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Larry Summers has had an epiphany!

Last month, Larry Summers ripped into those arguing that more education is the answer to the country’s rampant inequality.

“The core problem is that there aren’t enough jobs,” said the former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton and top economics adviser to Barack Obama. “If you help some people, you could help them get the jobs, but then someone else won’t get the jobs. Unless you’re doing things that have things that are affecting the demand for jobs, you’re helping people win a race to get a finite number of jobs.”

He made these comments at a conference at the Brookings Institution put on by the Hamilton Project, the economics think tank funded by Summers’ predecessor at the Clinton Treasury, Robert Rubin.

If the significance of these comments is not clear, the most important economic figure of the Democratic Party mainstream was demolishing one of the party’s central themes over the last two decades. Summers was arguing that the problems of the labor force — weak employment opportunities, stagnant wages and rising inequality — were not going to be addressed by increasing the education and skills of the workforce. Rather, the problem was the overall state of the economy.

The standard education story puts the blame for stagnant wages on workers. The key to getting ahead is education. On the contrary, Summers argued at Brookings: The blame for the economic malaise goes to the people who design economic policy. It is their fault that workers aren’t able to secure decent-paying jobs.

Summers was responding to evidence that can’t be reconciled with the education story. As my friends and colleagues Larry Mishel, John Schmitt and Heidi Shierholz have shown, inequality has continued to grow since 2000 even though demand for workers in highly skilled occupations has not increased. Similarly, there has been little change in the wage premium that college-educated workers enjoy relative to less-educated workers, as pay for the typical college grad has barely risen since the turn of the century.

For this reason, anyone who blames stagnating wages on a lack of education is ignoring the data. With the data no longer supporting the theory, at least some mainstream economists have chosen to adjust their views.

There’s more, on trade deals. You should read it!

Panhandle Slim… Art for Folk…


Panhandle Slim…

Toilet troubles plague bus drivers

One afternoon during the summer of 2000, her first year as a bus driver in Oregon’s Portland, Hope Okazaki had a troubling episode of gastrointestinal distress while on the job. She had just finished an almost two-hour tour through the east side of town, and her bus was parked at the Gateway Transit Center, in a… Continue Reading »

Not thrilled. Not at all.

sigma sound
Studio A at Sigma Sound.

They announced last week that the historic Sigma Sound Studios here in Philly are going to be converted to apartments and retail space for dude bros.

As they liked to brag, every 11 minutes, somewhere in the world, a song recorded at Sigma Sound is being played.

Everyone used to record there. it’s where Laura Nyro’s “Gonna Take A Miracle” was recorded, and most of David Bowie’s “Fame” (with John Lennon). The Jacksons, The Spinners, Steel Eye Span, Billy Paul, The Intruders, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, The Stylistics, The O’Jays, MFSB, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Todd Rundgren, Talking Heads, Aretha, Jill Scott, Isaac Hayes, The Delfonics, Ashford & Simpson, The Roots, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle, ZZ Top, numerous others… sigh. At least I got to see wander around in there a couple of times before they killed it. But we’re losing the Philadelphia equivalent of the Brill Building.

If only they’d done a Kickstarter and turned it into a music museum.

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Glenn Greenwald states the obvious

'Imminent' terror attack foiled in Australia

But you should probably look over your shoulder before you agree!

We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this monthcited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?

This FBI tactic would be akin to having the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) constantly warn of the severe threat posed by drug addiction while it simultaneously uses pushers on its payroll to deliberately get people hooked on drugs so that they can arrest the addicts they’ve created and thus justify their own warnings and budgets (and that kind of threat-creation, just by the way, is not all that far off from what the other federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, are actually doing). As we noted the last time we wrote about this, the Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat.
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Good luck, Wisconsin

Scott Walker

John Dean (yes, that John Dean) wrote this column three years ago:

Nonetheless, Walker’s amorality is conspicuous.  It is found in his history of ethics violations and the record of his lying. A lengthy article could (and should) be written about both, but suffice it here to note that his ethics problems go back to his Marquette University days, when the college newspaper called him “unfit” for student office.

Later, in the Assembly (in 2005), Walker would earn the distinction of receiving the second-highest fine for an ethics violation in Wisconsin history.  His lying is notorious. Politifacts Wisconsin (which I am told is more reliable than most of these sites) finds Walker to be an accomplished falsifier. With respect to 44 statements that Politifacts examined, Walker was found to have been truthful only on six occasions.  The fact that 38 statements were pants-on-fire false, false, mostly false, or half-truths is stark evidence of amorality.

I watched a video of a Walker speech at the Goldwater Institute.  He’s slick: Fast-talking, confident, and dishonest—I watched him distort facts with which I was familiar.  He spoke in mostly half-truths, and certainly not with the kind of candor that the late Senator Goldwater expected from political figures.

Clearly, Walker has all the traits of a social dominator and authoritarian leader. More strikingly, it is also clear that he is, in fact, what social scientists term a “double high authoritarian.”

Scott Walker Also Has Traits of Authoritarian Followers   

As I mentioned in Part One in this series of columns, to fit the definition of a double high authoritarian, a person must score highly as both a dominator/leader, and ironically, also as an authoritarian follower (because such people see themselves running the world, and believe that others should always follow leaders, like themselves).

Again, I listed all the traits of those who follow authoritarian leaders in that prior column.  The key and defining characteristics of such people are (1) their willingness to submit to established authority, (2) their aggressiveness on behalf of that authority, and (3) their conventionality.  Scott Walker has long shown that he possesses these traits, conspicuously so, and thus he would likely score high on such a test.
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Fire sale

Chris Christie

Only three months before New Jersey agreed to accept $250 million in cash from ExxonMobil to settle claims the oil giant sullied public land, Gov. Chris Christie was still signaling a hard line. The governor called the ecological damage from the firm’s refining operations “staggering and unprecedented,” and his administration continued to pursue a state lawsuit… Continue Reading »

Rahm’s corruption

Rahm Emanuel Seeks to Avoid Runoff in Chicago Mayoral Election

Bill Moyers with a roundup of Emanuel administration scandals even I didn’t know about! Like this one:

Indeed, the mayor faced a drumbeat of outstanding journalistic exposés all throughout the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Deborah Quazzo, an Emanuel school board appointee who runs an investment fund for companies that privatize school functions. They discovered that five companies in which she had an ownership stake have more than tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools since she joined the board, many of them for contracts drawn up in the suspicious amount of $24,999 — one dollar below the amount that required central office approval. (Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois whose school board is appointed by a mayor. But activists succeeded — in an arduous accomplishment against the obstruction attempts of Emanuel backers on the city council — to get an advisory referendum on the ballot in a majority of the city’s wards calling for an elected representative school board. Approximately 90 percent of the voters who could vote for the measure did.)

Debtor’s prison

Galleries of Justice Museum - High Pavement, Nottingham - Debtor's Prison & Dark Cells - The Dark Cells

I was working on the mayoral race when I was shocked to find out that city jails were filled with harmless offenders who couldn’t afford to pay even a $100 fine. It’s disgusting, and it’s un-American. I’m glad that Georgia is taking some steps to reduce the financial penalties for poor people caught in the legal system, but of course it’s still not enough:

It’s not yet signed and sealed, but human rights advocates are feeling hopeful that Georgia will rein in its detested, Jim Crow-esque probation system, which routinely jails people who can’t afford to pay court fines and probation fees for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket.

The bill, which sailed through a House judiciary committee Thursday and is expected to be voted on by the state legislature Monday, won’t end the practice of farming out probation cases to private contractors, but it would at least redefine the terms. It would limit, for example, the number of months companies can charge a probationer for their services, force private players to disclose their finances, and remind judges of their power to sentence people to community service in lieu of unpaid fines. Finally, it would also create a new state agency to make sure the rules are followed. The bill already has the approval of Gov. Nathan Deal, whose criminal-justice panel made the recommendations on which it is based.

“It’s not just the companies that are the bad guys; it’s the courts, who are not paying attention to what those companies are doing.”

Since 2000, when the state transferred to the counties all responsibility for handling misdemeanors, many courts have hired private companies to track probationers, handle the paperwork, and collect payments. Yet because probationers are required to cover the management costs, the companies had an incentive to keep them on the hook as long as possible. It is, as reporter Celia Perry noted in a 2008Mother Jones story, “a way to milk scarce dollars from the poorest of the poor,” who, in many Georgia counties, are disproportionately black. Human Rights Watch, in a February 2014 report entitled Profiting from Probation, calls it “an extremely muscular form of debt collection masquerading as probation supervision, with all costs billed to the debtor.”
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