Posts Tagged ‘Polarization’

If That Just Don’t Beat All

May 5, 2020

The front page of the online edition of the New York Times for Tuesday, May 5, 2020 was an accurate barometer of the contemporary situation. On the left hand side the NY Times headlined “Infection Rates Show the Threat of Coronavirus Is Not Fading.” The top story line beneath the headline read “The U.S. is seeing at least 25,000 new cases per day, an increase of 2 to 4 percent. There have been more than 1,000 daily deaths for over a month.” On the right hand side, sharing equal billing was the headline “Wall Street set to gain amid signs of optimism.” The reflection of today was not limited to the NY Times exclusively. The same day The Wall Street Journal headlined an article with “Why Home Prices Are Rising During the Pandemic”. Again same day, different news source, USA Today headlined “Essential worker just means you’re on the death track”. The headlines for today are as polarized as the politics that surrounds them. Ohio’s Governor Dewine’s daily update on the Covid 19 situation in Ohio showed an increase in cases along with an increase in mortalities. As of this writing Licking County increased to 133 from a previous day’s 130, and the previous to that 114. Yet contrary to the Governor’s initial rationale for nixing the Arnold, halting the March primary and closing public institutions, etc., all systems are go for reopening, without the curve ever reaching a peak. It doesn’t matter? Or is something else at play here? During the Arab oil embargo of the 1970’s it was the simplistic “supply and demand” explanation. During the Reagan recession of the 80’s it was “too many dollars chasing too few goods.” In the 90’s it was the dot com bubble with its enterprising entrepreneurs self justifying mega dividends. W’s regime righted itself with a war economy after 9/11. The chickens came home to roost with his end of term meltdown on the bundled, junk sub-prime securities. B Rock rescued everything through compensating the source of the loss with the mantra of “we can’t let the system fail.” And now this. THIS appears to be the complete unbridled, shameless operation of the market with no other considerations. There is no rhyme or reason, no attempt to justify or rationalize any of it (“Supply and demand” or “too many dollars chasing too few goods” etc.). Those accustomed to making money off whatever situation find no difference in the current situation. Those who always had to pay, no matter the situation, find no difference today except that now it also includes paying with their lives. The polarization reveals itself for what it is: the US as an economy versus the US as a society.

Downtown Abbey

September 6, 2019

Polarity comes in many shapes and sizes. Some may be completely surprising. One such is this week’s Our View from The Advocate Editorial Board (Our view: Downtown Newark a jewel for the entire community, The Newark Advocate, 9-6-19). A teaser headline for this editorial reads “Our view: Downtown Newark a jewel to be proud of.” The editorial itself is filled with kudos for the hard work, ingenuity and resilience of the downtown business community and “civic” leaders for changing the façade of the Newark courthouse square in a matter of 10 years or so. These are substantiated by “facts” which cannot be dismissed. Analysis found the line, “No longer is downtown simply home to attorneys and government workers as restaurants, shops and even manufacturing have recently opened.” to be disarming, an attempt to “bring us together behind a winning team.” Like a family house where renovations still leave the kitchen as kitchen, bath as bath (with maybe an addition) and rec area as rec, etc., so Newark’s downtown still is focused on the government as county seat (and municipal center). Restaurants are still in the same buildings as before; ditto offices, banks and retail. The editorial hints at the “behind the scenes” SID (Special Improvement District) helping to make it possible with its tax (that it gets to use on itself) and special rent-a-cop for parking enforcement. The board’s view just skims the government money that went into the “federally mandated project to reduce stormwater overflows” but doesn’t go further behind the scenes to expose the publicly funded tax incentives, tax credits and subsidies provided to make the jewel shine. Analysis finds it not to be a case of disparagement but rather an encouragement to point out that a truly great city has a vibrant downtown AND social responsible programs for what the vibrant downtown requires. Polarity need not apply. Newark’s “civic” leaders, unfortunately, prefer the polarity of This or That, but not Both. A city of 50,000+ would have some sort of reliable, fixed schedule, accessible public transportation. Newark has opted to have none with no taxi, fixed bus route, or on demand transportation available. During the jewel’s creation, no affordable housing was ALSO created. Newark’s mayor would prefer that those without a house live outside the city limits. The health department opts to deny the material existence of narcotics addiction through a focus on law enforcement, abstinence, and prevention rather than a hands on approach of a needle exchange and recovery centers. The list continues with community centers (youth as well as seniors), food banks and recreation facilities being mostly marginalized, away from the downtown center; access to which requires some form of transportation. A truly great city is not polarized. It is proud of what it has to offer its business community AND its resident population, BOTH. Newark can do better. What The Advocate editorial board presents is like a made for TV movie, a Downton Abbey of sorts, with its unspoken tale of those who serve and make the manor jewel possible without receiving any due. But then again, a really great city would have a news source that fairly and equally covers the landlords AND the tenants, BOTH.

The Bubble

January 30, 2019

Harry Shearer’s weekly radio broadcast, Le Show, has a segment entitled “News from Outside the Bubble” where he reads accounts of the news from overseas publications. For American devotees of U.S. politics, the equally polarized politics of a country like Poland would be puzzling, to say the least. Accounts of “liberals” would include the U.S. pro-choice position, but also embrace free market capitalism while “conservative” would agree with pro-life positions while promoting the welfare state (universal health care, state funded retirement, etc.). The existing polarization is even more vicious than here in the U.S. with the recent public and real time publicly broadcast murder of the mayor of Gdansk. A recent article in the NY Times by Tina Rosenberg (1-29-19) spoke of steps to remediate the insanity. Entitled: The Magazines Publishing One Another’s Work, “Polarization is everywhere. But it’s being challenged in Poland by a handful of magazines across the political spectrum. They’ve begun sharing articles, to show readers a variety of viewpoints.” In a nutshell, every few weeks the editors of 5 magazines from both ends of the political spectrum have agreed to publish one magazine’s essay on an issue of national concern in conjunction with the other 4’s responses to that featured essay. All 5 publications would run not only the main essay, but all the responses. Readers of the magazines would get out of their bubble by finding the alternative views presented alongside their preferred journalism. Not as radical as Sinclair’s Fox 28 and ABC 6 appearing on CBS 10, NBC 4 and WOSU 34 but more like The Atlantic, National Review and Newsweek, etc. agreeing to publish each other’s articles of faith. Newark News Analysis wondered how this would look locally. The problem is not as much one of “the bubble” being the published outlook of choice (with regard to political affinity) but more like “the bubble” being the inaccessibility to outlooks of difference, period. Recent news brings that situation to the fore. Tristan Navera headlined Park National Bank names new president (1-28-19) for Columbus Business First. “The Newark-based bank said in a release that its board will vote at its April meeting to make Matthew Miller president effective May 1.” Not news for Newark’s hometown paper, The Advocate. Also not news was the account that “The bank also reported its net income rose by 15 percent to $26.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to the same period the year before. Its profit for the full year rose 31 percent to $110.4 million.” As well as the final “As of December, the bank had 11 community banking divisions, totaling $7.8 billion in assets.” (In the banking industry, assets are primarily comprised of money loaned to, and owed by customers) Polarization is eroded by shared pertinent facts. An Advocate published news article, Knights Inn hotel closes 6 months after numerous violations found, by Kent Mallet (1-24-19) appears to disclose important local activity addressing public concern. The onus of this concern was categorically “The mayor [Mark Johns] said the property has already attracted interest for another use. “There is a developer exploring the prospect of re-developing the property,” Johns said. “That property would not be operated as a hotel if these plans go through.” The closing of Knights Inn, combined with construction delays at two other hotels, leaves the Newark-Heath area lacking in available lodging, according to Dan Moder, executive director of Explore Licking County.” The same paper headlined  Knights Inn problems top Advocate’s August stories (9-4-18). That story extensively covered the low income people trapped in a form of indentured servitude requiring full time work to pay off the rent for living there. The Knights Inn closes in the middle of winter and Mallett can’t say what became of the tenants!? In past postings this blog has excoriated the Newark city administration (as well as The Advocate) over the citizens initiative that passed regarding the decriminalization and (de)prosecution of small amounts of marijuana possession. The “one size fits all” approach spilled over into the legalized medical marijuana zoning provisions. A Growing Chorus of Big City Prosecutors Say No to Marijuana Convictions headlines Shaila Dewan for the NY Times (1-29-19). ““If you ask that mom whose son was killed where she would rather us spend our time and our attention — on solving that murder, or prosecuting marijuana laws — it’s a no-brainer,” said Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore. She vowed at a news conference to no longer prosecute marijuana possession, regardless of quantity or prior criminal record, and said she would seek to vacate almost 5,000 convictions. Ms. Mosby’s move places her in a vanguard of big-city prosecutors, including Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. in Manhattan and Eric Gonzalez in Brooklyn, who are moving away from marijuana cases, declaring them largely off limits and in some cases going so far as to clear old warrants or convictions off the books.” ““How are we going to expect folks to want to cooperate with us,” Ms. Mosby said in an interview in her office on Monday, “when you’re stopping, you’re frisking, you’re arresting folks for marijuana possession?”” In the 1-29-19 Advocate that headlines United Way officials: Billions needed for opioid fight; meth abuse rising, Craig McDonald writes “Dingus [Deb Dingus, executive director of LC United Way] agreed about meth abuse: “We see it here, too.” She added, “By the time we federally address the drug of choice, the drug of choice has changed on the street.”” How are we going to expect folks to want to cooperate with us if we’re criminalizing marijuana possession? The news from outside the bubble is that, locally, the bubble is manufactured for local residents to reside in unquestioningly. It is not a bubble of choice or preference, rather it is one of learned resignation.

 

401K? Not Even Close.

October 5, 2018

On the 10-5-18 edition of PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields answered a question asking “how do we heal after the Kavanaugh hearings?” with a reference to the fact that even with record unemployment in the country, we retreat to tribal camps when it comes to issues of difference. Though unspoken, the assumption was that “with things going so well” it would be a little easier to persuade one another (since the foundation would be this overall sense of shared prosperity, “wellness”). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed this week that the unemployment rate for September 2018 fell to 3.7%, the lowest it has been in almost 50 years. The dialectic of it all is hard to miss. Polarization 50 years ago centered around a colonial era war that the U.S. was engaged in. That very same war was what was driving the low unemployment figures. Fast forward to today’s polarized country and the same dialectic applies with regard to unemployment figures and polarized lack of consensus. Interesting to note, but hidden in all the polarization, was that 50 years ago some of what was possible during the run up to low unemployment was continued to be possible during those same low unemployment days, economically. A person with “a decent job” (what is an “indecent job”?) could afford housing, could afford transportation, could afford medical (dental, etc.) care, and could even afford to record memories of a vacation or of “college life”. Can as much be said for today? 50 years ago those in the “middle class” could afford a summer retreat or RV, even a retirement home in Florida or Arizona. Who can count on their retirement today where most feel they will be working at least until they are 70, if not beyond? Who can savor their “college life” when paying for it all but displaces everything else, even study? Mark Shields was on point while at the same time failing to elaborate a fundamental difference in the statistics of “unemployment rates” over time. That fundamental difference is the enormous spread of income disparity over the last 50 years, where today a “decent job” pays for little more than being one step away from living under a bridge. This income disparity has shrunk the middle class while making anything regarding health care, vacation, education, or retirement available only to 1% of Americans. Face it Mark, low unemployment rates do not reflect a misery index, something today’s polarized America shares with that of 50 years ago. “By now, you’ve likely heard the conventional wisdom: that you should aim to have a nest egg of $1 million to $1.5 million. Or that your savings should amount to 10 to 12 times your current income [to retire].” (AARP The Magazine). Really? What percentage of folks, employed or not, have that kind of money socked away? 401K? Not even close.