Essay this Golden Age (1970’s – onward)

Essay 1To understand the decline of stable full-time employment and the process of wage stagnation some historical context is needed. Starting with the Golden Age of U.S. Capitalism (1930’s-1970’s) during which the New Deal (1933-1937) – a series of federal programs, public projects, and financial reforms/regulations such as: social security, unemployment insurance, aid to families, the Wagner Act, state-supported organized labor, balanced power between workers and managers, and more power for states in the regulation of the economy- were enacted.(Poverty and Inequality slides: 2-3) This shift along with the norms, or shared rules, of fairness and equality, associated with the period, culminated in tangible institutions such as unions, temporary help firms, career training programs, and schools.(Poverty and Inequality slides: 3-4) All of which worked together to shape the labor market and helped guide the actions of buyers and sellers resulting in a more egalitarian labor market and reduced inequality. (Poverty and Inequality slides: 5) The decline of this Golden Age (1970’s – onward) can be explained through two perspectives: the sociological or the market society story. The sociological story starts with the union threat effect in which non-unionized employers, in response to unionization threats , increase the earnings and benefits of their workers. Starting in the 1970s this threat declined/ended likely due to a shift towards more neoliberal labor market policies that stressed governments should minimize their involvement in economic plannings, workings, and spending.(Poverty and Inequality slides: 6, Infographic 1) During a period known as the great prosperity (1947-79) pay rose with productivity, a trend that ended in the 1970s. This marked a change, referred to as the great regression, of our social or moral economy. (Poverty and Inequality slides: 5-6) A change marked by a split, or disconnect, between productivity and pay. This meant wages, especially those of the middle class, stagnated. Meaning increased inequality, instability, and insecurity. (Poverty and Inequality slides: 14 Infographic 3) This inequality, instability, and insecurity can be better understood through reading the “Introduction” and “ch.4 By Any Means Necessary” of the book $2.00 a day, by Kathy Edin and Luke Shaefer. Edin and Shaefer attribute the rise of the $2.00 a day poor, families living on no more than $2 a day per person, to the welfare reform of 1996. (Edin and Shaefer “Intro”  22) They recognize that these reformations did create a safety net for many working poor Americans however, they assert this net has holes: mainly it assumes that there’s full-time stable employment available that pays living wages. (Edin and Shaefer “Intro” 22) The reality, according to Edin and Shaefer, is that we’re faced with a low wage labor market that doesn’t meet any of the aforementioned criteria. The resultant dichotomy, they argue, has given rise to the ever-increasing rate of those living within the $2.00 a day poverty level. (Edin and Shaefer “Intro” 22) A rate, as of 2011, of more than 4% of American households with children, nearly double that of the last decade and a half. (Edin and Shaefer “Intro” 13) 1.5 million households and roughly 3 million children, the face of America’s $2.00 a day poor.  (Edin and Shaefer “Intro” 17)These individuals, the  $2.00 a day poor, have to implement strategies for survival in order to get by. Edin and Shaefer break these strategies into three distinct categories: first taking advantage of public and private services – utilizing libraries and shelters (Edin and Shaefer “Chapter 4” 99), second utilizing income generation strategies – selling plasma (Edin and Shaefer “Chapter 4” 106), and thirdly engaging in the art of making due with less – cutting out necessities (Edin and Shaefer “Chapter 4” 124). In short, those who implement these three strategies are anything but lazy or any of the other negative stereotypes associated with the those suffering economically. In fact, they’re innovate, entrepreneurial, and hardworking – I’d argue, that in many cases, even more so than the average middle class. Making it at the bottom of the social and economic ladder is their full-time job, one that doesn’t leave much time for relaxation or other activities that could help release them from the trap of the economic hierarchy. “$2.00 a Day shows that the transformation of the social safety net is incomplete…” (Edin and Shaefer “Chapter 4” 24) Edin and Shaefer go on to make the point that the only way to patch the holes left in the net of social safety is through “bold action” (Edin and Shaefer “Chapter 4” 24)Word count: 750.Essay 2 In her  “Introduction” and “Ch.1” of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander forms a thesis in which she claims a system of mass incarceration, resulting from drug charges, created as a form of racial control. Control intended to keep black people and other minorities in a permanent state of economic, social, and political disadvantage. Similar to the restrictions of the Jim Crow laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries Alexander points out that these individuals are left unable to participate, both while in and out of jail, in many of the privileges of American citizenship. Privileges such as voting, running for public office, and receiving public assistance. Resulting in what Alexander dubbed an “undercaste,” which she goes on to clarify means “a stigmatized racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom.”Alexander through use of historical evidence and statistics draws a very clear picture. One making the point that the creation of this undercaste was purposeful, a strategy to keep black and white working-class Americans separate. To keep them from realizing that they have the same interests and joining together to fight for them. I agree and believe that through this tactic politicians are able to exploit the resulting rift for their own political gain.A phenomenon that’s effect I argue can be seen in Tony Hovater’s story as told in “A Voice of Hatred in America’s Heartland” by Richard Fausset. Fausset presents Hovater’s belief in white nationalism and his stance as Nazi sympathizer in a casual manner. Alternating from horrifying hate-filled sentiments to causal ones, seemingly trying to make the reader form an association between the Alt-Right and the traditional perception of hard working, social, and stable American citizens. I can only assume this is done in an attempt to normalize and spread the message and movement of the Alt-Right. Fausset by detailing Hovater’s life and stance on the issue allows us to see the effect of the aforementioned phenomena. “The fact that we’re seeing more and more normal people come to the side of the Alt-Right is because things have gotten so bad. And if they keep getting worse, we’ll keep getting more…” (Fausset 3) Hovater is not oblivious to the effect of the rift he does, however, misinterpret its meaning. Hovater assumes the increase he sees in support for the Alt-Right is due to more individuals becoming dissatisfied with the state of the country. Hovater believes the route of this dissatisfaction lies in race. Fausset through detailing Hovater’s background and past provides a look into how Hovater came to this belief system himself. Hovater was raised on an integrated Army bases, he also went to high school in Ohio where the student body was predominantly white. According to Fausset, Hovater believes he wasn’t ever pushed by a specific occurrence or condition into his Alt-Right beliefs. That he came to it in response to witnessing “…people who were genuinely hurting,” “…specifically places in Appalachia, and a lot of the Eastern Seaboard had really been hurt.” (Fausset 6) In an even more revealing statement, he states when he was growing up “His parents…were the kinds of people who always assume things aren’t going well. But they don’t necessarily know why.” (Fausset 8) Two statement I consider to be representative of a larger issue that I attribute to the development of Hovater’s Alt-Right views. In Ohio where Hovater grew up there were, and still are, many working-class communities, communities facing significant economic distress. It’s possible and in my opinion likely, that politicians took the real fault, which belonged to corporations that broke unions to go overseas – taking jobs and industry with them – and placed it on easier targets that they didn’t consider politically advantageous to protect such as immigrants. In my opinion, this political manipulation fosters and encourages the hate-filled mindset of the Alt-Right. I think this because when people face complex issues they tend to want an easy solution and dislike hearing that one is multifaceted. This is the case with Hovater, his Alt-Right views are the easier path to take; rather than the path of critical thinking and open discussion necessary to understand the complex economic, social, and political issues within the country. Being aware of this and actively trying to avoid accepting the continued political manipulation of race is how I argue we can begin the path the sealing the rift.Word count: 731.


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