Much like our own era, the turn of the 19th Century was dominated by wealthy interests and corruption. The progressive political movements that responded to it brought America into its greatest era of general prosperity.
Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” triggered an important conversation in American politics. On one hand, it was vague enough that Americans could write whatever fantasy they wished onto it. On the other hand, it forced us to ask: when was America great? Depending on your position in the social-economic-racial strata, the answer might be never. But there’s one era for which most Americans share a nostalgic sense of glory: the first few decades after World War II.
We were riding high then. The Greatest Generation had just won the planet’s deadliest and most far-reaching conflict to date. In the following decades of the 1950s and 60s, the American middle class boomed and prosperity was widely shared among the population. People of color made meaningful civil rights gains as the evils of white supremacy began to be more forcefully confronted. And all while the American dream was being realized, the country was the highest-taxed it has ever been. Continue reading
By Kyle Schmidlin and Eldon Katz
Everyone has friends or family members who define themselves as “socially liberal; but fiscally conservative.” The conservative libertarian views their ideology as a mature, pragmatic, and disciplined compromise, the best way to get as many people what they want and maximize everybody’s liberty and opportunity.
But this vision of liberty is perverted and one-sided in favor of the powerful. It grants people the freedom to exploit, but not freedom from exploitation, effectively treating the liberty of the powerful as absolute but anyone else’s liberty as flexible. As Bertrand Russell put it, “The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” Continue reading
Trump’s unpredictability initially caused the market to worry, but since his election stock prices have soared.
President Trump held a pep rally for himself on Twitter earlier this week, touting his base as “bigger and stronger than ever before” despite all the “fake news” – into which category he put virtually every media source except his dedicated propaganda networks, Breitbart and FOX. Trump then listed some of his successes so far, including economic enthusiasm, the stock market, jobs, and deregulation. As usual with Trump, he is wrong in more ways than are easily counted. Continue reading
Pro-oil protesters hold signs at a demonstration against taking action on climate change.
The most demanding issue of our time is environmental protection. Over hundreds of years of exploding populations, consumption-driven economies, and carving up the planet for resources, the human species has completely reshaped its humble home world. For decades now, scientists have warned that this behavior, unchecked, could have an ominous consequence. Science has given humanity a simple ultimatum: change our behavior or face nature’s wrath.
This has led to a deep schism. Those who are most heavily invested in the current system fight scientists’ claims aggressively. Corporate giants have spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns and disseminated their propaganda through far-right outlets. They have successfully transformed a scientific and moral issue into a political one.
But for the sake of argument, suppose the denialists are right. If we turn our resources to the fight against climate change and it turns out to be a hoax, what will we have done? Continue reading
President-elect Donald Trump with future Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire advocate for privatizing education.
Shortly after the election, Donald Trump released a video outlining his 100-day plan for the beginning of his presidency. It contained one of the most arbitrary items ever to exist in a presidential platform: a plan to, for every one new regulation introduced, remove two. The compromise Trump is brokering is clear. If citizens want something from corporate America, they’ve got to give corporate America two things in return. Continue reading
Students, faculty and low-wage workers march in solidarity in downtown Chicago.
Students aren’t the only ones feeling the financial pinch of college. Faculty members are, too, particularly adjunct professors and recent hires. According to Service Employees International Union analysis, “31 percent of part-time faculty members and 14 percent of all faculty are living near or below the federal poverty level.”
But nationwide, a growing movement is attempting to change that. In solidarity with Fight for $15 and with the support of labor organizers like SEIU, faculty are calling attention to the crisis of poverty wages and demanding solutions. Continue reading
Don’t feel too bad that your new prescription made you go broke. It went to a good cause: This guy, who’s worth an estimated $100 million.
Martin Shkreli is on the fast track to becoming America’s public enemy number one. He’s a former hedge fund manager who made his front page debut in September for acquiring the patent to a drug used by AIDS and cancer patients and then raising its price more than 5,500 percent. Since then, he’s also been outed through published social media exchanges as a creep and a bully, perhaps even criminally so. Most recently he tried to buy his way into a meeting with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
It’s to Sanders’s credit that his campaign gave the money away to a health clinic and called Shkreli the “poster boy for drug company greed.” What makes Shkreli’s donation extra distasteful is his statement on the controversy: “He’ll take my money, but he won’t engage with me for five minutes to understand this issue better.” It’s clear that Shkreli expected to receive an audience with the candidate in exchange for his donation.
Shkreli’s behavior is best characterized as mob-like. His attempt to exchange financial favors for political ones sounds an awful lot like bribery. Add to that his psychotic harassment of a former employee’s family over misappropriated funds – including a vow to see the man’s wife and children homeless on the street – and Shkreli really starts to fit the profile of unfiltered gangster villainy. Continue reading
Billionaire real estate developer and reality show personality wants to be the most powerful man in the world.
As soon as Donald Trump announced himself as a presidential candidate, the media labeled his candidacy a waste of time and dismissed him as a clown. Such characterizations are hard to argue with and, indeed, Trump repeatedly confirms them. But in the early stages of the 2016 campaign, amid a Republican lineup with no obvious standouts, this petulant personification of the right-wing lizard brain has emerged as the early GOP frontrunner. Continue reading
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, meets with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
Around 2,500 years ago, the Greek city of Athens developed a novel concept: dēmokratía, the rule of the people. Though their system was far from perfect, Athens laid important moral and philosophical groundwork that stood in contrast to the dynasties of pharaohs and emperors. Leave it to the Greeks, two and a half millennia since developing the concept, to remind the world of today what democracy is supposed to look like.
Greece’s ongoing debt predicament is not unlike the subprime mortgage crisis in America. Lenders issued bad loans which the debtors proved unable to pay back. In Greece, those lenders have been both private banks and fellow Eurozone nations. As in America, rather than allow the banks to eat the loss, what’s being demanded instead is taxpayer sacrifice. Continue reading
A child receives a vaccine.
In his “Jammin’ in New York” special, George Carlin holds up a glass of water and asks the audience if it’s safe to drink. An immediate, unanimous chorus of negative responses warns him that it’s not. Carlin takes a drink anyway and lets the crowd know he was only setting them up: “Everywhere I go I say, ‘How’s the water?’ Haven’t gotten a positive answer yet. …It amuses me that no one can really trust the water anymore. And the thing I like about it the most is it means the system is beginning to collapse.”
Not unlike the fear of local water, opposition to vaccines is a manifestation of the public’s growing distrust of institutions. It’s reached such heights that vaccine skeptics have been given their own derogatory nickname: anti-vaxxers. Continue reading