Quote of the moment repeat: Robert C. Lieberman, “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age”

February 20, 2013

What? You missed this, on February 20, 2011? Well, here it is again. Please pay attention this time.

The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams.  Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.  Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security and opportunity — will never return.  They are probably right.

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery.  The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer.  And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer.  In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.  This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom.  The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the “winner-take-all economy.”  It is not a picture of a healthy society.  Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.  Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan.

Robert C. Lieberman, reviewing the book Winner-Take-All Politics:  How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon and Schuster, 2010, 368 pages.  $27.00.; review appears in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011, pp. 154-158.

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Two years later, even more:


Photographs for which there are no words: Going to school in Palestine

February 20, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words?  For some pictures, no adequate words exist.

Ammar Awad/Reuters girl going to school in Palestine, with combat troops looking on

Photo by Ammar Awad, Reuters; caption from L’Express: De l’audace! – 17/03/2010 Afin de se rendre à l’école, une enfant traverse les lieux des affrontements entre les troupes israéliennes et les Palestiniens, dans le camp de réfugiés de Shuafat, près de Jérusalem.

L’Express caption in English:

The audacity! – 17/03/2010

To go to school, a child crosses the scene of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the refugee camp Shuafat, near Jerusalem.

Rather puts into a different perspective the whines of students about “having to go to school,” not bringing pencils or paper, and not making it to class on time, doesn’t it?  What value does this girl and her family place on education?

To those who think the U.S. should in no case offer aid to Palestinians to build or operate schools, I ask:  Who do you want to pay for this child’s schooling, and direct the curriculum?

Teachers, is this photo useful for studying human rights?  Education?  Middle Eastern human geography (AP), geography, or other issues?  Contrast this girl’s path to school with that of Linda Brown in Topeka, Kansas, in 1951 (Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education).

Is education a civil right? Is education a basic human right?

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Kessler, who posted a slightly profanely-captioned version of this on Facebook.

Update:  Amusing Planet has this photo (with a nice shout out) and several others, showing kids risking their lives to get to school in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia — it’s awe-inspiring, scary and encouraging at the same time.

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