Category Archives: Economy

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney…

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney, this man of billions who has the audacity to call people like my mother-in-law thieves.

She sat in a hospital recliner this week with a giant blackening scar running down her leg as a stream of people she barely knew entered and exited at a rapid pace, spewing information into her stroke-impaired mind. She looked like a child who had lost her mother at the grocery store as doctors changed orders and nurses took readings, her eyes darting from one to the other as they spoke over her in multi-syllabic jargon.

She had put off a knee replacement until she cleared 65 so that her Medicare would help cover the bills. Each day, she rose on two dysfunctional joints that had worn ligaments, cartilage and bone. Her entire left side remained frozen in a tense and contracted state, the result of a massive stroke several years back.

The doctor decided to do her “good” leg first, so it could heal and provide the most support. When my wife protested, the doctor noted it was the only way to move forward with this. He also promised she’d be “good as new” after her two-night stay in the hospital and ready to go home.

My wife knew better.

Her mother couldn’t go but short distances without pain or exhaustion and that was when the “good” leg was working. Her bladder failed her often, as she tried desperately to make it to the bathroom before suffering the indignity of asking for a fresh nightgown. She rarely left the house and her movement was mostly confined to a wheelchair.

She needed a lot of rehab and she would need a nursing home to do it, my wife argued. The doctor didn’t think so at the time, but he eventually came around to it. However, the rule of Medicare is a three-midnight stay, or no nursing home.

My mother-in-law spent most of her two days in a drug-induced haze of opiates and numbing agents as we kept trying to figure out with these people how all this would work. By the time they had us convinced if we were there 24/7, we could keep her at home, they changed their mind and set up a nursing home bed.

The cost was more than $350 per day, not counting therapy and meds. Mom subsists on about $800 of social security and a $200 pension, the result of decades in the Catholic school system.

She cashed in her state pension, earned through years of working at northwoods schools near the UP of Michigan, a total of $8,000, but the nursing home needed two weeks up front.

As these numbers and costs and such flew around her head, I saw her bright blue eyes and I almost broke.

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her eyes showed terror; they had the look of a child witnessing an unspeakable act. They told of loss, panic and fear rolled into one.

This is why I want to meet Mick Mulvaney.

I want him to see those eyes and tell her how this budget he proposed can be anything but a decimating blow to people like her who have no hope but the mercy of the government.

I want him to drive out to this rural town of 3,300, many of whom voted for his boss, and call my mother-in-law a thief. This woman, who once was horrified that her father taught her child to grab a grape from the grocery store and try it before buying it, is a thief?

I want him to stand there and explain how she’s not a taxpayer who put up with so much in her life to support a family of five and worked until she was physically unable to any more.

I want him, with that “Leprechaun-meets-Jack-Torrance” look on his face, to say to her, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but that’s not my problem. This nation has bills to pay.”

If this country is worth anything, it’s because of people like my mother-in-law. She spent her life teaching Sunday school to poor children and working with the autistic kids whom society discarded. She kept food on the table and her family in line for nighttime meals and homework sessions. She pushed herself out of pure American grit: The idea that you don’t take from others, but you work so you can give back.

When people like her break down, it’s not out of greed or laziness or a sense that they are owed something. It’s because something happened beyond their control and they need the rest of us to say, “Relax. We got this.”

Tax cuts don’t do that. Medicine does.

GDP growth charts don’t do that. Safety nets do.

This is something the Mick Mulvaneys of the world will never get: Money isn’t everything. It’s what we do with the money that defines our humanity.

Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith

Every once in a while I’m offered a review copy of a new book. It’s always flattering when someone is interested in what a mere internet wise ass has to say. This time around, I was contacted by Diana Rissetto of Cambridge University Press and offered a copy of The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith. I accepted with alacrity but it’s taken longer than expected to review this outstanding book. Ms. Rissetto has been as unfailingly patient as I have been dilatory. She also has a most amusing and witty Twitter feed, which is a plus. One can tell that I’ve finished the book because Galbraith’s style is contagious and this paragraph is redolent of it. It’s a good thing I’m under the spell of Ken Galbraith, not Pepe Le Pew. Le sigh of relief.

The British historian Thomas Carlyle dubbed economics the dismal science. Economists are not known for their prose style or sense of humor. It’s dry, dry stuff. John Kenneth Galbraith was an exception to that usually accurate rule. In fact, he’s one of my favorite writers of his era as he dabbled in writing outside his area; especially in the world of politics where he was a committed liberal Democrat with a wry sense of humor. No other economist ever made me laugh out loud, which I did repeatedly as I read this book.

The letters have been edited and annotated by Richard P.F. Holt. He did a smashing job ensuring that we know who Galbraith was corresponding with and why. I knew most of the names but there were some sleepers. Additionally, Holt has collected memos, speeches, and other non epistolary documents. Good job, sir.

Galbraith had an active sideline as an adviser to, among others, Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and-until they broke it off over Vietnam-Lyndon Johnson. While Ambassador to India from 1961-63, Galbraith was dispatched to Vietnam by JFK and asked for his input. He offered it to his successor as well until Johnson ended the correspondence. It was a pity that LBJ was less receptive to Galbraith’s advice on that lamentable conflict than to his suggestions on domestic policy. If LBJ had listened, he might have been our greatest President.

In addition to his political side, The Selected Letters, dips a toe into Galbraith’s personal life.  Most interesting are his exchanges with Jackie Kennedy. They’re flirtatious on both sides without being OTT. Ken Galbraith would have made an excellent courtier, which he was by analogy. He offered the Kennedys his loyalty but it was never blind fealty. Galbraith believed in plain speaking wrapped in wit when corresponding with the Kennedys. It’s a pity that the Current Occupant is surrounded by nothing but yes men, relatives, and non-entities. He could also use a decent joke writer. Believe me.

Galbraith had some close friends on the other side of the political spectrum: Henry Luce, William F. Buckley, and fellow economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was the godfather of Thatcherism and Reagonomics but his correspondence with the uber Keynesian Galbraith was respectful and, at times, hilarious. Friedman did a better job of hiding his puckish side than Galbraith so I enjoyed their exchanges inordinately. That’s another Galbraithian word. I seem to be turning into him. I hope I don’t become 6’8″ at my advanced age: none of my clothes will fit…

I’m not known for my adherence to chronology, so let’s circle back to Galbraith’s war-time activities with the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS.) His letters home to his wife Kitty from 1945 are a must read for anyone interested in World War II. His service with the USSBS led to Galbraith being the only Harvard faculty member ever name checked by Pete Townshend in a Who song. Now that’s an honor.

Speaking of The Who, I considered reviewing this wonderful book as a Saturday Odds & Sods segment, but thought better of it. I think it’s time for a Galbraith revival. He was a witty and wise man who was usually right. He was an uncommonly good, decent, and intelligent human being; qualities we are badly in need of as we endure an uncommonly bad, indecent, and stupid administration*.

I highly recommend that y’all pick up a copy of The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith. Ken Galbraith passed away in 2006 but he remains good company; pun intended, it always is. The only bad thing about finishing the book is that I will miss hearing his marvelously droll voice in my head as I read. For those of you unfamiliar with JKG’s cadence, here’s a 1986 interview with the man himself.

Who else but Ken Galbraith could possibly have the last word in this post?  That would be me. But I’ll use his typical epistolary closer, his Won’t Get Fooled Again as it were:

Yours Faithfully,

Adrastos

Really Disabled

When you get right down to it everybody is just mooching off the system, right?

Everybody on welfare’s driving Cadillacs and everybody on food stamps is buying candy and everybody in Section 8 housing is just dealing drugs. The homeless by the highway are scamming you and kids who need lunch money are scamming you and that woman speaking Spanish in the grocery store might be talking about you and a guy who was panhandling once had a cell phone and oh my Cylon god, basically.

WHO HAS TIME FOR ALL THIS SHIT?

I mean it, who? The other day I was trying to figure out if I could make a haircut appointment for after my kid went to bed so I wouldn’t miss any more time with her because all I do is work and we’re selling our house and moving to a new house we haven’t found yet so we go to house showings and clean our own house for showings, and I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, and I’m emotionally involved with no less than 14 TV shows right now, and seriously at the moment a mani-pedi takes more time than I have free. Every night I am almost too tired to brush my teeth, and I threw my back out again so I’m limping around trying to quote Richard III like it’s funny.

The very last thing I can do is track if some person on disability could take a shift on the factory line or not.

I’m not being deliberately dense, I know there is an entire propaganda machine dedicated to convincing elderly white folks that this is the case, and I know it’s like candy for your brain, the idea that you are Not King because of some minority person or chick and not because you suck, but when you get right down to it half these loony things only take hold because people have time to pay attention to them so I ask you, can we get America a hobby or something?

Do we need classes to teach everybody to paint and crochet or tell them it’s okay to just ignore the homeless guy instead of inventing a whole story about how that guy is scamming you? You don’t have to give him money but you do have to find something else to talk about, you know? My cousin’s brother’s friend saw a homeless guy by the roadside get into an SUV and drive away, so they’re not really homeless, why is that something you need to tell me? I knew someone who knew someone who’d heard of someone who wasn’t disabled, who just had a headache and lived on disability his whole life because SCAMMERS, and we need to stop paying for programs for which we’ve already taxed people.

How broken in the head do you have to be, sure, to think like this, but also how fundamentally intellectually bankrupt and disinterested in life do you have to be that this takes up this much space in your head?

A.

Veterans Skinning Squirrels to Survive, But Should Get To Work!

From their McMansions, Trump’s base looks down on people like these: 

The Navy veteran was one of several thousand former food stamp recipients who lost benefits when Maine, in 2015, declined to renew its waiver and reinstated statewide work requirements. He has spent much of the last year living in a tent.

“I don’t wanna worry no one,” said Keefe, who recently testified to Maine’s Committee on Health and Human Services about the impact the work requirement had on him. But, he added: “I hope they understand that people fall through the cracks.”

If Paul Ryan or Donald Trump had to spend 30 seconds living this guy’s life, they’d shit themselves and die. But they’re gonna lecture him, and people like him, about hard work, about deserving, about handouts?

A.

I’m About to Be Uninsurable

Kick has started to ask questions about books.

We read a book about Ada Byron Lovelace and she asks WHY Ada loved numbers as a child, why she couldn’t walk. We read a book about a panda that refuses to give people donuts and she asks why he’s being so mean.

She used to just sit and absorb everything I read to her. Now she follows the plot, notices if I skip pages (screw you, Wheedle on the Needle, you are twice as long as you need to be) and wants every word defined.

The other night, we read Madeline. She asked what a scar is. I told her a scar is a mark from when you were hurt, or when something was wrong and doctors had to help you. And I showed her one of the scars from the surgeries I had while trying to have her. It’s a small raised spot now, barely noticeable.

I had two surgeries trying to have her, surgeries to scrape out benign tumors in the uterus. The second was minor, laparoscopic, left only small marks. The first was major, and necessitated that when I did give birth, it was via C-section.

I said throughout my pregnancy that I was happy about the C-section, as it meant I could schedule my German child and have her born precisely when I wanted her to be. I’d heard recovery could be simpler than from a vaginal birth with complications, and I got to skip the birthing classes, so I wasn’t going to insist as some women do when their doctors recommend the procedure. I’m lazy. I get to lie down while the doctor does all the work? OKAY.

I didn’t consider this as an outcome: 

Dr. Horvath-Cosper says that, by letting states decide on their own essential benefits lists, women could be disproportionately targeted as having pre-existing conditions. “Back in 2010, it was legal in several states to deny somebody coverage because they were a domestic abuse survivor. That was considered a pre-existing condition,” she said. So was having had a C-section. “Most of the people who have C-sections identify as women, so that’s a shorthand for a gender discriminatory policy.”

Many others have said what I could say here, that being alive is a pre-existing condition, that this bill is monstrous to families with developmentally disabled children and to people with cancer and to the poor, that Republicans haven’t read it and don’t intend to and only care about delivering a win that allows them to shit all over the former occupant of the Oval Office, who happened to be black. These things are all true, and the GOP should rot in hell if this passes. Decent people should spit on them on the street.

And don’t give me that it’ll die in the Senate. That isn’t the point. The point is that this is what they’re saying about who we are and what we want. And what we want is to be mean, and small, and angry at everybody who is sick or needs help.

The way during the last election we wanted to be mean and small and angry at everybody who wasn’t white, wasn’t rich, wasn’t just like “us.” The way we all seem to be on every level of government right now. Fend for yourselves, everyone, there’s nothing we can do for you.

“That’s a scar,” I said to Kick, taking her small fingers and helping her trace the mark just inside my left hipbone. “A doctor had to make a cut there.”

“Why?”

“To make Mama better so she could have you in her tummy.”

She accepted this without question, thank goodness, and snuggled back into the story about a little girl who needs her appendix out and spends 10 days in the hospital afterward.

Thank God Madeline is French.

If she was American she’d have a pre-existing condition now.

A.

You can’t spell “PENIS” without “E-S-P-N”

ESPN experienced the journalistic version of a mob hit on Wednesday, when 100 staffers (or about 10 percent of the “front-facing” staff) found out they no longer had jobs. According to published reports, the staffers got called in early in the morning, were placed around speaker phones and had prepared statements read to them to let them know their services would no longer be needed.

The firings weren’t culling deadwood analysts or former jocks who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with a searchlight and a posse. The firings included people with nearly 20 years of experience, such as college basketball expert Andy Katz, NFL insider Ed Werder and investigative reporter Steve Delsohn.

Network President John Skipper dug deep into his “The Pointy-Haired Boss’ page-a-day buzzword calendar” to explain the firings:

“Our content strategy — primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand — still needs to go further, faster … and as always, must be efficient and nimble. Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent — anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play — necessary to meet those demands.

Wait… Where have I heard something like this before?

Today we underwent and completed a reduction in personnel in our news division in several of our Tennessee markets, as part of a transformative strategy for the USA TODAY NETWORK–Tennessee.   We recognize that this has been a tough day, and we respect and appreciate the work of all our colleagues, especially those who have been impacted by these actions — through no fault of their own.

We’ve previously spoken about the new ways we will be able to better serve readers, communities and customers as we fully form the statewide network.   Today was the first step as we re-secure and level-set our economic vitality to support our journalism.

Right, but I thought I heard that somewhere else…

Gannett president and CEO Bob Dickey explained in a memo to employees announcing the cuts: “These moves are central to our transformation into a leading, next-generation media company. The positive impact of these efforts will take time, which in the near-term requires us to assertively manage our costs.

Looking ahead, Dickey wrote: “Over the next 18 months, we will continue to build our scale and invest in important digital capabilities and experiences — such as critical e-commerce infrastructure and significant upgrades to our digital content platforms.”

Maybe, but I remember some other bullshit phrasing…

“In essence, we are resetting the legacy side of our business so we can continue to publish a high-quality newspaper delivered to loyal subscribers’ homes seven days a week,” Silvestri wrote in an email to employees on Monday. “At the same time, we also push ahead on adding to our growing digital audiences and developing new revenue segments such as premium magazines, e-commerce, paid RTD events, sponsored content, and archive products and services.”

Reeeeallly close but…

The story, which can be accessed through this link, details the formation of NOLA Media Group, a digitally focused company that will launch this fall and that will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers. NOLA Media Group will be led by Ricky Mathews. Also this fall, The Times-Picayune will begin publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only … Many current employees of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com will have the opportunity to grow with the new organizations, but the need to reallocate resources to accelerate the digital growth of NOLA Media Group will necessitate a reduction in the size of the workforce.

THAT WAS THE ONE!

Trying to make sense of this is like trying to fuck a porcupine: It’s not worth it and even if you pull it off, it still hurts. ESPN decided that it wanted to save money and it’s always easier to cut people than it is to improve anything else. In doing so, it looked like the company just started throwing darts at an employee list and made the cuts accordingly. Anyone with a brain has already made the obvious realization that a) this won’t save ESPN money in any meaningful way and b) won’t improve the product.

If anything, we are supposed to learn from the fuckups of others. When newspapers were fucking over subscribers, cutting content and wasting money on “re-envisioning content-based engagement” with readers, most intelligent observers saw this as nothing more than a profit grab: Save money in the short term, kill the publication in the long term. As that continues to come to fruition, ESPN (which had always been a cut above when it came to seeing where things are going and getting there first) decided to follow the same shitty path as their ink-stained counterparts.

In some cases, we won’t notice the missing people, just like you don’t notice when your team cuts some fourth-round draft pick during training camp. However, overall, as the team begins to atrophy and the overall quality of play sags, you start wondering what happened to all those guys (and in ESPN’s case, gals) who used to be able to help win games.

It is fair to say that it is unclear what will happen next at ESPN, but it is also realistic to say it’s obvious it won’t be positive.

Americans Can’t Have Nice Health Care

So the clear solution is to make them realize how stupid they are for wanting it! 

Additionally, neither the DemocratsObamacare nor the Republicans’ Trumpcare can truly meet the unrealistic expectations of the American public. The public has four major expectations, which are inherently mutually incompatible.

The public wants: (1) freedom to choose doctor and hospital; (2) the latest modern, state-of-the-art technology in diagnostic equipment and medical and surgical treatments; (3) no delay in appointments and treatments; and (4) minimal (or at least, reasonable) cost. People can have two, perhaps three, but in no way can they have all four. That is the reality.

Because this is the weather. It occurred naturally. Our health care system is not man-made, and therefore cannot be changed except here and there around the edges. We can’t actually make anything better.

Also, allow me to introduce you to the world we live in now, in which appointments and treatments ARE routinely delayed even if you have Cadillac insurance, and lots of places have one busted-ass hospital or none at all. If you’re a woman who needs reproductive care, you already have to drive for miles, go out of state, or get legit procedures refused because of said hospitals’ conscience clauses. Walgreens and CVS have eaten every family pharmacy, religious ownership of health care is its own clusterfuck, and your doctor’s office parking lot during flu season is like the Hunger Games.

THAT is the reality.

Neither political party wants to tell the truth, that health care costs keep skyrocketing, fueled by new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. For example, many of those drugs are heavily advertised on TV, such as the Xeljanz arthritis drug at about $50,000 per year. Then there is the Harvoni or Sovaldi drug to treat hepatitis C, with one $1,000 pill per day for 84 days. Think of that cost, $84,000 times 3 million people.

Which is why fuck those companies, because unless those drugs are made out of fairy wings and blue diamonds, ain’t no way they actually cost that much. Stop confusing “this drug is expensive” with “this drug’s company wanted to charge a bucket of money for it.”

This is not an argument not to change things. This is an argument to nationalize the entire health care system from drugs to delivery rooms, prohibit prescription drug advertising on TV, and put people who are grifting off the illnesses of others into goddamn federal prison.

Even with negotiated lower costs, exotic, high-tech treatments will still be financially ruinous. Also, with people living longer than ever before, they are seeing more degenerative diseases (vascular, cancer, mobility), all of which take an increasing toll. We are seeing more complex multiple system diseases, many with prolonged recovery times. No wonder costs are sailing out of sight.

Just die. It’s cheaper.

I often analogize that the federal government could require an automobile to protect all passengers in an up-to-120 mph crash. We do have the technology to do it, but the cost of your basic low-priced car would probably be over $100,000. There is a cost and a benefit to everything, and medical care is no different.

Yet how seldom we hear this argument when it comes to a national defense. It’s almost like there ARE unlimited funds for some things, if we value them highly enough.

Since there is not an unlimited amount of dollars available, whether by individuals, private insurance or government programs, there have to be rational ways to decide how and where to get the most bang for the buck, and frankly, the political parties and the public must get real as to what is possible.

Perhaps we should begin classifying people by their projected recovery and usefulness to society thereafter, so as to decide who deserves medicine. In the entirety of human history that’s never gone wrong.

The best cost control is when there is a direct relationship between buyer and seller. Perhaps, for outpatient services, we should do what some European countries do — the patient pays the doctor directly, then he turns the receipt into his or her health insurance plan for reimbursement. This puts a great restraint on doctors running up the tab because they have to look the patient directly in the eye.

If you think a doctor has never lied to a patient, you might want to meet this bunch of guys in Tuskegee, Alabama. They all have syphilis for some reason. Maybe you can explain it to them.

But the way it works in our country, the patient never sees the bill, and it becomes a game between the doctor and the insurance carrier.

I will grant that when I ask my doctor how much something will cost, he acts like money is a disgusting sex act and he can’t believe I’m uncouth enough to bring it up in church. HOWEVER, the idea that patients don’t see a bill is high-larious, considering how many medical bankruptcies result among the insured.

Also, although there is no constitutional mandate to provide medical care; perhaps economic reality dictates that the government could provide a basic Volkswagen plan for everyone, and if individuals want to purchase a Buick or Cadillac level of care, then that should be their right to do so.

This would literally be Obamacare if Republican governors hadn’t decided to fuck the program in the hopes of blaming a black dude in order to win elections. But you keep going.

Bottom line: We as a nation, can no longer provide an unlimited social goody list without making sure these desires are on an actuarially sound basis.

Oh, go crowdfund your cancer treatment. I’m sure the market will make the best possible decision as to your actuarial soundness. YOU ARE MAKING AN ARGUMENT FOR DEATH PANELS.

The days of counting on an ever-increasing number of young workers, in high-paying largely manufacturing jobs, to fund seniors’ health care and retirement are over.

Amazing how this seemed to end right around the time the Baby Boom started racking up the bills.

At last, we must recognize, that just as a family needs to be realistic about finances, our federal and state governments must be, too.

Okay, so we’ll take our two unwinnable wars and all our tax cuts and cancel that shit so we can pay for Becky down the street to get a pelvic exam. Why is fucking over poor people always the answer? Why is “a well-child visit for a low-income family” always the hill we gotta die on? We can afford all kinds of stuff. We just hate admitting what we want to afford, so we say we can’t afford it and we get ALL KINDS OF MAD when someone points out that actually, what utter crap.

The people who will relentlessly police the shopping carts of the poor and crab all day about how much soda they buy never really do catch on that government shops pretty shitty, too, and should forgo a few T-bones in favor of paying for chemo. Maybe the government could sell some of its bling.

A.

Everything Is An Enormous Pain in the Ass

It’s not just Obamaphones and poor people’s choice of TVs:

It’s that it takes six calls to the insurance company to get routine drugs approved. It’s that there are fees tacked onto everything for seemingly no reason at all. It’s that when you go on the website to make a doctor’s appointment they tell you to call, and the voicemail auto-answering thing tells you to go on the website and then hangs up on you. It’s that you have to swipe or insert or insert and swipe or WHATEVER to pay for stuff. Change your password to something else, but not that password, because we’re not going to tell you what the password requirements are until you’ve screwed them up.

It’s that there are half as many buses as there used to be, for twice as many people, and they don’t clean them as much so the ride to work every morning is gross. It’s that we’re told at every turn that we can’t have nice things, unless we’re super-rich, so most of us have almost-nice things that break constantly and require a roundabout with four customer service reps until we lose it and start screaming at the company on Twitter.

That’s for those of us who can afford to be on Twitter, have things at all, or be consumed with petty shit. The rest of us are sitting at the bus stop, having gotten up an hour early only to find the bus delayed by 30 minutes because it’s snowing, and the bus doesn’t go to the one ADA-compliant stop on the train so we have to roll the damn chair down the middle of the street in the snow because the city doesn’t shovel as much as it used to. Shortage of funds, you know. Can’t salt the sidewalks. Grrr. It’s doing everything the way you’re told — job, home, family — and life STILL being just this hard.

We transfer that anger at corporate bullshit to politicians, and we should, because they’re the ones allowing companies to charge more for doing less and call in the cops when someone says screw that. They’re the ones allocating resources from one place to another, and somehow where the resources end up is never where we think they’re gonna be, and it’s that their misdeeds are presented as happenstance for which there is no redress. Washington “is broken.” Our system “doesn’t work.”

Not that people made it that way and can unmake it, not that actions and laws and regulations and requirements can be made to protect consumers more than producers, but that it’s all fucked up and bullshit, as the kids say. Easier to turn your back on it in disgust. Easier to walk away.

A.

UW Budget Cuts: There’s always a reason…

Every two years, Wisconsin Republicans come home and see that the UW burned the roast.

Or left a mess in the kitchen…

Or didn’t buy more beer…

Or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning…

There’s always a reason that when the budget comes along, and the UW System leaders ask for money, Republicans decide instead to smack it around and then cut higher ed in the state.

Four years ago, it was the allegation that the UW had stockpiled more than $1 billion in its coffers without telling anyone.

(Of course, that wasn’t true, but it was more than enough to create fake outrage and cut nearly a quarter of a billion from the System.)

Two years ago, it was the idea of an “autonomy for cuts” trade: We cut you to the tune of 13 percent and we then let you get away from us and live your lives.

(Of course, that was never going to happen. After making the cuts, the Republicans came up with the “what’s the point of giving you freedom if you won’t do what we want you to do with it?” argument that still makes my head spin.)

This time, I honestly thought it was going to be a Canadian hip-hop artist/UW-Madison professor who would be our sacrificial lamb. Damon Sajnani wrote a course called “The Problem of Whiteness” and Republican Dave Murphy lost his mind over it and threatened the U with budget cuts if this shit wasn’t stopped. Never mind Murphy is basically Exhibits A and B for what’s wrong with Whiteness…

In the end, Scott Fitzgerald realized he couldn’t fuck over the system of his alma mater just because of one class, so he needed a better reason.

And of course he found it.

Thanks in large part to some financial shell games at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, in which a former chancellor co-mingled state money and private foundation money to burnish his legacy and make his cock swell, all of the universities in the system are now being investigated.

Never let it be said Fitzgerald missed an opportunity to do his best Scrooge impression:

 

Fitzgerald stopped short of saying the university foundations issue would affect state funding for the UW System in the next budget. “When it comes to the state budget, members and finance committee members in particular, have a straight-forward process. How much is being set aside, how much is available.”

That said, “it’s human nature when you hear about something like this… ” Fitzgerald added.

 

Actually, Scott, it’s not. It’s sub-human nature to find flaws with everything in hopes of being able to make something suffer for your own pleasure. It’s the same approach kids take when they get a magnifying glass and discover they can use it to immolate ants. It’s power and dominion over those who lack the means and the recourse to fight back.

The state contributes 17 percent of the funding the UW System gets each year and yet you get to write all the rules. Every two years, you and your ilk get all fake outraged over some perceived slight, some perceived error in judgment or some stupid issue that allows you to whip people into a frenzy before you slash education.

The reason this works is because A) the universities suck at explaining anything to people who aren’t academics (and I say this as being an academic who watches the overly academic people fall all over themselves fucking this up every single time) and B) it’s so much easier to channel rage and anger than it is to marshal common sense.

I’m quite certain the cuts will come and the U will bleed and more quality faculty will flee this state like rats of the Titanic. We will then see a period of normalization until it comes time again for Ray “Oliver Twist” Cross to approach you with his bowl in hand and meekly request:

“Please, sir… more.”

Hierarchy of Needs: Asshole Edition

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is something every high school student or college undergrad runs into at some point in a sociology or psychology class. The concept is simple: You have a set of psychological and physiological needs that work in ascending order from most basic to most enlightened.

In short, you need to make sure you are fed, rested and healthy first and then you can worry about safety and security. After that, you start getting into things like friendships, family, belonging, self-esteem and reaching your potential as a human.

Given both the broad applicability of this theory and the longevity of it within the field, it always amazes me that we give people who are jerking themselves off for those self-esteem needs control over people who can’t make it off of first base.

Even more, I’m always disgusted when those people who probably will never reach self-actualization (but feel they have) are using their power to fuck over people who just want food, water and shelter.

Mick Mulvaney, who has a net worth of more than $2.6 million dollars, took time out of his very busy schedule Thursday to lecture reporters about how Community Development Block Grants are shitty things and that programs attached to them often “don’t work.”

One of those programs? Meals on Wheels, which provides food to thousands of elderly, house-bound and impoverished people each year. To wit:

Meals on wheels sounds great. That’s a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states and say, look, we to want give you money for programs that don’t work. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. We’re $20 trillion in debt.

First, you CAN defend it. You CHOOSE not to do so. There’s a difference there. (e.g. I can’t strangle myself. It’s physically impossible to do so. I could use a box cutter to lop off my wiener. I just choose not to.) Let’s not conflate the two ideas in the way that Mulvaney does so that he’s able to say, “We’d LOVE to do this but it simply can’t be done.”

Second, hasn’t every Republican since the party made a big Right turn made the case that the federal government should give money to the states for things and let the states decide how to run shit? I seem to recall there being people talking about a block-grant-based program that is supposedly great that needs to happen right now…

Third, and perhaps most importantly, can Mulvaney update the press today after he gets visited by Marley’s ghost?

Look, I get it that defending a lot of shit Trump is saying and doing is a lot like justifying the actions of a meth-addled toddler with a machine gun: No matter what you say or do, this isn’t going to work out for you. This is how we got terms like “alternative facts” and an explanation regarding on how wire tapping is actually about cameras in microwaves. If this keeps up, Trump will basically knock Bill Clinton’s explanation of not having “sexual relations with that woman” out of the top ten most incredible verbal gymnastics in politics.

However, we’re talking about fucking food here. Everyone should be able to easily grasp the concept of what it’s like to be hungry and how shitty it is when you can’t get to eat. Hell, the kids in my classes have stomachs that grumble when they don’t eat breakfast and then have to tolerate me for two hours. Now multiply that by 1,000 desperation points, add in other shitty aspects associated with poverty, weave in being too old or sick to find a way to make/grow/get your own food and then have some dick hole who’s about your kid’s age tell you, “Hey, y’know, fuck you and your hunger.”

Trump pulled his voters heavily from senior citizens (53/45 over Hillary Clinton) and from those without higher education (those without a degree went 52/44 for Trump). These are the people who are most likely to need programs like this because they don’t have cushy pensions, stock options or whatever the hell Mulvaney keeps in his Scrooge McDuck vault at home.

And if you look back at Maslow’s pyramid, you find that it’s hard to think or understand things when you don’t have your hunger sated, so these kinds of folks are likely to remain in a spiral of voting for the rich folks who continue to fuck over the poor folks.

People Ain’t Got No MONEY: Shove Your Tax Credit, Ryan

Obamacare, let’s make it worse:

So people who already can’t afford to pay their premiums will now … get a tax credit on their nonexistent money they don’t have enough of. I cannot. Nope. Look, things like tax credits are nice, if you already have money, because it gives you money back.

Eventually.

After a while.

A long while.

It gives you a long-term benefit. Long. Term. As in, down the road. A ways.

What it does NOT do is put milk on your kid’s goddamn cereal tomorrow morning. What it does NOT do is help anyone already under water on their bills right now. What it does NOT do is solve any of the problems that need solving for people not helped enough by Obamacare.

(This is, of course, by design and not a surprise so don’t come at me in the comments all IT’S A RICH PEOPLE TAX CUT because of course. What I’m saying is that even on its FACE this is a dumbass argument to make.)

The people already not helped enough by Obamacare do not make enough money for a tax credit to mean shit. They don’t make enough money for their taxes to be a worry. Their worries are along the lines of eating, keeping the lights on, and what to do if one of their tires blows. The idea they can worry about April’s problems in March is laughable. They’re still on January’s problems. Last January’s.

This is the same dumbass argument we’re having about childcare, where you can get a tax credit to pay for your childcare which is awesome if you … have money, to put aside, tax-free, for your childcare! If you do not have that money, getting a pass on getting taxed isn’t really a benefit.

I know I am meant to sympathize, always, with the put-upon Taxpayer of America, who will screw himself out of pretty much any government program so long as his bill to the guv’mint goes down by 20 bucks, but there are quite a lot of people who don’t even earn enough to pull that self-defeating bullshit. My sympathies are with them.

A.

Alms for the Poor

Seriously, why is this a thing?

Here is a short list of things I give more of a shit about than I do the grocery cart contents of poor people:

Oscar dresses (red lace whyyy).

The Remy Ma/Nicki Minaj feud.

How long a Diet Coke lasts before it goes bad.

The names of Kick’s stuffed dinosaurs and their goings-on when we are not home.

What my sister ate for lunch yesterday.

Putting my clothes in seasonal order.

The identities of our past neighbors’ boyfriends.

Winners of various reality TV shows (Shirley was ROBBED on Top Chef).

How toenails can grow at different rates despite being on the same foot.

These are all things I care about more than I care about what the person in front of me who is using a benefit card to buy groceries is buying. They’re buying caviar and a bottle of ketchup? Whatevs. They’re buying nothing but wholesome foods in bulk? Okay. I once checked out of my local bodega with two bottles of whiskey, a tub of guac and baby-bottle nipples, who the fuck am I to judge? I do not GET this. Don’t we have other things to do?

Do people who are fascinated with this stuff need a hobby? I’d like them to come help me re-organize the cabinet in which we keep Kick’s art supplies. That is becoming a six month project. That would occupy their minds so that they don’t have to think about po’ folks buying Skittles. Or Chewy Sprees. Have you guys ever had Chewy Sprees? They’re AMAZING.

Why do I need to know what brand of juice box the poor family one house over is getting? Because I paid six cents into it with my taxes? I paid for fucking Donald Trump’s election with my taxes, too, and I have no earthly idea what the fuck is going on there, either. If my intimate knowledge of somebody’s grocery cart is required because I paid for it, can someone please explain this Russia shit to me like I’m a stupid person?

The people who get het up about this sort of thing, don’t these people have Netflix? I still haven’t seen Stranger Things, and I want to watch all the movies in which Michael Fassbender takes off his clothes, and there are apparently lots of those. I need to figure out if not caring at all about The Crown is some kind of moral failing. I have six books to read and one of them uses the word “puss” like a Midwestern version of “pussy,” is that a thing?

And can we get back to how it is possible to fuck up Best Picture when it is like literally your only job all year long, to get one event right?

God.

A.

Don’t Talk to Me About Bubbles

I’m going to tell you a story and I swear every single word is true.

I work downtown in Chicago at least two days a week and on at least one of those days I eat lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant right near my office.

This place is owned by a Vietnamese family.

On the menu, which is on the wall, they advertise that some of the food is halal.

They serve Chilean wine.

Yesterday, when I was there, the older and younger cooks were yelling at each other in Spanish over what kind of music they were going to play in the dining room.

The younger cook won. Biggie. Big Poppa.

I’ve read a lot in the past week about how I live in a “liberal bubble.” How I don’t understand the world outside, the concerns of others, different from myself. How I need to do everything from “get out more” to “just move to a red state” to “talk to more people.”

Do you know how often I would LOVE to live in a bubble? When my upstairs neighbors are yelling about the Cubs game or a guy is trying to sell me video games on the street corner or the entire train car is engaged in ignoring-down someone who should really be getting mental health services or even another drink somewhere. (Nobody wants to call the cops, because we don’t want to hurt this guy further.) Do you know how often I think to myself, I’m tired of working this hard to live here?

There is no isolation here. No shield from difference. No ignoring the “other.” I can throw a rock from my house and hit four drug dealers and so can everyone else in my neighborhood.

It’s all in your face, all the time, everything that has led us where we are: Poverty. Inequality. A lack of help. An education system that is broken by racism and meanness about money. Gloriousness. Music. Food. History. Something new to learn every single second. Art in museums and on street corners, books stuffed to the rafters in the libraries.

And people. People people people.

I was at a wedding once in a small town in Kansas and the mother of the bride cornered me in the bathroom and talked about how lucky she was to live where she lived. There was, she said, no real community in the big city.

My next-door neighbor had called the week previous, in hysterics. She was hyperventilating and for a moment I thought something had happened to her son.

There was a dead mouse in her kitchen. She wanted my husband to come get it.

Same neighbor, the week Kick was born, left homemade chili and a supportive note at my front door. The woman who used to live upstairs pet-sat the ferrets and I walked her dog. Mr. A travels for work for weeks at a time and I’m never worried; there are half a dozen people in my building who’d come if I called. There are half a dozen people on the street at any given time: safety in numbers.

Kick was baptized at the church down the block. I’m an inconsistent attendee, but they welcomed us as if I parked in those pews full time. They extended their hands to our new, fragile little family and they blessed us, and I felt it in a way I’ve never felt faith before.

They have a food drive the first weekend of every month. People pile bags of food and envelopes of cash on the altar to feed the hungry.

I understand my way of life isn’t for everybody. Like I said, sometimes I’m not sure it’s for me and mine, not always. But the values that make it worth living are those in every community, large and small, across this country, values the “white working class,” the “small town America,” the “heartland,” instilled in me: Generosity, connection, joy. A profound sense of place, of knowing. A love of God, and of difference. A constant reaching out, over and over and over, in the face of every rebuff, knowing that we are more together than we are apart. Values that were so cruelly betrayed last week.

Don’t tell me I live in a bubble. Don’t tell me I don’t experience difference. It’s at the next desk in my office, talking about teaching kids to read. It’s my Iranian downstairs neighbors playing country music; you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard an elderly Persian woman yelling enthusiastically along with Kenny Chesney.

(And not for nothing, but some of us live in “bubbles” because we couldn’t get work in our red states of origin. I’ve read a lot of commentary in the past week about shallow liberals who just want to eat ethnic food to show off. For some people it’s about eating, period.)

This “bubble” is the wide world, the same one everyone lives in. We are all as isolated as we want to be. If you have three neighbors and you know them, good. If you have three thousand and you know as many of them as you can, good.

Nobody lives in a bubble, not unless they want to.

A.

300 families helped: Food Pantry Fund

THANK YOU ALL! This is a message from the St. Hyacinth Pantry’s director to everyone who donated:

I want to thank you and all of your generous friends for their overwhelming support. With the money already raised, we can provide emergency food for over 300 families this month, which is especially important during this very busy holiday period, our busiest time of the year. Separately, if anyone is in the Milwaukee area, and would like to visit the Pantry to see our facility or see us in action, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully submitted – Steve Pollock, Acting Director, St. Hyacinth’s Food Pantry

300 families. That’s something, guys. Great job.

Continue reading

‘no word on who was watching baby’

When I had Kick and returned to work people would see me on the street and ask, “Where the baby?”

It took everything in my body not to respond OH HOLY SHIT. THE BABY. WHERE IS SHE? DID I LEAVE HER IN STARBUCKS? BABY?! WHERE ARE YOOOOOOOOOOOOOU?! THANK GOD YOU NOTICED. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN DAYS BEFORE I LOOKED FOR HER.

I once asked Mr. A if people asked him the same question when he went to the office. Then I asked the same question of all the awesome, fully involved, some-of-’em-stay-at-home dads that I know.

*crickets*

It is the year of our Lord Jesus Cracker Jack Christ 2016: 

Fox wasn’t having any of it. They dove in first for Hillary, reminding us that she also missed Chelsea’s first day of school. Well, Chelsea turned out ok. But nice job digging the claws in to the first presidential female candidate.

Then they reminded us that Chelsea just had her second daughter this past July. Aw, sweet, right? Nope. They actually said “no word on who was watching baby Charlotte (their second baby) while her parents and grandparents were “away.”

All together now, girls: FUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU!

I’m sure it was really hard for Chelsea to miss her daughter’s first day of preschool. I’m also sure it would be really hard for Chelsea, her daughter, and all other women to have a president elected who does not think that women are people, and a vice president who thinks the same thing but uses better words about it.

You know, I don’t love shaming ambitious women in the public eye. Could Chelsea afford to be a stay-at-home mom? Probably, sure, and just because she could, she should? In shaming her these assholes are implying that every woman’s job is optional, “me time,” something to eat and pray and love about. I know every TV show about women presumes we are just in the workplace for the self-actualization and forming our own identity and shit, but some of us don’t work just to fulfill ourselves.

Some of us work because we have skills no one else has; you tell a female astronaut she should keep her feet on the ground, fucko, or a female neurosurgeon she should put her brain to work watching PBS.

Some of us work because our babies have a powerful need to EAT, sleep in a bed, under a roof, put shoes on in the morning. Some of us work because our husbands are in unstable industries, or have disabilities or illnesses, or want to stay at home with the kids, or whatever the hell. Some of us work because we’re supporting more than our husbands or our kids. Some of us work because we’d LOVE to stay home, and we can’t.

Some of us work because that’s what we do, that’s what human beings do, and the American economy don’t give a fuck we gave birth.

So crab about Chelsea missing a day her daughter won’t even remember, while Chelsea and her mom fight to make a country where more families have more choices about how they want to work and live. That’s not being “away” from the kids, and even if they were “away,” like on a beach somewhere, it would still be nobody’s fucking business but theirs.

A.

We Make Decisions

It’s important to remember that the choice to go along to get along is still a choice: 

The national headlines emerging from San Francisco’s current rental crisis paint a picture of wealthy landlords pushing old ladies out of units they’ve inhabited for decades in order to quadruple their profits housing techies. While that happens, a sizable portion of the city’s rental stock exists in landlord-occupied buildings like the one I grew up in. In many cases, these landlords are like my mom: teachers, carpenters, small business owners, etc., who bought their homes before prices exploded. Now, they’re suddenly presented with the opportunity to make a profit on their homes’ extra units. For my mom, like many of my friends’ parents, this opportunity presents an ethical quandary: is it right to charge what the market will bear, even if that price seems absurd?

For years, my mom’s answer to that question was no. She rented to friends of friends, charging between $500-$1000 a month below the market rate.

It’s easy to bag on people for being followers, for blaming “market forces” or “changing tastes,” because using those excuses allows them to escape blame for shitty situations. Here’s what else it does: It denies them credit for creating good things.

Acting like the society we live in is like the weather, and we have no power over what rent is any more than we have power over whether it will rain on circus day, erases the agency of people who are NOT assholes, who DON’T do the terrible things everyone else is doing, who REFUSE to victimize people just because it’s cheap and easy.

It makes their stories absurd.

I can’t think of anything we need less right now.

A.

Promises, Promises

My dad held very few points of pride when it came to things he did or didn’t do. He never smoked at all, he doesn’t “owe anyone anything” when it comes to financial concerns and he didn’t make a promise he didn’t think he could keep.

“If I said we’re going to do something, we did it,” he always told me. “If I said ‘No,’ I meant ‘No.” If it was ‘Maybe,’ anything could happen. But if I said we’re doing it, we did it unless something really changed the situation.”

He wasn’t kidding. I asked to go to my first baseball game when I was about 8 years old. He promised we’d go that Friday, not knowing it was “Bat Day” in the middle of a pennant race. The traffic was insane, the tickets were hard to get and it was just chaos at old County Stadium. Dad disliked all of those things, but we went and he never complained.

Promises were an important part of my life and I kept that same attitude for my kid. If I said we were going for ice cream, we went. If I said we weren’t doing something, begging only strengthened my resolve. I get the importance of promises, especially when people are relying on you.

That said, the kinds of promises we made as fathers were the kind that led to positive outcomes. They also occasionally were broken when circumstances intervened on us. Occasionally a promised trip had to be postponed due to a funeral or an illness. Sometimes, it became insane to persist in the promise.

When I was 10, Dad promised to take me to opening day. He got the tickets, pulled me out of school and we went to the stadium. In typical early-April fashion, it was about 40 degree, so we were all bundled up. It was also raining, so we did our best to stay dry.

The game was postponed for almost two hours and we were both freezing and soaked. Finally, Dad asked if I wanted to stay and I said, “Let’s go home.” Eventually the game started (we caught the first pitch on the radio in the car on the way home) but it was stupid to stay there and die in the frigid weather to prove a point.

When it comes to promises, Scott Walker and his ilk need to better understand the difference between the inconveniences of Bat Day and the stupidity of not coming in from the rain.

Walker unveiled his latest plan to close a $1 billion gap in the transportation gap by delaying some projects, shuffling money to local municipalities and cutting the department’s budget in other ways. The purpose of making these changes? To keep his promise of not raising taxes:

 

“Governor Walker has kept his word by proposing a reasonable transportation budget that sets the right priorities and doesn’t increase taxes or the registration fee,” said a statement from Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).

Walker campaigned in 2010 for governor by criticizing Democrats like his predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle for failing to execute work on the Zoo Interchange. But Thursday Walker said it wouldn’t be fair to criticize him in turn for proposing delays to the north leg of the Zoo, saying that it was in better shape than the interchange’s aging core that is on track to be replaced.

“I make promises and I keep promises, and my promise to the taxpayers was I’m not going to raise taxes and fees,” Walker said.

 

Like many Republicans, Walker treats “tax” like it is a four-letter word. Then again, given his educational standing, he might think it is one.

The larger point is that this was a stupid promise. When we lack for revenue and need to get things done, we have to get more revenue. Things in the real world do, in fact, cost money. To that end, we can’t just say “delay this” or “delay that” to make it seem financially responsible. That’s like the guy who knows his brakes are going on his car, but to replace the pads will cost $200. Instead, he keeps riding the brakes for months and months until he literally can’t stop. At that point, he’s warped the rotors and irreparably harmed the calipers, so the job now costs $1500. Sure, he stuck to his guns that he wasn’t going to get them fixed, but at what cost?

Walker can’t back out of his pledge to not raise taxes because his lizard brain can only see the attack ads for his next campaign about how he raised taxes. Him worrying about that is like the captain of the Titanic worry about how all this water is going to tarnish the brass railings on the ship. Trust me, pal, you have bigger concerns.

Speaking of promises, what about that whole 250,000 job promise? What about that whole “Open for Business” pledge? Yeah, not so much on either of them and those are the important ones if you want to get revenue hopping in this state. No one with half a brain or a sense of proportion would have expected him to hit the 250K mark or that just posting “open” signs would have businesses pouring into the state. That said, had he made a stronger effort with better logic to make those things happen, it is far more likely that he could have made good on this third pledge to keep tax rates down.

I don’t like taxes any more than any other person out there, but I can tell you that I do vote for them locally. In a small town like the one in which I live, I can see where my tax money goes: The city well gets fixed. The trash pickup is awesome. My street gets plowed quickly. Same thing with schools: New computers, improved facilities, more engaged kids all come from me checking the box that says, “Take another $10 out of what I make each year to improve stuff.”

I hope people who drive the I-94 corridor that will be delayed or the area near the zoo that’s a total shitbox will also be able to see what happens when we make stupid promises and forgo our responsibility to improving society. Sure, it’s hard to see how things like teacher pay or university subsidies pan out for individuals, but when the potholes are knocking the fillings out of their teeth, I hope they feel the tax break was worth it.

Who Works Sick

It’s a joke, the “mom cold” versus “dad cold” thing, a bad unfunny joke that plays on traditional middle class family roles and stereotypes, and I saw it repeated over and over on social media when Hillary Clinton nearly passed out after what surely was her 10 billionth event in 2 days and then waited like six seconds or something to tell everybody she had pneumonia.

(Can we please stop acting like she hid her dementia for years? We had a president who did that, and a bunch let their wives/aides run stuff, and no they shouldn’t have done that, and everything was fine.)

Of course she was working sick. The president doesn’t get a sick day ever. But a WOMAN president especially doesn’t get a sick day. Mom doesn’t get to stay in bed all day the way dad does, amirite ladies? Mom doesn’t get a cold. Mom has to be dying before somebody takes her seriously, whereas if Dad stubs his toe he’s in traction for weeks. Har dee har har.

You know who else doesn’t get to have a cold? You know who doesn’t get to take sick days, really?

PEOPLE WITHOUT SICK TIME.

Spare me talking about Hillary’s health by referencing comfortable women whose husbands are assholes. Those women can have honest conversations with the dickheads they’re married to, or find a new husband who is less of an adolescent.

Let’s talk instead about what it means when nobody in the family gets sick time.

Let’s talk about if you’re hourly, and your spot on the line can be filled by pretty much anybody.

Let’s talk about if you’re contract, and the work has to get done no matter what or the check don’t come.

Let’s talk about if you’re the owner of a one- or two-person operation, and being sick means closing the doors.

Let’s talk about if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Let’s talk about if you don’t work, your kids don’t eat. Let’s talk about if you don’t work, within a non-trivial amount of time you will be living in your parents’ basement at the age of 50.

Let’s talk about that, in addition to how much it sucks that your dumb failed-adult partner doesn’t do laundry.

Sick time isn’t just the privilege of men (there are plenty of stay-at-home dads whose partners’ careers depend on their health). It’s the privilege of WEALTHY men who can afford things like “paid leave” for themselves but refuse to grant it to their employees.

I mean, look at this shit before you get all mom cold on me here:

They’re usually part time: About 74% of full-time workers get paid sick leave, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, while around 24% of part-time workers get the perk.

They work for small businesses: Smaller companies are more likely not to offer paid sick leave, largely because of cost. Around half of firms with 50 or fewer workers offer the benefit while 81% of those with 500-plus employees have it, according to Paul Harrington, director of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University.

They’re often in the service industry: Workers with service sector jobs, like food service or hospitality, are likely to go without sick time, along with those in health-care support services, including home health aids or dental assistants.

“Those are the exact type of jobs that you want people to stay at home because they have such high interactions with customers and co-workers,” said Jessica Milli, a senior research associate at The Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Many are Hispanic: Hispanic employees are less likely to have paid sick leave than white, Asian or black workers, according to Milli, with less than half of Hispanic workers getting the benefit.

They’re on the lower end of the income ladder: Government data show 90% of the top 10% of earners get paid sick time off, while 21% in the bottom 10% get it.

“Part of that is that you are more likely to be part time in the [lower bracket],” said Harrington.

It sucks that mom doesn’t get a day off, and that even at the executive level women are judged more harshly than men on this.

It also sucks that executive-level women’s employees don’t get a day off, and that they — men and women — have to work sick at least as often as Hillary does.

A.

Journalism Isn’t Paying For Itself

DIGITAL FIRST PARADIGM SHIFTING notwithstanding, this is pretty typical: 

Conservatively, counting just the biggest chunks of staff time that went into it, the prison story cost roughly $350,000. The banner ads that appeared on the article brought in $5,000, give or take. Had we been really in your face with ads, we could have doubled or tripled that figure—but it would have been a pain for you, and still only a drop in the bucket for us.

I saw a lot of people quoting this passage in the past few days with “see, you lazy kids with your iPhones getting your news for free, see what it costs?” undertones, which a) not the real problem and b) not actually, you know, a contribution to the conversation.

Subscriptions never paid for journalism. “Readers” never paid for journalism. And advertisers didn’t pay for journalism, they paid for eyeballs and favorable almost-advertorial stories on real estate, automobiles and travel to places most newspaper readers would never see. Those sections, along with ads in sports, paid for journalism.

Or at least they did until this shit started: 

After a weak economy and higher newsgathering costs took their toll on newspaper profits last year, corporate executives could expect to see reductions in their compensation packages. But all in all, 2001 was quite lucrative for newspaper managers and other insiders.

During the first half of the year, many of them fattened their bank accounts by exercising options and selling stock even as layoffs and budget cutbacks were sweeping through the industry. Total insider selling from January through June was $146.5 million, more than twice the level of activity in the previous six months, according to a study for AJR by Thomson Financial/Lancer Analytics.

Needless acquisitions that loaded up newspaper companies with impossible debts, “diversifying” holdings with stupid shit like sports teams and TV stations, also contributed to the sucking of money out of the newsroom, while those same execs bitched in the trades that nobody younger than 40 read serious things anymore. I will listen to them telling me to pay for my news when they start doing it.

All digital advertising did was shoot the wounded. People getting news for free should have been a gift, because: people were getting news! People getting news for free should have been a magnificent boon to journalism, had media companies leveraged their vast new audiences correctly and tried to actually SELL ads rather than just put their news sites up and wait for the magical money faucet to turn on.

They spent a decade simultaneously chasing pipe dreams (A roll-up piece of digital paper! Apple’s working on one right now I hear!) and trashing their current and potential customers as trivial, celebrity-obsessed consumers of mental junk food. Almost nobody figured out that if you sell the junk food, you can pay for the journalism. Those who did figure that out were able to hire campaign reporters as well as fund watermelon-smashing videos.

So what we’re left with, after all that flailing, is the idea that journalism is some kind of vending machine, and you can only do serious investigations by using money directly paid to those investigations. Which is dishonest, ridiculous horseshit, ignorant of ancient and recent history. I’m not mad at Mother Jones here; they did their work and they’re bringing up valid issues. I’m mad at the journos who see those issues and yell SEE, SEE, YOU KIDS NEED TO PAY FOR YOUR FREE STUFF.

Not for nothing, but almost every major investigation a non-journo can name — Watergate, Spotlight, locally the Chicago Police torture cases — that predated the social Internet faced ENORMOUS pressure from inside the newsroom in terms of how much time it was taking and how much it thus cost. We have always struggled with these things.

It’s just that once upon a time we didn’t use the fact that it was hard as an excuse not to do anything, and crab at our customers to stick a dollar in the slot if they want a real story while we expense our party’s summer drinks.

A.

UW to Scott Walker: They call them cuts because they hurt and make you bleed

Last night was a first for me in my time at my current university: I got an email from a parent.

In all of my previous stops, parental “engagement” ranged from the somewhat common to the fairly frequent. I had received calls from parents who wanted to protest a grade, argue about the amount of work I was assigning their precious snowflake or make sure that I knew the child was REALLY sick and needed to be excused from class. In some cases, the calls were polite and helpful while others smacked of entitlement. (In one case, I was told, “The family lawyer will be in touch” regarding a grade. And people wonder where the kids get the attitude from…)

This time, however, it was a mom who wanted to set up a meeting with me and her son. I knew the kid and I hadn’t had him in class in quite some time, so I knew it wasn’t a grade issue. Even more, I’m not in the kid’s area of study, so it wasn’t about something I could do for the kid.

However, the kid adopted me as a “de facto adviser” and apparently that was the concern:

I would like to schedule an appointment with you to make sure (KID) is on the right path to graduate this May.  I know he is registered for the fall semester; however, (ONE OF OUR COURSES) apparently got cancelled…

The class was one of five that we had listed and had to axe due to a series of last-minute budget cuts. By the time we got notice of the need for cuts, the class was full and had a waiting list. However, since it wasn’t required for any of our majors, it had to go.

This wasn’t the only kid to email me this summer and ask about the possibility of graduating on time. A student athlete was concerned about finishing up this year and was looking to load up on discipline-specific courses. She mentioned a couple classes she wanted, both of which had been cut.

I had to break the news to her about the cuts and also nudge her toward an unpleasant truth:

You’re going to be stuck here a while. And it’s not getting any better any time soon.

This is the dark side of populism, especially when it comes to funding higher education.

Gov. Scott Walker recently announced plans to extend his “historic tuition freeze” for another biennium, making it six years since tuition has increased at schools in the UW system.

Walker also noted in his declaration that the schools should not expect any state money to offset the freeze or to cope with previous cuts that have begun to damage the system in an irreparable fashion. During the previous budget debate, System President Ray Cross sought a $95 million increase in funds and was rewarded with a $250 million cut. That swing of more than one-third of a billion dollars led to faculty leaving for other states, losses in program options, increases in class sizes and diminished course offerings. This was also after a budget that froze tuition and provided nothing but cuts.

The idea of “live with what you have” isn’t going to get any easier at the UW schools either, if Walker goes through with his plan to prevent the System from borrowing money to repair its buildings and infrastructure.

Things like tuition freezes, belt tightening and tax cuts all sound good in theory until you start to feel the pain associated with those decisions.

I hate to be the one to break it to Governor Deadeyes and the “decent, hard-working people of this state,” but a) stuff tends to cost money and b) when you make bad decisions you have to live with the ramifications. This is like those credit cards where you get zero-percent-interest offers, low monthly payments and a host of other things that Montel Williams promises you in a 2 a.m. infomercial. You get stuff that sounds great at the time, but it leads to serious consequences down the road, including compound interest, burgeoning debt and a long, painful process to get out of trouble.

The system could survive one round of cuts or one round of freezes, but once you go beyond that, you start to see real problems emerge. Departments across our campuses are told to “churn” positions instead of hiring replacement faculty. Classes that aren’t mandatory for graduation are cut. More kids get shoved into rooms, giving them access to the class, but not the quality of experience they deserve.

Graduations get delayed, student loans continue to build and the entire process becomes self-defeating.

This whole concept of “standing up for working people” sounds great in campaign ads and stump speeches, but that’s because people don’t think about it in practical terms. Like it or not, there are things we spend money on because they have to be done.

The mechanic doesn’t say he stood up against the demands of the automobile when the oil change light went on. “I pushed the reset button and told the car, ‘You have to learn to live within your means.’”

The farmer doesn’t skip the fertilizer and demand that the soil provide more and increase its yield. “In these hard times, the earth can’t expect that I will keep plowing resources into it and receiving the same output.”

The homeowner doesn’t yell at the leaking roof, “Instead of patching you up with some new shingles, I’ll be removing several sections of shingles and expect that you’ll leak less.”

Education is no less of a resource than those and other items that we knowingly invest in because we understand we can’t live without them. When we fail to invest in support and repair, we create a weaker system that will continue to crumble and cost more in the long run.

The mechanic knows without proper maintenance, that engine is going to seize up and cease to function.

The farmer knows that failing to augment and replenish the fields will lead to lower yields and damaged land.

The homeowner knows that a leaky roof will eventually destroy the remainder of the structure.

And yet, our governor and legislature seems bent on proving the opposite to be true in order to appeal to the basest part of our society.

Willful ignorance presented under the guise of austerity serves no one in this state.

We need to learn that before it’s too late.