Posts Tagged ‘inequality’
So people are casting about for the means to protect themselves against that insecurity. They are looking for a way to not only afford decent housing but to buy the house in the neighborhood that feeds into the good k-12 schools that will give their own kids a better chance at a life not marred by the insecurity that keeps them up nights. They are looking for a way to be respected at work, to be respected in their communities, to locate their position in the larger social structure and to find it congruent with their ideal selves. They are looking for dignity and rest. That we have constructed the only means for achieving those things as credential hoarding can be understood as “market demand” but I would call it mass insecurity. Again, language, tools, kings and masters.
If we accept my story of profit and higher education market we get to different kinds of questions that lead to different kinds of policies. Rather than disrupting higher education because it does not serve the needs of the market we can ask the market why it does not serve the interests of human beings. Why, as corporations increasingly use their moral authority and political will to limit their tax exposure and their contribution to social institutions like k-12 schools, why is public education being refashioned to provide them the “human capital” they require to continue their abdication of the greater social good?
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Profit, HigherEd and Lessons on the Prestige Cartel
As far I am concerned, there is no moral or political difference between the two. Predistributive institutions and redistributive institutions are both just institutions. What matters is achieving greater economic equality, not so much the precise institutional regime that we use to get there. If anything, I tend to find so-called redistributive institutions more attractive because they are easier to fine tune and strike me as more liberating.
I certainly agree on the ‘no difference’ point. Why is it more viable?
But, as Hacker correctly points out, my view is almost certainly an outlying one. For cultural or other reasons, Americans tend to be more supportive of equality-producing measures that get baked into paychecks than they are of equality-producing measures that go through more overt government channels. As a result, the US has a very stingy welfare state and delivers much of its government spending through opaque, submerged mechanisms like tax credits.
The great Mark Price has a piece in the Guardian today, Wealth inequality will keep growing unless workers demand better, that gets to the heart of the problem with our broken economy’s failure to provide the security, opportunity, and basic needs we all deserve. Two points are worth mentioning. First, it’s taken as a matter of faith that conservative prescriptions for the economy are easy to understand and more left-leaning approaches are more complex. I think that’s rubbish. Read Mark here. It’s not difficult at all. If people don’t have jobs, they can’t spend, and we all suffer. If there are way more applicants then there are jobs, there’s no way out of this mess. Inequality is the problem, equality the solution. It’s not that hard. (I made the same point about Robert Reich before). He also discards the silly notion that government has been trying to fix this problem, or that the solutions are unclear. Read the rest of this entry »
Petitioner Benny Lee Hodge was convicted of murder. Then, after his trial counsel failed to present any mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of his trial, he was sentenced to death. In fact, counsel had not even investigated any possible grounds for mitigation. If counsel had made any effort, he would have found that Hodge, as a child, suffered what the Kentucky Supreme Court called a “most severe and unimaginable level of physical and mental abuse.” No. 2009–SC–000791–MR (Aug. 25, 2011), App. to Pet for Cert. 11. The Commonwealth conceded that counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient as a result. Yet the court below concluded that Hodge would have been sentenced to death anyway because even if this evidence had been presented, it would not have “explained” his actions, and thus the jury would have arrived at the same result. Ibid. This was error. Mitigation evidence need not, and rarely could, “explai[n]” a heinous crime; rather, mitigation evidence allows a jury to make a reasoned moral decision whether the individual defendant deserves to be executed, or to be shown mercy instead. The Kentucky Supreme Court’s error of law could well have led to an error in result. I would grant the petition for certiorari, summarily vacate, and remand to allow the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider its decision under the proper standard.
Just so we’re clear, Hodge failed to get his constitutionally required level of performance from his lawyer, effectively denying him his right to counsel and due process. And the Court will leave this stand. This passage shows the catch-22 of the death penalty. The Court has insisted that due process doesn’t require getting a correct result, it requires following the correct procedures. This is why actual innocence is not a federal claim. But when, like here, basic fairness has been denied, whether because of incompetent state appointed defense lawyers, or cheating by police or prosecutors, the Court shifts. No longer is following the correct procedures what is required. Instead, there is an independent inquiry where judges decide what the jury would have done if they had known what they should have known. This not only undermines the right to a jury trial, but it directly contradicts the reasoning for not allowing innocence claims.
Sotomayor is correct, in my mind, that the Court erred in failing to overturn the ruling below. Mitigation is not about explaining the crime. This is basic stuff. But it’s important to understand what was kept from the jury’s view. Like practically all death penalty defendants, Hodge was himself a victim of horrific abuse. Here the justice recounts the evidence. Read on if you can stomach it.
The beatings began in utero. Hodge’s father battered his mother while she carried Hodge in her womb, and continued to beat her once Hodge was born, even while she held the infant in her arms. When Hodge was a few years older, he escaped his mother’s next husband, a drunkard, by staying with his stepfather’s parents, bootleggers who ran a brothel. His mother next married Billy Joe. Family members described Billy Joe as a “‘monster.’” Id., at 7. Billy Joe controlled what little money the family had, leaving them to live in abject poverty. He beat Hodge’s mother relentlessly, once so severely that she had a miscarriage. He raped her regularly. And he threatened to kill her while pointing a gun at her. All of this abuse occurred while Hodge and his sisters could see or hear. And following many beatings, Hodge and his sisters thought their mother was dead.
Billy Joe also targeted Hodge’s sisters, molesting at least one of them. But according to neighbors and family members, as the only male in the house, Hodge bore the brunt of Billy Joe’s anger, especially when he tried to defend his mother and sisters from attack. Billy Joe often beat Hodge with a belt, sometimes leaving imprints from his belt buckle on Hodge’s body. Hodge was kicked, thrown against walls, and punched. Billy Joe once made Hodge watch while he brutally killed Hodge’s dog. On another occasion, Billy Joe rubbed Hodge’s nose in his own feces.
The abuse took its toll on Hodge. He had been an average student in school, but he began to change when Billy Joe entered his life. He started stealing around age 12, and wound up in juvenile detention for his crimes. There, Hodge was beaten routinely and subjected to frequent verbal and emotional abuse. After assaulting Billy Joe at age 16, Hodge returned to juvenile detention, where the abuse continued. Hodge remained there until he was 18. Over the 16 years between his release from juvenile detention and the murder, Hodge committed various theft crimes that landed him in prison for about 13 of those years. He twice escaped, but each time, he was recaptured.
It would be nice to believe that this was some sort of aberration, but anyone with a little familiarity with the backgrounds of death row inmates knows that it’s not. The death penalty is billed as a punishment for the worst of the worst, but really it is a punishment for those who have been most failed. No prosecutor wants a jury to hear these stories because it doesn’t fit with how the death penalty is sold. So this creates incentives to cheat and for judges to look the other way. That is your death penalty. It convicts the innocent, is racially biased, makes a mockery of the law and provides our harshest punishment to those most brutalized, all while spending more while providing no additional public safety. And the money and attention it uses drain money that could be used to intercede in situations like this, potentially breaking the cycle of violence – if that was what our goal was.
The death penalty is a brutal policy of failure.
If “economics” is isolated from other aspects of social life, then the criterion for policymakers becomes the simple one of efficiency. Expenditure, and government policy generally, is to be viewed in terms of whether or not a program pays, whether it creates incentives for the private sector to expand output and employment. In a market economy [sic], government must depend on tax collection, and this in turn depends on the level of economic activity–which depends on the expectation of profit. In the economist’s view, if tax incentives can attract or retain business, they should be granted. The income redistribution effects [sic] of such policies may be regressive but this is simply an unavoidable consequence of a market economy: government can step in after production decisions are made and through tax expenditure policies rectify any damage that may have resulted. How much and what type of action it will take will be decided in the political arena.
Yet government, especially at the local level, in under constant pressure not to redistribute from the rich to the poor.
–William K. Tabb, The Long Default : New York City and the Urban Fiscal Crisis.
Melissa Harris Perry has a new piece reflecting on the recently concluded successful Chicago Teachers Union strike. Her point – the battle between “reformers” and “teachers” was harming the school children caught in the middle. (This despite the rather substantial student-centered reforms* teachers were calling for – she adopts a standard conceit of corporate ed reformers that they seek reform while everyone else supports the status quo).
I couldn’t help but be reminded of Martin Luther King‘s words.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
The reality is, whether intended or not, when liberals decry conflict, which is standard rhetorical position, they are supporting the position of the powerful. Rahm Emanuel, backed by billionaires (including Donald Trump) is powerful, and the status quo is for him and the other corporate reformers to get their way despite the opposition of teachers, parents, and students without significant resistance. Without resistance, they simply get their way to push their neoliberal reforms.
Those reforms are hurting children, hurting communities, undermining public sector unions, and they don’t work. Children aren’t served by a lack of air conditioning, music and art instruction, or libraries. Children don’t benefit from waiting for textbooks to arrive long after the semester begins. Children don’t benefit from increasing hours spent devoted to high stakes testing and preparing for these tests. Hopefully, we’re beginning to see real organized resistance based on the idea that teachers are valued professionals and that every child deserves the opportunity for a quality public education.
I don’t know if Karen Lewis or other key figures from the CTU will get a chance to be heard on MSNBC in the coming days. So I’ll close with Lewis’ words.
I do not understand why people think what we did was special. I do not understand why people think I’m a leader. I am a teacher who hates what’s happening to our children. We cannot go along with harm. Plain and simple. Sometimes I feel like we’re in that bad psych experiment where people give folks electric shocks because they were told to do so. I am embarrassed by all the attention and I would like to go somewhere and be quiet. I didn’t realize my life would be this nuts.
Respectfully, I understand why people know what they did was so special.
Thanks CTU. In solidarity.
* Seriously, if you haven’t yet, you should read what the teachers are still fighting for: The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.
[Update] Corey Robin gives a quick break down of some of the things the union won that supposedly hurt the kids.
At the GOP convention, Jeb Bush argued in favor of voucher and school choice using the frame of civil rights. Bush, brother of failed president and education reformer George W. Bush, went further, offering an even more inapt metaphor.
“Everywhere in our lives, we get the chance to choose,” he said in a prepared version of his remarks sent to reporters. “Go down any supermarket aisle – you’ll find an incredible selection of milk. You can get whole milk, 2% milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored milk— chocolate, strawberry or vanilla – and it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”
“Shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools?” Bush said.
This perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the corporate ed position. It conflates something as important, complex and far reaching in its consequences as an education with milk, a simple consumer good. That frame justifies turning public education into a profit making opportunity. It supports the deprofessionalization of teachers. It focuses our attention on individuals instead of the ways we systematically provide a different quality to education based on class and race. Choosing 2% one week and whole milk the next is no problem, but shifting your child between schools even once is a huge decision. The choice of milk depends purely on taste while education is a skilled profession. While the analogy has surface appeal, its implication are gross and most people would recoil from them it they were made explicit. Most people, that is, who believe that providing a quality education to all is a basic requirement in a democratic society that is committed to the idea that all people are equal.
How can you say on the one hand that education is a civil right and at the same time it’s like shopping for groceries?
Chief Justice Warren had a better sense of the civil rights issue when it comes to education.
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
There’s another important point to be made here, and it gets to the conceit of choice.
“Choice” is the illusion of power. Vouchers were not dreamed up to provide choice, but to deny it. We need to avoid confusing a justification with an explanation.
A recent report issued by People for the American Way called Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the 1%, Undermining Democracy details what’s really going on here.
It is important to understand that targeted voucher programs that allow students from poor families, children with disabilities or students in underperforming schools to attend private schools that will accept them are not the ultimate goal of school privatizers. They are a tactical means to a much larger strategic end, which is the end of public education altogether, as pushed by David Koch in his run for the White House in 1980, echoing his late father’s John Birch Society antipathy to public schools as socialist or communist.
“Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling,” stated Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast in 1997. “In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Heartland has received significant funding from right-wing foundations over the years, including the Charles Koch Foundation.
If you doubt that many privatizers seek to dismantle public education, take a look at the many prominent right-wing activists and thinkers who have signed the “Public Proclamation to Separate Church and State,” which proclaims that “I favor ending government involvement in education.”
As Milton Friedman, intellectual godfather of the movement, said “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”
More famously, the late televangelist and Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.” At the 2011 Values Voter Summit held in Washington, D.C., in October, one of the most frequent and enthusiastically received applause lines was a call to abolish the Department of Education. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed five bills last year that build on the voucher programs put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush [my emphasis] and promote Scott’s agenda to expand charter schools, virtual schools, vouchers and a program that allows students to transfer out of failing public schools. Florida also gives tax breaks to corporations in return for private school scholarships, echoing ALEC model legislation: With Scott’s urging, that program’s cap increased by $30 million to $175 million while the McKay scholarship program for students with disabilities could nearly quadruple under new looser eligibility guidelines. Florida’s education chief, selected by the state board at Scott’s request last year, is a former executive director of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a group created by right-wing funders to make black parents, rather than right-wing economists and Wall Street financiers, the face of the voucher movement.
Read the whole thing. My only objection is that what is typically called ‘privatization’ is really ‘corporatization’ – a shift of public funds to corporations, which since they are collectively owned and managed and not meaningfully ‘private.’
It’s worth quoting a bit more from Friedman on behalf of vouchers.
Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible. In general, they can now take this step only by simultaneously changing their place of residence. For the rest, they can express their views only through cumbrous political channels.
As Albert Hirschman said, “A person less well trained in economics might naively suggest that the direct way of expressing views is to express them!” But note too that what Friedman calls the “cumbrous political channels” is what the rest of us call democracy and active citizenship.
Of course we want real choice – students and parents should have options for different educational opportunities, teachers should be given autonomy to find the best ways to teach to their students, administrators and teachers should have the freedom to design programs rather than have things dictated from above. Teachers should have the choice of joining a union to represent them. Everyone should have the option of a quality public education. What corporate reformers like Bush offer is not choice. It’s a top down agenda designed to undermine public education despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans recognize our public schools are essential. The goal is to turn public education from a social right, one that all deserve as a consequence of being a human being, to a product, no different from milk or toothpaste. And Democrats should be condemning this nonsense and articulating this alternative, original, vision. And we should all be demanding that they do, not to mention ditching George W. Bush’s NCLB (No Public School Left Standing).
Of course, some would claim that vouchers are only a Republican idea, and that the rest of what is often falsely called “ed reform”, as if only those that share their vision are interested in change. But as Laura Clawson notes, Bush was also in town to publicize the new pro-parent trigger movie Won’t Back Down, along with former Democratic ed policy star Michelle Rhee. The movie will also be screened at the DNC. (For what it’s worth, the parent trigger demonstrates the incoherence of the “choice” agenda. If not allowing an individual parent to have the government fund their choice to go to a different school despite the wishes of the vast majority of parents to offer public schooling alone, why can we disrespect the choice of 50% minus one of parents to maintain their public school in the face of a slight majority. Any why do triggers only operate one way? The answer is the only choices they respect are those that fit with the top down corporate agenda.)
The long-term shift from social rights to commodification is one of the more important (and disastrous) political projects of my lifetime.
By the way, if you think education is a civil right, you should check out the recommendations of those groups with a long and distinguished history of fighting for civil rights. But they will look very little like those of Jeb Bush.
Of course, Jeb, whose background is more aristocratic then meritocratic, believes it’s the rest of us that are the real racists.
“We must stop pre-judging children based on their race, ethnicity or household income,” Bush said. “We must stop excusing failure in our schools and start rewarding improvement and success.”
I’ll outsource the response to that to Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow.
Politicians and experts typically refer to schools as “failing” if they are filled with low-income children with low-test scores. Faced with enormous challenges, such schools may be doing as well as they possibly can, though. African-American children from low-income urban families frequently suffer from health problems that lead to school absences; from frequent or sustained parental unemployment that provokes family crises; from rent or mortgage defaults causing household moves that entail changes of teachers and schools, with a resulting loss of instructional continuity; and from living in communities with high levels of crime and disorder, where schools spend more time on discipline and less on instruction and where stress depresses academic success. With school segregation continuing to increase, these children are often isolated from the positive peer influences of middle-class children who were regularly read to when young, whose homes are filled with books, whose adult environment includes many college-educated professional role models, whose parents have greater educational experience and the motivation such experience brings and who have the time, confidence, and ability to monitor schools for academic standards.
We won’t be seeing any Bushes working with us to address those problems any time soon.
One disclaimer ought to be entered at the outset. We have already suggest that relief giving is partly designed to enforce work. Our argument, however, is not against work. We take it for granted that all societies require productive contributions from most of their members, and that all societies develop mechanisms to ensure that those contributions will be made. In the market economy, the giving of relief is one such mechanism. But much more should be understood of this mechanism than merely it reinforces work norms. It also goes far toward defining and enforcing the terms on which different classes of people are made to do different kinds of work; relief arrangements, in other words, have a great deal to do with maintaining social and economic inequities. The indignities and cruelties of the dole are no deterrent to indolence among the rich; but for the poor person, the specter of ending up on “the welfare” or in “the poorhouse” makes any job at any wage a preferable alternative. And so the issue is not the relative merit of work itself; it is rather how some people are made to do the harshest work for the least reward.
Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Regulating the Poor.
Well beyond its impact on individuals and families, the submerged state exacerbates economic inequality by promoting some entire sectors of the economy over others, at government expense. In delivering subsidies to particular industries and creating incentives for people to participate in specific market activities, its policies protect and enhance profit-making capabilities in those areas. From 1980 until the current recession, the core sectors that it nurtures–finance, insurance, and real estate–outpaced growth in other sectors of the American economy. The fortunes of these industries emanated not from “market forces” alone but rather from their interplay with hidden policies that promoted their growth and heaped extra benefits on them. Suzanne Mettler, The Submerged State