I keep hearing “brilliant” commentators say “they” hate us because we are free or because we are a Christian nation, but I never hear one say we are hated because of our foreign policies, our illegal wars, our killing of innocents or our stubborn support of Zionists. Then there is the marriage of our elected officials to the plutocracy that supports this: and all abetted by the “press.” Why is this?
Paper of contrasts
The April 15 Democrat-Gazette op-ed section offered an interesting contrast. Gene Lyons told us that the bottom half of us own 2.5 percent of the country's wealth. The top 10 percent control over 70 percent of it. For the top 1 percent it's 34 percent.
The top .01 percent in income average 976 times that of the bottom 90 percent. Lyons' concern: “Political democracies are hard to sustain amid such economic inequality.”
Along with a gripe about the complexity of the IRS code, a Democrat-Gazette editorial writer worried that with almost half of us paying no federal income tax, “it's no way to sustain a democracy that we all bear a responsibility to support. Instead of so many being supported.”
Could this include a near-minimum wage earner who is unlikely to have either health coverage or a retirement plan and probably can't afford an apartment, or a family of four with an income up to $50,000 and two workers each making less than $30,000, again unlikely to have health coverage or a retirement plan and who probably can't pay on a mortgage?
If any of these get Medicaid or food stamps, are they getting anything that they shouldn't have gotten from their employer? Are we supporting the employees or their scrooge employers?
Education and economics
I read an article by Stephens Media a while back that announced an “education-economic development summit” in Arkansas. The article quoted a governor's spokesperson as saying: “We want to talk about the fact that education will be driven by the work force.”
Where to begin? Perhaps my overwhelming sense of sadness upon reading this came from just having read an article in the New York Times about students wanting to remain in towns where they attended college. None of the students mentioned that their educational choices or choices to remain near where they attended college were “driven by the work force.” In my own undergraduate educational experiences, I can recall only a very few students who ever mentioned that they were attending college or choosing a major because they were driven by a connection between their education and a job. Most had a broad understanding that getting an education would help them gain success in a career but very few spoke of specific jobs driving their educational choices. We understood that our educational success would attract employers. We also understood that educational success did not mean simply being poured into an existing job molded by an all-powerful employer. We wanted to be mobile and flexible rather than rigid and nailed into place by a chamber of commerce functionary. We recognized “the fact that” education is a lifetime process and not just a recipe we could follow that would result in a job.
So why would a comment about “education” being “driven by the work force” produce sadness? I have held several jobs that have given me access to a lot of Arkansans who were desperately seeking to be trained in specific skills in order to obtain employment. Most of these individuals held a variety of jobs over their lives that were unsatisfactory in practically every way: harsh working conditions; poor pay; abuse from employers; no access to benefits such as health insurance; no job security, and little or no possibility of advancement. Most of these individuals had completed high school or had equivalency certificates. All of them were “driven by the work force.” All of them were driven by a need to take whatever labor was made available in order to gain an income for basic necessities. Many sought escape from being “driven by the work force” in the seductions of drugs, gambling, crime, and promiscuous sex. All accept the most sociopathic thought of themselves as worthless. Many of these individuals knew that education is a way out of their despair though very few could escape being “driven by the work force” long enough to spend time in formal educational pursuits. All, however, had the education that comes with despair. They all knew the real meaning of “being driven by the work force.” They knew that education would be a way out of “being driven by the work force,” not a way into it.
Where are the studies that show that providers of education or educated people seek out communities where education is “driven by the work force”? The studies I know of show that progressive employers seek to make their investments in communities where there is already a healthy investment in education. Are there places in our country where great economic development happens and then is followed by educational development? Educated people generally seek to live in communities where there are good educational opportunities. Employers who provide the challenges and benefits that employees want look for communities where there are educated people. Perhaps an unenlightened and regressive chamber of commerce dreams of a community where education is “driven by the work force.” Perhaps there are unenlightened and regressive employers, coal-fired electrical plants, for example, that seek to locate where education (the lack of education, most likely) is “driven by the work force.” Perhaps an unenlightened and regressive governor doesn't know the difference between an education and economic development “summit” and an education and economic development nadir.
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