Thursday, March 30, 2006

..And A

I was recently talking to a Democratic strategist who believes in a strong progressive majority among Gen Y (born starting in 1978 or 1982 depending on who you ask); under-30s were the only age group to vote for Kerry, 54-46, and they have become even more progressive according to polling since then. This is a large generation and will make up a larger proportion of the electorate in 2008 than in 2004. (For more info on the 2004 youth vote, go here).

Ideally, this could translate into support in 2008&beyond for candidates who offer a new New Deal to American workers: portable, affordable health care benefits, a federal living wage, and a retirement system that really works, protecting the most vulnerable workers while fairly distributing resources among the generations. Oh, and reining in of the predatory credit industry that drives so much misery. This is the largely economic progressive vision shared by groups like ACORN, Jobs with Justice, Jobs for the Future, and many others. The "new generation" I referred to means not only groups I talk about in the book, like Working Today, TechsUnite, Young Workers United, but a whole cohort of college-educated progressives who came up through programs like Union Summer, or were exposed to union organizing by graduate students on their campuses. They believe in social movement unionism as an outlet for progressive action.
Of course, this progressive dream runs smack up against America's precarious strategic and financial situation: the record deficits, growing trade imbalances, outsourcing, losing ground in education, and demographic shift. It could be that the New Deal analogy is all too apt: it could take an economic collapse to spur a radical expansion of economic protections.
In the long term, I believe that America will finish out the century as a great power, but not the Great Power.

1 comment: said...

March 31, 2006
To: Anya Kamenetz

I saw you on C-span and was favorably impressed (so I bought your book), but isn’t your theme a small segment of a larger picture. One may be forced by circumstances to enter the job market early; or, if more fortunately situated, be enticed by putative prestige and riches to acquire scholastic accreditation in the university. However, both will find themselves hostages to economic extortion.

The experts in the craft of making money from other’s labors have learned to apply the same principles to the product of scholarship. The manual laborer sells his muscular dexterity, but the scholar sells his intellect. As the competitive market for intellectual dexterity becomes googleized, or robotized because of smart computer chips, like the factory worker who lost his job to the robot that needed no health insurance or a retirement plan, so too will the scholar’s specialization become obsolete. Today, the rote procedure of data entry goes to the cheapest labor market anywhere in the world, but this will continue only as long as they’re willing to work for less than robots.

Our schools look very much like a corporate factory’s assembly line, and they even have a large sales force citing statistics to sell its promised benefits. Little attention is given to the humanities or objective scholarship to stimulate inquisitive thinking. The colleges and universities teach students a specialty very well. They produce experts like bricklayers who are very good at laying bricks, but learn almost nothing about all the other trades’ specialties that are essential to make a complete house. But the apprentice bricklayer draws a small wage from his employer while learning his trade: so shouldn’t the employer class, that gains the most from this educational system, also be obligated to pay for the specialized training? You mentioned in your book that they do in several European countries. The division of intellect, like the division of labor, has advanced technology, but has done very little to distribute the techno/economic advances fairly. Most of the world still lives in an economic and intellectual stone age.

If you get the time please look up my web page, and drop me a line.

Sincerely, Homere A. Dansereau