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Mitt Romney Still Gets Mad When You Compare Obamacare to Romneycare
Behind the Republican blustering during the government shutdown circus lies a myth that the government holds back American capitalism. says it isn’t so.
“WE’RE REALLY very energized today, we’re very strong. This is about the happiest I’ve seen members in a long time.” Thus proclaimed Rep. Michele Bachmann on the second day of the government shutdown.
This happy mood seemed to have two components. Firstly, in Bachmann’s view, the Republicans had finally found a strategy for fighting back against Barack Obama’s health care law–by demanding it be delayed or defunded in return for funding the federal government. But second, the Republicans think they are taking a principled stand againstwhat they denounce as a “big government” intrusion in our lives.
Of course, Bachmann wasn’t alone, nor was she voicing a particularly novel idea among proponents of shutting down Big, Bad Government. Any number of Republicans could be heard making this same case in recent months. For example, in March Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) inveighed against “government control [because it] hurts those struggling to achieve the American Dream.”
Setting aside whether Republicans like Bachmann and Cruz will continue to celebrate aspolls show their strategy backfiring badly, there’s no question that this idea–that government is remarkably inefficient compared to the private sector–is an article of faith in mainstream U.S. politics.
The argument goes like this: At best, government presents bureaucratic obstacles to economic efficiency, in the form of burdensome red tape, onerous taxes and ill-advised allocation of resources to unworthy projects (Solyndra, anyone?). At worst, government intervention in the economy is inexorably speeding the U.S. toward the nightmare of “communism.”
Surely, we can all agree that the state must be kept at bay so as not to crush technological innovations that are the lifeblood of the free enterprise system?
Like the ubiquitous iPhone, right? More than 250 million iPhones have been produced and sold since 2007, each serving as a tiny monument to the entrepreneurship of Apple founder Steve Jobs, the ingenuity of private enterprise and the dynamism of American capitalism.
Or do they?
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ECONOMIST MARIANA Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State, recently gave a lecture challenging this precise point, in which she pointed out that all the core technologies that make the iPhone work–the Internet, GPS, touchscreens and cellular communications–were the fruits of direct government investment in research and development projects.
The government also provided early financing to what we consider some of the most innovative companies around–Apple, Compaq and Intel, among others–through the Small Business Innovation Research program and other similar programs.
The commonly held wisdom is that the U.S. is home to tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple–rather than, say, Europe–because the state sector is so much larger in other countries. But this turns reality on its head, according to Mazzucato. It’s the “visible hand” of U.S. government investment in research and development–investments that venture capital firms generally consider too risky to undertake–that has, in fact, given the edge to U.S. tech firms.
Or consider another sector regarded as a citadel of innovation and private enterprise efficiency: the pharmaceutical industry. Drug company executives regularly defend the patents on the products they market–and the exorbitant prices these patents allow them to charge–as the only way they can recoup their costly expenditures on research and development.
Life-saving drugs may be denied to some patients who can’t afford them, but, argue these executives, isn’t that better than not having the drugs at all because the companies didn’t have the money to fund innovative research?
Again, reality bears little resemblance to the pharmaceutical industry’s self-serving stories. According to Mazzucato, citing the research of health care expert Dr. Marcia Angell, fully 75 percent of the truly innovative drugs brought to market by the pharmaceutical industry were discovered in national laboratories funded by the state. What’s more, explains Angell, author of The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, in an interview for Mother Jones, the industry spends 2.5 times more on marketing and administration than it does on research and development.
So it would make more sense for corporate executives at Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Merck to argue that they must charge such high prices to pay for their outsized advertising budgets!
In fact, despite the mantra of private-sector superiority over government bureaucracy, what’s remarkable is how frequently reality fails to correspond to the mythology. Single-payer health care–where the government guarantees health care to all and determines what it will pay to health-care providers such as hospitals and doctors for providing their services–is actually more efficient than private, for-profit health care systems.
According to Physicians for a National Health Program:
Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. As a result, administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars, most of which is waste.
Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $400 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.
Likewise, charter schools, private prisons and privatized public infrastructure (such asChicago’s sale of its parking meters and the Skyway bridge to private corporations) again and again result in either substandard outcomes for consumers, obvious inefficiencies or both.
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THESE MYTHS about the inefficient state versus the greased lightning of the free market have now fueled three decades of neoliberal orthodoxy that focuses on privatization, deregulation and lower taxes as the salvation for society’s ills.
Before the rise of the neoliberal juggernaut, even the most conservative economists had grudgingly accepted the need for the state to intervene in order to “solve” market failures–and surprise!–after three decades, they still do. However fundamental their ideological commitment is to neoliberal faith, however frequently they issue heated denunciations of the sloppy state, conservatives again and again end up looking to Big Government to give them a helping hand.
Of course, both parties continually lavish billions upon billions in funding on defense spending–and their favored defense contractors–even though the U.S. already possesses the most overwhelming arsenal of military hardware in the history of the world. At the same time, both parties have been committed to “ending welfare as we know it,” as Bill Clinton famously pledged.
In reality, the political elite, the wealthy and Corporate America only dislike government spending when they aren’t the beneficiaries–which explains their distaste for welfare spending that benefits the poor. The corporate titans are pleased as punch about welfare spending that serves the interests of Big Business–such as the many forms of government investment in tech innovation that allows venture capital firms to later swoop in and make massive profits after the government has absorbed all the risk by funding the research.
And both parties supported the Bush administration’s bailout of American financial institutions after those same institutions recklessly crashed the economy making bad bets on an obviously overheated housing market. Suddenly, after years of insisting that the government couldn’t possibly fund anti-poverty programs, better schools or sufficient workplace safety inspections, the neoliberal architects of the economy found literally trillions to bail out the icons of American capitalism.
Now that the bailout has returned banks to making fat profits, where does that leave the taxpayers whose money funded all this? Facing an unprecedented slew of budget cuts, high levels of unemployment and an ongoing foreclosure crisis. And how many politicians demanding drug tests for people who receive food stamps have demanded the same of bank executives enjoying massive year-end bonuses also as a consequence of government policy? Please let me know when you find one.
The bailout thus allowed the financial giants to “socialize” their losses while privatizing the profits.
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GOVERNMENT SPENDING isn’t the root of all evil, but it still serves the interests of the wealthy and Corporate America to portray it as such. CEOs insist that high taxes are crushing their competitiveness because, they say, U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world.
And they are–until you take into account all the loopholes. Such loopholes allowed Apple to avoid billions in taxes. FedEx, Facebook and Southwest Airlines actually received money back from the federal government in 2012.
Such loopholes–and the army of corporate lobbyists thronging the halls of Congress to make sure the loopholes stay whole–also help to explain why general appeals by politicians to “lower taxes” are so dishonest.
According to investigative reporter Joshua Holland, there has been a radical shift in the income tax burden from corporations to individuals:
At the beginning of World War II, individuals and families paid 38 percent of federal income taxes, and corporations picked up the other 62 percent. That’s changed significantly–last year, individuals and families paid 82 percent of federal income taxes, and corporations kicked in just 18 percent.
So it’s easy to see why appeals to “lower taxes” gain traction with American workers–but then end up benefitting the corporations and the wealthy who have the campaign contributions and the high-powered lobbyists to make that a reality.
Without question, most people don’t support giving billions of dollars in subsidies to oil corporations at a time when they are reaping the most gargantuan profits ever recorded by any corporations ever in the history of the planet. But on the other hand, they don’t hear nearly as much about such corporate welfare as they do about those feckless Americans allegedly using food stamps, which provide families less than $1.50 per person per meal, to feast on spreads of champagne and caviar.
In the face of such tax injustice, we can and should answer the politicians’ call to “lower taxes” with our demand to “tax the rich”–so that the people who can most afford it pay more, and the people who can least afford it pay less.
To continue functioning, capitalism always has and always will require state intervention to save the system from itself. Without such intervention, history has shown that markets frequently fail to keep society from screeching to a halt–and even with massive state intervention, they still fail. A more equitable tax structure would go a long way toward softening the many social ills and other life-disfiguring hardships that such crises inflict on the lives of working-class and poor people.
But the truth is that there are enough resources in our society so that no one needs to ever go without adequate food, clothing or shelter; without a quality education; or without top-notch medical care. The problem, however, is that these resources are in private hands instead of at the disposal of society as a whole.
But to get from here to there, we will have to go beyond simply more state intervention; it will be necessary to place the economy’s resources as a whole–as well as the decisions about how to use these resources–fully in the hands of working people, who are the direct producers of wealth and who have a direct, material interest in the use of that wealth for the good of all.
This may make Michele Bachmann sad, but the rest of us will be the happiest we’ve been in a long time.
Print at SocialistWorker.org
In “Policing the Crisis,” the classic 1978 study conducted by noted socialist and cultural theorist Stuart Hall and several colleagues, the authors show how the restructuring of capitalism as a response to the crisis of the 1970s – which was the last major crisis of world capitalism until the current one hit in 2008 – led in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to an “exceptional state,” by which they meant a situation in which there was an ongoing breakdown of consensual mechanisms of social control and a growing authoritarianism. They wrote: Read more
The National Security Agency has admitted its collection of phone and Internet data exceeds what it has previously disclosed. Testifying before Congress, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis revealed analysts can perform what is called a “second or third hop query” that moves from suspected terrorists to the people they communicate with, and then to others those people are in contact with, and beyond.
Resisting the Big Brother state | SocialistWorker.org. by Elizabeth Schulte
WHEN THE National Security Agency (NSA) was exposed for its widespread collection of telephone and Internet data behind the backs of the American public, it provided only the latest example of how the U.S. government takes liberties with our rights.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald were denounced by the Obama administration and the corporate media for shining a spotlight on the NSA’s surveillance programs. But the truth is that their actions stand together with past struggles that have exposed the truth about the U.S. government’s behavior.
The 1960s and ’70s provide some of the worst examples of deception and repression on the part of the U.S. government. But they also show how even the most powerful government in the world can be undone by the truth.
In 1971, activists calling themselves the “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into FBI offices in Media, Pa., and stole more than 1,000 documents. Among other things, they revealed evidence of the secret Counterintelligence Program, or COINTELPRO.
While the government’s campaign of wiretapping, infiltration and other dirty tricks was known to everyone on the left, now the official documents were there for everyone to see.
When the documents arrived at the Washington Post, Attorney General John Mitchell told the paper not to publish the report, because it could “endanger the lives” of people involved in investigations. The Post published the findings anyway–the first article appeared March 24, 1971.
What the reports divulged was that the FBI was doing much more than gathering information about dissenters in the U.S. It was engaged in a campaign of spying, provocation and manipulation with the goal of destroying the left.
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UNDER THE leadership of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO began officially in 1956, but its substance had been part of the bureau’s above-the-law behavior for years.
During the 1950s McCarthy era, the U.S. government continued the global “war on Communism” on numerous domestic fronts. It attempted to discredit and destroy the Communist Party everywhere possible–in public hearings carried out by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), in which thousands of people were questioned about their left-wing affiliations and asked to name others; and in private, carried out by an army of FBI agents and informers who were sent into the CP.
The Feds inside the party sewed divisions and fueled infighting among members. They planted “snitch jackets”–falsified documents to create suspicion that someone might be an FBI informer–on party members.
COINTELPRO helped Hoover destroy what was left of the CP, which had tens of thousands of members during the great labor upsurge of the 1930s, but after the witch-hunt was a shadow of its former self.
By the 1960s, however, a growing political movement was offering an alternative to McCarthy-era scapegoating and fear, and loosening the grip of the witch-hunt era.
That was the civil rights movement. As Candace Cohn wrote in the International Socialist Review:
The nation watched the South, as courage multiplied and thousands stood up to fire hoses and attack dogs. “Southern justice”–daily, officially sanctioned beatings, murders, lynchings, fire bombings, cross burnings, firings and persecution–could not reduce the magnificent courage of Southern Blacks, who simply could bear no more. Their courage was infectious; the nation was transformed.
When HUAC came to hold hearings in San Francisco in 1960, it was met by protests of hundreds of people. The police refused to let protesters into the hearings, and instead sent in the riot squad, which fired water cannons, beat protesters with batons and dragged them by their hair as their heads bounced on the marble steps of City Hall.
The next day, 5,000 angry people showed up.
The paranoid grip of McCarthyism was being eroded. It was replaced by the confidence and determination of movements that stood up against the injustices perpetuated by the government–from segregation in the Jim Crow South and to imperialist war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia
These movements would drag into the light the crimes committed by the U.S. government, both at home and abroad. So while the public attack on dissent via the witch-hunts declined, the secret war on dissent continued through the Democratic Kennedy administration and beyond.
COINTELPRO targeted civil rights movement leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., bugging their offices and phones. Between 1946 and 1960, it operated some 3,000 wiretaps and 800 bugs on the NAACP alone.
Other methods to disorient civil rights activists included forging letters between members. The FBI tried to break up two St. Louis civil rights organizations by sending fake letters alleging marital infidelity. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was also the target of harassment.
The agency tried to drive King to suicide by sending him a tape of a conversation obtained by electronic surveillance with a note: “King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it [King was scheduled to accept the Nobel in 34 days]…You are done. There is but one way out for you.”
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WITH THE urban rebellions in the North and the growing popularity of revolutionary Black organizations like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the FBI turned its attention toward these groups. The Black Power struggle was giving voice to the concerns of Blacks in cities across the country–police brutality, urban poverty, substandard housing and schools, and discrimination–so the FBI made it a target.
The Feds stopped at nothing in trying to crush groups like the Panthers. A November 25, 1968, COINTELPRO memo shared this information:
A serious struggle is taking place between the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the US organization [a rival California-based Black nationalist group]. The struggle has reached such proportions that it is taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder and reprisals. In order to fully capitalize upon BPP and US differences as well as to exploit all avenues of creating further dissension in the ranks of the BPP, recipient offices are instructed to submit imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP.
The San Diego FBI office reported in a September 1969 memo under the heading “Tangible Results”: “Shootings, beatings and a high degree of unrest.” It also bragged that the Panthers’ Breakfast Program, a free meal program for poor children, was “floundering” due to “unfavorable publicity.”
Chicago was the site of one of COINTELPRO’s bloodiest assaults on Black revolutionaries. In the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, 14 Chicago police, armed with shotguns, handguns, a rifle and a .45-caliber submachine gun, raided the apartment of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.
The police claimed that Hampton fired first and continued to shoot at officers while they urged them to stop. This was a lie–Hampton had been drugged by a police infiltrator earlier that night and was shot repeatedly in his bed, including twice in the head at point-blank range. Peoria chapter leader Mark Clark was killed in the raid as well.
An FBI firearms expert later reported that police had fired more than 90 shots in the apartment–just one came from the Panthers.
Thirteen years later, the FBI’s role was fully revealed. The bureau had presented the idea of a raid to Cook County state’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, whose office directed Chicago police to carry it out. This was a year after Hoover had put Hampton on the national “Agitator’s Index”–he had came to the director’s attention for such dangerous activities as protesting for community swimming pools and forming an alliance with the Puerto Rican Young Lords and the white Appalachian Young Patriots.
Some 5,000 people attended the funeral service for Hampton. The apartment where the murder took place was opened to the neighborhood for two weeks so that people could come through and view the crimes communitted by the Chicago police, under the instructions of the FBI.
Like the 1955 funeral of Emmett Till, whose mother insisted on an open casket so that mourners could see what the lynchers of Mississippi had done to her son, this put a human face on this savage, racist attack. It helped to expose the brutal face of COINTELPRO and the depths of brutality that the U.S. government was capable of.
Civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Haas, author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton, said in an interview with Monthly Review: “I would have to say COINTELPRO achieved its primary goals to neutralize the Panthers, but the FBI role was ultimately exposed. There was a backlash as represented by the Church Committee, which mandated congressional oversight of clandestine intelligence activity.”
The Church Committee–a Senate investigation, chaired by Frank Church, of the U.S. government’s spies and murderers, at home and abroad–came in the wake of COINTELPRO, the unraveling of the Watergate scandal and the exposure of the CIA’s role in fomenting violence and coups around the world. Legislation that came out of the investigation didn’t dismantle the Big Brother state, but it was curbed in a number of respects.
So while COINTELPRO succeeded in some of its aims, it couldn’t accomplish its goal of silencing dissent. That’s thanks to the struggles of 1960s and ’70s. They may have begun as a challenge to Jim Crow segregation or police violence or an imperialist war halfway around the world, but they all eventually had to confront the power of the American surveillance state as well.
The class of 2013 will face a jobs and career crisis when they graduate.examines the different dimensions of the crisis–and why it’s taking place.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
COLLEGE GRADUATION is supposed to be a time of celebration–a time for graduates to look back on years of hard work and achievement, and forward to a bright future filled with promise.
Yet the class of 2013–the young women and men who were submitting college applications in the fall of 2008 as the world financial system came to the brink of Armageddon following the collapse of Lehman Brothers–are facing a future that of uncertainty and diminished prospects.
They are the latest entrants into what has been dubbed the “lost generation”–so-called because the high rates of unemployment and underemployment its members endure at the start of their working lives drag them down throughout their working lives, making it more and more difficult to maintain the standard of living of their parents.
Only half of recent graduates have been able to find a full-time job that makes use of their degree. Yet all are still left with the bill from college, with the average student loan burden nearing $30,000. With the number of new graduates expected to outstrip the number of new jobs requiring a degree over the next several years, this trend will only get worse.
If the current priorities of big business and the politicians who serve them continue to set the agenda, millions of young people will be robbed of their hopes for the future.
But this isn’t inevitable. For most of the class of 2013, their best possibility for a decent future lies not in the rat race for ever-scarcer decent jobs, but joining together to fight to improve conditions in the jobs they do have and to demand a fundamental transformation of a system that treats them as expendable.
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A REPORT released last month by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), titled “The Class of 2013: Young graduates still face dim job prospects,” paints a picture of a jobs crisis for youth that has multiple layers.
To being with, nearly 9 percent of college graduates aged 21-24 who aren’t in graduate school are unemployed, actively looking for work and unable to find it. This is more than double the rate for college graduates over age 25.
Those who have been able to find jobs are making less money. Average hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, for young college grads were $16.60 in 2012, the lowest they’ve been since 1997–when most recent grads were in elementary school–and just 25 cents greater than they were in 1989, before many were even born. Had wages kept up with the inflation-adjusted growth in the gross domestic product, which rose by 72 percent over this period, the hourly wage would be over $28 today.
Once student debt is factored in, there has plainly been an outright decline in living standards. The average recent graduate with $25,000 in debt pays between $200 to $300 a month, depending on their repayment plan–a huge burden given the stagnant or dropping income.
Recent grads are also much less likely than previous generations to find jobs with benefits. Just 31.1 percent of employed recent grads have employer-provided health insurance, compared with 60.1 percent in 1989. Just 27.2 percent have a pension.
An increasing number of college grads are working jobs that pay minimum wage. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 300,000 people with at least a bachelor’s degree are making the minimum wage, double the number in 2007.
The lack of decent jobs with benefits makes it easier for employers to take advantage of young workers, who they know have few other options. Maria, a health care worker in Massachusetts in her early 20s, who earned her bachelor’s degree while working full time, explains her situation:
I worked as a switchboard operator when I completed my associate’s degree. I took a promotion to case manager, and my new supervisor assured me that I would get a raise after I got my degree. I took the job, and in my last semester, while completing my bachelor’s, I was offered a job at another agency. It was better-paying, but I had to turn it down because I was pregnant and needed the paid maternity leave at my current job, which the new job didn’t offer, and because I was promised a raise. It’s been more than a year after I got my bachelor’s, and I still haven’t received a raise or found a job in my field.
Beyond joblessness, rising debt and falling wages, there’s the issue of underemployment: those unable to find full-time work, and those working in jobs for which they are overqualified.
An increasing percentage of recent graduates qualify as “underemployed,” which includes those who are unemployed, those working part-time but seeking full-time work, and those who looked for work in the past year but have given up. According to the EPI report on the Class of 2013, the rate of underemployment for recent college grads jumped from 11.2 percent in 2008, at the beginning of the Great Recession, to a peak of 19.8 percent in 2010, just after the official beginning of the “recovery.” Underemployment was still at 18.3 percent in 2012.
As the EPI researchers point out, this “does not include “skills/education-based” underemployment (e.g., the young college graduate working as a barista).” College graduates working in jobs that don’t require a college degree is not a new phenomenon, but has gotten worse in recent years, the EPI report found:
[I]n 2000–when jobs were plentiful and the unemployment rate was 4.0 percent–40 percent of employed college graduates under age 25 worked in jobs not requiring a college degree…[T]he share of young college graduates working in jobs not requiring a college degree increased over the 2000–2007 business cycle, increased further in the Great Recession, and has not yet begun to improve…
[I]n 2007, 47 percent of employed college graduates under age 25 were not working in jobs requiring a college degree, and…this share increased to 52 percent by 2012. This increase underscores that today’s unemployment crisis among young workers did not arise because these young adults lack the right education or skills.
As the EPI researchers and other economists have shown, these effects will have a lasting, if not permanent, impact on the future prospects of recent graduates. “Research shows that entering the labor market in a severe downturn can lead to reduced earnings, greater earnings instability, and more spells of unemployment over the next 10 to 15 years,” the study reports.
Less than half of recent grads are working in a full-time job that requires a degree. Even some of those who have a full-time job have had to take a second just to make ends meet. Gloria, who graduated from Rutgers last year with a journalism degree, finally found a full-time job in her field after nine months of searching, while working in retail and living with a relative:
I started applying for jobs in January of 2012, four months before graduation. By graduation, I was excited, but so stressed out…I had done everything right! Double major, minor, decent GPA, tons of extracurricular activities, study abroad, unpaid internship. I took advantage of everything that my school had offer: I wrote for the paper, volunteered at the radio station, worked for the television channel and even created my own website.
Now I finally have a job in my field, but it’s only a temporary position, and I work a second job that I wouldn’t have taken in high school, just to afford to live in a dorm-sized studio apartment with roaches. Honestly, it’s hard. This past year has been the toughest one yet. All my dreams and all the stuff that I had believed growing up had collapsed…it’s all a lie.
This doesn’t mean that the alternative–not going to college–is any better. If young college graduates are facing a jobs crisis, young workers with only a high school diploma are facing a catastrophe.
For the 40 percent of high school graduates aged 17-20 not enrolled in higher education, official unemployment averaged 29.9 percent from March 2012 to February 2013, more than three times that of recent college graduates. Underemployment for young high school grads stands at a shocking 51.5 percent–which means more than half are unemployed, working part-time when they’d rather work full-time or have looked in the past year, but have since given up.
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THE JOBS and career crisis facing the class of 2013 begs several questions: What is causing this crisis? Is this a temporary blip or the “new normal”? What can be done to change it?
The most obvious cause of the crisis for young workers is the one afflicting working people of all ages. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly four years into the official “recovery” from the Great Recession, there are still more than three people looking for work for each job opening:
[T]he economy has recovered only about 6.2 million of the 8.7 million jobs lost between the start of the recession in December 2007 and early 2010…employment was 1.9 percent (2.6 million jobs) lower in April 2013 than it was at the start of the recession.
According to the EPI’s Heidi Shierholz, it would take more than 8 million jobs to replace those and keep up with population growth, which could take more than five years at current rate of monthly employment increases.
Recent graduates are at a disadvantage when competing for jobs since they lack the experience of older workers. And increasingly, older workers have been forced to look for jobs that were once considered entry level. A survey by Rutgers University found that of the 23 percent of respondents who suffered a layoff during the Great Recession, more than half of those who had found another job were making less than they were before.
As Brad Plumer illustrates at the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog, some 60 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession paid between $13.84 and $21.13 per hour, yet only 22 percent of the new jobs created since then fall into that category. The majority of the new jobs, some 58 percent, are low wage, paying less than $13.84 an hour.
So mid- and late-career workers are taking jobs that used to be entry-level positions for recent grads or jobs that don’t even require a degree, placing them in greater competition with younger workers to the detriment of workers of all ages. As Sherry Wolf, an author and contributor to SocialistWorker.org, explains:
I graduated college in 1987, have worked since I’m 14 years old and am now a highly skilled writer, editor and copy editor, yet I’ve spent the last year receiving unemployment insurance for the first time in my life, supplemented by freelancing gigs. What’s stunning to me about the current economy is not just the paucity of full-time jobs with benefits, but that neoliberal restructuring has meant that experienced white-collar workers like me are now being paid a piece rate on the level of recent college graduates, while 20-somethings are forced out of my field almost entirely, and compelled to find jobs as baristas.
If trends continue, things are likely to only going to get worse for young college grads. A recent report by the Center for College Affordability shows that from 2010 to 2020, “The number of college graduates is expected to grow by 19 million, while the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree is expected to growth by fewer than 7 million. We are expected to create nearly three new college graduates for every new job requiring such an education.”
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that not all college degrees are created equal–nor are outcomes anywhere near equal for all college graduates. Higher education, like the society as a whole, has become increasingly unequal in recent decades. Rather than a means of mobility between classes, colleges often function as a means to maintain class stratification and reproduce inequality.
Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile…in the nation’s 1,000-plus community colleges, almost 80 percent of the students came from low-income families.
The elite schools are a key place for the wealthy to develop social networks that they will use–in addition to family connections–to land high-paying jobs after college. And elite college alumni networks will aid them in obtaining employment throughout their careers.
Poor and working class graduates will find themselves locked out of these networks. Thus, they will need to take up the task of organizing with co-workers to fight for rights at jobs for which they are overqualified.
Just as it took the union drives of the 1930s to make industrial jobs “good jobs” with decent pay and benefits, and the struggles of the 1960s and ’70s to do the same for public-sector jobs that provided a way out of poverty for many African Americans and women, the majority of today’s working class college graduates will need to focus on collective struggle, rather than hope that individual striving will allow them to make it against the odds.
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ULTIMATELY, THE mismatch between the number of young graduates and the jobs that require degrees raises questions about the nature of higher education in society, our relationship to work, and whether education should be shaped by the needs of business or the collective social needs of the majority of people in society.
Businesses, although they complain that college students aren’t qualified, benefit enormously from a situation where the supply of the commodity they need to purchase–in this case, the labor power of college-educated workers–exceeds the demand. This drives down the price of that commodity–the wages and benefits of workers.
And with students and their families shouldering an increasing burden of the cost of higher education while companies cut back on training programs, businesses are able to pass along the cost of training a new generation for be exploited onto workers themselves.
This state of affairs makes sense–and money–for employers, but is disastrous for the vast majority of people. With so many highly educated people underemployed, not only are they worse off, but society as a whole can’t benefit from their wasted talents.
Meanwhile, in a society so wealthy that a fraction of the bloated military budget could make higher education free for all, there’s no reason not to expand access to higher education–and to create the public-sector jobs that could provide people with the opportunity to use their education to serve those in need.
For example, average class size in public secondary schools is nearing 25 and is almost double that of private schools. Doubling the number of public school teachers would remove this disparity and create more than 3 million jobs, which would finish replacing the jobs lost during the recession and then some.
There are about 2.4 doctors for every 1,000 people in the U.S., among the lowest ratios in the industrialized world, trailing countries with much less wealth like Kazakhstan (3.8), Cuba (6.7) and Lebanon (3.5). Training an additional 400,000 doctors would put the U.S. in a comparable position with other advanced countries like Germany and France. It could easily be paid for with the savings from switching to single-payer health care.
Clearly, the need exists for more college-educated workers, not fewer. But creating opportunities for them to use their training and talents will require a major shift in social priorities–and achieving that will require mass struggle and organizing.
If the class of 2013 wants a future, they will have to fight for it. http://socialistworker.org/
By Logan Plaster
Logan Plaster is an editor and writer in New York, and is the managing editor of Emergency Physicians Monthly. He traveled with Harvard researchers to the Kumbh Mela, a mass pilgrimage held every 12 years.
The Kumbh Mela, the Hindu festival billed as the world’s largest human gathering, received plenty of positive press during its 55-day run earlier this year. In February, I traveled to the Kumbh with a global health research team from Harvard, and wrote up many sunny observations of the Kumbh’s impressive infrastructure. Eleven sector health clinics served up free healthcare free of charge, day and night. Thousands of “sweepers” kept the wide streets largely clear of garbage. During the main bathing days, when the crush of the crowd–and the focus of the media–was the most intense, the land and water seemed clean enough that the banner of “The Green Kumbh” seemed reasonable.
The festival, held every 12 years, had hardly concluded before the press were praising it for being ”a success story” that ”went off like clockwork.” The event even earned Akhilesh Yadav. the chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, an invite to share his story at the Harvard Business School last Friday. (Incidentally, Yadav boycotted the Harvard event after cabinet colleague Azam Khan was briefly detained and frisked at Logan International Airport. Yadav’s presentation–a PowerPoint prepared by Ernst and Young–was delivered by the state’s chief secretary).
But now the crowds have gone home, the tents have come down, and the aftermath of the Kumbh presents a very different picture–one that looks more like an ecological disaster than the product of a “green” initiative. To get a better idea of what has happened on the ground, I spoke with Avikal Somvanshi, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment, a sustainability think tank in India. Somvanshi attended the Kumbh at its height and after its conclusion.
The current state of the Sangam, the holy site where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet, is bleak, says Somvanshi. Which is not too surprising given that, according to research done by the Society for Environmental Communications, the Kumbh Mela administrative plan did not budget for a cleanup phase. Somvanshi, who was born and raised in Allahabad and has attended three Kumbhs, breaks the cleanup quagmire into four main categories.
The first is immediately evident: garbage. Lots of garbage. During the Kumbh, literally thousands of workers were hired to sweep away debris, pick up human waste and douse the ground with a cleansing lime powder when necessary. But as soon as the festival ended, the ad hoc team of cleaners quickly disbanded. The dropoff in manpower was almost immediate, says Somvanshi, even though there were still millions of pilgrims occupying the festival grounds. Bags, sandals, and human waste piled higher and higher, and pilgrims camping on the river bank had little recourse but to begin burning it en masse. (As it turns out, burning trash was a common strategy employed by the Kumbh administration throughout the event as well.)
“You can go crazy recycling these sandals and shoes,” says Somvanshi, “but it’s not being done.”
Next to the haze of garbage fires is the riverbank. Just two months ago, the Ganges was beautiful, deep enough to swim in and passably clean. But that kinder, gentler Ganges was only temporary, the product of artificially increased water flow and a prohibition on factory pollution. Now, “the water quality is back to business as usual,” says Somvanshi. The water level has dropped, revealing a murky cesspool and manufacturers along the Ganges have returned to dumping pollutants in the river.
The receding waters bring their own problems, but monsoon season could bring even more. Somvanshi, who lived in Allahabad during the 2001 Kumbh Mela, remembers what happened when the rains came.
“The riverbed was so compacted [from the Kumbh] that it lost the capacity to absorb water. So the city was flooded and the water could not drain. The city was waterlogged for almost seven days. It was horrible. I’m concerned that when the monsoon comes this year, if there hasn’t been a proper cleanup, the flooding will be even worse.”
In the meantime, there are the bugs to content with. The Kumbh Mela officials proudly declared the grounds a “vector-free zone.” This meant that authorities fogged the festival daily with strong insecticides in order to eliminate mosquitoes and flies carrying deadly diseases like malaria. It worked for 55 days, but as soon as the Kumbh ended, the fogging stopped. The trash piled high and the receding water created stagnant pools perfect for breeding insects. When it all came together, says Somvanshi, there was, “a massive explosion in the number of flies and mosquitoes.”
How this will impact vector-borne diseases in the region has yet to be seen.
Finally, there is the issue of human waste. Much was made of the Kumbh Mela’s installation of 40,000-plus toilets.
“The problem was that they were merely holes in the ground,” says Somvanshi. “No treatment.” And no plan appears to be in place for removing the waste to landfills after the Kumbh. As a result, it’s left to seep into the Allahabad groundwater, which is the main source of water to the city.
“The damage that happens to the ground water is immense,” says Somvanshi. “Bore wells in Allahabad used to yield good water at depth of 100 to 120 feet before 2001 Kumbh, which deteriorated to 300 feet after the 2001 Kumbh. Bore wells dug for this Kumbh were deeper than 800 feet. After this year’s Kumbh Allahabad might need to dig 1,000 feet to get usable water.”
The accomplishment of the Kumbh—of creating a pop-up city capable of safely housing tens of millions of pilgrims—should not be ignored. However, one look at the Ganges riverbank today and it is clear that the job was left incomplete, and locals were left holding the bag. The Burning Man festival in Nevada, another pop-up city, takes an extreme “leave no trace” policy towards its environment. The Olympics have a legacy of leaving behind world-class infrastructure when they conclude. With the amount of political good will attached to the Kumbh Mela, authorities should take a closer look at the festival’s impact on the environment, and the host city. A dip at the Sangam is said to be a boost to karma. Kumbh authorities have 12 years to figure out how to make the Kumbh a similar blessing for the region. Original Article qz.com