The Atlantic Monthly chronicle of the long-term effects of unemployment demonstrates why empathy matters in policy.
Losing your job impacts more than just your income. Don Peck’s How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America lays this out in an expansive piece that looks at how joblessness wreaks havoc on people’s psyche, their relationships, and culture overall.
Defining and understanding a Depression requires more than economics; it requires empathy. Empathy is neither a progressive nor conservative trait. We all demonstrate it in different ways and in different circumstances. Empathy’s universality makes it something we can organize around and build upon.
Empathy is oft forgotten when policy remedies to crises are being considered. Policy is inherently mechanical and pedantic. But the way we frame policy debates does not have to be. Understanding the people impacted must be a the forefront of our politics.
Take, for example, today’s un[der]employment disaster. The debate on what to do about it has withered down to whether increasing the deficit is warranted. There is not a less human way to talk about this human catastrophe than that. Tell that to the recent college graduates that Peck writes about who will earn significantly less money over their careers because they were born in the wrong year and will be more likely to develop drinking, drug, and marital problems. They hear “deficit” and think “doesn’t matter.”
What matters is the broken promise made to them that if they worked hard and got a degree that they’d have a job. What matters is the lack of personal and collective responsibility that threw their professional trajectory off course. What matters is the steely feeling of student loan debt jammed into the back of their minds like a gun during a stickup. Using this, we should instead be debating how to get students the jobs they’ve been educated for and everyone the jobs they’ve trained for.
This principle should inform all of our work: enable people to build and pursue their talents and use them for the benefit of themselves and society. Applying this value to this and other debates sets the table for a progressive future on all fronts. Some examples:
- Health care: Fear of sickness or injury must not deter hopeful and ambitious people; give them the protection they deserve.
- Education: Properly equip public educational infrastructure with well-compensated teachers and staff, well-designed curricula and tools, and well-implemented + structures and practices.
- Job creation: Full employment is full dignity; everyone working means everyone bettering themselves, their families, and society.
People must be at the forefront of our organizing and our politics. People don’t want rhetoric or process, they want answers.
One Love. One II.
Photo credit: srqpix on Flickr
What’s up fam
This piece is going to be a mix of various things that have been on my mind.
1. If you haven’t noticed yet, the flurry of news surrounding Haiti relief is done. This is where the real work begins because character is what we do when no one is looking. So here we go, no more moving facebook updates, editorial cartoons, or grand speeches by political leaders. Now that no one is looking is the perfect opportunity to give more of your self. So let’s chill with the “We will never forget” slogans because if you remember and don’t do anything, what’s the point?
2. So it appears that the Dems have decided to finally commit to using reconciliation to finish health care reform. Senate Majority Leader Reid put forth a goal of having this done in 60 days and I hope and pray Democrats get this done because it is simply unconscionable for a country flush with so much wealth to have so many people go without adequate healthcare.
3. I wanted to share a quote that has had me thinking, “The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes to-day.”
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca
“On the Shortness of Life”
translated by John W. Basore, Loeb Classical Library
London: William Heinemann, 1932
In response to this quote, what expectations do you have of yourself and others? How do you think these expectations have helped or hindered? What informs these expectations? Do you really carpe diem or are you one of those people who go through the week like a zombie expecting to truly live when get off work on Friday?
4. I haven’t heard anything about the guy that flew his plane into the IRS building. See now if the guy was Muslim, it would be front page every day for at least two weeks. What I don’t want is more finger pointing based on race, what I want is appropriate and proportional responses based on behavior, not race.
5. Black History month is almost over and before we move on, I just want to thank all the Black people whose efforts and names will never make it into a history book or a PBS Black History month program. I represent am 27 years of Black History but I also stand on the shoulders of giants and so many elders have pulled me aside to show guidance and encouragement. Black History did not end with Civil Rights but it will be if we don’t have a burning desire to make the world better for our kids and grand kids. How much more would those coming after us resent us for being so selfish for not fighting as if all is well.
Stay up fam,
p.s. I really wish I could write more fam. Law school and life make it difficult to write the more in depth pieces I used to do more often. My apologies.
Challenges have the uncanny ability to sharpen our focus. A knee injury will make you more mindful of walking than ever before. Bad food introduces you to taste buds you never knew existed. Adrenaline enables amazing physical feats.
The same is true for political movements. Progressives are smarting now. Many on the left are disenchanted with the President, disappointed in the pending health care legislation and disillusioned about the 2010 mid-term elections. What’s a movement to do?
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our renewed focus is an opportunity to build a foundation for future success, resilience and empowerment. This means taking stock of the real progress being made in this moment while simultaneously fighting to transition society from its peppered past to a progressive future.
President Obama was mindful of this when he said in his Martin Luther King, Jr. address that:
…our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn’t see progress when it came…Let’s take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were — which was progress.
What victories have we won? A few include:
- Passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, bringing us a step closer to fully realizing equal pay for equal work.
- Expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, an important step in providing health care for all of our nation’s children.
- Softened Federal restrictions on stem cell research, opening the door for potential cures to innumerable diseases.
Where do we go from here
Martha Coakley and others’ recent electoral defeats echo the sentiment of the 2008 Presidential election: candidates who proactively or passively represent a broken status quo will fail. Insiders can no longer combine tepid emotions and bland appeals with party machines and expect victory. They instead must take the hope demonstrated by the 2008 election and marry it to action.
The infinite hope that Dr. King spoke of us present within the progressive movement. Young people are organizing like never before in favor of comprehensive immigration reform reflective of America’s ideals, not its demons. Their hope is moving them to action.
That infinite hope is present in the hearts of millions of ambitious yet unemployed Americans. People are coming together to petition their government to work on their behalf to create jobs rather than give handouts to industries that have turned their backs on their employees. The hope of these workers is moving them to action.
That hope still exists in health care. Amidst the angst of the centrists, the exasperation of many Progressives and the perverse cynicism of corporate and conservative interests, the American people remain thirsty for quality, affordable health care. The current proposals have their differences and flaws, but our communities are speaking up in unison when they demand a health care system that works for them. Listening to the practical, conscientious voice of constituents would have led to a substantive debate that disregarded idiocy while embracing the courageous optimism of the American spirit.
What’s up fam, Long time no see I know. First let me say that I have started law school at UDC so any SuperSpade fam in the DMV, let me know what’s up. Moreover, my partner in crime Garlin got married and would you guess it, moved to DC!!! Suffice it to say that a ton of change has happened in the past couple months and our posting has been….well let’s just get back into it.
So I am really smarting over the Van Jones resignation and the implications it has on the next twenty years of political life in America. President Obama is wrong for allowing this to go through. This has nothing to do with Van’s liberal values but it is pure politics. Jones was ousted in large part to the enraged and deranged rhetoric of Glenn Beck…of all people. I get it you that can’t fight every fight but come on. I will even give you some slack if we are talking about appointments that need the consent of the Senate but this was not the case. Then, the communication’s director of the National Endowment for the Arts, Yosi Sergant is forced to resgin in part due to Glenn Beck. Obama, you can’t allow Glenn Beck to pick off your staff one at a time. This is crazy!!!!
The larger problem is what this says for the generation coming of and preparing to take the reins. What Van said about Republicans pales in comparison to what I hear Republicans have said and say about Obama. The signal being sent though is that if you are left/liberal/progressive, keep your mouth shut. We live in the information where even the most insignificant speech is recorded, and who knows what to think of what is going to happen to all the emails/facebook posts, blogs, blog comments, etc. I say that to say that anyone talking themselves out of politics (or influencing politicians) took the wrong lesson from the Jones resignation. We have to be bold in our principles. Seriously, I don’t know when this happened but “birthers” get regular play over the media airwaves. Where are we?
Let’s be honest shall we?
- Have you deleted or re-worded a comment or email because while what you said was perfectly reasonable you didn’t want to be branded as a crazy liberal? -When in conversation have you bashed a liberal idea that you really support?
- What rally did you want to go to but you didn’t want to risk being photographed?
My only point is that you are wrong if you are waiting for progressive values (that is the word I use, don’t get caught in semantics) to become mainstream, stop waiting! Politics doesn’t work when you don’t show up so don’t let this moment go to waste. Let principles guide you, not random reactions to the absurd.
Stay up fam,
Over on my man’s Field Negro blog, he wrote some fire today regarding Obama not fighting for a bill he introduced while in the Senate that would give justice to Black farmers. And rather than put it in my own words, I am going to re-post his thoughts in full. Please visit his site on a regular basis, he spits hot fiyah. (Dylan accent)
Although the case was hardly a hot-button political issue, it had drawn intense interest among African-Americans in the rural South. It was seen as a way for Obama to reach out in those areas, where he was not well-known and where he would need strong support to win the Democratic primary.
But with 25,000 new claims and counting, the Obama administration is now arguing that the $100 million budget should be considered a cap to be split among the successful cases.
The position — spelled out in a legal motion filed in February and reiterated in recent settlement talks — would leave payments as low as $2,000 or $3,000 per farmer. Boyd called that ‘insulting.’
‘I’m really disappointed,’ Boyd said. ‘This is the president’s bill.’
‘They did discriminate against these farmers, maybe not all of them, but a lot of these people would prevail if they could go to court,’ he said.
Well I would tell you why John, but I want my Obamaholic friends to come back.
What’s good fam,
Bless his heart, Rep. John Conyers is on the wrong side of a very important piece of legislation he sponsored known as the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. In short, the way it stands now, researchers and scientists that get National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding are required to allow a copy of their work be published by PubMed Central, which is the free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. The operative in the previous statement is free, which is important because it allows people like you and I to review the research that informs our country’s health policies.
I flew to DC to get Rep. Conyers to sign the Health Care for Americans Now principles and I applaud his views on the need to reform our health care system but the fact is simple, citizens should get access to health research that they pay for, period. The larger point is that this bill is one shot across the bow to target open access, an important principle which means that citizen peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature should be free and more available on the internet.
I didn’t know this but a new report by transparency group MAPLight.org shows that sponsors of this bill — led by Rep. John Conyers — received twice as much money from the publishing industry as those on the relevant committee who are not sponsors. Rep. Conyers, do the right thing and think about the implications that your bill will have on starving citizen-driven activism from the one thing they need most to hold the powers that be accountable…information.
If you want to get involved to help defeat this bill, link up with our good friends at Change Congress that are doing great work to root out special interests in our national politics.
Stay up fam,
I have been thinking about how we as Americans talk about our President and how scary it resembles idolatry. To be sure, this post is about the institution of the President and about President Obama. (I really like typing President Obama) A couple quotes that are familiar to Americans include the following;
1) “I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.”
2)“Well if the President asks you to do something, you absolutely have to give it serious consideration.”
Indulge me for a moment and re-read quotes one and two with God and tell me if most people you know live their lives as such.
Moreover, the first quote is interesting because it is really just a fancy way of saying you are an at-will employee, which is not different from the experience of many American workers who are not a part of a union. The “pleasure” piece is weird for me because it suggests, if accidentally, a level of loyalty that should be reserved for God.
Likewise, the second quote makes me think about all the times we reject helping someone we care about because it is often times slightly inconvenient. This presents another dichotomy that I don’t appreciate. What makes a President asking you to do something any more valuable than your family member that needs some money to help make ends meet? I don’t think we should all say yes to every request made of us but this suggestion that the President’s will shall not be denied is a quality that again, should be reserved to God.
Stay up fam,
I always get this weird sense that regardless of election outcomes, Republicans find a way to win. If you look at Obama’s charm offensive towards House Republicans regarding the stimulus package, it resulted in no Republican votes. I am sure there will be some Republican votes once the final bill comes out of conference. The larger point however, (with full complicity from MSM) is that Obama has somehow failed because no House Republicans voted for the bill.
Last I checked, the Democrats control the White House, Senate, and House so if the Democrats can pass bills without Republican support, why are we so committed to Republican ideas, especially now. To help illustrate, Bob Herbert said in a recent column,
The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.
The Republican answer to this turmoil?
They need to go into rehab.
The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.
I applaud Obama’s efforts at bipartisanship but I hope that Obama’s bad cop is really, really good. In a normal world, Obama’s success won’t be determined by how many Republicans he can win over. I just hope that Obama and Democrats do not feel compelled to have to trade away tax cuts for any legislation that they think requires broad bipartisan support. The problem is that tax cuts as an answer to everything is not good public policy. Elections do have consequences right?
Stay up fam,
In case any of you undecideds can’t get over your mental block of voting for Senator Barack Obama, take a mental poll of where you stand financially and read this great piece from the New York Times,
Bulls, Bears, Donkeys and Elephants
Since 1929, Republicans and Democrats have each controlled the presidency for nearly 40 years. So which party has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole? Well, here’s an experiment: imagine that during these years you had to invest exclusively under either Democratic or Republican administrations. How would you have fared?
As of Friday, a $10,000 investment in the S.& P. stock market index* would have grown to $11,733 if invested under Republican presidents only, although that would be $51,211 if we exclude Herbert Hoover’s presidency during the Great Depression. Invested under Democratic presidents only, $10,000 would have grown to $300,671 at a compound rate of 8.9 percent over nearly 40 years.