Middle of the Middle

I'm not for consensus; I'm for conviction.

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10 Poverty Myths, Busted | Mother Jones


1. Single moms are the problem. Only 9 percent of low-income, urban moms have been single throughout their child’s first five years. Thirty-five percent were married to, or in a relationship with, the child’s father for that entire time.

2. Absent dads are the problem. Sixty percent of low-income dads see at least one of their children daily. Another 16 percent see their children weekly.

3. Black dads are the problem. Among men who don’t live with their children, black fathers are more likely than white or Hispanic dads to have a daily presence in their kids’ lives.

4. Poor people are lazy. In 2004, there was at least one adult with a job in 60 percent of families on food stamps that had both kids and a nondisabled, working-age adult.

5. If you’re not officially poor, you’re doing okay. The federal poverty line for a family of two parents and two children in 2012 was $23,283. Basic needs cost at least twice that in 615 of America’s cities and regions.

6. Go to college, get out of poverty. In 2012, about 1.1 million people who made less than $25,000 a year, worked full time, and were heads of household had a bachelor’s degree.

7. We’re winning the war on poverty. The number of households with children living on less than $2 a day per person has grown 160 percent since 1996, to 1.65 million families in 2011.

8. The days of old ladies eating cat food are over. The share of elderly single women living in extreme poverty jumped 31 percent from 2011 to 2012.

9. The homeless are drunk street people. One in 45 kids in the United States experiences homelessness each year. In New York City alone, 22,000 children are homeless.

10. Handouts are bankrupting us. In 2012, total welfare funding was 0.47 percent of the federal budget.

(via mostlysignssomeportents)

Filed under social class stereotypes myths about poverty

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Feedback: Rooting for the rich

There are good reasons though why Hollywood doesn’t make a lot of movies about the actual middle class—by which I mean we people whose “vacations” consist of a day or two at the nearest water-park, and not two-week trips to island resorts—let alone movies about minimum-wage workers who reach the end of the month and have to decide which bill they can skate on for a while. […] When people have no money, the whole movie is about how they try to get money. When money’s not a problem, the movie can be about more esoteric things, like “love” or “faith” or “happiness.” Because most filmmakers are more interested in exploring emotions, they tend to make money a non-factor in their stories. And let’s not let audiences off the hook here, either. Even when people go to see a drama, there’s an element of escapism involved that makes it more pleasing to see that drama play out in, say, a four-story lakefront home.

Filed under middle class culture classed values TV Hollywood myths of meritocracy American Dream stereotypes of middle class

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If conservatives lost the culture war, that doesn’t mean liberals won

Yes, many of the people who make popular entertainment are prominent Democrats. But pulling a lever or writing a check to advance a policy outcome is not the same thing as creating a liberal, or even forward-looking view of the world. Capitalism has something to do with this, and the assumptions about markets that guide Hollywood, which include the ideas that any woman over 35 might as well be dead, and that international audiences hate black actors who are not Will Smith. And narrative conservatism may be an even greater limitation than the pressures to be profitable. Superhero franchises need to keep us invested, so they can only critique their Übermenschen so much. Romantic comedies still hew to their Elizabethan conventions in structuring their payoffs: Marriage, or at least a boyfriend, remains the end goal. A well-landed punch or an artfully-arranged explosion that takes out a bad guy is more pleasurable to watch than a trial, whatever our convictions might be outside the cinema. In culture, the most powerful orientation is neither left nor right, but rather, towards what kinds of story arcs and character beats are satisfying.

Filed under middle class culture classed values culture wars Hollywood capitalism cultural production

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The Cult of the Boss: Why Do Americans Admire Businessmen? | Blog | The Baffler

America, left and right, remains in thrall to what Veblen called the “business metaphysic.” The market is not an impersonal, fallible mechanism for distributing resources. It’s a source of spiritual values, and it’s never wrong. The invisible hand distributes virtue and honor along with wealth. God wants you to be rich. But rich or poor, you have what you deserve. Such is their message in this time of despair. Which proves that orthodoxy in the service of business, and business armed with religious purpose, cannot be killed by ideas alone.

Filed under middle class American Dream myths of meritocracy

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Education is Not the Answer | Jacobin

And education is tremendously valuable for reasons unrelated to work and income. Literacy, basic numeracy skills, and critical thinking are an essential part of a fulfilling life. Insofar as we have children going through school without developing these skills, it is an enormous failing of society. Any just society would place a top priority on ensuring that all children learn such basic skills before leaving school.

However, it clearly is not the case that plausible increases in education quality and attainment will have a substantial impact on inequality. This will require much deeper structural changes in the economy. As a practical matter, given the dismal track record of the education reformers, substantial improvement in outcomes for children from low- and moderate-income families is likely to require deep structural change in society as well.

Filed under middle class education classed entitlements

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Wolves of Wall Street: Financialization and American Inequality | Dissent Magazine

It’s no secret by now that the recent spike in American inequality, and the gains rapidly accruing to those at the upper end of the income distribution ladder, are driven in large part by “financialization”—the growing scale and profitability of the financial sector relative to the rest of the economy, and the shrinking regulation of its rules and returns. The success or failure of the financial sector has a disproportionate impact on the rest of the economy, especially when the combination of too much speculation and too little regulation starts inflating and bursting bubbles. And its returns flow almost exclusively to high earners. An overcharged finance sector, in other words, breeds inequality when it succeeds and when it fails.

Filed under inequality us middle class American Dream dead financialization

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Giving notice to employability | ephemera

The neoliberal notion of employability has risen to prominence over the past 20 years, having been positioned as the crux of national, organizational and individual prosperity. To be employable, individuals are increasingly called upon to be self-reliant; aligning themselves to the conditions of an ostensibly fast-moving and precarious global economy. This special issue of ephemera calls attention to the way this current preoccupation with employability tethers questions of equality and human development to the instrumental capitalist obsession with growth and renewal. The 13 contributions to this issue ‘give notice’ to employability as a colonizing attribute of human resourcefulness that promotes marginalization, exploitation and stigmatization. By exploring the type of ‘self’ employability demands, and analysing the consequences of its required engagement, we hope employability will be both noticed and acted upon.

Filed under employability self-as-business neoliberalism

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A Rare Opportunity Never Knocks by Ilana Gershon

…Contrasting people’s media ideologies about paper resumes and LinkedIn reveals one of the ways in which people are stymied when they try to represent themselves as a neoliberal self in material-semiotic forms. Not all forms encourage the right mixture of flexibility and specificity for the complex social task of being employed, and not all forms do so when combined together. And, as importantly, the flexibility that may seem to be a neoliberal ideal when one reads American self-help books or academic critics of neoliberalism can be an obstacle in practice…

Filed under middle class employability neoliberalism linkedin self-as-business management of self