Monday, December 31, 2012

America the gutted

GlobalPost has just released videos which address the problem of deindustrialization. The top post is a documentary addressing the effects of losing the Wrangler plant in Windsor, NC, and is available (along with a video on the loss of structural steel manufacturing in the northwest) at America the gutted. The bottom video is a personal note by Michael Moran on rising income inequality in the town in which he grew up, Bridgeport, CT, and was made in conjunction with the ongoing The Great Divide series.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

the diploma divide

See associated New York Times article, For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall. On the diminishing ability of lower-income American youth to gain a college education, see the BBC article Downward Mobility Haunts U.S. Education. See also Education as the Great Equalizer? Or Class Enforcer?
Hear descriptions of a noteworthy attempt to turn around a high school in a low-income community:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"tax the rich" says Ed Asner

This video recently posted on the California Federation of Teachers' website, was designed to generate greater public support for increasing taxes on the rich. The following description of the video is quoted from that source:
Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale, is narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by award-winning artist Mike Konopacki, and written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers. The 8 minute video shows how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren't so sure. This land bears a startling resemblance to our land. After you watch this video, click here to share with friends, and send an email to your elected officials to let them know they need to restore higher federal tax rates on the wealthy so that we may once more enjoy properly funded public services.

Link to posting provided by

For a conservative response to this cartoon, see Tax the Rich, The Critique.
Also in response, see this article and accompanying video with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, who characterizes the cartoon as "a disgusting hit-piece."

Friday, December 7, 2012

"right-to-work" in Michigan?

In a surprise move yesterday, the Republican-majority state legislature signed bills to make Michigan the nation's 24th "right-to-work" state. Michigan has long been seen as a strong union state, and the bill, if passed, would make union membership no longer a condition for employment at a unionized workplace. In effect, non-union workers would receive the benefits conferred by a union without paying union dues. While backers of the bill claim that their action is not anti-labor (see Fox News interview with Governor Rick Snyder), protestors and Democratic legislators who walked out of the session at the state capitol obviously disagree (see above video and CNN story).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

color grading

This blog post was contributed by Tichana Griffith, student in Miller's SOC 3013 class. 

I wanted to share this video with the class because the topic was not touched on a lot over the semester. The video addresses skin-color preferences, among a number of concerns related to racial identity. Despite the late-1960's Black Power claim that "black is beautiful," even today black teen girls still seem to believe that light skin is better than dark skin. This idea appears to have been prevalent since slavery when lighter blacks were given preference and permitted to work inside slave-owners' dwellings, while those who were darker remained outside to toil at hard labor in the fields. This video brings me to question actual changes in racial identity. Do we black Americans today really see our blackness in ways that radically oppose traditional racist definitions, or do we just think we do?

For a similar discussion about skin-color preference, see this clip from Dark Girls.

plight of the part-time worker

This post was contributed by Marta Gordon, student in Miller's SOC 3013 class.

Everyone agrees we need more jobs, but is part-time employment the answer? Some people may just need extra money for a short time, or can only work part time due to other responsibilities, and for them it is a boon. However, for many other workers, part-time jobs are a trap. In fact, a growing employer practice is to require part-time workers to have around-the-clock availability. And if such workers cannot report for duty when called, or are even found to have another job, they then may be terminated. This recent On Point panel interview, Stuck in Part Time, examines these pitfalls and other problems with part-time employment.

One of the biggest financial problems with part-time jobs is that such workers not only may make less, but they also may not qualify for benefits. And with the new health-care provisions that will be enacted, there appear to be clear incentives for employers to increasingly transform jobs from full-time to part-time status. Indeed, a recent article by Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute suggests that employers could theoretically reduce their cost-per-labor-hour by half should they go to an all part-time work force in order to minimize mandate penalties.

However, there is already evidence that shifting to part-time workers may generate backlash. For example, in anticipation of health-care insurance changes which become effective January 1, Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, announced in October that it would be moving even more of its 185,000 employees over to part-time status, despite the fact that about 70 percent were already part time. However, citing adverse public reaction leading to lower sales in test market areas, Darden just announced that it was suspending such efforts for now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Karl Marx: masters of money

This fall, the BBC aired Masters of Money, a series about the three giants of economic thought who have shaped policy and action throughout the world: Hayek, Keynes, and Marx. 

I encourage anyone in the class to write a review of the episode devoted to Marx:

food stamp challenge

Join Newark mayor, Cory Booker, to see how you fare in living off $4 worth of food per day, the amount provided through the federal food stamp program.

To learn about taking the SNAP Challenge, visit Learn also about the problem with such challenges in this brief article.

Update: Dec 11, 2012
Follow how Cory Booker has done on his food stamp challenge through this and subsequent videos.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

living wage calculator

We've discussed the many problems of using a single figure to estimate poverty existence, as well as the inadequacies of the current measure adopted a half century ago to quantify extreme material hardship in the nation at that time.  . 

Well, Amy Glasmeier of MIT has developed a helpful online application, Living Wage Calculator, to estimate how much it actually takes for bare-bones existence across US counties and cities. Her calculator specifies the wage necessary to provide a more realistic minimum level of living and typical wages for various occupations available in the area, against the government specified minimum. It also breaks down the minimal cost of local living across a broad range of living expenses, including housing, groceries, and transportation, for eight different households bases on size and composition. 

According to Glasmeier: Our tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living... Metropolitan counties are typically locations of high cost. In such cases, the calculator is likely to underestimate costs such as housing and child care. Consider the results a minimum cost threshold that serves as a benchmark, but only that. Users can substitute local data when available to generate more nuanced estimates. Adjustments to account for local conditions will provide greater realism and potentially increase the accuracy of the tool. As developed, the tool is meant to provide one perspective on the cost of living in America.