Health care: Score one against the hyenas

Hyena caricatureN.B. The hyena caricature (right) is from William Belcher’s Address to Humanity, published in 1796. Thanks to Ragged Edge Magazine.

On Monday, the day after passage of the new health reform law, I received a visit from a friend (call him Vic) who’s perpetually broke. He and his wife (Tina) lived with us at one point when their only other alternative was the street. Now they pay $39 a day to stay at a seedy hotel near the Interstate.

They were supposed to have moved on by now, to have a place of their own. Months ago, a man set aside $1,000 for Vic and Tina to pay a deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment or rental. But Vic and Tina haven’t found a place they can afford, at least not one that Tina is willing to move in to. Vic won’t even look in Birmingham, where rents are lower, because they want to be in a good school district. Their 11-year-old daughter lives with Tina’s parents, and they want her back.

It hasn’t occurred to them to get a cheap apartment for the short term in order to save money. Saving is not a realistic prospect to them. In their entire adult life — Vic is 48 — they have only experienced two conditions: not having enough, and having just enough. Continue reading “Health care: Score one against the hyenas”

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Comparative propaganda

The Obama administration needs to convey a message that things are under control. So they commemorated the first anniversary of the Recovery Act with this:

It’s a chart showing the number of jobs lost each month from December 2007 to January 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continue reading “Comparative propaganda”

Read any unjust economies lately?

We need a literature about being spoiled.… Most people who read in this country are spoiled and boring, yet all they want to read about is struggle and adventure. — William Upski Wimsatt, No More Prisons

To be fair, income inequality must have been much greater in the colonial period than it is today. Income gaps must have been wide up through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and I’ll allow that the 1890s in the USA were even worse than the 1990s.

Still, in the century or so since the United States became a world power, income inequality has never been greater than it is now. Class-defining inequality reached a new high in 2006, when the richest tenth of the population cornered half of all the earnings made in America that year. That surpasses the previous record set in 1928.

The financial crisis has destroyed much of the wealth charted in 2006, but that wealth is being rebuilt. Jobs and affordable housing are not, and so the gap is set to widen further.

And no one much cares. Continue reading “Read any unjust economies lately?”

“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

This traditional southern put-down came to mind as a I read Matthew Yglesias’ posts (yesterday and today) on the presumed link between wealth, on the one hand, and competence and innovation, on the other. Exhibit A: Big Business may retard technological progress. Alexander J. Field argues that the 1930s were the “most technologically progressive” decade […]

False promises to the jobless

Looking over Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch, a 2005 exposé on the decline of the middle class, I found descriptions of the following three alternatives for the downsized corporate manager. Franchising, also known as “buying yourself a job,” is the purchase of the right to operate a local franchise of a major corporation. Most of […]