The February 2005 LGM archive has now been fully reconstructed. Some highlights:
California farmworkers remain nearly as exploited as fifty years ago. Filthy, substandard housing, a lack of water in the fields, pesticide poisoning, and poor sanitation define too much of their lives. These workers, migrant and beneath the radar of the Americans for whom they produce food, live horribly and it is unacceptable:
For California’s farmworkers, toiling all day in the brutal, sun-scorched fields is hard enough; the homes they return to each night are often in even worse conditions. Though the reforms won by previous generations have extended basic labor and safety protections to seasonal and immigrant farmworkers, many remain shut out of the right to decent accommodations.
According to a new report published by California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), the housing crisis in the agricultural workforce has worsened over the last generation. Despite the locavore fads and slow-food diets that have infused today’s farm-fresh produce with an air of glamour, as a workplace, the fields still echo the social marginalization and scandalous poverty that sparked the groundbreaking grape boycott of the late 1960s.
Don Villarejo, the longtime farmworker advocate who authored the report, tells In These Times that growers have “systematically” reduced investment in farmworker housing over the past 25 years in order to reduce overhead costs and to avoid the trouble of meeting state and federal regulations, which were established as part of a broader overhaul of agricultural labor, health and safety standards during the 1960s and 1980s. According to Villarejo, workers’ modern material circumstances are little improved from the old days of the Bracero system. That initiative—the precursor to our modern-day guestworker migrant program—became notorious for shunting laborers into spartan cabins, tents and other inhospitable dwellings on the farms themselves, beset with entrenched poverty and unhealthy, brutish conditions.
Even today, however, surveys and field reports have revealed that a large portion of workers are squeezed into essentially unlivable spaces. Some dilapidated apartments and trailer parks lack plumbing or kitchen facilities, much less any modicum of privacy; others are exposed to toxic pesticide contamination or fetid waste dumps. Workers can “live in a single-family dwelling with perhaps a dozen to 20 [people] crowding in,” Villarejo says. In some residences, “mattresses are lined up against the wall because during the daylight hours you could not be able to walk through the rooms owing to all the mattresses on the floor at that time.” Though many such dwellings house single male laborers, whole families with children are also known to live in crowded multiple-household units.
This is the “market-based” answer to the rickety labor camp of yore: Though workers are now renting from a landlord rather a farm owner, Villarejo says, “their conditions are certainly no better than they were in the kind of labor camps against which we were protesting back in the ‘60s and ‘70s about horrid living conditions.”
Wondering about the models for the cultural criticism generally favored by today’s conservatives? (“Are George Lucas movies ideologically incorrect and therefore bad?” “What are the 50 most conservative episodes of Three’s Company?”) Wonder no more, as one of our ace commenters his discovered what I can say without hyperbole the best site on the intarwebs ever: the archive of the Maoist Internationalist Movement’s film reviews. How, for example, will the critics deal with John Singleton’s undoubtedly well-intentioned and undoubtedly atrocious Higher Learning? The answer may not surprise you!
Higher Learning is a progressive movie which takes on many political issues, including those which relate to gender, nation (“race”), class and sexual orientation. This upsets many bourgeois film critics, who prefer “art for art’s sake,” and therefore consider artists like Singleton “preachy” for addressing the issues of the day.
One of the worst things about Higher Learning is that in some places, it lends itself to a liberal individualist analysis. One example of this is where we are told that a character who becomes a violent white supremacist was beaten as a child. The issue of individualism is also raised by quick scene changes which seem to indicate a symmetry between supporters of white power and supporters of Black power.
Ah, well, I guess I’ll wait for it to come out on VHS. Now let’s move onto bigger game, the immortal cinematic classic Patch Adams:
Some of Patch’s criticisms of how medicine is structured agree with the proletarian perspective of medicine. The bourgeoisie puts great emphasis on technical training and puts this above common sense and contact with the masses. Consistently, Patch Adams makes it clear that just because medicine has “always” been conducted this way doesn’t mean that it always should be. In the film, Patch makes great solidarity with the 1970s era nurses, who are portrayed as better health care providers because they are not as divorced from their patients as the doctors.
All and all, I think this is the greatest treasure trove for connoisseurs of Zhdanovism since Michael Medved warned us about the wrongthink of Kangaroo Jack.
In response to this week’s related discussion, Damon Linker investigates an important question: “Who are the real gay marriage bigots?” The answer, it turns out, appears to be “everyone but Damon Linker.” Rather than a point by point response, I’m going to try to think a bit more generally about the question “How should we respond to deep differences about the right and the good in society?” Apologies for the excessive length.
First, some common ground. Linker is surely correct that there is absolutely no guarantee that illiberal interventions into the free exercise of religion aren’t a possible future outcome. Furthermore, he’s actually correct in noting a ‘troubling trans-Atlantic trend’ to restrict religious freedom, since Quebec and France do indeed span the Atlantic Ocean. What’s notably missing from Linker’s posts on the subject is an actual example from United States, a country with a much stronger tradition of legal protection for free religious expression. That said, there is nothing magical about supporters of full rights and equal citizenship for GLBT people that renders them incapable of illiberal overreach, supporting illegitimate use of the coercive power of the state against those who disagree. Because it’s not happening now, and Linker is wrong to insinuate it’s some sort of ‘trend’, doesn’t mean it is not possible it could occur. I do think, for the likes of Douthat and Dreher in particular, the exaggerated worries about this nonexistent trend stems from a fair amount of projection: the political movement of which they are a part has long been perfectly happy to abuse their majority to inflict illiberal limits on the rights of GLBTs, and they have a difficult time imagining others exercising the restraint they and their political allies did not exercise(Douthat more or less admits this in his post yesterday).
Taking a step further back: We share a plural, liberal democracy (or something I wish were that) where we disagree fundamentally about both the right and the good. Like Linker, I assume this is an inevitable and permanent feature of our polity: will continue to live in a society where disagreements serious and deep differences about foundational moral, ethical, and political issues are a permanent feature. To be a good citizen of such a world requires accepting this fact, and recognizing that political goals should often be constructed around the terms of coexistence rather than winning. Part of being a good citizen in a society marked by deep disagreement is described by Jacob Levy as “Multicultural manners,” which can be read as a kind of virtue theory for a multicultural society. Without endorsing all arguments made in the paper, this seems important and correct: part of being a good citizen in a multicultural society is “to behave with manners is to give way, to some degree. It is to relax some claim to which one would be entitled.” Generosity; knowing when to hold one’s tongue, suspending public acknowledgement of judgment of others—these are all features of interpersonal manners, and something equivalent to them should probably be part of intergroup manners as well.
All that said, anyone in such a society will ultimately have to choose how to respond to all manner of cultures and practices that stem from a moral code with which you have deep moral disagreement. In such cases, we can respond in one of three ways broadly speaking:
First, some moral and cultural difference we should be indifferent to, or possibly even celebrate. Different options, ways of living, and communities oriented around different conceptions of the good enhance freedom, after all, as they give those who find one way stifling more places to go. (The difference between difference as neutral and difference as a positive good is relevant for some policy questions, but not this one, so I’m grouping them together here). A good pluralist will want to put as many groups as possible here, and subject their own temptation to move groups into another category to serious scrutiny. Call this response A (celebrate /ignore).
Second, other differences are simply intolerable in a liberal society. For such groups, the use of the coercive power of the state to either radically transform or eradicate the practice or norm is not merely justifiable but perhaps necessary for the preservation of liberal pluralism. Groups here engage in practices central to their identity that are directly utterly toxic to basic human rights or democratic citizenship. Obvious examples here include criminal organizations and abusive, brainwashing cults like Heaven’s Gate, although this can also include practices and social forms that are deeply embedded in mainstream society (Nehru and many of his allies attempted to put untouchability in this category at India’s founding, for instance). Call this response B (prohibit/eradicate).
So far, much of the debate has taken place as if these are the only two options. But there’s a third way of responding to difference that’s been generally ignored. In the third response, best reserved for people are practicing their freedom in ways that are, clearly, harmful to others, both within their group and in the general society, and have the effect of conditioning their exercise of freedom, but in ways that don’t reach the (very high) bar for response B. How should we, as citizens, respond to such groups? Fortunately, there are ways to influence and attempt to bring about change in such groups that do not require the coercive power of the state. Such non-state methods include attempting to diminish the broader cultural acceptance of the practice or belief in question; to point out directly and pointedly the error of the particular practice with respect to larger, more important values they hold. Part of living together in a liberal democracy is tolerance and respect of difference, giving way and holding one’s tongue (that’s the liberal side). But another part, more directly associated with the democratic side, is critically engaging our shared moral and ethical principles in the hopes of better shaping them to enhance freedom and serve other goals we hold as part of the common good. Call this response C (influence).
This schema may be useful, but it doesn’t answer hard questions for us. Any scheme or heuristic used to sort groups and practices into these three categories is bound to fail from time to time: we will be tempted to respond in the third way (or perhaps even the second) to differences we should have left alone or even celebrated. We will fail to recognize the dangers of seemingly benign practices. And while the decision to engage in response C isn’t as dangerous for liberal democracy as B, it isn’t free of danger either: if done too much or too frequently, it could become an abusive tool detrimental to a culture of toleration and mutual respect. I’m not going to propose a sorting scheme here, because this post is already too long and I’m not sure could really sketch an outline of one anyway. Instead I’ll explain and defend response C for anti-gay theologies.
Another tricky issue here is the role of the state. Broadly speaking, the state is central in response B and non-state efforts comprise response C. But C might use the state in limited, non-coercive ways. For example, we might create a state run program to fund psychiatric care, shelter, suicide prevention services, and so on, for one of the most pernicious externalities of anti-gay theology: GLBT teens in crisis due to family rejection. Insofar as such services would involve doing what they’re parents wouldn’t or couldn’t for theological reasons—affirming their self-worth and identity—they would frustrate the efforts of such groups to impart their teachings to another generation; enhancing exit weakens the capacity of a group over its least powerful members. Nevertheless, despite this impact, it couldn’t be construed as ‘coercive’ in any reasonable sense of the term. But other state actions—stripping tax exempt status, for example—might reasonably be considered boundary cases between type C responses and type B.
In Damon Linker’s previous posts about this issue try to claim he’s worried about a ‘trend’ of SSM proponents trying muster up the resources to respond to anti-gay Christianity in a type B way, but he never can come up with any actual examples occurring in the United States. His latest column suggests what I’ve long suspected: he (and Dreher, Douthat, and Friedersdorf) don’t want to see anti-gay theologies responded to in the type C way. In choosing to do so, we are guilty of (at a minimum) bad multicultural manners in Levy’s sense. That’s certainly what I take him to be getting at here:
But I’m also troubled by the equally stunning lack of charity, magnanimity, and tolerance displayed by many gay-marriage advocates….They don’t just want to win the legal right to marry. They don’t just want most Americans to recognize and affirm the equal dignity of their relationships. They appear to want and expect all Americans to recognize and affirm that equal dignity, under penalty of ostracism from civilized life.
That is an unacceptable, illiberal demand.
I’m reading this as a plea that good liberal citizenship demands a type A, not a type C response to anti-gay theologies. Here are two reasons why I find this to be wrong:
First, this teaching leads directly to illiberal demands on all of society. For the entirety of the debate so far, opponents of same sex marriage have repeatedly argued that other people—people who are not members of their congregations—have basic equal freedoms is utterly incompatible with their own religious freedom with respect to their teachings. Douthat’s “terms of our surrender” talk has a problem: you don’t get to waive a white flag while your army is ignoring you and charging forward. They’ve lost some battles, but they’re winning some, too: most recently successfully killing ENDA in Congress. They show no signs or interest in surrendering, and they’ve successfully convinced themselves that illiberal demands on the rest of society are absolutely necessary to the practice of their own religious freedom. Perhaps this will change, but for now, we have some pretty good reasons to believe that as long as broad swathes of the population believe that GLBT people are less than full and equal citizens, and the families they form are flawed, the fundamental rights of GLBT citizens will remain precarious. (And while continued forward progress on GLBT rights may seem inevitable now, a look around the world will quickly show that it would be foolish to treat it as necessarily permanent). This shouldn’t be surprising: evangelical Protestantism has long sought broad political and social influence. If they were like, say, the Amish–abandoning any interest in cultural and political influence are truly asking to be left alone, this reason to move anti-gay theology from A to C wouldn’t exist (and the tactics wouldn’t work, either), but the as a group evangelicals have never been interested in merely being left alone to live as they wish. Taking what they claim about the necessary conditions for the exercise of their religious freedom in this area seriously leads to the conclusion that ant-gay theologies aren’t consistent with equal freedom for GLBT people. They’re unwilling to untangle their conception of the good from the right, and I can’t make them. Once they are motivated by anti-gay theology to deny GLBT citizens full rights. So far, at least, undermining the motivation has been much more successful than challenging the link between motivation and illiberal political demands.
The second and more important reason involves a deeper consideration of what treating people with respect means. Respect and deference overlap a great deal, but they aren’t synonyms. Linker assumes that we put anti-gay theology in category C rather than A because I don’t sufficiently respect those committed to it, or think they’re bad people, deserving of the punishment of shaming and ostracization. I have no doubt such motives exist, but they’re not ubiquitous. Indeed, they should be ashamed of themselves, because they’ve succumbed to their worst impulses, while ignoring their best. One of the shared values of our society is strong, loving and supportive families. At their best and when working well, families condition and enhance freedom in an important and positive way, providing support, encouragement, and acceptance. Strong families, conservatives rightly remind us, are an essential part of how we socialize and shape the next generation of democratic citizenship. So what effect does their theology have on families?
GLBT people are distributed widely across the population. This means that as long a significant portion of the population holds anti-gay theological beliefs, a significant portion of GLBT people will be raised by those who believe they are fundamentally disordered and unworthy of full and equal citizenship. We don’t have to guess what the effects of this are:
Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.
LGBT youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs. Family rejection, harassment in schools, and the shortcomings of juvenile justice and child welfare continue to drive these elevated rates of homelessness. And all the while, federal funding for essential services to the well-being of these youth has remained stagnant.
There’s a trade-off here, when it comes to equal respect. If equal respect demands I refrain from criticizing or promoting the abandonment of anti-gay theologies, then I cannot grant equal respect for holders of such theologies and their future GLBT children at the same time. Anti-gay theology effectively turns each child into a potential time bomb, set to go off at some point during adolescence. In many cases, that bomb is defused before it goes off. Precisely because most people who hold anti-gay theological beliefs are good people who love their children, in many cases the damage is ultimately contained. When people are forced choose between a bit of religious dogma and being a good parent to their children, they usually eventually choose the latter. But unlearning a deeply held life-long belief takes time, and that’s precisely what isn’t available—gay teens need parental acceptance at this moment in their development, not in a few years, once their parents have worked through the necessary unlearning. Paul and Linda Robertson’s story speaks movingly and tragically about the timetable issue: they were on their way to the necessary changes in their own views but, tragically, they were too slow to allow them to be the parents their child needed. That anti-gay theological and political views are frequently abandoned by those who come learn someone close to them is gay or lesbian suggests they are not as deeply held or integral to a Christian identity and worldview as is often claimed. This doesn’t show that Christians are bad people, it shows that they’re good people. Encouraging them to hasten the speed with which they abandon these beliefs, such that they’re not scrambling to do so in time to be good parents to their children, need not be characterized as an act of hostility toward these communities.
Conservative Christians who hold anti-gay theological beliefs aren’t foreign to me. I grew up with them, and have some of them in my own family. In a couple of cases, I’ve known their gay children, and seen just a hint of the gruesome psychological toll finding oneself in that position can take. Promoters of anti-gay theologies generally don’t face up to the consequences for GLBT children of the ideas they promote. They often claim proper parenting technique can prevent GLBT children from existing in the first instance, or that same sex attraction can be effectively fixed in some way. These beliefs only further the harm anti-gay theologies inflict on children, but they also serve as a way to avoid considering the real dangers to one’s own family these theologies present. This put parents in a worse position to make the necessary changes in a timely fashion; unaware of the costs and dangers of their own commitment.
Being a good fellow citizen of a liberal, plural democracy isn’t just about refraining from judgment about or promoting change in others values. It requires a good deal of that, but it also require a willingness to recognize we do have, to a real extent, a shared culture with shared values, and we’re not indifferent to each other’s well-being. Recognizing this requires exceptions to the general rules of tolerance—driven by both concern and respect. This is one of those occasions.
Update: missing link added for Paul and Linda Robertson; their story is a powerful one, and an excellent example of how in many cases GLBT teens suffer not just from parents who are themselves cruel, but from loving parents wielding cruel doctrines.
How do you think Twitter reacted to the recently released trailer of the Will Smith-produced Annie remake? Pretty much as you’d expect…
Debo Adegbile, Obama’s pick to head the Civil Rights Division, was rejected by the Senate, (ostensibly) because he assisted in a successful appeal in a death penalty case:
In other words, the extraordinary stupid arguments that Republican Senators raised about Abu-Jamal shouldn’t be allowed to conceal their real agenda: kneecapping federal efforts to do things like protect voting rights, address police brutality, oppose employment discrimination. The Republican rejection of Adegbile is of a piece with a broader anti-civil rights agenda, such as their ongoing efforts to suppress the vote of racial minorities and the poor and a bare majority of the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act based on incoherent arguments with no basis in the text of the Constitution.
So Republican opposition to Adegbile was, while reprehensible, easily explicable. But Democrats control the Senate, and nominees like Adegbile can no longer be filibustered—he lost on a straight up-or-down vote. So it’s worth directing particular ire at the 7 Democratic senators who joined the Republican war on civil rights.
Senate Republicans are going to do anything they can to inhibit federal civil rights enforcement, up to and including cynical, demagogic campaigns against dedicated public servants. But for 7 Democrats to join the mob is an act of cowardice contrary to the values that the head of the Civil Rights Division is supposed to uphold. To reject the a nominee to head the Civil Rights division because … of his successful support for civil rights is a cruel irony indeed.
Movie studio capitulates to Christians who complained about “historical inaccuracies” in Noah, a film about a man who fit all the animals ever into a single boat, sans provisions, and lived
Given that I also write for The Onion, I feel I should point out that this article is not from The Onion. But if we were better people — did less of that awful sinning against the Lord and stuff — we could live in a world where it would be.
The rather epic fail by a regular at the top of this thread is amusing, but I actually think there’s an important lesson to be extracted from the wreckage. Political science blogs have had the salutary effect of convincing some politically aware readers — either directly or indirectly through some journalists who have been introduced to the evidence — that in presidential elections the media has tended to overrate the importance of campaign minutia and underrate the importance of fundamental factors like the state of the economy and incumbency. If you were forced to reduce presidential elections to a single factor, you’d certainly choose “economic fundamentals” rather than Politico-style emphasis on campaign trivia and long-forgotten minor political squabbles.
There is a danger here, however, of an oversimplified conventional wisdom that goes too far in the other direction. Johnathan Bernstein sums it up very effectively here:
So, again: there are campaign effects and fundamentals. Campaign effects themselves include various things — issue positions, ads, the candidates, GOTV and other mobilization efforts, and more. Fundamentals include political context stuff and performance stuff, of which the economy has turned out to date to be by far the biggest. The overall finding has been that fundamentals matter more than campaign effects, but that campaign effects are real — but given that overall campaign effects are of limited (but real!) importance, it’s going to be very hard for any specific campaign action, an ad or a debate quip or an issue, to do all that much.
In an election like 2008, the “fundamentals determine elections” shorthand works well enough at least in accounting for the result; given minimal competence by the Obama campaign McCain was drawing dead no matter what tactics he chose. But in a closer election, campaigns certainly do matter. And the 2000 election is an excellent case in point. The fundamentals favored Gore — less than you might expect, as voters gave him less credit than they would an actual incumbent president, but enough that ceteris paribus Gore would have won by a margin that the combined efforts of Katherine Harris, Antonin Scalia, and Ralph Nader could not have outweighed. But all things weren’t equal, because campaigns are not entirely irrelevant. The perception of the electorate that Bush was closer to the center than Gore mostly negated Gore’s edge in fundamentals, producing an election close enough that a bunch of factors that would normally be irrelevant to the outcome — media coverage, the Supreme Court, third party vanity campaigns — ended up swinging the result.
I would say something similar, incidentally, about political science and the Supreme Court. I’m glad that the attitudinal model is getting attention from journalists, because if the public was going to absorb one oversimplification about the Supreme Court I’d much rather it be “Ruth Bader Ginsburg votes the way she does because she’s a liberal Democrat, and John Roberts votes the way he does because he’s a conservative Republican” than “Supreme Court justices merely apply the law, humble umpires just calling balls and strikes.” But the reality is more complex than either simplification, and sometimes these complexities become relevant to the most interesting and important cases.
There’s a vast gulf between “elections don’t matter” and “shut up and lineup behind this season’s Democrat.”
For the record, I don’t argue for backing third party candidacies, which as a rule are quixotic by definition, and I agree with Goldberg that in any given election it’s overwhelmingly likely to be true that the only realistic choice is to vote for whichever Democrat is running. So her beef on that score is with someone else, not me.
At this point I think we’re mostly in agreement on tactics. I should say, though, that I think Reed’s implication that he was being misread are somewhat unfair. Consider this from the original essay:
Even those who consider themselves to the Democrats’ left are infected with electoralitis. Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection. For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate. True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will. And, of course, each of the “pivotal” Supreme Court justices is four years older than he or she was the last time.
It’s absolutely true that Reed does not explicitly endorse third-party campaigns in the article. But the “there is only one option” language strongly suggests that those to the left of the median Democrat should consider doing something else than vote “for whichever Democrat is running.” If it doesn’t mean that, I’m not sure what it does mean. I don’t think it’s unfair for readers of the article to draw the clear inference from this argument, particularly in the context of an argument about how the Democrats keep getting worse and worse. But, at any rate, since he seems to have repudiated this implication the point is moot.
There remain a couple points of disagreement. First, we can return to “dealbreakers” logic:
My vote for Nader in 2000, by the way, stemmed mainly from the right-tilting campaign Gore ran, which was embodied in his selection of reactionary tool Joe Lieberman as his running mate. (And I’m still proud to say that I’ve never voted for Lieberman for anything.)
First of all, I simply don’t agree that Gore ran a “right-tilting” campaign. It was a significant more populist campaign than Clinton or Dukakis ran, and more to the point 43% of the electorate saw Al Gore as “too liberal” (versus only 34% of the electorate saw Bush as “too conservative.”) Had Gore run any further left, Florida’s electoral system and vote suppression, the Supreme Court, and Nader all would have been moot because Bush wouldn’t have needed any of them. As for the Lieberman point, well certainly Lieberman was terrible even pre-Iraq. And while I understand Gore’s logic — it’s an essentially ceremonial position, and selecting Lieberman caused pretty much the only truce in the media’s two-year War on Gore, history teaches us that selecting someone who isn’t fit to be president to chase trivial-at-bets electoral advantages is a bad risk. Gore made a poor choice. Having said that, the vice presidential selection is a particularly strange choice of dealbreaker. FDR’s first vice president, a segregationist and anti-labor reactionary, makes Lieberman look like Paul Wellstone — does anyone think FDR was unworthy of liberal support? It’s also not, ah, clear to me that getting Dick Cheney as vice president to avoid Joe Lieberman is a good tradeoff.
Leaving aside the realm to tactics to return to the meat of Reed’s argument, I remain unconvinced. Here, I think, is an argument that reflects the key point of my disagreement with Reed’s analysis:
But we haven’t been able to win anything that a left would want in a long time, longer than most of the Nation‘s ideal readers can remember.
Leaving aside things like DADT repeal, the Ledbetter Act, and the DOJ’s increased action on issues like police brutality and voting rights — none of which are trivial — if comprehensive health care reform that includes a massive, historic expansion of Medicaid isn’t something that “a left would want,” well…I guess we have a very fundamental disagreement about the left should want. This is exactly why the “ACA was a Republican proposal” fallacy is so pernicious — an issue that demonstrates a massive gulf in the priorities between the parties has been used to blur them, in a way that both diminishes the importance of the most important social policy legislation since the Johnson administration and is far, far too kind to the Republican Party.
It’s true that while the ACA is not “neoliberal” it’s also not a total liberal victory; it reflects a compromise between progressives and conservative Democrats. But if the fact that it’s not a total victory is enough to take it out of the left’s win column, none of the New Deal counts either. Forced compromises to achieve progressive goals is far from something new under the sun; until we get a parliamentary system apportioned by population liberal social policy is going to require buying off vested interests, and this isn’t a problem clever tactics or increased labor density will solve.
And so I still don’t buy Reed’s argument that the Democratic Party’s “center has moved steadily rightward since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.” It’s instructive that in the response most of his examples of Democratic perfidy come from the Clinton administration, and one of the two prominent examples from the Obama era is a case where Reid and Pelosi stopped something from happening. On education policy, granted, Reed is on more solid ground, but if the argument is that Obama/Reid/Pelosi is supposed to make me nostalgic for Carter/Byrd/O’Neill, I’m going to have to continue to demur.
Two things. First, my latest at the Diplomat noodles on about precedent in international politics:
What precedent does the Russian invasion of Crimea set for the settlement of territorial disputes in East Asia? We should begin with the major differences: East Asia lacks institutions similar to the European Union or NATO. The situation of Russia, which continues to support multiple irredentist communities around its near abroad, has no easy parallel in Asia. East Asia enjoys its share of difficult, complex national relationships, but none of these are quite like those between Russia and its neighbors. We should also note that there’s a gulf between claiming that a particular act (say, the NATO led air campaign against Kosovo) caused some other event, and suggesting that the actions of a major power establish “rules of the road” that other states tend to follow.
Second, I have some thoughts about the prospect of suspending the delivery of Vladivostok and Sevastopol, a pair of amphibious assault ships the French are building for Russia:
The French are committed economically to the deal, which has supported French shipbuilding. However, as the first ship is nearly complete and the second well under way, some of the French stakeholders (primarily labor)have already been appeased. With the recent displays of Franco-US friendship, and of Franco-US cooperation in Africa, I have to wonder whether the French could be convinced to delay or suspend delivery as a response to the Russian conquest of Crimea. And especially given that the second ship is named Sevastopol, the optics of transferring LHAs to the Russian Navy right now are genuinely terrible.
Over the last few years a bunch of law schools figured out that they could exploit various changes in the federal funding of education in a way that would allow them to jack up tuition radically, while selling this price rise to potential students as a proverbial free lunch at taxpayer expense. The thought leader in this regard was Georgetown, which was so aggressive in pitching the idea that Congress had “solved” the problem of spending nearly $300,000 to get a GULC degree that the school ended up in the pages of the Washington Post last August, as an exemplar of Michael Kinsley’s dictum that the scandal is what’s legal:
Delisle and Holt found a video of Charles Pruett, assistant dean for financial aid at Georgetown Law, explaining to students that he doesn’t worry about the Feds figuring out what’s going on, since they aren’t going to dare force former law students to pay big loan bills that they were promised they never had to pay.
There’s also video of Pruett encouraging students to (legally) shelter income from the federal government so as to lower the loan payments that Georgetown Law has to make on their behalf through income-based repayment . . .
To be clear, what Georgetown Law is doing is perfectly legal. The question is whether it’s appropriate for the federal government to be paying almost $160,000 to students at an elite law school.
GULC professor Philip Schrag has also played a leading role in promoting the idea that law students need not worry their pretty little heads that it costs $80,000 per year to attend that fine institution:
“In 2007, however,” Schrag announces, “the United States Congress solved [hypothetical law student with a low-paying job and high debt] Sarah’s problem,” by creating IBR . . .
Is IBR a good deal for Sarah? That, as we shall see, is far from clear. What is clear is that it’s an unbelievably fantastic deal for law schools. You don’t need a Nobel prize in economics to figure out what will happen to the cost of law school if that cost no longer bears any relationship whatsoever to what a significant portion — indeed quite possibly a majority — of law graduates actually end up paying for their degrees. (As Matt Leichter recently pointed out, a huge percentage of law graduates going forward are going to be IBR-eligible. He also quotes the rather Zen-like economic aphorism that “debts which can’t be repaid, won’t be.”)
But let’s leave behind the world of law school administrators, who are no doubt fantasizing even now about opening taxpayer-subsidized International Environmental Space Law summer programs in Ravenna, and return to Sarah. Does IBR make law school a good idea for her? [tl;dr: no]
Law professors love to believe that their work is affecting public policy. Most of the time this is belief is pure fantasy, but in this case, it appears the Obama administration has been paying heed:
The Budget proposes additional changes to PAYE to include:
• Eliminating the standard payment cap under PAYE so that high income, high balance
borrowers pay an equitable share of their earnings as their income rises;
• Calculating payments for married borrowers filing separately on the combined household
Adjusted Gross Income;
• Capping Public Sector Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) at the aggregate loan limit for independent undergraduate students [currently $57,500] to protect against institutional practices that may further increase student indebtedness, [emphasis added] while ensuring the program provides sufficient relief for students committed to public service;
• Establishing a 25 year forgiveness period for borrowers with balances above the aggregate loan limit for independent undergraduate students.
Now this is just the administration’s proposal, and it’s very unlikely to be adopted in this precise form by Congress, but what it signals is that powerful actors all across the political spectrum are catching on to how higher ed in general, and law schools in particular, have been engaged in egregious rent-seeking in the name of improving “access” and encouraging “public service.”
Or, in less technical terms:
Republican abortion policy is working out just fine in Texas. Close all the reproductive clinics that serve poor people because those sluts deserve whatever they get for having sex while ensuring abortion remains a procedure their own daughters can acquire.