. 23
Ideology fails when it meets reality. Trump and McConnell are busy teaching the American middle class what it is to be reduced to poverty - health care they can't afford, rising taxes on those who have had some economic success, elimination of well paying jobs, and on and on. Those voters are understandably interested in pocket book issues, the resurgence of progressive candidates meets this newly emphasized need. In addition, look at the population demographics. The baby boomers were a "bump" in population, they in turn have produced a new bump in their children, who are now adults. The boomers were quite left, their children have inherited some of this belief system - equal rights and protection and support of those with less opportunity. The voters in general are also completely fed up with politicians lying to them and taking away their benefits. They generally have a mistrust both of the right wing destruction of our norms, and the Democrats failure to fight back (Garland should have been appointed even in the face of McConnell's calumny). The new face of the Democratic party feeds pocketbook issues, a belief that America is, in fact, a melting pot, and the need for restoration of our Democracy. This pretty much covers all the bases, the Democrats just need to get better at educating the populace.
Zor OH Jan. 23
By and large, the majority of 2600+ counties that Trump carried are not economically well off. However, they are socially very traditional. Do the Democrats have a message that will resonate with millions of these traditional white middle/lower middle class voters in the hinterland? 1 Reply
bored critic usa Jan. 23
have you listened to her interviews? she doesn't say much of anything. all political about all these socialist ideas with no means or method of how to get there. and thank goodness she has no clue how to get there
Andrew NY Jan. 23
I used to be friends with a very high-achieving guy I met as a 15-year-old on a teen summer tour in Israel, run by the national Reform synagogue movement, in 1985. In the course of our frienship spanning the final years of high school through the beginning of college, gradually fading to an email or 2 once every couple years; our different paths & outlooks became very stark, though we'd both call ourselves liberals. My friend left no stone unturned in his unambivalent achievement orientation, embracing w/religious fervor the absolute virtue of success, the unimpeachable morality & integrity of our meritocracy, & meritocratic ideals/ethos. Naturally, he wound up at Harvard, majoring in government, followed by Harvard Law. What struck me throughout was the unvarnished "empiricism" of his outlook: rarefied, lofty principles or romantic ideals seemed alien: the nitty gritty of practical & procedural realities were the whole picture. The one time we explicitly discussed comparative politics, he only gravitated toward the topic of Harold Washington's coalition-building prowess. He was an ardent Zionist ("Jewish homeland!"), with little apparent interest in theology or spirituality for that matter. Eventually he went into corporate law, negotiating executive compensation. I think he epitomized the Clinton Democrat: A "Social justice," equal opportunity for all, meritocracy "synthesis." In a word, that peculiarly "practical," pragmatic liberalism was *ultimately conservative*.
rantall Massachusetts Jan. 23
Let us all remember that since Reagan the "center" has moved decidedly right. So when we talk about a move left, we are moving back to where we were in the 1950s-1970's. For example take AOC's tax proposal. Right out of that time period. Look at the GOP platform in the 1950's. It reads like a progressive platform today. So let's put this in perspective. Everything is relative and we have adjusted to right wing dominant politics today.
Len Charlap Printceton NJ Jan. 23
Edsall looks at the fact the Democrats (and, indeed, the whole country) are moving in a progressive direction. He does not look at the question of why. I maintain that with an increase in educated voters, the country is moving towards policies that work, that are good for the country as a whole, not just for a minority. The other wealthy countries, all with a universal government health care system such as an improved Medicare for all, get BETTER health care as measured by all 16 of the bottom line public health statistics for ALL of their people at a cost of less than HALF per person as we pay. High inequality has been bad for the economy and governance of this country. Look at what happened in 1929 and 2008 both preceded by periods of high inequality. Compare that with the long period of low inequality after WWII of Great Prosperity. Today as a result of terrible SCOTUS decisions, the Super Rich pushing the country towards oligarchy. The situation at our borders was actually better before 2003 when ICE was created. It has perpetrated so many atrocities, rightly garnered such a terrible reputation, why isn't it time to abolish the thing and start over with a new more humane organization. After all, the Germans did not keep the Gestapo after the war. I running out of space, but let me end by saying we are now getting more progressive voters that say that 2 + 3 = 5, and fewer conservative ones who say 2 + 3 = 23 and fewer moderates who want to compromise on 2 + 3 = 14.
michaeltide Bothell, WA Jan. 23
@Concerned Citizen, likewise, public education is funded largely by property taxes, even on those who do not have children in school, or whose children are out of school. This is not "someone else's" money! It is all our money, and this is the way we choose to employ it – to educate all our children, realizing, I hope, that educated children are a major asset of a developed country. 38 Replies
ManhattanWilliam New York, NY Jan. 23
Until AOC starts to achieve some actual LEGISTATIVE VICTORIES, I'm not prepared to follow her ANYWHERE. I'm willing to listen to what she has to say, some of which I agree with and some I question. I lean Left on most issues but I'm not a fanatic, and fanatics exist on BOTH sides of the political spectrum. I believe that one must PROVE themselves before being beatified. In substance, I'm open to the "new wing" of the Democratic party which I am, officially, a member of. Let me add that I will NEVER cast a vote for anyone calling themselves a Republican because that very label is forever tainted in my book. But I don't much care for the 'tit for tat' Tweeting from AOC either, writing about Joe Lieberman (whom I do not like) "who dat"? What is "dat", Miss AOC?
PeterC BearTerritory Jan. 23
The insane part of this never gets addressed. Why should Americans political interests and aspirations be controlled by two monopolistic parties? 1 Reply
Mathias Weitz Frankfurt aM, Germany Jan. 23
The country may be in a need of a more social agenda, but this agenda must perceptible help the depressed white rural folk first. Nothing will work what make those, who are already falling behind feel like a "basket of deplorables". I hope AOC will find a way not just to become a poster star of the progressive urban left, but also understand the ailing of the depressed rural right.
dmdaisy Clinton, NY Jan. 23
The Democratic Party needs to do a very good job of educating an electorate (and possibly some of its own members) that has for more than 30 years drunk the kool-aid of the "lower our taxes," small government, and deregulation gurus. We have such a predatory capitalism now, with government failing over and over again to reign in huge corporations headed by those who think they should be determining everything from economic to housing to health to foreign policy. Enough already. Most of the young members of Congress need a lot more experience and more immersion in the nitty gritty of creating legislation before they can take the reins, but they can educate their constituents. And maybe they can convince others that everyone gains through a more level playing field.
Lou New York Jan. 23
Calling these ideas left is a joke. AOC and Bernie Sanders would practically be conservatives in Canada and Europe. What we have are 3 unofficial parties: 1. The party of people with good ideas who aren't afraid to speak about them because they aren't beholden to big donors 2. The party of watered down, unpopular ideas that are vetted by 20 pollsters and donors before seeing the light of day 3. The party that gets into office by tapping into people's primal fears, and avoids policy altogether Republicans have been moving the goalposts for decades now, how can you even tell left from right anymore?
michjas Phoenix Jan. 23
@A. Stanton Since 1990, there have been funding gaps, shutdowns or serious threats of shutdowns almost every year. The have become routine tactics in the effort of each party to drive a hard bargain.
SLE Cleveland Heights Jan. 23
Running up the Democratic vote in Blue states by pandering to left leaning views will not unseat DJT in 2020. Winning the popular vote by 3 or 3 million yields the same results. Unless or until we adopt the Nation Popular Vote Intrastate Compact or reapportion the House more equitably, Republicans will continue to exploit the Electoral College's antimajoritarianism. Courting the minority of lefties mimics DJT's courting of his base; last November proved that elections are won in the middle. Appealing to moderates in purple states is the only path to 270. If you have any doubt, ask private citizen HRC how much good the Democratic over-vote did for her.
Barry Moyer Washington, DC Jan. 23
@Bruce Rozenblit What is exceedingly strange to me is that those who rail against socialism completely misread socialism at it's very roots; Family. 27 Replies
Mike Austin Jan. 23
Yes, because all these pundits got 2016 so right. They are people with their own opinions, just like everyone else, except the punditry has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo that has been so good to them for so long. Enough already! Times, you're as much to blame as these pundits for 2016!
Jerre Henriksen Illinois Jan. 23
When progressive solutions are proposed, the opposition yells "socialism" while others bring up the cost of progressive solutions. No one talks about the significant portion of our nation's wealth spent on the military. We don't audit the Pentagon or do due diligence on the efficiency of huge projects undertaken by the military nor do we question the profits of the industrial-military complex. Meanwhile, Russia manipulated our latest presidential race, underscoring the worry over cyber attacks. Climate events in the country mean our citizens experience life changing events not brought on by terrorists or immigrants. A medical event in a family can initiate bankruptcy; we all live on that edge. Our infrastructure projects have been delayed for so long that America looks like a second rate country. Income inequality is ongoing with no sign of lessening. Suicide is on the increase while death by drugs is an epidemic. An education for students can mean large debt; efforts to train the workforce for the technological world are inconsistent. For many of us, the hate and fear promoted in this country is repulsive. Because our society works for an ever smaller number of us, Americans are increasingly understanding that a sustainable, just society works for all it's citizens. We are exhausted by the stalemate in Washington leaving us caring very little about the labels of progressive, moderate, or conservative. We just know what needs to change.
Frank Shifreen New York Jan. 24
Edall's final point that thsese are Democrats returning to Democratic roots and not a wave of radicalism. I along with a lot of other older voters was infected with a kind of gradualism. I voted for Hilary, much now to my dismay. AOC among others is stating what she, and what many of us want. The old Democratic party was a mirror image of Republicans, with taking the same money, voting for the same wars, and within it all a kind of shame,liberal as a kind of curse, where we were afraid to make our own agenda, make our own plan for America. taking the burden, in health care, college education, immigration, is an investment in the future
LTJ Utah Jan. 23
The New Democratic approach in essence is taking wealth and redistributing it, along with promising free goods and services. Is that high-minded or simply a Brave New World. The underlying assumption seems to be the rest of America will not find that worrisome, and that what happened in MA and NY represents a nationwide trend. 3 Replies
Mr. Slater Brooklyn, NY Jan. 23
@A. Stanton Well, she's not the president (thankfully) and you can't predict hindsight only speculate.
Sarah Conner Seattle Jan. 23
These voters are not moving to the left. They are correcting a trend to the right that accelerated with Reagan: the rise of corporate dominance and societal control; the loss of worker rights, healthcare and protections through destruction of our unions; and the mass incarceration of our nation's young African American men for minor drug offenses, thus destroying their futures and communities. These "left" liberals are fighting to bring back democratic norms and values that were once taken for granted among those of all political stripes.
Mark Thomason Clawson, MI Jan. 23
I have always voted in every primary. I have always voted for the most "leftist" available. So did my whole family, and all the people with whom I discussed our voting. The issue was always "most leftist available." That often was not very leftist at all. That is what has changed. Now the option is there. It isn't because we vote for it. We vote for it now because now we can, now the choice is there. What has changed is not so much the voters as the invisible primary before anyone asks us voters. What changed is the Overton Window of potential choices allowed to us. I think voters would have done this a long time ago, if they'd had the opportunity. So why now? Abject failure of our politics to solve our problems has been true for decades, so it isn't mere failure. I'd like to think it was voter rebellion. We just wouldn't vote for their sell outs. Here, that meant Bernie won our primary, and then we did not turn out for Her. We finally forced it. The money men could not get away with it anymore.
Smartone new york,ny Jan. 23
It is strange that Mr Edsall frames Medicare 4 All , Free College , and higher taxes on wealthy as RADICAL leftist ideas .. when it fact each of these proposals have the majority of support from Americans.. The most current poll shows 70% support for Medicare 4 All.. so you are only radical if you DON'T support.
Centrist NYC Jan. 23
Unless the progressives start addressing the concerns of the middle class, they will drive the Democratic Party right off the cliff. You remember us, don't you? People who have tried to do things right and work hard. Granted, our cares and concerns aren't that sexy or tweetable so it's easy for you newly elected firebrands to overlook us. Don't forget, we are the ones who will ultimately foot the bills for your giveaways.
Jerry Smith Dollar Bay Jan. 23
The notion that democrats are moving leftward is borne on revisionist history. There's nothing new or bold being proposed; Zeitz is right on the money.
PK Atlanta Jan. 23
"Medicare for All, government-guaranteed jobs and a higher minimum wage" I have a question to all the "progressive" Democratic voices in Congress - how are you going to pay for such an agenda? Money doesn't just grow on trees. Either you will have to cut funds from another program, or raise taxes. Most of these progressive people favor raising taxes on the wealthy. But what is your definition of "wealthy"? $10 million in annual income? $1 million in annual income? $500k? $200k? Almost all the proposals I have seen coming from progressives involves increasing tax rates for families making more than $200k, either through higher rates, phased out deductions, or ineligibility for certain programs. A professional couple where both are software engineers could easily surpass this threshold, but they are not rich. They struggle to pay the mortgage, save for the future, pay taxes, and provide for their children. Why should they be forced to pay more in taxes percentage-wise than a family earning $100k or $60k? It is for these reasons that I as an independent will never support progressive candidates. These candidates lack basic math abilities and a basic notion of fairness. So if the Democratic party starts to embrace some of the policies espoused by these progressives, they are on a path to lose elections in the future. 1 Reply
Linda Miilu Chico, CA Jan. 23
@AutumnLeaf Mitch McConnell blocked Obama at every turn; he denied him the appointment of a moderate respected Judge to the SC, a Judge the GOP had voted for on the Superior Court. Congress wasted time with 40 attempts to declare the ACA unconstitutional; the Plan was modeled on a Romney Plan in MA. Scalia's Citizens United Decision declared that corporations are people; Scalia knew that he was using a Superior Ct. Decision with a transcription error: word spoken: corporation; word transcribed: individual. Scalia spent a lot of time at corporate lodges, "hunting"; mainly eating until he finally ate himself to death. McConnell spends his time with mine owners. Trump spends his time with lobbyists for Israel and Saudi Arabia. 9 Replies
nickgregor Philadelphia Jan. 23
I think this article underscores the incredible opportunity available to the left if they pick a radical democratic socialist candidate. If they are already winning the college educated crowd that is gentrifying these major urban areas and losing the poorer minority crowd that is voting for people like the Clinton's over Sanders or Crowley over AOC; we are getting the people whom one would think would be less incentivized to vote for our platform and we can gain the people who would benefit more from our platform.Therefore, it is really just a question of exposure and talking to these people. Reaching out to minorities; talking about mass-incarceration, how it disproportinately affects precisely these minority voters that we have to gain; and how the moderate democrats have been benefiting economically and politically from the chaos and inequities in these communities for years. It is a question of messaging. Minorities are our natural allies. They are disproportinately affected by the inequality; and as soon as we can reach them; tell them that there brothers, husbands, sons are coming home, and that we have a job for them to support their family when they do, that is a huge % of voters that will swing our way, and accelerate the pace of our revolution--and what critics will come to remember as the end of their decadence and control over all facets of society, to the detriment of everyone else. The end is coming--and a new, better society is on the verge of being reborn 1 Reply
jmgiardina la mesa, california Jan. 23
Of all of those quoted in this article, the only one who really gets it right is Joshua Zeitz. FDR's 1944 State of the Union address should be required reading for every Democrat, and every Establishment talking head who warns against alienating suburban voters by advocating for a New Deal social safety net. I share the sentiments of many on who have responded by noting that it was, and is, the leadership of the Democratic Party that has moved right rather than the Democratic electorate that shifted left. Don't believe me? Go back through the sixteen years of the Clinton and Obama presidencies and see how many times each referenced Ronald Reagan versus even mentioning Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or Lyndon Johnson.
Jose Pieste NJ Jan. 23
Medicare for all? Get ready for 6-week waits for a 10 minute appointment (and that will be just for primary care). After that, expect to wait 6-12 months to see a specialist. 1 Reply
Len Charlap Printceton NJ Jan. 23
@c harris - Hillary received almost 4 million more primary votes than Bernie.
JABarry Maryland Jan. 23
@José Franco I will not dig out social security trustees' projections of future funding requirements or the possible solutions bandied about by politicians (google them), but one single tweak would eliminate any projected shortfalls. Currently the FICA contribution is limited to earnings of $132,900. Those who earn over that amount pay no FICA tax on the earnings above that level. The person earning a million dollars in 2019 will stop paying FICA on his earnings by mid-February. Applying FICA to all earnings of all earners would keep social security solvent. No raise in retirement age, no reduction in benefits, no insolvency. As to Medicare's solvency and public benefits, see the excellent comments of Len Charlap. 17 Replies
Shenoa United States Jan. 23
There are several issues upon which I and my like-minded moderate family members will cast our votes in 2020: - Border security and the end to the brazen exploitation of our citizenry by the millions of foreign migrants who illegally, and with an attitude of entitlement, trespass into our sovereign country year after year...costing our taxpayers billions. - Reckless proposals to increase government benefit programs that aren't affordable without raising taxes, threatening our already stressed social security safety net. - The rise of Antisemitism and the mendacious obsession with Israel amongst leftists within Congress, as well as within the ranks of their constituents. Democrats will need to address these issues to our satisfaction if they want our votes. 2 Replies
PeoplePower Nyc Jan. 23
Ed, it's time to retire. If you spent time looking at the actual data, Democratic primary voters, particularly those in overly restrictive closed primary states like New York, are older, wealthier, "socially liberal" and "fiscally conservative." They are what we would have called moderate/Rockefeller Republicans 40 years ago, but they vote Democratic because that's who their parents voted for. Most progressive voters today, the ones who support Medicare for all, investment in public higher education, taxation on wealth (you know, those pesky issues that mainstream Democrats used to support 30-40 years ago) are younger and more likely to be unaffiliated with any political party. This is why Bernie did much better in states with open primaries, and Hillary did better in closed primary states like NY AOC won in spite of NY's restrictive primary system. She was able to achieve this because many of the older Democratic establishment voters who would have voted for Crowley stayed home, and she was able to motivate enough first-time young voters in her district to register as a Dem and vote for her. (First time voters in NY can register with party 30 days prior to primary election) Let's be clear though: your premise that Dem primary voters are driving the party's shift to the left couldn't be further from the truth--the progressive shift in the body politic you describe is coming from younger, independent, working class voters and is redefining the American left.
Woof NY Jan. 23
From the NYT , Edsall April 19, 2018 The Democrats' Gentrification Problem "Conversely, in the struggling Syracuse metropolitan area (Clinton 53.9 percent, Trump 40.1 percent), families moving in between 2005 and 2016 had median household incomes of $35,219 -- $7,229 less than the median income of the families moving out of the region, $42,448." Syracuse, a democratic City in one of the most democratic States in the US, so assuredly democratic that Democratic Presidential candidates rarely show up has been left by the Democrats and the Democratic Governor ,Cuomo, in a death spiral of getting poorer by the day That in a State, that includes NYC, the international capital of the global billionaire elite. Exactly, what have the Democrats done to help ?
Dave Connecticut Jan. 23
"Sawhill argues that if the goal of Democrats is victory, as opposed to ideological purity, they must focus on general election swing voters who are not die-hard Democrats." Wow, what an original argument! I have been hearing the exact same thing since I registered to vote at age 18 in 1977. Democrats are always urged to support the "sensible, centrist" candidates who keep on losing elections to Republicans who drag their party, and the whole country by default, even further to the right. JFK was called a communist and worse by pundits like this and he would have won by a landslide in 1964. How about if Democrats for once push for policies that are backed by 90 percent of Americans, like Medicare For All, the higher minimum wage, universal college education, renewable energy and the rest of the Green New Deal and higher marginal tax rates for the rich. I would love to see just one presidential candidate run on this platform before I die so I can fill out my ballot without holding my nose. 1 Reply
Piece man South Salem Jan. 23
Kind of make sense considering how far to the right the Republican Party has gone with the Donald. And he's a guy who was a Democrat at one point. He's a dangerous mr nobody. Let's counter going far to the left so we can come back to some middle ground.
Ellen San Diego Jan. 23
@Len Charlap Canada can also more easily afford universal healthcare and a stronger social safety net because it doesn't have the outsized military budget that we do. 17 Replies
Rob Calgary Jan. 23
@Ronny I agree with you - have a subsidized education - (rather I prefer to say equal access to education) as well as health care guarantees to a greater extent equality of opportunity - which is what all democratic societies should strive for. It's not equality of outcome but equality of opportunity. Children should not be punished for have parents of lesser means or being born on the wrong side of the tracks...
Mr. Slater Brooklyn, NY Jan. 23
Until I see well-crafted legislation that is initiated by her that will help improve the lives of many she's just another politician with sound bite platitudes. She doesn't even have a district office in the Bronx yet to the chagrin of many of the constituents.
mr. mxyzptlk new jersey Jan. 23
@Midwest Josh Perhaps student loans made by the FED at the rates they charge the big banks in their heist of the American economy achieved back in 1913. 38 Replies
bfree portland Jan. 23
AOC is a liberal darling who's stated (on 60 Minutes) that unemployment rates are low because everyone is working two jobs; I might add, that has nothing to do with how unemployment rates are figured and come on, "everyone?" And recently she's stated that the world will end in 12 years if we don't do something about climate change. Come on, this is silliness, ignorance and borderline stupidity. If she's the poster child for the Democrats, then she's the gift that will keep on giving to the GOP.
Andrew M. British Columbia Jan. 23
I grew up during the Vietnam War, and over the years came to admire the American people who ultimately forced their government to withdraw from an immoral (and disastrous) military adventure. This is rare in human history. Rare in American history too, as the follies in Iraq drag on and on to remind us. Perhaps the American people are becoming themselves again. I wouldn't call it drifting left at all.
Sean Greenwich Jan. 23
Thomas Edsall's column is yet another conservative spin on Democrats from The New York Times. Where are the voices of progressive Democrats, who form the overwhelming majority of New York City residents? Of New York state residents? Who form the core of the Democratic Party's support. The Times insists that these conservative voices are the only ones deserving of publication here. Where in the world did the notion come from that The Times was a "liberal" publication?
michaeltide Bothell, WA Jan. 23
@Chris Young, It seems you aonly approve of departments that teach what you consider "productive." If schools become an adjuct to the marketplace, then only the material, quantifiable results will be the metric by which the value of education is measured. This will leave us, as in some ways we are already becoming, a population that emulates robots, and has no use for critical thinking, ethics, or art. The profit in education is in the quality of the students it turns out into the world, not on a corporate balance sheet. 38 Replies
TR NJ USA Jan. 23
It's all good but important to expand the focus on the entirety of the Democrats in Congress - and the amazing age range and gender mix. The opportunities are vast - an intergenerational government of forward thinking, principled women and men. Please media pundits - avoid focus on only 1 or 2. There are brilliant ideas pouring forth - let the ideas from every corner flow! Remember that the intense media focus on Trump, liberal as well as conservative, contributed significantly to what happened in election 2016.

David Gregory
Sunbelt Jan. 23
If by liberal you mean the circular firing squad of the politics of aggrievement, no. My politics fall in line with FDR's Second Bill of Rights. Here he describes them in 1944 "...true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security & independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry & out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made... We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security & prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job...; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food & clothing & recreation; The right of every farmer to raise & sell his products at a return which will give him & his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition & domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care & the opportunity to achieve & enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident & unemployment; The right to a good education." That is where Democrats used to be. Then came the Corporate Democrats, the DLC and the Clintons.
Wah California Jan. 23
This piece misses more than it hits. Where it misses particularly is in it's insistence that the Class interest of working class Democrats pulls the Party right, rather than left, and that the insurgents are mostly young, white gentrifying liberals. This is not altogether false, but misses that many of the gentrifiers are not middle class themselves, but lower middle class young people with huge college debt who could never dream of living in upper middle class enclaves like most of the opinion writers in the Time for example. So they move into the inner city, make it safe for professionals, and then yes, Brooklyn goes white. Harlem goes white. Berkeley loses its working class majority. Etc. The big problem for the left of the Democratic Party is not that its mostly young, white and middle class; it is that the very term "liberal" is now widely understood by working class people as meaning "establishment." And they are against the "establishment". As it happens, so are the young insurgents. This then is the task for the left of the Democrats; to unite the culturally conservative working class with the emerging multi-racial, multi-ethnic youth vote to take down both the reactionary Right and the Liberal establishment. And the only reason such a sentiment seems crazy is that the New York Times, far from being a bastion of the resistance to Trump is actually a bulwark of that Liberal Establishment. Stats are stats but the future is unwritten.
Driven Ohio Jan. 23
This is a shame as most of the country wants middle of the road.
Ralphie CT Jan. 23
AOC is pretty interesting. She's charismatic, fearless....and I'm trying to think of something else. OH, she's personally attractive. If the government gig falls apart she can probably get TV work. But as an intellectual light or a rational political leader -- she is clearly lacking. OF course that may not matter as the earth will come to an end in 12 years. Which is even more ludicrous than saying the earth is only 6000 years old. She is simply spouting far left talking points which are driven by emotion, not rational thought. And she keeps making unforced errors in her public speaking engagements. She really doesn't appear to understand what she's talking about and can't respond to reasonable questions about her policy positions. But then, that's not too unlike much of the left. So maybe she's a perfect fit for a fact free faction which is beginning to run the dem party. 1 Reply
Gloria Utopia Chas. SC Jan. 23
One commenter gave a really insightful look at socialism for corporations and the rich here, otherwise known to most of us as corporate welfare, including subsidies to oil companies, who seem rich enough, but nevertheless, extend their "impoverished" bank accounts for more of our dollars. Successful corporations, will reward investors, CEO's, hedge fund managers, all those at the top, but the worker, not too much for that drone, who was part of the reason of the success of that corporation. Socialism has been tainted by countries with autocratic rulers , uneducated masses, and ofttimes, as in Latin America, religious masses. But, Scandinavia, has shown us a socialism to envy. It's confident citizens know that much of what makes life livable has been achieved. Finland rates as one of the happiest countries in the world. Taxes are high, but one isn't bankrupted because of illness, one doesn't lose a home because of a catastrophic illness, education is encouraged, and one doesn't have to pay the debt off for 30 years or more. The infrastructure is a priority, war is not. It just seems like it's a secure way to live. This is socialism I wish we could duplicate. Does anyone consider that socialism also includes our police, libraries, fire stations, roads, and so much more? Used for the good of society, it's a boon for all, rather than unregulated capitalism which enriches the few at the expense of most of us. 3 Replies
Allentown Buffalo Jan. 23
@Reilly Diefenbach "Democratic socialism" isn't a thing, but implies two contradictory ideals. Social democracy is thing, a good thing, and in line with what Nordic nations have. 38 Replies
Michael Pilla Millburn, NJ Jan. 23
Never has someone gotta so much for doing so little. None of this means anything if it doesn't become law. As a life long Liberal Democrat (there, I said it) myself, I find it infuriating when Liberal/Progressive politicians get out-sized credit for their good intentions while those same good intentions threaten party unity. The Progressive idea of party unity seems to be limited to getting what they want or they'll walk away. They just know better, so there's no need for compromise. Never mind that they have no way of enacting any of this legislation -- and more often than not Progressives lose at the polls. These "kids" need to wake up and realize that there are no moral victories in politics. The ONLY goal of any Democrat has to be unseating Trump and McConnell, everything else is a noise, and a dangerous distraction.
Jake Wagner Los Angeles Jan. 23
I support universal health care, free college for students who meet enhanced entrance requirements and raising marginal tax rates to 70% on wealthy Americans. Yet I do not support an expansion of the EITC, ending immigration enforcement or putting workers on boards of directors. So where do I stand? All my life I've voted Democratic. But there has been a seismic shift in politics. And after the shift I will most likely vote Republican or for a third party. The issue that causes my change in affiliation is the Me Too movement. I find it repugnant that feminists seem to argue that the media rather than the courts should determine guilt or innocence in sexual assault cases. Bill Cosby had an agreement with Andrea Constand in their case. But feminists weren't happy with the outcome. So they resorted to extra-legal means to get Cosby convicted. This included a media campaign in which the NY Times and the New Yorker wrote stories highlighting accusations of 60 women for which statutes of limitations had elapsed. But statutes of limitations are there for a reason. This became clear in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh which degenerated into a trial for rape. Nobody except maybe the accuser could remember in any detail events at the party in which the rape had presumably occurred. So the confirmation became one of character assassination in which Kavanaugh was convicted of drinking beer. I will NEVER vote for any politician who supports the Me Too movement.
Alan Seattle, WA Jan. 23
"... protection from the vicissitudes of market capitalism"? People want protection from monopoly capitalism. The left-right frame is a fallacy. If you put the actual policies on the table, the great majority want single payer, clean elections, action on climate change, etc. Pitting Left v. Right only redounds to tribalism. It ends up with a President who shuts down the business of which he himself is the CEO. That's not great.

[Jun 26, 2019] Signs of neoliberalization: an increase since the 70s in de luxe facilities and bloated administrator salaries

Notable quotes:
"... When administrators make budget cuts, it isn't for recreational facilities and their own salaries -- it's the classics and history departments, and it's to faculty, with poorly paid part-time adjuncts teaching an unconscionable share of courses. ..."
"... So universities have been exacerbating the same unequal division between the people who actually do the work (faculty) and the people who allocate salaries (administrators) -- so too as in the business world, as you say. ..."
Jun 26, 2019 |

C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 23

@Midwest Josh

I don't think that's entirely accurate, and even if true, leaving students to the predations of private lenders isn't the answer. Although I'm willing to entertain your thesis, soaring tuition has also been the way to make up for the underfunding of state universities by state legislatures.

At the same time, there's been an increase since the 70s in de luxe facilities and bloated administrator salaries. When administrators make budget cuts, it isn't for recreational facilities and their own salaries -- it's the classics and history departments, and it's to faculty, with poorly paid part-time adjuncts teaching an unconscionable share of courses.

So universities have been exacerbating the same unequal division between the people who actually do the work (faculty) and the people who allocate salaries (administrators) -- so too as in the business world, as you say.

[Jun 24, 2019] Bernie Sanders' Newest Plan Would Wipe $1.6 Trillion In Student Debt, Fund Free State College

Notable quotes:
"... The massive student-debt jubilee would be financed with a tax on Wall Street: Specifically, a 0.5% tax on stock trades, a 0.1% tax on bond trades and a .005% tax on derivatives trades. ..."
"... By introducing the student-debt plan, Sanders has outmaneuvered Elizabeth "I have a plan for that" Warren ..."
Jun 24, 2019 |

Bernie Sanders' Newest Plan Would Wipe $1.6 Trillion In Student Debt, Fund Free State College

by Tyler Durden Mon, 06/24/2019 - 06:00 34 SHARES

In his latest attempt to one-up Elizabeth Warren and establish his brand of "democratic socialism" as something entirely different from the progressive capitalism practiced by some of his peers, Bernie Sanders is preparing to unveil a new plan that would involve cancelling all of the country's outstanding $1.6 trillion in student debt.

The massive student-debt jubilee would be financed with a tax on Wall Street: Specifically, a 0.5% tax on stock trades, a 0.1% tax on bond trades and a .005% tax on derivatives trades.

Sanders plan would forgive roughly three times as much debt as Elizabeth Warren's big student-debt amnesty plan, which would forgive some $640 billion in the most distressed student loans.

Additionally, Sanders' plan would also provide states with $48 billion to eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. Thanks to the market effect, private schools would almost certainly be forced to cut prices to draw talented students who could simply attend a state school for free.

Reps Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Pramila Jayapal of Washington have already signed on to introduce Sanders' legislation in the House on Monday.

The timing of this latest in a series of bold socialist policy proposals from Sanders - let's not forget, Bernie is largely responsible for making Medicare for All a mainstream issue in the Democratic Party - comes just ahead of the first Democratic primary debate, where Sanders will face off directly against his No. 1 rival: Vice President Joe Biden, who has marketed his candidacy as a return to the 'sensible centrism' of the Democratic Party of yesteryear.

By introducing the student-debt plan, Sanders has outmaneuvered Elizabeth "I have a plan for that" Warren and established himself as the most far-left candidate in the crowded Democratic Primary field. Hopefully, this can help stall Warren's recent advance in the polls. The plan should help Sanders highlight how Biden's domestic platform includes little in the way of welfare expansion during the upcoming debate.

3-fingered_chemist , 8 minutes ago link

My federal student loan monthly statement says I don't have to make a payment. I don't qualify for any forgiveness because I'm responsible. Nonetheless, I pay the loan every month. The balance goes down but every month it's still the same story.

I have to imagine the provider prefers students to see that it says zero dollars owed this month with the hope that they don't pay because it says 0 dollars owed, default, and rack up a bunch of fees and interest that the student doesn't see in the fine print.

The provider can then get paid by the taxpayer no questions asked. Much more profit and payment is significantly faster.

Rex Titter , 18 minutes ago link

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Education costs are in the stratosphere 'because' of conversion of univeristires into neoliberal institution. Which mean that the costs will skyrocket even more.

Somebody once said: If the neoliberal government took over management of the Sahara desert, in five years, there would be a shortage of sand.

The only way to rein in neoliberals in government is to stop giving them so damned much money...

Buy gold and toss it in the lake,,,

honest injun , 24 minutes ago link

The guaranteed student loan program created a mechanism that increases the price of education. Before the program, graduates could expect 10 times the cost of a years' tuition. Now, they'de lucky to get one year. The Americans were pushed out of this business and the UN-Americans replaced them. This goes on for decades until the marks realized that they've been screwed. ... The victims are in full support since they've been systematically dumbed down that it seems like a good idea. It's not. This is a bailout of a failed neoliberal institution.

[Jun 23, 2019] Neoliberalism promised freedom instead it delivers stifling control by George Monbiot

Notable quotes:
"... By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced. ..."
"... Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence. ..."
"... Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. ..."
"... Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself. ..."
Apr 10, 2019 |

Thousands of people march through London to protest against underfunding and privatisation of the NHS. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images M y life was saved last year by the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, through a skilful procedure to remove a cancer from my body . Now I will need another operation, to remove my jaw from the floor. I've just learned what was happening at the hospital while I was being treated. On the surface, it ran smoothly. Underneath, unknown to me, was fury and tumult. Many of the staff had objected to a decision by the National Health Service to privatise the hospital's cancer scanning . They complained that the scanners the private company was offering were less sensitive than the hospital's own machines. Privatisation, they said, would put patients at risk. In response, as the Guardian revealed last week , NHS England threatened to sue the hospital for libel if its staff continued to criticise the decision.

The dominant system of political thought in this country, which produced both the creeping privatisation of public health services and this astonishing attempt to stifle free speech, promised to save us from dehumanising bureaucracy. By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced.

Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence.

Much of the theory behind these transformations arises from the work of Ludwig von Mises. In his book Bureaucracy , published in 1944, he argued that there could be no accommodation between capitalism and socialism. The creation of the National Health Service in the UK, the New Deal in the US and other experiments in social democracy would lead inexorably to the bureaucratic totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

He recognised that some state bureaucracy was inevitable; there were certain functions that could not be discharged without it. But unless the role of the state is minimised – confined to defence, security, taxation, customs and not much else – workers would be reduced to cogs "in a vast bureaucratic machine", deprived of initiative and free will.

By contrast, those who labour within an "unhampered capitalist system" are "free men", whose liberty is guaranteed by "an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote". He forgot to add that some people, in his capitalist utopia, have more votes than others. And those votes become a source of power.

His ideas, alongside the writings of Friedrich Hayek , Milton Friedman and other neoliberal thinkers, have been applied in this country by Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, Theresa May and, to an alarming extent, Tony Blair. All of those have attempted to privatise or marketise public services in the name of freedom and efficiency, but they keep hitting the same snag: democracy. People want essential services to remain public, and they are right to do so.

If you hand public services to private companies, either you create a private monopoly, which can use its dominance to extract wealth and shape the system to serve its own needs – or you introduce competition, creating an incoherent, fragmented service characterised by the institutional failure you can see every day on our railways. We're not idiots, even if we are treated as such. We know what the profit motive does to public services.

The Amazon warehouse in Swansea – the company has patented a wristband that can track workers' movements.

Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

So successive governments decided that if they could not privatise our core services outright, they would subject them to "market discipline". Von Mises repeatedly warned against this approach. "No reform could transform a public office into a sort of private enterprise," he cautioned. The value of public administration "cannot be expressed in terms of money". "Government efficiency and industrial efficiency are entirely different things."

"Intellectual work cannot be measured and valued by mechanical devices." "You cannot 'measure' a doctor according to the time he employs in examining one case." They ignored his warnings.

Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control.

Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself.

Its perversities afflict all public services. Schools teach to the test , depriving children of a rounded and useful education. Hospitals manipulate waiting times, shuffling patients from one list to another. Police forces ignore some crimes, reclassify others, and persuade suspects to admit to extra offences to improve their statistics . Universities urge their researchers to write quick and superficial papers , instead of deep monographs, to maximise their scores under the research excellence framework.

As a result, public services become highly inefficient for an obvious reason: the destruction of staff morale. Skilled people, including surgeons whose training costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, resign or retire early because of the stress and misery the system causes. The leakage of talent is a far greater waste than any inefficiencies this quantomania claims to address.

New extremes in the surveillance and control of workers are not, of course, confined to the public sector. Amazon has patented a wristband that can track workers' movements and detect the slightest deviation from protocol. Technologies are used to monitor peoples' keystrokes, language, moods and tone of voice. Some companies have begun to experiment with the micro-chipping of their staff . As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han points out , neoliberal work practices, epitomised by the gig economy, that reclassifies workers as independent contractors, internalise exploitation. "Everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise."

The freedom we were promised turns out to be freedom for capital , gained at the expense of human liberty. The system neoliberalism has created is a bureaucracy that tends towards absolutism, produced in the public services by managers mimicking corporate executives, imposing inappropriate and self-defeating efficiency measures, and in the private sector by subjection to faceless technologies that can brook no argument or complaint.

Attempts to resist are met by ever more extreme methods, such as the threatened lawsuit at the Churchill Hospital. Such instruments of control crush autonomy and creativity. It is true that the Soviet bureaucracy von Mises rightly denounced reduced its workers to subjugated drones. But the system his disciples have created is heading the same way.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

[Jun 23, 2019] Neoliberal schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education

Apr 11, 2019 |

FionaMcW , 11 Apr 2019 06:36

Schools are teaching to the test. As someone who recently retrained as a secondary science teacher - after nearly 30 years as a journalist - I know this to be true.
Olympia1881 -> Centrecourt , 11 Apr 2019 05:46
Education is a prime example of where neoliberalism has had a negative effect. It worked well when labour was pumping billions into it and they invested in early intervention schemes such as sure start and nursery expansion. Unfortunately under the tories we have had those progressive policies scaled right back. Children with SEND and/or in care are commodities bought and sold by local authorities. I've been working in a PRU which is a private company and it does good things, but I can't help but think if that was in the public sector that it would be in a purpose built building rather than some scruffy office with no playground.

The facilities aren't what you would expect in this day in age. If we had a proper functioning government with a plan then what happens with vulnerable children would be properly organised rather than a reactive shit show.

DrMidnite , 10 Apr 2019 17:04
"Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education."
Boy do they. I work in Business/IT training and as the years have rolled on I and every colleague I can think of have noticed more and more people coming to courses that they are unfit for. Not because they are stupid, but because they have been taught to be stupid. So used to being taught to the test that they are afraid to ask questions. Increasingly I get asked "what's the right way to do...", usually referring to situation in which there is no right way, just a right way for your business, at a specific point in time.
I had the great pleasure of watching our new MD describe his first customer-facing project, which was a disaster, but they "learned" from it. I had to point out to him that I teach the two disciplines involved - businesss analysis and project management - and if he or his team had attended any of the courses - all of which are free to them - they would have learned about the issues they would face, because (astonishingly) they are well-known.
I fear that these incurious adult children are at the bottom of Brexit, Trump and many of the other ills that afflict us. Learning how to do things is difficult and sometimes boring. Much better to wander in with zero idea of what has already been done and repeat the mistakes of the past. I see the future as a treadmill where the same mistakes are made repetitively and greeted with as much surprise as if they had never happened before. We have always been at war with Eastasia...

[Jun 21, 2019] A Slow Death The Ills of the Neoliberal Academic

Highly recommended!
The term Casializatin was repced by more correct term "neoliberalization" for clarity.
Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberalization, a word that says much in, and of, itself, is seen as analogue of broader outsourcing initiatives. Militaries do it, governments do it, and the university does it. Services long held to be the domain of the state, itself an animation of the social contract, the spirit of the people, have now become the incentive of the corporate mind, and, it follows, its associated vices. The entire scope of what has come to be known as outsourcing is itself a creature of propaganda, cheered on as an opportunity drawing benefits rather than an ill encouraging a brutish, tenuous life. ..."
"... Practitioners and policy makers within the education industry have become devotees of the amoral dictates of supply and demand, underpinned by an insatiable management class. Central to their program of university mismanagement is the neoliberal academic, a creature both embraced and maligned in the tertiary sectors of the globe. ..."
"... The neoliberal academic is meant to be an underpaid miracle worker, whose divining acts rescue often lax academics from discharging their duties. (These duties are outlined in that deceptive and unreliable document known as a "workplan", as tedious as it is fictional.) The neoliberal academic grades papers, lectures, tutors and coordinates subjects. The neoliberal provides cover, a shield, and an excuse for a certain class of academic manager who prefers the calling of pretence to the realities of work. ..."
"... Often, these neoliberal academics are students undertaking a postgraduate degree and subject to inordinate degrees of stress in an environment of perennial uncertainty. ..."
"... A representative sample of PhD students studying in Flanders, Belgium found that one in two experienced psychological distress, with one in three at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. Mental health problems tended to be higher in PhD students "than in the highly educated general population, highly education employees and higher education students." ..."
"... Neoliberalization can be seen alongside a host of other ills. If the instructor is disposable and vulnerable, then so are the manifestations of learning. Libraries and research collections, for instance, are being regarded as deadening, inanimate burdens on the modern, vibrant university environment. Some institutions make a regular habit of culling their supply of texts and references: we are all e-people now, bound to prefer screens to paper, the bleary-eyed session of online engagement to the tactile session with a book. ..."
Jun 21, 2019 |

A Slow Death: The Ills of the Neoliberal Academic

by Binoy Kampmark / June 20th, 2019

Any sentient being should be offended. Eventually, the Neoliberalization of the academic workforce was bound to find lazy enthusiasts who neither teach, nor understand the value of a tenured position dedicated to that musty, soon-to-be-forgotten vocation of the pedagogue. It shows in the designs of certain universities who confuse frothy trendiness with tangible depth: the pedagogue banished from the podium, with rooms lacking a centre, or a focal point for the instructor. Not chic, not cool, we are told, often by learning and teaching committees that perform neither task. Keep it modern; do not sound too bright and hide the learning: we are all equal in the classroom, inspiringly even and scrubbed of knowledge. The result is what was always to be expected: profound laziness on the part of instructors and students, dedicated mediocrity, and a rejection of all things intellectually taxing.

Neoliberalization, a word that says much in, and of, itself, is seen as analogue of broader outsourcing initiatives. Militaries do it, governments do it, and the university does it. Services long held to be the domain of the state, itself an animation of the social contract, the spirit of the people, have now become the incentive of the corporate mind, and, it follows, its associated vices. The entire scope of what has come to be known as outsourcing is itself a creature of propaganda, cheered on as an opportunity drawing benefits rather than an ill encouraging a brutish, tenuous life.

One such text is Douglas Brown and Scott Wilson's The Black Book of Outsourcing . Plaudits for it resemble worshippers at a shrine planning kisses upon icons and holy relics. "Brown & Wilson deliver on the best, most innovative, new practices all aimed at helping one and all survive, manage and lead in this new economy," praises Joann Martin, Vice President of Pitney Bowes Management Services. Brown and Wilson take aim at a fundamental "myth": that "Outsourcing is bad for America." They cite work sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (of course) that "the practice of outsourcing is good for the US economy and its workers."

Practitioners and policy makers within the education industry have become devotees of the amoral dictates of supply and demand, underpinned by an insatiable management class. Central to their program of university mismanagement is the neoliberal academic, a creature both embraced and maligned in the tertiary sectors of the globe.

The neoliberal academic is meant to be an underpaid miracle worker, whose divining acts rescue often lax academics from discharging their duties. (These duties are outlined in that deceptive and unreliable document known as a "workplan", as tedious as it is fictional.) The neoliberal academic grades papers, lectures, tutors and coordinates subjects. The neoliberal provides cover, a shield, and an excuse for a certain class of academic manager who prefers the calling of pretence to the realities of work.

Often, these neoliberal academics are students undertaking a postgraduate degree and subject to inordinate degrees of stress in an environment of perennial uncertainty. The stresses associated with such students are documented in the Guardian's Academics Anonymous series and have also been the subject of research in the journal Research Policy . A representative sample of PhD students studying in Flanders, Belgium found that one in two experienced psychological distress, with one in three at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. Mental health problems tended to be higher in PhD students "than in the highly educated general population, highly education employees and higher education students."

This is hardly helped by the prospects faced by those PhDs for future permanent employment, given what the authors of the Research Policy article describe as the "unfavourable shift in the labour-supply demand balance, a growing popularity of short-term contracts, budget cuts and increased competition for research sources".

There have been a few pompom holders encouraging the Neoliberalization mania, suggesting that it is good for the academic sector. The explanations are never more than structural: a neoliberal workforce, for instance, copes with fluctuating enrolments and reduces labour costs. "Using neoliberal academics brings benefits and challenges," we find Dorothy Wardale, Julia Richardson and Yuliani Suseno telling us in The Conversation . This, in truth, is much like suggesting that syphilis and irritable bowel syndrome is necessary to keep you on your toes, sharp and streamlined. The mindset of the academic-administrator is to assume that such things are such (Neoliberalization, the authors insist, is not going way, so embrace) and adopt a prostrate position in the face of funding cuts from the public purse.

Neoliberalization can be seen alongside a host of other ills. If the instructor is disposable and vulnerable, then so are the manifestations of learning. Libraries and research collections, for instance, are being regarded as deadening, inanimate burdens on the modern, vibrant university environment. Some institutions make a regular habit of culling their supply of texts and references: we are all e-people now, bound to prefer screens to paper, the bleary-eyed session of online engagement to the tactile session with a book.

The neoliberal, sessional academic also has, for company, the "hot-desk", a spot for temporary, and all too fleeting occupation. The hot-desk has replaced the work desk; the partitions of the office are giving way to the intrusions of the open plan. The hot-desker, like coitus, is temporary and brief. The neoliberal academic epitomises that unstable reality; there is little need to give such workers more than temporary, precarious space. As a result, confidentiality is impaired, and privacy all but negated. Despite extensive research showing the negative costs of "hot-desking" and open plan settings, university management remains crusade bound to implement such daft ideas in the name of efficiency.

Neoliberalization also compounds fraudulence in the academy. It supplies the bejewelled short cut route, the bypass, the evasion of the rigorous things in learning. Academics may reek like piddling middle class spongers avoiding the issues while pretending to deal with them, but the good ones at least make some effort to teach their brood decently and marshal their thoughts in a way that resembles, at the very least, a sound whiff of knowledge. This ancient code, tested and tried, is worth keeping, but it is something that modern management types, along with their parasitic cognates, ignore. In Australia, this is particularly problematic, given suggestions that up to 80 percent of undergraduate courses in certain higher learning institutions are taught by neoliberal academics.

The union between the spread sheet manager and the uninterested academic who sees promotion through the management channel rather than scholarship, throws up a terrible hybrid, one vicious enough to degrade all in its pathway. This sort of hybrid hack resorts to skiving and getting neoliberals to do the work he or she ought to be doing. Such people co-ordinate courses but make sure they get the wallahs and helpers desperate for cash to do it. Manipulation is guaranteed, exploitation is assured.

The economy of desperation is cashed in like a reliable blue-chip stock: the skiver with an ongoing position knows that a neoliberal academic desperate to earn some cash cannot dissent, will do little to rock the misdirected boat, and will have to go along with utterly dotty notions. There are no additional benefits from work, no ongoing income, no insurance, and, importantly, inflated hours that rarely take into account the amount of preparation required for the task.

The ultimate nature of the Neoliberalization catastrophe is its diminution of the entire academic sector. Neoliberals suffer, but so do students. The result is not mere sloth but misrepresentation of the worst kind: the university keen to advertise a particular service it cannot provide sufficiently. This, in time, is normalised: what would students, who in many instances may not even know the grader of their paper, expect? The remunerated, secure academic-manager, being in the castle, can raise the drawbridge and throw the neoliberals to the vengeful crowd, an employment environment made safe for hypocrisy.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: . Read other articles by Binoy .

This article was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 at 9:00pm and is filed under Neoliberalization , Education , Universities .

[Jun 21, 2019] Men need not apply: university set to open jobs just to women

Since when female sex is the guarantee of the academic achievement ? And why we want party between sexes in academic jobs ?
Jun 18, 2019 |

A Dutch engineering university is taking radical action to increase its share of female academics by opening job vacancies to women only. Starting on 1 July, the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) in the Netherlands will not allow men to apply for permanent academic jobs for the first 6 months of the recruitment process under a new fellowship program. If no suitable applicant has been found within that time, men can then apply, but the selection committee will still have to nominate at least one candidate of each gender. The [insane] plan was announced today and is already attracting controversy.

[Jun 20, 2019] Meritocracy is a Lie by Gary Olson

Notable quotes:
"... Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from "bad" rich people who flaunt their wealth. ..."
"... Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public's collective consciousness but I'm convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged. ..."
May 02, 2019 |
In 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence , a book which drew upon 50 in-depth interviews with Uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a picture of just how they perceived their status.

Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from "bad" rich people who flaunt their wealth. Although one unselfconsciously acknowledged "I used to say I was going to be a revolutionary but then I had my first massage."

One striking characteristic was that these folks never talk about money and obsess over the "stigma of privilege." One typical respondent whose wealth exceeded $50 million told Sherman, "There's nobody who knows how much money we spend. You're the only person I've ever said the numbers to out-loud." Another couple who had inherited $50 million and lived in a penthouse had the post office change their mailing address to the floor number because PH sounded "elite and snobby." Another common trait was removing the price tags from items entering the house so the housekeeper and and staff didn't see them. As if the nanny didn't know

Her subjects (who remained anonymous) readily acknowledged being extremely advantaged but remained "good people, normal people," who work hard, are careful about ostentatious consumption, and above all, "give back." They spend considerable time trying to legitimate inequality and Sherman concludes they've largely succeeded in feeling "morally worthy."

As a follow-up to this study, Prof. Sherman has been conducting similar in-depth interviews with young people whose parents or ancestors accumulated sizable fortunes, wealth they now have or will soon inherit. Sherman's recent piece, "The Rich Kid Revolution," ( The New York Times , 4/28/19) reveals a stark contrast in self-perception from her earlier findings.

First, her interviewees totally "get" the lie of meritocracy as they ruefully skewer family myths about individual effort, scrimping and saving and the origins of wealth. One young woman who's in line to inherit a considerable fortune told Sherman, "My dad has always been a CEO, and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that."

Sherman discovered that whether the immense fortunes came from "the direct dispossession of indigenous people, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt." One response has been that some wealthy people under age 35 have formed organizations to fund social justice initiatives.

Second, many of her respondents have read about racialized capitalism and harbor no illusions about their own success. From access to the "right" schools and acquiring cultural capital to social networking and good, high paying jobs, they readily acknowledged that it's all derived from their class (and race) privilege. Third, they are convinced the economic system is "immoral," equality of opportunity does not exist and their wealth and privileges are absolutely "unearned." Finally, they grasp, often from personal observation, that traditional philanthropy is primarily about keeping those at the top in place, obtaining generous tax breaks and treating symptoms while ignoring the causes rooted in the very social structures from which they benefit.

Beyond the article's hyperbolic title and a certain vagueness about where this new consciousness may lead, the piece -- whether intentionally or not -- does raise issues that demand much wider public discussion.

First, a note about philanthro-capitalism or as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet's son) terms it, "conscience laundering." In Chris Rock's pithy phrase, "Behind every fortune is a great crime" and given what we know about the sources of great wealth -- the collectivity -- these monies should be supporting public needs that are democratically determined not the cherry-picked, pet projects of billionaires. And this reveals another motive behind private charity: the desire to stifle any enthusiasm for an activist government responsible to the public will.

I should add that whenever I hear a philanthropist piously proclaim, "I just wanted to give something back," my first impulse is to shout "Why not give it all back?" That is, I've always been partial to the moral injunction, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48). And although I won't attempt to improve on scripture, I might suggest "From whom much is taken, much is owed."

Second, one might ask about the case where a person of modest means succeeds at something and accumulates a fortune? We've all heard or read ad infinitum, someone exclaim, "Damn it! Nobody even handed me anything. I did it all on my own. I'm entirely self-made." Isn't that evidence of individual merit? No. For starters, as Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune, once put it, "Where would wealthy entrepreneurs be without taxpayer investments in the Internet, transportation, public education, the legal system, the human genome project and so on?" Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has calculated the societal contribution at ninety percent of what people earn in Northwest Europe and the United States.

In addition to the sources mentioned above, just off the top of my head I can list many other factors that belie this powerfully seductive but wholly fictional narrative, one that's also touted to and embraced by many members of the working class: Child labor, Chinese and Irish immigrant labor (railroads), eminent domain, massacres of striking workers, state repression of unions, Immigration Act of 1864, public land grabs, corporate welfare, installing foreign dictators to guarantee cheap labor and resources, inheritance laws, public schools and universities, public expense mail systems, property and contract laws, government tax breaks incentives to business, Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure trust in the stock market, the U.S. military, and a police state to keep the rabble from picking up pitchforks. Another factor that almost merits its own paragraphs is pure luck. By any objective criteria, we can conclude that absent this arrangement there would be no accumulation of private wealth.

Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public's collective consciousness but I'm convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at: . Read other articles by Gary .

This article was posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 at 2:22pm and is filed under Economic Inequality , Meritocracy , Opinion .

[Jun 19, 2019] America s Suicide Epidemic

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention. ..."
"... In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%). ..."
"... Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th. ..."
"... The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country. ..."
"... Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets. ..."
"... Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. ..."
"... One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . ..."
"... The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter. ..."
"... Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception. ..."
Jun 19, 2019 |

Yves here. This post describes how the forces driving the US suicide surge started well before the Trump era, but explains how Trump has not only refused to acknowledge the problem, but has made matters worse.

However, it's not as if the Democrats are embracing this issue either.

BY Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention Originally published at TomDispatch .

We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That's odd given the magnitude of the problem.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans killed themselves. In that single year, in other words, the suicide count was nearly seven times greater than the number of American soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2018.

A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention.

In other words, we're talking about a national epidemic of self-inflicted deaths.

Worrisome Numbers

Anyone who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide or has worked on a suicide hotline (as I have) knows that statistics transform the individual, the personal, and indeed the mysterious aspects of that violent act -- Why this person? Why now? Why in this manner? -- into depersonalized abstractions. Still, to grasp how serious the suicide epidemic has become, numbers are a necessity.

According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control study , between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased in every state in the union except Nevada, which already had a remarkably high rate. In 30 states, it jumped by 25% or more; in 17, by at least a third. Nationally, it increased 33% . In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%).

Alas, the news only gets grimmer.

Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th.

More importantly, the trend in the United States doesn't align with what's happening elsewhere in the developed world. The World Health Organization, for instance, reports that Great Britain, Canada, and China all have notably lower suicide rates than the U.S., as do all but six countries in the European Union. (Japan's is only slightly lower.)

World Bank statistics show that, worldwide, the suicide rate fell from 12.8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 10.6 in 2016. It's been falling in China , Japan (where it has declined steadily for nearly a decade and is at its lowest point in 37 years), most of Europe, and even countries like South Korea and Russia that have a significantly higher suicide rate than the United States. In Russia, for instance, it has dropped by nearly 26% from a high point of 42 per 100,000 in 1994 to 31 in 2019.

We know a fair amount about the patterns of suicide in the United States. In 2017, the rate was highest for men between the ages of 45 and 64 (30 per 100,000) and those 75 and older (39.7 per 100,000).

The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country.

There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last.

Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets.

The Economics of Stress

This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress. Increased competition from abroad and outsourcing, the results of globalization, have contributed to job loss, particularly in economic sectors like manufacturing, steel, and mining that had long been mainstays of employment for such workers. The jobs still available often paid less and provided fewer benefits.

Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. The lack of anything resembling an industrial policy of a sort that exists in Europe has made these dislocations even more painful for American workers, while a sharp decline in private-sector union membership -- down from nearly 17% in 1983 to 6.4% today -- has reduced their ability to press for higher wages through collective bargaining.

Furthermore, the inflation-adjusted median wage has barely budged over the last four decades (even as CEO salaries have soared). And a decline in worker productivity doesn't explain it: between 1973 and 2017 productivity increased by 77%, while a worker's average hourly wage only rose by 12.4%. Wage stagnation has made it harder for working-class Americans to get by, let alone have a lifestyle comparable to that of their parents or grandparents.

The gap in earnings between those at the top and bottom of American society has also increased -- a lot. Since 1979, the wages of Americans in the 10th percentile increased by a pitiful 1.2%. Those in the 50th percentile did a bit better, making a gain of 6%. By contrast, those in the 90th percentile increased by 34.3% and those near the peak of the wage pyramid -- the top 1% and especially the rarefied 0.1% -- made far more substantial gains.

And mind you, we're just talking about wages, not other forms of income like large stock dividends, expensive homes, or eyepopping inheritances. The share of net national wealth held by the richest 0.1% increased from 10% in the 1980s to 20% in 2016. By contrast, the share of the bottom 90% shrank in those same decades from about 35% to 20%. As for the top 1%, by 2016 its share had increased to almost 39% .

The precise relationship between economic inequality and suicide rates remains unclear, and suicide certainly can't simply be reduced to wealth disparities or financial stress. Still, strikingly, in contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in Western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread.

Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. If so, the good news is that progressive economic policies -- should Democrats ever retake the White House and the Senate -- could make a positive difference. A study based on state-by-state variations in the U.S. found that simply boosting the minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit by 10% appreciably reduces the suicide rate among people without college degrees.

The Race Enigma

One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . It increased from 11.3 per 100,000 in 2000 to 15.85 per 100,000 in 2017; for African Americans in those years the rates were 5.52 per 100,000 and 6.61 per 100,000. Black men are 10 times more likely to be homicide victims than white men, but the latter are two-and-half times more likely to kill themselves.

The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter.

According to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve , the white working class accounted for 45% of all income earned in the United States in 1990, but only 27% in 2016. In those same years, its share of national wealth plummeted, from 45% to 22%. And as inflation-adjusted wages have decreased for men without college degrees, many white workers seem to have lost hope of success of any sort. Paradoxically, the sense of failure and the accompanying stress may be greater for white workers precisely because they traditionally were much better off economically than their African American and Hispanic counterparts.

In addition, the fraying of communities knit together by employment in once-robust factories and mines has increased social isolation among them, and the evidence that it -- along with opioid addiction and alcohol abuse -- increases the risk of suicide is strong . On top of that, a significantly higher proportion of whites than blacks and Hispanics own firearms, and suicide rates are markedly higher in states where gun ownership is more widespread.

Trump's Faux Populism

The large increase in suicide within the white working class began a couple of decades before Donald Trump's election. Still, it's reasonable to ask what he's tried to do about it, particularly since votes from these Americans helped propel him to the White House. In 2016, he received 64% of the votes of whites without college degrees; Hillary Clinton, only 28%. Nationwide, he beat Clinton in counties where deaths of despair rose significantly between 2000 and 2015.

White workers will remain crucial to Trump's chances of winning in 2020. Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans , his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse.

The real benefits from the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act championed by the president and congressional Republicans flowed to those on the top steps of the economic ladder. By 2027, when the Act's provisions will run out, the wealthiest Americans are expected to have captured 81.8% of the gains. And that's not counting the windfall they received from recent changes in taxes on inheritances. Trump and the GOP doubled the annual amount exempt from estate taxes -- wealth bequeathed to heirs -- through 2025 from $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million (or $22.4 million per couple). And who benefits most from this act of generosity? Not workers, that's for sure, but every household with an estate worth $22 million or more will.

As for job retraining provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the president proposed cutting that program by 40% in his 2019 budget, later settling for keeping it at 2017 levels. Future cuts seem in the cards as long as Trump is in the White House. The Congressional Budget Office projects that his tax cuts alone will produce even bigger budget deficits in the years to come. (The shortfall last year was $779 billion and it is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020.) Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs.

This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35% to 21% -- an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade. And unlike the income tax cut, the corporate tax has no end date . The president assured his base that the big bucks those companies had stashed abroad would start flowing home and produce a wave of job creation -- all without adding to the deficit. As it happens, however, most of that repatriated cash has been used for corporate stock buy-backs, which totaled more than $800 billion last year. That, in turn, boosted share prices, but didn't exactly rain money down on workers. No surprise, of course, since the wealthiest 10% of Americans own at least 84% of all stocks and the bottom 60% have less than 2% of them.

And the president's corporate tax cut hasn't produced the tsunami of job-generating investments he predicted either. Indeed, in its aftermath, more than 80% of American companies stated that their plans for investment and hiring hadn't changed. As a result, the monthly increase in jobs has proven unremarkable compared to President Obama's second term, when the economic recovery that Trump largely inherited began. Yes, the economy did grow 2.3% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018 (though not 3.1% as the president claimed). There wasn't, however, any "unprecedented economic boom -- a boom that has rarely been seen before" as he insisted in this year's State of the Union Address .

Anyway, what matters for workers struggling to get by is growth in real wages, and there's nothing to celebrate on that front: between 2017 and mid-2018 they actually declined by 1.63% for white workers and 2.5% for African Americans, while they rose for Hispanics by a measly 0.37%. And though Trump insists that his beloved tariff hikes are going to help workers, they will actually raise the prices of goods, hurting the working class and other low-income Americans the most .

Then there are the obstacles those susceptible to suicide face in receiving insurance-provided mental-health care. If you're a white worker without medical coverage or have a policy with a deductible and co-payments that are high and your income, while low, is too high to qualify for Medicaid, Trump and the GOP haven't done anything for you. Never mind the president's tweet proclaiming that "the Republican Party Will Become 'The Party of Healthcare!'"

Let me amend that: actually, they have done something. It's just not what you'd call helpful. The percentage of uninsured adults, which fell from 18% in 2013 to 10.9% at the end of 2016, thanks in no small measure to Obamacare , had risen to 13.7% by the end of last year.

The bottom line? On a problem that literally has life-and-death significance for a pivotal portion of his base, Trump has been AWOL. In fact, to the extent that economic strain contributes to the alarming suicide rate among white workers, his policies are only likely to exacerbate what is already a national crisis of epidemic proportions.

Seamus Padraig , June 19, 2019 at 6:46 am

Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception.

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

Trump is running on the claim that he's turned the economy around; addressing suicide undermines this (false) claim. To state the obvious, NC readers know that Trump is incapable of caring about anyone or anything beyond his in-the-moment interpretation of his self-interest.

JCC , June 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

Not just Trump. Most of the Republican Party and much too many Democrats have also abandoned this base, otherwise known as working class Americans.

The economic facts are near staggering and this article has done a nice job of summarizing these numbers that are spread out across a lot of different sites.

I've experienced this rise within my own family and probably because of that fact I'm well aware that Trump is only a symptom of an entire political system that has all but abandoned it's core constituency, the American Working Class.

sparagmite , June 19, 2019 at 10:13 am

Yep It's not just Trump. The author mentions this, but still focuses on him for some reason. Maybe accurately attributing the problems to a failed system makes people feel more hopeless. Current nihilists in Congress make it their duty to destroy once helpful institutions in the name of "fiscal responsibility," i.e., tax cuts for corporate elites.

dcblogger , June 19, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Maybe because Trump is president and bears the greatest responsibility in this particular time. A great piece and appreciate all the documentation.

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:00 am

I'd assumed, the "working class" had dissappeared, back during Reagan's Miracle? We'd still see each other, sitting dazed on porches & stoops of rented old places they'd previously; trying to garden, fix their car while smoking, drinking or dazed on something? Those able to morph into "middle class" lives, might've earned substantially less, especially benefits and retirement package wise. But, a couple decades later, it was their turn, as machines and foreigners improved productivity. You could lease a truck to haul imported stuff your kids could sell to each other, or help robots in some warehouse, but those 80s burger flipping, rent-a-cop & repo-man gigs dried up. Your middle class pals unemployable, everybody in PayDay Loan debt (without any pay day in sight?) SHTF Bug-out bags® & EZ Credit Bushmasters began showing up at yard sales, even up North. Opioids became the religion of the proletariat Whites simply had much farther to fall, more equity for our betters to steal. And it was damned near impossible to get the cops to shoot you?

Man, this just ain't turning out as I'd hoped. Need coffee!

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:55 am

We especially love the euphemism "Deaths O' Despair." since it works so well on a Chyron, especially supered over obese crackers waddling in crusty MossyOak™ Snuggies®

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 9:29 am

This is a very good article, but I have a comment about the section titled, "The Race Enigma." I think the key to understanding why African Americans have a lower suicide rate lies in understanding the sociological notion of community, and the related concept Emil Durkheim called social solidarity. This sense of solidarity and community among African Americans stands in contrast to the "There is no such thing as society" neoliberal zeitgeist that in fact produces feelings of extreme isolation, failure, and self-recriminations. An aside: as a white boy growing up in 1950s-60s Detroit I learned that if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people.

Amfortas the hippie , June 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

" if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people."
amen, to that. in my case rural black people.
and I'll add Hispanics to that.
My wife's extended Familia is so very different from mine.
Solidarity/Belonging is cool.
I recommend it.
on the article we keep the scanner on("local news").we had a 3-4 year rash of suicides and attempted suicides(determined by chisme, or deduction) out here.
all of them were despair related more than half correlated with meth addiction itself a despair related thing.
ours were equally male/female, and across both our color spectrum.
that leaves economics/opportunity/just being able to get by as the likely cause.

David B Harrison , June 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

What's left out here is the vast majority of these suicides are men.

Christy , June 19, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Actually, in the article it states:
"There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last."

jrs , June 19, 2019 at 1:58 pm

which in some sense makes despair the wrong word, as females are actually quite a bit more likely to be depressed for instance, but much less likely to "do the deed". Despair if we mean a certain social context maybe, but not just a psychological state.

Ex-Pralite Monk , June 19, 2019 at 10:10 am

obese cracker

You lay off the racial slur "cracker" and I'll lay off the racial slur "nigger". Deal?

rd , June 19, 2019 at 10:53 am

Suicide deaths are a function of the suicide attempt rate and the efficacy of the method used. A unique aspect of the US is the prevalence of guns in the society and therefore the greatly increased usage of them in suicide attempts compared to other countries. Guns are a very efficient way of committing suicide with a very high "success" rate. As of 2010, half of US suicides were using a gun as opposed to other countries with much lower percentages. So if the US comes even close to other countries in suicide rates then the US will surpass them in deaths.

Now we can add in opiates, especially fentanyl, that can be quite effective as well.

The economic crisis hitting middle America over the past 30 years has been quite focused on the states and populations that also tend to have high gun ownership rates. So suicide attempts in those populations have a high probability of "success".

Joe Well , June 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

I would just take this opportunity to add that the police end up getting called in to prevent on lot of suicide attempts, and just about every successful one.

In the face of so much blanket demonization of the police, along with justified criticism, it's important to remember that.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:44 am

As someone who works in the mental health treatment system, acute inpatient psychiatry to be specific, I can say that of the 25 inpatients currently here, 11 have been here before, multiple times. And this is because of several issues, in my experience: inadequate inpatient resources, staff burnout, inadequate support once they leave the hospital, and the nature of their illnesses. It's a grim picture here and it's been this way for YEARS. Until MAJOR money is spent on this issue it's not going to get better. This includes opening more facilities for people to live in long term, instead of closing them, which has been the trend I've seen.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:53 am

One last thing the CEO wants "asses in beds", aka census, which is the money maker. There's less profit if people get better and don't return. And I guess I wouldn't have a job either. Hmmmm: sickness generates wealth.

[Jun 17, 2019] Matt Taibbi Exposes The Great College Loan Swindle

Notable quotes:
"... If you want to take the risk of going into debt to attend college, you better come out with skills that are in high demand. ..."
Nov 05, 2017 |

Authored by Matt Taibbi via,

How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole...

On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted '92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.

Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. "This is it, I'm done," he remembers thinking. "I sat there and just sort of felt like I'm going to take my life. I'm going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever."

Nailor's problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.

Bu t he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher's $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan "rehabilitation" program that added to his overall balance. "That's when the noose began to tighten," he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. "In the middle of class too, while I was teaching," he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward "rehabilitation," and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. "Not one dollar of it goes to principal," says Nailor. "I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die."

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. "At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching," he says.

Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. "I'd been there before, that just was the worst of it," he says. "It scared me, bad."

He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. "I don't know why I called my wife. I'm glad I did," he says. "I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it's going to be all right. And she did."

From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.

Americans don't understand the student-loan crisis because they've been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems.

They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.

In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?

In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.

But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam.

It's a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a "big store scheme," like in the movie The Sting : a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.

America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie – sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate – have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams – that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements.

It starts with the sales pitch colleges make to kids. The thrust of it is usually that people who go to college make lots more money than the unfortunate dunces who don't. "A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime" is how Georgetown University put it. The Census Bureau tells us similarly that a master's degree is worth on average about $1.3 million more than a high school diploma.

But these stats say more about the increasing uselessness of a high school degree than they do about the value of a college diploma. Moreover, since virtually everyone at the very highest strata of society has a college degree, the stats are skewed by a handful of financial titans. A college degree has become a minimal status marker as much as anything else. "I'm sure people who take polo lessons or sailing lessons earn a lot more on average too," says Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice, which advocates for debt forgiveness and other reforms. "Does that mean you should send your kids to sailing school?"

But the pitch works on everyone these days, especially since good jobs for Trump's beloved "poorly educated" are scarce to nonexistent. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good job, far from it, but the data show that not going dooms most young people to an increasingly shallow pool of the very crappiest, lowest-paying jobs. There's a lot of stick, but not much carrot, in the education game.

It's a vicious cycle. Since everyone feels obligated to go to college, most everyone who can go, does, creating a glut of graduates. And as that glut of degree recipients grows, the squeeze on the un-degreed grows tighter, increasing further that original negative incentive: Don't go to college, and you'll be standing on soup lines by age 25.

With that inducement in place, colleges can charge almost any amount, and kids will pay – so long as they can get the money. And here we run into problem number two: It's too easy to find that money.

Parents, not wanting their kids to fall behind, will pay every dollar they have. But if they don't have the cash, there is a virtually unlimited amount of credit available to young people. Proposed cuts to Pell Grants aside, the landscape is filled with public and private lending, and students gobble it up. Kids who walk into financial-aid offices are often not told what signing their names on the various aid forms will mean down the line. A lot of kids don't even understand the concept of interest or amortization tables – they think if they're borrowing $8,000, they're paying back $8,000.

Nailor certainly was unaware of what he was getting into when he was 19. "I had no idea [about interest]," he says. "I just remember thinking, 'I don't have to worry about it right now. I want to go to school.' " He pauses in disgust. "It's unsettling to remember how it was like, 'Here, just sign this and you're all set.' I wish I could take the time machine back and slap myself in the face."

The average amount of debt for a student leaving school is skyrocketing even faster than the rate of tuition increase.

In 2016, for instance, the average amount of debt for an exiting college graduate was a staggering $37,172. That's a rise of six percent over just the previous year. With the average undergraduate interest rate at about 3.7 percent, the interest alone costs around $115 per month, meaning anyone who can't afford to pay into the principal faces the prospect of $69,000 in payments over 50 years.

So here's the con so far.

You must go to college because you're screwed if you don't.

Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money

The third part of the con is the worst: You can't get out of the debt.

Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt – preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns – even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.

October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round.

Moreover, Trump has called for the program's elimination by 2018, meaning that any relief that begins this month is likely only temporary. The only thing that is guaranteed to remain real for the immediate future are the massive profits being generated on the backs of young people, who before long become old people who, all too often, remain ensnared until their last days in one of the country's most brilliant and devious moneymaking schemes.

Everybody wins in this madness, except students. Even though many of the loans are originated by the state, most of them are serviced by private or quasi-private companies like Navient – which until 2014 was the student-loan arm of Sallie Mae – or Nelnet, companies that reported a combined profit of around $1 billion last year (the U.S. government made a profit of $1.6 billion in 2016!). Debt-collector companies like Performant (which generated $141.4 million in revenues; the family of Betsy DeVos is a major investor), and most particularly the colleges and universities, get to prey on the desperation and terror of parents and young people, and in the process rake in vast sums virtually without fear of market consequence.

About that: Universities, especially public institutions, have successfully defended rising tuition in recent years by blaming the hikes on reduced support from states. But this explanation was blown to bits in large part due to a bizarre slip-up in the middle of a controversy over state support of the University of Wisconsin system a few years ago.

In that incident, UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university's finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.

After the university was showered with criticism for hoarding cash at a time when it was gouging students with huge price increases every year, the school responded by saying, essentially, it only did what all the other kids were doing. UW released data showing that other major state-school systems across the country were similarly stashing huge amounts of cash. While Wisconsin's surplus was only 25 percent of its operating budget, for instance, Minnesota's was 29 percent, and Illinois maintained a whopping 34 percent reserve.

When Collinge, of Student Loan Justice, looked into it, he found that the phenomenon wasn't confined to state schools. Private schools, too, have been hoarding cash even as they plead poverty and jack up tuition fees. "They're all doing it," he says.

While universities sit on their stockpiles of cash and the loan industry generates record profits, the pain of living in debilitating debt for many lasts into retirement. Take Veronica Martish. She's a 68-year-old veteran, having served in the armed forces in the Vietnam era. She's also a grandmother who's never been in trouble and consid?ers herself a patriot. "The thing is, I tried to do everything right in my life," she says. "But this ruined my life."

This is an $8,000 student loan she took out in 1989, through Sallie Mae. She borrowed the money so she could take courses at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut. Five years later, after deaths in her family, she fell behind on her payments and entered a loan-rehabilitation program. "That's when my nightmare began," she says.

In rehabilitation, Martish's $8,000 loan, with fees and interest, ballooned into a $27,000 debt, which she has been carrying ever since. She says she's paid more than $63,000 to date and is nowhere near discharging the principal. "By the time I die," she says, "I will probably pay more than $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan." She pauses. "It's a scam, you see. Nothing ever comes off the loan. It's all interest and fees. And they chase you until you're old, like me. They never stop. Ever."

And that's the other thing about lending to students: It's the safest grift around.

There's probably no better symbol of the bankruptcy of the education industry than Trump University. The half-literate president's effort at higher learning drew in suckers with pathetic promises of great real-estate insights (for instance, that Trump "hand-picked" the instructors) and then charged them truckfuls of cash for get-rich-quick tutorials that students and faculty later described as "almost completely worthless" and a "total lie." That Trump got to settle a lawsuit on this matter for $25 million and still managed to be elected president is, ironically, a remarkable testament to the failure of our education system. About the only example that might be worse is DeVry University, which told students that 90 percent of graduates seeking jobs found them in their fields within six months of graduation. The FTC found those claims "false and unsubstantiated," and ordered $100 million in refunds and debt relief, but that was in 2016 – before Trump put DeVry chief Schmoke, of all people, in charge of rooting out education fraud. Like a lot of things connected to politics lately, it would be funny if it weren't somehow actually happening.?"Yeah, it's the fox guarding the henhouse," says Collinge. "You could probably find a worse analogy."

But the real problem with the student-loan story is that it's so poorly understood by people not living the nightmare. There's so much propaganda that blames the borrowers for taking on the debt in the first place that there's often little sympathy for people in hopeless situations. To make matters worse, band-aid programs that supposedly offer help hypnotize the public into thinking there are ways out, when the "help" is usually just another trick to add to the balance.

"That's part of the problem with the narrative," says Nailor, the schoolteacher. "People think that there's help, so what are you complaining about? All you got to do is apply for help."

But the help, he says, coming from a for-profit predatory system, often just makes things worse. "It did for me," he says. "It does for a lot of people."

jcaz -> ThirdWorldNut , Nov 5, 2017 7:36 PM

So..... This guy is working ONE job, part-time.... How does he fill the rest of his day?

Take away his student loan, he's still living on $18K/yr- you're still broke...

Moe Hamhead -> Escrava Isaura , Nov 5, 2017 8:05 PM

The real flaw is associating "higher" education with value. Get a job. Earn an income. Find an interest for your free time. Raise a family. Spare the four years of wasted time and money.

NoPension -> Grimaldus , Nov 5, 2017 9:10 PM

Colleges.....those bastions of conservatism.

WhackoWarner -> CunnyFunt , Nov 5, 2017 7:10 PM

Yeah there is a predatory lending story here...

Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:08 PM

If you want to take the risk of going into debt to attend college, you better come out with skills that are in high demand. Otherwise you are much better off going into the military, or going to trade school. BTW, thank the Clintons for making it impossible to get out of student debt through bankruptcy.

Krungle -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:14 PM

If you want to give out loans to kids then you should accept the risk that they might default on that debt and leave you with the tab. Let's stop the coddling the banker bullshit. They lobbied to make this loans extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. They wanted all the profit and none of the risk. Let them assume risk and they'll stop handing out loans to unqualified borrowers.

Boxed Merlot -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:16 PM

Amen! If the money for an "education" is more difficult to obtain, that ought to be a clue as to the value of the information / training one is purchasing. The fact it's so easy to get is all one needs to know about the worth of what's being spewed by those dispensing their so-called knowledge / truth.

Allow the lawful discharge through bankruptcy and punish every single financial institution, (and especially their individual persons who oversaw the process), that has profited off of ballooning "principle" amounts that even come close to doubling an original amount with ties to any government official that voted to place these kind of loans in such a category.

This is madness! "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,..." Isaiah 10:1


t0mmyBerg -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:50 PM

Finally at least one person gets it. The inability to discharge student loan debt through the taint of bankruptcy is one of the greatest financial crimes of the last century. Entirely unAmerican. America used to be all about fresh starts. That is one reason our business life is more vibrant than say many places in Europe with less benign laws. Same goes for individuals. If you go through the pain of bankruptcy there is no reason you shouldnt get that debt discharged. Whomever voted for that law, whether Clintons or others should be beaten to death.

CunnyFunt -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:25 PM

Hobart's 38-week combo welder program costs $16,625. A trained kid willing to travel and work in the field would make more than an engineering graduate who paid a quarter-million for his degree.

ElwinCthulhu -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:35 PM

No mention made of the rats nest Social Justice program$ infesting college and university campuses across the country, at untold cost, worthless sullshit.

PrefabSprout -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:54 PM

But if you go into the military, you get poisoned and dehabilitated by bazillion vaccines, which you can't refuse.

Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 7:11 PM

Not that the student loan thing isn't another banker scam, but the lead story doesn't make sense.

Firstly, educators get loan forgiveness after a decade or two of public service. And there are income contingent repayment plans. And lawyers have, in fact, been able to get these things discharged. None of this changes the scam that is giving out high interest loans to kids to pursue an education. But you might want to start with a sob story that makes more sense. How about a pediatrician with 400k in loans and making 100k a year living in a coastal city? Or how about the art history majors at private liberal arts schools with 200k in debt making $10/hour as a barista? But teachers are one of the few groups that has an actual federal out.

JohnG -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:06 PM

Maybe. My wife is a teacher in a Title I, low income school, and had been for 13 years..... She also has about 13K remaining in student loans, originally federal direct and Perkins loans. With her over 10 years in title I schools, she should be able to get them forgiven, except that she consolidated these loans before I met her, and now they are "serviced" by AES, a private lender, and they are no longer eligible for discharge. This I call the "Consolidation Scam."

bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:15 PM

Should have taken a math course first.

uhland62 -> bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:27 PM

Pay off debt before you have children. There is no law that you must have children, if the debt makes it impossible. I would have liked a lot of tings but could not afford them.

dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:19 PM

Taibbi has some gall to blame Trump, DeVos and others for the student debt explosion, but not one word about Obama or the government's takeover of the student loan market as part of Obamacare? The student loan market was folded into the ACA as part of the fake accounting to make the ACA numbers "work". Every market the govenrment insinuates itself into - housing, health care, college tuition, etc. - gets distorted and costs explode. Taibbi's yet another dishonest liberal.

TheLastTrump -> dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:31 PM

Yikes- is this factual? If so fuck him. All name, no cattle.

Obama began his turn as destroyer in chief at the height of the Great Recession, everyone & their brother was running into the safety of college & student loans to pay the bills. I recall watching the local parking lots swell. :) So there's that.

But numbers are off the charts every year because younger millennials expect the govt to forgive all those loans at some point. That's how many thought 20 years ago & it's worse today.

dwboston -> TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 9:11 PM

It is:

"The nexus between the student loan program and ObamaCare is purely opportunistic. As the Affordable Care Act was passing through Congress, its wheels greased by the wholly fraudulent assertion that it didn't need 60 votes to pass the Senate, the administration decided to put in a provision eliminating the private student loan industry, fully federalizing the program. What was not widely understood at the time was that it hoped to raid the funds paid by students to provide money for the bottomless pit known as ObamaCare"

allgoodmen , Nov 5, 2017 7:22 PM

Good article from Matt Taibbi, but you can count on this bolshevik to leave out Clinton complicity in the for-profit student loan scandals:

TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 7:26 PM

American college farm. Biggest swindle there is. Your education is an afterthought.

kenny500c , Nov 5, 2017 7:30 PM

No reason student debt should be treated differently from other debts, allow it to be written off in BK court.

[Jun 17, 2019] Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.
Notable quotes:
"... "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, ..."
"... 1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU. ..."
"... Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy. ..."
"... The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget. ..."
"... JUST HAD AN IDEA THAT MIGHT LIMIT THE DAMAGE OF THESE PHONEY ONLINE COLLEGES (pardon shouting, but I think it's justified): ..."
"... of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think? ..."
"... Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. ..."
"... Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles? ..."
Thomas Piketty on a theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!:
Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy in the US: ...the amount of household debt and even more recently of student debt in the U.S. is something that is really troublesome and it reflects the very large rise in tuition in the U.S. a very large inequality in access to education. I think if we really want to promote more equal opportunity and redistribute chances in access to education we should do something about student debt. And it's not possible to have such a large group of the population entering the labor force with such a big debt behind them. This exemplifies a particular problem with inequality in the United States, which is very high inequality and access to higher education. So in other countries in the developed world you don't have such massive student debt because you have more public support to higher education. I think the plan that was proposed earlier this year in 2015 by President Obama to increase public funding to public universities and community college is exactly justified.
This is really the key for higher growth in the future and also for a more equitable growth..., you have the official discourse about meritocracy, equal opportunity and mobility, and then you have the reality. And the gap between the two can be quite troublesome. So this is like you have a problem like this and there's a lot of hypocrisy about meritocracy in every country, not only in the U.S., but there is evidence suggesting that this has become particularly extreme in the United States. ... So this is a situation that is very troublesome and should rank very highly in the policy agenda in the future in the U.S.

DrDick -> Jeff R Carter:

"college is heavily subsidized"

Bwahahahahahahaha! *gasp*

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.

cm -> to DrDick...

I don't know what Jeff meant, but "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, don't you think? Subsidies don't have to be paid directly to the recipient. The people who are getting the student loans don't get to keep the money (but they do get to keep the debt).

DrDick -> to cm...

No I do not agree. If anything, they are a subsidy to the finance industry (since you cannot default on them). More basically, they do not make college more affordable or accessible (his point).

cm -> to DrDick...

Well, what is a subsidy? Most economic entities don't get to keep the money they receive, but it ends up with somebody else or circulates. If I run a business and somebody sends people with money my way (or pays me by customer served), that looks like a subsidy to me - even though I don't get to keep the money, much of it paid for operational expenses not to forget salaries and other perks.

Just because it is not prearranged and no-strings (?) funding doesn't mean it cannot be a subsidy.

The financial system is involved, and benefits, whenever money is sloshing around.

Pinkybum -> to cm...

I think DrDick has this the right way around. Surely one should think of subsidies as to who the payment is directly helping. Subsidies to students would lower the barrier of entry into college. Subsidies to colleges help colleges hire better professors, offer more classes, reduce the cost of classes etc. Student loans are no subsidy at all except to the finance industry because they cannot be defaulted on and even then some may never be paid back because of bankruptcies.

However, that is always the risk of doing business as a loan provider. It might be interesting to assess the return on student loans compared to other loan instruments.

mrrunangun -> to Jeff R Carter...

The cost of higher education has risen relative to the earning power of the student and/or the student's family unless that family is in the top 10-20% wealth or income groups.

50 years ago it was possible for a lower middle class student to pay all expenses for Northwestern University with his/her own earnings. Tuition was $1500 and room + board c $1000/year. The State of Illinois had a scholarship grant program and all you needed was a 28 or 29 on the ACT to qualify for a grant that paid 80% of that tuition. A male student could make $2000 in a summer construction job, such as were plentiful during those booming 60s. That plus a low wage job waiting tables, night security, work-study etc could cover the remaining tuition and expense burden.

The annual nut now is in excess of $40,000 at NU and not much outside the $40,000-50,000 range at other second tier or elite schools.

The state schools used to produce the bedrock educated upper middle class of business and professional people in most states west of the seaboard. Tuition there 50 years ago was about $1200/year and room and board about $600-800 here in the midwest. Again you could put yourself through college waiting tables part-time. It wasn't easy but it was possible.

No way a kid who doesn't already possess an education can make the tuition and expenses of a private school today. I don't know what the median annual family income was in 1965 but I feel confident that it was well above the annual nut for a private college. Now it's about equal to it.

mrrunangun -> to mrrunangun...

1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU.

anne -> to 400 ppm CO2...

Linking for:

Click on "Share" under the graph that is initially constructed and copy the "Link" that appears:

March 22, 2015

Federal debt, 1966-2014

This allows a reader to understand how the graph was constructed and to work with the graph.


The US spends half the money the entire world spends on war, that is success!

Massive student debt, huge doses poverty, scores of thousands [of annual neglect related] deaths from the wretched health care system etc are not failure!


Poor education is the enemy of meritocracy. Costly, bloated administrations full of non-educators there to pamper and pander to every possible complaint and special interest - that is the enemy of meritocracy.

Convincing kids to simple "follow their dreams" regardless of education cost and career potential is the enemy of meritocracy. Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy.

Manageable student debt is no great enemy of meritocracy.

cm -> to tew...

This misses the point, aside frm the victim blaming. Few people embark on college degrees to "follow their dream", unless the dream is getting admission to the middle class job market.

When I was in elementary/middle school, the admonitions were of the sort "if you are not good in school you will end up sweeping streets" - from a generation who still saw street cleaning as manual labor, in my days it was already mechanized.

I estimate that about 15% or so of every cohort went to high school and then college, most went to a combined vocational/high school track, and some of those then later also went college, often from work.

This was before the big automation and globalization waves, when there were still enough jobs for everybody, and there was no pretense that you needed a fancy title to do standard issue work or as a social signal of some sort.

Richard H. Serlin:

Student loans and college get the bulk of the education inequality attention, and it's not nearly enough attention, but it's so much more. The early years are so crucial, as Nobel economist James Heckman has shown so well. Some children get no schooling or educational/developmental day care until almost age 6, when it should start in the first year, with preschool starting at 3. Others get high quality Montessori, and have had 3 years of it by the time they enter kindergarten, when others have had zero of any kind of education when they enter kindergarten.

Some children spend summers in high quality summer school and educational programs; others spend three months digressing and learning nothing. Some children get SAT prep programs costing thousands, and high end educational afterschool programs; others get nothing after school.

All these things should be available in high quality to any child; it's not 1810 anymore Republicans, the good old days of life expectancy in the 30s and dirt poverty for the vast majority. We need just a little more education in the modern world. But this also makes for hugely unequal opportunity.

Observer -> to Observer...

Data on degree by year ...

Observer -> to Syaloch...

One needs to differentiate between costs (total dollars spent per student credit hour or degree, or whatever the appropriate metric is) and price (what fraction of the cost is allocated to the the end-user student).

Note that the level of state funding impacts price, not cost; that discussion is usually about cost shifting, not cost reduction.

I'd say that the rate of increase in costs is, more or less, independent of the percent of costs borne by the state. You can indeed see this in the increase in private schools, the state funding is small/nil (particularly in schools without material endowments, where actual annual fees (prices) must closely actual match annual costs). Price discounts and federal funding may both complicate this analysis.

I think much more effort should be spent on understanding and controlling costs. As with health care, just saying "spend more money" is probably not the wise or even sustainable path in the long term.

Costs were discussed at some length here a year(?) or so ago. There is at least one fairly comprehensive published analysis of higher education costs drivers. IIRC, their conclusion was that there were a number of drivers - its not just food courts or more administrators. Sorry, don't recall the link.

Syaloch -> to cm...

Actually for my first job out of college at BLS, I basically was hired for my "rounded personality" combined with a general understanding of economic principles, not for any specific job-related skills. I had no prior experience working with Laspeyres price indexes, those skills were acquired through on-the-job training. Similarly in software development there is no degree that can make you a qualified professional developer; the best a degree can do is to show you are somewhat literate in X development language and that you have a good understanding of general software development principles. Most of the specific skills you'll need to be effective will be learned on the job.

The problem is that employers increasingly want to avoid any responsibility for training and mentoring, and to shift this burden onto schools. These institutions respond by jettisoning courses in areas deemed unnecessary for short-term vocational purposes, even though what you learn in many of these courses is probably more valuable and durable in the long run than the skills obtained through job-specific training, which often have a remarkably short shelf-life. (How valuable to you now is all that COBOL training you had back in the day?)

I guess the question then is, is the sole purpose of higher education to provide people with entry-level job skills for some narrowly-defined job description which may not even exist in a decade? A lot of people these days seem to feel that way. But I believe that in the long run it's a recipe for disaster at both the individual and the societal level.

Richard H. Serlin -> to Observer...


The research is just not on you side, as Heckman has shown very well. Early education and development makes a huge difference, and at age 5-7 (kindergarten) children are much better off with more schooling than morning to noon. This is why educated parents who can afford it pay a lot of money for a full day -- with afterschool and weekened programs on top.

Yes, we're more educated than 1810, but I use 1810 because that's the kind of small government, little spending on education (you want your children educated you pay for it.) that the Republican Party would love to return us to if they thought they could get away with it. And we've become little more educated in the last 50 years even though the world has become much more technologically advanced.


January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding as a share of Gross Domestic Product, 2007-2014

January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding, 2007-2014

(Percent change)


As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?

July 25, 2009

Why Markets Can't Cure Healthcare
By Paul Krugman

Judging both from comments on this blog and from some of my mail, a significant number of Americans believe that the answer to our health care problems - indeed, the only answer - is to rely on the free market. Quite a few seem to believe that this view reflects the lessons of economic theory.

Not so. One of the most influential economic papers of the postwar era was Kenneth Arrow's "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Health Care," * which demonstrated - decisively, I and many others believe - that health care can't be marketed like bread or TVs. Let me offer my own version of Arrow's argument.

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don't know when or whether you'll need care - but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor's office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can't be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can't just trust insurance companies either - they're not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers' point of view - they actually refer to it as "medical costs." This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there's a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need - not everyone agrees, but most do - this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it's complicated, and you can't rely on experience or comparison shopping. ("I hear they've got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary's!") That's why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don't trust them - they're profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.

Between those two factors, health care just doesn't work as a standard market story.

All of this doesn't necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful healthcare systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn't work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.


anne -> to anne...

January 30, 2015

College tuition and fees, 1980–2015

(Percentage change)

1980 ( 9.4)
1981 ( 12.4) Reagan
1982 ( 13.4)
1983 ( 10.4)
1984 ( 10.2)

1985 ( 9.1)
1986 ( 8.1)
1987 ( 7.6)
1988 ( 7.6) Bush
1989 ( 7.9)

1990 ( 8.1)
1991 ( 10.2)
1992 ( 10.7) Clinton
1993 ( 9.4)
1994 ( 7.0)

1995 ( 6.0)
1996 ( 5.7)
1997 ( 5.1)
1998 ( 4.2)
1999 ( 4.0)

2000 ( 4.1)
2001 ( 5.1) Bush
2002 ( 6.8)
2003 ( 8.4)
2004 ( 9.5)

2005 ( 7.5)
2006 ( 6.7)
2007 ( 6.2)
2008 ( 6.2)
2009 ( 6.0) Obama

2010 ( 5.2)
2011 ( 5.0)
2012 ( 4.8)
2013 ( 4.2)
2014 ( 3.7)


2015 ( 3.6)

Syaloch -> to anne...

I believe so, as I noted above. The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

anne -> to Syaloch...

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

[ Look to the paper by Kenneth Arrow, which I cannot copy, for what is to me a convincing explanation as to the market defeating factors of healthcare. However, I have no proper explanation about education costs and am only speculating or looking for an analogy. ]

anne -> to Syaloch...

The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

[ Nicely expressed. ]

Peter K. -> to anne...

"As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?"

Yes, exactly. They aren't normal markets. There should be heavy government regulation.

Denis Drew:


Only allow government guaranteed loans (and the accompanying you-can-never-get-out-of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think?

Denis Drew -> to cm...

A big reason we had the real estate bubble was actually the mad Republican relaxation of loan requirements -- relying on the "free market." So, thanks for coming up with a good comparison.

By definition, for the most part, people taking out student loans are shall we say new to the world and more vulnerable to the pirates.
* * * * * * * * * *
[cut and paste from my comment on AB]
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.

According to an article in the Huffington Post At Kaplan University, 'Guerrilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt, Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. Going so far as to falsely pad bills $5000 or so dollars at diploma time - pay up immediately or you will never get your sheepskin; you wasted your time. No gov agency will act.

According to a lovely graph which I wish I could patch in here the Post may actually be currently be kept afloat only by purloined cash from Kaplan:

earnings before corporate overhead

2002 - Kaplan ed, $10 mil; Kaplan test prep, $45 mil: WaPo, $100 mil
2005 - Kaplan ed, $55 mil; Kaplan test prep, $100 mil; WaPo, $105 mil
2009 - Kaplan ed, $255 mil; Kaplan test prep, $5 mil; WaPo negative $175 mil

Wonder if billionaire Bezos will reach out to make Kaplan Ed victims whole. Will he really continue to use Kaplan's pirated money to keep WaPo whole -- if that is what is going on?

Johannes Y O Highness:

"theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!: "

Too damn high
but why?

Because! Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles?

Opportunity cost! The burden of the intelligentsia, the brain work can by carried by robots or humans. Choice of the wealthy? Humans, hands down. Can you see the historical background?

Railroad was the first robot. According to Devon's Paradox, it was overused because of its increment of efficiency. Later, excessive roadbeds were disassembled. Rails were sold as scrap.

The new robots are not heavy lifters. New robots are there to do the work of the brain trust. As first robots replaced lower caste jokers, so shall new robots replace upper caste jokers. Do you see the fear developing inside the huddle of high rollers? Rollers now calling the play?

High rollers plan to educate small time hoods to do the work of the new robots, then kill the new robots before the newbie 'bot discovers how to kill the wealthy, to kill, to replace them forever.

Terrifying fear


Good bit of data on education costs here

This chart shows state spending per student and tuition ...

" overall perhaps the best description of the data is something along the lines of "sometimes state appropriations go up and sometimes they go down, but tuition always goes up." "

[Jun 17, 2019] The debt trap how the student loan industry betrays young Americans Money by Daniel Rivero

Sep 06, 2017 | The Guardian

Navient, spun off from Sallie Mae, has thrived as student loan debt spirals across the US. Its story reveals how, instead of fighting inequality, the education industry is reinforcing it

Nathan Hornes: 'Navient hasn't done a thing to help me. They just want their money. And they want it now.' Photograph: Fusion

A mong the 44 million Americans who have amassed our nation's whopping $1.4tn in student loan debt, a call from Navient can produce shivers of dread.

Navient is the primary point of contact, or the "servicer", for more student loans in the United States than any other company, handling 12 million borrowers and $300bn in debt. The company flourished as student loan debt exploded under the Obama administration, and its stock rose sharply after the election of Donald Trump.

But Navient also has more complaints per borrower than any other servicer, according to a Fusion analysis of data. And these mounting complaints repeatedly allege that the company has failed to live up to the terms of its federal contracts, and that it illegally harasses consumers . Navient says most of the ire stems from structural issues surrounding college finance – like the terms of the loans, which the federal government and private banks are responsible for – not about Navient customer service.

Navient has positioned itself to dominate the lucrative student loan industry in the midst of this crisis, flexing its muscles in Washington and increasingly across the states. The story of Navient's emerging power is also the story of how an industry built around the idea that education can break down inequities is reinforcing them.The tension at the center of the current controversy around student loans is simple: should borrowers be treated like any other consumers, or do they merit special service because education is considered a public good?

Often, the most vulnerable borrowers are not those with the largest debt, but low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color – especially those who may attend less prestigious schools and are less likely to quickly earn enough to repay their loans, if they graduate at all.

Last year, Navient received 23 complaints per 100,000 borrowers, more than twice that of the nearest competitor, according to Fusion's analysis. And from January 2014 to December 2016, Navient was named as a defendant in 530 federal lawsuits. The vast majority were aimed at the company's student loans servicing operations. (Nelnet and Great Lakes, the two other biggest companies in the student loans market, were sued 32 and 14 times over the same period, respectively.)

Many of the complaints and lawsuits aimed at the company relate to its standard practice of auto-dialing borrowers to solicit payments.

Shelby Hubbard says she has long been on the receiving end of these calls as she has struggled to pay down her debt. Hubbard racked up over $60,000 in public and private student loans by the time she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a basic healthcare-related degree.

"It consumes my every day," Hubbard said of the constant calls. "Every day, every hour, starting at 8 o'clock in the morning." Unlike mortgages, and most other debt, student loans can't be wiped away with bankruptcy.

These days, Hubbard, 26, works in Ohio as a logistics coordinator for traveling nurses. She's made some loan payments, but her take-home pay is about $850 every two weeks. With her monthly student loan bill at about $700, roughly half her income would go to paying the loans back, forcing her to lean more heavily on her fiancé. "He pays for all of our utilities, all of our bills. Because at the end of the day, I don't have anything else to give him," she said. The shadow of her debt hangs over every discussion about their wedding, mortgage payments, and becoming parents.

The power and reach of the student loan industry stacks the odds against borrowers. Navient doesn't just service federal loans, it has a hand in nearly every aspect of the student loan system. It has bought up private student loans, both servicing them and earning interest off of them. And it has purchased billions of dollars worth of the older taxpayer-backed loans, again earning interest, as well as servicing that debt. The company also owns controversial subsidiary companies such as Pioneer Credit Recovery that stand to profit from collecting the debt of loans that go into default.

label="How the Trump administration is undermining students of color | Mark Huelsman and Vijay Das" href="">

And just as banks have done with mortgages, Navient packages many of the private and pre-2010 federal loans and sells them on Wall Street as asset-backed securities. Meanwhile, it's in the running to oversee the Department of Education's entire student debt web portal, which would open even more avenues for the company to profit from – and expand its influence over – Americans' access to higher education.

The federal government is the biggest lender of American student loans, meaning that taxpayers are currently on the hook for more than $1tn . For years, much of this money was managed by private banks and loan companies like Sallie Mae. Then in 2010, Congress cut out the middlemen and their lending fees, and Sallie Mae spun off its servicing arm into the publicly traded company Navient.

Led by former Sallie Mae executives, Navient describes itself as "a leading provider of asset management and business processing solutions for education, healthcare, and government clients." But it is best known for being among a handful of companies that have won coveted federal contracts to make sure students repay their loans. And critics say that in pursuit of getting that money back, the Department of Education has allowed these companies to all but run free at the expense of borrowers.

"The problem is that these servicers are too big to fail," said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. "We have no place to put the millions of borrowers whom they are servicing, even if they are not doing the servicing job that we want them to do."

In its last years, the Obama administration tried to rein in the student loan industry and promoted more options for reduced repayment plans for federal loans. Since then, Donald Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos , has reversed or put on hold changes the former education secretary John B King's office proposed and appears bent on further loosening the reins on the student loan industry , leaving individual students little recourse amid bad service.

In late August, DeVos's office announced that it would stop sharing information about student loan servicer oversight with the federal consumer watchdog agency known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB.

Earlier this year, as complaints grew, the CFPB sued Navient for allegedly misleading borrowers about the repayment options it is legally obligated to provide.

A central allegation is that Navient, rather than offering income-based repayment plans, pushed some people into a temporary payment freeze called forbearance. Getting placed into forbearance is a good Band-Aid but can be a terrible longer-term plan. When an account gets placed in forbearance, its interest keeps accumulating, and that interest can be added to the principal, meaning the loans only grow.

Lynn Sabulski, who worked in Navient's Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, call center for five months starting in 2012, said she experienced first-hand the pressure to drive borrowers into forbearance.

"Performing well meant keeping calls to seven minutes or under," said Sabulski. "If you only have seven minutes, the easiest option to put a borrower in, first and foremost, is a forbearance." Sabulski said if she didn't keep the call times short, she could be written up or lose her job.

Navient denies the allegations, and a spokeswoman told Fusion via email seven and a half minutes was the average call time, not a target. The company maintains "caller satisfaction and customer experience" are a significant part of call center representatives' ratings.

But in a 24 March motion it filed in federal court for the CFPB's lawsuit, the company also said: "There is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer." Rather, it argued, Navient's job was to look out for the interest of the federal government and taxpayers.

Navient does get more per account when the servicer is up to date on payments, but getting borrowers into a repayment plan also has a cost because of the time required to go over the complex options.

The same day the CFPB filed its lawsuit, Illinois and Washington filed suits in state courts. The offices of attorneys general in nine other states confirmed to Fusion that they are investigating the company.

At a recent hearing in the Washington state case, the company defended its service: "The State's claim is not, you didn't help at all, which is what you said you would do. It's that, you could've helped them more." Navient insists it has forcefully advocated in Washington to streamline the federal loan system and make the repayment process easier to navigate for borrowers.

And it's true, Navient, and the broader industry, have stepped up efforts in recent years to influence decision makers. Since 2014, Navient executives have given nearly $75,000 to the company's political action committee, which has pumped money mostly into Republican campaigns, but also some Democratic ones. Over the same timespan, the company has spent more than $10.1m lobbying Congress, with $4.2m of that spending coming since 2016. About $400,000 of it targeted the CFPB, which many Republican lawmakers want to do away with.

Among the 22 former federal officials who lobby for Navient is the former US representative Denny Rehberg, a Republican, who once criticized federal aid for students as the welfare of the 21st century. His fellow lobbyist and former GOP representative Vin Weber sits on a board that has aired attack ads against the CFPB, as well as on the board of the for-profit college ITT Tech , which shuttered its campuses in 2016 after Barack Obama's Department of Education accused it of predatory recruitment and lending.

In response to what they see as a lack of federal oversight, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia recently required student loan servicers to get licenses in their states. Not surprisingly, Fusion found a sharp increase in Navient's spending in states considering such regulations, with the majority of the $300,000 in Navient state lobbying allocated since 2016.

In Maine and Illinois, the legislatures were flooded with Navient and other industry lobbyists earlier this year, after lawmakers proposed their own versions of the license bills. The Maine proposal failed after Navient argued the issue should be left to the federal government. The Illinois bill passed the legislature, but the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, vetoed it in August following lobbying from an industry trade group . Rauner said the bill encroached on the federal government's authority.

Researchers argue more data would help them understand how to improve the student loan process and prevent more people from being overwhelmed by debt. In 2008, Congress made it illegal for the Department of Education to make the data public, arguing that it was a risk for student privacy. Private colleges and universities lobbied to restrict the data. So, too, did Navient's predecessor, Sallie Mae, and other student loan servicing companies.

Today, companies like Navient have compiled mountains of data about graduations, debt and financial outcomes – which they consider proprietary information. The lack of school-specific data about student outcomes can be life-altering, leading students to pick schools they never would have picked. Nathan Hornes, a 27-year-old Missouri native, racked up $70,000 in student loans going to Everest College, an unaccredited school, before he graduated.

"Navient hasn't done a thing to help me," Hornes told Fusion. "They just want their money. And they want it now."

label="The US cities luring millennials with promises to pay off their student debts" href="">

Hornes' loans were recently forgiven following state investigations into Everest's parent company Corinthian. But many other borrowers still await relief.

Better educating teens about financial literacy before they apply to college will help reduce their dependence on student loans, but that doesn't change how the deck is stacked for those who need them. A few states have made community colleges free , reducing the need for student loan servicers.

But until the Department of Education holds industry leaders like Navient more accountable, individual states can fix only so much, insists Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the industry's most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill.

"Navient's view is, hey, I'm just going to take this money from the Department of Education and maximize Navient's profits, rather than serving the students," Warren said. "I hold Navient responsible for that. But I also hold the Department of Education responsible for that. They act as our agent, the agent of the US taxpayers, the agent of the people of the United States. And they should demand that Navient does better."

Laura Juncadella, a production assistant for The Naked Truth also contributed to this article

The Naked Truth: Debt Trap airs on Fusion TV 10 September at 9pm ET. Find out where to watch here

[Jun 17, 2019] Student Debt Bondage Becoming More Widespread

Oct 18, 2018 |

A fresh story at Bloomberg, which includes new analysis, shows the ugly student debt picture is getting uglier. The driver is that higher education costs keep rising, often in excess of the likely wages for graduates. The article's grim conclusion: "The next generation of graduates will include more borrowers who may never be able to repay."

Student debt is now the second biggest type of consumer debt in the US. At $1.5 trillion, is is second only to the mortgage market, and is also bigger than the subprime market before the crisis, which was generally pegged at $1.3 trillion. 1 Bloomberg also points out that unlike other categories of personal debt, student debt balances has shown consistent, or one might say persistent, growth since the crisis.

From the article:

Student loans are being issued at unprecedented rates as more American students pursue higher education . But the cost of tuition at both private and public institutions is touching all-time highs , while interest rates on student loans are also rising. Students are spending more time working instead of studying . (Some 85 percent of current students now work paid jobs while enrolled.) Experts and analysts worry that the next generation of graduates could default on their loans at even higher rates than in the immediate wake of the financial crisis.

The last sentence is alarming. As graduates of the class of 2009 like UserFriendly can attest, the job market was desperate. And for the next few years, the unemployment rate of new college graduates was higher than that of recent high school graduates. One of the corollaries of that is that more college graduates than before were taking work that didn't require a college degree; this is still a significant trend today. And on top of that, studies have found that early career earnings have a significant impact on lifetime earnings. While there are always exceptions, generally speaking, pay levels key off one's earlier compensation, so starting out at a lower income level is likely to crimp future compensation.

And on top of that, interest costs are rising. The rate for direct undergraduate loans is 5% and for graduate and professional schools, 6.6%. So student debt costs will also go up even before factoring in inflating school costs. So the ugly picture of delinquencies and defaults is destined to get worse.

Students attending for-profit universities and community colleges represented almost half of all borrowers leaving school and beginning to repay loans in 2011. They also accounted for 70 percent of all defaults. As a result, delinquencies skyrocketed in the 2011-12 academic year, reaching 11.73 percent.

Today, the student loan delinquency rate remains almost as high, which Scott-Clayton attributes to social and institutional factors, rather than average debt levels. "Delinquency is at crisis levels for borrowers, particularly for borrowers of color, borrowers who have gone to a for-profit and borrowers who didn't ultimately obtain a degree," she said, highlighting that each cohort is more likely to miss repayments on their loans than other public and private college students.

Those most at risk of delinquency tend to be, counterintuitively, those who've incurred smaller amounts of debt, explained Kali McFadden, senior research analyst at LendingTree. Graduates who leave school with six-figure degrees that are valued in the marketplace -- such as post-graduate law or medical degrees -- usually see a good return on their investment.

I'm a little leery of cheerful generalizations like "big ticket borrowers for professional degrees do better." "Better" may still not be that good. Recall that law school and in the last year, business school enrollments have fallen because candidates question whether the hard costs and loss of income while in school will pay off. And there are some degrees, like veterinary medicine, that are so pricey it's hard to see how they could possibly make economic sense.

What is distressing about this ugly picture is the lack of effective activism by the victims. I am sure some are trying, but in addition to the burden of being so overwhelmed by the debt burden as to lack the time and energy to do anything beyond cope, is the fact that being in debt is stigmatized in our society, and borrowers may not want to deal with condescension and criticism. Another obstacle to organizing is that most of the victims are lower income and/or from minority groups, which means Team Dem can ignore them on the usual assumption that they have nowhere else to go. It is also harder to create an effective coalition across disparate economic, geographic, and age groups

But the experience of the post-Civil War South says things could get a lot worse. From Matt Stoller in 2010:

A lot of people forget that having debt you can't pay back really sucks. Debt is not just a credit instrument, it is an instrument of political and economic control.

It's actually baked into our culture. The phrase 'the man', as in 'fight the man', referred originally to creditors. 'The man' in the 19th century stood for 'furnishing man', the merchant that sold 19th century sharecroppers and Southern farmers their supplies for the year, usually on credit. Farmers, often illiterate and certainly unable to understand the arrangements into which they were entering, were charged interest rates of 80-100 percent a year, with a lien places on their crops. When approaching a furnishing agent, who could grant them credit for seeds, equipment, even food itself, a farmer would meekly look down nervously as his debts were marked down in a notebook. At the end of a year, due to deflation and usury, farmers usually owed more than they started the year owing. Their land was often forfeit, and eventually most of them became tenant farmers.

They were in hock to the man, and eventually became slaves to him. This structure, of sharecropping and usury, held together by political violence, continued into the 1960s in some areas of the South. As late as the 1960s, Kennedy would see rural poverty in Arkansas and pronounce it 'shocking'. These were the fruits of usury, a society built on unsustainable debt peonage.

Sanders has made an issue of student debt, but politicians who want big bucks from financiers and members of the higher education complex pointedly ignore this issue. As we've pointed out, top bankruptcy scholar Elizabeth Warren won't even endorse a basic reform, that of making student debt dischargable in bankruptcy. So it may take student debtors becoming a bigger percentage of voters for this issue to get the political traction it warrants.


1 Higher estimates typically included near subprime mortgages then called "Alt A".

Geo , October 18, 2018 at 5:02 am

There are many, many passages in this obscure old book called The Bible speaking of usury as a grave sin. So many it is actually one of the most clear and condemned sins in the entire book. Maybe we could see if any of our Congress persons have ever heard of it? They could learn something from it regarding this topic.
That said, it's passages on gender equality and family structures are pretty outdated and abhorrent so I wouldn't want them to get any bad ideas from this book on those subjects.

Neujack , October 18, 2018 at 5:56 am

Indeed, all of the old "Iron Age religions" (Judaism, Early Christianity, and Islam) explicitly denounce usury.

The great irony of the Deep South in te USA is that they've been frequently banning Sharia law, even when Sharia law is one of the few types of law in the world which explicitly bans charging interest.

L , October 18, 2018 at 9:57 am

It is always intriguing how many politicians are so eager to endorse a literalist fealty to the social structures of the bible but ignore, or even vehemently rail against, the more balanced social restrictions on things like usury or the old idea of a debt jubilee. But then Jesus himself railed (physically) against embedding money in religion and now we have "entrepreneurial churches" who preach a "doctrine of prosperity" so I guess times have changed.

xformbykr , October 18, 2018 at 11:23 am

Michael Hudson wrote about the history of 'debt jubilees' and debt cancellation today.

Pete , October 18, 2018 at 5:46 am

I graduated 10 years ago and the most frustrating part was everyone telling me it would be alright and ignoring thw whole you never recover thing. I am still unable to find worthwhile employment and probably never will be able to.

kurtismayfield , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am

You really can't listen to many of us over 40.. we really lived in complete my different conditions. When I got out of college in the 90's they were basically hiring everyone with a pulse in tech. From what I have seen from recent graduates it's getting easier, as I am seeing a lot more intershops turn into job offers. But for the generation that you are part of, it's an economic hole that may never be recovered from simply because you were born at the wrong time.

Looking at that graph, notice how the only debt that is backstopped completely by the federal government is growing the fastest. The no default on student loans rules have to be rescinded.

Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:05 am

I graduated in the 1990s, and if you were not in tech, the job market was just as lousy as it is now.

The Rev Kev , October 18, 2018 at 6:13 am

Extrapolating from these trends, then in a few years the only young people that would be able to afford higher education in the United States would the the children of the ten per cent – plus a smattering of scholarships to talented individuals found worthy of supporting. It follows then that as these educated people entered the workforce, that over time that the people that would be running the country would be children of the elite in a sort of inbred system. It sounds a lot like 19th century class-based Britain that if you ask me.
As for the country itself it would be disastrous. Going by present population levels, it would mean that instead of recruiting the leaders and thinkers of the country from the present population of 325 million, that at most you would be recruiting them from a base level of about 30-40 million. It is to be hoped that these people are not from the shallow end of the gene pool. You can forget about any idea of an even-handed meritocracy and America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out.

Brooklin Bridge , October 18, 2018 at 6:46 am

You could put that whole paragraph in the present tense quite nicely.

Eclair , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am

"I wonder how that might work out." Ummm . the Monty Pythons had an idea in the 1970's.

The "Upper Class Twit of the Year" competition. Gotta love the "Kick a Beggar" event.

Henry Moon Pie , October 18, 2018 at 5:13 pm

"America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out"

Would the performance of U. S. men in international soccer competition be a similar situation?

eg , October 18, 2018 at 6:40 am

Why is America so determined to reconstruct an aristocracy its founders abhorred?

zagonostra , October 18, 2018 at 8:41 am

They only abhorred the British aristocracy, they framed to Constitution to create a home grown one; and, they succeeded beyond their wildest dream.

Matthew , October 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

Because they think it will help them stay rich?

Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:06 am

an aristocracy its founders abhorred

Alexander Hamilton liked the idea very much. It's why the musical is SO popular among the neoliberal set.