Each week, another candidate throws a hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential campaign—a constant reminder that President Barack Obama is at the end of his term. Currently, the president is engaged in a high-stakes battle, twisting the arms of the Democratic Party base and pressuring his close congressional allies, like the Congressional Black Caucus, to help salvage his attempt to hammer through a multination “trade” agreement with Pacific Ocean rim nations. That is simply very hard to understand.
An “old school” demonstration Friday on Capitol Hill by American college students protested proposed cuts by House Republicans to Pell Grants that help our children afford college. I use the phrase “our children” because it is a well-worn phrase “our children are our future.” House Republicans appear to believe they are not “our children,” but your children; and you had better figure out how to get them educated because they are your problem, not our future. This is carrying the case for individualism to an absurd level.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on the labor market’s performance in February. The online version of their report links to supplemental tables normally left out of stories. One of those tables shows the unemployment rates of young workers 16 to 24 years old, by whether they are enrolled in school and by their education attainment and race. The table for those who are no longer enrolled and presumably completed with their education was very telling. It reported those out of school, white high school drop-outs had an unemployment rate of 17.5%, while black college graduates had an unemployment rate of 17.7%.
Mark Twain famously noted, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The current efforts to roll back the ability of working people to counterbalance the corporate domination of America's politics is firmly rooted in the initial corporate opposition to the Wagner Act of 1935 that finally assured American workers the right to organize and bargain for wages and working conditions. Among those early efforts to reduce the strength of unions was an effort led by Vance Muse.
There is history—the facts of events—and then there is myth and fable—the essence of things, the narratives that shape our understanding of complex events inspiring, motivating, rallying and galvanizing us as people and nations.
This year, America is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. The “Siege of Petersburg (Va.),” which began in the summer of June 1864, intensified so that by March 25, 1865, the U.S. Army under General Ulysses S. Grant blocked all supplies to Petersburg and forced Confederate General Robert E. Lee to abandon the defense of Petersburg and Richmond and flee southwest along the Appomattox River.
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, President Barack Obama never used the word “poor” and only used the word “poverty” once, which was in the context of fighting “extreme poverty” globally, in emphasizing the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP—the value of all goods and services produced in the United States) per capita of the United States stood at $15,745. In September of that year, a young man, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. In December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott would be launched. Soon everyone would know who Dr. King was and what the Montgomery Improvement Association was.
We should all congratulate President Barack Obama for pulling the education debate into the 21st century, or perhaps dragging it into the late 20th century, by proposing access to free education through at least an associate's degree. But this merely restates the obvious.
Just after the new year, the American Economic Association and experts in the various other economics specialties met in Boston. Many of the sessions are small conversations among a narrow band of economic inquiry. But some sessions include key economic policymakers who, when speaking to their “own,” are sometimes candid about how economists are viewing the policy dilemma of this global slump.