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Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Squelching Economic Royalists

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Common Dreams featured a blog post by Robert Borasage titled “Can Democracy Tame Plutocracy?” In the post Borosage describes how long it took for our country to move away from the oligarchy in place at the turn of the 20th Century, noting that it required years to accomplish. He then included a paragraph describing how FDR educated the public about the economic realities of his times and played to the big-heartedness of the country:

In “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great,” Harvey Kaye provides a broad overview of this period. He details how FDR educated and mobilized Americans to take on the “economic royalists.” As we headed into World War II, FDR evoked the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and of worship, and freedom from want and from fear – as the goals for which Americans would fight. As victory approached, he made the agenda clearer in his 1944 State of the Union address calling for an Economic Bill of Rights. Coming out of the war, millions of Americans took up the banner for their fallen leader.

But the battle for control of the economy never really ended… and as many progressive bloggers have noted by the early 1970s businessmen were quietly organizing think tanks that developed messages about how government is the problem and regulations squelch entrepreneurs and how free trade is necessary to compete in the global marketplace… and test messages, repeated frequently and persistently have permeated the American psyche to the extent that “government run schools” are now perceived as ineffective and inefficient.

Early in his essay, Borosage asserts that “we are living in a populist moment” and he closes with these paragraphs:

Kaye argues that fulfilling FDRs pledge may be hard, but it is not impossible. “Democracy is never given. It must be taken.” Or as FDR put it, “Democracy is not a static thing. It is an everlasting march,” and echoing Jefferson, “it is time for the country to become fairly radical for a generation.”

Now the battle of ideas has just been joined. The new populism needs to be nurtured, developed and spread. Hopefully, we won’t need to experience another calamity or world war to rouse Americans to take their democracy back.

As I noted in my comment, one way to fuel the flame of populism is to get the parents and school board members in this country to see that corporations want to control public education and will stop at nothing to do so. Another way would be to get a progressive liberal to run for president even if it is a quixotic campaign. NO ONE in the Democrat party seems willing to call the oligarchs “economic Royalists”… instead the neo-liberals want to praise businessmen and turn over the operation of public enterprise to them because “government is inefficient”… It would be refreshing to have someone remind the public that government regulation is necessary to keep oligarchs in check and opportunities more equitable. 

Here’s hoping both of these ideas take root in the coming months.

Fund Families, Help Schools

April 21, 2014 1 comment

To Reduce Inequality, Start with Families” Judith Warner’s column in today’s NYTimes, provides a wealth of data that underscores the unfairness of our current workplace rules and illustrates a subtle way that employers’ leave practices reinforce inequality.

Warner’s solution to the issue of inequality is outlined in this paragraph:

If we want to strike at the roots of inequality in America, we’ve got to start at its source, in the family, at the very beginning of children’s lives. We have to make it possible for mothers — two-thirds of whom are now breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families — to stay in the work force without the sort of family-related job interruptions that can greatly limit their lifetime earnings and even push some families into bankruptcy. We need to make it possible for all parents to give their kids the kind of head start that is increasingly becoming an exclusive birthright of the well-off.

In one of the subsequent paragraphs, she details the extent of the inequities in the workforce:

Among high-wage workers, according to an analysis by my colleague Sarah Jane Glynn, 66.2 percent have access to paid parental leave, compared with 10.8 percent of those who earn the lowest wages. And while 78.5 percent of the highest-paid workers have access to earned sick time, only 15.2 percent of the lowest-paid workers have the right to take paid days off if they or a family member get sick.

Warner then highlights the obvious consequences of this disparity: affluent workers spend more time with their infant children and families while low wage workers are forced to work. This, in turn, exacerbates the challenges of children raised in poverty. She writes: 

Inequality among families isn’t just about financial means, however. It’s also about the care parents can provide, the food they can prepare, and the amount and the nature of the time they can spend with their children. But today, the ability of parents to make the most basic time investments in their children — taking time for parent-teacher conferences or setting a schedule that permits a parent to sometimes be home in the after-school hours — is sharply divided by income level.

The lack of availability of parental time has serious detrimental effects on children’s behavior, ability to learn and emotional development — all of which affect performance in school and, eventually, the workplace… Such lessons about human resource cultivation have not been lost on China, which now includes as part of its economic growth policies a provision that women employed in public enterprises get 98 days of paid maternity leave.

Those who are worried about global competitiveness should read that last sentence… and instead of advocating the imposition of more tests for children at younger and younger ages the corporate world should be promoting more maternity and paternity leave and more sick leave for employees. The link between healthy families, well educated children, and a good work force couldn’t be clearer.

The Dalai Lama, Capitalism, and Schools

April 19, 2014 Leave a comment

One of the most emailed articles today is “Capitalism and the Dalai Lama” by Arthur C. Brooks of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. While Brooks did not make a direct inquiry into the Dalai Lama’s views of schools, some of the Dalai Lama’s responses to his questions underscore the failings of the US brand of capitalism. For example:

(The Dalai Lama) made it abundantly clear that he did not advocate an every-man-for-himself economy. He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so. Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness. Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.” 

Money per se is not evil. For the Dalai Lama, the key question is whether “we utilize our favorable circumstances, such as our good health or wealth, in positive ways, in helping others.” There is much for Americans to absorb here. Advocates of free enterprise must remember that the system’s moral core is neither profits nor efficiency. It is creating opportunity for individuals who need it the most.

And after spending time meditating with the Dalai Lama and interacting with him at length, what action does Mr. Brooks believe our country needs to take?

We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete.

My guess: the American Enterprise Institute will likely NOT heed Brooks’ assertion that the free enterprise system’s “moral core is neither profits nor efficiency”. They will instead suggest that school choice, public education based on free enterprise’s assumptions, is the bet way to “lift poor children out of ineffective schools” and will tout the use of standardized test results and the application of business practices to save tax dollars. In short, the AEI will go for profits and efficiency instead of using our nation’s wealth in positive ways to help others”. It IS encouraging to see the Dalai Lama reaching out to US capitalists and encouraging to read that at least one conservative writer has absorbed the message… Now let’s see if he will advocate that his fellow capitalists to engage in truly constructive activities… activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being.