America has had to downsize life in the last few years. It is now being asked to downsize on its hope, as well. The Great Recession took jobs and homes from many who have yet to regain their footing and face an uncertain decade or two before they retire. Many have exhausted savings they were setting aside for retirement, and their outlook is bleak. Paul Krugman called them the “lost generation” in an op-ed a few years ago.
Their children or grand-children have been graduating from colleges all around the nation since 2009. These young people, unlike their parents, graduated into a harsh economy with few jobs that offer starting pay or advancement tracks their parents found when they earned their college degrees. Many have had to make do with odd jobs, not in their fields of expertise, or have had to take starting pay that doesn’t meet their basic needs. The media was full of stories of young people going back to live with mom and dad, and living arrangements with several generations of the same family living under one roof. While press reports have died down, multi-generational living is an arrangement that persists to this day, with shrinking wages and the rising cost of housing.
Service industries, such as restaurants, hotels and grocery stores, used to provide jobs for youth. The Great Recession has completely changed the face of service industry employment, with adults filling those jobs and earning a minimum wage that simply cannot sustain even the most threadbare of living in today’s America, All of these people, formerly a part of the middle class, are now full fledged members of America’s new social class, the precariat.
Former Labor Department Secretary, Robert Reich, noted in a recent blog post that the New York Times editorial board urged Hillary Clinton, whom it recently endorsed, to back the fight for $15 an hour. While Reich is far kinder than I am when it comes to the media’s stances and treatment of the Democratic primary, I agree that, given the Times’ stance on minimum wage of late, this is a major concession.
That said, it is as much a concession as it is a slight to Bernie Sanders, who has backed the fight for $15 from the start, and interference by the media in a campaign it has attempted to manipulate from the start.
Hillary Clinton has not backed a $15 an hour minimum wage. In fact, she supports $15 an hour in New York City only, but not the rest of the nation. As I’ve written in a piece on affordable housing, in most metropolitan areas, a living wage is closer to $25-30 an hour. Clinton talks a good game about wanting to make sure families can earn a decent living. $12 is not decent. That kind of wage condemns a parent to endemic poverty and two-parent households to working two and three jobs per parent, just to keep a roof over the family’s head.
Had the New York Times and the rest of the media done its job and reported on the campaigns fairly, while editorializing any way they wish, I wouldn’t object to this editorial as much as I do. But since the Times has aggressively focused its reporting and opinion section on demolishing the Sanders campaign, encouraging Hillary Clinton to appropriate yet another one of Sanders’ planks is unseemly.
As New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted out:
Writing explicitly as an act of evangelism is corruptive. I prefer to add my log to the fire of existing discourse https://t.co/7bauBxondW
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) February 16, 2016
The Times editorial board should listen to Charles, but the person both Charles Blow and Paul Krugman should read and take to heart is Thomas Piketty, who wrote an op-ed in Le Monde, which the UK’s The Guardian published in English:
“Sanders’ success today shows that much of America is tired of rising inequality and these so-called political changes, and intends to revive both a progressive agenda and the American tradition of egalitarianism. Hillary Clinton, who fought to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton-Obama political regime.
Sanders makes clear he wants to restore progressive taxation and a higher minimum wage ($15 an hour). To this he adds free healthcare and higher education in a country where inequality in access to education has reached unprecedented heights, highlighting a gulf standing between the lives of most Americans, and the soothing meritocratic speeches pronounced by the winners of the system.”
Piketty offers a far more balanced and detached look at this election cycle, from the economic and political science perspectives. He is correct in his assessment that America is finally coming to a point in history where it is beginning to understand that it holds the keys to its own destiny and that it is entitled to more self-respect and self-love than it had previously been allowed to believe it could ever hope for. That is the essence of Sanders’ appeal, the disengagement from mass-media, and the reason for the abysmal failure of establishment candidates.
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