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Archive for February 7th, 2013

I wrote, a week or so back, about Andrew Bacevich’s essay in The American Conservative on “countercultural conservatism”, saying that if he got to define the term I might be a conservative. Unfortunately, there was no online link to the article. It finally is up on TAC’s website. Here is a taste:

Instead, the new conservative agenda should emphasize the following:

  • Protecting the environment from the ravages of human excess. Here most emphatically, the central theme of conservatism should be to conserve. If that implies subordinating economic growth and material consumption in order to preserve the well-being of planet Earth, so be it. In advancing this position, conservatives should make common cause with tree-hugging, granola-crunching liberals. Yet in the cultural realm, such a change in American priorities will induce a tilt likely to find particular favor in conservative circles.
  • Exposing the excesses of American militarism and the futility of the neo-imperialist impulses to which Washington has succumbed since the end of the Cold War. When it comes to foreign policy, the conservative position should promote modesty, realism, and self-sufficiency. To the maximum extent possible, Americans should “live within,” abandoning the conceit that the United States is called upon to exercise “global leadership,” which has become a euphemism for making mischief and for demanding prerogatives allowed to no other nation. Here the potential exists for conservatives to make common cause with members of the impassioned antiwar left.
  • Insisting upon the imperative of putting America’s fiscal house in order. For starters, this means requiring government to live within its means. Doing so will entail collective belt-tightening, just the thing to curb the nation’s lazily profligate tendencies. Conservatives should never cease proclaiming that trillion-dollar federal deficits are an abomination and a crime committed at the expense of future generations.
  • Laying claim to the flagging cause of raising children to become responsible and morally centered adults. Apart from the pervasive deficiencies of the nation’s school system, the big problem here is not gay marriage but the collapse of heterosexual marriage as an enduring partnership sustained for the well-being of offspring. We know the result: an epidemic of children raised without fathers. Turning this around promises to be daunting, but promoting economic policies that make it possible to support a family on a single income offers at least the beginnings of a solution. Yes, just like in the 1950s.
  • Preserving the independence of institutions that can check the untoward and ill-advised impulses of the state. Among other things, this requires that conservatives mount an adamant and unyielding defense of religious freedom. Churches—my own very much included—may be flawed. But conservatives should view their health as essential.

You can read the rest here.

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The Working Poor Blues

The minimum wage in Ohio is $7.85 (it was only recently raised). That works out to $16,328 a year, if you work 40 hour weeks, which is by no means guaranteed; many businesses deliberately keep their employees below 40 hours so they will not be full time employees and eligible for benefits.

The idea of trying to live on that, even as a single person, is absurd. A couple both working minimum wage jobs earns, in Ohio, less than $33,000 a year, hardly a family wage. To put it in perspective:

The following are 35 statistics about the working poor in America that will blow your mind (from The Economic Collapse blog)…

#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either “poor” or “low income”.

#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”.  Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.

#4 Back in 2007, 21 million U.S. children lived in “working poor” homes.  Today, that number is up to 23.5 million.

#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be “low income”.

#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#7 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.

#8 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#9 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#10 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.

#11 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#15 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#16 Low income families spend about 8.6 percent of their incomes on gasoline.  Other families spend about 2.1 percent.

#17 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#18 According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.

#19 Millions of working poor families in America end up taking on debt in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but before too long they find themselves in a debt trap that they can never escape.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.

#20 In 1989, the debt to income ratio of the average American family was about 58 percent.  Today it is up to 154 percent.

#21 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans households on average have 288 times the amount of wealth that the average middle class American family does.

#22 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#23 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#24 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#25 Sadly, the bottom 60 percent of all Americans own just 2.3 percent of all the financial wealth in the United States.

#26 The average CEO now makes approximately 350 times as much as the average American worker makes.

#27 Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high.  Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of GDP are near an all-time low.

#28 Today, 40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.

#29 The number of families in the United States living on 2 dollars a day or less more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.

#30 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#31 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

#32 More than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

#33 Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

#34 If you can believe it, the federal government hands out money to 128 million Americans every single month.

#35 Federal spending on welfare has reached nearly a trillion dollars a year, and it is being projected that it will increase by another 80 percent over the next decade.

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