Just Poor People and Rich People?


004dJust Poor People and Rich People?

(Please read the article below and see if you agree with my remarks.)

Is that where we are headed?  Is that what we want? Or do we matter any more?

For thirty years now, the middle class has been diminishing in its proportion of the population.

It’s not the inevitable result of globalization or automation or any other outside force. The destruction of the middle class is a policy decision involving tax rates and governmental allocation of resources. It was made deliberately and with intent. The philosophy dictating these policies is called Neo-Liberalism.

But there are other philosophies, some emphasize the importance of people over economic elites and downward wage pressure. Policies can be changed and there is time but not much.

Will there be action? I’m watching.

James Pilant

Daily Kos: Red Lobster Blues

This excellent article on “the eroding Middle Class” by Nelson Schwartz featured in the business pages of the New York Times yesterday.

Schwartz wasted no time painting a bleak picture. After describing middle-class department stores and restaurants closing up and down the East Coast only to be replaced by high-end clothiers and upscale eateries, he delivered this hard-hitting fact about our recent ‘economic recovery’: “about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income.”

Whew. You read that right. Ninety percent of the growth from just the richest 20 percent of households. (What on earth could that statistic mean for the rest of us?)

Schwartz’s article is based on an equally excellent paper by Barry Cynamon and Steven Fazzari entitled “Inequality, the Great Recession and Slow Recovery” which is very much worth your attention, as well.

Thing is, of course, as Cynamon and Fazzari’s research points out, the middle class has been eroding for years…since the mid-1980’s in fact…

via Daily Kos: Red Lobster Blues.

From around the web.

From the web site, The Feral Librarian.

http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/the-neoliberal-library-resistance-is-not-futile/

So what I really want to talk about is my belief that Neoliberalism is toxic for higher education, but research libraries can & should be sites of resistance.

To do that, it would probably be good to define neoliberalism. What is neoliberalism?

There are plenty of definitions – but I like this one from Daniel Saunders, who defines neoliberalism as “a varied collection of ideas, practices, policies and discursive representations … united by three broad beliefs: the benevolence of the free market, minimal state intervention and regulation of the economy, and the individual as a rational economic actor.”

Neoliberal thinking emphasizes individual competition, and places primary value on “employability” and therefore on an individual’s accumulation of human capital and marketable skills.

A key feature of neoliberalism is the extension of market logic into previously non-economic realms – in particular into key social, political and cultural institutions.

We can see this when political candidates promote their experience running a successful business as a reason to vote for them, and in the way market language and metaphors have seeped into so many social and cultural realms.

For example, Neoliberalism is what leads us to talk about things like “the knowledge economy”, where we start to think of knowledge not as a process but as a kind of capital that an individual can acquire so that she then can sell that value to the market.

This is where I pause to ask if you have heard the joke about the Marxist and the Neoliberal? The Marxist laments that all a worker has to sell is his labor power. The Neoliberal offers courses on marketing your labor power.

The Neoliberal joke

The joke about the Marxist & the Neoliberal

So OK, Neoliberalism is a thing, a pervasive thing, and it includes the extension of market language, metaphors, and logic into non-economic realms – of special concern to us is the extension of neoliberal market frameworks into higher education and into libraries.

And it is really important to remember that one of the really insidious things about ideologies as pervasive as neoliberalism is that we barely notice them – they become taken for granted the way a fish doesn’t know it is in water, or the way many of us Dukies assume an obsession with college basketball is normal.

Obviously, I think this is a bad thing – not the obsession w/ college basketball, of course — but  the neoliberal encroachment on education.

I am one of those hopeless idealists who still believes that education is – or should be – a social and public good rather than a private one, and that the goal of higher education should be to promote a healthy democracy and an informed citizenry. And I believe libraries play a critical role in contributing to that public good of an informed citizenry.

So the fact that the neoliberal turn in education over the last several decades has led to a de-emphasis on education as a public good and an emphasis on education as a private good, to be acquired by individuals to further their own goals is of particular concern to me.

In the neoliberal university, students are individual customers, looking to acquire marketable skills. Universities (and teachers and libraries) are evaluated on clearly defined outcomes, and on how efficiently they achieve those outcomes.  Sound familiar?

We can find evidence of this neoliberal approach in plenty of recent trends in higher education – which are almost shocking in how blatantly they rely on a market model of education. The penetration of neoliberal thinking in higher education is so pervasive that it is no longer just market metaphors – colleges recruit students with blatant appeals to their economic self-interest and the mainstream argument for a strong education system is that it is an economic imperative – that we, as a nation, must invest in education in order to compete as a nation in the global economy.

As an example – This very recent article on fastcompany.com – Does Ikea hold the secret to the future of college? – reads almost like a parody of an unabashed, uncritical, unselfconscious neoliberal approach to higher education.

In discussing his enthusiasm for bringing his special brand of for-profit eduction to Africa, one educational entrepreneur explains, “There are a lot of young people in Africa who could be Steve Jobs”.  It is no mistake that the justification for bringing “higher education” to Africa rests on the image of one of the richest & whitest men in America — someone who also happens to be a college drop-out, by the way.

Middle Class Political Economist: A Great Site!


Reading a newspaper i464Middle Class Political Economist: A Great Site!

I was cruising the Internet when I came across this site. I immediately liked it and I recommend it to you. He prefaces his posts with this –

I grew up in a middle-class family, the first to go to college full-time and the first to earn a Ph.D. The economic policies of the last 35 years have reduced the middle class’s security, and this blog is a small contribution to reversing that.

I, James Pilant, grew up in a middle class family, was the first to go to college, and the first to earn a J.D. So, I feel a certain affinity. I wish my fellow economic blogger luck and continued success. As for you, my kind readers, please go to the site and become a follower. You won’t be sorry.

James Pilant

Middle Class Political Economist: Subsidy Insanity in Western Missouri

I have written before about the gross waste of taxpayer monies on retail in the St. Louis region. According to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (p. 18), governments in the bi-state metropolitan area pumped about $2 billion worth of subsidies into retail projects from 1990 to 2007, but only saw a net increase of 5400 jobs, meaning that each low-wage, low-benefit retail job cost the cities of the region $370,000 apiece. The price is only this low on the generous assumption that the subsidies were solely responsible for this job creation. However, given the growth of incomes in the metro area during that time period, it is likely that most if not all the jobs would have been created without the incentives provided.

via Middle Class Political Economist: Subsidy Insanity in Western Missouri.

From around the web.

From the web site, The Net Economy.

http://theneteconomy.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/what-does-it-mean-to-be-middle-class/

By David Rohde – For decades, praising the middle class has been a staple of American politics. Candidates vow to defend the middle class and accuse their opponents of betraying it. But what, exactly, is the “middle class”?

Despite the incessant political lip service paid to the middle class, there is no official American government definition of the group. The middle class has been intensively studied but no political consensus exists over how it was created or how to strengthen it.

The closest the task force came to defining the middle class was a January 2010 report “Middle Class in America (pdf).” The study never gives an exact income level that is “middle class.” Instead, echoing academic studies on the subject, the document concludes that “middle class families are defined more by their aspirations than their income.” 

Simplesimon8 Scourges Wall Street!


The great Facebook debacle Part 2 #mugs #muppets « simplesimon8

So what’s changed since the demise of Lehmans and the financial crisis of the last few years. Not much by the look of things. Seems that the rich are getting richer, the middle classes are still a great target and the poor, well nobody gives a damn about them anyway!

Common sense, don’t partake in an IPO without it!

The great Facebook debacle Part 2 #mugs #muppets « simplesimon8

Another of my comrades on WordPress weighs in on the Facebook Investment Debacle. I recommend you read the article and put this web site in your favorites.

To my colleague at Simplesimon8, “Keep fighting the good fight.”

James Pilant

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Income Inequality Squeezes the Middle Class [via Beat the Press]


Inflation adjusted percentage increase in mean...
Image via Wikipedia

I couldn’t agree more. There is less of the pie for the poor and middle class. No matter what your talents and your willingness to work, how do you compete with a system that distributes income upward toward those who already have the money? Income inequality continues to squeeze the middle class perhaps eventually into its disappearance.

James Pilant

This brief comment is from a posting on Beat the Press entitled –

If Millennials Do Worse Than Their Parents, It Will Be Because Bill Gates‘ Kids Have All the Money

The Washington Post had a column by a millennial columnist complaining about the lack of opportunity. It is striking that the column never once mentioned income inequality.

There is no doubt that millennials will on average be far wealthier than their parents. Output per hour has roughly doubled over the last three decades, meaning that the real wage could be almost twice as high today as it was in 1980. Insofar as the typical millennial is not seeing the benefits of this productivity growth it is due to the fact that so much income has been redistributed upwards, not the result of any generational dynamics.

 

Here’s some more from Mother Jones, the New York Times, and Slate.

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Support Growing for Verizon Strikers (via The North Carolina Letter Carrier Activist)


It’s the work climate in this country. Work hard and produce significant profit and there will be no gratitude only demands for more cuts. The disconnect between a hard working middle class and the treatment they receive is stark. Over the last forty years, the economy has been re-designed to convey benefits from the middle class to the upper class particularly the financial industry.

Many in the middle class still don’t get it. Their intrinsic worthiness is pointless. Worthiness is worthless and intangible. The middle class is a source of money that is gotten through fees, tax increases, and off shoring. They can be squeezed and squeezed. It’s never going to end.

So, the Verizon workers made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, they need to be squeezed. Squeezing be it justified by Ayn Rand, or squeezing be it justified by Milton Friedman, is here to stay. It’s a civic religion among the monied elites.

James Pilant

Support Growing for Verizon Strikers By James Parks (This is a crosspost from blog.aflcio.org) The strike by some 45,000 Verizon workers, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW), continues as workers across the country offer support to the strikers, whose struggle reflects the situation for millions of workers. Rather than reward the hard work of Verizon employees who have provided the quality service that earned the company more than … Read More

via The North Carolina Letter Carrier Activist

The Biggest Middle Class Tax Increase In History Will Come In Five Months (via 1 Nation Blog)


Best comment from the post –

Is our government functioning properly?

Absolutely not! We may have just made the same (similar) mistakes that were made in 1937. I think all of Washington has folded on their responsibilities.

The attached essay explains better than I could the nature of the tax increase about to hit almost all of us in a few months.

James Pilant

The Biggest Middle Class Tax Increase In History Will Come In Five Months | Aug. 2, 2011, 12:33 PM | Image: ChuckHolton via Flikr Bruce Krasting URL Bruce Krasting is a former hedge fund manager There is one aspect of the final debt deal from DC that took me by surprise. I was convinced the 2% reduction in payroll taxes would be extended through 2012. On July 12th I wrote about this and  got it completely wrong. Not only did I think there would be a one year extension of the existing holiday; I forecast that the subsid … Read More

via 1 Nation Blog

How The Rich Are Winning The Class War (via Blogadoccio’s Blog)


I think that the No Child Left Behind law had severely damaged character education, critical thinking and issue awareness among the young. An ability to take multiple choice tests, true false, or completion tests is not a useful employment skill. Yet that has become almost our sole measurement of educational achievement.

But the inaction of the middle class, whatever it’s cause, is critical to the success of the rich in shifting the tax burden.

James Pilant

The rich won the class war by depriving the middle and lower classes of education: history, civics, political education, and training in how to think critically. As a result, their mouthpieces can spout nonsense and the relatively uneducated voters now swallow it clean. The antidote, until we get a real education system back again, is for those of use whose eyes are open to educate those around us who cannot see what is going on. We need to devel … Read More

via Blogadoccio's Blog

What is middle class? (via jumpstone)


There is certainly a disconnect between what your average beltway expert (including congressmen) believe average incomes are and what the actual data says. One writer I enjoy argues that the average congressman doesn’t actually know anybody who makes less than 250,000 a year and they think those people are either average Americans or the ones that count.

Personally, I don’t get it. If I were a politician I would never let the basic income numbers depart from my regular reading, they are too important to policy making.

James Pilant

According to the 2010 Wall Street Journal, Gregory B. Maffei was the highest paid CEO at $87 million. If you take the highest paid person and the lowest paid (earning the $6.25 minimum wage) and average the two, "middle" would be roughly $43.5 million. But extremely few people earn that. Also according to 2010 statistics, the typical wage of the top 1% of earners is $380,354. In this case, "middle" should be $183,677. However, only the top 5% of … Read More

via jumpstone

Middle Class And Poor To Feel The Pain After Deal Is Passed (via Sky’s Universal Predications)


Yes, as always, this is the case. The beltway bloviators, the “villagers,” the 24 hour news networks, the opinion makers, etc. long ago decided that the great mass of Americans were a bunch of lazy, unmotivated, whiny, and fat hogs who need the discipline of the market in their pointless lives. I am reminded of the condemnation in the Bible for those who load the poor with burdens while being unwilling to bear any burden of their own.

James Pilant

Middle Class And Poor To Feel The Pain After Deal Is Passed (As always, the middle class and the poor will feel the pain the most, while the wealthy get another tax break. And when we hit the debt ceiling again in a few years, they'll be asked to do it all over again–by taking it up the ass for the rich.) Debt hope: Obama praises 'Gang of Six' plan WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and a startling number of Republican senators lauded a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan Tuesday that includes $1 tri … Read More

via Sky's Universal Predications

PROOF that tax cuts do not create jobs: Bush’s decade was a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers (via Under the Mountain Bunker)


I always thought that once supply side economics failed in the 1980’s, the idea would be dead. That was a major miscalculation on my part. The idea that cutting taxes raises revenue is so much fun for some people, that facts do not inconvenience them.

James Pilant

PROOF that tax cuts do not create jobs: Bush's decade was a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers From the Washington Post: There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well. Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 — and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade … Read More

via Under the Mountain Bunker