United States: Ranks Highest in Percentage of Low-Paying Jobs among Industrialized Nations!

Low Paying Jobs

Dear Commons Community,

In a recent report from Morgan Stanley Research and based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of low-paying jobs among all (34) developed countries. As reported in The Huffington Post:

“Economists Ellen Zentner and Paula Campbell based their analysis on the OECD Economic Outlook Report, which documents employment and labor trends in each member nation. The OECD defines “low-paying” as jobs that earn less than two-thirds of a country’s median income. On average, around 16 percent of jobs in OECD countries are considered low-paying. In the U.S., over 25 percent of all jobs qualify as such.

The ranking reflects America’s problem with income equality. Even though the U.S. has one of the highest household median incomes in the world (about $44,000 compared to roughly $10,000 worldwide), there’s a wide gulf between those making much more than the median income and those making much less.

According to the Morgan Stanley economists, income inequality is stifling U.S. economic growth because low-income Americans aren’t able to spend enough to boost the greater economy. Wages will need to rise so that households can buy more things.

“Stronger growth in wages and salaries is essential,” wrote Zentner and Campbell. “It would help households spend more broadly across the income spectrum.”

The OECD recommends that all its members have a “sensible” minimum wage, increase progressive taxation and “scale up” in-work benefits to address income inequality.”


First the People’s Climate March and then a Flood Wall Street Protest!

flood Wall Street I

Dear Commons Community,

A day after the People’s Climate March filled the streets of New York, a smaller group of protesters took to the steps of the New York Stock Exchange. Organizers said they were confronting “the system that both causes and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity.”

The protest did not have a permit, and participants risked arrest. The Huffington Post reported that over one hundred protestors were arrested. Pepper spray was used by the NYPD when protesters moved to block the entrance to Wall Street, attempting to remove barriers and get past police.

“The world seems like it’s ending, and it’s the only thing I can think of to do,” 56-year-old Seth Tobocman told a HuffPost reporter just before he was arrested.

Monday’s Flood Wall Street demonstration had a more frankly anti-capitalist message than the massive march that took over midtown Manhattan on Sunday. Many of those present were veterans of Occupy, including organizers like Lisa Fithian, dubbed “Professor Occupy for her role in teaching tactics to that movement.

“I feel like the source of all our problems in the world is coming from the very top of the financial ladder,” said Jordan, a 23-year-old college student who skipped class to attend the protest. “


flood Wall Street II


People’s Climate March: Saving Our Planet!

Environment I

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, Manhattan was one of the centers for a number of demonstrations around the world calling for government leaders to start taking serious steps to save Earth. Legions of demonstrators frustrated by international inaction on global warming descended on New York City on Sunday, marching through the heart of Manhattan with a message of alarm for world leaders set to gather this week at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change. As described in the New York Times:

“Coursing through Midtown, from Columbus Circle to Times Square and the Far West Side, the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big, and it was joined, in solidarity, by demonstrations on Sunday across the globe, from Paris to Papua New Guinea.

“I’m here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together,” said Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Conn., the president of a teachers’ union. “It begins in the streets.”

From the scientists holding an oversize chalkboard to the Hurricane Sandy victims toting life preservers, the march was a self-consciously inclusive affair, with the organizers intent on creating a very big tent, which they hoped would hammer home the relevance of climate change and its effects…

The climax of the march came in the early afternoon. All along the route, crowds had been quieted for a moment of silence. On Avenue of the Americas at 57th Street, there was an eerie silence as marchers raised their arms and looked down.

Then at exactly 1 p.m., a whistle pierced the silence, setting off a minute-long cacophony intended as a collective alarm on climate change. There were the beats of the drums and the blaring of horns, but mostly it was whoops and cries of the marchers.

One of the key organizers of the event, the international advocacy group Avaaz, presented a petition with more than 2.1 million signatures demanding action on climate change. “It’s a testament to how powerful this movement is,” Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, said. “People are coming in amazing numbers.”

Like the march, the summit meeting on Tuesday at the United Nations will be flush with speeches intended to build support for addressing climate change. But the gathering of world leaders is not meant to be a formal negotiating session for a potential 2015 agreement.”

God Bless Our Earth!



International Students Enrolling in Record Numbers at American Public Universities!

Dear Commons Community,

Urged on by declining state funding, public universities are enrolling more international students who pay higher tuition rates than in-state residents.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“International students have been coming to American schools at the graduate level for years, but undergrads now make up 41 percent of international students in the country, according to the Institute of International Education’s most recent Open Doors report on international student trends. The figure is up from 31.4 percent in 2008. A record number of international students are now studying in the U.S., peaking at a high of 819,644 students in 2013, according to the report. (The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement puts that number as high as 966,333 in July of 2014.)

The influx of foreign nationals has been a boon for cash-strapped public universities. Nearly all of these schools have seen their funding slashed over the years, and looking abroad is one way to find young, bright minds willing to pay sticker price for their education.

Between 2008 and 2012, state funding for higher education dropped off by 10.8 percent nationwide, according to the most recent Grapevine report published by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. Arizona sustained the deepest cuts: Over the five-year period, the state’s legislature decreased public education support by 36.6 percent. California schools were hit hard as well, with a 23.9 percent funding decrease in those years.

“It’s kind of common knowledge at this point that state legislators have pulled back on funding for [public] schools,” Eddie West, director of international initiatives for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told The Huffington Post. West cited a recent Chronicle of Higher Education report that offered devastating projections for the future of higher education funding — figures so bad that public schools would effectively become privatized institutions, relying on tuition money instead of public funding for support…

For the international students, American colleges and universities provide access to the best research facilities, professors and networks in the world, Obst said. And for countries like China and South Korea, which have more college-bound children thanks to a rapidly expanding middle class, the U.S. has an “unmatched ability to absorb these new students,” he said.

China, whose students account for an estimated 29 percent of all international scholars in the U.S., has some 2,410 universities, according to a 2012 government-sanctioned study. The U.S., meanwhile, has more than 4,599 degree-granting colleges and universities.

While surely a boon to public higher education, questions have to be asked as to whether international students are displacing local, in-state students who pay lower tuitions. This is truly of concern in some universities such as Arizona and California mentioned above that have sustained several years of double-digit reductions in state funding.



Why Teachers in America Leave the Profession: TFS/SASS 2014 Report!



Dear Commons Communty,

The National Center for Education Statistics released the results of its latest report (2011-12 school year) of teachers who left the profession. The report presents selected findings from the Current Teacher and Former Teacher Data Files of the 2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS). TFS is a nationally representative sample survey of public and private school K–12 teachers who participated in the previous year’s Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS).

The two major reasons why teachers left the classroom were retirement (38.3%) and to take a job somewhere else in a school district (29.3%).   Only 7.7% left teaching for a position outside education.  These findings represent a more stable profession than popularly believed. A summary of the major findings are below. Click on the image to enlarge.









Strike Debt – Occupy Wall Street Group Purchases Student Debt and Cancels it!

Dear Commons Community,

Some 40 million Americans collectively owe nearly $1.3 trillion on their student loans. On Wednesday, a small group of volunteers announced they helped reduce unpaid student bills by a smidgen, thanks to public donations and a desire to help Americans live debt-free.

Strike Debt, a group of anti-debt activists born out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, said it purchased $3.9 million in delinquent private student debt and immediately canceled it.

The debt, which came in the form of unpaid tuition  receivables from Everest College, a for-profit school operated by the Corinthian Colleges chain, was purchased in May for about $107,000, the group said. The purchase was funded entirely by donations.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

The Rolling Jubilee Fund, a nonprofit formed by Strike Debt with the sole purpose of buying and abolishing debt, canceled an average of nearly $1,400 in debt held by more than 2,700 students. About 99 percent of the unpaid bills were from last year and 2012…

“We bought debt from this school [Everest College] in order to focus public attention on the grim consequences of allowing higher education to be used as a vehicle for private profit,” Strike Debt said in a statement. “The students at this college were conned. The schools are now being closed or sold off to other predatory companies, leaving students with no good options.”

About 90 percent of unpaid student loans are owed to the U.S. government. Corinthian Colleges students whose campuses are shut down can petition the Education Department to forgive federal student loans they took out to attend their closed schools. The rest will be forced to pay it all back.’

Although a drop in the bucket, this is a great idea. If some mega-billionaires and their foundations would pony-up sizeable donations just think how much good thery would be doing for many Americans enmeshed in student debt.



Spanking v. Abuse – Charles Blow Weighs I!

Dear Commons Community,

In light of the controversy surrounding professional football player Adrian Peterson, Charles Blow examines issues related to disciplining children.   To recap the controversy:

Adrian Peterson was booked and released following his indictment for negligent injury to a child charges. Peterson was booked in a Montgomery County Texas Jail last Saturday. According to law-enforcement sources, the Minnesota Vikings running back  beat his 4-year-old son with a tree branch as a form of punishment this summer, an incident that allegedly resulted in multiple injuries to the child. According to reports, Peterson has been indicted in Montgomery County, Texas for injury to a child.  The “whooping” – as Peterson put it when interviewed by police – occurred in Spring, Texas, in May. Peterson’s son had pushed another one of Peterson’s children off of a motorbike video game. As punishment, Peterson grabbed a tree branch – which he consistently referred to as a “switch” – removed the leaves and struck the child repeatedly.

Blow refers to a report published by  Child Trends:

“Use of corporal punishment is linked to negative outcomes for children (e.g., delinquency, antisocial behavior, psychological problems, and alcohol and drug abuse), and may be indicative of ineffective parenting. Research also finds that the number of problem behaviors observed in adolescence is related to the amount of spanking a child receives. The greater the age of the child, the stronger the relationship.

“Positive child outcomes are more likely when parents refrain from using spanking and other physical punishment, and instead discipline their children through communication that is firm, reasoned and nurturing. Studies find this type of discipline can foster positive psychological outcomes, such as high self-esteem and cooperation with others, as well as improved achievement in school.”

The group also pointed out just how pervasive the practice is:

“In 2012, according to a nationally representative survey, 77 percent of men, and 65 percent of women 18 to 65 years old agreed that a child sometimes needs a ‘good hard spanking.’ ”

The group continued:

“One of the most frequently used strategies to discipline a child, especially a younger child, is spanking. About 94 percent of parents of children ages 3 to 4 in the United States report having spanked their children in the previous year.”

Spanking is an age-old disciplinary technique, so turning the tide against it may be difficult.”

Blow concludes that “the drawing of blood isn’t an expression of love but more an expression of anger and exasperation that has morphed into abuse”.



Benghazi: Fox News Obsession!

Dear Commons Community,

Eric Boehlert of The Huffington Post reviews the obsession of Fox News in trying to unveil a White House conspiracy to cover up the events that led to the Benghazi attack. Boelhlert lays it on the line:

“Benghazi, of course, has been politicized in the most disturbing way possible, to the point where Fox News and conservatives have turned an American tragedy into something of a macabre Twitter punchline. It’s become sort of a Groundhog Day of exploitation and fakery, with more than 1,000 on-air Fox segments — during evening coverage alone — devoted to the endless pursuit. And now the Republicans’ select committee, virtually sponsored by Fox News, is set to add more chapters to the sprawling production, which conveniently doubles as a GOP fundraising tool.

According to press reports, the committee’s first hearing will focus on the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, which looked into the details surrounding the Benghazi attacks. In other words, Republican investigators have decided to investigate the Benghazi investigators. Again.

And at this point, does anyone even remember in 2012 when the family of slain U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens beseeched opportunists not to politicize his death? (“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue.”) Or when the mother of one of the other murdered Americans in Benghazi scolded Mitt Romney when he kept referencing her son on the presidential campaign trail? (“It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.”)

Those wishes were almost instantly trampled and are now long forgotten by most; distant echoes drowned out by the churning gears of phony outrage.

Increasingly, and somewhat belatedly, some mainstream press players have figured this out. Many reporters and pundits who were open and eager to follow every conceivable right-wing allegation about Benghazi (while playing down good news for the White House) have cooled to the chase in recent months and coverage was been slim. There’s also been surprisingly little chatter in anticipation of the select committee’s proceedings. After two years of dry holes, it’s difficult to feign interest any more. And poor CBS. It took a newsroom scandal of historic proportions to drive home the painful lesson of chasing bogus, partisan Benghazi allegations.

But at Fox News, the ratings-grabbing obsession remains strong. And now, thanks to Media Matters’ meticulous research, we know just how far and how all-consuming that obsession has stretched. It’s hard to even wrap your heads around some of these numbers from Fox’s coverage in the 20 months following the attack:

-1,098 total Fox News evening segments that included significant discussion of Benghazi — an average of about 13 segments per week.

-144 interviews with GOP members of Congress versus only five interviews with Democratic members of Congress and Obama administration officials.

Note the relentless and out of control focus showered on the story by Special Report, which Fox executives often point to as its premiere and serious news program, not just a partisan talk show. Serious news program? It aired nearly 400 Benghazi reports in less than two years.

Please also pay attention to the fact that despite its flood-the-zone coverage, Fox has been unable to move the Benghazi cover-up story one foot in two years. Almost nothing Fox has reported over the last 24 months has added in any significant way to the understanding of what happened in Benghazi the night of the attack. And considering Fox has set aside more than one thousand segments to the topic, that fact simply confirms the team’s collective impotence.”

Benghazi was a tragedy. The fact is that there was an attack and four Americans were killed. We should be honoring their service to our country and not using them for crass political purposes but then again crassness is Fox News’ forte.



Koch Brothers and Florida State University Revisited!

Dear Commons Community,

The Koch brothers and their intrusion into Florida State University’s governance and personnel practices are in the spotlight again. Recently released documents are shedding light on a “gift” the Koch Brothers Foundation gave to FSU. As part of the gift, stipulations were required regarding curriculum and faculty hiring. Joel Spring and I wrote about this in our 2010 book, The Great American Education-Industrial Complex:  Ideology, Technology, and Profit.  A posting on the website of The Center for Public Integrity reviews the new documents. Here is an excerpt:

“In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.

The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson — a self-described “libertarian anarchist” who asserts that every government function he’s studied “can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector” — in place.

“As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs,” Benson at the time wrote to economics department colleagues in an internal memorandum. “They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring.”

Benson concluded, “If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”

Such details are contained in 16 pages of previously unpublished emails and memos obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

While the documents are seven years old — and don’t reflect the Charles Koch Foundation’s current relationship with Florida State University, university officials contend — they offer rare insight into how Koch’s philanthropic operation prods academics to preach a free market gospel in exchange for cash.”

The above is another example of why the Koch Brothers and their Foundation have become embarrassments for the free-enterprise system.  In a word, they continue to feed the distrust that large segments of the public have for corporate America.



California Set to Pass Wide-Ranging Student Data Privacy Law!

Dear Commons Community,

During the past year, 36 states introduced legislation on student information privacy and security. About 30 bills were passed, as varied as measures that ban school districts from collecting details like students’ pregnancy history and those that require education departments to publish lists of the exact data points they collect. California is now close to passing one of the most comprehensive bills in the country. As reported in The New York Times:

“Legislators in the state [California] passed a law last month prohibiting educational sites, apps and cloud services used by schools from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school; from using the children’s data to market to them; and from compiling dossiers on them. The law is a response to growing parental concern that sensitive information about children — like data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma — might be disseminated and disclosed, potentially hampering college or career prospects. Although other states have enacted limited restrictions on such data, California’s law is the most wide-ranging.

“It’s a landmark bill in that it’s the first of its kind in the country to put the onus on Internet companies to do the right thing,” said Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who wrote the bill.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a public position on the measure…If he does not act, the bill will become law at the end of this month. Senator Steinberg said the bill had broad bipartisan support and was likely to be enacted.”

This type of legislation is overdue and will only have to be strengthened in the future. Data about young people are being collected and the protections are few. While California puts the onus on companies “to do the right thing”, sooner or later a company or two will not do the right thing and confidential student data will seep out into the Internet ether. We only have to look at the hacking scandals that are rocking governments throughout the world to understand that the systems in place protecting data on individuals including children are weak.  Parents would be wise to opt out of any program that move their children’s data into the hands of private enterprises.