Podcast of the Day
This is an encouraging investigation into the Unemployment Benefits debate.
Podcast of the Day
Our political system is dysfunctional by design.
Probably the most important reason for lack of equality of opportunity is education: both its quantity and quality. After World War II, Europe made a major effort to democratize its education systems. We did, too, with the G.I. Bill, which extended higher education to Americans across the economic spectrum. But then we changed, in several ways. While racial segregation decreased, economic segregation increased. After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better. Disparities widened between those living in poor localities and those living in rich suburbs — or rich enough to send their kids to private schools. A result was a widening gap in educational performance — the achievement gap between rich and poor kids born in 2001 was 30 to 40 percent larger than it was for those born 25 years earlier, the Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon found.
. Of course, there are other forces at play, some of which start even before birth. Children in affluent families get more exposure to reading and less exposure to environmental hazards. Their families can afford enriching experiences like music lessons and summer camp. They get better nutrition and health care, which enhance their learning, directly and indirectly.
Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse. In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted over the last few decades — and especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job.
Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn’t enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don’t. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field."
George Bailey from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s ironic that a Reagan Republican like Jimmy Stewart delivered the speech that I think is one of the best summaries of progressive liberalism in a capitalistic society ever written.
The “fiscal cliff” is a a metaphor for a government that no longer responds to the biggest challenges we face because it’s paralyzed by intransigent Republicans, obsessed by the federal budget deficit, and overwhelmed by big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires.
If we had a functional government America would address three “cliffs” posing far larger dangers to us than the fiscal one:
The child poverty cliff.
Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of American school-age children living in poor households grew from 17 to 21%. Last year, according to theAgriculture Department, nearly 1 in 4 young children lived in a family that had difficulty affording sufficient food at some point in the year.
Yet federal programs to help children and lower-income families – food stamps, aid for poor school districts, Pell grants, child health care, child nutrition, pre- and post-natal care, and Medicaid – are being targeted by the Republican right. Over 60 percent of the cuts in the GOP’s most recent budget came out of these programs.
Even if these programs are preserved, they don’t go nearly far enough. But the Obama Administration doesn’t talk about reducing poverty in America. It talks only about preserving the middle class.
Yet unless we focus on better schools, better health, and improved conditions for these poor kids and their families, in a few years America will have a significant population of under-educated and desperate adults.
The baby-boomer healthcare cliff.
Healthcare costs are already 18% of GDP. Between now and 2030, when 76 million boomers join the ranks of the elderly,those costs will soar. This is the principal reason why the federal budget deficit is projected to grow.
The Affordable Care Act offers a start but it isn’t nearly adequate to limit these rising costs. The President and the Democrats have to lead the way in using Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over providers to get lower costs and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system of healthcare.
But we can’t avoid the fact we have the most expensive and least effective system of health care in the world that’s spending 30 percent more on paperwork and administration than on keeping people healthy. The real healthcare cliff can only be avoided if we adopt a single-payer healthcare system.
The environmental cliff.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump another 2.6 percent this year according toscientists, putting the human race perilously close to the tipping point when ice caps irretrievably melt, sea-levels rise, and amount of available cropland in the world becomes dangerously small.
Yet Republicans (and their patrons, such as Charles and David Koch) continue to deny climate change. And the Administration is no longer pushing for a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax.
Yet unless we act to reduce carbon emissions, other major emitters won’t do so. The only binding pact so far is the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. never joined. And we’re taking no leadership at the international climate talks now taking place in Qatar.
Yes, America does face a cliff — not a fiscal cliff but a set of precipices we’ll tumble over because the GOP’s obsession over government’s size and spending has obscured them. And Democrats so far haven’t been able or willing to sound the real alarms.
My emphasis added.
- Zen Koans with Pippa Sif (after changing her bandage)LP:How does your finger feel?P:It still hurts. But it will only hurt as long as it is hurting. When it stops hurting? Then it won't hurt anymore.... ...
- An Act of Fundamental Madness
Here we are then. 241 Doctor Who stories, from worst to best.
The Celestial Toymaker
The Twin Dilemma