The Economic Recovery and Opportunity

The Opportunity Agenda has created a series of tools for advocates and policymakers to use as they advocate for equal opportunity in the economic recovery process.

Our most recent tool is a new report, Economic Recovery and Equal Opportunity in the Public Discourse: An Analysis of Media Content and Public Opinion (PDF). This report analyzes mainstream media coverage and a large body of public opinion research regarding America’s economic recovery and the ways in which it is affecting different communities and groups within our society.

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Hugo Chavez’s Failure to Help the Poor

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Economist, Great Britain’s magazine for the American elite, recently published a special report on Latin America. While the magazine noted the continuing challenges facing Latin America, it also perceived that Latin America has made great strides in the past decade. This has especially been the case with reducing inequality, a perpetual curse of that region in the world – and perhaps the greatest obstacle to economic advancement in Latin America.

In doing this, The Economist published the following table:

Link to Table of Latin American Inequality Since 2000

This table indicates the rate by which a country’s inequality – measured by the Gini coefficient – has declined since 2000. The table stops at 2006 or a later date; unfortunately it does not say which countries have data until 2006, and which countries have data after that.

All in all the table paints a bright picture: inequality is down in most countries, from Brazil to Mexico to Argentina.

Several countries, however, stand out as exceptions. The most notable is Venezuela, which has been governed by President Hugo Chavez since 1999. Under Mr. Chavez, inequality has barely decreased. When compared to other countries, Venezuela has on done worse than average.

Since so much of Mr. Chavez’s political messaging rests upon his appeal to the poor, this is a startling failure. Mr. Chavez proudly characterizes himself as a socialist, determined to reduce income inequality and redistribute wealth more evenly. Yet after more than a decade of rule, inequality has barely budged – in stark contrast to the rest of Latin America.

One finds that this is the case with a number of Chavez-aligned countries. Anti-American President Daniel Ortega governs Nicaragua, and former anti-American President Manuel Zelaya ruled Honduras until 2009. In both countries the presidents are (or were) left-wing anti-American hardliners committed to socialism and helping the poor. In both countries income inequality has actually increased.

There are exceptions. President Evo Morales is as left-wing and anti-American as any Latin American leader, and Bolivian inequality has decreased substantially. Moreover, some of these leaders were not in power before 2006, so they may not be responsible for what the graph shows (although in some cases the data may be more recent). Their elections may have been a response to rising inequality – rather than to say that they failed at reducing inequality.

But Mr. Chavez has been in power since before 2000. He has no such excuse. When a president comes into office promising to help the poor, a good way to measure whether he or she has kept the promise is to look at how the poor have done relative to the rich. By that measure, Mr. Chavez – for all his about rhetoric about socialistic revolution – has not helped Venezuela’s poor.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It’s Utterly Inhumane

A number of people have taken up the sisters’ cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. “It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen,” he said. “That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that’s just so utterly inhumane.” Bob Herbert - New York Times

This quote is about a case in Mississippi were two young women were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being involved in a robbery that involved $11.00 and no one was injured. Only in Mississippi could this happen according to the article and while I can sympathize with the plight of these two young women, one of whom has lost the function of her kidneys. There is an even greater inhumanity taking place in every state in this country.

The inhumanity that I am speaking of involves the systematic disenfranchising of young black and minority men. It takes place when these young men are arrested for oftentimes minor drug offenses and given felony convictions. These convictions then condemn these young men many of them before the age of 20 to a life of poverty. Think about that; for the next 40 to 50 years these young men will be discriminated against in employment, education, and housing.

You see the only group in America that you can discriminate against with impunity is the convicted felon population. You see we now have laws that prevent convicted felons regardless of the offense from receiving student loans and grants, housing assistance, and any other government assistance that they desperately need to change their lives and become reconnected to their community and our society. As if that were not enough most employers refuse to hire ex-offenders as a matter of policy except for menial low wage positions. No one challenges an employer for doing so, because we have the canard that most businesses have money and property on hand and the ex-offender cannot be trusted to be an honest person. After all, they are convicted felons. So we prevent them from receiving the support to change their lives and we won’t give them jobs to improve their lives, many of them for nothing more than having a bag of weed.

By condemning these young men to this fate of hardship we are also condemning the neighborhoods they live in to a future of violence and apathy. Once you remove the hope and the future of the young people in a community you suck the rejuvenating life blood out of that community. These young men now exist outside the system and the economy. They have been made invisible by a system designed to marginalize them and prevent them from competing successfully for their share of the American dream. These young men now have no reason to become involved in the improvement of their communities and often times their own lives. Many are not allowed or don’t vote. Many are unemployed. Many are not fathers to their own children and so the cycle continues.

What I think fails to get mentioned enough is that we are not only condemning these young men but entire communities to suffering. We set in motion the demolition of the underpinnings of these communities. Throughout history the fortunes of a culture or a community is driven by the fortunes of its young men and if you are able to somehow undermine those young men you in fact commence the destruction of that culture or community. You show me a vibrant community and I will show you one where the young men are intricately involved in the fabric of that community. Our community cannot afford to allow this destruction of our young men to go on unabated.

Just one galling statistic of many: in some states African Americans comprise 90 percent of the total drug prisoners and are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites, even though whites use five times the amount of drugs as African Americans. - Michelle Alexander

The time has come for us to stand up and demand an end to this systematic destruction of our young men. We must begin to change a criminal justice system that routinely and selectively gives our young men felony convictions while at the same time giving whites diversion and other less punitive measures. We must begin to teach and train our young men to not participate in their own destruction. The training of our young men into responsible men is not being advocated and promoted as it should be in our community. There is this false assumption that boys just naturally grow into men, nothing could be further from the truth.

There will be racist elements who will seek to keep this pipeline in place. But in addition there will also be economic forces to contend with. Prisons now employ over 400,000 people throughout the country. Because many prisons are located in rural areas they have replaced other forms of employment such as manufacturing and farming. This source of jobs has kept many small towns afloat following the shrinking manufacturing and unskilled labor base. We now have a prison-industrial complex second only to the military in its size and scope. In order for prisons to be profitable they have to be filled. As a result of these policies we are pitting the employment and future of rural folks against the freedom and future of the urban folks.

As a society we cannot continue to operate on this level. The results of our inaction will be a permanent underclass in urban areas and a permanent siege mentality for those living there. It will also continue to foster and promote racial and geographical prejudice within our society. With two million of our fellow citizens incarcerated or on paper many for non-violent offences we must begin to seek and to promote alternative methods to incarceration and felony records. We should also support an atmosphere of support for second chances for these unfortunate people caught up in this “war” mentality. Businesses respond to customers and if customers were more receptive to second chances so would the business community. I ask you to begin speaking out in your communities for these young men. Become a part of the reentry movement where you live. You see condemning people before they are even 20 for a non-violent drug offense to a life of poverty is not just unfair or inhumane, it is immoral.

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo-obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” - Angela Davis

The Disputed Truth

It’s Utterly Inhumane

A number of people have taken up the sisters’ cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. “It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen,” he said. “That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that’s just so utterly inhumane.” Bob Herbert - New York Times

This quote is about a case in Mississippi were two young women were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being involved in a robbery that involved $11.00 and no one was injured. Only in Mississippi could this happen according to the article and while I can sympathize with the plight of these two young women, one of whom has lost the function of her kidneys. There is an even greater inhumanity taking place in every state in this country.

The inhumanity that I am speaking of involves the systematic disenfranchising of young black and minority men. It takes place when these young men are arrested for oftentimes minor drug offenses and given felony convictions. These convictions then condemn these young men many of them before the age of 20 to a life of poverty. Think about that; for the next 40 to 50 years these young men will be discriminated against in employment, education, and housing.

You see the only group in America that you can discriminate against with impunity is the convicted felon population. You see we now have laws that prevent convicted felons regardless of the offense from receiving student loans and grants, housing assistance, and any other government assistance that they desperately need to change their lives and become reconnected to their community and our society. As if that were not enough most employers refuse to hire ex-offenders as a matter of policy except for menial low wage positions. No one challenges an employer for doing so, because we have the canard that most businesses have money and property on hand and the ex-offender cannot be trusted to be an honest person. After all, they are convicted felons. So we prevent them from receiving the support to change their lives and we won’t give them jobs to improve their lives, many of them for nothing more than having a bag of weed.

By condemning these young men to this fate of hardship we are also condemning the neighborhoods they live in to a future of violence and apathy. Once you remove the hope and the future of the young people in a community you suck the rejuvenating life blood out of that community. These young men now exist outside the system and the economy. They have been made invisible by a system designed to marginalize them and prevent them from competing successfully for their share of the American dream. These young men now have no reason to become involved in the improvement of their communities and often times their own lives. Many are not allowed or don’t vote. Many are unemployed. Many are not fathers to their own children and so the cycle continues.

What I think fails to get mentioned enough is that we are not only condemning these young men but entire communities to suffering. We set in motion the demolition of the underpinnings of these communities. Throughout history the fortunes of a culture or a community is driven by the fortunes of its young men and if you are able to somehow undermine those young men you in fact commence the destruction of that culture or community. You show me a vibrant community and I will show you one where the young men are intricately involved in the fabric of that community. Our community cannot afford to allow this destruction of our young men to go on unabated.

Just one galling statistic of many: in some states African Americans comprise 90 percent of the total drug prisoners and are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites, even though whites use five times the amount of drugs as African Americans. - Michelle Alexander

The time has come for us to stand up and demand an end to this systematic destruction of our young men. We must begin to change a criminal justice system that routinely and selectively gives our young men felony convictions while at the same time giving whites diversion and other less punitive measures. We must begin to teach and train our young men to not participate in their own destruction. The training of our young men into responsible men is not being advocated and promoted as it should be in our community. There is this false assumption that boys just naturally grow into men, nothing could be further from the truth.

There will be racist elements who will seek to keep this pipeline in place. But in addition there will also be economic forces to contend with. Prisons now employ over 400,000 people throughout the country. Because many prisons are located in rural areas they have replaced other forms of employment such as manufacturing and farming. This source of jobs has kept many small towns afloat following the shrinking manufacturing and unskilled labor base. We now have a prison-industrial complex second only to the military in its size and scope. In order for prisons to be profitable they have to be filled. As a result of these policies we are pitting the employment and future of rural folks against the freedom and future of the urban folks.

As a society we cannot continue to operate on this level. The results of our inaction will be a permanent underclass in urban areas and a permanent siege mentality for those living there. It will also continue to foster and promote racial and geographical prejudice within our society. With two million of our fellow citizens incarcerated or on paper many for non-violent offences we must begin to seek and to promote alternative methods to incarceration and felony records. We should also support an atmosphere of support for second chances for these unfortunate people caught up in this “war” mentality. Businesses respond to customers and if customers were more receptive to second chances so would the business community. I ask you to begin speaking out in your communities for these young men. Become a part of the reentry movement where you live. You see condemning people before they are even 20 for a non-violent drug offense to a life of poverty is not just unfair or inhumane, it is immoral.

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo-obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” - Angela Davis

The Disputed Truth

What’s Up With Germany?

Germany is a power on the rise. Unlike much of the Western world, the country’s economy is humming along as if the Great Recession had never even happened. Indeed, in the last quarter German GDP grew by a heady 2.2.%. This was the highest growth rate since the Berlin Wall fell two decades ago.

German employment is also holding up. At 7.6% in August 2010, German unemployment is actually lower than it was before the Great Recession. For those familiar with the depressing figures of American unemployment, this is quite shocking. How did Germany do it?

Not with an economic stimulus package. Conventional economic theory – i.e. that espoused by the great British economist John Keynes – dictates that the best solution for a recession is government stimulus. This can take two forms: spending and cutting taxes.

Germany’s record of spending and tax cut-less economic success is hard reconcile with this theory. Indeed, when the economic downturn began, there was a great policy debate about whether to focus on economic stimulus or balancing the budget. Most countries, including the United States, came down on the side of Mr. Keynes. German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, on the other hand, stubbornly held onto the position that balanced budgets were more important. Germany did not pass a substantial stimulus package during the recession. And now Germany’s economy is the strongest in the entire Euro zone.

As the case of Germany shows, the application of Keynesian theory to the real world has had mixed results. Stimulus did not work for Japan in the 1990s. In America today, unemployment remains high for all the jobs the stimulus saved.

Yet Keynesians can also boast of powerful successes. Stimulus in the form of WWII ended the Great Depression. China entirely avoided today’s recession through something like a trillion-dollar stimulus.

And other factors are involved in German success. Before the recession, Germany engaged in large scale restructuring and reform; it is reaping the benefits of that today. There is also its enormous welfare and short-term work program, designed specifically to fight unemployment. This is called Kurzarbeit, and no less than Angela Merkel herself stated that, “It is only thanks to Kurzarbeit that more jobs were not lost.” Finally, German banks have by and large avoided the financial implosion that initiated today’s downturn, so Germany is far away from the recession’s epicenter.

Yet in the end this does not get rid of two facts. Fact 1: Germany didn’t do a stimulus, and German unemployment is below what it was before the recession. Fact 2: The United States did a gigantic stimulus, and American unemployment is still in a terrible state. It is hard to believe in Keynesian economic theory when presented with this, no matter what mitigating factors there are.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

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