The US Geological Survey recorded a minor earthquake this morning with its epicenter near Wasilla, Alaska, the probable result of Sarah Palin opening her mail box to find the latest issue of CounterPunch magazine we sent her. A few moments later she Instagrammed this startling comment…
The lunatic Right certainly has plenty of problems. We’ve made it our business to not only expose these absurdities, but to challenge them directly. With another election cycle gaining steam, more rhetoric and vitriol will be directed at progressive issues. More hatred will be spewed at minorities, women, gays and the poor. There will be calls for more fracking and war. We won’t back down like the Democrats. We’ll continue to publish fact-based critiques and investigative reports on the shenanigans and evil of the Radical Right. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.
Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.
Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.
CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.
The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.
Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683
Thank you for your support,
Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel
CounterPunch PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558
Defining Inequality Down
Since the recession of 2008, it has become increasingly apparent that for the past four decades the majority of the American population has gotten a raw economic deal. Computer applications and internet technology have made accessible raw data from the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and other government, academic, and think tank sources. These data, honestly conveyed by such liberal think tanks as the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research, provide not just debatable but incontrovertible evidence of class warfare, stagnant wages, increasing inequality and poverty, a transformed and diminished middle class, and an outlandishly wealthy ownership class, especially among financiers. In addition, they find that government policies aid and abet all of the above. At bottom, virtually all of the income and wealth gains resulting from the increased productivity of all workers have accrued to the upper quintile of families, and disproportionately to the one percent or even fewer.
In the midst of hardcore justifications of the wonders and ultimate justice of capitalism and entrepreneurship, one finds—more interestingly, I think—softcore and “centrist” analysis, rationalization, and ultimately denial of the long-term implications of neoliberal policies. These analyses originate from several data sources, including the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and the Pew Economic Mobility Project. In passing I recommend a much-needed critique by Salvatore Babones of the Michigan/Pew findings.
In the mainstream media, the Brookings Institution has been a primary transmitter and ideological shaper of such data, through the policy pronouncements of Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins and its somewhat perversely named “Center on Children and Families.” The fact that both have academic pedigrees and some measure of liberal respectability does not diminish their trivialization of fundamental issues and their rationalizations for policies that can only perpetuate long-term trends, with dire consequences for the less privileged. In the tradition of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, they continue to use social science to blame the victims of our rigged economic system.
Their primary tactic is to ignore the trends mentioned above and to focus on the allegedly persistent consensus of Americans that economic opportunity and mobility—the “American Dream”—is valued more than a broadly egalitarian society. On this basis, massive accumulations of wealth by very few are of literally no interest in comparison to data on marginal intergenerational economic mobility and the behaviors required to maintain or achieve middle class status—regardless of the increasingly tenuous conditions of that status, which also are of no interest. Moreover, mimicking the tactics of the more avowedly conservative Heritage Foundation, Haskins egregiously argues that economic inequality itself is over-stated: “The seemingly straightforward story of income inequality therefore turns out not to be so simple. It is a tale of subtle hues, not stark contrasts, and some of the most basic claims thrown around in the media turn out to be rather dubious.”
On a practical level, Haskins and Sawhill focus on the relationship between formal education and economic outcomes, regardless of slow economic growth, low-paying jobs, and growing student debt, and regardless of the intractable reality that more schooling for more people cannot possibly in and of itself address the structural nature of poverty in relation to our economy, or the stagnation and struggles of the middle class.
In relation to this emphasis on education, young people are advised by Sawhill on how to best avoid staying or becoming poor:
“In later research, Ron Haskins and I learned that if individuals do just three things—finish high school, work full time and marry before they have children—their chances of being poor drop from 15 percent to 2 percent. Mitt Romney has cited this research on the campaign trail, but these issues transcend presidential politics. Stronger public support for single-parent families—such as subsidies or tax credits for child care, and the earned-income tax credit — is needed, but no government program is likely to reduce child poverty as much as bringing back marriage as the preferable way of raising children.
“The government has a limited role to play. It can support local programs and nonprofit organizations working to reduce early, unwed childbearing through teen-pregnancy prevention efforts, family planning, greater opportunities for disadvantaged youth or programs to encourage responsible relationships.
“But in the end, Dan Quayle was right. Unless the media, parents and other influential leaders celebrate marriage as the best environment for raising children, the new trend—bringing up baby alone—may be irreversible.”
Ultimately, what these “centrist” social policy analysts have to offer is not only denial and rationalization of economic inequality in an “opportunity society,” but patronizing lectures about responsibility to those who bear the brunt of our collective unwillingness to face poverty and eliminate it. Moreover, they haven’t a word to say about the responsibility of those who benefit most handsomely from the desperate status quo and the misery of others.
Why do conservatives need Charles Murray and Thomas Sowell when they’ve got Sawhill and Haskins?
David Green lives in Urbana, IL. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
COMING IN SEPTEMBER
A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch
Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …