A Congratulatory Note to Our New Grads (With a Caveat)

By Robert Valencia

My niece—who is pursuing a degree in psychology—asked me a week ago to review her essay on the American Dream for one of her English courses. Her essay began explaining what the “American Dream” ought to be: economic mobility, home ownership, and better education. But the remaining two pages offered a gloomy viewpoint: the American Dream has become more and more elusive for her.

Though she’s two years shy from obtaining her bachelor’s degree, her disappointment in finding a job (or in her case, a paid internship) very much reflects not only what our latest Public Opinion Monthly found with regard to the mounting pessimism surrounding the “Dream” premise, but also the economic outlook many of the brand-new college graduates face today. According to a recent article from The New York Times, employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years in tandem with their starting salary: $27,000, down from $30,000 for those who joined the workforce in 2006 to 2008.

Some of the lucky members of the Class of 2010—56 percent—have held at least one job during the spring semester. However, some the jobs these graduates attain do not necessarily require the skills they learned in college; we hear stories from chemistry majors working in retail stores or Latin American studies graduates tending bar or waiting tables. What’s more, many of these students are having trouble paying student loans, which have reached a median of $20,000 for graduates in the classes of 2006 and 2010.

To make matters worse, some researchers point out that many of our new graduates are not being taught the necessary critical thinking and writing skills during their undergraduate years. NYU Professor Richard Arum co-authored the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, a study that shows a large number of students who showed no progress on initial tests of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. The book went on to say that many of them had minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, and that the average student only spent 12 to 13 hours per week studying. The authors believe that academic investments have become a lower priority, as many schools prefer to invest in “student centers, deluxe dormitory rooms, and expensive gyms.”

As we approach a new electoral cycle, it is imperative to remind our elected officials that expanding economic and educational opportunities for all must be paramount in their political agenda. Despite such a bleak outlook, our recent graduates deserve a fair chance to achieve their full potential, and where they start out in their lives should not predetermine where they end up. Our country should adopt programs like student loan counseling (for recent grads) and worker retraining (for the more experienced workforce) that will in turn strengthen our economy.

All in all, we salute all the new graduates in the prime of their professional lives—an effort that in the end will pay off financially and intellectually, even though unemployment and other negative factors stand in their way for now. And here is perhaps a note of relief: We’re all in this together, and it’s our responsibility as a society to create and hold on to basic tools and resources to provide security for ourselves and our families. To read more about The Opportunity Agenda’s work on economic recovery and opportunity, click here.

Arizona, Wisconsin…Searching for freedom in a sea of hate

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Two months into the new year, it looks like the hateful and divisive rhetoric that marked 2010 is continuing to make it’s presence felt. Fueled by frustration over the economic situation, and by the changing racial and ethnic face of the country, ‘hate’ groups espousing extremist views on race, politics and culture are growing at an alarming rate. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual investigative report released on February 23rd, the number of hate groups in the country has topped 1000, more than have existed at any point in over 20 years.

A lot of the vitriol is directed at President Obama, who is often seen as a symbol of all that is “wrong” with the country. Any residue anger seems to be directed at minority groups, with a focus on the immigrant populationthat comprises a significant percentage of the country’s workforce. From previously existing mainly on the fringes of media and politics, this hate and resentment aimed at minorities has now decisively made its way into the mainstream, most visible in the political sphere in the form of countless bills that are being introduced around the country. In addition to the events currently taking place in Wisconsin, it is difficult to ignore the vast array of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement measures that are on the cards at both the Federal and state levels.

The passage of SB1070 by Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer in April of last year set off a wave of harsh anti-immigrant laws that raise concerns of racial profiling and civil rights violations in various states around the country and pose a serious threat to basic American values. State legislative sessions across the country from California to Kentucky, Texas to Rhode Island have witnessed the introduction of immigration enforcement bills that have severe implications for racial profiling. On February 24th, Ohio introduced its own version of  Arizona’s SB1070 in a bill which permits local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. A bill introduced in the Arkansas state legislature that would deny state benefits to undocumented immigrants except in emergencies was halted yesterday when a House committee voted against the bill by a small majority. On Tuesday , the Indiana Senate voted for a law to allow local police to question people stopped for infractions on their immigration status, in a bill that was similar to 2010′s SB1070.

While many states introduce harsh anti-immgrant laws, Arizona continues to stay two steps ahead of the others when it comes to advancing legislation that curtails basic rights and freedoms. The latest round of legislation that was cleared by the Appropriations Committee in the Arizona Senate on Wednesday illustrates this point best. In addition to SBs 1308 and 1309, the bills that undermine the 14th amendment’s birthright citizenship provision, was a package of immigration bills, led by Senator Russell Pearce (the author of SB1070), that curtail the rights of immigrants in the state of Arizona. These bills mandate that undocumented immigrants would be barred from receiving many public benefits, attending community collage, and be barred from driving motor vehicles and obtaining any state licenses including those required for marriage. The bills mandate that schoolchildren (k-12) would have to show proof of citizenship and run the risk of being reported to local police if there were undocumented, and that hospitals would be required to ask for proof of citizenship from patients demanding non-emergency care. Senator Russell Pearce defended his compendium of anti-immigrant legislation that he said was aimed at stopping the “invasion.” All the above laws were passed by the committee, and are now moving to the Senate floor for approval.

Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Arizona decried the new measures as working towards a “papers please” society. Speaking to the New York Times, she said-

This bill is miles beyond S.B. 1070 in terms of its potential to roll back the rights and fundamental freedoms of both citizens and noncitizens alike…

And while the bold announcement by the Obama administration and the Department of Justice that they would no longer defend the constitutionality of the the federal Defense of Marriage Act (that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage) comes as good news, the issue of immigration is looking bleak on the Federal level as well. Since the beginning of the 112th session of Congress, the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary committee has been pushing its strategy for mass deportation, referred to as ‘Attrition Through Enforcement.’ A few weeks ago, America’s Voice released a report exposing the background and strategybehind the Immigration Subcommittee’s current policy on immigration enforcement.

The report, collated by the America’s Voice Education Fund, “uncovers the origin of “attrition through enforcement”; its radical goal to achieve the mass removal of millions of immigrants; and the impact this proposal would have on both our economy and politics.” The report details how this approach, promoted by nativist groups and anti-immigrant hard-liners such as the Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) and Numbers USA, is packaged as a program aiming  to create jobs for Americans, but is designed to ramp up enforcement on state and federal levels with a view to forcing the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the country, despite the monumental cost to taxpayers and the agriculture industry. On a press call mid February, Mark Potok, Director of the Intelligence Project at theSouthern Poverty Law Center; Fernand Amandi, Managing Partner of research organization, Bendixen & Amandi International; and Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, discussed the strategy of mass deportation and the risks that it poses for the political future of the GOP, for the future of race relations in the U.S., and for the economy.

This long list of events, laws and movements taking place around the nation are working to thwart positive change and drastically affect the values of freedom, equality and justice that are intrinsic to the spirit of this country. At such a time it is important that we look to people that are standing up for what is right, and learn from their example. Over the last week, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Wisconsin to demand that the government renew their commitment to the ‘American dream’ by valuing hard work instead of denying basic public services to those who are the most vulnerable. In a move to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin and spread the “spirit of Madison” to the rest of the country, on Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, groups around the country are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse in all major cities.

Stand together to Save the American Dream. We are all Wisconsin, we are all Americans.

Photo courtesy of endoftheamericandream.com

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

William Daley – A Poor Choice for Chief of Staff

President Barack Obama has recently chosen businessman William Daley to be his next Chief of Staff. Some liberals have criticized the choice of Mr. Daley as too corporate and too moderate. They say that Mr. Obama should have selected a different person as Chief of Staff.

Mr. Daley indeed is a poor choice for Chief of Staff, although perhaps for a different reason than the above criticism. It is what Mr. Daley represents that makes one uncomfortable with him.

The American Dream is based upon that great premise that everybody can succeed in America, regardless of who their parents were, or the place they were born in, or the color of their skin, or anything else that has no effect on merit. All are created equal, paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence. Anybody can become president, even if their father was a failed alcoholic, or happened to come from Kenya, or worked as a shoe salesman.

William Daley, in many ways, stands out as the opposite of this great ideal. Mr. Daley has succeeded not because of any personal qualities – intelligence, leadership, ambition – but merely because of his last name. Mr. Daley’s father, Richard Daley, famously ruled the city of Chicago for decades and accumulated enormous power and massive political connections. Without those inherited connections, William Daley would not be were he is now.

Take, for instance, Mr. Daley’s job before being appointed Chief of Staff. He was an executive at Morgan Stanley who supervised its Washington lobbying efforts. Here is how Mr. Daley got the job:

He was hired, company officials said, as something of consolation prize to Chicago when Chase, which has its headquarters in New York, was taking over Bank One, which was based in Chicago. Chase executives, including Jamie Dimon, its chairman, wanted to bring in someone with Chicago connections who could smooth over relations with wealthy clients and corporations there.

One Chase official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, recalled, “A few bankers said we should hire a Bill Daley,” meaning someone with Chicago political connections and clout who could serve as a new public face for Chase.

The primary reason, then, that Mr. Daley got his job was because his father happened to be Mayor of Chicago. Without the last name Daley, William would not be a top executive at a corporate bank. Without that prestigious position, he would not be the president’s Chief of Staff.

This stands in stark contrast to the man who hired Mr. Daley. President Barack Obama rose to power based on his intelligence, his ambition, and his political skill; not because his father incidentally happened to be rich and famous. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s last name is probably more of a liability than an advantage for him.

One should not need to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth – to be as lucky as William Daley, in other words – to succeed in this nation. Barack Obama is better than this. Ultimately, America is better than this.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

President Obama's Politics of Dignity

America is broken. Even if we pull through the current economic crisis, recovery won't last absent an overhaul of our primary institutions.
  • One out of ten Americans is now unemployed and the recovery is expected to be jobless.
  • Fifty million Americans have no health insurance; two million, no home.
  • Two million Americans are in jail.
  • Our public schools have fallen behind those of most developed nations.
  • Higher education is priced out of reach of the middle class.
  • Our infrastructure is in an advanced state of disrepair.
  • We rank first in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Immigration, once our pride, is now our shame.
  • We're living on credit and leaving the debt to our children.

There's more...

The Economy and The American Dream.

Driving to work in Charles Town, WV, this morning I stopped to pick up coffee at the drive-thru window of the Ranson Chic-Fil-A on Route 9. I don't usually get my coffee at Chic-Fil-A... but there was such traffic at their drive in window I thought it must be pretty good.

Well, it wasn't any different than the coffee at McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Sheetz, or the counter at Needful Things (which, as it turns out, is all that remains of an old F.W. Woolworth lunch counter).

There's more...

Diaries

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