Why don’t we hear about low-income kids?

THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014

Michael Lind, being unpleasant: Michael Lind is a hold-over from the old Salon.

In his new piece, he tells a naughty tale. For once, the headline basically captures the tone of the piece:

“College-educated professionals could doom progressive politics.”

Lind starts by noting an obvious fact: “college-educated professionals are an increasingly important part of the base of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party.”

As he continues, he lists three reasons why “the growing domination of the center-left by college-educated professionals is bad on the whole for progressive politics.”

Oof! Lind notes the Democratic Party’s growing deference to the interests of professional upper-end earners. He also claims that upper-end professionals like doctors and professors are increasingly ripping off the rest of us rubes.

To the extent that Democrats and progressives defer to these groups, the “gouging” (his word) will continue. At least, that’s what Lind says.

In a somewhat similar vein, we’ve often noted how little you hear from news orgs like MSNBC about health care looting or the gigantic costs of higher education. In the most striking part of his piece, Lind almost semi-explains that:
LIND (3/20/14): In my experience, much of the professional class is not very interested in working Americans. In principle, professional-class progressives are against poverty and support economic justice. But on the list of issues that excite college-educated progressives, the bread-and-butter issues that dominated Farmer-Labor Progressivism and New Deal liberalism are often low priorities, compared to saving the planet from global warming or freedom from NSA surveillance.

This is not a caricature. I base my observation (admittedly a personal one) on a quarter-century of experience in journalism and the nonprofit sector. If you want to fill an auditorium at a think tank, magazine office or other venue, hold a panel on one or more of the non-economic issues I just mentioned and the seats will fill up quickly with enthusiastic, affluent, mostly white upper-middle-class progressives. If you want to hold a panel on the minimum wage or workplace tyranny, expect to have a lot of empty seats. To avoid embarrassment, you might reserve a smaller room.

The recent wave of protests by low-wage fast-food workers confirms my point. Their concerns had been neglected for years by upper-middle-class progressives more concerned with inspiring world-saving crusades than trench warfare against McDonald’s. Only when the workers took matters in their own hands did most of the center-left credentialed class start paying attention (perhaps temporarily).
In that passage, Lind is talking about “professional-class progressives” in general. It seems to us that what he’s saying applies to the overall topic selection at MSNBC.

Unless someone has been shot and killed—in which case, our superstars start making up facts—have you ever seen our liberal leaders worry about the interests of black kids? Have you ever heard a word at MSNBC about the mammoth looting which characterizes U.S. health care?

Can media stars at the tippity-top relate to people down below? Can we the followers relate to such lowly creatures?

Or do we prefer to see our media stars deride such folk as tea-baggers? Deride them for the clownish way they do the electric glide? Spend all day looking for ways to call the whole world racist?

Derision dismantles the 99 percent. With that in mind, Michael Lind has a question to ask:

Whose side are we actually on? How do we come by our topics?

53 comments:

  1. If college-educated middle-class people show up to talks that address their interests, why are they being criticized for not showing up when talks are not about their interests? Why aren't the non-college educated working class people not being criticized for failing to fill all those seats when the talks are about the things they are supposed to care about?

    It seems to me Lind is expecting the college-educated affluent progressives to carry the weight for everything and he is giving a pass to the working class, even though, as he correctly points out, they have been the mainstay of such activism in the past.

    I also don't think the college-educated progressives are the ones doing the looting. I think that is an inevitable byproduct of capitalism, increasing with deregulation and lack of oversight. I'm not sure why college-educated progressives are solely or even partially responsible for the failures of capitalism.

    Why shouldn't the people who directly benefit from the looting be held accountable -- they are the perpetrators -- instead of some other group that supposedly should be stopping them from looting, or is supposedly capable of noticing that looting is occurring? This is like holding the witness or bystander to a crime responsible for the acts of the criminal, as if they should be like batman and take on a crimestopper role, in addition to doing whatever job college prepared them to do in support of their own families.

    Who appointed progressives saviors of the world and who failed to give them the means to accomplish that feat?

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    1. Who are these looters, of whom you speak? The people who invented and built your computer? Those who developed the software? The farmers who grow your food? Distributers who bring the food to your local store? People who sew and distribute your clothing?

      Without such "looters", people would still be living in caves.

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    2. "Who are these looters of whom you speak?"

      Lehman Brothers, AIG, Countrywide Mortgage, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Enron, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank Of America, Moody's Standard & Poor, Fitch, MBIA, AMBAC, Analysis Group, Charles River Associates, WorldCom, Con Agra, Nonsanto, Comcast, GE, Sony, Exxon, Shell, Kellogg Brown & Root, Hallliburton, to name a few.

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    3. Don't forget big pharma.

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    4. Big pharma develop and produce the medicines that keep us alive and healthy. Exxon and Shell produce fuel needed to drive vehicles, manufacture products, keep us warm, etc. Financial companies facilitate the system that produces so many products and services.

      Would your life be improved if there were no medicines, no fuel, no manufactures products, etc.?

      BTW if you don't like what these companies do, you're free not to patronize them. The real looters are those who produce nothing but take wealth of the system. The two biggest such are government and labor unions.

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    5. Anonymous,

      Interesting comment, and I think your point about criticism directed only to the liberal professionals is a fair one, and maybe even reflects some subtle condescension on the part of Bob and Lind, as if working-class people can't be expected to push for their own causes.

      However, I think that there's a fair argument that the professionals are the ones who benefit from the looting described, especially in the health-care industry.

      David in Cal, if you don't think that the financial industry is looting the public, I don't know what to say. Also, what do you make of the per capita spending on health care in the US, which is double and sometimes triple what the rest of the world spends?

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    6. The government in fact makes just about everything else possible, from a stable currency and a functioning financial market to air traffic control and interstate highways. But don't tell that to DAinCA.

      You'd have to back a century to find a time when labor unions were weaker. But don' t tell that to DAinCA. He doesn't need a union, so fuck 'em.

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    7. If these companies ran themselves to produce around 10% profit people wouldn't call them looters.

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    8. Jonny Scrum-halfMarch -- Nobody forces you to patronize high-cost health-care providers. The problem is that we have too few low-cost providers. Why is that?

      deadrat, I do appreciate the government providing stable currency, a functioning financial market, air traffic control and interstate highways. But, many other expensive government functions are wasteful and/or inappropriate IMHO.

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    9. DinC,
      First some agreement, then a question.
      I too am against some expensive government functions. Corporate welfare leads that list, because it's hugely wasteful and a bad deal for the average citizen.

      Now, here's the question: Do you believe the bankers and executives of Wall Street firms, who committed fraud and crashed the world's economy, should be imprisoned? Keep in mind, this wasn't a couple, or few cases of fraud. This fraud was endemic in banks and Wall Street firms.

      Berto

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    10. Berto,
      It would appear that the extremes of both tribes are converging on condemning the bank bailouts and NSA spying.

      It would also appear that DinC has strapped on a pair of cojones.

      I sent this same e-mail to a liberal and a conservative with a cc.

      Letter to a conservative and a liberal:

      “Money to get power. Power to protect money.” Medici family slogan.

      "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest excuses in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." 

--John Kenneth Galbraith
      (Except they call themselves Libertarians now.)

      “The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of those, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental corruption by the wealthy, we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.”
      Unnamed Progressive, 1892

      “I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase. Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers of the type of de Gaulle.” - George Orwell, 1944 in a letter explaining his motives for writing 1984.

      Reply from a conservative to these quotes:
      “What’s your point?”

      Reply from a liberal to the conservative:

      “There are a number of points there, all relevant. There are succinct critiques of conservatism -- that it is old-fashioned selfishness and that it's associated with Medicis, perhaps not the models for the modern American republican (small 'r', you'll note), which I presume you still are. There's a statement that government corruption abounds, an assertion from which I would not think you would shrink, and that such govt corruption ultimately results in a small have and a large have-not class; then there's the man, Orwell, lumping Hitler, Stalin, Anglo-American millionaires, and petty furhers together, all as enemies of individualism and the best of western civilization.”

      Reply from a conservative to a liberal:

      “Are you insane? Even if we taxed all the millionaires 100% it still wouldn’t be enough to pay off the national debt! Write me when you get a clue!
      And you are twisting Orwell into saying something he didn’t mean!”

      (gravymeister's translation of the last sentence from Newspeak to conventional English: “I can read a dead man’s mind, and you obviously can’t!”)

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  2. Please Bob. More belly dancing coverage. It was tippity top.

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    1. It will be interesting to see if Lind's piece gets 2300 comments in Salon.

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  3. I think Lind more than quasi-explained everything sort of well.

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    1. It seems, although no one is saying for sure, that I more-or-less agree, in a way.

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  4. Reviewing fourteen pages listing and summarizing Lind's six years worth of articles at Salon I find he addressed the high cost of health care once and low income children never.

    Of course if someone can link me to a Somerby post on low income kids in recent history that was about something other than test scores, I'd happily read it.

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    1. The subtitle of this blog is:

      "musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse"

      He has recently talked about how the press covers the deaths of some low income inner city kids differently than others, when he pointed out the girl who was shot as a bystander of gang violence and how little attention she received in the press compared to the shooting of Trayvon Martin that was consuming full attention at the time.

      Considering how big an impact education has on the lives of low income kids (for good or ill), I don't think you should dismiss that topic.

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    2. Bob has confined "mainstream press corps" to MSNBC -- and usually Rachel Maddow -- the NY Times, and occasionally, the Washington Post and Salon.

      This is pathetic in an Information Age where people get their information from all sorts of places that he never seems to get around to musing about.

      And don't kid yourself. Bob cares about low income kids only to the extent they serve his purpose to bash one of the above.

      If he truly cared, he wouldn't have devoted the past 16 years to his "musings" on his very narrowly defined "mainstream press corps" instead of whining about how his few chosen targets don't do the important job he wants done but is too damned lazy to do it himself.

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    3. Anonymous at 8;25 - isn't your argument kind of silly? Bob is one person; he seems to be pretty comprehensive in the topics he covers. How many TV shows and newspapers do you expect one human being to watch?

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    4. Comprehensive? If your definition of "comprehensive" is "Rachel Maddow" then yeah, he's "comprehensive" although I would tend to call it "obsessed."

      Once again, the only time he even mentions low-income kids is to berate Maddow, et al, for not covering the issue to his satisfaction.

      If he truly gave a damn about them, he'd still be teaching them instead of going on the comedy club circuit.

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  5. We may be living in the era of Peak Renewables, which will be followed by a very long Age of Fossil Fuels that has only just begun

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  6. This is manifest on the MSNBC lineup. Identity issues are much more favored over economics. Notable exceptions are Robert Reich and good old Ed when he's in one of his "this-is-for-people-who-shower-after-work" moods. Ezra Klein was good with graphs, but he's out setting up his lemonade stand or something.

    Occasional they'll take on Econ 101 topics like the minimum wage, but otherwise their panels seem to favor academics and other highly educated successful types talking about fascinating things other than the bread-and-butter issues that affect millions who voted for Romney and against their own interests. I guess they know their audience -- or their advertisers.

    I think Lind has a point. The Democrats should become more economically based in their orientation. Then maybe the Reps would lose their lock on the white guy vote. Don't give up on the other issues. It's a matter of balance and proportion.

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    1. When I want to find out about economic issues, I always turn first to a low-educated unsuccessful type.

      Occupy was talking about all of these bread and butter issues. Look how fast they were frozen out of media coverage. It is hard for me to think that was accidental (or the result of lack of viewer interest). Most of the people I know think Occupy failed and doesn't exist any more -- that it is doing nothing, because they never see it on the news.

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    2. Occupy was making hand signals and unable to put forth any agenda that was comprehensible to anyone.

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  7. "The Democrats should become more economically based in their orientation. Then maybe the Reps would lose their lock on the white guy vote. "

    The Democrats are going to start to lose more than "white guys" if they don't start talking about bread and butter issues. I don't think anyone can assume they will keep their advantage with young people of any color unless they start talking about debt and wages and work.

    Lind is right, and it isn't just "white guys". They're not talking to the vast majority of people. They can't keep recycling the earned income tax credit and food stamps. Those are poverty mitigation programs. They're not an economic plan. No one "wants" food stamps. That's not a goal.

    They need to talk about the WORK THAT PEOPLE DO and why people feel they don't have any security or a hopeful future.

    Sadly, I think the reason they don't talk about is they don't have anything to say.

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    1. Debt? What a canard that whole thing is.

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    2. I'm pretty sure, Anonymous at 7:29, that "debt" refers to personal debt.

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    3. The comment doesn't include the word "personal." You're just mind-reading again.

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  8. When Democrats talk about black kids, they lose white working class votes. Perhaps Bob can delve into that conundrum at some point, rather than pretending it doesn't existing. Or blaming educated white progressives, who frankly may have thrown in the towel after years of frustration.

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    1. And if Bob and others think I'm throwing the R-bomb, they are (willfully?) ignoring the past 40-50 years of US politics, not to mention global studies that reveal the near impossibility of implementing redistributive policies in multiracial and -ethnic societies, where majorities are happy to share with each other, but bristle when asked to share with The Other. This is well documented.

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    2. I'm not convinced today's well off boutique liberals really are so keen on what you call "redistributive policies" after all. To claim they have valiantly "thrown in the towel" like an embattled fighter, while blaming "the white working class" for their own disinterest in "black kids", is self serving and pitifully weak.

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    3. If the white voters who would most benefit from redistributive policies aren't keen on them, why should bouttique liberals --- who would actually get taxed --- be? Our economic system might be quite a bit different if the white working class voted their own economic interests. They generally don't. They vote diametrically opposed to them.

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    4. 10:44 that's funny. We can't blame the white working class for *their own* disinterest in black kids. Right, we should blame "boutique" liberals for someone else's disinterest. Makes perfect sense.

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    5. Workplace economic issues used to be a centerpiece of Democratic politics. No more, if you follow these online discussions concerning work, liberals it seems won't even cop to working for a living anymore. I'm amazed as to how liberals now speak of working people as if they were the Other. It seems these discussions are populated by either the retired, trust fund kids, or "fulltime dreamers". At the root of it liberal professions (naively) see themselves having more in common with the plutocrats
      than they do the unwashed masses and have largely internalized corporate values as their own. That's what a title and a few status symbols will do to some people. Sadly many a liberal has adopted a suck up/kick down world view.

      The hollow vacuum created by liberals' disinterest in economic issues, they have filled by with the boutique politics of racial identity. Now liberals see themselves as nobel spokespersons for oppressed minorities, with the sole purpose of rooting out "insensitive" speech.

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  9. Homelessness: build housing, give it people, make them pay rent.
    Poverty: Minimum guaranteed income.
    Climate Change: Nuclear energy, centralized electrification, conservation, natural gas, perhaps a few percentage points of wind and solar.
    Hunger: Industrial agriculture, including pesticides, GMO.

    These are all technical issues. With some technical solutions. American liberals (and other in rich western countries) are rich enough and secure enough that they feel free to advocate the Fantasy Island solutions to every problem (Solar panels! Electric cars! Organic Food! Two Story house with garden! Meaningful work from a college degree!), because they, themselves, can afford those solutions.

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    1. Solar panels! Electric cars! Organic food!

      These would ALL be affordable for everyone if they were as subsidized as Fossil fuels! and Big agriculture! to name just two of the more obvious.

      Berto

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    2. My daughter will graduate this spring with honors and $60K in debt. Would have been higher except she went to a public university and worked her way through school.

      How dare she think that investment in work, time and money should lead to "meaningful work." What spoiled brats these kids are!

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    3. Berto -- Today, fossil fuels are a lot cheaper than alternatives. In the opinion of some, we're not going to reduce our CO2 emissions until we develop a non-carbon-based fuel that's as cheap as oil, gas, and coal and that can produce enough energy to pretty much replace oil, gas, and coal,

      AnonymousMarch 21, 2014 at 5:46 AM, you ought to take it up with God. He might sympathize with the sacrifices made by your daughter (and, no doubt, by the rest of the family.) He might agree that she has a right to feel entitled to meaningful work.

      However, here on earth, opportunities are what they are.

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    4. David, I deeply resent your highly personal aimed at my daughter, and if you ever said to their face any parent of a child that works as hard as she has that they feel "entitled, you would deserve the ass-kicking you would undoubtedly get.

      She has followed all of society's rules, she has worked hard, and your reaction to a kid you don't even know is that she feels "entitled" to a job that will pay off her massive debt right out of the box?

      You are truly a pathetic, little man.

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  10. Lind and Bob are onto a great idea. Let's strengthen the progressive side of politics by driving a huge part of the existing coalition out of the party! There may not be as many votes and there will hardly be any money, but there will be a much better match between ideology and economic interests.

    Who needs the Koch brothers when we have our own great ideas for splintering what we have?

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    1. So discussion of working class economic issues is off the table for the good of the party?

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    2. Nah. Discussion of working class economic issues would be a HUGE winner for the party (and the citizens of the nation), but a HUGE loser for the financers (constituents?) of the party.

      Berto

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    4. Working class issues are not at all off the table. They should indeed be central to what a Democrat is. My point is that even if their heart isn't in it to the same extent as a genuine, certified working class person's will be, liberal professionals will generally support working class interests on those issues -- like universal health insurance, decent minimum wage, full employment and even collective bargaining rights. Republican Catholics aren't agitating to toss out Protestant fundamentalists because their modern adoption of anti-abortion fervor is more strategic than from the gut. It is simply a reality that professionals are and will be a big part of the progressive side. The answer is to win them over to things like the importance of unions to a well-functioning economy, not alienate them because they don't have deep enough blue collar bona fides.

      Lind does some great work, but on this one, drafted during an apparent pique, he lost perspective.

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  11. If white voters want to reorganize themselves into unions and fight for economic justice, this boutique liberal will be on their side 100%. For my entire adult life, I have voted for and organzed for workers' rights, redistribution, unionization, etc. Two of the biggest obstacles we've faced: Big Money, and the difficulty of getting white workers to see their own economic interests; their lack of class consciousness; their susceptibility to race-baiting that gets them to support policies that gridn them into the dust.

    I haven't given up. But I'm close.

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  12. Lind's favorite issue target to attack botique liberals is global warming and renewable energy. It's all Al Gore's fault.

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    1. By the way, I love how global warming is a "boutique" issue. I guess the fate of the human race doesn't have much of an effect on the working class.

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    2. I don't think anyone called global warming a boutique issue. The politicians liberals tend to vote for mostly give the matter little more than lip service.

      Monitoring rodeo clown behavior is a boutique issue.

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    3. The impact of global warming is one thing; the impact of the remedies is another. Most proposed remedies directly or indirectly drive up the cost of fuel. Fuel use is reduced because the middle and lower classes have trouble affording the higher prices.

      Here in CA, gasoline costs twice what it did when Obama came into office. The price doesn't affect the driving habits of people like me. In fact, we gain from the higher prices, because there's less traffic congestion on the freeway.

      In short, most global warming solutions work by punishing the poor. So, why should they support these policies?

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    4. As I recall gas prices during the summer of 2008, several months before election, were approaching five bucks a gallon. A recession and financial collapse followed that significantly depressed demand.

      You don't tell the whole story David, as in a half truth equals a whole lie. During this time the economy was contracting at a 8.9% clip- depression level numbers, and we were losing over 700,000 jobs a month. As a loyal Republican are you really ready to man up and own all of that? Somehow I suspect not.

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