Citing the immigration scholar, Francesca Pizzutelli, Fabio Rojas explains that the phrase “illegal immigrant” wasn’t a part of the English language before the 1930s. More often, people used the phrase “irregular immigrant.” Instead of an evaluative term, it was a descriptive one referring to people who moved around and often crossed borders for work.
Rojas points out that the language began to change after anti-immigration laws were passed by Congress in the 1920s. The graph above also reveals a steep climb in both “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” beginning in the ’70s.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Ross Douthat is puzzled. He seems to sense that a liberal policy might actually help, but his high conservative principles and morality keep him from taking that step. It’s a political version of Freudian repression – the conservative superego forcing tempting ideas to remain out of awareness.
In his column, Douthat recounts several anecdotes of criminal charges brought against parents whose children were unsupervised for short periods of time. The best-known of these criminals of late is Debra Harrell, the mother in South Carolina who let her 9-year-old daughter go to a nearby playground while she (Debra) worked at her job at McDonald’s. The details of the case make it clear that this was not a bad mom – not cruel, not negligent. The playground was the best child care she could afford.
One solution should be obvious – affordable child care. But the U.S. is rather stingy when it comes to kids. Other countries are way ahead of us on public spending for children.
Conservatives will argue that child care should be private not public and that local charities and churches do a better job than do state-run programs. Maybe so. The trouble is that those private programs are not accessible to everyone. If Debra Harrell had been in France or Denmark, the problem would never have arisen.
The other conservative U.S. policy that put Debra Harrell in the arms of the law is “welfare reform.” As Douthat explains, in the U.S., thanks to changes in the welfare system much lauded by conservatives, the U.S. now has “a welfare system whose work requirements can put a single mother behind a fast-food counter while her kid is out of school.”
That’s the part that perplexes Douthat. He thinks that it’s a good thing for the government to force poor women to work, but it’s a bad thing for those women not to have the time to be good mothers. The two obvious solutions – affordable day care or support for women who stay home to take care of kids – conflict with the cherished conservative ideas: government bad, work good.
This last issue presents a distinctive challenge to conservatives like me, who believe such work requirements are essential. If we want women like Debra Harrell to take jobs instead of welfare, we have to also find a way to defend their liberty as parents, instead of expecting them to hover like helicopters and then literally arresting them if they don’t.
As he says, it’s a distinctive challenge, but only if you cling so tightly to conservative principles that you reject solutions – solutions that seem to be working quite well in other countries – just because they involve the government or allow poor parents not to work.
Conservatives love to decry “the nanny state.” That means things like government efforts to improve kids’ health and nutrition. (Right wingers make fun of the first lady for trying to get kids to eat sensibly and get some exercise.)
A nanny is a person who is paid to look after someone else’s kids. Well-off people hire them privately (though they still prefer to call them au pairs). But for the childcare problems of low-income parents, what we need is more of a nanny state, or more accurately, state-paid nannies.
We refer to Senators and Congressional representatives as “lawmakers.” We democratically elect these people so that they can write and enact laws. But every so often the curtain parts, and we get a glimpse of who’s writing the laws, though these are usually laws that don’t make headlines. There was that time during the Bush years when corporate lobbyists were sitting right next to elected representatives – mostly Republican – at a committee hearing, telling them what to say. The GOP defenders got all huffy at those who had pointed out who was really running the legislation show.
Last week’s New York Times has an article (here) about efforts to close loopholes in corporate tax laws. Three-quarters of the way through the story, we get this paragraph (emphasis added):
Elaine C. Kamarck, the co-chairwoman of a bipartisan coalition of businesses and organizations that support a tax overhaul, says the only way a tax bill will pass is to use any savings derived from closing corporate loopholes solely to lower the overall corporate tax rate. The companies that have joined the coalition, which include Boeing, AT&T, Verizon, Walmart and Walt Disney, have agreed to put every loophole on the table, she said, because they believe “a low enough basic tax rate is worth giving up exemptions.”
The message is clear: our elected representatives can change the law only if a handful of corporations agree. Ms. Kamarck tells us that these corporations have selflessly allowed their tax dodges to be put “on the table.” Presumably, had they not been so magnanimous, these corporations would not allow Congress to change the law. She also implies that if the tradeoff – fewer exemptions but lower rates — doesn’t benefit the corporations, they’ll take their loopholes off the table and stop our elected representatives from changing the law.
Nice. I think that educators are so valuable to society that their income should not be taxed. But that table Ms. Kamarck mentions – the one where you tell Congress which tax rules you’ll accept – I can’t get anywhere near it. So I pay my taxes. In fact, last year, I paid more in taxes than did Verizon and Boeing combined. They, and several other huge corporations, paid zero.
I am, of course, naive to think that it was really Congress that wrote the laws that allow these corporations to pay nothing, and not the corporations themselves. How else?
According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, the United States remains the world’s top military spender. In fact, U.S. military spending equals the combined military spending of the next ten countries. And most of those are U.S. allies.
Although declining in real terms, the U.S. military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources. As the following chart shows, military spending absorbs 57% of our federal discretionary budget.
Notice that many so-called non-military discretionary budget categories also include military related spending. For example: Veteran’s Benefits, International Affairs, Energy and the Environment, and Science. We certainly seem focused on a certain kind of security.
When my primary care physician, a wonderful doctor, told me he was retiring, he said, “I just can’t practice medicine anymore the way I want to.” It wasn’t the government or malpractice lawyers. It was the insurance companies.
This was long before Obamacare. It was back when President W was telling us that “America has the best health care system in the world”; back when “the best” meant spending twice as much as other developed countries and getting health outcomes that were no better and by some measures worse. (That’s still true).
Many critics then blamed the insurance companies, whose administrative costs were so much higher than those of public health care, including our own Medicare. Some of that money went to employees whose job it was to increase insurers’ profits by not paying claims. Back then we learned the word “rescission” – finding a pretext for cancelling the coverage of people whose medical bills were too high. Insurance company executives, summoned to Congressional hearings, stood their ground and offered some misleading statistics.
None of the Congressional representatives on the committee asked the execs how much they were getting paid. Maybe they should have.
Health care in the U.S. is a $2.7 trillion dollar business, and the New York Times has an article about who’s getting the big bucks. Not the doctors, it turns out. And certainly not the people who have the most contact with sick people – nurses, EMTs, and those further down the chain. Here’s the chart from the article, with an inset showing those administrative costs.
As fine print at the top of the chart says, these are just salaries – walking-around money an exec gets for showing up. The real money is in the options and incentives.
In a deal that is not unusual in the industry, Mark T. Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna, earned a salary of about $977,000 in 2012 but a total compensation package of over $36 million, the bulk of it from stocks vested and options he exercised that year.
The anti-Obamacare rhetoric has railed against a “government takeover” of medicine. It is, of course, no such thing. Obama had to remove the “public option”; Republicans prevented the government from fielding a team and getting into the game. Instead, we have had an insurance company takeover of medicine. It’s not the government that’s coming between doctor and patient, it’s the insurance companies. Those dreaded “bureaucrats” aren’t working for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They’ve working for Aetna and Well-Point.
Even the doctors now sense that they too are merely working for The Man.
Doctors are beginning to push back: Last month, 75 doctors in northern Wisconsin [demanded] . . . health reforms . . . requiring that 95 percent of insurance premiums be used on medical care. The movement was ignited when a surgeon, Dr. Hans Rechsteiner, discovered that a brief outpatient appendectomy he had performed for a fee of $1,700 generated over $12,000 in hospital bills, including $6,500 for operating room and recovery room charges.
That $12,000 tab, for what it’s worth, is slightly under the U.S. average.
We have the money and the know how to tackle most of our social problems. Certainly unemployment, houselessness, and poverty. So, why don’t we?
In large part it is because our socially created wealth remains outside social control. Critical economic decisions are driven by private interests not the public good. One result is hipster economics.
On May 16, an artist, a railway service and a government agency spent $291,978 to block poverty from the public eye.
Called psychylustro, German artist Katharina Grosse’s project is a large-scale work designed to distract Amtrak train riders from the dilapidated buildings and fallen factories of north Philadelphia. The city has a 28 percent poverty rate – the highest of any major U.S. city – with much of it concentrated in the north. In some north Philadelphia elementary schools, nearly every child is living below the poverty line.
Grosse partnered with the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak to mask North Philadelphia’s hardship with a delightful view. The Wall Street Journalcalls this “Fighting Urban Blight With Art.” Liz Thomas, the curator of the project, calls it “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day.”
The project is not actually fighting blight, of course – only the ability of Amtrak customers to see it.
“I need the brilliance of colour to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence,” Grosse proclaims.
“People,” in Grosse and Thomas’s formulation, are not those who actually live in north Philadelphia and bear the brunt of its burdens. “People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.
Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised.
In a fancy bit of marketing, U.S. capitalists have been reborn as “job creators.” As such, they were rewarded with lower taxes, weaker labor laws, and relaxed government regulation. However, despite record profits, their job creation performance leaves a lot to be desired.
According to the official data the last U.S. recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Thus, we have officially been in economic expansion for almost five years. The gains from the expansion should be strong and broad-based enough to ensure real progress for the majority over the course of the business cycle. If not, it’s a sign that we need a change in our basic economic structure. In other words, it would be foolish to work to sustain an economic structure that was incapable of satisfying majority needs even when it was performing well according to its own logic.
A recent study by the National Employment Law Project titled The Low-Wage Recovery provides one indicator that it is time for us to pursue a change. It shows that the current economic expansion is transitioning the U.S. into a low wage economy.
The figure below shows the net private sector job loss by industries classified according to their medium wage from January 2008 to February 2010 and the net private sector job gain using the same classification from March 2010 to March 2014. As we can see, the net job loss in the first period was greatest in high wage industries and the net job creation in the second period was greatest in low wage industries.
As the study explains:
The food services and drinking places, administrative and support services (includes temporary help), and retail trade industries are leading private sector job growth during the recent recovery phase. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.
If the hard times of recession disproportionately eliminate high wage jobs and the “so called” good times of recovery bring primarily low wage jobs, it is time to move beyond our current focus on the business cycle and initiate a critical assessment of the way our economy operates and in whose interest.
The executed is a woman named Ruth Snyder, convicted of murdering her husband. The photographer was a journalist named Tom Howard. Cameras were not allowed in the execution room, but Howard snuck a device in under his pant leg. Prison officials weren’t happy, but the paper was overjoyed.
The fact that the image was placed on the front page with the aggressive headline “DEAD!” suggests that editors expected the photograph to have an impact. Summarizing at Time, Erica Fahr Campbell writes:
The black-and-white image was shocking to the U.S. and international public alike. There sat a 32-year-old wife and mother, killed for killing. Her blurred figured seemed to evoke her struggle, as one can imagine her last, strained breaths. Never before had the press been able to attain such a startling image—one not made in a faraway war, one not taken of the aftermath of a crime scene, but one capturing the very moment between life and death here at home.
It is one thing to know that executions are happening and another to see it, if mediated, with one’s own eyes.
Pictures can powerfully alter the dynamics of political debates. Lennart Nilsson‘s famous series of photographs of fetuses, for example, humanized and romanticized the unborn. They also erased pregnant women, making it easier to think of the fetus as an independent entity. A life, even.
Unfortunately, Campbell’s article doesn’t delve any further into the effect of this photograph on death penalty debates. To this day, however, no prisons allow photography during executions. What if things were different? How might the careful documentation of this process — with all our technology for capturing and sharing images — change the debate today? And whose interests are most protected by keeping executions invisible?