Posts Tagged ‘Recovery’

Return To Normalcy

April 20, 2020

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate,” Joe Biden? Nope. Warren Harding 100 years ago during the 1920 presidential contest (which he won). “Return to Normalcy” was his campaign slogan. (Joe Biden’s ‘Return to Normalcy’ Campaign Has Echoes of 1920 by Ryan Teague Beckwith, Bloomberg, 4-11-29). Beckwith writes that the nation was traumatized by the enormous mechanized butchery of WWI, the loss of a half million people due to the Spanish Flu, and 8 years of a very unpopular (and disliked) president. Writing for New Yorker magazine just at the start of the currently pervasive Covid 19 pandemic, Erich Lach headlined: Joe Biden, the Normalcy Candidate, Keeps Winning in Abnormal Times (3-18-20). He writes of Biden in 2019: “He was the normalcy candidate. He asked voters not to look ahead, to potential policies like Medicare for All or free public colleges, but to look back, to the Obama Administration and its relative stability. Wouldn’t a restoration be nice? Let’s remember who we are.” Then his description for mid March 2020: “In polls, voters said that they liked the policy ideas put forward by Sanders and others. But, at polling places, they went for Biden.” His succinct last line gives the wistful: “But now, with many Americans shut up in their homes, or soon to be, many voters continue to say that a return to normal sounds pretty good.” Does it? Two Americans who have steadfastly stuck with their assessment (repeatedly over years), and have not been shy about voicing it, are Anthony Fauci and Bernie Sanders. Fauci would disagree about a rosy return to “normalcy” anytime soon. His sober prognostication on the future of handshakes when greeting forebodes any future “return to normalcy.”  In a NY Times Op Ed (Bernie Sanders: The Foundations of American Society Are Failing Us, 4-19-20) Sanders underlines the current fundamentals: “We are the richest country in the history of the world, but at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, that reality means little to half of our people who live paycheck to paycheck, the 40 million living in poverty, the 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, and the half million who are homeless.” “The absurdity and cruelty of our employer-based, private health insurance system should now be apparent to all. As tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and incomes as a result of the pandemic, many of them are also losing their health insurance.” “In truth, we don’t have a health care “system.” We have a byzantine network of medical institutions dominated by the profit-making interests of insurance and drug companies.” “Further, while doctors, governors and mayors tell us that we should isolate ourselves and stay at home, and rich people head off to their second homes in less populated areas, working-class people don’t have those options. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, and you lack paid medical and family leave, staying home is not an option.” He ends with: “If there is any silver lining in the horrible pandemic and economic collapse we’re experiencing, it is that many in our country are now beginning to rethink the basic assumptions underlying the American value system.” Analysis finds the longing for “normalcy” to include the desire for a normal presidential election in November. If that should ever materialize in any “normal” sense is dubious, given the aberrant preliminaries. Either way Analysis finds it is shaping up to be a contest of mythic proportions – the myth of “Make America Great Again” versus the myth of “Return To Normalcy.”

Silent Ischemia

June 1, 2019

The 5-31-19 online Newark Advocate announced “A Newark city councilman plans to propose an amendment to existing legislation to use new Ohio gas tax funding to target paving for neighborhood streets.” (Newark councilman to propose funds from Ohio gas tax target neighborhood streets, Michaela Sumner) Sumner’s quotes: “I believe that our residents have for years, been talking about wanting to get their roads paved,” [Jeremy] Blake said. “It’s those neighborhood streets that may not have been touched for decades. They’ve been paying their taxes and doing their due diligence and I think it’s time we get onto a regular maintenance schedule of paving these neighborhood roads.” Analysis finds “neighborhood streets that may not have been touched for decades” politely says that the city’s residents of those neighborhoods also pretty much don’t expect anything different. How so? In one section of his recent book, “Dying Of Whiteness”, Dr. Jonathan M. Metzl went to Kansas to consider the impact of GOP fiscal austerity on it’s previously historically great K-12 schools. On pg. 232 Metzl writes: “Pulling money out was not fixed simply by putting money back in. Rather, cutting money from schools cut off perfusion and oxygen as if by heart disease, leading to silent ischemia. Part of the reason why this was the case was because reducing funding and eliminating programs did more than simply reduce school capacities. Budget cuts also narrowed people’s expectations for what was possible from school in the first place and of what it cost to get there. As one superintendent put it to me: “It’s really hard to see the changes unless you’ve been a superintendent that whole time, because I don’t even think principals who change schools really fully grasp what’s going on. And it’s rare to have a board member that’s been on for ten or twelve years, and it’s even more rare to have a board member that’s been on that time that’s so engaged. It’s not anybody saying, “I don’t want this for my kids,” but they just don’t know what we had or what might be possible from great schools.”” It is likewise for the city of Newark. On average, Americans relocate their residence at or around 5 years. Homeowners average 13 years in a residence. With 48% of Newark residences being non-owner occupant, just about half of Newark’s current residents can’t recall what the neighborhood was like when Jeff Hall first took the oath of office as mayor for all of Newark’s neighborhoods (not just the downtown business association). “Budget cuts also narrowed people’s expectations for what was possible” not only with regard to the condition of the streets they lived on, but also any public transportation (which once was part of Newark), city wide public health services, sufficient emergency service personnel, residential building standards (rentals), neighborhood community services and programs such as art and recreation, etc. Non-owner occupant tenants feel little connection to Newark. Most simply assume that, like the building they reside in, the streets are maintained by “someone else”. Does that make the mayor the Landlord of Newark? With the loss of any genuine history with heart (Children’s Home, Gazebo, etc.) in favor of a fabricated history of profit (Downtown Newark manufactured to be Easton Lite), Newark’s current residents “just don’t know what we had or what might be possible from [a] great” city. Vying to be mayor, Analysis forecasts both Jeff Hall AND Jeremy Blake will repeatedly stress “what a great city Newark is” in their pitch to the Newark electorate.

Ischemia – “an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body, especially the heart muscles.”

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.

Invisible Hand

September 14, 2018

Where were you on December 7, 1949, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked? Where were you on September 11, 2001, the day the World Trade Center was brought down? Where were you September 14, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers collapsed?  Ten years ago today the invisible hand of the market became quite visible. The day Lehman Brothers went belly up ordinary people learned that extraordinary deals still left them as ordinary people while Extra celebrities would continue to be promoted as extraordinary. Today, along with other things, Dear Leader says ordinary people are more well off than ever in the history of the US if not the world. Economists, however, are not so sure. Lehman Brothers sobered them to the limits of the invisible hand. Could the not so invisible hand be likewise unabated by greed? To counter this, they pointed to economic cycles; like dark matter, invisible but real just the same. Today market deals promise to solve all of societal ills, from global warming catastrophes to tooth decay. WIKI succinctly states that Adam Smith’s invisible hand “has come to capture his notion that individuals’ efforts to pursue their own interest may frequently benefit society more than if their actions were directly intending to benefit society.” Analysis finds this may well glove the lives of those featured on Extra. The ungloved reality of those featured on the imaginary (and invisible) show, Ordinary, is more that the glove no longer fits while being handed the bill to cover the entire cost of the collapse. After ten years, who has benefitted from the financial crisis? Who has paid for it? Every debt is an asset for someone. To perversely paraphrase Johnnie Cochran, “If it does not fit, you must indict!”

Returning Citizens

April 5, 2018

The defunct (and “historic”) Licking County Jail, located on South Third Street in Newark, is of limited value to the people of Licking County. As a monument to discipline and punish it detracts and diminishes the highly promoted tourist attraction of Canal Market (“Look mommy. That building looks scary. Is it Dracula’s castle?” “No dear. It is the old jail where the police put bad people to languish and rot.”). Other than a party house for over age and nostalgic Goth’s, it is of no benefit to, and serves little purpose for, the people of Licking County. Cuyahoga County opted for something a little more practical and relevant to its current citizens. Cory Shaffer for cleveland.com (4-5-18) headlines: Former Bedford Heights Jail re-opens as comprehensive reentry facility. “Cuyahoga County leased the facility after Bedford Heights closed its jail in 2015. It spent $500,000 renovating the facility as officials hashed out details and logistics over the last two years, [Director of Corrections Ken] Mills said. The Bedford Heights center will house up to 200 male inmates sentenced to 60 to 90 days in jail for nonviolent, nonsexual, low-level felony and misdemeanor charges, Mills said. For the last three years, Cuyahoga County offered similar services to approximately 80 inmates in the Euclid Jail. That facility will continue to offer those services to female inmates.” “Towards Employment [“a nonprofit organization that provides job counseling and training services”] will teach job training, resume building and computer skills in the jail’s computer lab, and give them emotional counseling and conflict resolution training, [executive director Jill] Rizika said. The Cuyahoga County Library System will teach GED courses, and Mills said plans are in the works for Cuyahoga Community College to teach manufacturing skills. The facility will also allow the county to expand its culinary arts program, a nine-week course that gives inmates a certification to be a cook. The jail partners with Edwins Restaurant and different hospitality management groups in the area.” Practically speaking, Licking County has the same resources (CTEC, College, non-profits engaged in counseling and job training, etc.). Practically speaking, Licking County Commissioner Tim Bub would never express what his counterpart in Cuyahoga County had to say: “”We would expect somehow [former inmates] would rejoin the community and be productive members of society almost magically, and it just doesn’t happen that way,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said.”

“I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends”

April 3, 2018

2-19-18 WKSU’s Jeff  St. Clair did a radio report entitled Monogamy and Smiles are the Results of a Neurochemical Change That Made Us Human. It was recently rebroadcast. Analysis found it very compelling. From the broadcast: “Kent State professors Owen Lovejoy and Mary Ann Raghanti worked together on a recent paper that looks at how a neurochemical change in our brains became the turning point in human evolution.” ““Cooperation is something that’s very uniquely human. We start cooperating by the time we’re 1 year old. This doesn’t happen in other ape species, so it’s hard wired.” Raghanti believes that early in our history something switched-on in our brains that sent us on a different path than our closest relatives, and it wasn’t our smarts. “Our brain was the size of the chimpanzee. We hadn’t expanded the cerebral cortex yet,” says Raghanti, “so whatever it was that changed our personality occurred without that cerebral cortex.” Raghanti has been dissecting the brains of humans, chimpanzees and other primates over the past decade to see what could account for the differences in our behavior. She looked at the chemicals that trigger our thoughts and actions – the neurotransmitters – and where they’re active in the brain. It was a lot of work counting all the neural connections. “We very laboriously section every single brain into very thin sections, and then we stain it, and put it under the microscope and we have special software where we can quantify the number of axons which gives us a measure of the enervation.” She didn’t see many differences, until she got to the part of the brain called the striatum. Nestled deep in the brain, the striatum plays an important part in decision-making and is home to the all-important reward system, the same system that gets hi-jacked by drug addiction. But Raghanti found that in early human ancestors that reward system developed for another purpose. “Our reward system gets triggered by helping other individuals,” says Raghanti. The chimpanzee is our closest living relative, but we differ in how part of our brain is wired. In humans dopamine is dominant in the striatum, which coordinates social interactions, while in chimps acetylcholine, key for aggression, dominates. That pathway is missing in apes. Instead, Raghanti found they’re hard-wired for aggression.” “Lovejoy says if evolution is survival of the fittest, it doesn’t make sense if instead of competing, you’re helping each other, which is what humans do. “Why do you cooperate with other people unless it gives you more offspring? I’ve never really understood that on a basic selection basis, until Mary Ann made this discovery.” For Lovejoy, all the pieces come together knowing that the human brain is hard-wired for teamwork.” ““Hominids have a form of social structure that no other primate has,” says Lovejoy. “We have something we call social monogamy.”” Analysis finds it intriguing that “the same system… gets hi-jacked by drug addiction.”

Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

February 12, 2018

Remember Governor Kasich’s 20 million dollar solution to Ohio’s opioid epidemic? Of course you do. Spring of 2017 Ohio’s presidential wannabee offered a high tech solution to the epidemic. He put money down, no, not separately in the budget but by offering $20 mil in Ohio Third Frontier Funding to innovators who come up with high tech solutions. This was touted as a win-win for Ohio. The opioid addiction scourge would be addressed while Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! would be provided through the entrepreneurial endeavors of Ohio based new technology providers. Well, back in December of 2017 $10 mil in winners were announced. One winner was Elysium Therapeutics. “It is developing a new kind of pill that would limit how much of the painkilling substance would be released into the body.” “Other projects that got state money include programs that use analytics to identify and prevent addiction, other types of pain management devices, and a web-based service that can streamline recovery services.” (Ohio Awards $10 Million For New Technology Projects To Fight Addiction By Andy Chow for WKSU,12-7-17) . This week Analysis noted a story out of Cleveland. Various reports but Analysis will reference “Cost of methadone treatment skyrockets leaving local treatment center to scramble for funding” by Brenda Cain for Cleveland.com, 2-7-18. “The price of methadone is skyrocketing — from $1 per dose to more than $14 per dose — at one local addiction clinic. Funding for the drug, which interrupts the symptoms of withdraw in recovering addicts, has run out, leaving the agency to scramble for options for its patients.” “Community Action Against Addiction (CAAA), one of two nonprofit suppliers of the drug in the region, told cleveland.com on this week that the abrupt price hike is the result of a loss of funding.” “Clinical Director Mary Bazie said the agency has stopped accepting new clients, unless they are covered by insurance or can self-pay. CAAA has a team of caseworkers helping existing clients, many of whom have low incomes, find other ways to pay for their medication. “Treatment saves lives and we have no intention of just pricing people out of their medications without trying to find alternatives for them,” Bazie said. The agency dispenses an average of 570 doses of methadone every day. Methadone is used to treat heroin abusers and people who have become addicted to opioid-based painkillers. The drug interrupts the symptoms of physical withdrawal from drug abuse. In an email, received Thursday, CAAA Chief Executive Officer Gladys Hall clarified that the potential price hike is not an increase in cost for the methadone, itself, but rather for the entire treatment process — which includes: a daily dose of methadone or Suboxone; random monthly drug testing, medication monitoring, medical consultation, initial physical examination, annual follow-up physical examination, annual tuberculosis test, individual and group counseling, as well as Narcan training and education.” The funding loss was through the Cuyahoga County ADAMHS (who of course gets their funding through other public sources). “Those affected by the price increase included the working poor who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid and patients who have allowed their Medicaid coverage to lapse, or have shifted to Medicare, which doesn’t cover addiction medication.” Analysis can’t help but note that the Ohio Governor’s magnanimous solution is not one the governor or state would take with regard to the current flu epidemic. The win-win solution proffered by the Governor is characteristic of a perpetual motion machine solution to social problems continuously promoted by the GOP – whether Kasich or Trump GOP matters little. This mechanism prioritizes any opportunity to create wealth in the midst of dire public need. One of the oldest proven methods for recovering addicts to function as productive members of their community is jeopardized by the Pollyanna precedence of making lemonade out of lemons.

Voter ID

September 14, 2016

“Evictions still on rise in Licking County despite recovery” headlines reporting by Jennifer Smola for The Columbus Dispatch (9-13-16). Smola writes that “The number of eviction cases filed in Licking County Municipal Court has steadily increased each year since 2010. Last year, the county logged 1,078 cases, an increase of 8.6 percent from a decade earlier, in 2006, before the Great Recession. The county is on track for a similar number this year, with 712 cases. The eviction hearings occur once every two weeks, and a court date late last month had 82 eviction cases — the most this year.” Later she reports the irony that “Regionally, mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates are down, according to a report last month from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. But despite those improvements, roughly 50 to 70 percent of low-income renters struggle with housing costs, the report said.” Bear in mind, dear reader, that Analysis has repeatedly covered the success story narrated by Tim Bubb and Grow Licking County. See his 2015 year in review (“A look back and ahead for Licking County” Newark Advocate 1-10-16). Indeed, overall unemployment places Licking County under 5%, within the state’s rate. And nationally the recovery is begrudgingly working, making the rich richer and the poor statistically not growing. So what gives with the growing evictions given the jobs are there along with “consumer confidence”? Smola considers “Despite low unemployment rates and reports of economic growth, the picture of recovery isn’t always as rosy as it’s portrayed to be, [local Newark activist David] Greene said. Wages remain low, and many jobs that are available locally are only part time, temporary or seasonal, he said.” Analysis reveals this to be an incomplete (and unsatisfying) explanation. A Wall Street Journal graphic from 6-21-16 (“Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever” Josh Zumbrun) lists the various percentages of “class” population in the US. The poor (under $30,000 per year) at roughly 20%, the lower middle class (30-50,000) 17%, the middle class (50-100,000) comprises 32% and the upper middle class (100,000-350,000) at 29%. The rich (over 350,000) displace 2%. The 20% poverty rate has remained essentially flat lined for the last 50 years, yet evictions in Newark are growing. In a PBS Newshour article entitled “There’s less middle in the middle class as income inequality grows, Pew analysis finds” (5-12-16) Kai Ryssdal (Host & Senior Editor, PBS Marketplace) says “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” This is borne out by the WSJ “class” distinctions of “upper” middle class, middle class, and “lower” middle class instead of upper, middle and lower. Rich, middle class, and poor is how the politicians in this election year have divvied up the masses. More on this later. Ryssdal confirms Greene, but more completely: “Wages have been stagnant in this economy for decades now, right, which means incomes and household wealth are stagnant, which means there is more income inequality. And when you have income inequality, you have more going to the low end, you have more going to the high end, and those drivers of prosperity in America [the middle] are getting, as you said in the beginning, hollowed out.” The Pew findings, along with the WSJ article, find that although the poor and the rich have maintained the same percentage of population, the middle class (the middle) has shifted with roughly 2/3’s getting richer (increasing the percentage of the “upper” middle class) and 1/3 getting poorer (increasing the “lower” middle class). Not noted within the Fed report is that rents have been following the middle class, with landlords erring on the side of upward mobility in setting rents. More people today cannot afford rent though there aren’t statistically more “poor”. Politicians (Dem as well as GOP) have remained fixated on the rich, poor, middle distinction. With the poor remaining in stasis, no emphasis is placed on measures to create affordable housing. It is easier to speak of “jobs” as the solution. The 2/3 of the middle class that benefitted from the recovery would likewise explain the “base” that has materialized and supported the presidential candidacy of Donnie Trump. These folks have the most to lose with any political maneuvering that would integrate the “lower” middle class with the poor (creating an overall 37% of the population within a lower class status, in need of public support programs). It is this appeal to the fear of losing the gains accrued within the Obama recovery that drives the Trump candidacy. After all, the reality of loss is certainly manifest within the evictions suffered by those who did not benefit from the Obama recovery, the 37% in the lower class. Losses in the middle and “upper” middle class would not be found here, but rather in the Fed’s mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates. No wonder voter ID is such a huge issue. “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” But how many would identify as “upper’, middle or “lower” class?