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News You Can Use to understand the New America

14 March 2012

Summary:  The news media saturate us with news, which can make understand more difficult — not less.  At the FM website we help you sort through that flow to see the patterns important to you as a citizen.  Today we show two examples, illustrations of powerful trends shaping America about which we warned for the past 5 years.

(1)  In America “equal before the law” no longer applies

Power creates privilege in America.  As see by Americans mocking the War on Terror by illegally supporting organizations designated as terrorists, yet the government does not prosecute them:  “Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters“, Glenn Greenwald, 12 March 2012 — Opening:

We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group that is legally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization, and then meeting with and advocating on behalf of that Terrorist group, is very significant for several reasons. New developments over the last week make it all the more telling. Just behold the truly amazing set of facts that have arisen:

(2)  Inequality does not just happen — it results from public policy decisions

Increasing inequality of wealth and income undermines the foundations of our Republic.  It results from deliberate public policy changes that undo the policies of the New Deal and post-WWII era designed to build a strong middle class.

(a)  “The Reproduction of Privilege“, Thomas B. Edsall, Campaign Stops, 12 March 2012 — Opening:

Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income.

Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and co-author of “How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do about It,” puts it succinctly: “The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.

(b)   “Building A Caste Society“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 12 March 2012 — Excerpt:

For more information

See the FM Reference Page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?

About inequality and social mobility: once strengths of America, now weaknesses:

  1. A sad picture of America, but important for us to understand, 3 November 2008 — Our low social mobility.
  2. America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system, 5 November 2008
  3. Inequality in the USA, 7 January 2009
  4. A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
  5. The latest figures on income inequality in the USA, 9 October 2009
  6. An opportunity to look in the mirror, to more clearly see America, 10 November 2009
  7. Graph of the decade, a hidden fracture in the American political regime, 7 March 2010
  8. America, the land of limited opportunity. We must open our eyes to the truth., 31 March 2010
  9. Modern America seen in pictures. Graphs, not photos. Facts, not impressions., 13 June 2010
  10. A pity party for America’s rich and powerful, 8 September 2010
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7 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 March 2012 12:56 pm

    From “God in the Dock” by C. S. Lewis (1948):

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    I suppose everybody here is familiar with the quote, but it was the first thing that jumped to my mind as I read your post.

    Has anyone considered maybe government money is driving up college costs? Big Ed has grown fat and surly, with education inflation galloping well ahead of the cost of living. “Galloping inflation in American college fees“, The Economist, 2 September 2010:

    FOR decades, college fees have risen faster than Americans’ ability to pay them. Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and 24 for out-of-state students. The cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13 (a year in the Ivy League will set you back $38,000, excluding bed and board). Academic inflation makes most other kinds look modest by comparison. Students may not be getting a good deal in return.

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    • 15 March 2012 12:43 am

      Re: colleges

      That’s only sort of correct. The college’s extract what economists call “rent”. A degree has economic value to the graduate, which the college creates by printing the degree. The college “extracts” some of that value by charging tuition. Hence the cost of college has little connection to the cost of providing it. The limit is what students can pay, up to a limit at which the incremental net value of the degree after costs (including opportunity cost of the student’s time) is zero.

      Therefore federal aid increases tuition by allowing students to pay more. As a result the net value of many college degrees is low, and probably negative after opportunity costs.

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  2. Fred permalink
    14 March 2012 2:06 pm

    Today’s column by the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE’s Mark Morford, though obliquely, illustrates how the media leads us by the nose to bend to the will of the economic powers that be. Media doesn’t exclude advertisiers and the “news” outlets tha reinforce those ads. What else would bring out hurdes or people to wait all night and more for the latest iPad, iPhone, or, well, Black Friday bargains, where TV cameras are out in force to document the events?
    Morford’s in his laser-like, but witty style, also supports what I have been saying to you, FM, that it is going to take a great deal more than optimism that the principles you espoused in Rome cound actually be applied to save 21st Century America from itself. It’s a much different and more scary world today. Pleae read on:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/03/14/notes031412.DTL&nl=fix

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  3. Leper permalink
    15 March 2012 12:06 am

    A summary of the media’s failings in objectively discussing Iran’s nuclear program and possible responses to it can be found here: “Top ten media failures in the Iran war debate“, Foreign Policy, 11 March 2012.

    While the listed failures are specifically related to reporting on Iran, they are also a near-constant element of much of the media’s reporting of many other topics.

    Like

    • 15 March 2012 12:45 am

      Thank you for posting this! Walt is one of the few bright spot on otherwise feckless roster of war-mongers that write at Foreign Policy.

      Like

  4. OldSkeptic permalink
    15 March 2012 11:15 am

    Signal to noise ratio. In one sense that has always been the case. In two areas in particular these days the S/N ratio is probably 10E9+ (10 to the power 9): finance and war.

    As far as war goes this is the status quo, S/N ratio has always been in the many orders of magnitude. Any US media against Vietnam in the beginning, middle and even quite late stages? Only when it was obvious to a 3 year old schizophernic gerbil that the US had lost, did the mainstream of the US media start to report things a bit more truthfully.

    Nothing unusual in that. Heck I was in the UK during the Falklands ‘event’. Boy what a palaver, where jingoism abounded, you’d have thought the British had single handedly beat the ‘invaders from Mars”. The total balls ups were ‘air brushed’ out then and after. We get this all the time in economic ‘news’ and ‘articles’ = 99% paid propaganda.

    So a severely skeptical approach is necessary in all ‘news’. So a credit to Obama (for once) in linking ‘Iran war talk’ with the price of fuel at the bowser. The story is always .. easy war .. smite thy enemies .. and it is a natural human tendency to indulge in racism and Schadenfreude. Here is a cruel and terrible thing, that most people don’t want to admit, blowing the heck out of someone that can’t fight back is fun for far too many people .. especially if they don’t have to do it and there is no risk or cost to themselves.

    Post WW2, when so many people had direct experience of the consequences of war, most of them around the World were a lot more cautious Nowadays very few people see the links to themselves and their own situation. In their ‘minds’ it is cost free and the propaganda always states that So people have to be taught that there are consequences. 9/11 was a consequence.

    I have some arguments with people here in Australia about Iran and what usually. makes them think a bit (since they don’t care how many Iranian people die, or even how many Australian service people die … really) is: “want to pay $10 a litre for fuel”? After you hit them with the facts they tend to get a little more nervous because it is now personal, rather than some abstract idea, usually fed by Govt propaganda along the lines of “our brave boys kill some extremists as they protect our school building efforts for educating girls in Afghanistan” (yes we really have had rubbish like that here).

    Moving ‘sheeple’ to PEOPLE, basically involves making them think, really think.

    Like

  5. alwyn permalink
    17 March 2012 8:01 pm

    Fabius! May I suggest your spot on TOLKIEN LOTR “we live there” be up there.Love yur analysis all round.Many thanks !

    Like

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