Sunday, December 26, 2021

With the decline in literacy will The American Scholar still be publishing in its 100th year?

In the editor's note in the Winter 2022 issue of the American Scholar, it is written that The American Scholar is 90 years old. Will there be a centennial anniversary for the journal? At the 75th anniversary in 2007 Ted Widmer stated that there might not be a 100th anniversary because “Sound bites are shrinking, attention spans narrowing, and pubic language is degraded 24/7, from the vapid ad slogan to the lying speech to the vowelless text message” p.2

Sunday, December 19, 2021

How do West Virginians think when they choose Joe Manchin?

How is it that the people of West Virginia would elect someone like Joe Manchin to represent them in the U.S. Senate when he performs so poorly?

One reason might be that the people in West Virginia aren't that well educated. They are 45th in the nation in the quality of their education.

West Virginia ranks 41 in Pre-K through 12 and 47th in higher education.

People who make poor choices in their governmental representatives will receive poor service when it comes to their state resources for creating a quality life.

Our founding fathers knew that democracy took well educated votes if democracy is to work as a form of government of the people, for the people, and by the people. There could be no better example of the poor consequences in election decision making than in West Virginia.

The sad thing about West Virginians making such a poor choice for a Senator is that his performance not only affects the residents of West Virginia but the whole country.

How could citizens in better educated states help the voters in lower educated states choose better representatives to national office?

Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule is MarkhamsSlowNews nonfiction book of 2021.

Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule is the book of the year in 2021 which most influenced me. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in systemic racism in America.


Political polarization has significant consequences for human well being.

And while the claim might sound extreme, we may in fact be putting our human survival at risk. We confront multiple dangers today that could well be the end of us. The top five on my list (in no particular order): the risk of nuclear annihilation, climate change and its consequences, how the growing gap between the world’s haves and have-nots risks global economic destabilization, misuse of emerging technologies, and the growing potential for widespread disease. It is clear that effectively confronting any of the first four will require that we get beyond seeing the world in polarized, us-versus-them terms. I had not previously framed addressing the risks of worldwide disease in this way, but the 2020 pandemic has made it obvious that there, too, failing to bring more encompassing perspective to bear could be our undoing.

Johnston, Charles . Perspective and Guidance for a Time of Deep Discord: Why We See Such Extreme Social and Political Polarization—and What We Can Do About It (p. xii). ICD Press. 

While Johnston lists his top five risks of survival for homo sapiens, Michael Lewis does a similar thing and lists a couple of items not on Johnston’s list such as  the shut down of the electrical grid and the fifth risk being the failure of competent management which we have seen manifested in the Trump Administration.

Beyond the values polarization we are experiencing right now in our society, it is managerial incompetence which can be most threatening as we have seen with the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic contributing to millions of unnecessary infections and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Differences of values, opinions, and beliefs are one thing, but when they contribute to unnecessary harm, the people in our society are at risk for extinction. The polarization of values, opinions, and beliefs has significant consequences if they are not handled in a competent manner to minimize the risk they pose for the population subjected to and engaged with them.

The first step in problem solving is collecting accurate information about the factors contributing to the problem. The second step is naming the problem in a valid and reliable way so that all the stakeholders can agree on what to call it. The third step is working together across systems on collaborative strategies to mitigate if not eliminate the problem. The fourth step is identifying and adopting prosocial values that contribute to positive evolutionary development for our species and the planet.

Say after me, "I don't do auto renew."

I clicked the link and NYT won't let me access the article without subscribing.

The firewall says I can subscribe digitally for $1.00 per week for one year and cancel at any time. At the end of the year the subscription automatically jumps from $4.00 per month to $17.00 per month. My meme has been for 2021 and I will carry it over into 2022 "I don't do auto renew." It has a nice cadence. Say it three times to get the feel for it. You might even do a little dance to it.

Now, the firewall ad says I can cancel at any time. This is bull shit. You can't. You have to call a telephone number and talk to a salesperson who will badger and harass you. I have been through this before so I know, trust me.

My credit card got hacked when I used it to sign up for subscriptions and with all this auto renew nonsense who knows who has this information stored where? So in my grumpy old age, "I don't do auto renew."

Friday, December 17, 2021

Congressional oversight committee reports Former President Trump lied to the American people about the dangerousness of Covid leading to unnecessay deaths.


States with highest and lowest minimum wages


The States With the Highest and Lowest Minimum Wages

Washington tops the list of states with the highest minimum wage while 15 states tie for last in terms of the lowest -- $7.25, which is the federal minimum wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 10 states with the highest minimum wage are:

  • Washington—$13.69
  • Massachusetts—$13.50
  • Connecticut—$13.00
  • California—$13.00
  • Oregon—$12.75
  • New York—$12.50
  • Colorado—$12.32
  • Maine—$12.15
  • Arizona—$12.15
  • New Jersey—$12.00

The top five U.S. cities with the highest minimum wage according to Investopedia are:

  • Emeryville, California—$17.30
  • Seattle—$16.69
  • Sunnyvale, California—$16.30
  • Mountain View, California—$16.30
  • San Francisco—$16.07

The 15 states with the lowest  minimum wage equalling the federal level of $7.25 are: 

  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin 
  • Wyoming

On April 27, President Biden signed a document that proposed regulations to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors. The order seeks to raise the hourly minimum wage paid by those contracts to $15 an hour, beginning Jan. 30, 2022, according to the Federal Register.  

States where the minimum wage is going up in 2022 click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Us vs. them and conservatism

"The experience of slavery and its racist aftermath has defined the history of American social movements, and I can't name a time when the reaction against those movements wasn't at the center of American conservatism." The Elephant in The Room: Rick Perlstein on the evolution of the American conservative movement, The Sun, December, 2021, p.11

Editor's Note;

Using a cultural evolutionary model, the conservative movement is stuck at the ethnocentric stage of development which is immature relative to what humanity is capable of and destined for.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Declining US Fertility Rates


Expanding opportunities for women and economic uncertainty are both factors in declining US fertility rates

Ann M. Oberhauser

The decline in population growth in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020 is part of a broader national trend linked to falling birth rates, but also immigration changes and other factors. In May of 2021 the scope of that change became clear, with a record low of 55.8 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2020, a 4% drop from 2019. Other countries are facing similar slowdowns in population growth.

This shift has been underway in the U.S. for many years.

In the early 1900s, my grandfather grew up in a family with nine children in rural Iowa. They all worked hard to maintain the farm and support the family. Some of the children left the farm to attend college, start families and find work elsewhere. My father grew up in a city and worked as an adult to support his family as the sole income earner.

The next generation, the baby boomers, was raised during a period of economic expansion that accompanied an uptick in fertility – the average number of children born to a woman in her reproductive years. Post-boomer generations have had fewer children, contributing to a 50% decline in U.S. birth rates between 1950 and 2021, from 25 births per 1,000 people to 12.

Unbiased. Nonpartisan. Factual.

Economic opportunities, social norms and changing gender roles – especially expanding education and employment options for many women – help to explain why fertility has slowed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That change has repercussions for trends in workforce numbers, employment, health care, housing and education.

Explaining the decline in fertility

Each generation experiences unique circumstances that affect fertility. The overall trend in declining birth rates, however, is largely due to women’s changing roles, employment shifts and advances in reproductive health.

After World War II, the U.S. saw rapid change in gender roles with the expansion of women’s education and entry into the labor force. Starting with the baby boom period from 1946 to 1964, many middle- and upper-class women had increased opportunities to get an education beyond high school, which had typically been the end of women’s formal education.

In 1950, only 5.2% of women had completed four years of college or more. By 2020, this proportion rose to 38.3%.

In comparison, 7.3% of men completed at least four years of college in 1950 and 36.7% in 2020 – a smaller increase than for women.

Increases in college education and rising employment among women tend to delay motherhood. Women with higher educational levels, especially unmarried women, tend to put off childbearing until their early 30s.

In addition, medical advancements and federal regulators’ approval of the birth control pill in the 1960s expanded reproductive freedom for women.

This situation contributed to women’s becoming mothers later in their lives. For example, the median age for first-time mothers among women who were born in 1960 was 22.7 years, compared with 20.8 years for women born in 1935.

Moreover, the teen birth rate was a record low in 2019, with 16.7 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19. Birth rates remain higher, however, among Latina and Black teens than teens who are white or Asian. In contrast, the share of women ages 40 to 44 years who have ever had children increased from 82% in 2008 to 85% in 2018. Foreign-born women tend to have higher birth rates than U.S.-born women.

Geographic location also reveals important differences in the U.S. birth rate. Women in New England have fewer children, partly because of higher levels of education. In contrast, women in the South and Great Plains have among the highest birth rates in the U.S.

Finally, economic uncertainty affects fertility trends. Economists estimate that a family will spend on average $233,610 per child before they are 18 years old. Financial upheaval during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 also contributed to declining birth rates, while the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 4% decline in fertility rates in 2020, the lowest since 1979.

A look at the future

Fewer babies and young people and a growing older population will undoubtedly affect future generations.

Several developed countries in Europe have also experienced declining fertility rates, with widespread social and economic impacts. In Italy, for instance, rapid drops in fertility have led to closing hospitals and schools. In 2019, the average Italian family had 1.2 children, part of a declining trend since the 1960s, when it was more common for families to have four children. As a result, Italy’s percentage of seniors is second only to Japan, with growing concern for future labor supplies.

In the U.S., lower fertility rates translate to fewer working-age people and possible labor shortages in many sectors of the economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people age 65 and older has been growing, increasing by one-third since 2010.

A woman looks at a newborn baby in her arms
New babies are one part of a healthy society and economy. Diana Haronis, Moment via Getty Images

Many economists and social scientists recommend a restructuring of work to support and retain the shrinking number of workers. These recommendations include more flexible work conditions, access to quality and affordable child care, immigration reform and job security. Several of these measures would provide much-needed support for parents and particularly women in the workforce.

Second, living spaces and residential housing may also have to accommodate this growing elderly population with arrangements that include assisted living, retirement communities and ways for people to age in place. These housing changes would help women in particular, who live longer than men.

Third, health services such as insurance, medical care and employment will have to adjust to these demographic shifts as more resources are needed to support an older population.

Finally, declining fertility rates are a growing concern for educators and policymakers. The so-called “demographic cliff” will inevitably lead to school closings and consolidation, and declining student recruitment and enrollment in the U.S. One projection is that there will be 10% fewer college students in 2054 than today.

The overall decline in fertility rates has far-reaching effects on society and future generations. In the early 1900s, college education and a career were not options for women like my great-grandmother. Advances in reproductive health and women’s expanding access to education and employment have produced a demographic shift with implications for work, housing, health care and education.

[The Conversation’s Politics + Society editors pick need-to-know stories. Sign up for Politics Weekly._]

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The U.S. is the richest country in the world. Few people have access to it.


“The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. So why can’t we have X?” We hear this question all the time, where X is universal health care, affordable education, reliable infrastructure … take your pick.

It’s true. America is swimming in wealth. Problem is, too few people have access to it.

In this issue, we’ve asked what if that weren’t the case? What can be done about systemic inequality of wealth? To answer that, you’ll have to hang with us as we talk about capital, the big money needed to really change lives.

Consider the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which is showing what creative people can do to provide capital and credit to low- and moderate-income residents.

Research shows that access to capital and credit works best for them to improve their economic situations. Yet it’s precisely what has been in short supply for low-income Americans, who are often seen as high-risk by potential lenders. So the fund makes loans — to home-buyers, to nonprofit organizations, and the like. The fund’s money comes from upper- and middle-income New Hampshirites, who receive a fixed rate of return (for example, up to 5 percent for 10-year investments) that outstrips that of standard bank certificates of deposit.

Since it was founded in 1983, the fund has never failed to pay out for investors, and it maintains a pool of money to cover any potential losses on loans. It’s a virtuous circle, where members of a community all benefit.

There are other opportunities across the economy to solve the shortage of capital. There’s a lot of money out there, and it can be shared better. The first step is to accept the limitations of some traditional progressive solutions. For example:

ON THE COVER: YES! Photo of Me’Lea Connelly by Lauren B. Falk.

• Cooperative and self-reliance enterprises can’t by themselves build equity to overcome the vast disparity in wealth between Black and White communities. It’ll take a massive injection of reparations money to compensate for centuries of slavery, racial discrimination, and disenfranchisement.

• Charitable foundations have been a force for good, true. But most endowments are invested in Wall Street markets, reinforcing the same capitalist system that creates the need for charities in the first place. The industry has been on a 20-year trajectory to shift directions. Maybe it’s time to shift faster, because the sector’s $827 billion in en­dowments could do a lot of good invested compassionately.

• The city of Seattle voted to divest $3 billion in municipal banking from Wells Fargo because of its funding of the Dakota Access pipeline. But Seattle couldn’t find another big bank and had to backtrack. This is giving new energy to the movement to create local public banks as a viable alternative to Wall Street giants.

Money does not have an inherent moral value. But when it gets to where it is needed, improving the lives of the many, that’s “good” money.

For more click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Dear NPR: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy


Dear NPR: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy

Rather than stock market prices I would rather be regularly informed about hunger in America.


June 29, 2021

I have a pet peeve with NPR. Why do so many of its top- of- the- hour five minute newscasts begin and end with short stock market updates? Is there no more important factoid its news editors could be passing along to us?

NPR likes to portray itself as a more thoughtful and penetrating alternative, but its frequent stock quotations are nothing more than listeners could gain from CNBC any hour of the day-—not to mention simply googling any stock in which the listener is invested.

Worse still the way NPR newscasters present market news is often misleading. Telling listeners that the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1000 points is very dramatic, but the approximately 3% of total market capitalization it represents hardly compares with the 500 point, 20% one day fall of the market in October of 1987. So I have one bit of unsolicited advice for NPR. If you are going to insist on giving a market quote with every newscast please include the up or down percentage that give your listeners some context.

Looking at America through the lens of the stock market not only is useless in forecasting major moves in the market itself it also blinds us to the conditions most citizens experience in their daily work and home lives.

In any case as even most CNBC anchors remind us the stock market is not the economy. Some like to joke that stock market declines have predicted nine of the last four recessions.

Nor is the average citizen likely to be directly affected by daily changes in the price of stocks.

As of 2013, the top 1% of households owned 38% of stock market wealth. As of 2013, the top 10% own 81% of stock wealth, the next 10% (80th to 90th percentile) own 11% and the bottom 80% own 8%.

Changes in the price of bread and gasoline likely will have more effect on the typical citizen’s life. Nonetheless continual media obsession, especially on the part of the serious “objective” media like NPR, leads to disproportionate concern with the health of the stock market. It also promotes and helps sustain the core belief that markets are the source of all truth. The alteration of pensions from defined benefit to defined contribution makes workers’ lives more insecure even as the 401k accounts helps cement faith in or at least acquiescence to the demands of the market.

Of course NPR executives likely know what they are doing. The top 2-10 percent of the income distribution is heavily influenced by the stock market. (I leave out the top 1% as a considerable portion of their wealth derives from private equity, which is not traded on public exchanges.) These investors, whom the blog Naked Capitalism calls the professional managerial class, are also likely a good part of NPR listenership. These would be attorneys, physicians, dentists, engineers, accountants, tenured full professors, MBAs, architects. In the perhaps naïve hope that NPR might be interested in or willing to expand its base I would like to suggest a few statistics that might replace some of those multiple daily reports on the stock market.

Every month at least one of the stock market reports should be replaced with the real unemployment rate. That number would include part time workers seeking full time and discouraged workers. At the end of February it stood at about 11%, almost double the headline figure. Interestingly at the height of the world financial crisis the real unemployment rate reached 22%, only 3 percent less than the peak of the Great Depression. (This may be an apples and oranges comparison as I have been unable to establish the l930s definition of unemployment. Nonetheless the Great Recession is surely well named.)

Just as important as whether one has a job is what is happening on that job. Periodic news releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics include data on occupational health and safety. The following highlights could be updated and presented several times a year.

Here are some statistics from the year before the pandemic: ”·The 5,333 fatal occupational injuries in 2019 represents the largest annual number since 2007.·A worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury in 2019.·Fatalities among workers age 55 and over increased 8 percent from 1,863 in 2018 to 2,005 in 2019,which is the largest number ever recorded for this age group.·Hispanic or Latino worker fatalities were up 13 percent to 1,088 in 2019–a series high since 1992.·Workplace deaths due to suicides (307) and unintentional overdoses (313) increased slightly in 2019.·Fatalities in the private construction industry increased 5 percent to 1,061–the largest total since 2007.·Driver/sales workers and truck drivers incurred 1,005 fatal occupational injuries, the highest since this series began in 2003.”

I do not claim these numbers represent the whole truth that policy makers must embrace. They do evoke important questions that ought to be part of debates about such questions as who does essential work and with what risks.

Finally, rather than stock market prices I would rather be regularly informed about hunger in America. The long lines of even middle class citizens in food pantry lines warrants efforts to quantify even if only provisionally

Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, projects that “42 million people,including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021 ….Many people who have been most impacted by the pandemic were food insecure or at risk of food insecurity before COVID-19 and are facing greater hardship since COVID”-

Feeding America also projects that the rate of food insecurity for Black families will be twice that for Whites.

Looking at America through the lens of the stock market not only is useless in forecasting major moves in the market itself it also blinds us to the conditions most citizens experience in their daily work and home lives. Media that claim more depth in their coverage must do better.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Buell


John Buell has a PhD in political science, taught for 10 years at College of the Atlantic, and was an Associate Editor of The Progressive for ten years. He lives in Southwest Harbor, Maine and writes on labor and environmental issues. His most recent book, published by Palgrave in August 2011, is "Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age."