Thursday, May 16, 2019


Someone finally did the research!  This article is from last July.  The author has traced some abortions and other sexual misconduct by Republican anti-abortion leaders.  The article is short, but has lots of links to her research.  



This is our 9th most-read article of 2018.

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TIM: Life begins at conception. Pregnancy is a gift from God, which is why I'm cosponsoring this anti-abortion legislation after asking my lover to have an abortion. I'm 65 and she's 32, but you probably figured that out already.

In the wake of winning of the 2019 National Magazine Award for fiction, at the precipice of our 21st year, and in anticipation of wonderment to come, we are bundling together a full subscription's...

SCOTT: When you're a pro-life, pro-family values Republican doctor running for Congress, you understand the value of human life. I had an affair with a patient and then pressured her to have an abortion. I also fired a gun outside my wife's bedroom. Who better than me to forcibly take the choice away from American women? I had to send my girlfriend out of state to get her abortion. Liberals are hedonistic monsters and it just makes me so angry!

ERIC: Being pro-life means that every human life is treasured. As a proud husband and father, I had an affair with my hairdresser, tied her up, took photographs of her while she was naked and then threatened to release the images if she didn't keep silent about our affair. I also sexually assaulted her. Abortion is immoral, which is why I signed this legislation further restricting it in my already oppressive Family Values state. Women like the hairdresser I abused should not be trusted to make this decision.

DENNIS: I have never paid for an abortion. My pro-life voting record speaks for itself. We want to live in a society where every child has a chance at life. I sexually abused teenagers while I was their coach and paid them $3.5 million to stay silent. Babies are precious!

MARKThat totally reminds me of the time I texted sexual images to an underage page. There's no way to get a teenage boy pregnant, so no hypocrisy on my anti-abortion stance.

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TED: The most effective way to reduce abortion rates is to increase access to birth control. That's why me and my twelve male colleagues who love life so gosh darn much want to restrict access to birth control. Women should be allowed to perform in porn videos for our pleasurebut they should not be trusted to make their own choices.

STEVE: Being the finance chairman of the pro-life Republican Party has been the greatest honor of my life as I raped and sexually abused multiple women and threatened them with attack dogs. Women should not be trusted to make their own choices.

ROY: 14-year-old girls are sexy and women should not be trusted to make their own choices.

JIM: I was named Pro-Life Legislator of the Year and won the Defender of Life award. Everyone deserves an advocate. Except for teenage athletes sexually abused by their coach.

The second installment of our Manifesto Series is available for preorder. Orders will ship late January, 2019. Since the 2016 election, reading the news each day can send even the most placid...

ROBCOREYSTEVEANDREWNo one values women like this wife-beating administration. Women should not be trusted to make their own choices.

ELLIOT: The reason I work for the Republican National Committee and raise money for the Republican Party is because the GOP is the pro-life party. What is more sacred than life? What is more urgent than paying my Playboy Playmate mistress $1.6 million in eight quarterly installments to buy her silence about our affair and her abortion? And why did Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen arrange the non-disclosure agreement for me? 1.6 million dollars says you'll never find out.

DONALD: Did I pay for multiple abortions? It's such an interesting question. The important thing is that rich Republican men will always be able to abuse and assault women and also pay for their mistresses' abortions, even as we take the decision away from women who shouldn't be trusted to decide for themselves. Only then will America be great again, mostly for Republican men.

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Read an interview with Devorah Blachor about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

ANS -- Can socialists and liberals get along?

This article has an introduction by Brad Hicks, and a comment by Brad at the end.  
Brad says: 
"This is a really long essay about the differences (and similarities) between centrists, liberals, social democrats, and democratic socialists, why they hate each other, and why they need to stop fighting each other and form a good old fashioned Popular Front.

I know where I stand, and why: I'm a social democrat, because capital-ism, government that's primarily or only responsible to the desires of investors, is exactly the kind of disaster that Marx predicted, which is why we need strict regulation and occasional direct government intervention to ameliorate market failures.

I'm not a centrist, because I don't believe that Reagan (and Ayn Rand) were right about economics, period. And not only do I oppose those ideas on their own, I'm not even willing to compromise with them in exchange for unenforceable (and certain to be betrayed) promises from the right not to come after minority protections or reproductive freedom.

I'm not a liberal because I think that regulation, alone, is only part of the solution, at best. I don't think you can write regulations for the market and then leave everything up to the market and still have a humane, or even human, society. We're not going to cap-and-trade or incentivize-and-tax our way to a better society; those tools aren't strong enough to solve every problem, or even any of our most important problems. But I don't care if you're a liberal.

I'm not a democratic socialist because I think that changing the ownership of the means of production is a pipe dream at best, and at worst something that's been tried and didn't solve any important problems. But I don't care if you're a democratic socialist.

But if you're a liberal, or a social democrat like me, or a democratic socialist, then for the next couple of decades minimum, maybe even for the next 50-60 years, what you want and what I want are entirely compatible. So dial down the hate. Keep making the case for your future utopia! I certainly will. But disagree with each other without hate or scorn. And keep making the case for your preferred candidates. I certainly will! But campaign against each other, within the popular front, without hate or scorn. Because Zach's right -- we need each other."


Can socialists and liberals get along?

A new case for socialism reveals the ways liberals and socialists need each other — and why they have so much trouble getting along.

A Bernie Sanders campaign rally at Brooklyn College. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Prior to 2016, a video of an avowed Marxist praising a Democratic candidate would have been fodder for attack ads.

But last week, senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted a video endorsement from Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of the Marxist magazine Jacobin. In it, Sunkara casts the Sanders campaign as not just about 2020 but a broader campaign to remake America along socialistic lines.

"This is a project," he says, "to remake America and American politics."

There's no doubt, between Sanders and superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that socialism is having a moment. The Democratic Socialists of America went from having 8,500 members in fall 2016 to more than 50,000 members in fall 2018. The new socialist movement's hub in Brooklyn has been the subject of glossy magazine features; its fans, denoted by a red rose emoji in their Twitter handles, are inescapable on the platform.

In this movement, Sunkara is something like a head convener or ideologue. He founded Jacobin in 2011, way before socialism was cool again, in an effort to repopularize the moribund American left. Today, it's the leading left publication in the country, a place where socialists publish dispatches from across the world and debate proposals for a post-capitalist future.

In an attempt to take this left revival a step further, Sunkara has just published a new book, The Socialist Manifesto. The name makes the ambition of the slim 243-page volume plain: Sunkara's aim is to write both a history of socialism and a blueprint for its future, a road map to guide activists looking to end capitalism and replace it with something other than Soviet-style communism. The book's penultimate chapter, "How We Win," is literally a 15-point plan for a democratic overthrow of American capitalism.

The book is a testament to the self-confidence of the new American socialist movement, a group certain of its rightness and uninterested in compromising on its radical ends. The ambition and excitement of the movement, and its youthful members (Bernie aside), pulses through this and most other new socialist texts.

Yet there is a specter haunting The Socialist Manifesto: the specter of liberalism.

The deep tension between left-liberalism, aimed at reforming capitalist liberal democracy, and socialism, aimed at overthrowing it entirely, has defined the politics of the left for well over a century. Sunkara's book pores over details of this tension in the past, including debates between reformists and radicals in places ranging from 19th-century Germany to 20th-century America. But it is comparatively muted on the debate's present and future.

This is a shame. The truth is that liberals, currently at their weakest and most defensive since the end of the Cold War, have a lot to learn from the energy and ideas of socialists like Sunkara. They don't need to join the socialist movement, but they do need to treat it respectfully — and study what makes it so vital today.

Meanwhile, although socialists have found real success pressuring liberals from the outside, it's not nearly enough to achieve their ambitious goals. If socialists want to actually help shape policy in the short term, they can't just write manifestos and mean tweets. They need to form a broad political coalition to work with them on everything from union actions to battles over legislation in Congress.

Liberals and socialists today need each other, whether they like it or not. The question raised by the rise of the modern left is whether the fundamental intellectual tensions between left-liberalism and socialism, together with more than 100 years of historical conflict, can prevent the formation of a new popular front.

Why socialists need liberals

The Socialist Manifesto is an odd book.

It opens with a hypothetical chapter about an idyllic America transformed by a socialist party led by Bruce Springsteen, mostly told from the perspective of a worker at Jon Bon Jovi's father's curry pasta sauce bottling plant.

The bulk of what comes after that is not a manifesto at all. It's mostly a recounting of the socialist movement and its offshoots, from Marx and Engels forward. Sunkara, to his credit, doesn't shirk from examining the dark times of Stalin and Mao, even conceding that "we cannot claim that the excesses of Maoism had nothing to do with Marxism."

However, the essential theme of the book is that Marx and the movements he inspired were largely right, and that the Soviet Union and Maoist China were authoritarian deviances from an ideology that is, at its core, democratic and liberatory. "Today there is much talk of 'democratic socialism,' and indeed I see that term as synonymous with 'socialism,'" he writes.

So how does one revive American socialism in the 21st century — and prevent a rerun of the failures of the 20th?

Socialists need to start, Sunkara writes, by electing Bernie Sanders president, then quickly pass policies like Medicare-for-all that push the US toward a more centralized model of social democracy. Other goals include abolishing the Electoral College, rewriting the Constitution to allow for amendments by referenda, and replacing the House and Senate with a "proportionally elected unicameral legislature."

But socialists need to go deeper than all that, in Sunkara's view. "Democratic socialists must secure decisive majorities in legislatures while winning hegemony in the unions," he writes. To do that, they create "a new generation of nonsectarian socialist organizers," embed them in "working class" professions like education and health care, and create a new "workers' party" that pushes Democrats to the left and eventually becomes "a completely independent, democratic socialist ballot line." Only then, he believes, will it be possible to fully transition from capitalism to a bright socialist future.

Some of these objectives (electing Sanders) are more immediately plausible than others (getting rid of the House and Senate). On the whole, though, enacting this agenda is the work of a generation, if not multiple generations. Yet the problems Sunkara identifies as the motivation for socialism — he claims it can cure poverty, economic exploitation, climate catastrophe, and even nationalist wars — cannot wait decades.

A 2017 protest in Chicago against Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.A 2017 protest in Chicago against Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act is still under attack, with millions standing to lose their health care. Major climate change action has to happen in the near future to prevent irreversible, devastating warming. The Trump administration is slouching toward war with Venezuela and Iran. Sunkara himself admits some response to this kind of immediate problem is necessary.

"It is possible to achieve certain socialist goals within capitalism," he says. "Fighting climate change can't wait until 'after the revolution.'"

But how are socialists going to achieve those goals when the largest socialist movement in America, a country of 330 million people, is 50,000 strong? How do you fight the immediate battles while still waging the larger war?

The Socialist Manifesto doesn't have much to say on this question. But there's an obvious answer: Socialists need to find a way to work with the liberals who dominate the country's major center-left party. For socialists to achieve their immediate goals, to stave off disaster and start moving the country in their direction, there's no alternative to some kind of popular front with liberals in a series of immediate, practical fights. It's not enough to push liberals to the left; you also need to help left-liberals beat the right and muscle broadly left-wing policy ideas through actual legislatures.

But can this alliance really happen?

The deep barriers to a liberal-socialist detente

The modern American left seems to treat "liberals" and "liberalism" as enemies rather than partners. Left Twitter personalities and publications are constantly denouncing the timidity and perfidy of liberals; the need to move "beyond liberalism" is a popular theme (that's to say nothing of bromides against "neoliberalism," a separate but oft-conflated beast).

Sunkara's book is more restrained but still a bit cutting. The book never defines "liberals" or "liberalism" as terms, nor engages with their political tradition in any sustained way. But it's lightly peppered with derisive references to them. Liberals are castigated for everything from failing to vigorously oppose World War I to watering down the Black Lives Matter movement; liberalism is described as "inadequate" to 19th-century German workers' needs and decried for its "mendacity" in early-20th-century Russia.

Those good things accomplished under capitalism — the American and European welfare states, most notably — are credited to social democrats, presented as offshoots of the Marxist tradition. But social democracy is, at its core, a movement that marries socialist concerns about the misery caused by capitalism to liberal reformism. What is social democracy if not the left pole of liberalism?

As a liberal myself, I'm tempted to hit back even harder at Sunkara and the rest of modern left's attacks on liberalism. The world's most important Marxist states have all descended into authoritarianism, whereas the world's freest and most egalitarian countries are all liberal democracies. Modern socialist intellectuals and publications — including Sunkara's Jacobin — have celebrated Hugo Ch├ívez, the late Venezuelan socialist leader whose policies dismantled the country's democracy and destroyed its economy. The nightmare in Venezuela goes curiously unmentioned in The Socialist Manifesto.

But my impulse here is part of the problem: It's not just socialists who have a tendency to take gratuitous shots at their natural allies. Punching left is a time-honored tradition among liberals, especially in relatively right-leaning America. It's partly a way to signal "seriousness" to moderates and conservatives, but only partly. The liberal-socialist disagreement stems from deep-seated philosophical disagreements.

Liberals prioritize individual rights and formal democratic freedoms over economic equality, concerned that the socialist dream of "class warfare" is inimical to a society that depends on mutual cooperation and tolerance. Liberals focus on injustices that they believe undermine the foundational promises of this system, like racism and extreme economic inequality, rather than overturning the economic class system entirely.

Socialists believe that liberals are entranced by "bourgeois democracy," blind to the ways private ownership of the means of production makes reform inadequate and meaningful democracy impossible. The liberal idea of democracy under capitalism is naive, they say, when inequality inevitably leads to the rich functionally purchasing control of the political system. Society is at its heart a negative-sum contest between classes, where the rising clout of capital invariably ends up hurting the poor and working class.

Obviously, these are stylized summaries of profoundly complicated political visions. But at their core, they speak to the ways that cooperative-minded liberals and conflict-minded socialists disagree — and why they see each other as so threatening.

Yet these big-picture disputes aren't really relevant to the policy debates in America today, even the ones that split the Democratic party.

Medicare-for-all wouldn't threaten capitalism, as Britain's National Health Service shows. Raising the marginal income tax rate on top earners up to 70 percent, as AOC has proposed, is just a return to pre-Reagan levels. Even the Green New Deal, the most ambitious set of left-leaning policy proposals in recent history, wouldn't shake American capitalism to its core.

A 2017 anti-Trump protest in Pittsburgh.A 2017 anti-Trump protest in Pittsburgh. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Moderates and conservative Democrats, like former Vice President Joe Biden, oppose these ideas — but that's hardly the orthodox liberal position today. Left-liberals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a self-described "capitalist," are on board with these ideas or similar versions of them. Even less left-wing Democrats than Warren, like Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, have stated their support for some of them.

The bitter tone of the liberal-socialist divide has little do with policy. Outright socialization of the economy isn't really on the agenda at the moment. Rather, it stems from decades of fighting over first principles, historical grievances, and fundamentally contradictory worldviews — a visceral set of disagreements that limit cooperation even when they share significant immediate political interests.

Why liberals need socialists

But why should liberals care about Sunkara's book — or the critique from the socialist left at all — given their vast numerical superiority? Twitter isn't real life, after all, and Biden is beating Sanders by a fairly wide margin in the most recent polls. Why shouldn't liberals just dismiss Sunkara and his fellow travelers as gadflies?

Well, for one thing, it seems like some of the socialist critiques of mainstream liberalism have been proven right.

Socialists have long argued that the Democratic attempt to appease Republicans by pursuing redistributive ends through market means would neither win stable conservative support nor do nearly enough to tackle entrenched economic inequality in the United States. They were correct on both counts, for reasons best explained by center-left UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong.

Left-liberals, DeLong concluded, need to give up on the dream of an alliance with the center right, and start building a new policy agenda that can accommodate political visions to its left. This isn't to say that Democrats should all join the DSA or start deferring to socialists on all policy questions — liberals still tremendously outnumber socialists, after all.

Rather, Democrats ought to make a more social democratic vision their political center of gravity, becoming more comfortable with direct state intervention in the economy instead of ginning up complex market mechanisms for accomplishing left-wing ends. That means more ideas like Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, fewer like Obamacare and cap and trade.

Liberals also need to learn from socialists in another, less tangible way.

The truth is that liberalism today is boring. Its exponents tend to be older and its ideas stale, seemingly fighting the same Cold War battles 30 years past their expiration date. This is partly the result of Democratic policy and electoral failures — the 2016 election was a body blow to standard-issue Democratic liberalism — but also a result of its ideological success. Liberalism has so thoroughly defined the Democratic Party for so long that for many people, it's difficult to get excited about it.

What's more, liberal intellectuals have entered into a kind of defensive crouch. When faced with a resurgent right — Donald Trump in America and far-right parties in Europe — they tend to speak in generic bromides about the value of bloodless abstractions like the "liberal international order," or wring their hands and wonder if the right has a point about immigration. Their work too often feels either staid or accommodationist, either mere rearguard defenses of a flawed status quo or worryingly willing to accommodate the raw racism and xenophobia at the heart of the resurgent right.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attending the 2019 SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas.Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attending the 2019 SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

Socialists, by contrast, are full of energy and confidence. To read The Socialist Manifesto or any other major works of the modern left is to be immersed in a movement sure of its own moral worth, clear on what it believes in and willing to fight for it. Twitter seems filled with socialists not only because they're disproportionately represented among the kinds of people who tweet, but also because they have a passion for their ideals that so many liberals today seem to lack.

This is what American liberals need to learn from. They need to not shun socialist intellectuals like Sunkara but study them. To learn how they fight for their ideas, and work out a vision of liberalism that feels like it's worth fighting for. Something that doesn't bend over backward to appease the right, and has bold and interesting answers for new problems like climate change, mass migration, and the threat that truly grotesque economic inequality poses to democracy.

Liberalism in general, and social democratic left-liberalism in particular, has the most impressive historical track record of any political ideology humans have invented. No other set of political ideas and structures has contributed more to the betterment of human lives, the improvement of human welfare. It's time liberals start acting like it.


Brad Hicks Also.

If you're a centrist or a liberal and you think that social democracy, democratic socialism, revolutionary socialism, Leninist communism, and Maoist communism are "all the same thing" or too similar to each other to matter? Read Zach's article,
 because he's right -- even if you don't want any flavor of socialism in your solutions, you still need the socialists.

And not just for their numbers. Not even just for their enthusiasm. You need the socialists because they have a clearer understanding of the problem than you do, and a better vocabulary for describing that problem, and a better vocabulary for describing possible solutions.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

ANS -- One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—and It’s Not About Guns

Here's a sweet one to lighten the load of dark news.  The teacher has a method for finding the lonely, rejected kids while there's time to do something.  

One Teacher's Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—and It's Not About Guns

Here's how one schoolteacher takes time each week to look out for the lonely.


A few weeks ago, I went into my son Chase's class for tutoring. I'd e-mailed Chase's teacher one evening and said, "Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you're sending home is math—but I'm not sure I believe him. Help, please." She e-mailed right back and said, "No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime." And I said, "No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me."

And that's how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth-grade classroom while Chase's teacher sat behind me, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the "new way we teach long division." Luckily for me, I didn't have to unlearn much because I'd never really understood the "old way we taught long division." It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but I could tell that Chase's teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.

Afterward, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are not the most important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community—and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are kind and brave above all.

And then she told me this.

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they'd like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can't think of anyone to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase's teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or "exceptional citizens." Chase's teacher is looking for lonely children. She's looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She's identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class's social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she's pinning down—right away—who's being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It's like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold—the gold being those children who need a little help, who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts. And it's a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside her eyeshot and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But, as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.

As Chase's teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea, I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. "How long have you been using this system?" I said.

Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine. Good Lord.

This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that all violence begins with disconnection. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. Who are our next mass shooters and how do we stop them? She watched that tragedy knowing that children who aren't being noticed may eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.

And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often in the world within her reach. What Chase's teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11-year-old hands is saving lives. I am convinced of it.

And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything—even love, even belonging—has a pattern to it. She finds the patterns, and through those lists she breaks the codes of disconnection. Then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It's math to her. It's math.

All is love—even math. Amazing.

What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day, and altering the trajectory of our world.

Glennon Doyle Melton writes the popular blog and is the author of  the #1 New York Times Bestseller and Oprah's Book Club 2016 Selection Love Warrior: A Memoir

Find out more about reaction to this powerful article from Editor-in-Chief, Bruce Kelley.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

ANS -- Flunking Solidarity, Or, Why Americans Don't Talk About Their Salaries

Here is an interesting piece about solidarity and if Americans hate other Americans.  An interesting thesis about why we can't have nice things.  

siderea: (Default)
[personal profile]siderea
Canonical link:

Dear Fellow Americans,

It has of late been brought to my attention that the following weird phenomenon exists: that Americans, many or or most of them, have deep reservations about other people finding out what they earn at their jobs – despite increasingly seeing how being open with that information might benefit themselves and others they would like to benefit, despite nascent social movements making great good sense exhorting people to share the information of how much they make – and, yet, not knowing why they feel leary of disclosing their incomes.

I know why. You probably know why, too, and just haven't let yourself become fully conscious of the reason.

Americans are awful. Truly, truly awful. Awful in many ways, but I'm referring to one specific way that Americans are awful. One you've noticed.

Exhibit A is surely this. If you're in the Blue Nation, you've heard the sad and weary observation that the reason the USA doesn't have universal single payer healthcare is because, all other challenges and circumstances aside, Americans don't want universal single payer healthcare, because of the sticking point universal: if healthcare is universal, then somebody unworthy might get healthcare they don't desreve. Americans, many of them, and they will say so in almost as many words, don't want "their tax dollars" going to pay for healthcare for unworthy people.

Americans have amongst them a whole collection of unworthinesses that they consider disqualifying of providing someone with healthcare. There are those who feel people who have the termerity and bad judgment to be poor shouldn't be indulged with healthcare, and neither should their children. There are those incensed that universal healthcare would mean giving something expensive for free to rich people who could pay out of pocket for it. There are those who feel addicts must have gotten that way by willfully abusing drugs, and therefor deserve to die by medical neglect. There are those who are outraged to contemplate the tax money of real Americans going to healthcare for "foreigners" and "illegals". There are those who feel that healthcare should be reserved for white people, or at least non-black people because why should we pay for them? There are those who object to paying for the heathcare of those who "brought on themselves" their infirmities, like by being gay and getting AIDS. There are those who feel healthcare dollars would be better spent just on people who can benefit by it, unlike the disabled who are all just going to be crippled and die no matter what you do, so why waste the money on them? There are those who think public assistance with healthcare should be reserved for the truly ill and disabled, and why are we wasting money providing care for people who are mostly walking around fine?

There comes a point, and if you haven't gotten there yet, this is your invitation to hurry along and finally dig it already, where one starts to notice that there's so very many excuses for why this people or that people shouldn't be provided with healthcare, that the issue isn't any specific prejudice, but the deeper, scarier problem of prejudicialness itself. Wow, we might notice, Americans really feel entitled to discriminate in the allocation of a literally life and death resource.

And once you see that, well, it's not just healthcare, is it?

It is a deep and unquestioned part of American culture that Americans feel entitled to pass judgment on their fellow Americans' worthiness to receive the most basic of resources.

Now I'm sure you can immediately fill in other examples from other government-provided social services. I can hear some of you thinking about the cuts to "food stamps" aka Welfare aka EBT, and others of you thinking about how drug testing was made a condition of receiving food stamps in several states, and others thinking about how Section 8 housing vouchers discriminate against people with criminal records and anyone who might want to live with such a person, and so forth and so on. And I can hear a few of you pulling in memories – personal or in the media – of similar judgments made not by government programs but private charities.

But here's the thing: it's not just about charity or "government handouts" is it? It's not just about who is worthy to receive some resource they "didn't earn".

Oh, no. Americans are so entitled to pass judgment on whether others deserve the resources they get, they're quick to say you didn't earn what you were paid.

Americans hate Americans. Americans are so spiteful of their fellow Americans, they readily – reliably – attack their fellow Americans, you don't deserve to be paid so much.

If they know how much you're paid.

Check this out. It's a comment from a discussion back in late 2015 on, a Boston-area news blog. The discussion concerned information that came out about what MBTA (public transit) employes were being paid (all emphasis as in the original):
Good stuff
By ccd on Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:27am

So we pay top dollar for bottom of the barrel service...

"However, the control board was also told that the average hourly wage for MBTA rail employees is 30 percent above the national average. That $35.58 per hour average wage exceeds the averages at the top five transit agencies in the nation.
Bus operators make slightly less, at $34.99 per hour, but the presentation reportedly indicated that is about 50 percent above the national average."
Well, if someone is getting paid $35.58 an hour, their gross income for a 40 hour week is $1,423.20. One week's pay is one months' rent: that $36/hr employee can afford up to $1.4k rent a month. According to this 2018 Zumper report, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in the "Boston Metro Area" was $1,854. That includes all of Eastern Mass, excluding the Cape but including Fall River. if you re-run their numbers for just within Rt 128 (the ring road around Boston that is by local convention demarcates the "Boston Metro Area"), the median one bedroom rent is $2,147.

Allow me to hammer this home: MBTA bus service doesn't go much beyond Route 128. At $35/hr, a bus driver for the MBTA is not being paid enough to afford to live in an average market-rate apartment anywhere within the MBTA's bus service area.

What's the larger context of this comment? The MBTA was asking for a fare increase, again, so, of course, the MBTA was being accused of wasting taxpayer money, and, as usual, they're wasting taxpayer money on paying their employees too much is where that argument went. It always does.

In America, it always does.

I don't know this commenter, this "ccd" user. I don't know if he's a garden variety Mass liberal, or one of UH's resident conservative opposition. What's so very interesting here is that one can't tell and it doesn't matter. It could be either, couldn't it? Both liberals and conservatives do this all the damn time. It's so usual, we don't even register it as a thing. And we certainly don't ascribe it to one political position or another.

It isn't owned by either Red or Blue America. This is a true aspect of a truly national American culture.

Where did "ccd" get his information? Oh, he was pointed at it by UH, where the item was posted by the proprietor, newsman adamg, who is reliably Blue:

Some T tracks maintained by a guy working more than 80 hours a week
By adamg on Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:09am

Don't worry, he's getting paid overtime. Lots and lots of overtime.
And that, in turn points to an ostensibly muckraking news bit from a local news station (WCVB):

Members of the T's Fiscal and Management Control Board learned Monday evening that rail and bus employees are both being paid drastically more than the national average.
Note: "rail and bus employees". We're not talking about administrators or executives. We're talking about the people who get their hands dirty. We're talking about the people who make the trains and buses go. We're talking about the people who are up before dawn and the people working at midnight. We're talking about blue-collar workers.

Where did WCVB get their information?
"[...] the State House News Service reported, citing a presentation from Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve."
"State House News Service": boy, that sure sounds official. Is that a government agency? Nope.
The News Service is located in Room 458 of the State House. We are an independent, privately owned wire service covering Massachusetts government in depth. Our staff tries to serve as a primary source of information on legislation, issues and background, in additional to producing traditional news copy.
Well, nothing wrong with that. But they're just another news outlet, one that, fascinatingly, sells to a market of journalists (they're subscriber funded). Consequently, they're also behind a paywall. It's not clear that there's anything back there that more fully illuminates what WCVB reports that they reported. The upshot seems to be that – despite their proud claim to "objectivity" and neutrality – they are terribly, terribly alarmed that blue collar MBTA employees be paid enough to maybe, possibly, make enough to afford to rent an very modest apartment for themselves, within the area in which they work, if they can find one on the left end of the price bell-curve. Accusation that the MBTA costs too much is generally considered a conservative rallying cry here (liberals castigate the T for doing a bad job), which suggests a right-leaning bias to the organ, but, hey. Who knows. The practice of attacking workers for being paid too much for the work they did is a truly non-partisan aisle-crossing sport.

I've been seeing this my entire life, and I bet you have too. I remember it coming up in news reporting about the teachers' strikes in the 1970s - What are they striking for!? They're paid like kings!. I remember it in the news coverage of automobile plant closings in the 70s and 80s, and manufacturing jobs leaving the country, where is was insinuated or stated that if autoworkers hadn't been so greedy and demanded such unfairly high wages for what was such unworthy work, then the plants wouldn't have had to close, and if they wanted to be paid reasonably, well, they should have stayed in school, gone to college, and become worthy white-collar worker, deserving of a stable well-paying job like, you know, a school teacher or college professor or a newspaper reporter.

I remember it from the air-traffic controllers strike in 1981, the one which Reagan broke, making the very same comparative argument [YouTube] [Wikisource]:
[...] At one point in these negotiations agreement was reached and signed by both sides, granting a $40 million increase in salaries and benefits. This is twice what other government employees can expect. It was granted in recognition of the difficulties inherent in the work these people perform. Now, however, the union demands are 17 times what had been agreed to — $681 million. This would impose a tax burden on their fellow citizens which is unacceptable.
Reagan, at least, had the grace to allow that maybe they deserved more than they were being paid "in recognition of the difficulties inherent in the work these people perform", but note the insinuation of unfairness inherent in framing it as "twice what other government employees can expect", a phrase which is bewildering in its goofy incoherence. ("What other government employees can expect"? Which other government employees? Are all government employees being paid more or less the same, that you can compare what air-traffic controllers to it? How much are these other government employees being paid? Is what they "can expect" something reasonable, or are they being woefully cheated of a living wage? Should they be striking too?) And then he frames it as, "we already agreed to give them an unfair raise, but then they demanded even more".

But if Reagan had the grace to allow that maybe they deserved more pay, the media took their cue. Consider this news coverage [YouTube], which argues that the strike isn't having all that much effect on air travel, so has the subtext that what air traffic controllers do just isn't that important so isn't worth very much. And the American public ate it up. We named an airport after Reagan, didn't we?

We see it in healthcare, here in the 2010s, where people blame doctors for making too much money, and advocate single-payer as a way to force healthcare providers' incomes lower as a way to save money. That's what it means when people praise "Medicare-for-All" for how "Medicare can get lower rates". Right: lower rates of provider pay, which it "gets" by those prices being fixed by Congress. But, yeah, absolutely, if we had single-payer, we could force medical providers to provide healthcare for less money; we could force them to provide it for so much less money they just go out of business.

But you don't have to look to the conventional media to see this; it's writ large on the internet. Any time issues of compensation come up on any forum, such as Metafilter, there will be bitter, jealous, spiteful responses to the tunes of you know there are people who would be grateful to earn that much - stop whining and what you do isn't as important as really important workers, you know and what you earn is a function of how useful what you do is to society so I guess what you do isn't very useful and if you'd made better choice then you'd make better money and you're going to bankrupt your employer/industry/government/society by demanding more and then where will we all be and so on and so forth.

This is why every damn time in this journal I discuss personal earnings, mine or anybody else's, I tie it back to rents. Because without that objective sanity check, the knee-jerk splenetic American response will reliably kick in and make a discussion of earnings into a referrendum on someone's subjective worthiness – their worthiness of the means of sustenance. If I don't nail the discussion to objective facts of how incomes compare to rents, some asshole will inevitably volunteer in the comments that – no matter how little we're talking – it is too much, and no one has no right to complain how little it is.

This is what happens when people try to oragnize for a living wage in the US: it becomes a referrendum on whether "people" – all people, some people – deserve – morally, culturally – to earn what they're already paid.

I'd like here to stop a moment to give due props to Ann Landers for radicalizing me about this. Or rather for the pseudonymous letter writer with whom she shared her bully pulpit on one occasion in my youth. Yeah, that bomb-throwing radical, Ann Landers. Lord, do you kids even know who/what Ann Landers was? She was a pseudonymous advice columnist - she was the pseudonymous advice columnist. The pseudonym and column live on; she's long deceased. She was massively, massively syndicated in US papers. Everyone in American for generations knew who Ann Landers was.

On this occasion (it was IIRC in my teens, so sometime in the 1980s), there was a letter she ran, setting her straight. Apparently – I gathered from context, having not seen the previous column – a letter from another reader editorializing on the compensation of teachers. Apparently the previous letter writer had been arguing for better pay for teachers, and had – and this was the crucial bit, addressed in the present letter – based that argument on observing that teachers are paid less than garbage collectors.

Let that sink in for a moment. Just confront it.

Think about what it means to raise that as an objection to teacher compensation.

Think about what it means to use that rhetorical maneuver, without any further argument or explication as to why teachers should earn more than garbage collectors, secure in the knowledge that one's audience – in the case of Ann Landers' readers, the entire newspaper-reading US population of that day in 1980-something – would understand your point, and probably concur.

The implications are that:

• Teachers should be earning more than garbage collectors

• Because teachers' work is more valuable and worthy than that of garbage collectors

• Therefore (or maybe just coincidentally) teachers are more deserving and worthy of compensation than garbage collectors are

• And, key, that this superiority of deservingness of teachers over garbage collectors is so manefestly obvious, so unneeding of explanation, as to be outrageous on the face of it and a self-evident injustice.

• That the self-evident injustice of teachers being paid less than garbage collectors is because garbage collectors are self-evidently very undeserving of compensation.

I remember when I read the rebutting letter, encountering this proposition at the beginning and understanding in a flash all the above implications – and not thinking a thing of it. Sure. Sounds sensible to me. Teachers, very important, should be paid more than mere garbage collectors. And one thing more I understood. Teachers are white-collar. Garbage collectors are blue-collar. In the "how outrageous!" implication of the comparison was not just an argument for the comparative superiority of the worth of the work of teachers to that of garbage collectors, but to the worth of teachers to the worth of garbage collectorsHow dare any sort of blue-collar worker – especially the bluest of blue-collars, the dirtiest of hands – collect more money than a white-collar worker, especially than a virtuous, pedestal-perched, saintly white-collar worker like a schoolteacher. It is an insult - it implies that the schoolteacher is worth less than the garbage collector. That is not to be borne. Not by the white-collar middle class.

I didn't need anybody to explain that. It was already in my head at the ripe age of, what, 15? Self-evident.

The rebutting letter, setting Ann Landers straight, was from a garbage collector's wife.

The letter writer pointed out what the value of garbage collectors is to society. She pointed out that it is hard, dangerous work, and that it's very grueling physical labor that takes a toll out of the bodies of those who do it. She pointed out that it happens out of doors in all weather, from blizzards to heatwaves. She pointed out that it is nasty, dirty work that few people want to do, and many are not up to the arduities of.

She pointed out it was honorable work and an honest living, one earns by the sweat of one's brow.

She pointed out that if garbage collectors are well compensated, well, shouldn't they be? Don't they deserveit?

Her argument wasn't that teachers should be poorly compensated. It was to rebut the self-evidentness of the presumption that garbage collectors should be poorly compensated – the presumption that consequently any white-collar worker being paid less than a garbage collector was being paid less than they deserve.

It was one of those moments for me of being shaken awake - and apparently Ann Landers found it so, too, thanking the letter writer for calling her out, and, IIRC, apologizing for endorsing the previous letter's stance.

Teachers are paid less than garbage collectors!!: it is the purest example I know of American classism. The idea that some people just are more worthy than others of the means of sustenance, by virtue of their class. That there is a hierarchy of works that we all know, whereby teachers are above garbage collectors, obviously, and that the resources of society should be allocated on the basis of this hierarchy, naturally.

I would propose that, famously, for the distribution of resources in American society there are two bases that have ever been considered legitimate, the Red one and the Blue one – and this is neither.

The Red Nation champions capitalism – or so it claims. Under a laissez-faire market, what one is entitled to be paid for one's labor is whatever one can get, which, it is understood, is a simple matter of supply and demand. If you bring rare capabilities to the market, the price for your labor – your wage – goes up. if there are many people who can do what you offer, the price goes down. The value of your work is the value of that work to the market. It has nothing to do with the moral value of your work to society (though there are those who have gone there), or any other subjective notion of value. It's quite simply all the market will bear, a thoroughly amoral notion of the value of work. By this logic, if there are more people who want to work as teachers than there are who want to work as garbage collectors – or rather, if the rate of people wanting teacher jobs per number of teacher jobs thare is higher than the rate of people wanting garbage collector jobs per number of garbage collector jobs there are – then, yes, garbage collectors will – and should – be paid more than teachers.

The Blue Nation inclines of late to a shadow of communism – though it will deny it. It may call it "socialism", but in it one can see moving the other principle of how resources should be allocated in a society: "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need". This is the notion that every person should be able to count on having a decent standard of living, and that shouldn't be dependent on their ability to compete in a labor market to earn it for themselves. The only deserving you need to be to receive a share of the common bounty you did by being born a human being; even the unjust and undeserving of admiration or commendation are deserving of food and shelter, clothing and medicine. By this logic, garbage collectors are amply deserving of being well compensated – as well compensated as teachers. They certainly are no less deserving than teachers, and teachers are no less deserving than garbage collectors. Perhaps over a basic layer of security there can be some compensation set by capitalistic means, where those who offer services less available are paid some bonus to incent it, in which case perhaps garbage collectors should be paid more than teachers to make sure there's still people willing to collect garbage, but neither should be paid poorly.

But the ugly truth of American culture is that most Americans don't really believe in either capitalism orcommunism. They believe in classism. They believe it is natural and self-evident that resources should be allocated on the basis of who is the most deserving, where deservingness refers primarily to a hierarchy of social classes, secondarily mediated by moral deservingness.

Consequently, in America, all discussion of who gets paid what turns into an argument of whether the recipient is deserving of their pay. Which is to say, it entails an argument of why someone isn't deserving of what they earn.

Along come people on the left, Blue Nation Americans, who have noticed that sharing salary data would allow workers to organize, would help root out sexism and racism in pay rates, would benefit all employees in their salary negotiations by equalizing the knowledge imbalance across the negotiating table with employers. Everybody should share their salary information! they exhort.

There's a reason you don't feel like doing that. For Americans that's a lot like stripping naked and jumping in a tank of piranhas.

There's a reaon that hospitals and other health care institutions keep insisting that they are up against the financial ropes and are having trouble keeping the lights on, but don't release numbers. (A bunch of reasons, of which this is but one, actually.) They know that if they say "this is how much we need to pay our medical professionals" the American public will respond, "Why do you need to pay doctors so much?! So greedy, just pay them less."

There's a reason that I rebutted April Dembosky's "Sorry, The Therapist Can't See You — Not Now, Not Anytime Soon" by breaking down in excruciating length what the reported compensation numbers actually meant.

A Canadian friend of mine visited me, some moons ago, and our peregrinations took us through a union protest happening in Harvard Square. My friend had been a shop steward of their union back home, and asked me why it was that Americans didn't do unions. I don't remember if I put this across at the time, but all this I have explained here was what came to mind. When Americans see a picket line, they don't think, "good on those workers, standing up for themselves and getting themselves a fair share of the pie." They think, "those scoundrels, trying to get more than they deserve, stealing from the rest of us."

Americans (I remember saying) have no sense of solidarity. They don't look on their fellow Americans and identify with them, or see them as fellows. Americans look on their fellow Americans with suspicion, with spite, with spleen.

Ben Franklin, we are told, once quipped to the nascent nation, "We must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately." Well, we've certainly made our choice, haven't we?

What would it look like, for us not to be like this? It would look like any time you heard, well, anyone, really, but especially your fellow Americans insist that they aren't paid enough – that they're struggling to make ends meet, that they're struggling to get ahead, that they're struggling to have a decent lifestyle – that you start from an assumption they're right, and the assumption that they have as reasonable a claim to a better life as anyone. (We could call this "Believe Workers".) It would look like approving of people's efforts, individually and collectively, to command more pay than they've been getting, and cheering them on, even if they make more than you do, even if that raises your personal expenses.

It looks like not crossing picket lines. Not ever. It looks like honoring other people's strikes.

It looks like shutting down people who start sniping and spiting in knee-jerk spleen about other people being undeserving of compensation. It means stepping up and saying, "Not cool" or "You jeal bro" or "We don't do that here" or "Look, I don't know if you consider yourself a liberal, but that's not what solidarity looks like" or "Market likes them better, huh?" or "Don't piss on other people's pay" or "Build up, not tear down."

It looks like abandoning the American preoccupation with deservingness and who doesn't have it, in favor of believing either that sellers of labor have as much right to throw their collective weight around as do the buyers of labor, God bless capitalism, or that every person is deserving of their own vine and fig tree, out of the collective prosperity, God bless America. Either being a Red Nation good sport about market competition, or being a Blue Nation humanitarian in the face of human failings.

It looks like giving up quarreling about who is getting more than their fair share of pie, and starting to demand answers about why so many people are being expected to make due with so few pies between them, and how might there be more pie to go around.

I looks like responding to people saying they need more pie with the agreement they should have all the pie they need, even if there isn't more pie to give them right just now, even if we aren't the people able to give them any pie. It's certainly not responding that they don't deserve any more pie than they have, and probably don't even deserve that much.

It means being generally in favor of people, all people, your fellow Americans, making more money and having nicer lifestyles. Even people who are different from you. Even people you may think morally your inferiors. Even people who belong to classes you don't think of as as good as yours. Even people who offend you with their ways. It means making a moral principle of it: even if I don't like you, and don't like your people, I wouldn't see you starve, and I wouldn't see you suffer poverty. It means accepting the limitation: I don't believe I should be entitled to punish you – or agitate for your punishment by others – merely because I dislike you and your way of life, and I believe it is immoral of me to celebrate your misforture or take any satisfactions from it.

It would mean regarding our fellow Americans with a default assumption of their good faith and inherent human worthiness. We could even, later, once we have some practice and we're up to it, branch out to other, non-American peoples.

It would mean actually doing that tedious, uncool thing it says in the Bible about loving your neighbor as yourself, even when one's neighbor is a different color, or isn't a native English speaker, or doesn't worship the Bible. (None of which, I'll point out, are mentioned in the Bible as "Get Out of Following the Bible Free" cards.) You don't have to be sentimental and smarmy about it, and it doesn't involve protestations or declarations - the Bible doesn't say "Go to thy neighbor and tell them you love them." (Quite to the contrary: 1 Corinthians 13:1 – "charity" or "love", it works either way.) You just have to be on the side of them doing okay. You just have to be in favor of their prosperity and wellbeing. You just have to concern yourself with their struggles.

It would mean deciding you are on the side of Americans. All of them. Not against the other peoples of the world, but against the world itself, the caprices of fortune and the vicissitudes of fate.

"But Siderea," I can hear one of you nervously thinking, "this all sounds heart-warming and warm and fuzzy and all. But... does this mean we can't say that CEOs don't deserve their exorbitant paychecks? And other obscenely wealthy captains of industry?"

Yes, it does. Every time one indulges in criticizing executive compensation on the grounds of deservingnessone reinscribes the notion that how much someone should be paid depends on how much they deserve to be paid.

You're not going to do your target a lick of harm that way. It's such an easy argument to rebut, for captains of industry – "we're at the top of the class hierarchy, of course we deserve to have all the money" – and they can afford PR teams to promulgate excuses like "we deserve the money for making so many jobs" and "actually our skills are so leet we do deserve all our compensation". There's no way such an argument will ever reduce their compensation one red cent. But it will rebound on everyone else – everyone who doesn't have a wall of money to hide behind. It reinforces a culture of tearing down everyone in arms reach – which means lower on the class hierarchy than the top-out-of-sight. It normalizes debating compensation – debating the allocation of the means of sustenance in our society – in terms of deservingness, and then all the rest of us have to live in that world.

The good news is you don't need that argument. If what you want is to reduce income inequality, you'll find it's far more effective to argue that everyone deserves all they can earn, but nobody deserves to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Which, by the way, is basically the social compact we had previously, that Reagan et al. undid in the 1980s, which lead to our present economic situation and the explosion of CEO compensation.

We need to be arguing that while it's totally understandable why you might want to get out of paying taxes, it's treasonous, and why do you hate America? And why do you hate Americans?

There's something else to be said here, about how this American preoccupation with deservingness is a morally warped form of concern for justice. In Americans' willingness – even, apparently, eagarness – to forego benefits they, themselves, might enjoy, rather than that the unworthy also enjoy them, we could find folly, accusing them of biting their noses to spite their faces. But there's this concept from economic anthropology called altruistic punishment. It refers to being willing to accept a cost to oneself to punish wrongdoers. It is not clear to me to what extent it is folly, and to what extent it is a more deliberate martyrdom. Americans have been, times ago, a people of noted generosity and self-sacrifice. Is this what it looks like when that goes bad?