Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “unemployment”

Genocide of the Middleclass – Roger Ingalls

James Carville has just released a new book (It’s the Middle Class, Stupid) and the President is now shaping his re-election rhetoric around helping the middleclass so I feel it is prudent to repost (with edits) one of my earlier articles about the subject.

It is mind-boggling that so many Americans have a god-like fascination with Ronald Reagan. This is the man who set in motion the financial destruction of the middleclass. Unbelievably, a significant portion of Middle America still loves the man. Why? Is it some sort of Battered Wife Syndrome  or is the conservative middleclass too embarrassed to admit that they were duped by the Republican Party?

But, here we are, repeating stupidity. Instead of trying to reverse Reaganomics, conservatives are still trying to enhance it; more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, more union busting, deregulation and privatization of government programs.

To increase our understanding, let’s review history: today, many Americans believe that middleclass society magically appeared with the birth of our nation and grew over time. This is not true. With the market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the country fell into economic chaos and floundered under Republican President Herbert Hoover. Prior to that, there were a few rich people, a lot of poor folk and a handful of in-betweeners. Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in March of 1933, quickly launched new legislation and executive orders that would become known as the New Deal.

The New Deal increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, increased corporate taxes, regulated banks and Wall Street, created government programs (social security, unemployment insurance and minimum wage), and created pro-union alliances. FDR’s policies pulled our Nation out of the depression and gave rise to Middle America. In less than a decade, the middleclass would grow to become the largest demographic in the country and the envy of the world—The Great American Middleclass.

From the late 30s through the late 70s America prospered, the Middleclass would live comfortably and we became the undisputed world power. In steps the B-movie cowboy with his traveling show of Reaganomites and the genocide begins. Middle America was forced to save less just to maintain living standards, eventually leading to the necessity of financing their way of life. Wealth transferred from the Middleclass to banks, corporations, the rich got richer and this trend continues today. Wealth disparity now sits at the largest level since the robber-baron days of the late 1800s through the 1920s.

Americans need to act by educating ourselves on what policies actually work based on historic proof. We must not listen to money-influenced mainstream media. We must not let ourselves get polarized (against each other) through agenda promoted by today’s corporate-financed politicians—it’s their tactic to divide and conquer.

Genocide of the Middleclass, begun by Ronald Reagan, must stop. Hopefully the influential power of James Carville will help bring attention to proper change. And maybe, just maybe, the President’s renewed commitment to the middleclass is more than the normal lip-service.

America Wants You – A Call To Arms

I write a lot about war veterans. My next novel, Unwanted Heroes, focuses on the treatment and support (or lack thereof) of war veterans. I lived in Israel for twenty years where there is national service – everyone serves 2-3 years plus a yearly requirement for up to four weeks of training and tour.

Perhaps because everyone serves, there is a national consensus to help veterans when needed. In fact, it is probably considerably a disadvantage when competing for a job if you have not served.

So it is disappointing to hear that US troops are having considerable difficulties finding jobs when they leave the armed forces. Certainly, it is part of an economic climate where companies are loath to hire new personnel, but I can’t help feeling that something more needs to be done to at least level the playing field for those who were defending our country instead of accumulating degrees and internships.

Enter AMERICA WANTS YOU, which is “a unique private sector initiative that is teaming up with corporate America to find job opportunities for those men and women who have served in our country’s military.”

The idea was inspired by an ABC News series called “Made in America,” which promoted US-made products as a way to create jobs for Americans. 

There are many celebrities involved and a groundswell of corporate support. This is an exciting combination and should be an example of how we can lift the entire country out of the recession.

With the politicians too involved in their election cycle, cooperation will need to come from elsewhere.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

The 1981 Epoch: Ronald Reagan’s Genocide of the Middleclass

Staring at the extinction of their middleclass way of life, you’d think Americans would be ‘mad as hell and not going to take this anymore’.

It is mind boggling that so many Americans have a god-like fascination with Ronald Reagan. This is the man who set in motion the financial gang-raping of the middleclass. Unbelievably, a significant portion of Middle America still loves the man. Why? Is it some sort of Battered Wife Syndrome, the ongoing reality-clouding propaganda by Citizens United or is the conservative middleclass too embarrassed to admit that they were duped by Reaganomics?

But, here we are, repeating stupidity. Instead of trying to reverse Reaganomics, we are now trying to enhance it; more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, more union busting, deregulation and privatization of government programs.

To increase our understanding, let’s review history: today, many Americans believe that middleclass society magically appeared with the birth of our nation and grew over time. This is not true. With the market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the country fell into economic chaos and floundered under Republican President Herbert Hoover. Prior to that, there were a few rich people, a lot of poorfolk and a handful of in-betweeners. Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in March of 1933, quickly launched new legislation and executive orders that would become known as the New Deal.

The New Deal increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, increased corporate taxes, regulated banks and Wall Street, created government programs (social security, unemployment insurance and minimum wage), and created pro-union alliances. FDR’s policies pulled our Nation out of the depression and gave rise to Middle America. In less than a decade, the Leave It To Beaver and Ozzy And Harriet society would grow to become the largest demographic in the country and the envy of the world—The Great American Middleclass.

From the late 30s through the late 70s America prospered and the Middleclass would live comfortably. In steps the B-movie cowboy with his traveling show of Reaganomics and the 1981 epoch begins. Middle America starts to save less to maintain living standards, eventually leading to the necessity of financing their way of life. Wealth transfers from the Middleclass to banks, corporations and the rich get richer. Wealth disparity now sit at the largest level since the robber-baron days of the late 1800s through the 1920s.

We need a call to action. We need leaders with intellect and integrity but most importantly we need leaders with the political will of FDR. We need a champion of the Middleclass.

Americans need to act, educating ourselves on what policies actually work based on historic proof. We must not listen to money-influenced mainstream media. We must not let ourselves polarize against each other with agenda promoted by today’s corporate-financed politicians—it’s their tactic to divide and conquer.

Social media can be the great equalizer; we’ve seen its power in the Middle East. We can use it to educate, organize, create an agenda and protest. Once we have an alliance with critical mass, change will come. Here’s an example: use social media to organize home owners to not pay their mortgages for a few months. Even if a portion of home owners participated, the financial institutions would be chewing on the politicians’ asses to find a resolution before the markets tank.

Change is easier than we realize.

Genocide of the Middleclass, begun by Ronald Reagan, must stop.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Hospitals continued (was Lawsuits…)

My last post here painted a pretty rosy picture of hospital care, at least at some hospitals. And it’s true that there have been very significant improvements in many areas. But while I was there as a visitor (for many hours over several days) I also saw that the human factor is still a crapshoot.

Many of the nurses that we dealt with were excellent. In fact, I’d even say that most of them were very good at a minimum, but it seems that there are still a few in this profession that have a bad attitude toward his or her work and/or patients.

Of course, some nurses seem weighed down with paperwork (or computer work) and this is a matter of balance between patient care and possibly the kind of verification I wrote about last time. This might not be the fault of the nurse, but an unrealistic policy set by administrators. The result, however, is patient neglect. The obvious danger in this is that something serious could be happening and fail to get attention when needed. But patients don’t always know when something is serious so even when an issue is trivial they can experience severe anxiety when the nurse just won’t come.

But the worst thing I observed on this visit (and many other times) is the “Nurse Ratched” archetype.

Nurse Ratched knows what’s required and you don’t need to know – whether you’re a patient or a family member. She (sometimes he) speaks to her patients in an inappropriately loud voice and somewhat in the manner of a drill sargeant. She doesn’t ask, she tells. She manhandles her patients in order to accomplish her tasks efficiently, doing things like rolling her patients roughly from side to side of the bed like big sacks of potatoes so that she can change the sheets.

Nurse Ratched, however, is very experienced and doesn’t make big mistakes. She knows her job well. But she might up her patients’ dose of morphine just to make them go to sleep and stop complaining. Nurse Ratched is not easy to get rid of, especially in today’s situation where nurses are in somewhat short supply.

Because nurses are in demand, the employment situation for them is the opposite of that for almost everybody else. To generalize a little bit, I’ve noticed that when U.S. unemployment has been low, it seemed I was surrounded by incompetence – people not knowing how to do their jobs or just not caring. On the other hand, when unemployment is high, lots of good, able people are either without jobs or there are architects bagging groceries or something.


If given the choice, I would choose the former rather than the latter situation. I would put up with incompetence rather than high unemployment, which can be a self-reinforcing phenomenon as businesses fail that once supplied goods and services to employed people. I sure wish we could deal with both problems.

How about this? We pay people a decent wage that actually allows them to relax a little and not feel constantly under pressure. Then, we give people mandatory vacation time. With decent pay, he or she could plan for their time off and not go broke. When the employee is on the job, he or she might not resent the situation so much and just might take the job more seriously.

My bet is that each worker’s productivity would go up dramatically, as would job satisfaction. With their time off, workers would spend their money, and spread around the prosperity. Are government policies solely responsible for societal outcomes? Of course not. But policies can help to guide these situations in the right direction. That’s part of what governments are for.

Well, this is a decent idea for many kinds of jobs, but nurses are already paid pretty well. The fact is that nurse Ratched will probably never really go away no matter what we do.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Between the Wars

I often play this song when people ask me for a song that mattered to me growing up.  Billy Bragg accompanied me in love and life as I grew up. His songs helped fashion the political values that I hold dear today.

I recently played Between the Wars to a group of students and I was surprised when my young colleagues spoke about how relevant this song is today.

What they connected to was not just the continual need for wars, but the economic recession. They spoke about feeling the peace and security growing up in their parent’s house, and how that has been shattered as many of their parents are now without a job and even having to sell the house, the stable bastion of these student’s childhood.

To quote from Between the Wars:  And I’ll give my consent to any government who does not deny a man a living wage.

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself. Perhaps it is sending us a message to sit up, pay attention and learn from the lessons of the past. There is a problem – the education cuts are decimating the field of Humanities and the opportunity to learn from history.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

McDonald’s: Diet for a Bankrupt America

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show couldn’t resist a dig at San Francisco in their first show of the year (Monday, 03. January 2011).

I can rarely resist a dig at McDonald’s. I didn’t here, or here, and couldn’t help mentioning this about San Francisco legislation to force McDonald’s to raise the nutritional value of their children-directed Happy Meals or face a ban on toys being included to induce children to pressure their parents to eat at the Golden Arches.

Hans Bader takes an opposite stance in this article attacking the legislation and sharing his disdain about the Californiazation of America. I will leave it to you to read my post and Hans’ perspective.

What I want to focus this blog on is the feeling that there are probably three main areas where we can pull ourselves out of the recession and into a competitive 21st Century economy.

The first concerns the war machine – the need to be constantly subsidizing a war somewhere. This feels the most complicated and I am going to skip it for this post at least. The second regards sustainable energy and possibly will help solve the first as a not-so-fringe benefit.

However what is relevant for this blog post is the feeling that we simply cannot afford bad health and this will always begin with nutrition. There is a $1 trillion-dollar health (or rather sickness) industry and it is, for the main part, possible to tackle.

We can do this by focusing on the lifestyle and diet we adopt. Now I don’t want to change this great country to a bunch of Tai-Chi loving vegans (actually, to be perfectly honest, I do), but it just seems that food that is nutritionally devoid of anything of worth might be cheap in the short run, but is bankrupting us in the long run.

Not only is this a sick nation, but sickness leads to a lack of productivity and creativity, and these are the resources we need to rebuild America. For a great overview of the sickness industry and an optimistic look into the future, try Paul Zane Pilzer’s The Next Trillion.

There is hope. There is always hope – if not for us, then for our children, but not if they learn about health and values from Ronald McDonald.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Movies That Matter: Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is a guy movie, without the guns and superhero capes. It is an honest look at men striving to fulfill their own potential.

Matt Damon stars as a young janitor at an elite Boston university. At night he hangs out with his friends boozing and picking fights. But the young man is a genius and proves it by solving an impossible calculus problem scribbled on a hallway blackboard as a challenge from faculty to students. He reluctantly becomes the prodigy of an arrogant MIT professor and promptly gets into trouble with the law for fighting.

His only way to avoid charges and jail time is to see a psychologist (Robin Williams). What begins as cynical mocking by both doctor and patient evolves into a deep mutual respect as each discovers how they are trapped by their respective tragic pasts.

The story works because both men have their shortcomings, their inabilities to communicate and be totally honest, and their willingness to pick themselves up.

Our society is littered with men who are broken shells. They crumpled under the weight of expectation of their family or society, or they set themselves up against insurmountable odds laid down by fictional Hollywood mentors. When alienated from those who could help them rise, their only friends become drugs, alcohol, violence, or screens.

We need to find other solutions, redefine manhood and status. As the economy downsizes there will be even more men who find themselves sitting on the sidelines.  We all need to see this movie.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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