Thursday, August 2, 2007

This Week 8/3 on Bill Moyers Journal

This week, August 3, 2007 Bill Moyers will interview Barbara Ehrenreich author of Nickel and Dimed: on not getting by in America, and Bait and Switch: the futile pursuit of the American dream. (Click on the title or the image of the book to locate it in the Glendale Public Library catalog.)

(seee below for further notes on the same topic - the loss of America's middle class.)

NEXT WEEK - August 10, 2007 Bill will take a week off in August like many of us and Bill Moyers Journal will repeat the program broadcast last month about impeachment with guests John Nichols and Bruce Fein.

Moyers Talkers discussion group meets this month on Thursday, August 16 at 7:00 in the Learning Center of the Glendale Public Library.

All points of view are welcome whether or not you know how to use a computer or add to the local and national blogs. While you are always welcome to send comments to either blog on your own, the group watches segments of Bill Moyers Journal in the Learning Center, discusses topics that Moyers has presented in the previous four weeks and creates blog posts from the room as group, led by a facilitator.

Did you know that the Glendale Public Library has a blog about books? It's called Book Talk and we post information and reviews about the latest books. Recently, I wrote a post about a book that covers much of the same problem that Bill Moyers and Barbara Ehrenreich are talking about this week. It's called The Trap: selling out to stay afloat in winner-take-all America.

The Trap: selling out to stay afloat in winner-take-all America
The great thing about being a professional public librarian is that, while we are not overpaid like some people who work in professions, our souls are not sold out from under us either, and we have the psychic benefit of knowing we provide good public services to our community just like we intended to when we started work on our librarian Masters degrees.

In fact, most young people starting professional schooling have said that, from many years ago and still now in survey after survey, they very much want to find work that allows them to help their communities and to make the world a better place. However, in today’s economy, according to journalist Daniel Brook in his first full book, The Trap: selling out to stay afloat in winner-take-all America, almost none can hold onto those ideals anymore because they are in so much debt starting out.

Their education costs far too much, they cannot afford housing when they are young, they cannot raise a family when their age would allow them the energy to do so, or if they do have children they can’t see them more than a few moments a week because they are working far too many long hours just to support them, and they cannot get health insurance to cover themselves or their families unless they “sell out” to become a “microserf” or corporate drone and work even harder with fewer and fewer retirement options if they ever get there.\

One professor Brook interviewed said “most … students don’t take jobs in the hopes of getting fabulously rich. They do it to avoid the risk of being poor.”

Brook does a great job of putting everything in perspective, by tracing the problem’s historical roots from the conservative reaction to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that made for a post-war middle class, that many people of my age grew up expecting to live in all our lives, to the Reagan era destruction of those ideals that, with the help of Clinton era corporatists, have led to the United States to levels of inequality and lack of social mobility so that there is no middle class anymore, and consequently, no sense of shared community purpose. In Manhattan, says Brook, the “income disparity is on par with Nambia, the most unequal country in the world, according to a recent UN Human Development report.”

“With entrenched wealth calling the shots, official Washington has become a status quo maintenance machine perpetually privileging what is over what might be.”

He also argues that contrary to the mythical belief in removing taxes from the super wealthy to free up inventiveness, such a system constrains creativity at every turn and prevents all but those who have money from having time or energy to create anything socially beneficial, and especially constrains dissent. Anyone who has seen the documentary Sicko understands that universal health care is not the only social utility that America now needs to make it possible to live a decent life. Like other developed countries, Brook says, American college education should be free, work life adaptations need to be made so that people can raise children and not have to leave a profession to do so, and so that creative Americans can provide services to others. He says“14.7 percent of the European workforce is self employed compared with only 7.3 percent of Americans. American entrepreneurs are clearly being held back from pursuing their dreams.”

Many things we take for granted should not be, he claims. Brook’s first book is fascinating and deserves to be read and discussed by many. He adds a comparison to the ancient state of Athens, one of the first to remedy the social problem of too few controlling the destinies of the rest. “One of Athens’ great unleashed talents, the philosopher Aristotle discerned a connection between a society dominated by the middle class and political stability and justice. The rich and poor, he noted, were prone to criminality, (think Enron and the Crips), while the middle-class obeyed the laws. He concluded that a just and well-run state must be controlled by a middle-class majority.”

Pick it up. A great read. If you're young, use it to change the world before we, the last of the middle class knowledge philanthropists, get taken away.

No comments: