Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!

It’s the first of October!  This is how you know that I most identify with my English heritage because that’s a Brit superstition that my mother used to practice every first day of the month. It came over with my great grandfather from Hastings. I guess family stories from that far back actually do come down to you.  I’m a physically obvious Phillips, however, so I guess I would pass Scott Brown’s visual DNAdar for some one with a lot of  Brit heritage. A lot of my idiosyncrasies come from my mother through my great grandfather who only contributed 1/8 of my DNA.   She was really influenced by him since he lived in their house and she passed  lot of stuff on to me and my kids through her time with us.  So, I guess Elizabeth Warren probably could relate.  Hmmmm….

 “Why,” the man in the brown hat laughed at him, “I thought everybody knew ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.’ If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you’ll get a present before the end of the month.”

I’ve been reading a lot of interesting things recently about the decline in upward mobility in the U.S.  Here’s some stories from The Atlantic that pretty much sum up my life since Dubya became president: ‘I’m Working Really Hard, but I’m Not Getting Ahead’: The New Middle Class Trap.

Only twice in U.S. history–in the heyday of the Western frontier and in the post-World War II prosperity–have Americans found it easy to rise. This isn’t one of those times. Middle-skill jobs (read: no college required) are disappearing from America’s sputtering economic engine–in factories, in back offices, even lately in state and local governments. For generations, these jobs were the ticket to a comfortable life for Americans who went directly from high school to work. But increasingly in recent decades, economic research shows, lower-wage workers in foreign lands have taken these jobs or automation has rendered them unnecessary. Today, job growth occurs mainly at the poles of the skills spectrum–in sweeping floors or flipping burgers, which can’t be outsourced, or in sophisticated engineering jobs that drive new industries.

Since 1980, the very lowest- and highest-skill jobs in the United States have each grown sharply as a share of the overall workforce, according to research published last spring by economists David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Dorn of Spain’s Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros. Meanwhile, the share of lower-middle-skill jobs has shrunk: For example, machine operators and assemblers, a classic storehouse of middle-skill jobs, fell from 13 percent of the workforce in 1950 to 4 percent in 2005. Real hourly wages have stagnated, simply as a matter of supply and demand. When too many workers compete for too few jobs, employers can hire qualified people at lower pay.

“The real question of the [displaced] middle class is: Where do they go?” asked Mark Doms, the chief economist at the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration. “Only a few of them are going to go to the tippy-top”–the highest-skilled jobs. “The rest will go to the bottom.”

Another interesting read is this interview with a sociologist who has written a book about young black men in America. The book is called Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress and is  written by Becky Pettit who is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington.  My life in inner city New Orleans and as a professor in its big urban university has really given me a front row seat in seeing the situation.  It’s a lot worse than most folks could even imagine. That’s because the unemployment rate and the labor force ignores the populace in prison and young black men are a huge part of that population.

The employment/population ratio for black males aged 16-24 was 33 percent in August, vs. 52 percent for white males of the same age group. But the black number is skewed upward by the exclusion of jail and prison inmates. The white number is also skewed upward, but less so because a smaller share of young white males are incarcerated.

“We’ve developed a distorted idea” of how young, black men are faring, Pettit told reporters on the call, which was hosted by the book’s publisher, the Russell Sage Foundation. The BLS methodology didn’t begin to distort the statistics until the mid-1970s, when the incarceration boom began.

I asked Pettit how this problem can be solved. The first thing she recommended was doing more to help young, black men get an education, since there is a strong link between failure in school and a life of crime and imprisonment.

A further idea is to reduce the penalties for nonviolent drug crimes, recommended another academic on the call, Ernest Drucker, who is a scholar in residence and senior research associate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and adjunct professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Imprisoning people for drug offenses can damage their ability to earn a living for the rest of their lives, dooming them to a life of poverty and recidivism, said Drucker, author of A Plague of Prisons.

Indeed, one of the things that this story mentions is the appalling number of young black men trapped in prison over petty things like turn style jumping. There are a number of ‘crimes’ that are applied to young black men more than any other population. They can’t put bankers that stole billions from the economy in jail but they can imprison young people for years on a number of really petty things.

It is becoming appallingly apparent that some of the tactics used to create voter fraud are coming from Republican Operatives.  This is not a new story at all.  But, it is one that should make every one be very aware of who is registering who in  their state.  Isn’t it just typical that all these new Republican laws aimed at preventing voter fraud aren’t stopping Republicans from committing voter fraud?  This story is about Riverside County in California.

Formal complaints filed with the state by at least 133 residents of a state Senate district there say they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge, calling into question the party’s boast that Republican membership has rocketed 23% in the battleground area.

More than 27,700 residents of the legislative district have become Republicans since January, according to the California secretary of state’s office — erasing a registration edge long held by Democrats.

The complaints have also shined a light on the political committee behind the registration drive, Golden State Voter Participation Project, and its biggest donor, wealthy GOP activist Charles Munger Jr. Other donors include the California Apartment Assn., Farmers Group Inc. and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America.

The problem has also raised anew the question of whether the state should ban firms that pay workers for each voter they register or signature they secure on a petition rather than paying them an hourly rate. Workers have an incentive to cut corners under such arrangements, according to Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Natomas), who has proposed barring the practice in a bill that is on the governor’s desk.

Just when you think you’ve heard about all the kooky Republicans running for office you find out there’s yet another one crazier than the ones you thought were as crazy as they got. This one is a Beckster with an end-times obsession. This guy writes novels akin to the Left Behind Series.  Rapture any one?

In Chris Stewart, the Republican nominee in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, Beck has found someone he feels pretty damn good about. “If he wasn’t running, I’d be trying to convince him to work for me, to help me stay the course, strategize, and save the country,”  he said last winter , as Stewart’s campaign was just getting off the ground. “I’ve actually tried to talk him out of running, because it’s a lion’s den in Washington.”

But, Beck added, “I believe he’s a Daniel.”

Like the Old Testament figure who emerged unscathed from a pit of lions, Stewart—an Air Force pilot turned consultant turned end times novelist—is also a prophet of sorts, and his message is grim: “If we don’t make some difficult decisions now, if we don’t show the courage to do what we have to do to save our country, we won’t make it for another 10 years,”  he said in February , in a campaign video that also served to promote a book he’d just published under Beck’s imprint. But there was hope. “At critical times in our history…we literally had miracles where God intervened to save us,” he said. Send me to Congress, Stewart seemed to imply, and it could happen again.

Read the article.  There’s all kinds of weirdness around this campaign.  The worst thing is that every one thinks this guy is a shoo-in.

Want to learn more about Marc Leder?  That’s the guy that held that fundraiser in Boca Raton that was captured in the Mitt 47% moment.  We’ve already heard about his orgies.  What else could be more “tawdry”? Evidently Leder and Mitt share a penchant for aggressive tax evasion.

Leder has been dogged by tabloid headlines recounting his nasty divorce and wild partying (replete with reported nudity and public sex around the pool at a summer house he rented on Long Island’s East End—for $500,000 a month). What he has in common with Romney, however, isn’t a taste for bacchanalian revels but a record of business and taxation practices that working Americans might find troubling.

At the moment, Leder is under investigation by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who subpoenaed internal records from Sun Capital, Bain Capital, and several other private equity giants last July.

Issued by the Attorney General’s taxpayer protection bureau, the subpoenas were evidently designed to probe whether Leder and other executives had misused “carried interest,” a method of reducing tax liability by converting management fees into investment income—which is taxed at the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent that keeps Romney’s taxes lower than the rate paid by many middle-income families. (Tax analysts say that Bain Capital records released last August indicate that the firm may have saved more than $200 million in federal taxes thanks to the carried-interest maneuver.)

If Leder did benefit from such aggressive practices, he would merely be typical of executives in an industry where tax manipulations are not just widespread, but fundamental.

So, that’s my offering this morning.  What’s on you reading and blogging list today?