Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Hollow at Signature Theatre

The Tony-winning theatre company starts there new season off with a twist; two shows in rep at the same time. The two musicals are new works and that is great to see.

Saw The Hollow last night and thought it was fantastic. The voices were all strong and most of the performances were excellent. Matt Connor’s music is not of the style where you will whistle most of the songs on your drive to work. The songs and music fit the book perfectly.

The theater describes the show: From the composer of Nevermore and Partial Eclipse, The Hollow is a chilling musical reinterpretation of the classic thriller The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In a devout 18th century village, a mysterious stranger spreading radically new ideas challenges the traditional order. However, when rumors spread of a headless horseman murdering friends and neighbors, the townsfolk blame the outsider for this demonic curse.

The musical made me think about human beings acting in tribal ways and about the ability to use fear to maintain power. The citizens of the town are of Dutch descent and they look askance at outsiders, particularly New Englanders (who represent the English who defeated their Dutch ancestors).

This tribal/ethnic worldview is currently dominant in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be rearing its ugly head in Lybia soon. The divisions will make forming a nation state a challenge and will promote sectarian violence and cronyism is government. The US military is in the middle of these struggles with no end in sight and it is costing this country a great deal of money in a time when we need money to address a declining economy.

The show brought up thoughts on how fear is used to retain power. There are authoritarian regimes that use real fearful things, like the threat to kill, to retain power. In the Hollow one is left to wonder if killing is also being used to maintain control. The religious right is also using fear as a device to gain and retain power in the US.  They have demonized Obama in a similar way to the character in the show and have blamed circumstances ranging from health care costs to the debt on his Presidency.

FEMA’s Impractical Advice

As the East Coast gets pummeled by rain, people who live in swamps like Washington, DC are facing flooding issues.

Many of us home owners have sump pumps in our basements to combat the water coming from above and below. Sometimes, they don’t work as well as they should as with my neighbor who has six inches of water.

So I read FEMA’s guide about retrofitting your home from flooding with interest. I can’t believe how impractical their advice is even for people who live in the suburbs! Forget about city people: 

Who can pick up their house and move it. Hey, why don’t you demolish it and go buy one elsewhere.

See below:

Retrofitting means making changes to an existing building to protect it from flooding or other hazards such as high winds and earthquakes. FEMA publication 312, Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways To Protect Your House From Flooding , provides information that will help you decide whether your house is a candidate for retrofitting. The guide helps by describing six retrofitting methods that protect your house from flooding.

Six Ways to Protect Your House From Flooding
Icon representing Elevation Elevation is raising your house so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. This is the most common way to avoid flood damage.
Icon representing Wet Floodproofing Wet floodproofing makes uninhabited parts of your house resistant to flood damage when water is allowed to enter during flooding.
Icon representing Relocation Relocation means moving your house to higher ground where the exposure to flooding is eliminated altogether.
Icon Representing Dry Proofing Dry floodproofing is sealing your house to prevent flood waters from entering.
Icon representing levee & floodwall protection Levee and floodwall protection means constructing barriers to prevent flood waters from entering your house.
Image representing demolition Demolition means razing your house and rebuilding properly on the same property or buying a house elsewhere.

 

 

Middle Classless in US: It’s the New Economy

As the next election cycle comes up, we’re beginning to hear more about the declining middle class. The stats are in and its irrefutable, the US has lost millions from the middling income levels. People continued their middle-class lifestyle through going into credit card debt during the 2000s and now they don’t have that.

What they need is a decent paying job. What the country needs is for them to have a decent paying job so that they can live well and spend. Without it, our vaunted 70% consumption economy will falter. When people in power make this clear, the media organs sometimes undercut their message with purpposeful deletions of their words, like Jimmy Hoffa’s call for Jobs being deleted by Fox News.

one in three Americans who grew up middle-class has slipped down the income ladder as an adult, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts

Downward mobility is most common among middle-class people who are divorced or separated from their spouses, did not attend college, scored poorly on standardized tests, or used hard drugs, the report says.

 

“A middle-class upbringing does not guarantee the same status over the course of a lifetime,” the report says.

The study focused on people who were middle-class teenagers in 1979 and who were between 39 and 44 years old in 2004 and 2006. It defines people as middle-class if they fall between the 30th and 70th percentiles in income distribution, which for a family of four is between $32,900 and $64,000 a year in 2010 dollars.

People were deemed downwardly mobile if they fell below the 30th percentile in income, if their income rank was 20 or more percentiles below their parents’ rank, or if they earn at least 20 percent less than their parents. The findings do not cover the difficult times that the nation has endured since 2007.

Pew researchers said the study’s structure did not permit an analysis of whether upward mobility has become more difficult through the years. Nonetheless, some economists point to growing income inequality and widely stagnating wages as evidence that the American Dream is slipping out of reach for many people.

The report found that being married helps people avoid the worst economic outcomes. Women who are divorced, widowed or separated are much more likely to fall down the economic ladder than their married counterparts. For men, the differences are not as dramatic, although married men are more likely than single men to retain their middle- class status as adults.

Education, particularly going to college, is another crucial factor in people’s economic stability, the report says.

Women who graduated from high school are more likely to be downwardly mobile than their counterparts who are college graduates. The same dynamic exists among men, the study found.

Overall, African American men have a particularly hard time clinging to middle-class status. Thirty-eight percent of black men who grew up middle-class are downwardly mobile, nearly double the rate of white men, the report says. Hispanic men are slightly more likely than white males to fall down the economic ladder, but the difference was not statistically significant.

Among African Americans and Hispanics, men are more likely to slip than women, although the reverse is true among whites.

The racial gap in mobility has perplexed researchers at Pew since a 2007 reportthat said nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults. That report underscored the feeble grip many African Americans had on middle-class life, prompting researchers to probe deeper, said Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.

The new report called the performance of blacks on a key standardized test a factor that accounts for virtually the entire mobility gap separating the races. Black males scored much lower than white males on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures reading comprehension, vocabulary and math ability.

“Taking into account differences in AFQT scores between middle-class white and black men reduces the gap until it is statistically indistinguishable from zero,” the report said.

The findings in the report are drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a group of 12,000 interviews that researchers have followed since 1979.
 
A big problem is that jobs are fewer in muber and require particular skill sets as part of the New Economy: which is really finance and poor paying service jobs as Harold Myerson points out below:

Today, the economy that arose on manufacturing’s ashes has turned to ashes itself. The Wall Street-Wal-Mart economy of the past several decades off-shored millions of factory jobs, which it offset by creating low-paying jobs in the service and retail sectors; extending credit to consumers so they could keep consuming despite their stagnating incomes; and fueling, until it collapsed, a boom in construction.

We are only now beginning to understand the toll this economy has taken on America’s workers — and on our working men in particular. A stunning study from Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of the Hamilton Project, published in the Milken Institute Review, reveals that the median earnings of men ages 25 to 64 declined 28 percent between 1969 and 2009. Within this age group, the median earnings of men who completed high school but didn’t go on to college fell 47 percent, while the median earnings of male college graduates also declined, if only 12 percent.

Part of this decline stems from the shrinking share of working-age men with full-time jobs, which fell from 83 to 66 percent between 1960 and 2009. The other part stems from the fall in inflation-adjusted median yearly earnings of working-age men who have full-time jobs, which have shrunk by about $5,000 since the mid-’70s. Combined, write Greenstone and Looney, these two declines explain why the earnings of American men “haven’t been this low since Ike was president and Marshal Dillon was keeping the peace in Dodge City.”

Anyone seeking to understand the pessimism, frustration and rage of working-class men needs to begin here, with Greenstone and Looney’s two-by-four-to-the-head tale of decline. White working-class men in particular have become a disproportionately receptive audience for those who scapegoat immigrants and minorities for the damage that has actually been caused by economic and political elites blissfully blind to the devastation ushered in by their vaunted new economy.

Since that new economy blew up three years ago, many of those elites have been disabused of the financial fantasies that ordinary Americans long ago ceased to entertain. The fact that Greenstone and Looney’s study emerged from the Hamilton Project — a pillar of new-economy thinking, founded by Clinton Treasury secretary Robert Rubin — is evidence of a paradigm shift in economic vision. From centrist Democratic groups such as the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way, to economists such as Hoover Institution Nobel laureate Michael Spence, to chief executives and former chief executives such as Dow Chemical’s Andrew Liveris and Intel’s Andy Grove, the new watchword for America’s future — however challenging it may be to get there — is manufacturing.

Post-industrial America turned out to be a bust. The time for neo-industrial America has arrived.