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On JAY Z, Race, Hip Hop, and Aspiration

After listening to Jay Z’s(yes the hyphen is dead) latest album Magna Carta… Holy Grail, I stumbled upon this conversation by some of Grantland’s staff writers. It led to the following email exchanges between me and boys about this latest iteration of Hov and his message places in hip hop and black culture more generally.

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Questions For BI Seminar I

By Jared RoebuckWhat are Angie’s sources of income while she lives in Chicago? Why are so many people leaving Chicago to move to Milwaukee? What happens when Clinton’s team meets with black voters about welfare reform? Are they surprised by the results? Describe the black communities feelings about welfare reform. Why do they feel this [...]

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Materials for ‘Why College?’

By Jared RoebuckWhy College Reader Double Entry Journal Race + Gender Wage Charts Why College – Final Assessment Employment Premium Chart List of phrases to use after a quote Recommendations on School Lunch

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The Inanity of Tom Brokaw

Brokaw turns his back on the greatest generation.

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David Brooks, Man of Rank Silliness

Because being a centrist means you’re a very serious person.

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You Knew This Was Coming, Right?

Because choice means freedom, silly.

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Blog

On JAY Z, Race, Hip Hop, and Aspiration

By Jared Roebuck

After listening to Jay Z’s(yes the hyphen is dead) latest album Magna Carta… Holy Grail, I stumbled upon this conversation by some of Grantland’s staff writers. It led to the following email exchanges between me and my boys about this latest iteration of Hov, his message, and his places in hip hop and black culture more generally.

Check it out out after the fold: (more…)

Questions For BI Seminar I

By Jared Roebuck

What are Angie’s sources of income while she lives in Chicago?

Why are so many people leaving Chicago to move to Milwaukee?

What happens when Clinton’s team meets with black voters about welfare reform? Are they surprised by the results?

Describe the black communities feelings about welfare reform. Why do they feel this way?

Why is this chapter called the pledge? What are the two ‘pledges the chapter discusses? How are the two pledges related to each other?

Materials for ‘Why College?’

By Jared Roebuck

Why College Reader

Double Entry Journal

Race + Gender Wage Charts

Why College – Final Assessment

Employment Premium Chart

List of phrases to use after a quote

Recommendations on School Lunch


The Inanity of Tom Brokaw

By Jared Roebuck

Yesterday’s Meet The Press featured the usual nonsensical fanfare of Sunday talk shows. David Gregory, fittingly, wasted his interview with the President. David Brooks blamed the nations problems on the tattered moral fabric of the country. But perhaps the most nauseating part of the show was the discussion about the need to cut entitlement spending.

Tom Brokaw, author of a book that lauds our current seniors, seems to have lost his scrupples:

MR. BROKAW: They’ve got to address it. And the president I think, could help himself a lot if he were tougher on the AARP for example, and said look, it’s not about the people at the bottom for whom Medicare really is the lifeline. It’s about all of the people, including those of us around the table who get the same benefits, members of our family who are very working class. My brother, you know, has a really great working class career working for the telephone company. But there’s a big disparity between what I’m worth and he’s worth but we get the same benefits at the end of the day. There’s something wrong with that. And, you know, the fact of the matter is that we’re all living longer as well. Social Security can go up if you give it some lead time to retire at 67 and probably 20 years from now to retire maybe at 70 because people are staying in the workplace longer. He ought to be able to raise those issues in a way that he can begin to sell them to the idea of– sell to the American people the idea that we’ve got fundamental reforms that we have to do, as David says, downstream because we are going to be bankrupt not just our children but your grandchildren.

The problem with Brokaw’s suggestion that we raise the retirement age to 70 is a common example of losing our humanity when talking about CBO projections, which in this case in strange, because Brokaw is able to integrate his understanding of actual people when talking about policy– see the part where he talks about his brother and Medicare. It may very well makes sense to means test benefits for  folks like Tom, while keeping benefits “generous” for people like his brother. But after the clear analysis, Brokaw goes off the rails when talking about Social Security. Now, were we only understanding seniors through the lens of CBO projections, it might be plausible to raise the retirement age, as people are living longer. But this skips this fundamental question: Do we want people working until they are 70?

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Think about it this way, people may well be living longer, but that’s because we’re getting better at keeping them alive as their health declines. We haven’t really figured out how to keep 70 year olds fit or strong enough to perform physical labor. The fact that people are living longer doesn’t mean that people are healthy enough to stay in the work force. Now, if your career requires you to read from a teleprompter and talk gibberish on the teevee, one could conceivably work well into their 70s. But what about people like Brokaw’s brother who engage in jobs that require physical labor? Are their bodies going to hold up until 70? Moreover, it isn’t as if they would be able to easily transition into less demanding fields in their 60s. We should also note that keeping older people in the workforce stops new people from moving up the ranks.

Aside from raising the eligibility ages for entitlement programs, people have also talked about cutting Social Security payments. Here it’s important to talk about how much retired Americans depend on Social Security as a source of income. Via Mike Konczal, we get this chart:

Here we see how vital Social Security payments are for a large number of seniors. What would it mean for a retiree making less than $12,000 a year to receive reductions in their payments? What’s strange is that these kinds of questions–ones that ground policy in the lives of actual people– are nowhere to be found. Instead we get vague allusions to “bankrupting” our children. Maybe, just maybe, the children of retirees might be willing to forgo a permanent middle class tax cut to allow their parents to retiree with dignity.

David Brooks, Man of Rank Silliness

By Jared Roebuck

New York Times columnist David Brooks takes to the paper to pen a rather warm milk endorsement of Gov. Romney:

The bottom line is this: If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.

Brooks, pictured pondering the epic flexibility of Mitt

This comes in the middle of a column where Brooks likens Romney to yoga inspired erotic dancer, describing the Republican nominee as a “shape-shifting” and “flexible flip-flopper”. What's more striking than Brooks tepid enthusiasm, is that his endorsement comes not from particular excitement about any of the proposals put forth by Gov. Romney. Rather, Brooks basis his endorsement on rather curious assessment of a possible Romney presidency.

Brooks posits, perhaps correctly, that Obama's re-election would likely lead to “small bore” policies, as House Republicans would continue to refuse to play ball with the President. They would be unwilling to seriously participate in the much sought after “Grand Bargain” needed to bring long-term fiscal. The collapse of Grand Bargain talks would poison the well for immigration reform, and other big ticket items. And you know what? Brooks is probably right. I see no evidence that we will ever see a Grand Bargain. Why? Because House Republicans will never agree to any deal that involves raising taxes on the wealthy, even if it came with significant concessions from Democrats in the form of spending cuts. I'm working on piece about why President Obama would be extremely misguided to think such a deal is possible.

However, what evidence does Brooks have that this would happen:

To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There’d probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.

Really, David? Brooks adds that the “core lesson” Romney will have learned is that “moderation wins”. How, pray tell, is that the core lesson Gov. Romney will have learned? Did moderation work for that other guy Jon Huntsman? Gov. Romney won the primaries by abandoning his moderate positions on range of issues, and then moving to the right of his Republican peers on immigration and taxes. How is this lost of Brooks? Oh wait–it isn't lost on Brooks–that's why he called him a belly dancer, er, “shape shifting” and “flexible flip flopper”. Moreover, Gov. Romney didn't find moderation as the campaign went on. There was no come to David Brooks Jesus moment. What was on display during the debates was not Romney “moderating” his positions but a combination of him a) simply denying he held them b) lying about their possible outcomes or c) refusing to divulge key details that are central to understanding their impact.

I'm no New York Times columnist, but this lead me to conclude that a President Romney is going to keep the Republican coalition together but doing exactly what he said he would do throughout the campaign. In the same way that President Obama more or less pursued the policies he said he would during the 2008 campaign. This is probably very disheartening for members of the radical center like David Brooks. And for that I am deeply saddened. It must suck to have your party taken over by extremists. But it is obvious that Mitt Romney ain't the guy who is going to tame that element of the GOP. But Brooks should really chill out. There is, after all, one candidate who is willing to risk being unpopular with his base, in the pursuit of centrist projects like a “Grand Bargain”. His name is Barack Obama.

 

You Knew This Was Coming, Right?

By Jared Roebuck

Monroe Street, Brooklyn — During the 2010 election cycle, President Obama and Democrats received a thumping at polls. At the time, the media attributed this to the rise of the Tea Party. It was believed that the Tea Party was a group of disaffected Americans, who took to the streets to support politicians who stood for liberty and freedom. Of course, later research revealed that the Tea Party movement was a repacked version of same old Republican constituency. It was the same folks who had always voted reliably Republican, and held hard right views, under a new name. Think Kentucky Fried Chicken, becoming ‘KFC’.

Flash forward two years, and what are the Tea Partiers up to? What else would they be doing but reaching for recycled new ideas like school vouchers. We last saw Republicans pushing vouchers around the time W. was cutting taxes, clearing brush, and ignoring poorly worded intelligence briefings.

Today we find Tea Party darling, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, bringing vouchers back from the dead:

But as the upper chamber convenes in January, vastly changed in personality, if not politics, Mr. Patrick, the founder of the Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus, has picked what some may consider an unlikely second act: crusader for public schools.“If there’s one message that I want to send, it’s that I want to champion public education,” said Mr. Patrick, the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee…Through his chairmanship and a new alliance with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Mr. Patrick has the powerful platform he once lacked. His ambitions are pinned on expanding school choice in the state’s public education system. His plan is expected to include vouchers for private schools, a policy previously opposed by every major education association in the state and by many people in his own party.“When people attack me on vouchers, I look at the word ‘voucher’ as some people see it like I look at a rotary telephone. It’s outdated,” he said. “When we talk about choice today, it’s the choice to choose schools within a district, potentially across district lines. It’s charter schools. It’s virtual schools. It’s online learning. It’s the secular and religious schools in the private sector.”

Please take note of the snake oil currently dripping from Sen. Patrick’s palms.

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Into The Unmagnificent Lives of Adults, Go The Millennials

By Jared Roebuck

Classon Avenue, Brooklyn NY – As many of my friends get engaged, finish school, or go legit make major career decisions, our deluge into adulthood is colored by the bleak economic outlook. As chronicled in a recent New York Magazine cover story, Millennials, have a special relationship with the Lesser Depression. Unemployment is highest among Americans between the ages of 16-24. Real wages of college graduates between the ages of 25-34 are down almost 20% since the early 2000’s. The gotcha moment for many of the Dawon’s Creek cohort  is the realization that a BA does little to inoculate from the contours of the economy’s armpit. It seems everything we’d been told about merit, education, and hard word was wrong.

Although college graduates still fare better than those without degrees, they are often saddled with student loans. A cursory glance at Occupy Wall Street Tumblr reveals that many of the “99 percent” are overburdened with education-related debt. If subprime lending tanked the economy in 2007, student loans now represent the gathering storm.  Default rates have climbed, as graduates are unable to find employment or have settled for work that doesn’t cash in on their diplomas. Unemployed twentysomethings are rooming with their underemployed-under-water-mortgage-having parents. What do you say to a generation that was sold on the notion that educational debt represented a “down payment” on the path to prosperity? (Fun fact of the day: Did you know that student loans are the ONLY type of debt that can be taken from your Social Security check?)

The President, realizing that Republicans intend to offer only a pale full moon, has sought to provide relief through unilateral action. This week Obama announced measures targeting homeowners and students who cannot meet outstanding debts. Such steps are welcomed and will potentially help millions of Americans. Yet since the Presidency is not empowered to take a more robust approach, barring drastic action from Congress, it is unlikely the economy will be revived in the near future.

Nope.

Nope.

Recall, that it is in the best interests of Republicans that the economy continues to stall. Their expectation is that voters will blame the President for high levels of unemployment and economic stagnation. So long as they can gum up the works, and not get caught holding the Winterfresh, 2012 is theirs. Unless of course we get some help from the Federal Reserve.  (more…)