Smart people saying smart things

Jeff Madrick: “How Austerity Is Killing Europe

The European Union has become a vicious circle of burgeoning debt leading to radical austerity measures, which in turn further weaken economic conditions and result in calls for still more damaging cuts in government spending and higher taxes. The European debt crisis began with Greece, and that nation remains the European Union’s most stricken economy. But it has spread inexorably to Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, and even threatens France and possibly the U.K. It need not have done so. Rarely do we get so stark an example of bad — arguably even perverse — economic thinking in action.

Sady Doyle: “The Percentages: A Biography of Class

Because the 99 percent includes C, who I envied and exploited while pretending to be her friend. The 99 percent most likely includes the boy in the John Deere hat, and maybe even the Juliana Hatfield roommate, who made me feel so dirty and ashamed and angry that to this day I make too many mean jokes about Brooklyn. The 99 percent includes my father, wherever he is. But it includes my mother, too. The work of occupying my specific space between them, the work of understanding that each of them had privileges forever denied to the other, growing up to understand how I can exist as the product of them both without imploding from the contradictions and hostilities, is the work I have to do to understand the idea of a “99 percent.” Everyone I see on the street in Queens, most likely, is a 99 percenter, and that doesn’t mean I don’t inevitably benefit from the oppression of many or most of them, or that they don’t inevitably benefit from my oppression about 49% of the time. Embracing a “99 percent,” for me, means that solidarity is not sameness; it never was. I don’t want that fucker in the John Deere hat representing my Aunt Mimi; he’d hate Aunt Mimi, and fear her, and to be honest if it were a bad day Aunt Mimi would probably give him a few reasons. I don’t want to believe that he’s only pretending not to laugh at her, right now, because he had a hard time getting a job after he left college. And I don’t want to believe that, if she were still alive, and if I visited her trailer now, I’d still give her a reason to kick me out.

(Thanks to QXZ and Invisible Neutrino for this link.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire, “Marriage Equality Speech, Jan. 4, 2012

Today, I’m announcing my support for a law that gives same-sex couples in our state the right to receive a marriage license in Washington – the same right given heterosexual couples.

It is time, it is the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it. …

Some argue that the state must deny a marriage license based on religious beliefs.

With a marriage license, couples marry in civil or religious ceremonies.

In issuing the license, the state should not involve itself in an applicant’s religion.

The responsibility of the state is to license only. The right of a church is to decide whom to marry, and the state will honor the religious freedom of all faiths. …

As Washingtonians and Americans, we have serious problems to address – a far-off war, the Great Recession, more than 13 million people looking for work, worldwide economic competition.

Loving, committed married couples of any sexual orientation can only help us. They can help us defend our Democracy, help our neighbors, and build strong communities. And they will.

Fellow Washingtonians: Throughout our history, we have fought discrimination. We have joined together to recognize equality for racial minorities, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, religious sects.

Please answer the call to support equality again in our great state. It is the right thing to do and it is time.

Peter Enns: “Evolution, Evangelicals, and their Bible

The Bible is ancient literature that speaks from an ancient point of view.  An awareness of the Bible’s ancient cultural influences – even a minimal awareness – helps alert us to the kinds of questions the Bible is prepared to answer. Science is not among them.

But too many expect the Bible to give the final word on all sorts of things – as if it were an owner’s manual or some sort of reference work that speaks to any and every issue. Thinking this way creates problems – like the kind we often see when evangelicals talk about evolution.

Supposedly, it is unworthy of God to speak through ancient stories of origins that are neither historical nor scientific. God is the God of Truth. He would never stoop so low.

Uh … actually … yes he would. God is all about stooping low – way low. That’s how God rolls — at least the Christian God.

  • Twig

    I don’t want this to come off as negative as it’s going to, because I thought that essay on the biography of class was extremely well written and brought up a lot of important issues in really thoughtful ways.

    But.

    What worries me is that the people on the other side of this, the 1%, don’t spend time examining themselves, or studying cultural differences, or examining the gender and racial politics.  They spend their time making and passing laws in the highest courts in the land that benefit them to the exclusion of everyone else.

    I worry that taking the time out to examine ‘us’ leaves us that much less capable of standing up to ‘them,’ and that this has always been one of the more serious problems of any progressive movement.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    More people in Europe should be thinking about Gunnar Myrdal. It was under his tutelage, and the tutelage of others, that Sweden is credited with a fast recovery from the Depression, recovering pre-1929 levels of production by 1935. (See here for a timeline of the Great Depression)

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the Scandinavian countries have also been the most reluctant to join the Eurozone; only Finland has officially adopted the Euro, while Norway and Sweden float their currencies, and Denmark has retained the Danish krone, albeit with a fixed rate to the Euro.

    This allows the Scandinavian countries to issue debt in their own currencies analogous to the Bernanke-sponsored rounds of “Quantitative Easing”, and thereby bypass the problem of the Eurozone, in which the major issuer of the Euro (the ECB) will not issue large amounts of currency to cover the debts of countries in financial straits.

  • Anonymous

    The UK, which also stayed out of the euro and has also done quite a bit of QE, is still pretty much in the mess that it started with. Arguably our government’s attitude that its employees should be the ones to pay for this in reduced retirement benefits and jobs hasn’t helped all that much. There’s nothing like putting 400000 people out of a job and causing the rest to work longer until they retire in poverty to help stimulate the economy after all. 

    One would almost think that the current Conservative government are ignoring the economy and settling the scores they tallied down during their 11 years out of government, but for that they have to be victimising the unemployed and conducting a wholesale wrecking job on the machinery of the state so they can sell the wreckage off to their friends and get high paying jobs in their companies… Oh wait…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    On the contrary, I find that the more I’ve examined “us” the more progressive I’ve become–and better understanding gives me better tools to fight for change.

  • runsinbackground

    This isn’t a phrase that I use often, but that Sady Doyle piece hurt my heart to read, especially the fifth point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    Sometimes I feel that way. But then I remember that the alternative, in reality, is exploitation.

    If we don’t take the time to examine us, then even if “we” win any given battle, we will have simply replaced one set of privileged elites with a different, slightly larger set of privileged elites — who will defend that privilege with the same passion and fervor that the previous bunch did.

    Bearing in mind that I’m focusing very closely on one part of a very complex situation, look at Egypt. If nothing else, the protestors got shit done. No wasted time squabbling over petty things like representation and respect for women, or other divisive things. They acted as one.

    And here we are. A movement built on the backs of women now ends with an establishment oppressing them. This is not a new story; it is the story of every movement, in a sense.

    Fundamentally, I dispute the notion that introspection and understanding ever weaken us, for any given value of “us.” I say they make us stronger, and that far from needing less of it, we need more.

    If we want the support of people, then we must give them a place to join us. If women are to be counted in the 99%, then the 99% movement must understand rape culture. If ethnic minorities are to be counted, then it must understand understand many, many different forms and histories of racism. And because such groups are in no way exclusive, it must understand the intersectionality between them.

    The list goes on forever, and the complexities multiply. Learning is an endless task even before politics comes in. But the alternative is to tell people to quit bothering us, because we’re busy using their names to get what we want done, with the promise that once we win, we’ll see about getting them some of what they want, so long as they agree to throw themselves under the bus for now.

    Sometimes that works, but it’s not strength. It’s power. Specifically, the kind of power movements like the 99% exist to oppose.

  • Lori

     
    Fundamentally, I dispute the notion that introspection and understanding ever weaken us, for any given value of “us.” I say they make us stronger, and that far from needing less of it, we need more.  

    I don’t know that self-examination makes us weaker, but it can become so all-consuming that it indirectly prevents us from getting anything else done. FSM knows it’s happened to plenty of movements on the Left before. 

  • Anonymous

    Having read Peter Enns article, I find it unsatisfying, because it feels incomplete. He says we should not read the Bible literally, and suggests it is fallible, but refuses to fully draw out the argument. In what way is the Bible fallible? How does it Being Fallible reveal the glory of God? If it is fallible, how should Christians read the creation story? He hints at answers to these questions, but refuses to draw them out.

    This is a tendency I find in certain Evangelical thinkers who are suggesting something that doesn’t quite toe the line of main ultraconservative thought. Suggest something controversial and then be a shrinking violet on the follow through. This is something even Fred, as much as I love him, can do sometimes. He’s been better lately, but like that whole business last year about Love Wins, Fred would suggest that Most Christians read the Bible wrong about Hell, but was frustratingly elliptical about how exactly it was read wrong or should be be read.

    Sorry, don’t mean to complain.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of calling the poor lazy parasites?

    Best damn rejoinder I’ve ever seen.

  • Anonymous

    If we want the support of people, then we must give them a place to join us. If women are to be counted in the 99%, then the 99% movement must understand rape culture. If ethnic minorities are to be counted, then it must understand understand many, many different forms and histories of racism. And because such groups are in no way exclusive, it must understand the intersectionality between them. 

    See, but here’s the thing.  A progressive canidate doesn’t actually need to know all that. Oh, they SHOULD, but as you point out, its an endless, fractal problem.  Puerto Ricans face a distinct and separate form of oppression than Cubans, who have different problems than Mexicans, who have different problems than Mexicans, who have totally different problems from Palestinians, and within all those groups are sub-groups like women, LGBT, the disabled, the mentally ill…..and each of these is a separate, individual problem that demands attention.

    However, a progressive candidate (in theory, at least) will be creating legislation that is non-oppressive, period. Or legislation that is helping ALL the disabled people, or LGBT people.

    Ultimately, in a truly progressive candidate, it shouldn’t matter if they’re intimately familiar with the distinct struggles of Native American trans people, because nothing they’re doing should be oppressing anyone, period.  And the reason is that a progressive candidate is fundamentally interested in helping everyone, even the people they don’t even know about.  A conservative candidate, on the other hand, is interested in helping a very narrow group of people, and doesn’t even care about anyone else.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’d ga so far as to say that a canndidate need not know these things, but a good candidate must recognise that these are things _worth_ knowing.We seem to have bred a crop who are at once convinced thatthey know all anyone could possibly need to know about the needs of people, and are also arrogant in their own ignorance, being openly derisive of the very suggestion that they *ought not* to be ignorant. They are prepared to pass jusgment on women, on ethnic minorities, on the disabled, on those who don’t fit into their traditional gender or sexual paradigms, all the while giving a sneer and a laugh at the mere SUGGESTION that they ought to know anything about these people before they pass sentence. 

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    Yeah, and when it comes to the disability reforms even some prominent Tories are going “eh, what?” http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16008

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Oh Fred, one thing I wanted to point out because it was not clear from the original post is that “Chris” in Governer Gregoire’s name is short for “Christine“.  The short hand leaves the gender ambiguous.  Not that it should matter to the politics of it, but I think that detail might set the tone for people reading the extract who might not otherwise know of the governer and assume one gender rather than the other. 

    This is actually part of the plan by gay rights groups in Washington.  Several years ago a bill was successfully passed that granted gay couples who get a domestic partnership all legal rights of a married couple, minus the term “marriage”.  Rather than half-assing it, this was done intentionally so another bill could be proposed after sitting on that one for a few years to turn those existing and future domestic partnerships into recognized marriages.  This was to avoid a more knee-jerk reprisal in the ballots from the anti-gay block in Washington (which is small but energetic, as they are in many places) and avoid something like California’s Proposition 8. 

    So, less like “gradualism” and more like “five year plan.”  It seems to be working.  :)

  • Baeraad

    An actual, practical application of the Overton Window theory, huh? I like it!

  • vsm

    Mind you, Norway’d have to join the European Union first before they could even consider joining the Eurozone. Being the world’s seventh largest oil exporter lets you ignore stuff like that, it seems.

  • Guest-again

    ‘Being the world’s seventh largest oil exporter lets you ignore stuff like that, it seems.’
    And also allows you to backstop Iceland, which is then pointed out as another example where ‘austerity’ was rejected.

    Which is not true – the Icelanders simply repudiated (whether legally remains a subject of some dispute) much of the bank debt that was crushing them, while retaining their productive economy.

    This entire discussion of ‘austerity’ has become another meaningless distraction. Greece was a fraud, Italy was run by a criminal (the wikipedia article on how Berlusconi dealt with the legal system makes interesting reading – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trials_and_allegations_involving_Silvio_Berlusconi ), and the U.S. has yet to even bother to read the mortgage paper trail to prosecute even the most blatant cases of forgery, fraud, and simple embezzlement.

    The real problem with austerity is that its basic definition, in practice at least, is to ensure that the rich remain rich (and preferably, getting richer) while the poor get .. well, as little as possible.

    But on the other hand, wealth doesn’t appear magically through pieces of paper – or these days, unseeable electrons. The system is grinding down in many places, in part because it was never sustainable.

    But changing how we live is not part of the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised to see the essay now, actually.  I first encountered it towards the beginning of the Occupy movement, and figured it would have been buried under more recent analyses of class by now.

  • Anonymous

    I read it as saying “The Bible contains spiritual truth, but that’s not the same thing as historical fact.  Conflating the two leads to problems.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > Ultimately, in a truly progressive candidate, it shouldn’t matter if
    they’re intimately familiar with the distinct struggles of Native
    American trans people, because nothing they’re doing should be
    oppressing anyone, period. 

    I have trouble envisioning how this works in practice.

    If I don’t know you exist, and I don’t know what you need, and I don’t know what you value, and I don’t know what makes you miserable, it seems really easy for me to make decisions that eliminate things you value, or provide everyone else with things they need while leaving your needs unmet, or make public statements that imply your nonexistence.

    Now, maybe such actions aren’t properly labelled “oppressive”; I don’t know. If so, I’m not sure why I should care whether a candidate is oppressive or not. I _care_ whether they create value and avoid eliminating it, I care whether they help ensure people have equal access to the things they need, etc.

  • Anonymous

    If I don’t know you exist, and I don’t know what you need, and I don’t know what you value, and I don’t know what makes you miserable, it seems really easy for me to make decisions that eliminate things you value, or provide everyone else with things they need while leaving your needs unmet, or make public statements that imply your nonexistence.

    Well, lets talk specifics- say getting hired for a job. Discrimination is an active choice. To be discriminatory, someone has to be either A) looking at your (equal) credentials and saying “no, you’re gay/black/trans/whatever I won’t hire you because of that” or B) Not letting you in the door in the first place because you’re gay/black/trans/whatever. Progressives are, in theory, just looking at your qualifications. 

    I’d say the best examples of this sort of thinking are in marriage equality.  People advocating for marriage equality are basically saying “Hey, if you can legally give consent, go be happy.” They don’t need to advocate separately for trans people to get married, or mixed race couples to get married, or men to marry other men-  they’re arguing for a universal policy. 

    Or lifting DADT. It now no longer matters if you’re gay, or bi, or trans, or straight, or asexual, or like dressing up as a pony and having your lover ride you around with a bit in between your teeth-  sexuality has ceased to make a legally distinct difference in any form.  Obama didn’t have to sit down and learn about every variation on sexuality and permit each one separately- he just permitted ‘sexuality.’ The President doesn’t have to know about every variation of ethnicity that exists in the US- all he has to do is ban ‘discrimination  by race’ and the rest ceases to matter.  (legally speaking, of course)

    Now, there will be cases where specifics matter- one that always comes up in environmentalism is indigenous tribes that have sacred areas that are being used for mining or ancestral fishing grounds that are being opened to wider exploitation. And in that case, yes, the specifics matter. However, most of those are legal cases, where the specifics will be examined anyway. And I don’t see any reason why a general policy couldn’t work there- “sites of indigenous religious importance” covers Cherokee burial grounds and Inuit fishing grounds equally well. 

    And, more fundamentally, the first two levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (basic physiological and safety requirements) can be easily met without me knowing anything about you. Beyond that (love, esteem, self-actualization) there are certain limited things government can do to help (like banning discrimination) but beyond that- most of those areas are outside government control.  The only time you see government trying to affect those areas is when the government is being purposely discriminatory and intrusive- like specifically banning gay marriage.

  • Mary Kaye

    I don’t think it’s so simple even to meet peoples’ basic physiological and safety needs if you don’t know anything about those people.

    I’m a biomedical researcher so I am particularly aware of issues there, but they doubtless occur elsewhere:

    If you focus medical research on white males, you  may end up with health and safety policies that are actively harmful to non-whites and females.  Just as one example, you may widely publicize “Here’s how to recognize a heart attack” without realizing that women have different symptoms than men.  Or you may push an anti-diabetes diet that works well for people of European descent but is very bad for Pima Indians.  Our you may not notice that certain pesticides interact disastrously with a particular genetic variant common in Hispanic people.  (A pesticide producer famously offered to drink his own product to show how safe it was–but he lacks the genetic variant that makes it deadly.  What is sauce for the goose sometimes disastrously fails to be sauce for the gander.)

    It’s also bad if you are trying to meet basic food needs, and end up shipping pork to Jewish or Moslem communities because you didn’t know about their dietary restrictions.

    And if you want to protect peoples’ basic safety and respect their autonomy, sooner or later someone has to do the work to differentiate consensual BDSM from nonconsensual assault.

    Yes, sometimes the government can just get out of the way:  but sometimes it needs to take action, and acting out of ignorance is very risky.

  • hapax

    And, more fundamentally, the first two levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy of
    Needs (basic physiological and safety requirements) can be easily met
    without me knowing anything about you. Beyond that (love, esteem,
    self-actualization) there are certain limited things government can do
    to help (like banning discrimination) but beyond that- most of those
    areas are outside government control.  The only time you see government
    trying to affect those areas is when the government is being purposely
    discriminatory and intrusive- like specifically banning gay marriage.

    This is both untrue and unfair.

    It assumes that the status quo is a “level playing field”, and that the effects of past discrimination have not become institutionalized and effectively invisible — invisible to the non-discriminated against, at least.

    It also assumes that the institutionalized effects of past discrimination all have to do with such touchy-feely benefits as “love, esteem, self actualization”, and are not experienced on the basic levels of physiology and safety.

    In other words, it reads like someone who has never looked at the effects of race, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. on determining health, housing, crime levels, education, and the like.

  • Alicia

    I have trouble envisioning how this works in practice.

    If I don’t
    know you exist, and I don’t know what you need, and I don’t know what
    you value, and I don’t know what makes you miserable, it seems really
    easy for me to make decisions that eliminate things you value, or
    provide everyone else with things they need while leaving your needs
    unmet, or make public statements that imply your nonexistence.

    There probably isn’t a single person — let alone a single candidate — who knows everything about everyone, and if you’re holding out for an omniscient candidate you’re probably never going to find one.

    The leaders who have done the best job of avoiding oppressive policies towards any group are the ones who have been open to learning and growing, who take the time to reach out to minority groups no matter how invisible they might seem, who make sure to appoint likeminded advisors and maintain open communication channels.

    No candidate (especially for a federal office) is ever going to know everything about every constituent — the best they can do in real life is to be proactive in gathering input and listening to the concerns of everyone (with care to make sure that they speak as inclusively as possible, to capture even people they literally have never heard of) and ensure that everyone feels comfortable coming to them with their concerns.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    That’s great, but we’re not talking about candidates. We’re talking about movements.

    The point is not that, say, Barack Obama has to personally understand perfectly the needs and desires of every disprivileged group in the United States (and the institutions and structures that cause them to be disprivileged in the first place) before I will vote for him. The point is that for the 99% movement to actually be the 99% movement, it has an obligation to understand, include, and give voice to all of the groups it claims to represent.

    Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of relatively privileged people using the even less-privileged without really involving them. And at that point, they start to sound like Republicans — why do they need to truly understand other people when their rising tide will lift all boats? And besides, Ron Paul the 99% movement can’t be racist/sexist/transphobic/ableist, because they’re libertarian the 99%!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    You make excellent points.

    I recently heard someone say that our (Australia’s) health system is designed quite well for middle class, middle aged women. Less so for others. Population health differentials back up the claim.

  • Alicia

    Oh, I think I just misread what you guys were saying earlier. I agree with everything you just said, especially this:

    I’m just saying that because movements should drive politicians,

    Word.

  • Lori

    Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of relatively privileged people
    using the even less-privileged without really involving them. And at
    that point, they start to sound like Republicans — why do they need to
    truly understand other people when their rising tide will lift all
    boats? And besides, Ron Paul the 99% movement can’t be racist/sexist/transphobic/ableist, because they’re libertarian the 99%! 

    I’m going to say again something that I said when the Sady Doyle piece came up in the other thread—I thought it had a lot of good things to say, but it also made me very uncomfortable because it felt to me like it had a strong element of victim blaming. It’s just that the victim Sady was blaming was her younger self. Aunt Mimi’s behavior toward Sady wasn’t Sady’s fault and it
    wasn’t an acceptable way for an adult to treat a child, no matter how
    difficult that adult’s life has been.

    This has been nagging at me since it first came up, partially because I’ve seen the seen a similar dynamic play out in parts of my own family. Sometimes the issue is not that this part of the 99% is really looking down on that part of the 99%. Sometimes when you have less power you tend to strike out at those who are closest, rather than those who are the actual problem. I have family members that totally buy into the Fox News “don’t pick on the job creators” crap that’s just a cover for ass-kisisng the rich and who will shower praise on the very people who are wrecking their lives. At the same time they’re absolutely vicious toward anyone in their immediate vicinity who “get’s above themselves” or doesn’t “treat them right”. I guess what I’m saying is that I absolutely believe that any movement to address the problems of the 99% needs to be aware and inclusive, but I also believe that we need to avoid spending so much time and energy policing each other that we don’t have enough left for dealing with the system that’s so heavily tilted toward the 1%.

  • rizzo

    Austerity is just a single word that encapsulates the “fuck you got mine” attitude of the upper classes.  They screwed the common people over for the last ten years, and are now trying to make it all better by screwing the common people even more…because they can.  I’m behind the Greek rioters 100%.

  • hf

    Discrimination is an active choice. To be discriminatory, someone has
    to be either A) looking at your (equal) credentials and saying “no,
    you’re gay/black/trans/whatever I won’t hire you because of that” or B)
    Not letting you in the door in the first place because you’re
    gay/black/trans/whatever.

    This turns out not to be the case. People can have negative feelings towards you and your credentials without knowing why. We have yet to establish that anyone on Earth today lacks all forms of conscious and unconscious anti-whatever bias.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think it’s not unreasonable to ask someone to stop and think about their prejudices. We all have them, but to say that is a reason to just blindly perpetuate injustice isn’t really a good reason. We can wait for the hypothetical perfect super-being or we can take the time to improve the way we think and view the world and try to make the best decisions we can with the tools that we have to work with.


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