Article 43

 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rich Kids Are All Right

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The Wealthy Kids Are All Right

By Chuck Collins
The Prospect
May 28, 2013

In a tough economy with dwindling social supports, children of privilege have a bigger head start than ever.

Two 21-year-old college students sit down in a coffee shop to study for an upcoming test. Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double-shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash.

These four young adults have a lot in common. They are the same age and race, each has two parents, and all grew up in the same metropolitan area. They were all strong students in their respective high schools. But as they enter their third decade, their work futures and life trajectories are radically different - and largely determined - at this point.

The culprit is the growing role of INHERITED ADVANTAGE, as affluent families make investments that give their children A LEG UP. Combined with the 2008 economic meltdown and budget cuts in public investments that foster opportunity, we are witnessing accelerating advantages for the wealthy and compounding disadvantages for everyone else.

One of the college students, Miranda, will graduate without any student-loan debt and will have completed three summers of unpaid internships at businesses that will advance her career path. Her parents stand ready to subsidize her lodging with a security deposit and co-signed apartment lease and will give her a no-interest loan to buy a car. They also have a network of family and professional contacts that can help her. While she waits for a job with benefits, she will remain on her parents’ health insurance.

Ten years later, Miranda will have a high-paying job, be engaged to another professional, and will buy a home in a neighborhood with other college-educated professionals, a property that will steadily appreciate over time because of its location. The “parental down-payment assistance program” will subsidize the purchase.

The other collegiate, Marcus, will graduate with more than $55,000 in college debt, a maxed-out credit card, and an extensive rsum of part-time food-service jobs that he has taken to pay for school, both during summers and while in college, reducing the hours he can study. Though he will obtain a degree, he will graduate with almost no work experience in his field of study, lose his health insurance, and begin working two part-time jobs to pay back his student loans and to afford rent in a shared apartment.

Ten years later, Marcus will still be working in low-paying jobs and renting an apartment. He will feel occupationally stuck and frustrated in his attempts to network in the area of his degree. He will take on additional debt - to deal with various health and financial problemsand watch his hope of buying a home slip away, in large part because of a credit history damaged during his early twenties.

Tony, the barista, has the benefit of not taking on mega-debt from college. He will eventually enroll in some classes at a local public university. But his income and employment opportunities will be constrained by not having a college degree. He will make several attempts to learn a building trade and start his own business, eventually landing a job with a steady but low income.

The good news for Tony is that his parents, while not college educated or wealthy, are stable middle-class with modest retirement pensions and a debt-free house, acquired by Tonyגs grandfather with a low-interest Veterans Administration mortgage. They are able to provide a bedroom to their son. That home will prove to be a significant factor in Tonys future economic stability, as he will eventually inherit it.

Cordelia, working in the kitchen, has even less opportunity than Tony for mobility and advancement. Neither of her parents went to college nor have significant assets, as they rent their housing. Though she was academically in the top of her urban high-school class, she did not consider applying to a selective college. The costs seemed daunting, and she didnҒt know anyone who went away to college. There were no adults or guidance professionals to help her explore other options, including financial aid available at private colleges, some of which would have paid her full tuition and expenses to attend. Instead, she takes courses at the local community college where she sees many familiar faces. Cordelia will struggle with health issues, as lack of adequate health care and insurance means she will delay treatment of several problems. Over time, she will have a steady and low-wage job, but she will also begin to take more responsibility for supporting members of her family who are less fortunate.

The Born-on-Third-Base Factor

These four coming-of-age adults in no way represent the entire spectrum of young adult experience, which also includes ex-offenders, mediocre students, and people with disabilities. Young adults in rural communities and small towns, for example, face their own education and economic challenges, such as limited employment options. They will disproportionately populate our volunteer military, fill the growing ranks of disability-pension recipients, or migrate to communities where they have few social supports.

A key determinant in these diverging prospects is the role of family wealth, a factor that plays an oversize role in sorting todays coming-of-age generation onto different opportunity trajectories. The initial sort begins much earlier. A growing mountain of research chronicles what sociologists call the ғintergenerational transmission of advantage, including the myriad mechanisms by which affluent families boost their children’s prospects starting at birth. The mechanisms include financial investments in their childrens enrichment, school readiness, formal schooling, college access, and aiding the transition to work. Meanwhile, the children in families unable to make these investments fall further behind.

Imagine a ten-mile race in which contestants have different starting lines based on parental education, income, and wealth. The economically privileged athletes start several hundred yards ahead of the disadvantaged runners. Each contestant begins with ten one-pound leg weights. The race begins, and the advantaged competitors pull ahead quickly. At each half-mile mark, according to the rules, the first twenty runners shed two pounds of weights while those in the last half of the field take on two additional pounds. After several miles, lead racers have no weights, while the slower runners carry twenty additional pounds. By midrace, an alarming gap has opened up in the field, and by the finish line, the last half of the field finishes more than two miles behind the winners.

This race of accelerating advantages and compounding disadvantages is a disturbingly accurate metaphor for inherited privilege. As in life, there are well-publicized stories of exceptional runners starting far back in the pack and breaking to the front of the field, therefore able to shed weights and remain competitive. There are also front-runners who perform poorly, squandering their initial advantages and falling back. But the overall picture is one of steadily growing class-based inequality. Consistent with emerging sociological research about children and opportunity, once inequalities open up, they rarely decrease over time.

A healthy democratic society could rise to this challenge, resolving to make robust public investments in time-tested interventions that equalize the conditions of the race. But in our increasingly plutocratic political system, the very wealthy have less stake in the opportunity-building mechanisms in our communities, as their own children and grandchildren advance through privatized systems. These same wealthy families maintain disproportionate influence in shaping our national priorities, such as whether to cut taxes on the wealthy or maintain investments in public education. We are snagged in a cycle of declining opportunity driven by the new politics of inherited advantage.

A Growing Family Welfare State and a Shrinking Public One

The United States prides itself on being a socially mobile society where what one does is more important than the racial and class circumstances of one’s birth. Indeed, in the three decades after World War II, between 1947 and 1977, social mobility increased, particularly for the white working class. This imprinted a national self-identity as a meritocratic society, especially juxtaposed with the old caste societies’ of Europe, with their static class systems and calcified social mobility.

That story of European versus U.S. social mobility has now been turned on its head. European nations and Canada, with their social safety nets and investments in early childhood education, are experiencing greater social mobility. Canada now has three times the social mobility of the U.S. Budget cuts at all levels of government have dismantled post World War II public investments that had begun to create greater opportunities for economically and racially disadvantaged families. Higher education has taken one of the biggest hits. Meanwhile, the relative advantage of wealthy families, in terms of social capital and civic engagement, has accelerated over the past 30 years.

The idea that people’s futures might be economically determined deeply offends U.S. sensibilities. We want to believe that individual moxie matters, that a persons creativity, effort, and intelligence will lead to economic success. Stories of exceptional strivers, heroically overcoming a stacked deck of obstacles, divert our attention from the data. But the large mega-trends are now indisputable. If you fail to pick wealthy parents and want to experience the American dream today, move to Canada.

Parental Investments from Birth

Long before our four 21-year-olds considered college, they were on different glide paths. Debt-free Miranda was the beneficiary of parental investments that prepared her for school and high achievement. She grew up in a book-filled and conversation-rich home environment with college-educated parents that had more leisure and vacation time to spend with her. She spent more time in ecologically pristine environments and had access to recreation, health care, and nutritious food. Her parents, knowledgeable about brain development, talked to her, using vastly more vocabulary words than children of other classes hear. When she was away from her parents, they paid for comparably stimulating child-care settings.

Researcher Meredith Phillips found that by age six, wealthier children spent as many as 1,300 more hours a year than poor children on enrichment activities such as travel, music lessons, visits to museums, and summer camp. All this results in much higher math and reading skills and other attainments later in life.

Success-bound Miranda had more opportunities than her non-wealthy peers to develop the important social capital that results from more time with parents and time spent in social institutions such as religious congregations, civic organizations, and extracurricular activities. Working-class youth, often with parents holding down multiple jobs to make up for several decades of stagnant wages, are more socially disconnected or connected in dysfunctional ways. As a result, they develop fewer “soft skills” useful in job networking and workplaces.

As our foursome enter K-12 school, once considered the great avenue to equal opportunity, disparities widen. The early literacy and reading support conferred by the more advantaged families leads their children to pull away from others, not just those with low incomes. Class-based disparities in the cognitive skills of reading and math test scores have grown since the 1970s, corresponding with the national income and wealth gap. According to researcher Sean Reardon, the income-achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born in 1976.

Among “high achievers,” the top 4 percent of students nationwide, 34 percent come from the top quartile, households with incomes of more than $120,776. Only 17 percent come from the bottom quartile, with incomes of less than $41,472. The income-achievement gap is now bigger than the race gap, a reverse from 50 years earlier. The main explanation is that high-income parents of all races are investing more in children’s cognitive development.

Family Advantage and College Success

All four of our young adults graduated from their high schools in the top fifth of their classes. But their high-school experience was quite divergent, based on their community and neighborhood. The key decision pointas to whether to attend college and whereחwas largely driven by disparities in income and wealth in the form of parental investment, K-12 education systems, and college-preparatory supports.

In the 70 years since World War II, college attendance has played a significant role in employment opportunity and lifetime earnings. Over these 70 years, college entry has increased by more than 50 percent, and the rate of college completion by age 25 has more than quadrupled. But since 1980, an income-based gap has grown up in terms of college completion.

Low-income students born around 1980 only increased their college-graduation rates by 4 percent - whereas higher-income cohorts saw their graduation rates go up by 18 percent. The greatest inequality has been among women, driven by increases in college completion by the daughters of higher-income households - and the lack of opportunities for non-wealthy women.

Marcuss family, like Miranda’s, placed a strong emphasis on attending college and college preparation. He went to a suburban public school that provided college-bound students with Advanced Placement classes, college counseling, and seminars for parents. While not as wealthy as Mirandas family, Marcus’s family, also like Mirandas, paid for the services of the burgeoning college-preparation industry to boost their child’s SAT scores. But in terms of family wealth, Marcus was on his own after high school, venturing into higher education and work without family resources and a financial safety net. As a consequence, in his thirties and forties, he will have more debts than assets.

Miranda and barista Tony share an important parental boost that college student Marcus didnt have: Their parents passed on financial-preparation and money-literacy skills. Both children learned about money from parents who gave them allowances to manage and encouraged them to open bank accounts and save. Initial research suggests that financial literacy may be a more important factor than schooling in lifetime wealth accumulation and retirement savings. Tony learned thrift and debt avoidance. These skills are much more important in the current environment, with unregulated predatory lenders and a bewildering variety of student-loan products to choose from.

Tony will benefit from modest family-wealth transfers, thanks to a previous generation of social investments, which include his grandfather’s government-subsidized home mortgage. Tony will tap into what Sally Koslow, in her book “Slouching toward Adulthood,” calls the middle class trust fund: free room and board and cable and Internet access. Tonys parents don’t consider their support for him a legacy advantage. They understand that the deck is stacked against their son, who will most likely never be rich without a winning lottery ticket or marrying into money. Their temporary housing and modest giftsthe purchase of a truck and money to get a trade licenseחare hedges against his downward mobility and destitution.

Cordelias parents did what they could to better her prospects, ensuring she was in a good elementary school and steered to engaging teachers. They found her affordable summer day camps and other enrichment experiences. But when it came time for her to consider college, Cordelia was flying solo. Like many talented low-income students, she didn’t apply to one of the nations selective schools. Only 5 percent of the total enrollment at the 28 most selective private colleges is from families in the bottom fifth of income distribution. But 70 percent of the enrollment consists of students in the highest-income distribution. Like the majority of low-income college students, Cordelia did not complete college. A key missing ingredient for Cordelia was effective college guidance, within her school and at home.

How young people finance college has its own disparities. Low-income and minority students that get proper guidance can sometimes obtain significant scholarships at private colleges and graduate with less debt than students attending public universities. Miranda’s parents paid full freight for her college. Marcus, navigating the college-financing jungle on his own, got little financial aid and signed up for a loan package that will cost him twice as much over time due to higher interest payments as the cheapest available plan. If Marcus were attending college 40 years earlier, he probably would have graduated debt-free as a result of lower tuition and public financial-aid programs.

One of the huge breakaway wealth advantages is unpaid internships in ones career area, an essential leg up in the transition from school to work. Entry-level workers are now expected to show up with work experience. Research shows that half of college-graduate hires had previously interned at the firm where they were hired. While Miranda received family support to take unpaid internships, other college students like Marcus used every non-school hour to earn money in jobs outside their career area.

Family wealth also serves as a form of adversity insurance, as young adults face potential setbacks including prolonged unemployment, bad credit, health or addiction problems, criminal arrests, car breakdowns or accidents, or early parenthood. Young adults may make poor decisions or face unforeseen circumstances, but in almost every case, family wealth will help keep young people on track, whether it comes in legal assistance, treatment, or regular cash infusions.

Closing the Advantage Gap

What, if anything, can be done to offset the torrent of perks and advantages that wealthy parents confer to their progeny as they compete for slots in educational institutions, internships in their field of interest, entry-level jobs, affordable housing, and other resources?

The first step is to acknowledge the depth of the declining mobility and opportunity problem, a story that is just beginning to be understood after three decades of extreme inequality. The image of post World War II white mobility still reverberates and dominates our national mythology, especially for our political class and whites over the age of 50. But the present inequalities of wealth have fundamentally altered the playing field for the next two generations.

Even ideological critics of social investment have begun to acknowledge the intergenerational class disparities. Conservative Reihan Salam acknowledges the incumbent-protection storyӔ of wealthy families, observing that it is possible that non-black families in the top three-fifths of the income distribution are giving their children advantages that protect them from scrappy upstarts in ways that might damage our growth prospects.Ӕ Let alone principles of fairness, opportunity, and equity!

Sustained public investments in opportunity are critical to level a playing field that is constantly being upended by wealth advantage.

We cant remove the capacity of well-off families to help advantage their offspring, but we can give others more of a shot.

Other industrialized countries have demonstrated that public investments in health, education, and family well-being can offset the private advantages of wealth and improve social mobility. Initiatives like the “Baby College of the Harlem Children’s Zone,” “Head Start,” the U.S.s Nurse-Family Partnership program, and universal preschool programs, such as those in France and Denmark, partially close the gaps in school achievement and subsequent wages. Several of these initiatives coach new parents on childhood health and wellness, discipline, brain development, and games and enrichment resources available to their children.

High-quality pre-kindergarten education, access to health care and nutrition, good K-12 public education, and early diagnosis of learning disabilities and special needs are key interventions that help people equalize life chances. The fact that inequalities of opportunity now accelerate as schooling begins is testament to the need to defend and expand funding for public education at all levels. More than three-fourths of undergraduate college students attend public universities and colleges, which are facing the worst state cuts.

There are also private-sector and personal interventions that could reduce runaway unequal opportunity. Community foundations can partner with business and cultural institutions to ensure that public and private funding for youth enrichment, arts and sports programs, summer camps, and stimulating after-school programs survive budget cutting. This must include resources for outreach to the most socially disconnected families to ensure their children have access to these opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor should police the unpaid and underpaid internship marketplace, cracking down on companies that replace paid positions with unpaid ones. Certain sectors that disproportionately offer unpaid internships as a stepping-stone to career networksҗjournalism, politics, and entertainmentshould do deep soul-searching about the implications for the widespread exclusion of working- and middle-class youth. Private-sector and government agencies that offer internships should create stipend and compensation pools to ensure that non-wealthy young people have an equal shot at internships. Donors should fund internship positions at nonprofit organizations they care about, expanding the pool of young people that can intern there.

Privileged families will always seek to extend their own advantages to their children, but restoring greater progressivity to the tax system would ensure that wealthy families still contribute to the opportunities of others. Another intervention would be to eliminate or reduce the tax deductibility of contributions to private schools and colleges, except if directly used for scholarships for disadvantaged youth.

One elegant solution would be to tax wealth to broaden opportunity. Revenue from a steeply progressive estate or inheritance tax could capitalize an “education-opportunity” trust fund to provide debt-free college educations for first-generation college students.

Wealthy families concerned about declining social mobility should use their special privileges to stop the advantage arms race. They should match any family subsidies with tax dollars and donations to organizations that promote mobility. Without such interventions, the U.S. will further drift toward being a caste society, where opportunity, occupation, and social status are based on inherited advantage, fractured along class lines.

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Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind

By Marian Wang
Jonathan Lin contributed research to this article.
September 11, 2013

Shauniqua Epps was the sort of student that so many colleges say they want.

She was a high achiever, graduating from high school with a 3.8 GPA and ranking among the top students in her class. She served as secretary, then president, of the student government. She played varsity basketball and softball. Her high-school guidance counselor, in a letter of recommendation, wrote that Epps was an “unusual young lady” with both “drive and determination.”

Epps, 19, was also needy.

Her family lives in subsidized housing in South Philadelphia, and her father died when she was in third grade. Her mother is on Social Security disability, which provides the family $698 a month, records show. Neither of her parents finished high school.

Epps, who is African-American, made it her goal to be the first in her family to attend college.

I did volunteering. I did internships. I did great in school. I was always good with people,Ӕ said Epps, who has a broad smile and a cheerful manner. I thought everything was going to go my way.Ӕ

At first, it looked that way.

Epps was admitted to three colleges, all public institutions in Pennsylvania. She was awarded the maximum Pell grant, federal funds intended for needy students. She also qualified for the maximum state grant for needy Pennsylvania students.

None of the three schools Epps was admitted to gave her a single dollar of aid.

To attend her dream school, Lincoln University, Epps would have had to come up with about $4,000 per year, after maxing out on federal loans - close to half of what her mother receives from Social Security. “It was money her family didn’t have,” she said.

Public colleges and universities were generally founded and funded to give students in their states access to an affordable college education. They have long served as a vital pathway for students from modest means and those who are the first in their families to attend college.

But many public universities, faced with their own financial shortfalls, are increasingly leaving low-income students behind - including strivers like Epps.

It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest.

A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts - to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in LOWER INCOME BRACKETS the hardest.

Attention has long been focused on the lack of economic diversity at private colleges, especially at the most elite schools. What has been little discussed, by contrast, is how public universities, which enroll far more students, have gradually shifted their priorities and a growing portion of their aid dollars ח away from low-income students.

State schools are typically considered to offer the most affordable, accessible four-year education students can get. When those schools raise tuition and dont offer more aid, low-income students are often forced to decide not just which college to attend but whether they can afford to attend college at all.

“The most needy students are getting squeezed out,” said Charles Reed, a former chancellor of the California State University system and of the State University System of Florida. “Need-based aid is extremely important to these students and their parents.”

There’s no data on the number of needy but qualified students who are “squeezed out” and don’t make it onto four-year college campuses. But what is clear is that while the number of needy students has been growing, state schools have not kept up.

Over roughly two decades, four-year state schools have been educating a shrinking portion of the nation’s lowest-income students, according to an ANALYSIS of Pell-grant data by Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the nonprofit Pell Institute. The task of educating low-income students has increasingly fallen to community colleges and for-profit schools.

Epps top choice, officially known as The Lincoln University, is about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, and was one of the nation’s first historically black colleges. Founded in 1854 to serve African-Americans excluded from other colleges, the school became a public institution in the EARLY 1970S, when the state legislature deemed its mission to be “ompletely compatible with the needs of the Commonwealth.”

All of the school’s own aid typically goes toward athletic or merit-based scholarships, regardless of students needs. In the 2009-10 budget, for instance, most of the roughly $3 million in institutional aid went to four specific “merit-based” scholarships - and the rest to athletics, international students, and study abroad, according to data supplied by Lincoln. The only need-based aid available to students is through separate donor-supported scholarships, some of which are earmarked for needy students, said university spokesman Eric Webb.

Aid given based on merit or other factors could still go to needy students, but that doesnt appear to be happening much at Lincoln.

Data made available by the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success show that 84 percent of the school’s grant dollars in the 2009-10 school year did not go to meeting students needs. (The data does not include athletic scholarships and certain other forms of aid.)

At Epps’ second choice, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, two-thirds of aid dollars in 2010-11 went to students who had no documented need for it, according to the latest data available. (East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, the third school that accepted Epps, did not provide a breakdown of institutional grant aid.)

Why have public universities across the nation shifted their aid?

“For some schools, they’re trying to climb to the top of the rankings. For other schools, its more about revenue generation,” said Don Hossler, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington.

To achieve these goals, schools use their aid to draw wealthier students especially those from out of state, who will pay more in tuition - or higher-achieving students, whose scores will give the colleges a boost in the rankings.

Private colleges have been using such tactics aggressively for some time. But in recent years, many public colleges have sought to catch up, doing what the industry calls “financial-aid leveraging.”

The math can work like this: Instead of offering, say, $12,000 to an especially needy student, a school might choose to leverage its aid by giving $3,000 discounts to four students with less need, each of whom scored high on the SAT, who together will bring in more tuition dollars than the needier student.

Those discounts are often offered to prospective students as merit aid.Ӕ

Despite its name, merit aid isnӒt always going to the very best students, Hossler said. ԓIts an intentional strategy to help offset the loss of state support.Ҕ

Hossler knows this world firsthand. For years, he carried out such strategies as vice chancellor for enrollment services at Indiana University.

One of my charges was to go after what I would call pretty good out-of-state students,Ӕ he said. Not valedictorians, not the top of the class. Students who you didnӒt have to give thousands and thousands of dollars to in order to get them to enroll.

Indiana University is not alone in thinking about financial aid this way. Consultants who work with schools on financial-aid strategies said theyԒve seen an uptick in interest from public universities in recent years, with many focused on generating more revenue.

When public [universities] come to us individually now, they wonӒt admit it, but theyre all looking for the same thing җ smart students who can pay, said an industry consultant who asked not to be named.

Another industry consultant, Mary Piccioli of Scannell & Kurz, said many of her firmԒs public-school clients are looking to use financial aid to positively impact the bottom line.Ӕ

College officials often argue that attracting students with more resources means theyll have more aid to redistribute to those in need.

ғTheres certainly some truth to that,Ҕ said Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State Universitys College of Education, who has researched institutional-aid patterns extensively. ғBut I dont think thatҒs really the motivating behavior for many institutions. The more dominant motivating behavior is interest in high-achieving students, which will help them with institutional prestige.

Epps, apparently, didn’t generate that sort of interest.

She was in her high schools computer lab, checking her email, when she saw the message from Lincoln University laying out her financial aid package: a mix of state and federal money but nothing from Lincoln.

“Once I saw it, I knew it wasn’t the amount that I needed,” Epps said. “Right away I knew it.”

Epps had been getting guidance from Philadelphia Futures, an organization that helps low-income high-school students get into and complete college. When she went through the cost calculations with a coordinator there, it became clear: The money simply didn’t add up.

At first, Epps said, she blamed herself for not qualifying for aid. She felt like a failure.

I was kind of upset because I felt as though I worked so hard,Ӕ she said. I kept thinking how IӒm not a good test taker.

Epps had scored a combined SAT score of 820 on math and critical reading. In fact, thatԒs solidly in the middle of Lincolns score distributions for many years, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

But what Epps didnҒt know is that the school had committed to continuously improving its SAT and GPA averages for incoming cohortsӔ as language found in a strategic planning documentput it. She also didnגt know that the school had been spending the majority of its financial aid on students who would help bring up those averages regardless of whether they needed the money.

דTo attract top students to your institution, you have to be able to offer them a competitive scholarship package, said Lincoln University President Robert Jennings. ԓThats usually a full-tuition scholarship, thatҒs a private room sometimes or laptop computer, or a whole bunch of other perks. Thats what schools do. All schools do it.Ҕ

Rather than giving small discounts to many students, as many colleges do, Lincoln focuses on giving free rides to top scorers as a Lincoln admissions flyer lays out.

The strategy seems to have worked. Lincoln University has raised its scores in recent years. In 2002, half of Lincoln֒s incoming freshmen scored between a 360 and 460 on the math section of the SAT. In 2012, half of students scored between 410 and 490.

The boost in scores has been no accident, according to Jennings. He said it was a mandate from the Board of Trustees.

They wanted to increase the SAT averages of students coming to Lincoln,Ӕ Jennings said.

And what about students who may have once been a natural fit but arent hitting the higher scores? The school still wants to serve some of them җ because of our historical mission,Ӕ explained Jennings. But Lincoln has also increasingly been trying to steer that lower tier of students ӗ students who need much more help into community colleges,ה he said.

Jennings doesnt see this as a departure from the schoolҒs mission to provide public access. Absolutely not,Ӕ he said. ThatӒs why you have community colleges. They, too, are public institutions, and we have built collaborative relationships with them. He added that the school recently launched a campaign to raise more money for scholarships, some of which will go to providing more need-based aid.

Like Lincoln, both Millersville University and East Stroudsburg University ԗ the two other colleges that accepted Epps have created strategic planning documents that include language reflecting a desire to move up academically.

In a 2010-15 strategic planning document, East Stroudsburg University outlined the goals of becoming דmore selective in each new year as well as fostering ԓstrategic alignment of financial aid to better attract top students.

ԓHigh-achieving and access are not mutually exclusive, said spokeswoman Brenda Friday. ԓAs such, we look for and recruit students who present both. We also recruit these groups separately. There are funding possibilities available for both groups of students.

East Stroudsburg and other regional public colleges are in a tough spot. Many donԒt have very much aid to give, and most serve a higher percentage of needy students than more prestigious public flagship universities, which have more money from endowments, research and fundraising. Its a common phenomenon in higher education Җ students with less money relegated to institutions with less money.

In Pennsylvania, as in most states, public higher education has faced steep cuts, especially since the most recent recession. Over the last five years, the state has cut funds for higher education by 18 percent. At public institutions, thats worked out to about $2,000 less in state and local support per student - a 32 percentage-point drop, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

All the arrows point in a direction that shows what we are out doing now is raising revenue. The old business model has sort of broken down,Ӕ said Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute and formerly the head of state higher-education boards and commissions in Montana, Washington and California.

“There have probably been no winners from all of this,” Callan said. “But the biggest losers were those who were disadvantaged on the front end.”

In high school, Epps went by the nickname “Neeks” with most of her friends. They were a mixed group. Some, like her, fostered hopes of attending college. Others just wanted to finish school and get a job.

Though she loved high school, Epps said that looking back she realizes that despite her own efforts, she didnt get the best education.

About a third of the students at her high school didn’t graduate. After she left, the school was among roughly two dozen shuttered by the chronically underfunded School District of Philadelphia.

“On a couple of levels, systems are failing these students,” said Ann-Therese Ortiz, who worked with Epps as director of pre-college programs at Philadelphia Futures. Low-income high-school students could put in the same effort as their better-resourced counterparts, but even with the same effort, it simply doesn’t yield the same fruit. And then theres limited access to the same opportunities, because theyҒre not receiving the same educational foundation that really opens those doors.

Those disadvantages can also show up in test scores. A substantial body of research shows that SAT scores are strongly correlated with family income.

“How do you separate merit from privilege?” asked Jerome Lucido, a professor and executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. “Merit needs to be tied to mission, not just who got a higher test score. We already know that has a direct correlation with family income.”

But the SAT and other tests are still crucial to how publications such as U.S. News & World Report and Barrons formulate college rankings, which are widely regarded as measures of prestige.

Not surprisingly, colleges are constantly working to move up the lists. A prospective student flipping through BarronҒs 1995 college-rankings guide would have found about 90 public institutions in the top three tiers of competitiveness and more than 170 in the less competitive or non-competitive tiers. In the 2013 guide, that top tier has grown by more than 40 colleges about 46 percent - and the bottom tier has shrunk by 60.

“The whole system is constantly moving up, going upstream to get better and better students, and get students who can pay,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown Universitys Center on Education and the Workforce. “It all looks great for the press release. But you’re systematically leaving people behind.”

Carnevale, who has authored many studies analyzing this shift, likens the state of higher education to hospitals for healthy people,Ӕ competing for the easiest to treat, most lucrative patients, rather than taking on the cases of those who stand to benefit the most. The question is, are you trying to reach down or not?Ӕ

Schools might argue they are in a way.

Many state schools have in recent years struck what are called דarticulation agreements ԗ partnerships with community colleges that make it easier for community-college students to transfer to a four-year school. In the last two years, Lincoln University has established such agreements with 11 community colleges.

But even with improved transfer pathways, theres still an inherent risk for students like Epps who ғundermatch, or donԒt attend the most selective school they can get into. Low-income, minority and first-generation students frequently undermatch, research shows, and in doing so, they often end up at institutions with less support and far lower graduation rates.

Without any aid from Lincoln or the other colleges that accepted her, Epps weighed her options and chose a different route. She recently completed her first year at the Community College of Philadelphia a school where about half of full-time freshmen donגt return for a second year.

In a way, four-year colleges are asking two-year colleges to do the dirty work of selecting whoӒs worthy of a four-year college, the Pell InstituteԒs Tom Mortenson said. In doing so, four-year colleges are not taking on the responsibility from the beginning when theyӒre freshmen and making a real commitment to these students.

But colleges ԗ even those with an explicit public mission have mounting incentives to avoid students like Epps. Carnevale points to the dawning of whatגs known as the accountability movementӔ an effort by states to reform higher education by tying funding for public colleges to student outcomes and graduation rates. Last month, President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would also be moving in a similar direction ח and hopes to eventually tie federal aid to certain performance measures.

Unless policymakers build in some incentives to take on more students at the margins, the accountability movement could drive schools further away from low-income and minority populations, which have lower graduation rates overall, Carnevale said. The whole logic of this industry ӗ and the reform of it as well excludes low-income and minority students.ה

While colleges strive to enroll wealthier and better-performing students, the demographics of the nations high-school graduates are moving in a different direction: As a group, tomorrowҒs high-school graduates will be more racially diverse and more low-income than todays.

ғThere is a significant misalignment. And I think the misalignments going to continue to grow,Ҕ said David Tandberg, an assistant professor of higher education at Florida State University who previously worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The public really, really benefits from a first-generation student going to college. All sorts of wonderful outcomes come from that,Ӕ Tandberg said.

A more educated workforce has widespread benefits: It leads to more earning power for those who graduate, a stronger tax base for the state, and greater potential for economic growth in the future.

Public universities have the task of balancing institutional striving with the publicӒs needs, Tandberg said, which ԓare often two very different things.

Epps still remembers going out and buying a new button-down shirt, slacks and dress shoes the night before her high-school graduation. She remembers the nervousness she felt the next morning, and the tinge of sadness.

“I was going to miss my friends. We had been together for four years, and we were all going in different directions,” she said. “I didn’t know how life was going to turn out.”

At graduation, in her white cap and gown, she was the mistress of ceremonies, introducing each of the speakers and making sure the ceremony flowed. She read out the theme of the years graduation, a rephrasing of a Thoreau quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

She’s certainly trying. Community college started up again last week. Epps has already signed up for a full schedule of six classes.

A year from now, she hopes to transfer, finally, to a four-year state school and eventually to get a bachelors degree. SheҒs thinking she might want to study accounting.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/31/13 •
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Attempt To Destroy The Individual

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By Jon Rappoport
Infowars
May 28, 2013

What is finished is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It’s the individual thats finished. ItҒs the single, solitary human being thats finished. It’s every single one of you out there that’s finished. Because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It’s a nation of some two hundred odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter-than-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings and as replaceable as piston rods. - Howard Beale, in Paddy Chayefskys 1976 film, Network

But that was only a movie. Who cares about that? You go into a theater, sit there in the dark for a couple of hours, walk out, and think about something else.

For several years now, Ive been writing about the decline of the individual. The wipeout.

Every time I writean article on this subject, I receive suggestions. I should go back and re-read Marx. I need to understand the difference between “communal, communitarian, community, communist.” I should research worker-owned businesses. What about trans-substantial transpersonal sub-brain algorithmic psychology? How about the pygmies? Ego? Superego? Id?

I appreciate these and other remarks, but I’m talking about the individual, about Self, beyond any construct, beyond citizenship, beyond membership, beyond sociology or anthropology or archeology.

The individual is enshrined in various political documents, but his rights dont originate there. Neither does courage nor imagination.

I’ve laid out the enormous psyop designed to submerge the individual in unconscious goo. This psyop depends on the repetition of words like: unity, love, caring, community, family. And phrases like we’re all in this together.

The individual is characterized as: lone, outsider, selfish,greedy, inhumane, petty. Turn him into an exile, excommunicated from the great body of humanity.

Here, in the usual prose, is a familiar formulation of the grand psyop: “We can no longer afford the luxury of thinking of ourselves as individuals. The stakes are too high. Finally, we must all come together and realize our presence on this planet is a shared experience. The decimation of our resources, through hatred and divisive behavior, the denial of love and community, the cold greed and excessive profit-making, the whole range of social and political injusticesall this can ultimately be laid at the door of the individual who refuses to join the rest of humanity.”

Is this manifesto valid? It’s a deception, BECAUSE its aimed at making the individual extinct.

And once that happens, the collective, managed by Globalist princes, will have a clear path to the control of Earth, at the expense of the rest of us. And the cruelties we now witness will pale in comparison to what is in store for us.

ғWhen hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypseThe less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race, or his holy causeŅCollective unity is not the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty of the true believer [who surrenders Self] is to the whole the church, party, nation ח and not to his fellow true believer. True loyalty between individuals is possible only in a loose and relatively free society. ԗ Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951

Wait. Isnt that a bit harsh? IsnҒt that too critical and negative?Ӕ Where is the cosmic share-and-care we need to spread like butter over the whole universe? I mean, Eric Hoffer was a wonderful writer, and he was a working man, a longshoreman for his whole life, so we should admire him, but todays prophets are wired directly into the Unity that will save us all automaticallyҗlike a toaster popping up with toast every timeright?

On some mid-west college campus, a wide-eyed kid of 19, full of hope and optimism, is studying political science. His professor is running down the catalog of stunning injustices that populate far-off regions of the planet.

The boy wants to help. His professor gives him the name of a humanitarian group that runs operations in Africa. The boy, in some sort of œpersonal crisis, drops out of school and signs on with the group.

Little does he know that the charity he is now working with in Africa has ties to USAID, which in turn is a solid CIA front. The real mission of the charity, unknown to most or all of its members, is gathering information that can be used as intelligence.

Under the banner of justice, help, hope, and unity of all peoples, the charity is providing actionable intell to CIA-backed ԓrebel forces who are carrying out assassinations and bombings in advance of a political coup.

The coup will pave the way for new deals with multinational scum, organized as corporations, to enter the scene and plunder natural resources and labor at more formidable levels.

Five years later, the boy leaves the charity and returns to the US. He is confused, looking for another group in which he can submerge himself. HeԒs hooked on groups

The naůve have given up the ghost on their own independent existence. That is the key.

Think of some of the messages of recent pathetic presidents. Bush the Elder: Kinder, gentler. Clinton: “I feel your pain.” Bush 2: “No child left behind.” OBAMA: “We’re all in this together.”

Judging by these presidents’ murderous actions, its clear they were selling unity and caring and togetherness as cover stories for oppressive business as usual.

The op? Make the individual extinct, present him as a useless and dangerous and outmoded construct. Then, whatever real unity that might exist between individuals will vanish, because the population will take on the shape of a coagulated mass melted down into a cosmic glob of androidal harmony.

Artists have warned about all this. Their so-called supporters say, “Oh yes, he was a wonderful writer.” Misunderstood, of course, but brave in the face of utter rejection. The usual claptrap. Point is, these gushing advocates conveniently and easily forget what the artists actually wrote.

Here is another reminder from an Outsider who was glad to be outside. He was a hero to some. He was reviled by many.

ԓA bureau operates on opposite principles of inventing needs to justify its existence. Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action to the complete parasitism of a virusBureaus die when the structure of the state collapse. They are as helpless and unfit for independent existence as a displaced tapeworm, or a virus that has killed the host.Ŕ

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didnӒt do it. I sure as hell wouldnt want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.Ҕ

There is simply no room left for ӑfreedom from the tyranny of government since city dwellers depend on it for food, power, water, transportation, protection, and welfare. Your right to live where you want, with companions of your choosing, under laws to which you agree, died in the eighteenth century with Captain Mission. Only a miracle or a disaster could restore it.Ҕ

The author? William S. Burroughs. But not to worry, he was crazy. Of course he was. He didnt profess utter loyalty to the mass of humanity. He didnҒt prostrate himself before the greater good.Ӕ He didnt preach unity and togetherness.

He was an individual. Therefore, he is obsolete. A cherished memory of a time now wiped from the mind. Now we are all dancing and marching in the psyop.

HereҒs another psyop and cultural theme: the distortion of money and the free market.

The psyop goes this way: The making of $$ is a religious event comparable to the arrival of Jesus or the appearance of the Great Buddha. Indeed, isnt Christmas the season measured by consumer sales?

A life justified is a life of the bottom-line cash register, a poem to make Shakespeare turn pale with envy.

It doesnҒt matter what a product is. If it sells, it must be good. It must mean something profound.

Nail polish, a new plastic toy, a little robot that sings songstheyגre Walt Whitman and Michangelo and Bach because they jumped off store shelves.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are geniuses because they and their companies amassed billions. It has to be so.

The team that put together Goofy Bird III, the summer blockbuster hit, are the Chaucers of our time. The box office proved it.

What product makes more money than any other? War. Therefore, Jesus wore a white leisure suit and played golf with generals and made deals for weapons systems.

If a young man or woman today wants to express his true individuality and succeed with other like-minded individuals who have no fear of failure, the two businesses to go into are war and banking. My father told me that, and itӒs stood me in good stead all these years. Its the apotheosis of America҅

An artist named Paddy Chayefsky, in his film, Network, covered this waterfront pretty well:

ԓYou are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and You Will Atone!

Hail to the collective, managed from the top. Ah, but as I said, Network was just a movie.

Who cares about American artists? They need monuments and grants here and there, if theyԒre still alive, buttaking them seriously? Who would want to do that? TheyŒre justINDIVIDUALS.

Who would want to keep the individual alive, especially the free, independent, and creative individual? We can learn all we need about that by listening to TED lectures!

Here is another quote from an American artist. This one is REALLY not in the politically correct mode. I mean, how dare he!:

œTomorrow you may bring about the destruction of your world. Tomorrow you may sing in Paradise above the smoking ruins of your world-cities. But tonight I would like to think of one man, a lone individual, a man without name or country, a man whom I respect because he has absolutely nothing in common with youMYSELF. Tonight I shall meditate upon that which I am.ה Henry Miller, Black Spring, 1936

And this! From the most celebrated American poet of all! Is this what he really wrote?

“I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself/And what I assume you shall assume/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you/I loafe and invite my soul/I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass/Creeds and schools in abeyanceŅI will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and nakedThe smoke of my own breath/Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vineThe delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides/The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.” Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, I, II, VI & LII

A celebration of self, and self expanded out into limitless dimensions?

And this is is our real poet laureate?

Something must be wrong.

Yes, the individual, the selfחthese individual artistsfar too messy, too uneven, too unpredictable, too complex to fit into a scheme of the future in which weגll all be subsumed in a cosmic order.

No, the individual, the self, must be shaved and carved so we can all meld together in a simplified enlightenment.

Here, from the universally acclaimed author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville, another quote that sticks out from the great uniform mass of group-think:

There is the grand truth about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says NO! in thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say yes. For all men who say yes, lie; and all men who say no, - why, they are in the happy condition of judicious, unincumbered travellers in Europe; they cross the frontiers into Eternity with nothing but a carpet-bag, that is to say, the Ego. Whereas those yes-gentry, they travel with heaps of baggage, and, damn them! they will never get through the Custom House.

There is no doubt; these Individuals are too thorny, too differentand even different from each other. How can we build a world of unity and unified enlightenment if we let them in the door?

We must erase the memory that these people ever existed. We need to cut down space and time, leave them out, and outfit a new continuum so it will accept only the brainwashed and reduced and harmonized desires of the collective.

Yes. That’s it.

Lets cause everyone to accept one of two things. We are either “all in this together” forever, or money is the supreme and final god of all time and space. Those are the two choices. They both flatten out the soul and prepare it for the endless gray day.

The Individual must be put into permanent exile. We can’t even say what he is. We cant define him. We canҒt hold him within borders. We cant know what heҒll do.

Sometimes hes up, sometimes heҒs down, sometimes hes sideways. Sometimes he embraces the whole cosmos, sometimes heҒs alone in a room.

The new world cant have him. For sake of the coming glory, he has to exit.

The Great Psyop hath spoken.

So, you see, when it comes to freedom, IҒm not talking about columns and columns of people marching in one direction, most of them moving ahead together, and a few dropping out and scattering. Im not talking about a billion androids, among whom a few thousand defect.

I’m not talking about androids or columns of marchers at all. Im talking about Self. The individual apart from any coordinated picture, apart from any tedious idea about what a human being is.

I don’t care whether he chooses to live in a one-room apartment in New York or a commune in Georgia. I dont care whether he votes Republican or Democrat or the Party of Golden Lucifer. I donҒt care about any of those distinctions, because they all proceed from some horrendous and mutilated idea, some shrunken desiccated idea of what the Self IS in the first place.

Well, weӒre really all the same, so the choices a person has arent that important҅

WeԒre really all the same AFTER the great curtain has lowered on the individual and his psyche and his imagination and his daring. Yes, THEN were all the same. And then it doesnҒt matter what the individual thinks or does, or whether he goes left or right or stays down the middle. THEN he begins to concoct systems and counter-systems and parochial visions he wants to impose on everyone else.

The truth is, were all different, astonishingly different. So different, in fact, that left to our own devices, over a long enough span of time, how each one of us would express his deepest thoughts and inventions would make the world into a completely different place.

The individual, the Self, isnҒt just a little different or moderately different or quite different. The individual is a revolution all his own, a living breathing revolution.

He can become and identify with any other thing or creature in the universeor not. He can think with seventeen brains and walk on eight legs if he wants to. He can be Self inventing more Self. He can destroy all forms and shapes of slaveryחmost importantly his own.

He can love and he can hate. He can experience and create emotions that have never been dreamed of. He can dance with the angels on the head of a pin or drift off past the stars.

He knows freedom is real, and he doesnt have the slightest interest in interfering with another’s freedom.

This is what political and social movements are FOR: to establish enough freedom for the individual, any individual, so that he can then, if he wants to, become what he is, which is to say, invent his existence entirely according to his own fecund imagination. It will not be a copy of anyone elses existence. It will not even be close.

After enough time has elapsed, it will be astonishing.

I know many people who believe they are already free and are already living life exactly the way they want to. This is preposterous. At a superficial level, yes. But beyond that, there are oceans of potential expression and invention they havenҒt begun to fathom. If by “free” they mean relatively unencumbered by outside forces, but locked down tight as a drum from the inside, then yes, they are free, and good luck to them.

Ive quoted artists in this essay because I want to impart at least some sense of how different we are from each other. This doesnҒt mean we cant bridge the gulf; of course we can. In fact, it becomes far easier when each of us is speaking with a Voice uncoupled from the ғwisdom of this joke of a society in which we currently live.

The ultimate and permanent fusion of all things is a myth and fairy tale. It’s a fairy tale bought by people who have never ventured off the reservation to discover and invent their own Voice.

If all this is true, then why do I writeabout the crimes of the medical cartel, the crimes of Monsanto, the corrosive destruction wrought by television? Why bother with any of this? Because Im for authentic movements to end these crimes. The mafias of this world are out to gain as much control as possible - and finally and ultimately, this means a war against the freedom of every individual. It means writing the individual and his enormous untapped potential out of existence.

When the android-uniformity of all individuals is being sold as marvelous unity, that needs to be pointed out. When millions of people believe uniqueness=uniformity=unity, thats more Orwellian than Orwell, and it needs to be pointed out.

Jon Rappoport - The author of two explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED and EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails HERE
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Posted by Elvis on 05/28/13 •
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Real Poverty

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The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty—and It’s Creeping toward 75%
The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much, much worse.

By Paul Buchheit
Alternet
May 26, 2013

The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity. 

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, over half of Americans are now IN poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about $18,000 per year. That’s less than the poverty line for a family of three ($19,000) or a family of four ($23,000).

Census income figures are about 25% higher, because they include unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, public assistance, veterans’ payments, and various other monetary sources. Based on this supplemental income, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about $25,000, which is just above the $23,000 poverty line for a family of four.

4. Based on wage figures, 75% of Americans are NEAR poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 75% earns about $31,000 per year. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Again, Census income figures are about 25% higher because of SNAP reporting requirements, bringing average household income for the bottom 75% to about $39,000.

Incredibly, Congress is trying to cut food assistance. Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee referred to food stamps as “stealing.” He added a Biblical quote: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” A recent jobs hearing in Washington was attended by one Congressman.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just 20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire 2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the food, housing, and education budgets combined.

Mr. Fincher should think about the tax breaks that allow this to happen, and then tell us who’s stealing from whom.

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Too Little for So Many, Even in The Times

By Margaret Sullivan
NY Times
June 1, 2013

ART auctions or soup kitchens? The cost of a luxury loft in SoHo or the number of children in homeless shelters?

Newspaper people make decisions about what to cover and what to emphasize every day. They have finite resources only so much space in the paper, only so many reporters - and they have to choose. In this context, one question Ive been thinking about for several months is this: How well does The Times cover those who live in poverty and the news that affects them?

In March, I wrote a blog post about complaints from some advocates for the poor and other observers that poverty was getting short shrift in The Times. Watching closely, I soon noticed several good news articles and opinion pieces on this subject. No one can say that The Times ignores poverty.

But is it enough? Is it the right kind of coverage? Where are the gaps, and what is the big picture? These questions are important, particularly because there is an undeniable moral dimension. Within America’s great affluence, nearly 50 million people live in poverty, defined as income below $23,550 for a family of four. Surely, the mission of the nations greatest newspaper ought to include a deep concern about those 50 million.

Based on reading, interviewing and simply paying more attention, I’ve made some observations.

First, when The Times does writeabout poverty - whether in a special series or a long feature article - it usually does so with depth and intelligence. The amount and intensity of the coverage, however, may not be in proportion to the size of the problem. One in six Americans live in poverty, and its worse for children: one in five. In New York City, it is commonplace to see men and women sleeping on the street. Among the city’s 8 million residents, 1.5 million don’t have enough to eat; a third of those are children.

Occasional coverage - no matter how excellent doesn’t get the job done.

The Pew Research Centers Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in 52 major mainstream news outlets, including The Times, combined coverage of poverty amounted to far less than 1 percent of all front-page articles. The Times may do better than some, but given New York City’s high poverty rate and The Timess special responsibility as the nation’s dominant paper, with the most plentiful resources, there should be more. The Times has no metro or national reporter devoted solely to this subject, though many reporters beats touch on it, and the columnist Ginia Bellafante writes about it frequently and well. Jason DeParle, a Washington reporter who focused much of his time last year on economic mobility, is on a yearlong leave to writea book.

Diane Nilan, an Illinois-based advocate for homeless families, is frustrated by The Times’s spotty interest: “I ache for these people, but until the media make an issue of it, nothing will happen. It would be good to see The Times really take the lead in providing clarity and building compassion.”

Some advocates for the poor see another problem: News organizations, including The Times, tend to treat those in poverty as “the other,” a problem that is “over there.”

It’s isolated, its in a silo, it’s a problem that other people have, Melissa Boteach of the Center for American Progress said in an interview. By contrast, The Times’s thorough and sustained coverage of gay rights has a remarkable sense of inclusiveness and solidarity: across sections, from Styles to Sports to Metro, The Times movingly tells the stories of admirable individuals who are overcoming challenges.

“Poor people really aren’t the other,” Ms. Boteach said. “People cycle in and out of poverty,” and, she said, “in a given four-year period, one in three Americans will experience a spell of poverty.”

But poverty coverage does not have the regularity or the inclusive tone of Times coverage on the opposite end of the affluence spectrum, like Paul Sullivan’s business feature “Wealth Matters,” which is described as a column about strategies that the wealthy use to manage their money and their overall well-being.

Dan Froomkin, a journalist who wrote about the Pew study for Nieman Reports, also notes the"special occasion” quality of poverty coverage. During the charity-giving holiday season, or when a major reporting project comes to fruition, the focus is there. But it is not sustained.

Then there is what The Times does not cover. In a recent e-mail, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, mentioned a stream of current local stories that The Times has not written about: Legal Services NYC went on strike; the city is trying to increase the number of summer meals for low-income children while they are out of school; the sequestration slashed federal spending on the city’s soup kitchens and food pantries.

These stories and more, Mr. Berg notes, were covered in other New York City publications, including non-English-language newspapers like El Diario and Sing Tao Daily. “They cover these issues big time,” he said. “If you read them and the New York Times metro coverage for a while, you’d think they were reporting on two entirely different cities.”

He also notes, “There has not been a single story about the positions (or nonpositions) of people running for mayor on hunger, poverty, homelessness or inequality.”

Wendell Jamieson, the metro editor, said that Mr. Bergs complaints about stories that went without coverage missed an important reality: “There are eight million stories in the naked city, and for every one he mentioned that we didn’t do, there are dozens of comparable stories, in scope and impact, that we did do.” One example, among many, was Joseph Bergers strong front-page investigative piece that showed how some landlords profit from homelessness.

The Times’s coverage of poverty strikes me as a paradox. It is both top-notch and too occasional. Improving that is not impossible.

As an illustration of how quickly change can happen, consider this: Last month, The Times assigned a talented and prolific reporter, Jim Rutenberg, to cover the Hamptons for the summer. He made an immediate impact. In last Sundays paper alone, one of his entertaining stories appeared on the front page, and another dominated the cover of Styles.

What if The Times decided to assign a few of its several hundred reporters to focus regularly and for a sustained period on poverty - the issues, the news and, especially, the people? The effect would be powerful.

Follow the public editor on Twitter at twitter.com/sulliview and read her blog at publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com.  The public editor can also be reached by e-mail: public at nytimes.com.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/27/13 •
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Great Retirement Ripoff Sequel

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How America’s Retirement Crisis Is Crushing the Hopes of a Generation of Young People
We shouldn’t just worry about older workers; their kids are hurting too.

By Joshua Holland
Alternet
May 22, 2013

The crucially important but largely missing context of today’s debate over so-called “entitlement reform” (read: slashing Social Security benefits and shifting more healthcare costs onto seniors) is that we stand at the early stages of what’s shaping up to be a massively painful retirement crisis.

And while there has been a longterm project among GRANNY-BASHING “entitlement reformers” to fuel a sort of intergenerational class warfare by accusing “greedy geezers” of hurting young people’s prospects, the reality is that this growing retirement crisis is HURTING NOT ONLY OLDER WORKERS AND RETIREES, but also the newest entrants into the workforce, a generation of young Americans whose prospects are FAR BLEAKER than those enjoyed by their parents.

If you’re nearing retirement age or have a parent or grandparent nearing retirement age - you’re no doubt aware of how 40 years of stagnant middle-class wages and the disastrous SHIFT FROM TRADITIONAL PENSIONS to 401(k)-type plans has made a dignified retirement all but impossible for all but the very well-to-do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of private sector workers RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN RETIREMENT [local copy] savings increased nearly four-fold between 1980 and 2008.

THIS TREND has been an integral part of what Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker called the ”GREAT RISK SHIFT” in which the burden of paying for education, healthcare and retirement has been increasingly shifted from corporations and the government onto the backs of individuals and families. This graphic from the CENTER FOR BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES tells the tale:

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Wall Street, and its allies in Washington, swore that this transition to private accounts would harness the awesome power of the market to make us all wealthy in our golden years. In Forbes, Edward Seidle WRITES, as a former mutual fund legal counsel, when I recall some of the outrageous sales materials the industry came up with to peddle funds to workers, particularly in the 1980s, it’s almost laughable - if the results weren’t so tragic.

There was the “Dial Your Own Return” cardboard wheel of fortune that showed investors which mutual funds they should select for any given level of return. Looking for 12%? Load up on our government plus or option income funds! It was that easy to get the level of income needed in retirement, investors were told.

Like so many promises of the vaunted “new economy” popularized by Ronald Reagan and supported by both parties since, this was a scam with disastrous consequences. According to Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research, “seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had LESS THAN $30,000 in their retirement accounts.” She adds: “The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers. Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.:

Today, two-thirds of retirees rely on Social Security for more than half of their retirement income, and for more than a third, those benefits MAKE UP AT LEAST 90 PERCENT OF THEIR INCOME. The AVERAGE BENEFIT IN 2012 was just $14,760, and while talk of decreasing the cost-of-living adjustment has been all the rage in Washington, the reality, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is that the cost of living for seniors has increased faster than Social Security benefits, meaning that their real value has been falling even as people increasingly rely on them to get by.

How does this hurt younger workers? As it becomes more and more difficult to retire after busting one’s ass in the American workforce for 40 years, an increasing number of older people have no choice but to remain in the workforce. Some work part-time; because of age discrimination, others take whatever jobs they can get, even if they’re wildly overqualified. According to the Social Security Administration, “the labor force participation rates of men and women aged 6279 have notably increased since the mid-1990s.”

Consider two pictures that are worth a thousand words; they show the share of the younger and older populations in the workforce, beginning about a decade after the transition to worker-owned retirement accounts began in earnest. As you can see, regardless of the ups and downs of the business cycle, the trend has been more workers aged 55 and over in the workforce and fewer working people under the age of 25 (The decline in labor force participation for 20- to 24-year-olds also correlates with an increasing share of young people getting a bachelor’s degree, so this isn’t a trend that can be attributed to a single cause.)

This shows the participation rate for workers over 55 (note that this can’t be explained by more women entering the workforce; that shift was already largely BAKED INTO THE CAKE by the time these data begin):

labor-participation-2013.png

And this shows the participation rate for those aged 20 to 24:

labor-participation2-2013.png

Today, the unemployment rate stands at 7.5 percent, but almost 23 percent of 18- and 19 year-olds and more than 13 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds who want to work can’t land a job. (The unemployment rate for those aged 55 and up is 5.5 percent.)

Again, this is the context that’s largely missing from our endless debates about fiscal policy. It points to a rather obvious conclusion: WE SHOULD be increasing Social Security benefits, decreasing the out-of-pocket healthcare costs seniors have to shoulder, and lowering the minimum age for retirement. In short, we should be focusing on policies that make it possible for older workers who have put in their time to kick back and let some younger workers find jobs. It wouldn’t be a magic bullet for young people; it wouldn’t deflate the student debt bubble or address our crushing level of income inequality, but it would be a darn good start.

Last month, the New America Foundation’s Michael Lind, Joshua Freedman and Steven Hill offered a proposal that would go a long way toward achieving that goal. They envisioned an expanded Social Security program supplemented by a flat benefit that isn’t tied to earnings or funded through payroll taxes, and argued that shifting a greater share of the costs of retirement onto Social Security would make tax-subsidized employer plans less crucial to Americans’ retirement security. University of Texas economist James Galbraith has similarly argued for LOWERING THE AGE of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, at least until the employment picture improves.

But aren’t these programs already costing too much? And aren’t we already taxed to death, as the Tea Partiers claim? No: that’s ideologically informed mythology. Prior to the Wall Street crash, we had the fourth lowest tax burden in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And while the “average replacement rate” for public pensions the share of a workers’ income covered by retirement benefits - is 57 percent, WE COVER just 39 percent, on average, in the United States . Americans have some of the stingiest retirement benefits in the developed world.

As for the politics, it almost goes without saying that at a time when it requires 60 votes in the Senate to name a post office after a war hero—and when the House has essentially given up on legislating in the public interest policies that help real people suffering real pain in this economy are nonstarters.

But one can be certain it won’t remain that way. Because we’re just at the beginning of this crisis, and with each cohort of Americans reaching retirement age, fewer will have pensions and more will have experienced the great middle-class squeeze than the cohort before it. So it will get worse before it gets better, but eventually our elites will have no choice but to finally recognize the severity of the crisis their neoliberal clap-trap has created.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/26/13 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section Dying America
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Republican Redux 16

wake-up-america.jpg

A Conservative Explains Why Right-Wingers Have No Compassion
A former Republican Senate Congressional staffer on why right-wingers think people without insurance deserve to die.

By Mike Lofgren
Alternet
February 7, 2012

Although Mitt Romney used the word “conservative” 19 times in a short speech at the February 10, 2012, Conservative Political Action Conference, the audience he used this word to appeal to was not conservative by any traditional definition. It was right wing. Despite the common American practice of using “conservative” and “right wing” interchangeably, right wing is not a synonym for conservative and not even a true variant of conservatism - although the right wing will opportunistically borrow conservative themes as required.

Right-wingers have occasioned much recent comment. Their behavior in the Republican debates has caused even jaded observers to react like an Oxford don stumbling upon a tribe of headhunting cannibals. In those debates where the moderators did not enforce decorum, these right-wingers, the Republican base, behaved with a single LACK OF DIGNITY. For a group that displays its supposed pro-life credentials like a neon sign, the biggest applause lines resulted from their hearing about executions or the prospect of someone dying without health insurance.

Who are these people and what motivates them? To answer, one must leave the field of conventional political theory and enter the realm of PSYCHOPATHOLOGY. Three books may serve as field guides to the farther shores of American politics and the netherworld of the true believer.

Most estimates calculate the percentage of Republican voters who are religious fundamentalists at around 40 percent; in some key political contests, such as the Iowa caucuses, the percentage is closer to 60. Because of their social cohesion, ease of political mobilization and high election turnout, fundamentalists have political weight even beyond their raw numbers. An understanding of their leaders, infrastructure and political goals is warranted. Max Blumenthal has done the work in his book “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party.” Blumenthal investigates politicized fundamentalism and provides capsule bios of such movement luminaries as James Dobson, Tony Perkins, John Hagee and Ted Haggard. The reader will conclude that these authority figures and the flocks they command are driven by a binary, Manichean vision of life and a hunger for conflict. Their minds appear to have no more give and take than that of a terrier staring down a rat hole.

Blumenthal examines the childhoods of these religious-right celebrities and reveals a significant quotient of physical and mental abuse suffered at the hands of parents. His analysis of the obvious sadomasochistic element in Mel Gibson’s films - so lionized by the right wing - is enough to give one the creeps. But the book is by no means a uniformly depressing slog: the chapter titled “Satan in a Porsche,” about fundamentalist attempts to ban pornography, approaches slapstick.

According to the author, the inner life of fundamentalist true believers is the farthest thing from that of a stuffily proper Goody Two Shoes. They seem tormented by demons that those in the reality-based community scarcely experience. That may explain their extraordinary latitude in absolving their political and ecclesiastical heroes of their sins: while most of us might regard George W. Bush as a dry drunk resentful of his father, Newt Gingrich as a sociopathic serial adulterer and Ted Haggard as a pathetic specimen in terminal denial, their followers on the right apparently believe that the greater the sin, the more impressive the salvation - so long as the magic words are uttered and the penitent sinner is washed in the Blood of the Lamb. This explains why people like Gingrich can attend “values voter” forums and both he and the audience manage to keep straight faces. Far from being a purpose-driven life, the existence of many true believers is a crisis-driven life that seeks release, as Blumenthal asserts, in an “escape from freedom.”

An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade. In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.

Robert Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist, has done extensive testing to isolate and describe the traits of the authoritarian personality. His results are distilled in his book “The Authoritarians.” He describes religious fundamentalists, the core of the right-wing Republican base, as follows:

They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.

There are tens of millions of Americans who, although personally lacking the self-confidence, ambition and leadership qualities of authoritarian dominators like Gingrich or Sarah Palin, nevertheless empower the latter to achieve their goals while finding psychological fulfillment in subordination to a cause. Altemeyer describes these persons as authoritarian followers. They are socially rigid, highly conventional and strongly intolerant personalities, who, absent any self-directed goals, seek achievement and satisfaction by losing themselves in a movement greater than themselves. One finds them overrepresented in reactionary political movements, fundamentalist sects and leader cults like scientology. They are the people who responded on cue when Bush’s press secretary said after the 9/11 attacks that people had better “watch what they say;” or who approved of illegal surveillance because “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear;” or who, after months of news stories saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, nevertheless believed the weapons were found. Altemeyer said:

Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result.... And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going away.

Twenty to 25 percent is no majority, but enough to swing an election, especially since the authoritarian follower is more easily organized than the rest of the population. As for Altemeyer’s warning that such personality types “are not going away,” the rise of the Tea Party after 2008 showed that he was a better prognosticator than Max Blumenthal, who thought the radical takeover of the GOP during the Bush presidency had “shattered the party.”

Altemeyer cites clinical data to show us how certain people score high on psychological tests measuring authoritarian traits and that these high scores strongly correlate with right-wing political preferences. What Altemeyer is lacking is a satisfactory explanation as to why a significant percentage of human beings should develop these traits. We obtain some clues in Wilhelm Reich’s “The Mass Psychology of Fascism,” written in 1933 and unfortunately only obtainable in a stilted 1945 translation full of odd psychological jargon. One does not have to agree with Reich’s questionable later career path and personal eccentricities(1) to notice that his 1933 work is a perceptive analysis of the character of the authoritarian political movements that were rising in Europe. Anyone reading it then and taking it seriously could have predicted the new totalitarian regimes’ comprehensive repressiveness, extreme intolerance and, within a few years, nihilistic destructiveness.

REICH appears to see fascism as the political manifestation of an authoritarian psychology. Who are the authoritarians?

Fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated “little man” who craves authority and rebels against it at the same time. It is not by accident that all fascist dictators stem from the milieu of the little reactionary man. The captains of industry and the feudal militarist make use of this social fact for their own purposes. A mechanistic authoritarian civilization only reaps, in the form of fascism, from the little, suppressed man what for hundreds of years it has sown in the masses of little, suppressed individuals in the form of mysticism, top-sergeant mentality and automatism.

Here again we see the paradoxical nature of the authoritarian personality: rebelling against authority while hungering for it - exactly as the contemporary right wing fancies it is rebelling against big government while calling for intrusive social legislation and militarism. In the midst of dire economic circumstances, why do they expend inordinate energy brooding over contraception, abortion, abstinence education, gay marriage and so forth and attempt to transform their obsessions into law? Reich said:

The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.... The result of this process is fear of freedom and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical but also by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars.

According to Reich, a patriarchal, sexually repressive family life, reinforced by strict and punitive religious dogma, is the “factory” of a reactionary political order. Hence, the right wing’s ongoing attempts to erase the separation of church and state, its crusade against Planned Parenthood, its strange obsession with gays. Consider the following political platform, which sounds almost as if it were taken from a speech by Rick Santorum:

The preservation of the family with many children is a matter of biological concept and national feeling. The family with many children must be preserved ... because it is a highly valuable, indispensable part of the ... nation. Valuable and indispensable not only because it alone guarantees the maintenance of the population in the future but because it is the strongest basis of national morality and national culture ... The preservation of this family form is a necessity of national and cultural politics ... This concept is strictly at variance with the demands for an abolition of paragraph 218; it considers unborn life as sacrosanct. For the legalization of abortion is at variance with the function of the family, which is to produce children and would lead to the definite destruction of the family with many children.

So wrote the Vlkischer Beobachter of October 14, 1931. As Altemeyer warns, they are not going away: certain psychological constructs and the political expressions they give rise to, persist over time and across cultures.

1. E.g., Isaac Newton’s eccentricities and unpleasant personality did not invalidate his mathematics. We are interested in the message not the messenger.

SOURCE

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Conservatives Of All Stripes Ignore the Suffering of Their Fellow Americans

By Rmuse
Politics USA
June 29. 2012

As a virtue of empathy, compassion is concern for the suffering of others, and a fundamental part of Christian love. It is also one of the cornerstones of social interconnection and humanism that is the basis of the highest principles in philosophy, society, and community. Unless someone has been hiding in a cave for the past three years, they understand that Republicans, teabaggers, Libertarians, and a major segment of the religious right have abandoned any sense of compassion for their fellow Americans, but especially the poor. Indeed, conservatives of all stripes have demonstrated that instead of compassion, their agenda is increasing the suffering of tens-of-millions of Americans to reward the wealthiest Americans.

What is particularly noteworthy, and hypocritical, is the number of so-called conservative Christians who ignore the suffering of Americans in the richest country in the world, and one Republican U.S. senate candidate from Wisconsin is sick and tired of reading sad stories about people struggling in the Republican-caused recession. What Eric Hovde prays to his god about is that the media start writing about the issues such as lowering the corporate tax rate, slashing spending, and reducing the deficit.Ӕ Hovde made his comments during a speech to the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, and he pointed to a reporter and said, I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray that you stop always writing about the person couldnӒt get food stamps or you know, another sob story.

A campaign spokesman clarified that Hovde was really talking about how ԓout-of-control government spending is whats really hurting the poor and making human interest stories possible in the first place, so the press, and the public at large, should be focusing onҔ cutting taxes for the wealthy and their corporations, cutting social safety net spending, and reducing the deficit. According to a National Journal analysis, the press already spends more time talking about the deficit than Republican-caused unemployment or rising poverty rates in part because corporate-controlled media follows explicit instructions from Republican politicians and policymakers. In fact, the press has been remiss to report that Republicans are attempting to cut food stamps for 50 million Americans, slash Veterans benefits, cut health spending for children, women and seniors, or give $10.7 trillion in tax cuts to the rich. The main stream media has also not irritated Mr. Hovde with a truly sad report from the Office of Research at the United Nations ChildrenҒs Fund (UNICEF) that America has the second highest rate of children living in poverty in the developed world.

However, the story is not about the press failing to report on the dire conditions of an incredibly large segment of the population, but about the lack of compassion Hovde and Republicans have toward their fellow Americans. Hovde is a self-professed devout Christian and like so many of those kinds of Christians,Ӕ his primary concern is giving more entitlements to the wealthy instead of caring for the poor, or as Hovde calls them, another sob story.Ӕ It is shocking that Hovde thinks cutting social safety net spending will help the poor, because besides creating more sob stories,Ӕ Draconian budget cuts kill millions of jobs and when coupled with more Republican tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, the loss of revenue and borrowing will drive up the deficit.

Most human beings do not like being reminded that their neighbors, family, and friends are hungry, homeless, or barely surviving, and if they have the slightest bit of humanity and compassion, do whatever they can to assuage their suffering. Christians are admonished by their namesake to care for the poor regardless the personal cost, and in Hovdes bio it says his ғfaith taught him to provide shelter and supportive services to people in crisis, especially street and neglected children in the United States, Africa and Latin America. However, his faith in conservatism teaches him to promote cutting supportive services to people in crisis and drives him to pray that the press writes more stories about giving tax cuts to corporations, cutting food stamps for hungry Americans, and deficit reduction that must certainly cause him great conflict as a devout Christian.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Republicans, especially conservative Christian Republicans, lack concern for the suffering of others and are devoid of empathy or compassion that their lord and savior based his entire ministry on. That men like Hovde prays for the press to stop writing sob stories about the poor, and prays they concentrate on reporting how important it is to slash food stamps, VeteranԒs benefits, healthcare for seniors and children, and focus on deficit reduction informs that they are not Christians in any way, shape, or form, and lack basic humanity. What Republicans have demonstrated is that they are callous and cold-hearted toward the suffering of others and they appear genuinely thrilled at the prospect of creating an entire nation of poverty-stricken Americans subsisting to reward the wealthy.

Hovde is not the only Republican hoping the press helps convince Americans that giving corporations and the wealthy proceeds from spending cuts and deficit increasing tax cuts, but he is the first to say he prays to his god that they promote the cold-hearted, compassionless agenda of increasing poverty and killing jobs to afford the wealthy greater riches. There is little doubt that millions of compassionless Christians pray every night that Republicans are successful in creating a nation of peasants and hungry children, and instead of being astonished, Americans should be habituated that this new, cold-hearted class of conservative Christians not only prays for greater poverty and tax cuts for the wealthy, they pray for President Obama to die. One cannot help but wonder; what would Jesus do?Ӕ Based on the Christian bible the answer is clear; he would condemn the lot of them to everlasting hell-fire and eternal damnation which is better than they deserve.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/13/13 •
Section Dying America
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