Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Monday, August 28, 2017


A more perfect populism

by Tom Sullivan

Jobs. Everybody thinks they are important. Nobody does enough to create better-paying ones. Problem is, we built a system in which people work to support the economy more than the economy supports us. Employers don't pay enough, the middle class is shrinking, and we're self-medicating with opioids. Even with unemployment at its lowest in 16 years, CBS reports, 8 out of 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck:

"Living paycheck to paycheck is the new way of life for U.S. workers," he said. "It's not just one salary range. It's pretty much across the board, and it's trending in the wrong direction."

A year ago, about 75 percent of U.S. workers said they were living from payday to payday, a number that has grown to 78 percent this year. The study, conducted by Harris Poll, surveyed nearly 2,400 hiring and human resource managers and 3,500 adult employees who worked full-time in May and June.
A Pew survey finds Americans would rather have more stable income than more income. And maybe a little more to save for retirement.
About 40 percent of adults with a high school degree or less said they are scrambling to keep afloat, or more than twice the number of Americans with at least a college degree, according to the Federal Reserve. CareerBuilder found that about half of workers who earn less than $50,000 per year are always living paycheck-to-paycheck, compared with 28 percent of those earning between $50,000 to $100,000.
There's the problem statement. Now, who has solutions?

Democrats have rolled out a nifty slogan, "A Better Deal: better jobs, better wages and a better future." Is there anything behind it? That is still to be determined.

Conor Friedersdorf has been looking at what a more worker-friendly populism might look like. He cites as a jumping-off point a recent formulation by Damon Linker:
What would a more populist Democratic Party look like? It would embed its bold proposals for cradle-to-grave universal health care, free college tuition at public universities, and ambitious infrastructure projects in a galvanizing story of American citizenship and patriotism, sacrifice and civic duty.
That narrative was choked out over decades by "greed is good" and Randism. It is needed again. And free college? Fine. But for Friedersdorf the proposal is not populist enough. He puts his finger on something that vaguely bothered me about Bernie Sanders' emphasis on free college tuition that I never quite identified :
But I also know America is overwhelmingly led by people with college degrees and white collar backgrounds––people who overvalue their own path to success and rig the system against others who’d thrive under a different approach. To them I say, a four-year degree shouldn’t be the only way for a young person to achieve the American dream.

Our elites are too often blind to the value of education that is received away from college, whether through apprenticeships or vocational schools or on-the-job training. They don’t always understand that there are lots of blue-collar jobs that are more fulfilling, better paying, and more in demand than lots of white-collar jobs. And they are blind to the wisdom in cultural enclaves where a young person is not considered “culturally competent” until knowing how to perform CPR, help a stranger change a flat, or work alongside people from different social classes without taking offense when their etiquette is different than the etiquette at UCLA or Berkeley.
Friedersdorf (if I am reading him right) doesn't want all our focus and expenditure directed at colleges and universities, but on support that is more diverse and more broadly inclusive:
But I want to invest as heavily in ambitious, hard-working young people who appreciate that carpenters, day-care workers, sous chefs, masseuses, and plumbers do jobs every bit as important as accountants, marketers, lawyers, and IT staff, and who’ve concluded they can best flourish and contribute to society with an education they acquire outside of college. I don’t want anyone getting a four-year degree just because that’s the only way to receive government help, or because folks with college degrees have rigged the system so that having a credential like theirs is the only way to get ahead in America.

I want to stop robbing people of their comparative advantage.
He wants "to eliminate obstacles like professional-licensing requirements that amount to no more than credentialism," and to move away from a business culture that demands a bachelor’s degree for jobs "that shouldn’t require one." I have at least one friend with decades of experience who today is locked out of getting another professional job in her field because she lacks that golden-ticket degree employers require before they will even talk to her. It's not right.

Here is a similar story, a single mom working two jobs and barely scraping together $25,000 per year:
Before the recession, Millikan earned $30,000 a year with full benefits as a property manager at a call center. It was the highest pay she ever had. The company moved to another the state, and she's struggled ever since. She says it has been years since she's had a full-time job, despite sending out endless resumes and earning a college degree in education in 2014 to improve her prospects. She's repeatedly been told she's overqualified for low-wage jobs in retail and not qualified enough for coveted positions in business and tech.

To get by, Millikan has become an expert at cost-cutting. Almost everything in her modest apartment is from a thrift store, garage sale or charity. The only thing she buys new for her son is underwear. He's been asking for a remote-controlled monster truck lately, a toy that's out of her price range. She hasn't been able to find a used one at Goodwill. "I don't ever think I'll get to the middle class," Millikan said in an interview, choking back tears. "I can just about guarantee I won't."
So Millikan earned her degree. At 39, free college won't help her.

For years, these stories have been met by "we're doing what we can" promises from politicians and "that's just the way it is" shrugs from the business community, especially its libertarian-leaning members. Maybe it's just me, but my reaction to "that's just the the way it is" has always been, well then there's something wrong with the way it is.

Maybe Friedersdorf means this and maybe he doesn't, but his critique of Bernie Sanders' free tuition proposal suggests that it acquiesces to a status quo that says a college degree is the "you must be this tall to ride" barrier to accessing the American Dream. The culture that says so it is elitist in nature and noninclusive in practice. An America that works for everyone won't be achieved by feeding that system but by breaking it and by changing the culture.

In "The War on Stupid People," David Freedman argued that our fascination with high intelligence and high achievement leaves behind those who by nature or economic circumstance never grow tall enough to ride. He notes ironically that British sociologist Michael Young coined the term meritocracy in 1958 in writing a dystopian satire. Freedman might agree with Friedersdorf on the elitist cast to our present economy:
We must stop glorifying intelligence and treating our society as a playground for the smart minority. We should instead begin shaping our economy, our schools, even our culture with an eye to the abilities and needs of the majority, and to the full range of human capacity.
If struggling Americans feel left behind, it is because they have been. So there is something aspirational in both Friedersdorf's and Linker's visions that leans towards realization of a more diverse social equality (rather than to the false promise to restore an America that never was). They both insist on more civics education as essential to a program that, in Linker's mind:
... would speak proudly and without shame about the public aspects of our lives — and of how the self-indulgent and self-centered cynicism of our politics has led too many of us to forget, and too many of our public officials to denigrate, what we owe to one another as fellow citizens, as well as what the government does to make our freedom (as individuals but also as communities) possible.
At this point, that feels like a tough lift. But it is a sensibility that is not entirely forgotten:

It shouldn't take a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey or sharing a foxhole to bring our latent sense of community to the surface again. Take care of each other out there.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.