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Sanders and the South

[ 48 ] April 20, 2016 |

The march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went forward March 28, 1968. Most of the 5,000-plus who participated were described as working-class, church-going people who  donned their Sunday best because they believed in the righteousness of the strike and they believed in King. The 'I Am A Man' signs distributed that day came to symbolize the strike effort. In this photograph the men were lining up prior to the march. King arrived as the march was already in progress. "With those men, when you say (union) 'recognition' that means 'We are being recognized.' This is why they wore the sign 'I Am A Man.'  " - Dr. H. Ralph Jackson, director of the Minimum Salary Department of the African Methodist Episcopal Church  (By Ernest Withers / NOT FOR USE WITHOUT PERMISSION)

Robert Greene builds on Bernie Sanders’ deeply unfortunate comments concerning the South to note that no “political revolution” will ever happen in this nation without the South.

The Civil Rights Movement is the most well-known example of what energized Southerners can do to change a region, but it is not the only one. The 1934 textile strike and the CIO’s “Operation Dixie” of the late 1940s remind us that labor struggle is a mainstay of Southern history — and the recent Charleston longshoremen’s strike, not to mention Fight for 15, show that native Southerners have not thrown in the towel.

Often the fight for progressive politics has come at great personal sacrifice. As the 1979 deaths of five left-wing activists in Greensboro, North Carolina at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan illustrate, Southerners have paid a steep price for holding back not a metaphorical fascism, but the real, terrifying version that has been in America since the Reconstruction era.

Donald Trump’s victories in Southern primaries, the Charleston massacre perpetrated by white supremacist Dylann Roof, and the passage of anti-transgender laws under the guise of “religious freedom” might be seen as the latest examples of the region’s hopelessly reactionary hue.

But for every one of those moments, we can point to movements like North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, historical figures like Fannie Lou Hamer or Jim Hightower, and achievements like the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964.

If the United States is to truly witness a political revolution, it cannot leave behind the South. Too much sweat, tears, and blood have been shed by courageous African Americans and defiant white Southerners to simply whistle past Dixie.

While a lot of the points Greene makes are overstated (southern support for the New Deal was always highly tenuous, which is why FDR tried to primary them, and Clintonism coming out of the South of the 1980s doesn’t have very much relevance for understanding politics today), the larger point may well be true. Which is why there will probably never be a leftist political revolution in the United States, however we define those terms. Doing so would have to overcome the racism that is not southern, but is more pronounced and in the open in the South. I’m skeptical that can ever be overcome.


National Parks Are “America’s Best Idea”–If You Are White Anyway

[ 96 ] April 20, 2016 |


Above: Mary McLeod Bethune. The National Park Service offers tours of her home in Washington, D.C.

Provocative and interesting essay from the National Parks and Conservation Association’s Alan Spears, arguing that saying the National Parks are America’s “best idea” is deeply problematic and a highly racialized statement:

But despite the oft-quoted words of writer Wallace Stegner, parks are not America’s “best idea,” and describing them as such may be preventing us from creating and sustaining the diverse constituency our national parks need to survive and thrive in their second century. As an African-American, I will tell you that national parks don’t crack the top 10 list of best ideas. The Emancipation Proclamation; the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and Civil Rights Act of 1965, respectively; all occupy a higher place than our national parks in the order of best ideas. Gay men and lesbians probably feel the same way about the recent and long overdue Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Asian-Pacific Islander-Americans might add the repeal of racist exclusionary laws. For women, it may be the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The “best idea” language has the potential to alienate more people than it attracts; it assumes that we all regard national parks with the same unfettered and unequaled devotion. This is simply not the case. If asked to choose between the Grand Canyon or a landmark decision on Civil Rights that guarantees me equal protection under the law, Brown v. Board of Education wins with me hands down every time. And this isn’t strictly a racial or ethnic thing, either. Are we really prepared to say that national parks rank higher than the Bill of Rights, the G.I. Bill and the space program?

Park enthusiasts moved to hyperbole by the majestic splendor of our National Park System often fail to see the arrogance at the heart of the “best idea” sentiment. It’s the assumption that those who don’t “get” national parks have failed to embrace a universal concept. And that we need to be converted into believers not for the sake of park protection, but to improve lives not yet blessed by a visit to Old Faithful. We see this expressed most perfectly by people who doubt the importance of ensuring parks are relevant to a diverse audience. These people proclaim that in a democracy there’s no harm if black and brown people are staying away from national parks of their own accord.

There is more to our history.

Indeed. And the NPS, despite its horrendous funding system (thanks Republicans!) is doing the best it can to tell the stories of people of color and make it relevant to those who are not rich white people able to travel to Yellowstone.


[ 382 ] April 20, 2016 |

Here’s the lesson: Being an independent is worthless. If you register as an independent, you are irrelevant.

If you wanted to vote for Bernie but couldn’t soil yourself with being a Democrat, your fault. Voting isn’t a consumer choice. It’s a compromise with reality. Registering as an independent is fine if you want to remain so pure you can’t be stained by whatever the Democrats choke up. But don’t complain that you couldn’t vote for the candidate you want to win. Because if all those independents in New York who wanted to vote Bernie registered as Democrats, Bernie might have won the state.

SEIU and Airbnb

[ 100 ] April 19, 2016 |


There is no more difficult labor union to read and write about than SEIU. This is for two reasons. First, it operates somewhat differently than other labor unions, including having a very top-down approach to a lot of things that are not traditional ways labor unions operate. That would be simple enough if those actions didn’t engender rabid hatred of SEIU in a big part of the labor reporting world.

SEIU and Airbnb are seeking an agreement that would lead to the company endorsing the $15 minimum wage (which SEIU has done more than any other organization to make a major issue in American politics in 2016) and would steer union-approved housecleaners to the properties listed with that company. Said cleaners would make at least $15 an hour. Interesting. There are some questions here. Should SEIU be working with a company undermining housing for working-class people? Or SEIU should do what is necessary to ensure as many workers are laboring for a $15 minimum wage as possible? Should SEIU be seeking to cut deals with companies? Or should SEIU see companies as enemies and workers should be organized in a broad-based social movement against them? There are some complexities here, I guess. However, on the face of it, I have to say that I am mostly supportive of accepting the economy as it is and working toward ensuring good wages. But I can see room for argument on some of these points.

But then we have this Guardian piece that seethes anger at Big Purple.

Yet sources say that negotiations have been delayed by internal union dissent over the ethics of the home-sharing startup with some labor activists, including some SEIU members, concerned that Airbnb has exacerbated housing crises in cities across the US, including in San Francisco, where Airbnb is headquartered.

“We are appalled by reports that SEIU is partnering with Airbnb, a company that has destroyed communities by driving up housing costs and killing good hotel jobs in urban markets across North America,” said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for a rival union, Unite Here.

“Airbnb has shown a blatant disregard for city and state laws, has refused to cooperate with government agencies, and turns a blind eye to the fact that its business model exacerbates the affordable housing crisis.” She added: “A partnership with SEIU does little more than give political cover to Airbnb.”

OK, but there’s a whole story here that’s not told. SEIU and UNITE-HERE hate each other. I’m not going to get into the details here except that it came out of an attempt by SEIU to take over UNITE-HERE. In any case, it’s not like Strassel is some sort of neutral observer here. The biggest reason UNITE-HERE opposes this is that Airbnb has the potential to undermine union hotels. That makes sense for the union to oppose the company. And as for SEIU making this sort of deal, I mean, again, what should a union do? That’s the core question. Is the role of a labor union to act on behalf of the entire working class, as particular activists define it? Or should a labor union act on behalf of its own membership? Not saying there are easy answers here.

But let’s get to the real issue labor writers have with SEIU–that it doesn’t act as they think a labor union should act.

Unionizing Airbnb cleaners could legitimize the startup while providing minimal benefits to a small group of workers, Ward said. If SEIU signs a contract with Airbnb, “They are essentially selling cheap cover to an American corporation for union dues from a few members,” he said. “It goes against all the principles of the labor movement.”

Unions have played a big role protesting against Airbnb and pushing for stricter regulations in cities across the country.

Opponents also argue that users of Airbnb, which is worth an estimated $25.5bn, don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Community and labor groups in San Francisco pushed unsuccessfully for a 2015 ballot measure that would have dramatically increased restrictions on Airbnb users in the company’s home city.

One union that backed the anti-Airbnb measure was SEIU Local 1021 in northern California, another subsidiary of the international organization which spent more than $78,000 to support the campaign and has repeatedly criticized the company for its role in the housing crisis.

In another twist, SEIU International’s former president Andy Stern, now a consultant and Henry’s predecessor, is representing Airbnb in the negotiations with his former employer.

These are some real issues, but it still remains unclear to me that SEIU is doing some awful thing. As for Stern, he’s not my favorite ex-union leader by any means, but I don’t really see a big problem here. If this was a 1950s-era Teamsters sweetheart deal that undermined the actual workers, I would see the point, but here, I don’t really get the outrage, unless you believe that the role of labor movements is as an organization working primarily for the entire working class. Of course SEIU does do that, as stated above, in its $15 campaigns and support for the fast food workers working toward that. But it also sees an opportunity to recognize the economy for what it is and act upon it.

In other words, it feels to me that SEIU is adapting and surviving as a labor organization where a lot of other unions are not. And the compromises that entails makes many labor reporters unhappy. I mean, if Uber wants to make a deal with the Teamsters that unionizes their drivers, I would probably support that too.

No, Hillary Isn’t Stealing the Primary

[ 252 ] April 19, 2016 |


In this Democratic primary that is both inspiring and infuriating in equal measure, one of the least appealing aspects of it how many Bernie supporters are accusing Hillary Clinton or the “Democratic Machine” of stealing the election for her. Now, there’s no question that the primary system is a hot mess–caucuses are undemocratic, many voter registration laws are ridiculous (including New York’s), states won’t pony up for primaries, states have different standards on who can vote in these primaries (I do not believe that non-Democrats should have the right to choose the Democratic Party nominee), etc. But these allegations that the problem is a conspiracy are totally ridiculous. First, the “party machine,” whatever that even means today, is the weakest it has ever been. Remember that for the vast majority of Democratic Party history, the primaries didn’t even mean very much and actual Democratic Party insiders picked the president. This has only changed in the last 50 years. Second, as Holland points out, why would Hillary steal a primary when she has no reason to do so?

It’s a conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theories tend to fall apart under the weight of their own internal illogic. Consider the 9/11 attacks: If they were a “false flag” operation pulled off by a cabal of extremists within the Bush administration in order to create a casus belli for the invasion of Iraq, why wouldn’t they make the attackers evil Iraqi intelligence officers rather than citizens of Saudi Arabia? And if they really felt the need to bring down the World Trade Center, why bother shooting a missile at the Pentagon? Why crash an airplane into a field in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania? Even judged on its own terms, the theory makes no sense.

Obviously, if campaign operatives were caught rigging a primary or caucus, their candidate would face a media shit-storm, their political careers would be over, and they might well end up in prison. So let’s set aside the specifics for a moment and consider whether there’s a coherent motive for these crimes that would be worth the risk.

Put yourself in the shoes of a vicious Clinton operative with loose ethics and a desire to win at all costs. Why would such a person bother rigging the vote in Wyoming, the state with the fewest delegates up for grabs? That’s a significant risk and a lot of trouble to go through to turn what might have been an 8-6 or perhaps 9-5 delegate split into a 7-7 outcome.

The same problem holds more generally. While Sanders has run an excellent campaign and exceeded all expectations, at no point during the Democratic primaries has he been on track to win. Sanders has held a lead in a handful of national polls, but at no time in the past year has his support broken 42 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s weighted polling average. And at no point in the race has Clinton held a lead narrower than 9.7 percentage points in that average. Why would any campaign, no matter how unprincipled, fix a race that it’s been winning from the start?

The reasons Sanders isn’t winning are not a conspiracy theory. They are quite explainable. It’s that a) he had a late start and couldn’t really compete in many of the states between Nevada and when his early success led to more fundraising and b) he has done very poorly with people of color and a Democrat can’t win the nomination without sizable black and Latino support.

But for a lot of people, conspiracy theories are more palatable than actual political analysis. It’s easier to blame some nefarious power than own up to a candidate’s or a position’s shortcoming, not to mention the work of structural analysis.

A Divided South

[ 60 ] April 19, 2016 |


Knoxville’s Henley Street Bridge lit in rainbow colors on the night the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.

Interesting piece on the changing dynamics of the South, with urban centers becoming unabashedly liberal havens. Of course, this can be vastly overrated, especially in terms of voting power. We know that southern states are going whole hog into creating Confederate heritage months, making harder for black people to vote, and repressing GLBT people. And of course if the urban centers are becoming liberal, the suburbs, which in southern urban centers are a lot of people, are very much not liberal. Nonetheless, there is potential for long-term change here.

Tiger Protection

[ 4 ] April 19, 2016 |


I guess I will try to be positive here and note that the 13 Asian nations with tigers have publicly committed to preserving tiger habitat. The less positive part of me thinks it will probably end up like most of these agreements and not actually do anything. And then there’s the issue of poaching for the newly wealthy Asian markets.

Many of the countries have growing human populations and fast-developing economies. By 2022, they want to double the world’s wild tiger population from the all-time low of 3,200 hit in 2010.

On Monday, conservation groups announced that the world’s tiger count had gone up to 3,890, according to 2014-15 survey data. That marked the first increase in the wild population census in more than a century. But that did not necessarily mean there were more tigers in the wild. The higher number may just mean scientists are getting better at counting them, with more sophisticated survey methods including camera traps and DNA analysis of scat.

An actual increase in wild tiger populations would also be hard to reconcile with the fact that their habitat is shrinking so fast. In just the last five years, tigers lost a full 40 percent of their remaining natural habitat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The tiger is still teetering on the brink of extinction, and a too-hasty celebration of an increase in tiger numbers will only disservice efforts for the species’ conservation,” said John Goodrich, tiger program director at the New York-based big cat conservation group Panthera.

He and other tiger biologists said it was unrealistic to think the world could double its wild tiger population by 2022, unless tiger landscapes were vastly increased. Today, tigers roam across just 7 percent of their historical range.

Still, sometimes you have to hold on to whatever positive news you can find.

Climate Change Science in an Age of Misinformation

[ 36 ] April 18, 2016 |


So you might be asking yourself, “As a lazy professor who never writes anything, Loomis has tons of free time. What does he do with it?” Well, one thing I’ve been doing this year is organizing a conference on the problems of corporate funded climate change denialism with the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and a committee of my fellow professors through our AAUP union. For those of you who live in southern New England, this would be a great event for you to attend on Earth Day. It’s on Friday at the University of Rhode Island. Titled “Climate Change Science in an Age of Misinformation,” the keynote is from Senator Whitehouse. The morning roundtable includes Union of Concerned Scientists president Ken Kimmel, New York Times science writer Cornelia Dean, Boston University philosopher and ethicist on climate issues Lee McIntyre, and sociologist Timmons Roberts. There is a video introduction by Bill McKibben (turns out if you e-mail McKibben with something important, he just e-mails you back in 5 minutes. Or at least he did that with me). And then there are afternoon breakout sessions on coastline issues, communicating climate change, and environmental justice and activism. I am participating in the latter.

Anyway, here’s the flyer and here’s the agenda. If you are in southern New England, I hope to see you all on Friday. Shoot me a line if you have any questions.

What’s Going on in Brazil?

[ 26 ] April 18, 2016 |


Our good friend Colin Snider has an excellent primer on the craziness going on in Brazil, with President Dilma Rousseff impeached yesterday. This is well worth your time.

The voting took nearly six hours, and was quite the spectacle. Each deputy was given the chance to briefly state why they were voting, and the responses were….various. The causes cited for voting to impeach Dilma included, but were not limited to: for their wives; for their mothers; for other family members (including grandchildren whose birthday it was yesterday); God; because they didn’t want (and I’m quoting here) his “kids to learn about sex in school;” for “peace in Jerusalem” (no, really); and against “children changing their sexes in school” (no – really). The racist, misogynistic, and homophobic dictatorship apologist Jair Bolsonaro went so far as to dedicate his vote in favor of impeachment to the late Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, one of the military regime’s worst torturers who from late 1970 to 1974 oversaw the very center where Dilma, and hundreds of other Brazilians, were tortured.

Suffice to say, none of these issues actually addressed the actual issue at hand in impeachment – the pedaladas fiscais, or “fiscal maneuvers” in describing the federal government’s financial situation in 2014. Of course, as I discussed here, this was not an impeachable offense – it was not made illegal until last year, and both the center-right PSDB’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003) and PT’s Luis Inácio Lula da Silva had used the practice, as had well over a dozen sitting governors in 2014. Some deputies voted in favor of impeachment “against corruption,” but even that was not the issue at play here. Yes, there are numerous corruption scandals involving Petrobras, the Lava Jato investigation, and kickbacks, but the pedaladas fiscais are not a part of the actual corruption scandals. Dilma herself has not been tied to any of the corruption scandals; indeed while her name is absent from both the Lava Jato investigation and, more recently, the Panama Papers, the opposition is rife with politicians directly tied to both, including Eduardo Cunha, President of the Chamber of Deputies who led the impeachment campaign. That’s not to say there may not be something uncovered later, but impeachment is a reactive, not proactive, political action. Ultimately, fewer than 10 deputies actually addressed the issue at hand – the pedaladas fiscais. Perhaps Dilma’s use of them was unconstitutional (though given the historical precedent, that seems unlikely), but nobody bothered to really make that case.

More systematically, the hypocrisy was on display over the issue of corruption itself. Corruption is a real issue in Brazil, as evident yesterday – not in the actual impeachment vote of Dilma itself, but in the fact that around 300 of the people voting yesterday are directly tied to corruption, criminal activity, fraud, money laundering, etc., but remain in office either due to parliamentary immunity or to a more general climate of impunity in which investigations into and punishment of very serious cases of electoral fraud and corruption move at a snail’s pace and rarely lead to any real punishment. The fact that the sitting president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros (also of the PMDB) has been tied to multiple corruption scandals and even briefly resigned (only to be re-elected), and that Cunha was discovered to have millions of dollars in a secret Swiss bank account (something he vehemently denied until the evidence was incontrovertible) is evidence of that fact. As for the unequal move toward justice, Cunha oversaw yesterday’s impeachment of Dilma while he himself is a defendant in the Supreme Court over that very corruption scandal and his ties to Lava Jato. As one deputy put it, “I have never seen so much hypocrisy per square meter,” and she wasn’t really being unfair.

Chait and Socialism

[ 148 ] April 18, 2016 |


Above: Why Jonathan Chait Can’t Sleep at Night

Jonathan Chait can sometimes provide good political analysis and he’s certainly right about Delaware. But his primary take on the 2016 Democratic primary is that Marxism is back and it threatens it all. So it’s been embarrassing column after embarrassing column about this “issue.”

Chait for instance thinks that we are now debating whether Marxism works, a system he can only identify with Stalin. Uh, OK. I guess I wasn’t aware that was what the Sanders campaign is really about, but whatever. And he’s VERY CONCERNED that people read Jacobin and so has to remind us that liberalism is awesome and socialism is the BIG EVIL. I mean, in the New Gilded Age, how could one think liberalism isn’t working anymore?!? Now, I’m not really saying that, but the idea that liberalism has been this great movement over the last 50 years is pretty ridiculous given its often feeble response to the economic, social, and racial problems of our time, especially compared to an increasingly aggressive and voracious conservatism that has pulled the nation far to the right. Of course, this all gets to Chait’s real issue–which is that some lefties were mean to him when he was in college and he can’t get over it.

Last night, Chait took the crazy to 11:

Obviously, some people will always be inclined to use threats to their right to speak as an excuse to advocate outrageous views. But other people like the idea of rebelliousness and standing up against censorship, and the more convincingly any movement can depict itself as the victim of censorship, the more successfully it will recruit those attracted to this form of rebellion. In the 1950s, McCarthyist repression lent American communists the allure of the forbidden. Rather than being seen as pawns of a murderous dictatorship, communist sympathizers acquired the glamour of rebellious independent thought, and pride of place on the front lines of a cultural struggle on behalf of Americans aghast at McCarthy.

Um….. What?

Does Chait know anything about the history of communism? The 1950s? The 1950s were a hellish time to be a communist. Does Chait know nothing about the blacklist? About homosexuals being driven out of government for supposedly being susceptible to communism? About people losing their jobs and their livelihoods? About Ethel and Julius Rosenberg being executed?

And when since has being a communist been glamorous? Not even in the 1960s, when actual CP membership was still looked down upon by the new left. Vague support for Ho Chi Minh or Che Guevara was real enough, but usually reflected dissatisfaction with current U.S. policies than a desire to bring state-sponsored socialism into the United States. There were exceptions and, yes, the 35 people who made up the Weather Underground were real people who wanted to violently overthrow the U.S. government, but that’s no glamorous communist life, nor were they seen so at the time.

Chait’s fundamental problem here is that he defines himself as the holding the farthest left acceptable positions. Anything to the left of him is not a position, it’s a crisis. It’s a threat to liberal democracy. Not only is this completely ridiculous, it’s myopic. For someone paid to write about politics, it would be nice if Jonathan Chait actually knew something about the role protest plays in politics. You need a far left critique to provide a push and pull to the rightist forces constantly seeking to destroy the social safety net, bomb brown people, bolster racism, and hand over riches to the wealthy. But Chait worries far more about scary socialism than conservatives, even though the latter are a real threat and the former a figment of his imagination.

What’s worse is how Chait is seeing the Bernie movement as the revival of Stalin and Mao. This is just patently absurd. We are in a moment where “socialism” is a fuzzy, happy-go-lucky social movement that will make things better for us all through the state fighting inequality. Granting free college tuition is not in the same universe as show trials. Yet for Chait, this is what he sees. And that’s just pathetic and sad.

The World’s Smallest Violin

[ 136 ] April 18, 2016 |


Call the waaaaaaaaaaaabulance! Bernie makes Wall Street executives feel so oppressed!

Timothy Collins, 49, hears the lamentations about Sanders at the high-priced steakhouse he manages near the stock exchange.

“You couldn’t conjure someone that would scare them more,” said Collins, who wore a gray suit with a pink tie and matching pocket square. “If he’s elected, he’s going to come at them. His supporters are the ones with the proverbial pitchforks.”

The feeling runs to the top of the industry food chain. On CNBC in February, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the Sanders candidacy has “the potential to be a dangerous moment” by demonizing the financial sector.

And those giant bonuses of course must be defended at all costs!

Still, the financial sector is the source of many jobs, not only for stock traders but also security guards and administrative assistants. Even big bonuses, the source of much consternation about the outsized incomes of Wall Street executives, can help support the economy, said Stu Loeser, who handled communications for Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor.

“People take their bonuses and spend them, on watches, on cars, on home renovations, on lots of things,” he said.

For New Yorkers, Loeser said, banks are less the evil corporations of the popular imagination than the source of paychecks for family and friends.

“You don’t have to like the banks to like your brother-in-law, who works for a bank, having a job,” he said. “Those are the people who can get hurt when you start breaking up banks.”

Sanders not only wants to break up some of the banks, but also reinstate financial regulations known as the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that kept commercial and investment banking as separate businesses. Its repeal, signed into law by Clinton’s husband in 1999, was seen by some as helping pave the way for the economic reckoning to come less than a decade later.

Who could imagine such a horror as reinstating Glass-Stegall! I mean, you might as well just throw them all into the gulag and toss away the key!

Now, it is true enough that there are lots of people in the financial sector who aren’t making huge money and who do need to live a decent life too. No one is questioning that. Even the point about the bonuses is not completely without merit–for those at the mid-level and lower status within Wall Street, those bonuses actually make a huge difference in quality of life. But there are still tons of problems here. First, it’s the only industry that actually gets paid like this and those bonuses could be reworked into salary to be less egregious and contingent, doing more to protect the lower end people in the financial sector. Second, those bonuses, and the outrage about them, are because the wealthy executives, which is what basically the entirety of the criticism of Wall Street is about, are already grotesquely wealthy and reveling in the New Gilded Age. That’s the target. Third, I love the toss-off quote about how for New Yorkers, Wall Street is your family. Well, I guess that depends on who counts as a New Yorker. Do the people moving out of the Bronx because of gentrification count? The Ecuadoran immigrants in Queens? I mean, some of those people might be cleaning the buildings, but we won’t even bother pretending they count on Wall Street. And on the state level, do the people in Buffalo and Schenectady and Binghamton and Amsterdam and all the other Rust Belt cities count? Ha ha, of course not. This is the kind of myopic view of who counts and who doesn’t count that is at the core of the problem with Wall Street.

This all reminds me of the apocalyptic outrage shown by millionaires in the first Gilded Age over their workers only having to work 12 hours a day instead of 14.

Why Do Women Get Paid Less Than Men?

[ 154 ] April 18, 2016 |


Because we are a deeply sexist society that has that sexism baked into the nation’s core values. Women don’t get paid less because they choose to, unlike what Carly Fiorina claims. They get paid less because, as Amanda Marcotte states:

That said, the notion that women are making “personal choices” to make less money and therefore it can’t be sexism is pure poppycock. Women’s choices aren’t made in a vacuum, but informed by societal and familial expectations and attitudes that steer women away from being full competitors in the workplace and towards prioritizing domestic duties so that men don’t have to deal with them.

If you’re told from the cradle that girls aren’t as smart or good at math as boys and your efforts to join math and science programs result in a wall of sexual harassment, giving up and deciding to pursue a career, like teaching, that is less threatening to the sexist order is going to feel like a more attractive option. It’s particularly silly to deny that it’s sexism at play when women but not men scale back their ambitions in order to have children. The notion that it’s women’s job but not men’s to do the nitty-gritty daily work of raising children is the definition of sexism.

What’s interesting to me as a historian of the United States is the trajectory of different forms of discrimination. Racism remains as strong as ever, and in some ways stronger, but on the other hand, we have an African-American president of the United States who openly addresses racial questions. At the very least, racism is at the center of the national conversation, including by those defending it. Homophobia is declining at a rate unprecedented in the history of American bigotry. But sexism is just sort of stagnant. We don’t talk about it that much as a nation. It’s not a big part of the political conversation this year. Yes, Hillary Clinton is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but it’s not like that has led to larger national conversations about sexism. Sexism in pay rates remains basically the same. And while the historical movement for the Equal Rights Amendment always had its problems (primarily around ignoring the material concerns of women in favor of an esoteric and very middle-class goal), there’s no good reason the Democratic Party should not make the ERA a central plank of its platform. At the very least, there is a good moral argument to be made here that would be a concrete way to fight against sexism. But it’s just nowhere.

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