Monthly Archives: October 2015

“Urine, Utopia, and Us”

 

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Someone wiser than me (yes, that person exists) once said, “Don’t piss on me and then tell me it’s raining”. Well, it is in deed raining my friends and the showers are quite warm and golden.  Okay then, enough with the metaphors let’s get down to the point; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting nothing. Yep, here we go again with that same ole socio-economic shizz.

Hold on,  I know that people have been saying that for years but just in case you still don’t get it… there are levels to this shizz, people. The late great German philosopher, economist Karl Marx explained it centuries ago in his book entitled The Communist Manifesto when he spoke of the high and mighty bourgeoisie (Donald Trump, Steve Jobs and the Koch inequality_304brothers) and the lowly proletariat (you). In his writings Marx spelled out the levels and reasoning for the American capitalistic construct of the bosses (the 1%) and the workers (the 99%).  He even speculated on an economic system where there would be a equitable division and distribution of wealth and resources among all of the people (Utopia). Of course the bourgeoisie (old and new) rail against this notion of equality because of  their inherent superiority complex issues. So, we must plod on with this current capitalist system.

 

Okay, if the collected works of Herr Marx is a mite too lofty and deep for your taste then you may wish to sample a bit of the wisdom of a much more recent thinker. French economist Thomas Piketty.  In his book Capital in the 21st Century,  Piketty rallies us to action by informing us that “Power cedes nothing without demand.”  In short, if you don’t find our current socio- economic situation  to your liking then you need to get off your ass and do something. Graphs and pie charts are good but,  your best economic indicator  of your wealth is your wallet. Protect yourself in this season of Golden Showers.   Think about it!

submitted by Braxton Gray

Kitten Pic

 

A First Person Shooter with a Dose of Ayn Rand? Count Me In!

In 2007, videogame Bioshock was released to wild critical acclaim and helped dispel the notion that videogames were merely playthings. Not only was it praised for its cinematic storytelling and moody setting – an underwater Art Deco utopia called Rapture- but it was hailed as a masterpiece of the game industry because it made one think. This wasn’t your typical mindless first-person shooter. Bioshock grappled with heavy philosophical questions, taking massive influence from Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, to create a game like no other.

Ken Levine, the creative mastermind behind Bioshock, has cited Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged as a paramount influence. Rand’s magnum opus distills her philosophy of Objectivism into literary form. Objectivism is, in her own words, “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Essentially, it’s the belief that each individual holds the right to seek out happiness and live out his or her life to its full potential, free of restraint.

Atlas Shrugged portrays a world where its best and brightest have all retreated to a sheltered paradise for themselves, leaving civilization to decay into anarchy. Bioshock depicts a similar setting where one man creates an underwater haven called Rapture, a city molded by the principles of Objectivism and inhabited by the world’s elite scientists, artists, and thinkers where they are free to continue their work unrestricted by the societal limitations of the world.

While both works portray a utopia for free-thinkers, Bioshock demonstrates what happens to a society fueled by Objectivism: desire and greed runs rampant and power struggles tear the city apart. Bioshock places players into the aftermath of an idealized dream, now a living nightmare. Won’t you play?

-Quenton

The Hypocrisy of “Helping” the Poor

 

 

outsourcing picMore and more corporations are moving jobs overseas to fatten their wallets.  CEO’s of these companies know what they’re doing when they pack their corporate Coach bags and give the American worker the old heave ho. “The grass is greener on the other side of the pond, oh wait, that’s just my bank account.”, they might say.

 

 

This recent article, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/opinion/sunday/the-hypocrisy-of-helping-the-poor.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0, explains how these corporate big wigs try to save face by “giving back” to the less fortunate and trying to lift people out of poverty. If they do give to charities, it’s only after they have made millions of dollars in profit from outsourcing American jobs.  What they really should be doing is taking a big hard look in the mirror and seeing that a majority of the time, they are the reason these people are impoverished in the first place.

So you might ask, what countries are benefiting the most from this exodus of jobs out of the U.S.?  And the winner is….CHINA!  If you’re reading this on your i-Phone while taking a walk around town in your new Air Jordan’s, chances are you’re contributing more to China’s economy then you are to our own.  China employs sweat-shops to manufacture their products and they pay their workers horrendous wages.  In doing so, their workers suffer and the executives of these companies reap all of the profits. But if you ask Nike’s co-founder, Phil Knight, he’ll tell you one of the reasons he moved his factories out of the U.S. was for the “uplifting of impoverished people”, as the linked article states.

Yeah right Phil, and pigs can fly.

The author describes a trip he took into the Deep South visiting small towns where it was all too common to see factories shut down and little to no jobs available.  These folks were reliant on large companies such as Fruit of the Loom, Schwinn, and others to sustain their livelihood because most of the work they had prior involved manual labor that had been replaced by machinery.  When these companies left, they were devastated and desperate for jobs to keep their family afloat.  I am sure that this is not an uncommon story throughout the U.S.  It’s time for the CEO’s to stop padding their pockets and bring jobs back to America!

Kevin Hayes

 

 

The Wealth Divide

From Multinational Monitor, May 2003:

LINK:      http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2003/03may/may03interviewswolff.html

Multinational Monitor’s Interview with Edward Wolff: Professor of economics at New York University

“The Wealth Divide The Growing Gap in the United States Between the Rich and the Rest”.

MM: What portion of the wealth is owned by the upper groups?

Wolff:

The top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth.

In 1998, they owned 59 percent of all wealth.

In another way, the top 5 percent had more wealth than the remaining 95 percent of the population, collectively.

The top 20 percent owns over 80 percent of all wealth. In 1998, it owned 83 percent of all wealth.

MM: Where does that leave the bottom tiers?

Wolff:

The bottom 20 percent basically have zero wealth. They either have no assets, or their debt equals or exceeds their assets. The bottom 20 percent has typically accumulated no savings.

A household in the middle — the median household — has wealth of about $62,000. If you consider that the top 1 percent of households’ average wealth is $12.5 million, you can see what a difference there is in the distribution.

MM: What happens when you disaggregate the data by race?

Wolff:

The average African-American family has about 60 percent of the income as the average white family.

The average African-American family has only 18 percent of the wealth of the average white family.

Examining_Labels_Photo_by_John_Mudd_Cornell_University_1_t670

Now?…

Is poverty the result of laziness, lack of resources, or unethical systems?

In an article titled “Poll: Fewer Americans Blame Poverty on the Poor” by Seth Freed Wessler, Americans took a poll to determine the blame for poverty.

Two important conclusions:

“Leslie McCall, Ph.D., a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies inequality and public opinion, says that Americans have held on to 90s era stigma about family safety-net programs, while becoming more invested in opportunity-building policies.” Further, that, “Concerns about inequality, or poverty, are not associated with an increase in support for traditional forms of safety net like welfare,” McCall says. “But they do associate with increased support for spending in education, increased earnings for people at the bottom or the middle, and access to jobs. People look around and see that conditions are not a result of individuals, but of structural problems.”

Take a Test on Assessing Others

RacialDifferences

Take a Test …

How quickly do you think you judge someone by their outward appearance? Is your reaction based on what they are wearing, where or how they are standing, or a particular facial expression? Actually, it is human nature to assess the people with whom we interact, allowing us to instantly read the faces and body language of others. But how often do we recognize how biased our opinions are based on another’s skin color, eye shape, nose structure, and other external characteristics?

racial_IATThere are many online modules that test one’s reaction to rapid visual snapshots of close-up photos depicting individual’s faces (eyes/nose/mouth only). Understanding how positive and negative reactions toward photos that depict various races, genders, and cultures give researchers statistics that shed light on how we form snap judgments of others.  According to a recent study by researchers at New York University, “Our findings suggest that the brain automatically responds to a face’s trustworthiness before it is even consciously perceived. The researchers focused on the workings of the brain’s amygdala, a structure that is important for humans’ social and emotional behavior. There is now clear evidence that the amygdala processes social cues in the absence of awareness that is more extensive than previously understood.”

Participating in this type of test may provide individuals insight into how they interact toward one another. Recognizing and addressing our biases opens us to engaging in courageous conversations about race and equity in our world.

By Signe Lambertsen

Cycles of Life

African Americans are known to be some of the biggest consumers. However, their poverty rate is still at an all-time high.  Nielsen reports that the buying power of African-Americans is $1.1 trillion and is expected to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2017. http://www.theskanner.com/opinion/commentary/22411-nielsen-report-african-american-spending-power-reaches-over-one-trillion-dollars 

The biggest problem in America is most of us want the finer things in life. Often times, we who grew up poor aren’t taught about investments, but we can obviously see how fast our money goes. Wanting what we don’t necessarily need with the desire of getting what we never had is something in particular that affects black communities.

Growing up black and being able to stretch as little as $10.00 to feed a family of five for a week seems impossible, but it’s been done. It’s known as survival of the fittest or working with the little that you have. But I often wonder why the value to save a dollar isn’t instilled in my African American culture as much as it’s taught to us to work with the little that we have.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad cycle that will continue to keep the poverty levels high if African Americans don’t recognize teaching from childhood how important it is to save.  

Nielsen reports shows how black spending power has been a tremendous asset to this country’s economic recovery. And while “most main stream advertisement do not typically include African American in media and marketing plans since they have underestimated the market size” it’s sad to know that blacks spend as money as they do and don’t get their fair share of acknowledgement.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/african-american-buying-power-projected-trillions/

Image result for african american spending

 

By Krystal Copeland

The “Poverty Line” Affects Educating Our Children

child-povertyAs one of eight children, I was raised believing that if you worked hard, went to school, and kept out of trouble, you’d probably be OK. My parents worked hard to provide for us. But they wanted more for us than they had. Statistically speaking, my family lived below the poverty line for many years. While it was my parents’ desire for us all to go to college, there was a family expectation for us to work and financially help the family.

So, what is the “Poverty Line” and how do these statistics affect educating our children? According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau , it includes a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children under 18) collectively earning less than $23,021. Remarkably, 47.7 million Americans (or 14.8 percent of the population) were living in poverty last year; and this is an annual epidemic.

Dropout rates for 16 to 24-years-old students 4985435_origfrom low-income families are seven times higher than those from families with higher incomes. Clearly education is the best way out of poverty. But how can we expect our children to focus on education if they are continually faced with the problem of trying to simply survive.

 

Signe Lambertsen

Numbers Don’t Lie About Income Inequality

income inequalityEven though presidential elections are over a year away, politicians are enjoying a huge audience of (hopefully) voting citizens. One of the most important issues we face right now is income inequality. We must listen to both sides and select an individual who will address and set financial policy changes for the good of the people rather than the pockets of the “fat cats” residing within the proverbial one percent.

I struggle to understand how varied the messages are about achieving some sort of income balance because the rhetoric isn’t matching the facts.

FACT: “The Chief Executive Officers of the top 350 American corporations were paid 331 times more money than the average U.S. Worker. Those executives made an average of $11.7 million dollars compared to the average worker who earned $35,239.” That statistic is from April 15, 2013 – and the income inequality has risen steadily since then. Yet the tax rates (taxes paid by our citizens to the federal government) are astoundingly unequal: the richest one percent pays 5.6% in taxes while the average income earner (you!) pays about 13%.

Numbers don’t lie – income inequality “has turned the U.S. government into a protection racket for the wealthy.” And the wealthy, in turn, donate funds that support the politicians that write the laws that continue to give the wealthy and their large corporations’ financial breaks. Citizens must get smarter about money issues so that we can vote to reform the status quo. Income inequality is real – the rich are getting richer day after day, and they are quite content to keep it that way. It doesn’t matter which political party takes this ball and runs with it! My vote will be with the candidate that shows interest in making real changes for you and me.

Income-Inequality cartoon

By Signe Lambertsen

Boardwalk Avenue

In the documentary, “Park Avenue,” we are given insight into the financial process of political campaigns.  The film’s premise is  that heads of corporations and entrepreneurs are the driving force in politics on issues that individual candidates support. The Koch brothers were a hefty contributor to Paul Ryan’s candidacy for vice I cut that part because it’s implied, his position of power. The film showed numerous examples of candidates who receive financial backing from corporate heads on both sides of the political spectrum.

This type of backdoor dealing is nothing new. Look at the early days of prohibition.

The HBO period piece “Boardwalk Empire” is the semi-fictional story of the Prohibition era gangster and politician Enoch “Nucky” Thompson and his compatriots wheeling and dealing, manufacturing bootleg alcohol for consumption ers in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The show is populated with fictional/ and nonfictional characters, including notable gangsters Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. “Nucky” is based on real life gangster/politician Enoch L. Johnson. Good Cut anything that hints that you’re writing this. Don’t want to draw attention to anything except what you’re actually saying

In the show, Nucky, in addition to being a gangster, is the treasurer of Atlantic City and is so he’s involved with politicians, two of which are President Warren G. Harding and Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty. Nucky has an expensive road project he needs finished in Atlantic City to improve his trade of bootlegged alcohol. So he financially backs Daugherty, because at the time he is the campaign manager for Harding, and he also locks down the New Jersey vote when it comes time to the election. Nucky is also thinking long-term investment, because having a politician in the White House who’s also in his pocket, could ensure the implementation of policies and further assistance in his endeavors. Sound familiar?

By: Jibreel Mahmud

Is Life Just One Big Game of Monopoly?

Cries are heard from the nursery as the monopoly game of life begins to unfold. The players chose their pieces and equally align themselves on the “Go” space. They are ready to actively participate in the race for the American Dream.

Paul Piff created a social experiment to analyze the outcomes and consequences of the psychology of wealth. Piff conducted an experiment in which participants were to play Monopoly against one another — EXCEPT, this was in no way the average Monopoly game. Piff rigged the game to give one person an advantage while playing, and one person a disadvantage. The results were uncanny. Throughout the experiment, the advantaged player began acting with a sense of entitlement and narcissism as the fellow participant struggled to stay alive in the game.

Advantage Player      VS.      Disadvantaged Player

-Multiple Dice                                  -One Dice

– $200 at “Go”                                 -$100 at “Go”

-Got 2x the amount                     -Collects half the salary

of money at the start

Unfortunately, like Piff’s Monopoly game, the American Dream can NOT be achieved through hard work and the “tightening of the bootstraps.” The game has been rigged from the start, a predestined fate, as you will. I do not want to exclude those special cases where people have overcome poverty and made it to the top. Yet, when the statistical evidence overwhelming shows that 42 percent of children born into poverty will never get out, the facts just cannot be ignored.

Olivia C. Granja